The Making of Television Success
Kingdon, Tor M.
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My SIP consisted of observing two months of the television series "China Beach,, which was finishing it's final season. I saw and learned much of the specifics on how a television show is created. There are several different ways of making television shows, differing mostly in length of each episode, the style of the show, what medium is used (film or video), and whether it is shot 'live' with three cameras or with one camera in a more cinematic style. For the most part, there are two different types of television shows: the half-hour sit-com shot in video on three cameras and the hour-long drama show on film with one camera. From what I can tell, "China Beach" is typical of an hour-long dramatic series, and some of what I learned was definitely universal within that genre, and even to some extent true of 'the business' in general. However, some of it was very unique to this particular show. For one thing, While I was there, episodes of "China Beach" were not being aired and therefore there were no deadlines dictating the production of the show. This meant that the usually frantic schedule of post-production was only a little hectic. That and the imminent demise of the show also made for a sense of futility in the show. Many people were engaged in trying to find their next job in addition to performing their current one. This is certainly not unique of my experience, given that job security is certainly not prevalent in Hollywood. After spending a week observing the agents at International Creative Management [see below], I witnessed the shooting of one episode: "Through and Through,, the second to last episode of the season. This was directed by Mimi Leder- also the Supervising Producer of the series. Normally, this episode would have shot for nine consecutive working days - each day lasting at least 12 hours. During this time, the next episode would be in pre-production and would begin shooting immediately after the last one finishes. In this case, due to an actor's illness, there were four days of the previous episode - "Quest" - that were shot in the middle of the shooting of "Through and Through., "Quest" was directed by John Sacret Young, who is also the co-creator and Executive Producer of the series, as well as a writer. While "Quest" was being shot, I had a few days to talk to some of the people who work on "China Beach:" Paula Kaatz, the women's wardrobe supervisor; Dick Eckols, the construction coordinator; and Steve Purcell, who is in charge of special effects. This was also an excellent opportunity to witness some of the pre-production for the next, and last, episode to be shot: "Hello - Goodbye." I did see some of the shooting of this episode - directed by John . Young -but for the ~ost part I was working with the Co-Producer, Barbara Marshall, and her assistant, Joe Lazarov in the post-production trailer. She is responsible for making sure that all of the post-production gets done well. This includes practical tasks, such as overseeing ADR ('looping'), foley, scoring, editing, sound effects editing, as well as more creative input like making cutting decisions with other producers and/or the director in the KEM room, and taking care of the final stages of the show: the dub and telecine. This vantage point gave me the opportunity to learn a wide range of things ranging from how to properly answer phones to the nuts and bolts happenings and creative responsibilities in post-production. It was here that I saw what goes into the show after it leaves the director's hands, and as it is sent off to the network for air.
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