Debra Prinzing

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Peace by Design: My TV show

March 27th, 2009

Filming the pilot episode of "Peace by Design"

Filming the pilot episode of "Peace by Design"

My friends know I am a PRINT person – I love magazines, newspapers and books. I’m kind of okay with the Internet, because blog posts and web sites still involve using letters to compose words and words to create sentences . . . all of which are ultimately read as the printed word.

So this week has been one of those out-of-the-comfort-zone experiences as I “played” at being a television host. Robert Schauf, my amazing and intuitive producer, keeps telling me that talking to the camera is just like talking to a friend (a conversation!). . . and I’m starting to believe him. I just have to imagine all my friends hiding behind the HUGE black lens held by the cute camera guy, John. And then, just talk. Naturally.

Okay, I need to back up. I met Robert Schauf in 2006. It was one of those Kismet moments. It will sound so cliche, but we met on an airplane flying on business class from Burbank to Newark (a Jet Blue flight). I’m pretty unfamiliar with business class, but somehow I was bumped up to that rarefied section because it was the last seat on an overbooked flight. I was on my way to speak to a garden club in New Jersey and absolutely had to make that flight or I would miss the lecture entirely.

Robert, who hops comfortably back and forth between NYC and LA, was returning from a business trip. How do I describe him? He’s tall and slender, he wears the kind of clothing that my teenage son might wear (hip jeans, long-sleeved t-shirts, lace-up Keds) and his shocking white-platinum hair kind of sticks out all over his head. Robert has that Rocker-dude look and frankly I didn’t know what to think of him at first. But we talked nonstop for something like 5-1/2 hours. I was so fascinated with his stories of producing television specials and working on the Grammys. I told him about my new project – about garden sheds! – and described my plans to scout sheds in the Hamptons and NYC after I finished my New Jersey lecture. We exchanged business cards and subsequently swapped a few emails. That was it.

Robert Schauf and I met in February to start putting the show concept together

Robert Schauf and I met in February to start putting the show concept together

But Robert was in the back of my mind when Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways was published last spring. I emailed and asked for his address because I wanted to send him a copy of my new book and an invitation to the book-launch party in Sandy Koepke’s Beverly Hills garden. We didn’t connect with one another then, but Robert saved my email and when he was in LA for Thanksgiving, he called me. After we chatted, I mailed him my book. To my surprise, he called to say how much he liked it and shouldn’t we talk about doing a show together?


That explains a bit about how I found myself, over the past two days, learning how to look natural on TV. Robert is convinced that since I held his attention for that lengthy plane trip, I can hold an audience’s attention (how’s that for an endorsement?). As I recently wrote to one of my editor friends: The print world is changing so swiftly that I feel like I have to be open to every other opportunity, including broadcast.

The sum total of my television experience is doing an episode of Ciscoe Morris’s “Gardening with Ciscoe” on KING-TV in Seattle, a two-day shoot with Romantic Homes magazine for a segment of “Outer Spaces,” a former HGTV show (with Susie Cuehlo) and my interview last summer with Bill Wright when we were guests of Tom Spencer on “Central Texas Gardener.”

peacebydesign0002Let’s see, that’s about four days of experience since 2005. I’m so out of my element here, but (so far) Robert and his production team (Gina and Richard) have made it painless for me. They’re all incredibly wonderful – and fun!

The working title for our show is “Peace by Design.” It came out of their response to all my work – the Stylish Sheds book, my book on Abundant Gardens, my magazine and newspaper design articles and our conversations. “It’s reflected in everything you write about,” Robert says. “You’re interested in telling stories of peaceful places and the people who create them and live in them.” Richard Stern designed the really cool graphic treatment, seen here:


Here’s one of my very first FLIP camera movies, taken of Robert during our show development meeting in February:


About PEACE by DESIGN: How do you turn a this big idea into something people actually want to watch on television or online as a webisode? Of course, since I’m a total nobody, you have to layer in the celebrity sizzle. Wouldn’t it be fun to meet Leonardo DiCaprio and talk about his environmental passion, tour his rooftop garden and see his own “peaceful” place? Robert has that facet of the programming covered through one of his longtime producer-colleagues who is rumored to have the best Rolodex in Hollywood. We will visit movie, television and music celebrities in their private homes and gardens. Clearly this secret ingredient will help make the show compelling to a producing sponsor. As the host, I’ll be there to move things along and keep the conversation going. I think it will be a blast!

Jennifer Asher

Jennifer Asher

Before I go any further, I have to deliver a huge, virtual hug and thank you to Jennifer Asher, landscape designer, artist and creator (with her partner Karen Neill Tarnowski) of TerraSculpture.

Completely on a whim, only this past Sunday, I suggested to Robert that we try and find a place other than my own back yard to rehearse. I knew Jennifer’s garden was filled with her awesome sculpture pieces, because I had toured her landscape for a design column I wrote several months ago, “Gardens as Galleries.”

Not only did Jennifer unhesitatingly say “yes” to receiving Robert, Gina, Richard and me for Wednesday’s rehearsal, but she totally saved the day by stepping in as our interview subject on Thursday.

We had planned to tape a celebrity segment, but, alas, our star had to bow out because he was cast in an episode of “30 Rock.” Oh well, that was a much better gig than ours. Without Jennifer, we would have been toast. And Karen was on hand to help in so many ways she never could have imagined, including taking a ton of great photographs, helping move sculpture, bringing bottles of water and even holding cue cards. They are truly the “angels” who blessed this endeavor.

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos. If anything, they remind me that we really did have fun. A huge thanks to all the great talent who worked on this. I’ll introduce them here:

Gina Frary and Robert Schauf, scripting

Gina Bacon Mann and Robert Schauf, scripting

Gabrielle Melville, make-up and hair

Gabrielle Melville, make-up and hair

Gina Frary, totally on top of things

Gina, totally on top of things

My very own "love ya baby" producer

My very own "love ya baby" producer

Richard Stern, left, filming Deb as she practices

Richard Stern, left, filming Deb as she practices

John, Aaron and Rex, the cutest, sweetest team of camera and sound guys around!

John, Aaron and Rex, the cutest, sweetest team of camera and sound guys around!

A programming note: Now that the fun part is over, we have to sell the show. Robert is working on that end, thank goodness. We might team up with a single lifestyle sponsor. We might broadcast this first over the Internet. Time will tell. A grad school friend of my husband’s, who has developed a reality show, gave me some really good advice: You have to divorce yourself from the selling part. It’s completely separate from the creative part and creative people are NOT selling people. I think that’s sound wisdom.

26 Responses to “Peace by Design: My TV show”

  1. Anna/Flowergardengirl Says:

    How exciting and fun to see it all come about. Good luck and pop rock star producer is way too awesome.

    Anna/Flowergardengirl’s last blog post..When Winter Graces Spring

  2. Billy Goodnick Says:

    Deb: Great start! From my limited TV experience with our local station, trust that YOU WILL get more comfortable and get past the self-consciousness. You’ve got a dynamic personality when you present…just let it out through the camera.

    Billy Goodnick’s last blog post..? and the Wisterians

  3. Theresa/GardenFreshLiving Says:

    Deb- I am so proud of you! I have done a bit of TV (DIY Network and HGTV) and I know how much WORK this is! People do not know how much time and energy go into just 15 minutes of film. You will be fabulous!! Just talk to the camera as if you are talking to your very best girl friend. It just is hard when no one reactes to your jokes! Just imagine that they do and move on. Other than that, it is a breeze. YOU ROCK!

    Theresa/GardenFreshLiving’s last blog post..San Francisco Garden Show Post 2 – Display Gardens

  4. Lori Says:

    CHEERS to the “new” Maureen McCormick…
    I am so proud of you, too!!!
    Your passion, expertise, sense of wonder and yes, calm, peaceful personality will shine through~
    Can’t wait….

  5. Susan AH Says:

    HUGE hug for you, Debra. I’m so excited for you, sweetie. Can’t wait to see the finished show. I’m sure it’s wonderful!

  6. Joe Lamp'l Says:

    How fun is that! Oh I sooo know how you feel in those early days of being in front of the camera. But it DOES get easier and I know you! You will have the audience eating out of the palm of your hand in no time. Good luck D and keep us posted on the adventure. I always love the outtakes.

    Joe Lamp’l’s last blog post..Good Morning America Today – My Quest for a Twenty-five Dollar Organic Victory Garden

  7. Carol, May Dreams Gardens Says:

    I look forward to seeing this on TV or the Internet! Very exciting, and thanks for sharing with us the back story.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens’s last blog post..History Of Mowing at May Dreams Gardens

  8. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    Oh, I am so lovin’ it. My friend is going to be a star! I hope I get to see all of the shows. You will be a natural, and like you told me, it is always good to open to new things.~~Dee

    Dee/reddirtramblings’s last blog post..Say Goodbye to Spring

  9. Mary Ann Says:

    This is all so exciting! Big hugs, big kisses! I know there’s an Oscar in here somewhere! I think back on a couple of my TV experiences (HGTV and local) and just cringe. But then again, I did not have a makeup artist …and my producer passed out because we were filming in the sun and it was just, oh, 100 degrees that day.

    You look great, sound brilliant, great story line and I love what Robert (what’s with the pink scarf?) said about Peace being the thread which runs through your work. He’s right.

    Mary Ann’s last blog post..Gotta get it now: Durable Plants

  10. REX Says:


  11. Debra Lee Baldwin Says:

    Debra, this is so cool. The best part is that Robert picked up on the essence of your personality, and is able to put it in a visual format so that others can benefit.

  12. Bruce Forstall Says:

    This is awesome! Best of luck!

  13. Lydia Plunk Says:

    Are you sure the producer isn’t Rod Stewart’s secret brother????
    Congrats. I bet your friendly and welcoming disposition comes across on film.

  14. NestInStyle Says:

    You rock Debra! What an inspiration you are to step out of your comfort zone and jump right into television. I hope your pilot is a success and we see you on cable TV very soon.

    So fun to watch all of your recordings!


    NestInStyle’s last blog post..Recession Proof Gardening: a BackGarage Guest Post

  15. Mary-Kate Mackey Says:

    It’s all so exciting. Can’t wait to see it. You’ll be at home in every garden you visit.

  16. Beth Evans-Ramos Says:

    This is such wonderful news. I am really happy and excited for you and this new adventure!

  17. Veronica Sliva Says:

    Hi Debra,
    This is really your time to shine isn’t it? Embrace every moment. How wonderful!
    Your friend, Veronica

  18. Willi Says:

    Debra! This is so exciting. Congratulations! You look beautiful on the outtakes and I think the concept is wonderful. I think I might have to think about getting a TV so I can watch you. Three cheers!

    Willi’s last blog post..Inexpensive DIY Vegetable Trellis

  19. Lorene Says:

    You GO Girl!!! I’m celebrating your good fortune…no, I’m celebrating Robert’s good fortune that he “found” you on a cross country flight! Your smile is a natural and you know you’ve got the talk down! Congratulations!!!

  20. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening Says:

    You just never know when being nice to a total stranger will pay off, do you? Oh, but you didn’t forget to email him and send him your book, either. I’m trying to learn lessons from this, and I’m really happy you are having a new adventure.

    Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening’s last blog post..

  21. B. J. Hogan Says:

    Several of my gardening online buddies criticized HGTV for lack of garden-related programming. This new venture of yours should slide right into that gap. I’m very excited to see what comes from it.

    Your first interview with the sculptress impressed me, because she related the inside view of the garden to its design outdoors. I am a great believer in controlling what you see through your open windows. She could be a seasonal featured guest.

    You go girl!!!

  22. jennifer asher Says:

    Deb- I had such a great time working with you on this. I can’t wait to see the edited show b/c you are a joy on and off camera.
    And I love B.J. Hogan’s comment above that I should be a seasonal featured guest. Next time we can shoot it at the Getty Center :~)!!
    xoxo jen

  23. Huy Says:

    Aunt Debbie, you’re awesome! Jameelah and I can’t wait to see you on our 46-in flat panel TV (we can hook it to the computer). This is so cool!

    Huy’s last blog post..JN41: Does the right to daydream need to be earned? (Vote now!)

  24. Leo Says:

    What would we do without Leo Dicaprio! I have seen just about all of his movies, and love them all! I think I first fell in love with him in Gilbert Grape. Some people say he is not cute anymore, but I think he is perfect in every way, and has gotten sexier with every film he makes! His amazing talent is a really big part of what makes him so attractive. Keep up the amazing work Leo! Luv you!

  25. Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" Says:

    I missed all the action of this post! Of course I want to congratulate you again, even though I did it already on the phone! I’m excited for your new venture on the screen and wish you the very best. Jennifer was a terrific guest and hope to see more of her too!
    Shirley Bovshow

    Shirley Bovshow “EdenMaker”’s last blog post..The $25 Dollar Victory Garden By Joe Lamp’l

  26. Celesta Chappell Says:

    This was just what I was on looking for. I’ll come back to this blog for sure!

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