What’s Taking So Long?

Different types of shows have their own rhythms.

Multi-camera shows build slowly, from a simple table read and maybe a rehearsal on day one, all the way up to the full-0n craziness of a 16 hour shoot night. Single-camera comedies can be a grind, because something is always going on, whether it’s a tech scout or production meeting or read-through squeezed in at lunch.

Hour-longs are definitely tough on the set crew, but here in the office, we do get a breather now and then. The first day of an episode tends to be light, since there’s usually no prepping director, yet.1

On action shows, these relaxed days are balanced about by massively stressful second unit and double-up days.2 For the office (and other departments, I’m sure), these are actually three-day affairs, doubling the amount of prep the day before, and the amount of paperwork the day after.

And then there are the two-people-talking-in-a-room dramas. After my sitcom wrapped for the season, I moved to one of these to fill in for a friend during their last episode and a half. I knew it wouldn’t be as cushy as the sitcom, but I figured it couldn’t be as bad as a show with explosions and car chases.

They sure are steering a lot for a straight road. And that's the only unusual thing I see in this.
I hope I’m not giving away my identity by showing a clip from my show.

I was wrong.

We went into overtime every day last week, and we’re already behind this morning. I have no idea what’s going on. Every scene is just two people in a room, talking rapidly, then pausing dramatically.

Not to oversimplify the director’s job, but here’s how you shoot that scene: Wide shot, two-shot, close-up, close-up, check the gate, moving on.

These directors, I think they’re bored. They realize this show is basically radio with pictures, so they spice it up with dolly moves and crane shots and a whole bunch of shit that’s going to be cut before the show finally gets on air.

Whether you’re an electric setting a light, a make-up artist touching up the cast, or a PA cueing the background actors, I’m all for doing the best you can in the job you have. But let’s focus on what’s actually going to make it on screen.

Twelve hours a day is bad enough; fourteen is ludicrous. Sixteen hours that could be ten, if only the director was realistic about what shots where necessary? That makes so, so…

Really, though, is there anyone you like when they're angry?
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

* * *

In other news, I wrote a guest post for Work In Entertainment. It’s about your first day on set. You should read it.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. The DGA contract allots seven days of prep for an eight day episode. Go figure.
  2. Meaning one episode begins shooting while the next episode is still finishing. It’s not supposed to happen, but sometimes actor availability and other scheduling situations force it on us.
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