Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's the best night to film

That's a question I'm asked almost as much as why wasn't there a MANNEQUIN 3?   Any yesterday, in his fine blog, comedy writer Earl Pomerantz answered the same question.  But it seems we disagree on the answer.  For his argument just go here. 

Multi-camera shows that film before live studio audiences (like BIG BANG THEORY and TWO AND A HALF MEN) generally shoot on Tuesday or Friday nights. That way two shows can share one camera crew (back in the day when there were that many shows). I’ve been asked which of those nights I prefer and why? My answer is Tuesday and it stems from my first foray into playwriting.

A hundred and ten years ago my writing partner, David and I wrote an evening of one-act plays. It was more of an exercise really. We did four one acts in four different comic styles. The small theatre scene in LA was booming at that time. Melrose Ave. had ten or fifteen 99 seat theatres, one more charming than the next. To get to OUR theatre you continued east on Melrose until you heard gunfire then you turned right. Once you got to the first building that wasn’t on fire you turned into the lot and you were there. The 5th Street Studio theatre on 5th and Western over a pizza parlour. We were practically on Broadway.

Our shows ran Friday and Saturday nights for a month. We wanted to close before the summer and any riots. Amazingly, we had good crowds. (These are the same people you see on FEAR FACTOR.) On the first Friday night things were going great. Each act worked. Lots of laughs. The finale was an all out farce – people running in and out of doors, hellzapoppin’. It was 45 minutes long. For the first half hour the audience roared and then suddenly…they just stopped laughing. We couldn’t believe it. The last fifteen minutes (the big wild finale) was greeted with stone silence.

David and I were so thrown we didn’t know what to change. So we decided to just leave it, watch carefully the next night and see just where the play goes off the track.

On Saturday we had another good house. (Must’ve been a GREEN BERET convention in town.) The farce started, the laughs started, we braced ourselves…but this time they didn’t stop laughing. All the way through. In fact the laughs were bigger at the end.

Tremendously relieved, we concluded we just had a bad crowd the previous night (all of their cars had been broken into and they were bummed) and left the script alone.

But the next Friday night the same thing happened as the previous Friday. At the half hour mark the laughs stopped. But on Saturday night they were there wire to wire. And this pattern continued throughout the run.

What it taught us was that Friday night audiences are tired. It’s been a long week, they’ve just come from work and at a certain point they’re just pooped. Saturday crowds had a day to relax.

Since then we’ve always shot our shows on Tuesday nights. It’s the middle of the week, it gives people something to look forward to, and most importantly, they have more energy.

I’d feel bad for those four Friday night audiences but hey, they got home alive. You can’t ask much more from theatre in Los Angeles than that.

I will admit that it's a huge pain-in-ass to finish a show Tuesday night and jump right into the next episode.   It would be nice to have that weekend buffer between shows.  But having a weekend in the middle of production means that if the show on the stage is in trouble you have two extra days at your relative leisure to fix it.   So again, it's less good and convenient for writers but better for the show.  

Still one final advantage:  Every so often you might have to push filming back a day.  There's some emergency, an actor gets sick, there's a riot, whatever.  You can push back to Wednesday easily.  The crew is still available.  If you have to push back from Friday to Monday you're screwed.


Update: Earl Pomerantz replies:

Well, there you have it. Ken's thinking about the show; I'm thinking about myself. Of course, when you're in charge, you pretty much are the show, so you might say it really amounts to the same thing. Are you buying that?

17 comments:

pumpkinhead said...

You two didn't really even disagree. You addressed which night is better for the show. He addressed which night is less aggravation for the show-runner and writers.

Anonymous said...

David Lee here. I vote for Tuesday. Besides Ken's reasons these are mine: Actors have the weekend to learn their lines which are usually fairly set after Friday's rewrite. The director has the weekend to do prepare camera blocking rather than only Thursday evening. The weekend begins on Friday at a reasonable hour rather than midnight after filming. And according to the principle that the amount of time it takes to do something expands in direct proportion to the time you have, preparing the next weeks table draft is done on Monday and Tuesday rather than over the weekend. You actually have a shot at getting a day or two off.

Paul Duca said...

Nice of David to get out of Dinah Shore's fur vault...I mean his sauna, to answer you.

David...do you still have the gas-fired air conditioning she touted in a TV commercial?

Mitchell Hundred said...

I am now counting the minutes until Earl Pomerantz compares you to Hitler.

Hideotoshi said...

I agree with pumpkinhead, it's misunderstanding...

But defenetly, saturday rocks for me...

emily said...

David Lee! Wow! I am such a fan.

Anonymous said...

To Paul Duca-

No, I have left Dinah's place for smaller digs nearby. It was starting to feel like the Palm Springs version of Xanadu. I do still have the commercial she did for her gas fired AC though.

RCP said...

In another instance of "It's a Small World" or "Who Cares?" - It sounds like David Lee moved into Dinah's one-time (when she was alive) Palm Springs estate. I edited the property brochure for that one. Scary, huh?

Johnny Walker said...

Earl does a great job of explaining how potentially exhausting shooting on Tuesday could be for the writing team, but Ken and, especially David, make good points why it might actually be preferable for the writing team.

Maybe it depends on the show. Or maybe it just depends on the person.

There doesn't seem to be any argument with Ken's assertion that Tuesday shooting is better for the show itself.

Tv Food and Drink said...

Wonderful post. Thanks!

Dave Gordon said...

Here's a semi-valid Friday Question (on Saturday). Who chooses the incidental music for TV shows? I've just watched another episode of NCIS-Los Angeles, featuring The.Most.Inappropriate incidental music for "Callan wondering about his first name", "Kensie confused about her feelings for Deeks", "Hetty being motherly" and various other emo scenes.
It seems like the only qualification is that you've heard a lot of mood music, but thats no excuse on this show.

Matthew said...

I have a couple of questions. First off...where can I get a chair that's like the one Martin Crane sits in on Frasier? Or whats the make/model at least? I genuinely want one.

Second question is in regards to the episode of Becker called Crosstalk, who wrote the bit about Aspergers or even why was the decision taken? Speaking as someone who has Aspergers, I found it ever so slightly offensive. Although that said, I did like Becker for standing up for us and Martha (at first) for doing likewise.

Matthew said...

I meant Margaret not Martha. lol

Paul Duca said...

RCP...I came across a copy of METROPOLITAN HOME, which did a piece on the Shore/Lee?now ? property.
Converting the fur vault into a sauna is one of the changes David made.

Thomas said...

Here's a question you could answer on Friday: What other blogs do you recommend?

iain said...

An unfiltered google search for "Dina Shore's Fur Vault" yielded no results (other than this specific blog entry).

I'm sort of relieved about that.

RCP said...

Paul Duca said...

"RCP...I came across a copy of METROPOLITAN HOME, which did a piece on the Shore/Lee?now ? property.
Converting the fur vault into a sauna is one of the changes David made."

My memory was a bit off - it wasn't a brochure but a magazine feature I worked on for Christie's Great Estates in 2009. By then, there was mention of a sauna but no mention of the (former) fur vault - I would have remembered that little detail. Very cool home, though. I did get a personal tour of one of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses in LA (the exterior was used in 1959’s House on Haunted Hill) – another stunning property I can write about but probably never live in (well, who knows…)