September 28, 1999
First, our adventures yesterday. We were on the backlot at Universal Studios shooting all of the marathon scenes. (So much for being flown to Brooklyn to shoot exteriors.) We had streets full of extras both running on cheering on runners. It really looked pretty cool. The scenes were a little tricky to choreograph but the day proceeded very smoothly. I had a blast hanging out with Steve and our scenes turned out good. David's scenes looked especially funny.
Back in the real world today, we crammed two days worth of indoor work into one day. That was a tall order. The camera-blocking that normally would have taken place on Monday was all pushed to Tuesday because we were on location all yesterday afternoon. We began the day at eleven and had a very ambitious schedule. Needless to say, we did not stay on top of it. Little by little, plans were altered, shots were pushed to later, schedules were re-written. Yesterday was not the only 'marathon' day.
We loaded the audience in at 5 o'clock as usual and got settled in for a long winter's night. The show was great. The scenes, the jokes, the acting (if I do say so myself), everything was clicking along. It just took a lot of re-clicking and re-clicking. Every scene was shot at least four times, sometimes five and six. It was brutal. And when I say brutal, I mean more for the audience than for any of us. It's tough to sit through two takes, let alone higher multiples of two. By about 9pm, they reached the mid-point of the show and I went upstairs to my dressing room. The next scenes were all either playback from yesterday or I wasn't in them. When I returned to the set an hour later, only thirty or so people remained in the audience. Even they wouldn't make it to the end, though. We shot the remaining scenes and sent nearly all of the weary travelers home.
But wait, there was more. Ducey relatives, Mary Anne and Bridget sat tight in their seats because there was still more work to be done. Both Anne Ducey and I had a Gray's Papaya scene to crank out. And I really mean 'crank out...' in slow motion. We set about shooting the final hot dog contest from a number of angles with the slow-motion camera. Meanwhile, Dr. Anne Ducey played her role, patting Ford on the back as he passed out from the wieners. Funny stuff. Late-night stuff, but funny stuff.
We wrapped a touch before midnight, 13 hours from when we had begun. It was the longest marathon yet, and I fear it is the trend of the future. We shall see. It's important to strike a balance between getting every angle of every shot and keeping an enthusiastic, energized audience entertained and in their seats. And I think the prevailing opinion right now is that it doesn't matter if there's an audience or not, it's the shots that are most important. But I believe that if that were completely true, there would be no audience to begin with. We feed off of them. We get a rhythm from them. We get to find out what's truly funny, as opposed to what has seemed funny to the writers all week. I know there will always be a laugh track waiting for me, no matter how late we go, but that's like your Mom thinking you're attractive. Where's the accomplishment in that? And I guess it's even more frustrating when I think the episode is so fun and funny. How could we beat an audience into attrition when the material is so good?
Well, off to another hiatus. You gotta hand it to the person that
invented sitcom shooting schedules. Aside from the occasional 13-hour
shooting day, this is a pretty good life. So to recap, it's good when
I'm at my job, and then I get a vacation so I can have fun while not
at my job. Best of both worlds? Yes, it can be done.
Episode 106 | Behind the Scenes | Oh Grow Up