Executive producer details creative solutions to ensure QF TV show continues
Behind every successful TV program is a team of hard-working individuals who have to ensure that, despite any sudden challenge or obstacle, the program continues to run smoothly. And with COVID-19 continuing to affect the entire world, the team behind Qatar Foundation’s Stars of Science has had to work especially hard to bring this season to life.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our work greatly
“The Stars of Science team has to make critical decisions at times,” says Viviane Zaccour, an Executive Producer on Stars of Science, who has more than 15 years of experience. “The challenges are many and varied – whether weather, travel, or logistical related. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our work greatly.
“Because of the repercussions of the virus, we were faced with several logistical, moral, and scientific challenges regarding the safety of the participants, and the team as a whole.”
However, Zaccour – along with her team – was dedicated to finding creative solutions to ensure they could continue hosting the program, and to ultimately develop the participants’ innovations. “We wanted to showcase the importance of being able to adapt to different conditions in entrepreneurship, so we set our sights on turning this challenge into an opportunity,” she says.
This year, Stars of Science aired on September 11, and the first episode featured aspiring innovators from various Arab countries. Under the already difficult regional circumstances, exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak, the team had to come up with creative solutions for the interview, production, and arbitration phases based on communications through online platforms – contributing to the increasing the scientific credibility of the program, which is now in its 12th year.
Stars of Science combines reality TV with an educational experience, and Zaccour says that because the field of science is so complex, a lot of extra work goes on behind the scenes, including ensuring that there is credibility to the innovations that are being presented.
“One of the challenges we face is ensuring that we are delivering scientific innovations and inventions to the public in a fun and engaging way. Indeed, the scientific field is a delicate and complex area, so we have to do a lot of research while reviewing the ideas we get from the contestants, as any error may create a critical situation.”
Preparation for the program takes a whole year, and the pre-production period takes approximately six months, while filming in Doha is approximately three months long.
Every season, the team receives a large number of applications from potential contestants, which they filter and review to ensure that submitted ideas are innovative and new in the market. The next stage sees the team look at how applicable the ideas are, and only after that do contestants present their projects to the jury.
“Once an individual has passed the stage of submitting the project, a team of experts will purchase the elements needed to build the prototype. We often face many challenges here, as we try to get the required elements – for example, there are many transformational companies that do not care about the prototype, as well as the cost,” Zaccour says.
And one of the direct implications of COVID-19 has been trying to purchase some of these items from global markets, especially China. “We explored European and American alternatives to gain time and overcome obstacles. We also approved the manufacturing of some components in Beirut and Amsterdam to take advantage of the availability of raw materials – under the supervision of designers and experts – as the closure of airports due to COVID-19 made it impossible to our international designers to reach the Stars of Science workshops in Qatar.”
Another component of Stars of Science is making sure that competitors feel welcome from the moment they arrive. “We want the contestants to feel like they are part of the family,” Zaccour says. “Our relationship with them is very transparent.”
Stars of Science is unique in the sense that the contestants are with each other for approximately 12 hours every day and take only a day off. And despite the competition between them, and the fact that they come from different countries around the world, the friendship and sense of comradery that brings them together is inspiring.
“Working on a project like Stars of Science is certainly a learning curve. Over the course of the show, my views and areas of interest have changed. And with different ideas presented by contestants – whether simple or complex – we learn a lot, and our network of expertise grows. Our audience increases, as does the number of applicants.”
Zaccour says it’s difficult to determine the best part of the program as every season creates different memories. “We also get to experience a lot of fun and interesting situations on the set, especially between the jury members. But for me, I love the finals. When results are announced – because we are all so invested in the show – we are both nervous and excited, as both the public and jury members vote.”
For more information about Stars of Science, please visit: www.starsofscience.com