“It’s a Wrap” was the season finale from year one of ALMOST PERFECT. (If you haven’t seen it yet, kids, it’s the previous post. At least check out the pie fight) But at the time we didn’t know if there would be a year two. So we tried to fashion an episode that could offer both promise and closure.
Figuring this might be our swan song, we started thinking about the wrap party and came upon the idea of all the characters thinking their fictional show had been cancelled and they could finally say the things about each other they had been holding in. And it seemed funny that after they burned every bridge, the show gets a reprieve and they now have to work together again. Talk about “awkward”. But how do you buy everything back? Had we painted ourselves into a corner?
We decided if something major could happen it might relieve the pressure. After people have a great time and laugh themselves silly they tend to be more forgiving. But what is that major event?
We pride ourselves on delivering literate /sophisticated comedy and that is why we immediately thought of a pie fight. What better way to let down your guard than when you’re covered in custard?
From there it was a matter of finding the specific issues between people. They had to be character oriented. What very relatable traits would piss off someone else and why? Once we determined all of those the writing went very quickly.
And then it came time to direct it. Gulp.
Staging crowd scenes are always difficult, but now there was this added little wrinkle – 700 tarts of chaos. I didn’t want the fight to just be a free-for-all so I went back and studied old Laurel & Hardy shorts and the finale of THE GREAT RACE. How do these fights escalate? Are there funny bits within the fight? How long should it go?
After studying Pie Fight 101 I choreographed the whole sequence using rice cakes for rehearsal. Lisa getting pelted all at once and Neil not participating were two of the bits I added.
The plan was to shoot this in front of the live audience. But just to cover my ass, I also shot it once the night before. It was pretty amazing to actually see it in action. And it gave me a chance to fine tune the sequence for the audience. When I finally yelled “cut!” the set was an utter gooey dripping mess, as were the fifty people in the scene. The actors were led off to separate holding pens and blasted with hoses. The set department needed all night to clean up the mess.
Incredibly, on show day the set was completely restored and everyone was back in costume. I shot the whole show and did all my pick ups right up to the fight. And then, with five cameras rolling, I yelled “Action!” and held my breath. The tarts went a’flyin’.
One of the many problems we had not anticipated was how slippery the floor became. And Kevin Kilner had to lift Nancy and carry her out. It’s a good thing he’s an athlete. Somehow he managed to do it and stay on his feet.
What you ultimately see is the combination of those two takes. Go back and look at it again. The first time did you notice that on several occasions things don’t match? Matthew Letscher is talking to Nancy Travis after the fight and from cut to cut the goop on his face is different. But in the confusion your eye doesn’t pick it up the first time.
A couple of final notes:
Chip Zien (Gary) is a seasoned Broadway performer. Not only can he sing but he can sing Sondheim. And not only can he sing Sondheim, he can sing Sondheim to Sondheim’s satisfaction. Chip was the Baker in the original cast of INTO THE WOODS.
Lisa in real life is a great dancer. She’s an even better physical comedienne. All of her klutziness was by design. Same with the bad singing.
The guy who tells the actor he’s been giving him tap water? That was our P.A., Brian Gewirtz. He went on to become the chief writer of WWF wrestling. The Rock owes his career to him.
The handsome, distinguished maitre’ d – that’s my dad, Cliff.
And I don’t want to tell you the girl who got the brunt of the pie fight because I don’t want to embarrass her… and she’s suffered enough.