Some Friday Questions for your weekend pleasure:
Splenda has a low calorie question:
In sports, veteran players who might be a risk are sometimes given an "incentive-laden" contract. Their actual salaries are near the minimum, but there are a bunch of bonuses added to the contract, so if the player performs well, they get paid more. Is this ever done in television? Can NBC go to the Parks and Recreation actors/producers/show runner and say, "We will keep the show, but only if no one accepts a raise. But the contracts will say that if you win your time slot next season, each of you will receive a bonus equal to 15% of your salary."
They can try. As long as the terms are within the conditions of the SAG contract (and are legal), networks and agents and attorneys can be creative as they please. Actors might trade salary hikes for ownership stakes, or get bonuses based on ratings. I believe there are some actors who have it in their deals that no other cast member can be paid more than them. So if other co-stars get raises, he gets one too.
More creative accounting: Actors take producer credits now, getting an additional salary for that even though, in most cases, they don’t do anything. But to be fair, most showrunners are also happy they don’t do anything.
Often times these negotiations are complicated. And that’s before they wrestle with the issue of credit – where their title card goes, how big, how does it compare with other cast members? Does the actor get an “and” before his name? Money is sometimes the easy part.
If someone living in 1912 could look ahead 100 years, would they be impressed or depressed by what they saw? Technology has moved on, but has society?
Mike, I’m very impressed that you think I could answer that question. Not sure which article in my blog led you to believe I had the depth capable of tackling such a question – maybe it was my piece on porn star karaoke – but alas I’m not sure I’m sufficiently qualified. But I will mull it over. In the meantime, is there anything you want to know about say... MANNEQUIN 2?
ScottyB has a question about filming sitcoms in front of live audiences:
Since minutes mean money, how do y'all deal with occasions when a bit ends up being so good that the audience laughter just goes on *forever* (which is pretty much a writer's crowning glory)? That's gotta eat up a whole mess of time on the clock since you basically have to shoehorn in every available stage second.
That’s a writer’s favorite problem. Actors are always told to wait for the laugh, even if it’s inordinately long. The laugh can be pulled up in editing. It’s as easy as cutting to a reaction shot.
Back in the “old days” when these shows were often on film (as opposed to today’s HD tape… which looks sorta, kinda like film), film was indeed wasted holding for laughs. So if the laugh was big and long enough, directors would stop cameras. This happened very rarely. For a writer it’s the equivalent of a walk-off grand slam home run.
My writing partner, David and I had one the first year of CHEERS. It was in the “Boys in the Bar” episode. Sam is in the poolroom with Diane. He just learned that his former roommate on the Red Sox is gay. Sam says, “I should’ve known. We were on the road in a piano bar and he requested a show tune.” For whatever reason, that killed the audience. Must’ve been a five-minute sustained laugh. I took a little home run trot around the stage with that one.
Lots of interest in CHEERS lately (with the 30th reunion and all). Here’s another CHEERS question – this one from Bradley.
On average, how long did it take to film an episode of Cheers?
We’d start at 7. The audience was usually let out around 9:30. Then there would be pick-ups – retakes after the good folks had left. To do all the pick-ups during the initial filming would kill any momentum. So depending on the number of pick ups, you could be there an extra ten minutes or several hours.
The first year, Jim Burrows did a lot of fabulous shots to establish the bar. I remember one that started in the pool room and crossed all the way across the bar to the front door, with all kinds of activity going on. It’s maybe my favorite shot of the series (besides my credit). That first year we usually wrapped around midnight. They were long nights. But the results were sure worth it.
Over the next few years the show and actors found their groove. Pick-ups usually lasted to about 10:30.
During the last two seasons, when no one in the cast knew their lines, the audience was there for at least three hours because someone goofed up a line every ten seconds. Personally, that was hard to watch.
Here’s another CHEERS one. It’s from Robert Pierce:
Was there a reason why Al, Paul and a bunch of the other barflies had the same first names as their characters? Was it just easier or was it a writing technique?
Give me a second. I’m still trying to figure out what people in 1912 would be thinking. Yes, it was just easier and avoided any possible confusion to just use the barfly actors’ real names. As along as their names weren’t Sam, Norm, Cliff, Frasier, Woody, and Coach.
What’s your question? Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks!