Today is 11-11-11. There's got to be a revival movie house somewhere playing OCEANS 11 and its two sequels today. I can't imagine sitting through them all in one sitting but still.
Meanwhile, I'm getting ready for the SITCOM ROOM seminar that begins tomorrow in Los Angeles. Got a few surprises in store for this year’s group. Heh heh heh (that's me doing a “diabolical cackle”)
Here are this week's Friday Questions. I thought of doing 11 of them, but then I thought -- that's nuts!
Stephen is up first:
How do you shoot those transition shots in a series? For example, Ally McBeal must have featured dozens of aerial shots of Boston in between scenes over the course of its run. Does a cameraman get sent to the city/location in question and just film a pre-set list of footage?
Two ways. Most of the time you send a second-unit crew out to the location to shoot a ton of establishing shots. Day, night, different times of year, weather conditions, different angles, push-ins, pans, etc.
We once had a pilot set in Chicago and bought footage from MTM for THE BOB NEWHART SHOW (it was set in Chicago). In the corner of one shot we used, just for a split second, you could see Newhart. We figured that was good luck. We were wrong. The pilot was never picked up. Thanks a lot, Bob!
There has to be some amazing moments on the set of M*A*S*H*. Life Hawkeye and Maragret on the front lines when they end up kissing. What is your favorite?
The first shot on the first day of the first episode we wrote (“Out of Sight/Out of Mind”). Watching Alan Alda and Harry Morgan actually perform a scene that we wrote was practically surreal. I had to keep pinching myself. I just couldn’t believe it.
You never forget your first.
I saw your name listed in the credits to an episode of M*A*S*H as "Teleplay by KEN LEVINE & DAVID ISAACS". What does that actually mean - how did you contribute to this episode? If it helps, it was the episode "Post Op" where the 4077th has a shortage of blood and a lot of casualties.
We wrote the script but in that case, Gene Reynolds & Jay Folb came up with the story, not us. We were just handed the outline. That particular episode came at the very end of the season when lead-time was non-existent. We were brought in and asked to quickly write the script. That’s one of the MASH episodes I’m most proud of, because we did write it in only a few days, and they used probably 95% of our draft.
Oh, if only they were all that easy...
Phillip B has a question based on my recent post about agents:
Is 10% still the show business standard? Does that commission run forever on residuals? And who else gets a piece?
Yes. It’s mandated in the contract agents sign with the WGA. But agents receive no commission on residuals.
Where agents really make their fortune is on “package deals”. If their client creates a show the agency makes a “package deal”. They lobby hard for the show to get picked up and negotiate on its behalf. For that they receive a percentage of ownership. If the show goes on to be a mega hit like FRIENDS or SEINFELD then CA-CHING!
But if the agent has a package deal on the show then they can’t double-dip. In other words, they can’t also take a commission from clients of that agency who work on that show. It’s a good deal for writers of that agency. If they’re on an agency package show they pay no commission. That’s like getting a 10% bonus.
And finally, from Ed Dempsey:
Here' s a Friday question about a Cheers episode from season 1 that I came across on Netflix. The episode is"Friends, Romans, Accountants". At the end of the episode Norm's co-workers, delighted that he actually stood up to his boss, carry him out of the bar on the shoulders. As he's being carried off, it looks like he mouths "WTF". Did you and David write this into the script or did this truly catch George Wendt off guard?
I think he says “What the hell?” We never did get the ending we wrote. In our script as Norm is hoisted on everyone’s shoulders and is carried out the door the toga gets caught on something and flies off. But we could never make that gag physically work. Too bad. Would have been a hell of an ending.
What’s your question? Hope 11-11-11 is a lucky day for you. If not, there's always 12-12-12.