My recent cranky POINT OF VIEW post sparked some Friday questions.
Andy Ihnatko asked:
I loved the novelty of "POV." What sort of problems were created by some of those sequences?
I mean, did you all discover that the layout of the 4077 compound "made sense" even when you found yourself filming the actual route a casualty takes from the chopper pad? Did you have to build out sections of the OR and hospital that were never designed to be shot from that kind of angle?
It sounds like one of those interesting creative events where the thought "Hey! We'll shoot everything from a patient's perspective" takes just five seconds to conceive, but then brings up huge problems...!
Fortunately, the MASH compound at the Malibu ranch was laid out just like a real MASH unit. So when you saw those shots of the chopper pad and the path leading to the tents, all of that was already in place. We did have to build ceilings for certain sets like the O.R. Patients wheeled into operating rooms rarely see klieg lights and boom mikes (unless you’re Jimi Hendrix).
A special camera mount had to be fitted. There were no steady cams. The poor cameraman was practically crushed by the heavy equipment on his chest.
And every scene had to be one continuous take. The HOUSE episode (directed brilliantly by Dan Attias) was able to have the patient blink and have trouble focusing. And they were able to do quick jump cuts. We didn’t have that luxury. There was nothing to cut away to so each sequence had to be filmed in its entirety. A few were very long or complicated which meant many many takes.
The actors found it really fun and challenging the first day. By the fourth they hired a hit man to kill both me and David.
And Charlotte asks:
Are "stunt" or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary episodes (like "Point of View") the most sought-after writing assignments by the writing staff on a TV series? Because of the creative challenge and the potential for the episode to really standout if it turns out well? Or do the regular writers on a series tend to shy away from these more unusual stories for the same reasons: because of the greater writing challenge and the greater risk that for all their extra work the episode might end up standing out all right, as a laughable disaster.
Show runners or head writers tend to take these unusual assignments because they’re more prestigious (“tonight on a very SPECIAL episode of TIL DEATH…”) and stand a better chance of getting nominated for an award. Wait. I mean, they take these because as artists they welcome the chance to really challenge themselves. Aw, who am I kidding? We all want an Emmy.
In the case of POINT OF VIEW it took two seasons of lobbying to get the producer to go for it. And we were honest. We told him this would be either the best or worst show of the year.
But we really believed in the story. It wasn’t just a gimmick. It was a novel way to view the characters in a very different light. I’d like to think if you had never seen an episode of MASH before POINT OF VIEW that by the end of the show you’d know who everyone was, what their relationships were to each other, and how they coped with the unbelievable pressure and craziness of the war. In many ways, we were constructing a second pilot.
And yes, we did get several nominations (including an Emmy nom) but we never won with POINT OF VIEW. Maybe if we did a colonoscopy episode and saw the world through the patient’s ass, that might have gotten us the gold. We were so close. Just chose the wrong end.
What’s your question?