The real working of the Television industry

A new man in the film work force

MBV 3DMy Bloody Valentine was a film I did in 08. I don’t know how, but a college friend found where I was filming in Pittsburgh and asked if he could stop by. He brought his nephew and his son. The nephew was interested in the film business and his cousin (my friend’s son) was along for the ride.
They came one day to the set and the crew and the actors couldn’t have been more gracious. They asked all kinds of questions. They boys were sponges picking up everything around them. They even remembered that the SFX make-up guys hated the cold.

Since I was kind of busy running the set that day I couldn’t really give the in-depth workings of the film world. So I said to them for the next and last day’s set visit bring 20 questions to ask me at lunch. I heard they spent all night in their hotel room thinking up those questions. The next day we tried to squeeze questions off as many as possible. They spent rest of the day continuing to see the set and talk to people.

Well my College friend came for a visit to Los Angeles. This time he just brought just his son. Well it seems that while the friend’s nephew fell out of fancy with the film business, his cousin (the son) became all-consuming with it. The reason my college friend and his son were in Los Angeles was so the son could look at USC and UCLA’s film schools.

You would be surprised what a day or two can do the course of a live.


You know what they say about people who like sausage

You know what they say about people who like sausage they should never see how they are made. I have been in the entertainment industry for (yikes) twenty–five years. Sure there is some lunacy. If you listen to some DVD commentary you’ll see lunacy and train wreck productions have made some to of the best show. But as the 1st. AD on a lot of productions I have to chime in and say that best run productions make the best shows. Look at Eastwood’s films. He typically ends his shooting schedule early and under budget.

An example how you can get lucky.

My favorite story of showing what’s behind the smoke and mirrors is “The Cell.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0209958/.

Tarsim the director of the film tells a story in the DVD commentary of how an actress told him that she was a life guard in her swimming prowess. Tarsim needed her to be an excellent for when she was in a water tank.  The actress lied. She could barely dog paddle. Tarsim tells of that actress who couldn’t swim being in a parking lot scene in the film where she is abducted. Tarsim said he should have given the actress a few extra close ups (what an actress or actor can let their best work shine) but was so disgusted with her for lying that that he decided against it.

Did you notice this in the overall film, probably not.

Listen to your DVD commentary.

If there was only a place you could get the real dirt behind some of your favorite shows.



No, this not my tattoo

Tatoo forearmThe entertainment business is crazy. It’s unstable and unpredictable. But if you were to go to a tattoo convention you would find a preponderance of the tattoos were generated from what the entertainment industry generates.

This was from a Harley Davidson technicians forearm. It was from a movie I did.

What business has that kind of an imprint?

2013 is going to be industry changing

Film Industry Christmas Story



It was 4 days before Christmas, when all through the Rental house

Neither a grip nor electric was stirring; all the lights had been douse.


The creative ones had pitches overflowing while asleep in their beds.

This brought big dreams of new clients dancing in their heads.


The Bids had been submitted with all due care

In hopes that a job would be awarded soon and money land everywhere.


Producer’s with their budgets and location manager’s with grids on their maps.

Had just figured out that they had under bid thinking “how did this happen, Holly *****.


This made background stop going to one, stood there, they froze because the sound of overages had arose with such a clatter.

Everyone dropped their double-espresso-soy-chai-latte-with-a-touch-of-foam to see what was the matter.


While on the set a quick walking UPM arrived in a flash.

He quickly gave back the petty cash envelops and denied everyone their cash.


The director had been told his time was running out, he retorted quickly back with a “but”

Unfortunately with the budget his time at the last minute had been cut.


Like all jobs that have packed in more time that has been given.

The bitter Assistant Director thinks everything is his burden.


But if in the holiday season you are with loved ones and your heart is large.

No matter what job or budget you have overcharged.


Remember the most important job in life or position

Is to make happy the ones in your apartment, home or mansion.


So in this regard not only do I thank you for a job well done.

But I hope you now travel to a family for love and lots of fun.


Many grammatical errors were inflicted to make this

So you think your tough enough to act?

I have seen them all….

Sports stars.

Owners of major companies

The toughest of the tough…. Tank.



He was a simple bit part in a movie I worked on called Strangeland.

Tank played the part of a protestor who had to give one line.

He gave it all the tenacity he brings to the ring as he did to saying that line. It wasn’t easy.

Now try and give a line, walk, maybe be looking at something as you walk, hit a mark (a piece of tape on the floor) and talk and remember what you should be saying. Some TV producers want the exact words as they have written them.

Many times I have had to coax an actor to relax and tell them they are going to get through it. Not really my job, but as you’ve seen from early posts, to keep us on schedule, everything is my job.

Do you think that would be impossible for an everyday person to give an actor on a set?

Not the way I have it set up in my camp

Why can’t the actors stand in for themselves?

It’s like building a house with little more than scratch drawings to begin with. That’s how an episode starts.

First there is prep. This is the 8 days (or fewer) I work with the director as we pick locations and work on the schedule and how we will shoot it.
I just gave a very simplified version of what happens for the purpose of the rest of this entry.*

Here is how we start our day when we are shooting
Depending on how much make-up time an actress needs (rarely does an actor need that much make-up time unless it is SFX make-up)*, we will the pull the actors for blocking. This means we bring them from where ever they are on the lot to set to block the first scene. This is when nothing is set up, any lights or camera positions, nothing. This is where the actors and director rehearse the scene or read and causally discuss where the actors will be standing. The stand ins (or second team as they are known by) watch and follow along on the script and might make notes about what they need to do in the scene

After we have blocked the scene, the stand ins will take the place of actors where the actors will be standing. We need something to light. You can’t paint air….

We will also use them practice camera moves. You can’t have target practice without a target.

With stand ins it is important for them to resemble the actors they are standing in for in height and skin color. Sometimes the stand ins are nothing like the actors they are standing in for but are friends/dating/sleeping with the producer. It happens….

This is where the house building analogy comes in. The director and I have rough idea how the scene should play out. Though contrary to our plan the Actor might say during blocking “I really feel my character would stand here” and the actor is adamant about it and is the star of the show. We might not have been prepared shoot looking in a certain direction. This is where stand ins earn their money. We can brainstorm about how to shoot our way out of this problem. With stand ins we can rehearse more without the actor who has to finish up in make-up. If we are lucky we can tweak the shots so we aren’t taking too long to shoot a scene. Remember entry #2, we are always under the gun in television. A good stand in is a good actor (that is what a stand in is, an actor trying to make a living) and can sell any tweaks to the cast after they have come back to the set camera ready Camera ready means they are ready to go on camera and be filmed (I know we are a digital age, but we dream of the past).

The stand ins are come under the Assistant director command. I treat them very well. See photo.
That’s my picture on their t-shirts.

three stand ins

How long would you take to camera ready?

The Paramount studio was like a second home.

12-11 00612-11 007I do have a whole slew of TV production topics lined up.
But this happened yesterday.
The interview.
My agent set up an interview for a new TV series as the First AD. I can’t talk about it because there is a slight chance I’ll get it.
I did do a Kids TV series on this lot. The paramount lot has a lot history. Great TV shows. I suggest you check out their website. They have great tours.
I loved having a tour drive by in their 10 seat golf cart and make up rumors. As a tour would drive by I would say in an overly loud conversational voice “can you believe _____ was caught naked in ____ trailer!?!?!?”
They never fell for it.
I wonder what kind of place can you see how a TV show is really made and hear untold secrets of this world?
Soon, very soon.

What is a Best Boy and why don’t I have one

Are you ready to peek behind the celluloid curtain?

First and an easy myth to dispel, hardly anyone (especially in TV) shoots on film anymore. Gone are the days of men working with chemicals to develop the film negatives

As a friend of mine, a 1st Assistant camera man about developing houses* said “there a lot of men in clean white coats standing around now doing nothing now”

This will be a blog to give you little about inside of Television and by that I mean real TV. I state this to intentionally side line Reality TV. I don’t mean to totally disparage to reality TV, I even watch some of it. I even worked on one show that held a dear place in my heart.*

I am talking the work horse of the TV industry and I think one of the toughest to produce; episodic television.

Television is harder than Film.  It takes a strong will to handle it

A film set is like baseball.  You have periods of pitches and missed swings. This would be your walk and talk scenes and the stuff that moves the plot along.  Now and then there will be a hit which equals to a car crash or a shoot-out. The main difference is that like baseball a film can go (they won’t admit it) over to get it done.

Television is like football. Every day is like being shot straight out of canon. You have eight days to shoot your show (some are even doing it less), eight days to get it done. Since the TV show has a running premise you can set up your plot in the first few minutes of the show. It’s all about making the next 47 minutes (this is the minutes, give or take, without commercials and is actual footage shot) move fast without you changing the channel.

While you are shooting your episodes, while your days creep into 13, 14, and 15 hour days (I have seen a few 19 hours) there is another director prepping the next episodes. There is no “just tack on another day.” The director is booked for that set amount of time. He or she might be going to do another show after yours and he will leave when he or she has to.

Every day is like a full day of all-out hustle. Just like Football

How do I know this?  I am a First Assistant Director for 20 years and I have been working in Television for the last 10.

Here is the one of the closest clinical definition I found of what I do:



A 1st AD’s (the short way to say it) list of responsibilities is what listed in the link is like saying an Obstetrician comes in the day of a birth and catches a baby.

I will be getting into all the mysteries no one will tell you about this crazy business and why it is such that way.

Who ever heard of a business that takes all the most up to date and scientific safety equipment out of a car so it can better crash? *

You’ll learn what a best boy and why that name came from the shipyard docks.*

Then there will be stories that you will only be able to hear in person and with no recording devices.

But we will get into that later.

If you good grammar, read and English teacher’s blog.

*means that will be answer expanded on later.

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