Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just For the Hell of It -- Week Seven

            Evidence of intelligent life on Mars, or another fine example of bathroom art?*

                                             Quote of the Week

This week's quote comes from Mick LaSalle, film critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, in response to a reader's question about the great Gene Hackman.

"Hackman was that rare thing, a character actor you could put in the lead role. As a result, he often had the best of both worlds — not just the flashiest part, but the biggest. He had (I say “had” because he has been retired for the past decade) a wonderful quality of mischief about him, so that audiences would always look forward to his reactions. In good-guy roles, he was often the essence of the screwed-up modern man, full of doubt and self-defeating internal convolutions."

"As a villain, he exuded self-satisfaction. He showed you could be a delectable bad guy and not have a British accent. It took a while for him to become a star, probably because his essence was that of a middle-aged man. I can’t even picture him at 25. By the time he was 37, he looked like he was 50 — ideal for a character actor — and then almost 40 years later, he looked like he was about 55. He never looked young, and he never exactly looked old, just old enough."
Nicely put, Mick -- and dead-on, as usual.  I first saw Gene Hackman in his breakout role as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection -- a part that not only made him but seemed to have been made for him -- but when you read William Friedkin's recent memoir (and if you haven't yet, what the hell are you waiting for?) you'll realize it was no sure thing. As his subsequent career revealed (Prime CutNight MovesMississippi BurningUnforgivenGet ShortyThe Royal Tenenbaums, and so many more), few actors have been able to project a sense of authenticity and kinetic, ready-to-blow dynamism across such a wide spectrum of roles as Gene Hackman.

Hollywood really does work in mysterious ways.

And so -- according to veteran writer/producer Rob Long -- does the publishing industry, with which he has been sparring of late.  You can hear about that in his latest Martini Shot commentary/podcast.

Last, an e-mail dropped in my box the other day from Alex Harvey-Gurr, who writes for a blog that recently started a project called How Hollywood Works. As Alex writes, it's "the blog-version of an instructional/survival guide that makes the television industry a little easier to navigate for people already in the industry and those looking to break in."
I haven't had time to thoroughly plumb the depths of this blog, but from what I read (a section on TV pilots) it's worth checking out, particularly for anybody still trying to grasp how this industry works.  I will say this -- the information seemed accurate from an above-the-line viewpoint.  Here's a part of that section on what happens after a pilot script is green-lit:

After putting your team together and finding a network-approved cast, you have to film your pilot.  It's a rushed process that involves:

1. A table read
2. A run-through for the team and cast
3. A second run-through for the network
4. A day set aside for the director to set up shots
5. The shoot

The length of a shoot depend on the show.  Multi-cam comedy pits shot on a sound stage may only take a few days; single-cam pilots, on the other hand, may shoot for weeks or more (for example, the massive 2-hour LOST pilot took two-and-a-half months to shoot.)

That all rings true as far as it goes, but there's a lot more involved in getting a pilot shot than steps one-through-five on that list.  If you'll be shooting on location, a ton of location scouting must be done before decisions are made, permits pulled, and the art department unleashed  to make those locations camera-ready before cameras can roll.  If the pilot will be shot on stage, sets must be designed, built, then lit and fully dressed before the actors get their call times.  Number Four -- "a day set aside for the director to set up shots" is called the blocking day.  After all that exhaustive preparation, multi-camera pilots are typically shot on stage in a single day, then the sets and equipment will be wrapped over the course of three more days.  All told, delivering a multi-camera pilot to post-production takes at least three weeks from the time set construction starts until the stage is wrapped.  

I'm not quibbling here, just filling in the blank spaces. How Hollywood Works can teach newbies who didn't have the opportunity to attend an expensive film school a lot about the structure of the industry and how the business of television operates.  

And that means it's definitely worth a look.

* I love this kind of thing, where somebody with a good eye sees -- then makes -- something out of nothing...

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