In Great Company

It started with Orson Welles, of course.

When I was much younger, and in the earliest stages of my obsession with sci-fi, I learned about the Mercury Theatre of the Air, and their famous broadcast of The War of the Worlds.  I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking it was so cool.  (Seriously, take away all the baggage of its history, and it still holds up.)

Since then, I’ve always had a weakness for old-time radio drama.  And as I haven’t heard nearly enough of it in my life, I can’t pass up an opportunity to recreate that classic radio experience.

Combine that with one of my favorite holiday stories, then add some wonderful local actors, and you have the kind of show I can’t resist. Continue reading

The Magnolia Chronicles, Days 4-6: Wrap Stars

Were I to put a lesson to the production of Magnolia, it would have to be that patience, persistence, and preparation ultimately pay off.  (Were I to put a lesson to my blogging, it might be that I rely a little too heavily on alliteration – but that’s a post for another day…)

Over six weeks, we’d had to make occasional adjustments for locations, actor availability, and especially the weather.  We’d faced drought one week, deluge the next.  But Nikki and Chadd had brought a great team together, so we were able to keep moving forward, knowing that as long as we kept doing our work, it would still come together.

And in our last weekend of principal photography, it really did come together. Continue reading

The Magnolia Chronicles, Days 2 & 3: Our Time In The Adjustment Bureau

It pretty effectively goes without saying that filmmaking, especially independent filmmaking, is a process of adjustments.  The unexpected will happen; there’s no way around that.  And while I’m not entirely convinced it’s possible to expect the unexpected – if you could, it wouldn’t really be unexpected, would it? – it’s still possible to prepare for it, to be ready to make the necessary adjustments to get the shot.

Over the last few days of production, Magnolia has been an object lesson in how to be ready. Continue reading

The Magnolia Chronicles, Day 1: Matters Of Degrees

My first experience as a PrimaDonna production assistant (a PDPA, if you will) was on Dating Danielle, almost exactly 5 years ago this weekend.  I have a lot of great memories of those 48 hours, but one of the greatest has to be the spirit that developed between cast and crew, as we all bonded while shooting on one of the hottest days of the year.

August is funny that way… Continue reading

The Victory Of Walter White

It’s a masterwork of writing and acting, and typical of Gilligan’s method/madness, building a shocking outcome on a foundation of nearly unbearable tension and pitch-perfect performances.

When I wrote that some while ago, fans were still abuzz over that “money shot” of Breaking Bad‘s season premiere.  “Box Cutter” set a standard that any other season of any other series would struggle to merely approach, let alone maintain.  But I was sure that Vince Gilligan and his cast and crew were up to the challenge.

I had no idea… Continue reading

On Breaking Bad, or: Who Runs When A Bad Man Goes To War?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who heard the concept and first thought “black comedy”.

A chemistry teacher, beaten down by the myriad sticks and stones of his life, discovers that he’s dying.  Worried for his family’s future, he decides to put his time and skills to use in providing for them after he’s gone… by cooking and selling crystal meth.

In and of itself, the tale of Walter White doesn’t necessary reach out and grab you.  It could be very good.  It could be very bad.  It could be somewhere in the middle.  And so the middle was where I stood for those early episodes.  It wasn’t until late in the second season that I committed to watching it.

What I saw when I did was something far more than a two-sentence logline.  Something that defied, even transcended, the bounds of genre.  Something that, for me, redefined what was possible in scripted television.

What I saw was Breaking Bad. Continue reading