Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My So-Called Blog

The Showtime series "Homeland," starring Claire Danes, filmed a scene in the Charlotte Observer's newsroom yesterday. Even though we all really did try to work, it was a big - and exciting - distraction to have Hollywood come to your desk. So, to make up for all the gawking I did yesterday, I thought I would at least try to turn my observations into a blog. I had to name it honor of Claire's breakthrough role as Angela Chase in the mid-1990s teen drama "My So-Called Life." 

(One of our photographers actually caught me in mid-gawk in this photo. That's me in the bright blue jacket with the red hair.)

Our pop culture writer, Théoden Janes, wrote a really fun story about the experience that you can read online:

Here's a link to the slideshow our staff photographers T. Ortega Gaines and Robert Lahser took of the behind-the-scenes action:

Here are my behind-the-scenes thoughts:

Give them props
I was absolutely fascinated by the way the show's props team cleared off several desks in the newsroom and completely recreated them to resemble the desks of some of my more creative colleagues. There were fake Post-It notes, fake family photos, fake papers strewn about. Their attention to detail was astounding. I kept going back to look at their handiwork. I truly think they may have worked the hardest of anyone on set because they had to decorate the desks early before anyone arrived, then pack everything back up and make sure the desks they used were left exactly as they found them. 

Like a family
The area in front of my desk was a hot bed of action. At any given time, there were about 20 crew members and extras standing around. Everyone was very nice and interesting to talk with. I was especially impressed with "Homeland" executive producer Lesli Glatter. She was so friendly and respectful toward all of us newsroom employees. Several of the crew members told me that the great working environment on the set is because of Lesli's talent and kind personality. "We're like a family and she's a big reason for that," he said. "We all love her." (The photo below is of Lesli talking with Claire)

You call that flipping out?
I have never watched "Homeland," but I've read enough about it to know that Claire Dane's character is always flipping out over something. Claire is a serious and talented actress, so she seemed to be in character the whole time. I personally didn't see her really interact with anyone on set other than Lesli, the executive producer. I truly do not think it's because she's a diva. I think she was staying in character and interacting with anyone else would cause her to lose her focus. Her behavior made me respect her even more. The only time she snapped at us was during her first rehearsal when some newsroom staff couldn't contain their excitement and started taking photos of her on their iPhones. She yelled out, "I'm working!" and Lesli immediately rushed to her side and as nicely as possible told everyone to stop taking pictures. Throughout the day, we watched her flip out, as the short scene calls for her to do, and I had to laugh to myself. I've worked in this newsroom for more than two decades and I can assure you that I've seen flip outs of epic proportions and her scene, as entertaining and as well-acted as it was done, doesn't come close to a true, old school newsroom outburst.  (The photo below is of Claire rehearsing her scene with Lesli in the background.)

Union life
The incredible camera and lighting equipment that was wheeled in here was unbelievable. Some of it probably cost more than most people's houses. Everyone working on set has to be part of a union, and to watch how that works up close was a real eye-opener. One of the crew hung around all day until the camera operator needed an attachment. Then he sprung into action and in less than 30 seconds he placed it on the camera and went back to sitting around again. I would think that if the cameraman needed something he would be fully capable of walking two steps, putting it on, and getting back to work. But it just doesn't work that way in unions, I guess. It was clear that everyone on set was on top of their game or they wouldn't be working on a hit series, but that was a very interesting detail I won't forget. I also won't forget how uniquely good looking the cameraman was. I was ready to knock the union crew member out of the way so I could jump up and help him out. He should really be in front of the camera, not behind it. Forget pictures of Claire, I wish I had taken his photo. 

That's a wrap
The first crew members arrived here around 8 a.m. and they wrapped up around  8 p.m., I'm told. I had left by then. By 6 p.m., I had had enough. I really thought if I heard that short scene run threw one more time I was going to go insane. I couldn't get out of here fast enough. Today at work, we were all quoting the dialog word for word. Every single person I met on set was gifted at what they do and I got the feeling they are well compensated for it, but the patience you have to have to deal with the monotony and repetition of it all is a unique gift they have or they wouldn't be able to do what they do. 

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