Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hanson Breaks Bones...Jason Katims Talks FNL...or Everyone Knows High School Lasts Seven Years

So much for my master plan of taking in all the Master Classes at Banff...missed Alan Poul from Swingtown's morning session as I was dragged away for coffee and toasted English muffins by Hart Hanson from Bones with a guest appearance by David Hoselton from House. A very entertaining conversation ensued, with a great muttering mini-scene played out by the two about both their shows having new timeslots come this fall and winter on Fox...even showrunners, it seems, don't have really any say about where a network schedules you.

But one showrunner isn't complaining... Jason Katims' Friday Night Lights will be returning for a third season, but in a very unique and ground-breaking fashion. I made it to his Master Class, and the series will be airing first on Direct TV in the US (Wednesday's at 9pm I believe), and then on NBC several months later as its second window. Apparently the show had been on the bubble for ages and its return didn't look promising until Ben Silverman brokered this deal. But the satellite company with first window....hmmm...interesting.

As far as writing and producing the show, Katims spoke at length about the FNL process...which also fell into the groundbreaking category. As he told it, they have no standing sets or even swing sets. No sets...that's like unheard of for a TV series, no?! Apparently it's shot in small town Texas, and they just walk onto a location, light to shoot (not for 'shots' or 'coverage'), and off they go. No rehearsals...no marks...no tape measuring for focus...just 3 camera's roll as the actors start performing and they 'discover the blocking of the scene' as it happens.

They call their camera operators 'snipers' because they just have to find the shot and take it.


Katims likened it in some ways to the shooting of The Office, but for a one hour ensemble drama filmed on location, it's pretty unique. And they move really fast. He said they had 8 days to shoot an episode when the series began, took it down to 7 days last year, and are going to be shooting them in 6 days this summer. That's fast...and he attributed it primarily to the speed with which they can burn through scenes filming them in this way.

I know this style contributes to the authenticity and 'reality' of FNL, but I wonder if we don't see more and more drama shows being shot this way.

And as for writing the show, he gushed about how liberating it was to shoot so quickly while always on location. On any TV series, there is always the constant negotiation between production and writing/creative (e.g. we can't shoot out there because we need 3 days in studio, or it'll cost too much to build that set), but Katims said he never feels that constraint on FNL. He says there's this sense that you can write whatever comes into your head because production/locations will just go find it, and dress it, and then they go shoot it.


I also took in Hanson's Master Class for Bones....entertaining and informative as always, the Hartster spilled some without telling too much. But you always got the feeling he was biting his tongue. And he was. I'd heard a lot of the 'truth' that morning. Ahhh, show biz. Nevertheless they will be kicking off Bones Season 4 with a two-parter set in London, England...a good idea at the time that he said has proven to be logistical and creative nightmare, but he was leaving tomorrow for the UK to oversee the shooting of it. Best of luck my friend.

Rest of day was more receptions and gatherings and networking...some good stuff but more on that tomorrow. And ended evening not at St James Pub shockingly enough, but a whiz bang of a party at the Saltlik Steakhouse thrown by Paul Gross' company WhizBang Films. A good time was had by all, and Paul Gross is still a damn handsome man.

That's all I got. Must sleep.


Anonymous said...

does FNL have a huge locations and set dec/dresser department? Cause the show seems like it might be extremely hard on their end. I also find it funny you give props to Gross and his Aspen Extreme counterpart Berg (FNL Movie)in the same blog. Aspen was one of my favorite shows.

Cunningham said...

I always thought that it would be cool to shoot HEROES in this manner and lend a more "authentic" aura to its fantastique.

I can easily see a cop show using this methodology though.

Juniper said...

A third season of Friday Night Lights!!!! Awesome!

I still love season 1.... but will have to give season 2 another try.

Maybe I start from the beginning!