Last week I wrapped up my first episode shadowing Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as an NBC Directing Fellow. I won’t get into too many details about the story and about the inner workings of the production, because I’m not really supposed to. But I’ll recap what I can.
The director, Alex Chapple, as previously mentioned, is an incredibly accomplished, focused, and talented filmmaker. He has directed an amazing amount of episodic television and it was a real privilege to watch him work. He plans meticulously and it shows in the quality and professionalism of his work. I’ve shadowed on a number of shows – Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Harry’s Law, Cavemen, Samantha Who?, October Road and Greek – and Alex has to be one of the most prepared directors I’ve seen in action. (For what it’s worth, he might also be one of the nicest people I’ve met in the film industry, as well.)
Directors get seven working days of prep and eight days to shoot an episode of SVU. The production team was really incredible – one Executive Producer as well as the Producer covering this episode each came up through the assistant directing ranks in the Dick Wolf/Law & Order universe. As ADs, they were responsible (as all ADs) for scheduling and managing the shoot – and in New York that’s a special beast. As described in the previous post, half of the production week is on location, which requires (a) finding places to film (b) carefully scheduling them into the week, given availability limitations and other restrictions and (c) being savvy on how to use New York’s quirky corners effectively. These SVU producers really understand New York production and are able to work with the current Assistant Directors to put each episode together with as little headache as possible.
For example, there are two scenes that took place in schools – but different schools, one affluent and private and one public. They found a school in Queens to make it look like the private school counselor’s office, and used the classroom to look more like a public school. Then, they turned another room into a school nurse’s office. And then a third area, the school lunchroom, dressed it up and made it look like an emergency room station. It was amazing – and necessary. Even though there is an emergency room set on the stages at SVU production studios, the schedule didn’t favor using it. That’s why they opted for creating an emergency room on location instead.
In addition to the production aspects, it was really wonderful to watch the creative team – specifically showrunner Warren Leight – work with Alex and the production half of the show. Unlike a lot of shows I’ve seen up close, the writers remain in very close communication with the production team and even tweaked scenes or scenelets to alleviate production concerns – but without sacrificing the story.
The cast, of course, is great and they’ve been on this show for a while. Even the newest cast members are in their second season. As in most television shows, the regulars all know their characters inside and out, especially those with fourteen years of backstory.
So I’m back in New Haven now, catching up on the remainder of Season 14. I shadowed on Episode 19 (will air in late April) and I’ve seen most of this and last season. I’m going to be back on the show for the season finale in a few weeks, so that’ll be awesome.
In the meantime, our most recent baby The Worst of the Worst keeps getting some nice airtime. After our team appeared on WNPR’s “Where We Live” program last week to talk about solitary confinement and supermax prisons, the New Haven Register wrote an editorial about the practice of solitary – and cited our team’s appearance on the radio. Check it out.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be a-writin and possibly a-editin’ footage from our wedding. Yes, back to the glamorous life.