The 3-second cutaway
We’ve pretty much passed through the eye of the storm at this point on episode 5. I think that might be a misuse of that metaphor, but I soldier on. There are three shoot nights left. One is locked down for Monday and it’s the last shoot night for Eliza, Carlyn, and myself as actors. The other 2 are a little more fluid. One we still have to reschedule, but I need to wait to hear back about the availability of an actress. The other is a little ridiculous. We essentially need to get three tiny inserts of an actress arriving at a house. That entire shoot night is going to account for maybe two seconds of screen time at the most. Regardless, we need to get down to the city, get her into her costume, light 3 different tiny locations, and shoot 3 shots that in and of themselves will be about 2 seconds a piece to make up the final 3-shot, 2-second sequence. I think “The Simpsons” is largely responsible for that. Given the fact that it was animation, they started the whole “jump to a completely different location for a 3-second cutaway” thing. It didn’t make much difference to a background animator, ink and paint is ink and paint. All sorts of live action shows and movies do it now, because it’s become an integral part of the language of shooting and editing comedy, but it’s a completely different beast when you have to do an entire production move and dress a completely new location so the audience can be transported for 2 seconds. Forged in animation, bequeathed to the sleepless nights of Unit Production Managers everywhere. You see it done a lot in “Spaced” and “30 Rock;” Liz Lemon will have a line about “Who came up with that awful title?” and for 3 seconds we’ll cut to a location we’ve NEVER seen before or since where the two writers are coming up with the title and we find out they’re whacked on cocaine. Hilarious? Yes. Production nightmare? Also yes. Worth it? Definitely. Partially because the oldest motion picture credo of “show don’t tell” applies across the board if you can manage it. It’s just good visual storytelling. Unfortunately, the shoots where you have the least to do sometimes inexplicably take the longest; I really don’t know how to explain it. It’s probably just the “this’ll be a breeze” mindset that ends up making the team move more slowly.
Speaking of mindsets, with the hardest shoot days now behind us, I’m starting to feel a little more like myself again. My thought processes are once again returning to that of a normal, functional human being. I gotta say. It’s nice to be back.