Last Friday Questions before Thanksgiving.
Derek (in Calgary) starts us off:
My question relates to stunt-casting and the fee paid to the stunt-casted actors.
Suppose you are running Modern Family and for whatever reason you decide to offer a small one-episode cameo role to (say) a well-known baseball player. How is it determined how much the baseball player is paid? Is it the same rate as any other guest actor would get for comparable screen-time? Is this the "scale" rate we sometimes hear about?
Do things change for higher-profile stunt casting? Suppose you now learn than Mick Jagger will do a small role on your show, for two or three episodes. And suppose you are keen to have him. Is it a written or unwritten rule that he would have to be paid scale? Or, if he and his agent demand a high fee, could he potentially be paid whatever amount the network and his agent can agree upon?
Stunt cast guest stars usually receive what’s called “top of the show” (the highest salary a studio is willing to go). Often these guest stars are friends of one of the cast members or someone on the production staff so they do the appearance for “top of the show” as a favor although it’s way less than they usually get. Or if the show if super hot and they want the prestige or exposure.
Many stars, however, want more than “top of the show.” In those cases the producer usually goes to the network and says, “How much do you want this clown? And if he’s that important, will you pick up the difference?” If the star is big enough and promotable enough the network will sometimes give in.
Lisa Muldrin has a question about multi-camera shows:
How can you, as a director, can keep track of four cameras at once? and how many takes you usually make on average?
When two characters are talking to each other you often see the back of one of their heads in the shot. This ties the two actors together. It’s called an “over” (for over-the shoulder). So in one pass I’ll ask for the “over” and in the other I’ll ask for the “single” which is just a close up of the actor speaking. When cut together this gives me a little variety.
So for every scene there are four cameras so eight possible angles. And still there may be shots you don’t get – generally reaction shots. In those cases we do “pick-ups”.
Think Rubix Cube.
Now those are just passes for cameras. Producers sometimes want additional takes if they’re not satisfied with the performances. Or if they want to substitute jokes for lines that didn’t get a laugh.
So to answer your question on the number of takes: generally two, but as high as seven or eight.
How often do personal matters of an actor derail a show, maybe something the general public doesn't know about. I'm thinking more along the lines if a popular actor came to you and said "I'm gay and I'm thinking of announcing it publicly". Would you say "For the love of all the TV gods in history, don't do it, you'll destroy the show!"
No. Never. I personally feel very strongly that people should come out and be who they are. Were that to happen on one of my shows I would just deal with it. Today there seems to be less of a stigma attached (thank goodness) to someone declaring he’s gay, but regardless – it’s not my place to tell an actor (or anyone for that matter) how to conduct his personal life.
Andrew Kamphey wonders:
In retrospect the names of characters are very unique. For any of your shows, have you had any interesting battles over names?
When we were doing the pilot for MARY (Mary Tyler Moore’s third failed comeback attempt (3 of 5), the co-star was James Farentino. He played an editor of a tabloid newspaper in Chicago. His name was printed on his frosted office door. For whatever reason, we couldn’t clear a last name. Everyday we’d come up with something new. Everyday they would paint a new door, and everyday the name would get kicked back. This went on for about a week until we finally landed on DeMarco. But there must’ve been five wasted doors. It was like Groundhog Day for those poor painters. And I'm sure they were thinking, "These idiot producers can't make up their fucking minds!"
I’ve spoken on this topic before but I’ve used the names of former girlfriends from time to time in scripts. Yes, it is a nerdy thing to do.
What’s your question? Leave it the comments section. Thanks and gobble gobble.