Toronto

Arrived yesterday in Toronto for my second directing job in Canada of 2017. It’s also my second straight job of working on a fictionalized version of Washington, DC – just finished editing Scandal (#Scandal100) and now starting on the penultimate episode of Designated Survivor‘s first season.

Today I walked through the sets and it’s a little disorienting going from one version of the White House’s West Wing to another, let me tell you. But a lot of fun to play in this version of Washington for the first time. More updates to come, my five readers.

Other news: My portfolio site is up and running again, updated with (nearly all) the television episodes I’ve directed: http://www.SharatRaju.com. Enjoy!

 

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Happy New Year, five readers! After holiday hiatus I’m back in New Orleans about to go out and shoot tomorrow, Day 1 of NCIS: New Orleans. Spent a good deal of time over the break writing and finishing up a script that maybe I’ll talk about in another post.

But now I’m back in NCIS mode. It is absolutely pouring with a possible tornado coming tonight so that should make our day exterior work tomorrow morning interesting. This entire shoot is going to be a lot of fun, though. Good action, interesting story so hopefully I’ll bring it all together. Daily haiku-like updates coming up.

This begins a long stretch of directing, pretty much non-stop until April. I’m incredibly grateful that now, a little more than two years after directing my first episode of television, I have been able to have a pretty good streak going with more work coming in the foreseeable future. So here’s to a good 2017 of more storytelling and magic making.

Let’s Play Two

Here we go – directing two episodes of Mistresses at the same time. Let’s do this.

The title of this post is a quote from one of the all-time great baseball players from my favorite teamthe late Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. Back then, in the mid-1950s to mid-1970s when he played, doubleheaders were the norm in baseball. Nowadays, they are sort of rare, but they were common before the present era.

MLB Photos Archive
Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs circa 1963. (Photo by Louis Requena/MLB Photos)

And on the eve of baseball’s Opening Day, a sitting US President attending a baseball game in Cuba yesterday for the first time, and me about to go shoot two episodes, I think it’s particularly relevant to quote Mr. Cub.

While some would bemoan the doubleheader – the strenuous pace of two games back-to-back in the hot summer sun – Ernie became famous for saying some variation of following: It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame … let’s play two!

I love this simple and straightforward quote. It reflects his joy, gratitude, enthusiasm and love for his chosen field – a profession that is a game, and a privilege to play. I know that feeling well.

So yeah – let’s play two. (Cryptic daily updates to come!)

Grimm Shoot Day 8

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Rolling on the river – our set for Day 7 and 8.

Final day of the shoot – started with a couple of short day time scenes and then about 10 hours of shooting at night. The elements were kind to us the previous shooting day, but this night it started raining steadily for several hours. Fortunately, it didn’t rain the entire time so we were spared utter and total annihilation.

 

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My slate, as taken by my phone’s camera.

We spent nearly five (maybe six) hours on one scene – the climatic scene of the episode which included a fight. Matt Taylor, the show’s stunt coordinator and his team choreographed the fight in advance and showed it to us on video. Then they came to set, rehearsed it with the cast and with us and we set it up with cameras and shot several angles throughout until we covered the scene. So much fun.

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A portion of the crew, surrounded by fake fog. (These are terrible pictures I know, but hey, I’m not on set to spend time taking behind-the-scenes photos.)

Around 3:30am we wrapped. It was, as it always is, bittersweet. I so love working with this crew and this cast. It’s truly a family – even more than other crews I’ve been on, I believe. Possibly because it’s Portland, but likely because it’s the creative environment created by those at the top – David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf and Norberto Barba in particular. Dedication to the work, freedom to be creative, and an open exchange between the writers, producers, and directors that makes its way down throughout the production.

In my handful of times directing episodic television as a guest director, the one thing that I’m reminded of is how great the hardworking crew people are and how difficult it is for me sometimes to move on and know that I might not get a chance to work with those same people again. In this case, for Grimm, I could mention a bunch but to name a few, Jason Ruffolo – fellow Chicagoan – in his first time as the 1st Assistant Director on the show (was a 2nd, bumped up to first when the previous 1st AD left) and his incredible team of ADs and PAs, some of the best I’ve worked with. The DP, Ross Berryman, an Australian cinematographer of mostly features who made my life easy. And the super talented and relentless camera operator Tim Spencer – who did some of the greatest operating in TV history as the operator on Battlestar Galactica.

There’s still a lot of work to do to bring the episode home (including some scenes yet to shoot and of course the effects), but I hope it comes together and everyone’s happy with it. Later this week I start editing.

Scandal Shoot Days 8 and 9

Day 8 was entirely on location downtown. We had one big interior scene and a lot of little exterior ones scattered around, so it was a day with potential complications. Fortunately, it went mostly smoothly.

Day 9 was a long final day with a few intense scenes wrapping up with a short final scene on location. We had to push a tiny tiny scene onto another day, so I’m technically not totally wrapped – I’m going in on Friday to mop up that last bit. But I’m basically finished.

I’ll try to write a more substantial recap, but with the holidays I might not have time. I apologize in advance, five readers. Overall – I’m a little tired, but so grateful and still can’t believe I had a chance to direct Scandal. Now on to editing and making sure the story all makes sense when we’ve put it together.

Scandal Prep

I just finished Day 4 of prep on Scandal Episode 512. There’s not much I can tell you because it’s all, you know, hush hush. Basically, we’ve been scouting, talking to the writers about scenes, walking the sets, figuring out the best and least healthy snacks to eat in between meetings and scouts.

In addition to snacking and, oh, the amazing privilege it is to direct an episode on a big show, it’s really great to be able to shoot at Sunset Gower Studios, historically the home of Columbia Pictures. Columbia was one of the original studios from Hollywood’s “Golden Age” so all the stages have names of the movies and television that shot there in years and decades past. There’s even a building named after famed production manager and one of my AFI professors Abby Singer – so famous he has a film term named after him – “The Abby” a.k.a. the second-to-last shot of the day.

So if you’re a film nerd like me, working on the lot in Hollywood is as good as it gets. This is the view every day coming to work. Hard to beat.

View of the Hollywood Sign from Sunset Gower Studios as taken from the poor digital zoom on my phone.
View of the Hollywood Sign from Sunset Gower Studios as taken from the poor digital zoom on my phone.