Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday Questions

Halfway through the month, which means we’re much closer to the 20th.  Here are this week’s FRIDAY QUESTIONS.

YEKIMI starts us off.  

I've noticed recently [and this goes back for decades] but it seems that when the credits at the beginning of a TV show/movie roll the director is always listed last. Any reason for this or is it just something that has always been done and Hollywood just doesn't like breaking with tradition?

This is something that has been negotiated by the Directors Guild of America.  If credits come at the start of a movie or TV show, the director receives the last credit.  If the credits are at the end, the director gets the first credit.

Now that’s the rule in America.  Internationally, it might be different.

From kcross:

I remember that you would take improv classes a few years back. Have you tried any since the shutdown? How were they better (or worse)?

Yes.  I’m in Andy Goldberg’s workshop and we’ve been doing Zoom improv since last March.  Usually two-person scenes with everyone else off camera.   

I have to say it works better than I thought it would.   But I do miss being able to do physical comedy or just be active during a scene.    Still, as a placeholder, improv on Zoom has been a great creative outlet.  

Scotty Watson in New York also teaches improv on line and is terrific. 

ReticentRabbit queries:

When an actor directs himself or herself in an episode, how does that work?

First of all, when an actor of a series directs an episode it’s usually one where he’s light in it.   The hard part is obviously an actor having to judge himself and the others while performing.  Sometimes they’ll have someone to rely on off-camera who can provide some feedback.  Otherwise, it’s just their judgement.

The technical part is easier because the Director of Photography or Camera Coordinator can keep an eye on the camera to make sure it’s shooting what the director planned.  

Actors are generally good directors because they know how to talk to other actors.  They’ve also experienced multiple directors so they themselves know what they like and don’t like in a director.  

The only time it got weird was on this one show where supporting actors occasionally got to direct.   Normally a lovely person, this one actor became Jekyll & Hyde when he directed.   Snapping at people, even his fellow cast members.  Then the following week he was back to his usual lovable self.  I don’t know why the rest of the cast didn’t kill him.  

And finally, from DEJ:  

How long would it take you to write a half hour show if you were doing it on your own? You will probably answer, "how long is a piece of string"? but a ball park figure would be of great interest.

It has changed over the years.  It used to take me much longer when I was starting out.  But now, after more years than I care to reveal, I can write a half-hour script in probably four days — three if there was really a time crunch.    

But like I said, in the early days the same script would take me two weeks.  I’ve put in my 10,000 hours (probably times 5).  

What’s your Friday Question? 


Michael said...

On the Verizon FIOS program guide, for a lot of shows, the "cast" list now starts with the name of the director, before listing the actors. It took me awhile to figure out why for example Andy Griffith wasn't first cast member listed for THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.

Honest Ed said...

I write a lot of drama here in the UK. Like you it feels like it takes me a lot less time. It's partly experience, and a generally greater , more instinctive, more honed grasp of what works and what doesn't. It's also because there are a couple of shows for which I write lot of episodes. I know those shows, those characters, the tone, etc, really well, which really speeds things up. I don't have to spend time weighing up whether something works for the show or the character, I know it instantly.

Mark said...

You've mentioned before about the Jekyll/Hyde actor who was a tyrant director, and for years I've had this nagging feeling it was John Ratzenberger.

VP81955 said...

I recall that horrible morning of Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump took office (and it was horrid -- rain in Los Angeles). I was having tea at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on 5th Street across from the Main Library; how depressing ("American carnage"). That Coffee Bean closed weeks later, and of late it seems nearly the entire chain has disappeared to a handful of locations, somewhat victimized by Covid-19 (curse you, Jollibee, the Filipino chain that bought Coffee Bean in 2019). Nevertheless, Starbucks and its dreadful teas still thrive, so it can't all be blamed on the pandemic.

Ken, have you seen "Call Me Kat" on Fox? I admire Mayim Bialik's comic chops (not to mention her work for women in STEM) but it breaks the fourth wall a little too much. Also, every ep -- three have aired so far -- ends with the entire cast (including Leslie Jordan and Swoosie Kurtz) breaking out of character and dancing on the set. Next Thursday, "Mom" returns with a new episode, as do Chuck Lorre stablemates "Young Sheldon" and "B Positive," so bye bye Kat.

Covarr said...

I once worked with a director who cast herself. She's usually pretty good on stage when she's not directing, but she was by far the worst cast member of this particular show. Her performance didn't make any sense, her blocking varied dramatically from night to night, and she was so bad with her lines that we could never really be sure how act 2 was going to end, and the rest of the cast was always on their toes to try and correct for her derailments. It was kind of a nightmare.

But you know what? I don't blame her at all. Apart from the reason she cast herself (not enough people auditioned, which is not her fault), trying to fill both pairs of shoes at the same time is insanely difficult. I learned that myself the hard way.

It was late 2019. I had been asked by my local community theatre's artistic director to find and direct a Christmas show (I agreed on the condition that I wouldn't do anything either too sappy or that only a six-year-old could enjoy).

I cast myself as the smallest role in the show. It was a voice-only role, one which I could perform from the tech booth, which was perfect since I was also running sound for the show, as well as lighting for the second half because my lights guy was also Santa. Only two short paragraphs, as a news announcer who does the intro "And now, channel 8 news" sort of thing.

NEVER AGAIN. Even with so few lines, it turns out it's a LOT harder to learn them when you're also involved in so many other things. Directing the cast and blocking, coordinating with all the set design, stage, and tech people, composing a brief news theme because you don't have the budget for royalties on an existing one, designing the poster because you're also the theatre's poster guy... it's a lot. I got them learned with about a week to spare, but it was a pain. And when I'm also working in the booth, I don't have enough hands to hold up a script, even if the audience can't see it. Heck, not enough hands to operate the sounds and hold a mic at the same time.

Community theatres without enough volunteers are something else.

I love acting. I love directing. But there is absolutely ZERO chance I will do both for the same show ever again. It's a quick way to wear yourself too thin, and frankly I'm amazed that people like Alan Alda can make it look so easy with the high quality of their output. I guess it's easier when that's your fulltime job and not something you're trying to fit in after work, but still, I can't imagine it's easy. High respect to people who pull it off so well.

marka said...

I've wondered about table reads and how much you can trust them. Especially when you're directing and aren't familiar with the cast.

I assume there are folks who laugh at things that aren't funny because they want it to be funny, or want to be supportive. Others might be grumpy, hung over, or whatever and don't laugh at funny things because of that. Other casts must have honest and accurate reactions.

How accurate are table reads as a means of judging a script? Are these pitfalls things that happen? What other things are you looking out for with them, other than listening to them read the script?

Troy McClure said...

Irony is an essential part of comedy. That's why I love the beautiful irony of all the Trump terrorists carrying out their insurrection not wearing a mask, thereby exposing themselves to Coronavirus and making themselves easily identifiable to law enforcement, as well as one woman who saw her ex-husband in a photo of the riot and alerted authorities, leading to his arrest. Delicious.

I also enjoyed the video showing a Trumpuke telling a reporter "Trump is a genius. That's what the J in Donald J Trump stands for."

Douglas Trapasso said...

>> That's why I love the beautiful irony of all the Trump terrorists
>> carrying out their insurrection not wearing a mask, thereby exposing
>> themselves to Coronavirus and making themselves easily identifiable to law enforcement

Didn't Emily Post say that years ago? Always dress for the occasion.

mike schlesinger said...

I directed myself in SCHMO BOAT, and to my surprise it wasn't as difficult as I feared, though I did do some extra takes just to be on the safe side, nine in all. We ended up using parts of four and five.

Re CALL ME KAT--It's based on a UK show with Miranda Hart. Talking to the audience is not uncommon over there; see also FLEABAG, HOUSE OF CARDS and of course THE GOES WRONG SHOW.

YEKIMI said...

Hmmmmm, raging directors. That jogged a memory that I thought I had forgotten. Last year of high school and a couple of years after I was in a community theater group, usually running lights or audio but having to act sometimes. It was bad enough putting up with "actors" who thought they were just as good as Laurence Olivier or Elizabeth Taylor but the board usually brought in some Broadway directors for a week or two [probably lower tier guys] and without fail, except for one, they were all screaming, raging drama queens. The nice guy, on his last day, thanked everyone said it was a pleasure working with us and wished us well. I'm not one to put up being screamed at and when one of the assholes aimed his ire at me I yelled back and said "I am doing this for free and I am NOT going to put up with you screaming at ME!" and walked off the stage never to look back. I don't know if they had hemorrhoids, boyfriend/girlfriend problems, were pissed off that they had to travel out to the boondocks or just were asshole's in general....but I don't miss them one bit.

Andrew said...

What's my Friday question? Are you friggin' kidding me?

Who's the Jekyll/Hyde guy?!

I second Mark's suspicion.

Change of subject...
" well as one woman who saw her ex-husband in a photo of the riot and alerted authorities, leading to his arrest."

One more reason not to get married. At least not if you're crazy.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I miss Andy Goldberg's workshop. Unfortunately, due to deficiencies with my technology I have been unable to join a ZOOM session. I miss working with Ken, et al. And yes, he's a very funny improviser.
Another excellent improv teacher who is Second City alumnus, David Razowsky. He is also doing online classes.

Just a heads up, sometime next week I will have a Friday question regarding Ted Danson. I'm just trying to figure out how to word it. I'll give you a hint, it involves Whoopie Goldberg. (No relation to Andy.)


Ere I Saw Elba said...

@ Troy McClure

I also enjoyed the video showing a Trumpuke telling a reporter "Trump is a genius. That's what the J in Donald J Trump stands for."

The really sad part to this is that it's not even original--Niles saw the same joke coming in the basketball episode on FRASIER. ("the less common j-spelling").

Kyle Burress said...

It's always unfortunate when an actor/actress passes away during the course a television series, be it completely unexpected or not.

What are your thoughts on what television show handled an actor's death the best?

I've always thought that Coach's death on 'Cheers' and Florence and Selma on 'Night Court' were kind of brushed over, not to mention Mother Olivia Jefferson on 'The Jeffersons'.

I only bring this up because I'm watching 'The Wire' again where, in my opinion, they handle the deaths of Robert Colesberry (co-creator and bit part actor) and Richard DeAngelis (Raymond Foerster) as the best of any show I can think of. They acknowledge the character and have a nice tribute to both of them.

VP81955 said...

Don't forget the Jack Soo tribute on "Barney Miller."

Tyler said...


I like your question. I'm going to mildly disagree with you...I think that Cheers handled the death of Coach about as well as they possibly could have, considering the circumstances they were working under.

There was never an episode that was specifically about Coach's death (which obviously is hard to do when you no longer have the actor who plays him), but they acknowledged Coach's passing and brought in a new character who had a connection to him in Woody.

Bub said...

Friday Question: Was there a specific reason for Frederick’s recasting on Frasier? Trevor Einhorn played the part from season 4 onwards, but the previous year he’d been played by Luke Tarsitano. Was Tarsitano deemed not right for the part or was he unavailable for future seasons?

JS said...

Friday Question - Did you write or Produce an episode of The Jeffersons?

I was half awake and just saw the ending credits - I think you were in there - what was that like?

Valjean said...


I just noticed that after Rebecca slept with Robin Colcord in season 8 of Cheers, you and David won the pool guessing how she would describe the encounter, along with Norm and Cliff's mom. Between this and your appearance at the bar in the final "Bar Wars", perhaps we could argue that the two of you canonically exist in the world of the show...

Jahn Ghalt said...

I just wanna say - Peri Gilpin is a fine (FINE) proxy for Natalie Wood.