Let’s kick off August with some Friday Questions, shall we?
Howard Hoffman follows up on my post about our first script:
My very first Friday question: Did you repurpose any of the material from that first script into any of your aired shows? If so, what should we look for?
No. Rarely if ever do we recycle jokes from past scripts. It’s not that we have such high standards; it’s that we have poor memories.
On CHEERS the great Jerry Belson used to come in once a week and help us punch up scripts. From time to time he’d pitch a joke, the Charles Brothers would reject it and he’d say, “Hey, it got a big laugh on THE ODD COUPLE.” Jerry (who came up with more original and hilarious jokes than anybody) would always maintain, “What went before is good too.”
How do you execute episodes of sitcoms where the script calls for a dramatic change in the set during that episode? A few examples jump out to me. Norm paints Frasier and Lilith's apartment. The bar burns down. Frasier and Niles buy a restaurant and redecorate it.
Usually you pre-shoot those scenes the day before. That gives crews all night to get things back to normal.
We’ve all seen the pilot where one of the main characters gets in a fight with the others and is about to move away but then they get him to stay and that's the start of the series.
Could this be considered a premise pilot?
No. That’s considered schmuck bait because no one really believes that character will move away.
There was a period where networks didn’t want premise pilots because they can test better than a normal show. Darrin learning Sam is a witch will test through the roof, but what do you do every other episode when he now already knows this? The trouble with non-premise pilots is that you spend so much time filling the audience in on the backstory and making introductions that the pilot becomes unwieldy and often unnecessarily confusing.
Rick Wiedmayer asks:
When you are hired for a directing job, how far in advance of the filming are you usually hired so that you can prepare?
For multi-camera shows it can be the day before you go into production. For single-camera shows you need several days for pre-production – to scout locations, plan shot lists, work out logistics and any stunts, have tone meetings with the showrunner, etc. But multi-camera shows are mostly shot on the same stage in front of a studio audience all in one night.
On the first day of production on a multi-camera show the first order of business is a production meeting. It is here the director goes over the script with members of every department. Wardrobe, swing sets, props, effects, any pre-shooting or challenges unique to that episode are worked out.
I of course, prefer to get the script a few days in advance so I can better prepare and anticipate possible problems. But the truth is, especially as the season grinds on, lead time evaporates and often scripts aren’t distributed until the day before production. I just roll with it.
But another difference between multi-camera and single-camera shows is that multi-camera scripts tend to change a lot more. After each day’s runthrough the script gets overhauled. It’s not unusual to get entire new scenes or storylines. A director must be flexible and able to re-stage and re-block for cameras on the fly.
Got a Friday Question? I might have the answer. And it might even be the correct one.