At the Director’s Elbow…

On the set

The Director always has their chair. It’s a sign of their authority as well as their comfort. The AD never sits during the production day. Their position is standing next to the Director and running the set.  At the Director’s elbow.

On set, Backdraft 2nd Unit

On set, Backdraft. Standing next to 2nd Unit Director and Executive Producer, Todd Holland.

As fate and luck would have it, I got an education in the field from many different Directors who taught me in different ways. You could not buy the experience today at any cost.

By 1978, American movies were rocking the world and film schools like USC and NYU had already earned their impressive reputations. Their graduates went directly into the film and TV industry.  I was just about to graduate from Oakland University in Detroit’s northern suburbs with a minor in film history (film history and aesthetics, no less. Woo-hoo). I had done student movies and 2 real docs and was willing to do anything on a film crew. I wanted in the business. What would be the way forward? Continue reading “At the Director’s Elbow…”

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Yes, We are on a Frozen Lake and No, We’re not Happy about it…

Yes, We are on a Frozen Lake and No, We're not Happy about it...

On the ice just before nightfall, still high and dry…
That’s Alicia Accardo, script supervisor and Art Seidel, our lovely UPM, with Director Vern Gillum, DP Robert Hudecek and me. Totally forgot who the guy on the left was.

When you shoot in Chicago winters, you do have to accept that you will be shooting outside and you will be cold. But being Chicago, even stranger things can happen when you are shooting on a frozen lake. And as we discovered on the Untouchables TV series, it usually did…

So, in the middle of winter we get a script for an episode that we might actually be able to accomplish (not always the case–see below). The story includes a meeting at the Canadian border on a frozen lake of the gangsters and bootleggers. They’ll pull up in cars, meet and get  interrupted by the arrival of the Untouchables and shoot it out. Continue reading “Yes, We are on a Frozen Lake and No, We’re not Happy about it…”

You are Prepping a Story, not a Budget…

Dual stages prepped for Chicago Fire.

Empty stages await their sets on “Chicago Fire”.

 

The only way to capture the modern audience is to mount TV shows that have detail, texture and tone to engage them, keep them entertained and most importantly—make them want to come back to watch next week. Good scripts given a proper staging, letting actors look their best—these things make a difference in the way the audiences perceive the quality of the show and their desire to continue watching.

I’ve had the great good fortune to produce for Dick Wolf for many years on numerous projects. Luckily, I had worked in the industry for almost 20 years before I met Dick, so I had already made my rookie producer mistakes, like pushing the Director of Photography to make daylight on way too big a shot on my first TV movie. The poor DP did it, but it took 2 hours to light and the dailies were sad. Reshot it anyway. You learn… Continue reading “You are Prepping a Story, not a Budget…”