Tornado Chasers, Production Log #1: Kickstarter to Chase Season Kickoff

Thank you all for your amazing support of our series Tornado Chasers. We recently finished the last of our “bonus content” for the 2013 season, so at last this epic production has come to a conclusion.

Because we’ve received such a favorable response to our “Behind the Scenes” episodes, I’ve decided to write a weekly “production log” to complement the video material. Hopefully through these production logs, you’ll gain an entertaining perspective on the making of the show you helped to create, Tornado Chasers. Enjoy!

Tornado Chasers, Production Log #1: Kickstarter to Chase Season Kickoff

At the end of our intense, but massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Reed came up to me with rings under his eyes and a beaming smile. “We did it!” he said as he slapped my back before uttering one of his patented crazy laughs.

It was a proud moment for all of us. From Reed to Dick McGowan to Mike Scantlin to Joel Taylor, everyone associated with the organization worked hard to make funding for Tornado Chasers happen. Seth Deckard, who is behind the scenes most of the time, ran the podcasts and handled all the technical details. I breathed a sigh of relief that we almost doubled our goal. But I was anxious at the same time.

A week prior, we had learned that Chris Whiteneck, our executive producer for the 2012 season, wouldn’t be able to return to run the show this year. He would, however, be back as cinematographer – he’s really the best tornado/documentary shooter in the world. He’s a veteran Director of Photography of Storm Chasers, Dirty Jobs, Swamp People, Deadliest Catch, Ghost Hunters – you name it. His images have a magic look and he can capture personal moments during looming danger. Tornadoes don’t phase this guy.

In 2012, Whiteneck (or “C-dubs” as Reed calls him) asked me to come on board as an editor. Because of my background directing tornado documentary projects (Tornado Glory, “Heaven’s Rage”), Timmer asked me to step into the executive producer role for 2013.

So there we were. Reed Timmer was in KFOR President Wes Milbourn’s office, ready to sign on as lead Storm Tracker. I was there to propose a unique idea for the Tornado Chasers series – we could feature Reed performing his new TV job for KFOR on Tornado Chasers, showing the world how weather teams cover tornadoes in Oklahoma. Everyone loved the idea, and I’m very thankful we were able to secure that partnership for the series.

Though I’ll never forget what Mike Morgan said in that meeting, “Reed, we need the best weather coverage possible. One of these years, May 3rd will happen again.”

As April began, Whiteneck updated us that the earliest he could start was April 22nd. While last-minute schedule complications are the nature of the biz, this put us in an anxious spot because the only big tornado outbreak in 2012 was on April 14th– very early in tornado season. After that, the 2012 season went virtually silent. What if the same thing happened again in 2013?

While I was ready to go as a shooter-producer, I wanted to always have at least two shooter-producers in the field at any given time. Reed is too unpredictable, and has too big of a “chaser circus” for one shooter to cover. Throw a tornado into the mix, and that’s almost too much for even someone like Whiteneck to handle by himself.

The models starting pointing to April 9th and April 10th as being potential outbreak days. On top of that, Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee was interested in chasing with Reed during the upcoming outbreak.

It looked like an exciting chasing event was coming together, one that would make one or two good episodes of Tornado Chasers for sure. Except…I didn’t have a production team yet.

To be continued next week!

Ken Cole
Executive Producer, Tornado Chasers

Tornado Chasers

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