Monday, October 27, 2008

Sweating the Details

Do you know what I really like about our show? Do you know what makes me very proud to be a part of it? Our attention to detail, and, through that, our nearly masochistic habit of giving ourselves lots of tiny challenges for each episode and short.

In pre-production for episode 8, we have already found many humorous tiny little things to add to the show that are not necessarily called out in the script. Each "tiny" little thing requires some extra work: looking for a weird prop here, constructing something from scratch there, designing a logo yonder... However, I can't really talk about episode 8 yet. I'd hate to ruin any of it for you. So let's consider something from the series of shorts we just finished up that introduce Lou.

We have a nice little back story for Lou, and though she's still quite a mystery even to us, there are some clues to her character sprinkled about. The most enlightening one of these is her briefcase.

Lou met Kate in Tori Spelling's garage. At least that's her story. We decided to assume it's true for the purposes of getting ourselves out of a logic loop. Now, Lou says verbally that she lived in Tori's garage, but what could we do to support that visually? We decided that the briefcase Lou uses should be an old one that Tori's dad, Aaron, used to use. Lou "borrowed" it from Tori, who, for all we know, is living in Aaron's old house, and the briefcase was just there on a shelf in the garage for decades.

Okay, that's a fun, simple idea. Lou has Aaron Spelling's old briefcase. Right. So here's where this one small decision creates a pile of tasks.

First, we had to find a suitable briefcase. It had to look expensive, since Aaron was rich even in the '70s, but it couldn't cost us too much. We are a no-budget show, after all. Tanya and Robb secured a fairly cheap one that looked good enough to pass for pricy. But how were we to pass it off as Aaron Spelling's briefcase? Well, obviously, it needed to be monogrammed. The initials A. S. mean nothing, so Aaron's whole name needed to be on the briefcase. How could we do that without sending the briefcase out to actually be monogrammed? Paint! We had to find just the right size and style of letters we could use to get Aaron's name just so on the case. From among several choices, we decided to use some small Garamond letter stamps from Michael's. We tested the letters with some silver paint, but the paint did not stamp well. It was gloppy and did not look good at all. Luckily, during a late afternoon trip one day to an art store, Robb and I found just what we needed: a silver-inked stamp pad! The silver stamp pad worked perfectly. We positioned the name in a place where it would most likely be seen when the briefcase was on-camera.

Okay, so the briefcase now had Aaron's name on it, but what more could we do to hint at the case's history? The answer for us was to include headshots, publicity stills, and a shooting script for the pilot of The Love Boat. Yes, Aaron was using this case during casting and pre-production of The Love Boat, but had stopped using it soon afterward. It hadn't seen any use until Lou absconded with it, perhaps only hours earlier. Fine. Sounds great. But now there was that much more to work on. I found some great photos online, one of Gavin MacLeod as Captain Stubing, and one of the whole original Love Boat cast. I also happened to have the font used for the Love Boat "title treatment" (an annoying term we use inside the industry), though I had to use an O from another font.

I put these together to create fake publicity shots. Then I created a cover page for the original Love Boat script, complete with coffee stains and such. You don't even get to see the script in the final short, but it's there, it adds heft, and when Lou starts pulling all this crap out of the case, the dimension it adds is tangible

That was all quite a bit of extra work, just for a smidge of detail. And each video we shoot has quite a few of these "little" items. One might think it's sad to put so much work into these details, and then have them never be noticed. What I think all of us agree on is that it is worth the extra work. If someone happens to be on a second or third viewing (which our marketing department assures me is quite common amongst our fan base), they might start to notice these little touches. But even if they never notice them, the atmosphere the details create works subconsciously.

And that, dear reader(s), is why I am proud to work on this show. If you like, go give "*subject to change" another viewing and pay special attention to the briefcase. Or watch any of our shows. You'll see a lot of love and time and care in each one.

1 comment:

ponyboy said...

Garamond was a perfect choice for an expensive looking briefcase. Claude Garamond designed the typeface in the 15th century. It's longevity and the elegance are prefered by those with high standards.
Your resident typophile