Here are this week’s Friday Questions comin’ attcha:
Hamid gets us started:
Who's your favorite Bond?
I think the bigger more important question is: Who’s your favorite Darren Stevens?
Been watching a lot of Everybody Loves Raymond lately, and marveling that, as no show since perhaps The Jack Benny Program, it makes such frequent use of deadpan reactions, often to extraordinary lengths, always to maximum laughter. How can you possibly time your script when you never how long it'll take the audience to stop laughing at Brad Garrett's slightly elevated eyebrow?
You can’t accurately time your script. You have a rough idea based on the number of pages. And the script coordinator on the set will time all runthroughs. But for a show filmed live (like RAYMOND) there’s usually an audience laugh spread. Generally it’s two to four minutes. On the BIG WAVE DAVE’S pilot we had a laugh spread of ten minutes. That’s great until you get into editing.
Ideally, you plan well (we did not with BIG WAVE DAVE’S – we were shocked it got such big sustained laughs), and your first cut after editing is two or three minutes long. Then you can go back and trim and fine-tune and really whip the show into shape.
But there are so many factors. Sometimes you get better audiences than others. Sometimes the air conditioning doesn’t work as well. There could be technical problems which delay shooting and dissipate the audience’s energy. You just never know.
I’ve worked with some great ones in that regard. Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce would be two more.
From Charles H. Bryan:
Have you ever worked with people who are funny in the room but not on the page? Or vice versa? Where there's a marked difference, where the script has people crying with laughter but the personal presence is sort of a dud? I have to imagine that there are those who operate better in one environment instead of the other. What do you do with such people?
There are definitely writers who are primarily “room funny” as we call it. Great jokes and they help keep the energy in the room up. But when asked to write a draft and include a little depth they’re out of their league. Their scripts come back very jokey and generally need a lot of work.
On the other hand, there are some writers who are quiet and shy but turn in wonderful drafts. We call them “Neil Simon writers.”
Sure, you’d love to have writers who are both funny in the room and on the page, but each of these specialists can be of great value if you use them correctly. As a showrunner it’s like building a basketball team. You have guys who can shoot and guys who can play great defense.
We won’t give a lot of script assignments to the room funny guys and we’ll let the quiet ones go to their offices and churn out scripts.
Brian has a Friday MASH question:
Did the cast and crew enjoy the days when they got to leave the soundstage and head to Malibu to shoot exteriors or did they view it as a chore? I've heard that the facilities out there weren't exactly considered...modern.
No. They did not like it. First off, they were further away from me and that always unnerved them. It was a million degrees out there. And the location was in the Malibu Canyon, which was near to nowhere. They shot from sun up to sundown. So the cast had to be there at 5:00 AM to get into make up – meaning they probably had to wake up at 3:00 to get there by 5.
And then they shot in the punishing summer sun until 8:15. We were on a very tight production schedule and they would be expected to shoot eight pages every location day. In contrast, a movie might shoot two.
As for the facilities, well... you wouldn't want the Queen of England to use one of the restrooms.
We allotted one location day per script until the fall when it started getting dark early and was impossible to film more than five pages on any given day. If you have the DVD’s you’ll notice that rarely will you see a location scene in the last six or seven episodes. All those shows were shot strictly on Stage 9 at Twentieth Century Fox and they featured a lot of late night poker games.
What’s your Friday Question? And favorite Darren Stevens?