Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Questions

Thanks as always for your Friday Questions. Here are some answers.

HikenFan asks:

I've been reading a lot of multicamera scripts, and often see the transition "RESET TO" at the end of a scene.

I understand CUT TO and DISSOLVE TO, but what is actually being "reset" when this transition is used?

When you CUT or DISSOLVE you stop filming (or taping). When you RESET you keep filming for a few seconds while the camera move to new marks. Generally this is in multi-camera shows.

Let’s say you have a scene in a living room and it continues into the kitchen. As the characters move from one set to the other it’s hard to move all four cameras with them. So generally they will enter the kitchen, the director will yell, “Reset!” the cameras will roll across the stage to their new positions in the kitchen, the actors will back up a few steps, the director will yell, “Action!” and the characters enter the kitchen and the scene continues.

Whenever you yell “Cut!” you can expect at least a three or four minute delay before resuming – and usually much more. Hair and make up people swarm around the actors doing touch ups. The director will often have last second notes to the actors. At times the writers huddle to quickly come up with a new joke to replace one that bombed. And when you’re ready to shoot again you have to wait for sound to be up to speed, and you have to slate the new scene.

So if it’s a continuous scene in two adjacent sets it’s often more prudent to just reset.

Frank from Silly Cone Valley wonders:

Hey Ken, could I send you a one-page draft of an idea I am working on? I would love you to go all Dennis Miller on me.

Frank, unfortunately my one rule is that I don’t read unsolicited submissions. No ideas, treatments, scripts. Two reasons: One is for legal purposes. You may have an idea similar to something I’m already working on and think I stole your idea and sue me. I don’t need that headache.

Also, if I read yours I have to read everybody’s and the floodgates would open. I would have no time to do anything else.  Even sleep.  So please understand it’s nothing personal and I wish you the best with your project, but I can’t read it.

That said, I’m happy to continue answering your questions and providing blog posts that hopefully you all find helpful.

From Ane:

I recently applied for a radio job. I've never been in that business before, so I probably won't even get an interview. But just in case they happen to like something on my resumee or the mp3 I sent, any advice, Ken? What do radio people look for in an interview? Someone who's outgoing and well spoken, I guess but what else? Thanks in advance.

Say the magic words: “I’ll work for cheap.” I’m only half kidding.

Especially when breaking in, radio pays crap. Beyond that, I’d say do your homework. Know as much as you can about the station, the format, the market, etc. And maybe mention my name. I’d be curious to know if that helps. But seriously, just be yourself. That’s always the best advice. Good luck.

And finally, friend of the blog Johnny Walker has a CHEERS question.

In Season One there's at least one episode where we see the "fourth" wall (where the audience is in reality). How did this work on a practical level? Didn't pulling the fake wall out obscure the audience's view?

There was a lot of experimenting that went on the first season. One of the things we tried was having a fourth wall. It was really just a wall on rollers that could easily be moved wherever we wanted it.

But we only used it during pick-ups after the audience had been released. So there was no interruption or obscured views during the filming.

After using it a couple of times the general consensus was that it didn’t add much, and was time consuming to set up (the cameras had to be wheeled into the set, furniture moved, and new lightening set up).

Besides, when you announce that the show is filmed before a live studio audience, who are you fooling that this is a real bar?

You’ll notice as you watch that first season that director James Burrows gets some amazing shots, some long tracking moves as he really established that bar as almost another character in the show. So much of the success of CHEERS is in the mood set, the depth of field, and the interaction of the characters – and that was all James Burrows. He deserves his 395 Emmys.

What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

"Especially when breaking in, radio pays crap."

Minimum wage, in my experience. But that was in the 80s. Maybe they don't even pay that much anymore.

BBT said...

Ken, how do you like FARGO?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks, Ken! I did notice when I re-watched the first season, just how thoroughly Burrows explored the set. He really wasn't shy about showing it from every possible angle. I think sometimes he was bolder in the first season than in later seasons (maybe he had learned what he needed and what he didn't).

Interesting with the pick-up shots after the audience has left, where do you get the laughter from? Do you show just that scene to next week's audience? (It's been ages since I was in a sitcom audience and I can't remember.)

Hands Solo said...

Ken, I'd love to write for TV but don't live or have the right to work in the US. I also don't have any special skills and unless America suddenly finds itself lacking in skilled masturbators that isn't going to change anytime soon. Is there any realistic path directly to TV or am I better off trying to break in via features?

Anonymous said...

When I was a youngster and I wanted to write for TV my heroes were Glen and Les Charles, but James Burrows really deserves so much credit. He is truly one of the greatest TV directors there is.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ken, just when I think I couldn't think of another question, you inspire a new one out of me.

Technology has changed things and now you can get a sense or a pulse of the show's audience expectations and tone. When you or your daughter Annie are involved in a show (even for just one episode), do you read the TV blog reviews and critiques in order to gauge what the audiences likes or dislikes? Realistically, wouldn't these be better notes than from the folks in Production?

Brian Doan said...

Ken, as a WGA member who has served on arbitration committees, do you have any thoughts on Barry Levinson quitting the Guild due to a dispute over arbitration methods, or any thoughts on the give and take between Levinson's and WGA officials' comments here?

Pat Reeder said...

I'll toss in some advice for Ane, about breaking into radio. I've been a major market DJ and Production Director, worked for a number of top radio syndicators, launched my own syndicated prep service The Comedy Wire, and currently write a show for Cumulus that's heard on over 500 stations, among other random radio jobs. But it all started in a little 200-watt radio station in Hillsboro, Texas...

Sorry, didn't mean to go all Ted Baxtery on you. But that's my advice. I started while in college at a small town station, working 6-hour air shifts 7 days a week, including holidays (somebody's gotta be on the air to play the Barking Dogs' "Jingle Bells" while everyone else is opening their gifts). I was the only one there most of the time, and did everything from DJing to gathering/writing/reading news to shutting down the transmitter at 10 and washing the coffee pot. Small town stations need good people who are willing to do everything at any time. It helps if you are that rarest of personality types: a loquacious loner.

From there, I transferred to a larger college in a bigger town just outside Dallas and volunteered for the college station. Halfway through my first air shift, I got a call from the local commercial station offering me a job. The PD said he listened to the school station every year to see if anyone was worth hiring as an intern. But he could tell right away that I had professional experience and offered me the overnight air shift. For the next two years, I worked my way through school there, gradually moving up to middays, then mornings.

After graduating, I moved into Dallas. I sent around my resume and tape (yes, we had tape way back then. It came on reels!) The PD of one of the top AC stations called me in for an interview and hired me. He told me something that I always pass along to everyone who asks about breaking into radio. He said he hired me because he could tell I'd put in years of work in smaller markets, polishing my skills. He got tons of tapes and resumes from young people who thought that because they'd grown up in Dallas, they'd apply for their first radio job at their favorite home town station. It never dawned on them that their home town station was in a very big market and wasn't an entry-level workplace.

So if you really want to work in radio (and that's another lecture entirely), my advice would be that you not apply fresh out of school to the top station in town, unless you live in a town with fewer than 3,000 people. If you must live in a big city, target stations in suburbs or outlying towns that are close enough to commute to (or that living in wouldn't be too great an ordeal). You're more likely to get hired and build valuable experience. And who knows, maybe the PD at one of the big market stations will get dragged out antiquing by his wife, accidentally hear you in the background and think, "Hey, with a better on-air name, that Ane kid might be worth hiring for deep nights." And thus begins the dream.

Johnny Walker said...

Another CHEERS Friday question:

I'm watching Season 5 now, and is it just me, or has the show changed from two acts to three acts? If so, was the change difficult? It seems having to have two plot points for every story would make it more difficult?

Doktor Frank Doe said...

QUESTION: Ken, a few weeks ago I was watching some show where a Ford pickup was being used in the scene and the Ford badge in the grille had been taped over. Now is it just me or is this indeed some pitiful punishment to Ford for not paying some forced-upon product placement fee? Because I got to thinking that if that's the case, then this is working against them in a lot of living rooms where a truck is just a truck until you try to hide what it is, is it not? Because now "FORD" becomes a conscious thought by visual reference (since everyone knows someone that has one if they don't actually have one themselves) and in wondering why "Ford" is being concealed in this show. Looks to me that critical thought wins out and the message gets through stronger by omission.

Michelle said...

I've been watching The Comeback, with Lisa Kudrow and I found it hilarious that Jimmy Burrows plays himself. Well, that and how he tries to ignore the actors when they try to change the script. Have you ever appeared on one of your shows?

Ronald Perry said...

Hey Ken,

FRIDAY QUESTION - Fox's Mulaney logline: John's desire to be a good person challenges his friendship with his roommates Jane and Seymour. This leaves one universal question: Why the fuck are people supposed to care?

Shouldn't they have just taken the Seinfeld logline?

Toby Scales said...


I'm a writer and comedian in New York, with some produced theatre credits and a weekly gig hosting my own comedy variety show.

What I think I need now is a manager -- so I can get submitted to staffing opportunities -- but I'm not sure how to go about approaching or finding one. I've entered plenty of contests (and even won some), but I haven't attracted any attention. Should I just keep building my resume and sending cold query letters? Is there a secret handshake I should learn? Thanks for any advice!

And thank you so much for your blog, it's a great source of daily information/inspiration for me.

-Toby Scales