Sunday, June 28, 2009

All systems go...

Season Five is on the pad and ready to lift off. But just like any launch, ours has had weather problems up to the last second. Were we going to keep shooting on film or switch to digital? Were we going to find the right actors to play vital new roles? (Which doesn't only mean finding the actors, but also making numerous complex individual deals even for actors who won't get the part, circulating casting tapes all over town, and when necessary convening a dozen very powerful and busy adults into a room to scrutinize the skills, likability and facial features of a small child.) And last but not least, would the Universal Studios Tour trams outside our windows drive everyone MAD??? It all came down to the wire in a grueling week that I hope doesn't get repeated for at least, well, realistically, another few. Except for the way it ended. That I'd be happy to repeat, over and over, and soon. Thanks to the herculean efforts of Donna in casting and Love in preproduction and Kim and Ian everywhere else, it all came together at the last second, and the pieces are now in place for a very exciting new season. Cameras roll Tuesday, a little after dawn, in Los Angeles.

Down at our end of the hall, the writing pipeline is flowing faster and faster. Jeannine did a draft of 502, this one inspired by personal experience, when her daughter received a chain email claiming to carry a curse. Mark got his outline approved for 503, which digs painfully but comically deeply into the family secrets of one of our regulars. Meanwhile John Gray is hammering out the story for 504, which will peel back a gooey layer or two on the haunted history of a key new location. (You'll want to pay special attention to that story this season.) Melissa and Joy are in the room hatching a sleek techno thriller, and Stephanie is noodling a Halloween chill ride.

And Chief Platespinner Laurie continues to do an excellent job making sure that not only do none of the plates crash, but all of them sing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A very big day

Friday we had our first pre-production meeting for the new season. Headed by first episode director Jennifer Love Hewitt. Writers have been working for exactly one month to produce the first in a long line of scripts. And it's ready to go.

What's a pre-production meeting? Well, here's what happens: Heads of every department join to go over the new script in minute detail. You've heard it before and it's true: Shooting a t.v. show or movie is like waging a war. A whole lot of people have to do their very specific and challenging jobs at precisely the right moment so certain things happen on film when they need to happen. Or else. If one person fails, you have to do it again. And again. Which costs seconds or minutes.

In film, seconds are like lives: once you lose them you can never get them back. And every single member of the crew feels their loss. Because now there's less time to do the next take, the next shot, the next scene, all the rest of the work for that day and that week. Something somewhere WILL suffer.

That's why we have meetings before we shoot. And meetings. And meetings. Because every minute invested ahead of production saves precious seconds when the cameras are rolling.

Friday's meeting was also important for other reasons. As I've said before, we're making some big changes this season -- changes on every level. Where, when, what, who. And when you make changes on a show, you want to make sure people FEEL it. Which means changing not only the where when what who, but the how. New rules on the inside mean new rules on the outside. Meaning the show is going to look a lot different this season. And a key driver of this change is J Love herself. With a mandate to shake things up -- and with her own artist's restless desire to do things differently -- she came to the meeting armed with a raft of new ways to shoot the show. New staging, new filming techniques, new effects. You're going to see them from the earliest scenes of the first episode.

But let's be honest. Many of of you probably don't care that much about what happened at the pre-production meeting. You want to know what's going to happen. What's in that script that we were prepping?

Here's all I can tell you: there's a bowling ball. There's a hospital. There's a ghost. There's a goodie bag. There's another ghost. Several more, actually. There's a baby. There's a party. There's a morgue. There's a very strange dream. There's a ticking clock (literally) (and figuratively). There's a very old book. There's blood. There's tears. There's joy.

Check in again in the coming weeks for more...