What a week it'

Tomorrow I get to visit a TV studio to watch the making of a local hit drama show. My first ever studio visit; something I’ve always, always wanted to do.

Er, that was an aborted post.

Tomorrow I get to visit a TV studio to watch the making of a local hit drama show. My first ever studio visit; something I’ve always, always wanted to do. Because of my involvement in another show, I got to know the publicity people for one of the channels pretty well; when this new show hit the air, I fell in love with it instantly. As the credits rolled after the first episode, I noticed it was the same gang, so the next time I saw them, I mentioned my fascination with the show, which prompted an invitation to the studio.

Then Christmas holidays and a reduced shooting schedule hit, so we said we’d do it in 2006. Finally got an email from them (I was sure I’d have to prompt them, but nope, they remembered and emailed me first!) asking if I’d like to attend one of the more exciting shooting days. Best I can figure is, they’re shooting a major story event tomorrow, and I got the invite to be there. I’m so excited. The possibility of interviewing the stars has also been mentioned, which is where the nervousness comes in. I’ve put together a handful of generic interview questions, plus specific questions for each of the major actors so that they’ll know I’ve actually done my homework and not just asking a string of canned questions. I’ve done interviews a few times now, but nothing on this scale… This is sort of the equivalent of interviewing the South African Susan Lucci, (and her male counterparts).

It’s all very exciting, and very nervewracking. Plus I have to drive in Johannesburg during rush hour traffic - and I’ve never driven in central Jo’burg before, so that has me a little anxious as well.
There was going to be more but it ended up way too long winded, so…

That sounds like lots of fun. You’re going to come back here and tell us how it went, right?


It was definitely a lot of fun. It was a long day - it had rained torrentially the night before, and traffic (which is always unbearably bad at that time of the day) was ten times worse than usual. I had planned a generous two hours to make the trip; it ended up taking me 3. Then, while the directions seemed fairly straightforward, they turned out to be crappy - note: if you are drawing a map and leaving out streets in the interests of conserving space, please indicate this somewhere on the map so that I’m not completely baffled when I’ve gone 10 blocks and still haven’t seen the street that is marked as being “next” on the map.

Then my car died in the parking garage, and wouldn’t start for another 15 minutes. So, in the end, I was an hour late, frazzled and frustrated.

Luckily, my PR friend took pity on me and escorted me to the green room where I immediately got a cup of coffee and was introduced to the members of the cast that happened to be there. I drank my coffee, chatted with the cast, and got a rundown of the shooting schedule for the day. Then I got a quick tour of the set, which was great; it’s a rather odd feeling seeing something on TV and then seeing it up close and personal - and realizing how small, dirty and marked up it is in real life.

Then I got to see my first scene. They had already done all the technical prep before I got there so it was the final shoot. They did four or five takes, all of which translated into a five second scene. Then it was back off to the green room again. There was a lot of this - watch a few minutes of shooting, shuffle off to the green room, chat with people, etc.

They called me in to see them doing some blocking - setting up a scene for lighting etc. The actors came in, did a quick mock run of their lines and positions, then disappeared again. The crew marked off their positions, adjusted lighting, experimented with a few different gels for the lights, and tweaked camera positions. They’re a very meticulous bunch - one guy’s sole job seemed to be checking for things such as whether the camera was reflected in the window or picture frame, etc. At one point there was a reflection, so a stepladder was brought in to move the camera completely out of reflection’s way. Then the first guy had to walk around and make sure the stepladder wasn’t reflected. Once they were satisfied with that, they did a technical rehearsal - the actors came back in, did another mock run of their lines, with the crew paying close attention to the way the lighting was hitting them, whether they were going off screen, and so forth. ONce he was pleased (they did a handful of takes of the technical rehearsal), they announced finals - the makeup crew rushed in and touched up the actors, the crew cleared the set, and they started shooting. Of course, one of the actors kept forgetting a line, so there was probably half a dozen takes before they finally decided to just reshoot from the flubbed line and edit it together. They replayed the edited version on the monitors, everyone was happy, and it was back off to the green room.

I got to see about half a dozen shoots, and took quite a few pictures. The beauty of shooting on a prepped set is that the lighting is absolutely perfect for taking pictures; however chances to take pictures weren’t as plentiful as I might have hoped because there was so much going on, I just wanted to stay out of the way. I did manage to do one very nice interview; my interviewee was excellent - very conversational, responsive - he gave me a lot of stuff to work with. Because of the fact that actors were constantly filing in and out of the green room, though, and often engaged in their own conversations, it was hard to pin anyone else down, so my PR friend said to just let him know who I wanted to interview next and he’d let me know when they’d be on set, and basically gave me a standing invitation to come visit.

It was excellent; I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and made a few new friends in the process. In my future visits, I’m going to try and specialize what I look at - spend a morning in the director’s booth, or in the editing department, etc, so I can really get a good idea of what each aspect entails.

I’m busy writing up the article on my visit though; hopefully it will be a lot better than this rambly, “I just woke up from a nap” dreck :wink: