The Temp Life Shoot
As a quick background, this project came about after I met creator Wilson Cleveland at a Tilzy (now Tubefilter East?) event several months ago. We later had drinks and discussed our different projects (a potential Hayley Season 2, his Temp Life series, etc.) and eventually, he asked whether our Tailslating Team would be interested in helping with his upcoming Temp Life season (which is one of the first, if not the first, sponsored web show. Spherion is the proud sponsor).
The Temp Life series already has 17 episodes distributed over the last 3 years, and we were brought in to help “reboot” the franchise (i.e., up production value). For those who follow the show, this 3-episode arc will take Nick “Trouble” Chiapetta into situations he’s never faced before (and the hilarity ensues!).
The shoot was a lot of fun and Wilson did a great job recruiting other talented folks (Yuri Baranovsky wrote the script, Thom Woodley, Chris Murray, and our very own Rachel Risen made guest appearances). I don’t usually shoot things I don’t write, but I actually enjoyed it. I look forward to seeing how it fares once it hits the web in November.
Day 1 – Friday
We kicked the shoot off at Rattle N Hum bar on 33rd street with a scene between Mark and Laura, whose characters are celebrating the new “situation” of Wilson’s character Nick. Crew arrived around 7AM and we got setup knowing we had to get out of there in a couple of hours. Nothing beats hitting a bar first thing in the morning (might have been easier if I had just stayed out all night)…
I love how bar scenes look. No white walls, lots of color. Rich. We generally stuck with the script but we did incorporate a visual joke near the end that’s going to add a little bit more to the scene. We ended up shooting ’til a little over 11AM, which was longer than we had scheduled, but the bar owner was really cool and let us film as long as we needed.
After the bar shoot, we cleaned up and headed to the Empire State building, where CJP Digital is located (CJP is the agency for Spherion). We took the freight elevator up and dropped off our equipment and grabbed lunch in KTown. We reconvened around 430 and shot out a pretty fun scene in the conference room. We got a late start so we ended up shooting pretty late (10ish). But hey, first day is practice, right?
Mark and Laura were wrapped after Friday’s shoot (Mark would help out all weekend though), and it was a pleasure to work with them. Their characters are a great pair, and it’s interesting to see how different their characters’ situations are from earlier episodes.
Also, as directors coming into an already-established series, we didn’t do too much to change characters or acting styles (like how TV directors do). The series already has a built-in audience, so we kept tinkering to a minimum. Plus, the actors already know their characters and have a comic dynamic with each other, which is one of the advantages of coming into a series that’s already seasoned. That said, we definitely did some tweaking and made sure we had enough choices to play with in post.
Day 2 – Saturday
830 AM call time. We started off by shooting with a bunch of extras for a tracking-style shot. Shot looks good, and the place looks busy as Nick “Trouble” Chiapetta makes his entrance. Our extras were awesome. They were willing to stick around and double up for more scenes in the afternoon. They were very gracious with their time. It was actually kind of funny that when they weren’t in scenes, they were scattered across different CJP desks surfing the web. It actually looked like they worked there.
Anyway, after our extra scene, we shot a pretty hilarious scene with Chris Murray of Hedge Fund and Wilson. A lot of improvisation, which is great. The only tricky thing with all the improv is cutting it together in post and keeping continuity. Chris and Wilson did a great job working off of each other.
After this scene, we had a little mishap with a costume we had picked out for Rachel. The character Rachel plays is “quirky” but the costume she was wearing, well, made her look like a weirdo (and the skirt may have been too short).
Jato, Wilson, and I had a quick discussion and we ultimately agreed that the costume chosen was too “off brand” for the series (remember, this is sponsored, folks!). Anyway, no big deal. We went to Express during lunch and found a nice business pant suit for Rachel (yes, I returned it after the shoot. no, i don’t feel bad about it. yes, lots of shoots do this…).
After lunch, we filmed Wilson with Rachel. This was the longest scene of the shoot, because of the number of camera setups. We had to follow these two characters down a couple of hallways to a closet. Add up all the camera setups and you have a LONG sequence to put together. Jato did a great job directing this scene. I could sense actors were tired by the end, but we got it done around 730PM, short of a 12-hour day.
Day 3 – Sunday
Yuri’s script was a great starting point, no doubt about it. But I’m sure he’ll agree that sometimes you’ve got to let actors improvise and come up with funny stuff on set. There was some of that “magic” happening during Chris’ scene, and I knew ahead of time that I wanted to have some fun with Thom’s character and how that would influence Wilson’s character Nick. This was the only scene that I knew I wanted to go in a more drastic direction. I had a baseline idea of how we could change the character coming into the scene. But really, that initial idea evolved dramatically as we all collectively started riffing and brainstorming on set. A lot of credit to Thom for being so creative and great at improv. He really took this character and starting running with it. He and Wilson played off each other wonderfully in this scene.
What’s really funny (ironic?) is that the dialogue itself didn’t change that much. But the CONTEXT of the whole scene was completely different, including the subtext behind the dialogue. Anyway, this was the most fun scene to shoot during the three days, and I really enjoyed the spontaneity of how the scene came together.
After Thom and Wilson’s scene, we did a couple of quick scenes with Wilson, including a scene that will be used for “minisodes” (where more guest web stars will make appearances). We were done with principal photography around 230 and then we shot some exterior B-Roll around Herald Square. Our Sunday was short, but the three consecutive early morning starts had started to drain me.
Overall, a fun, relatively stress-free shoot. I have to credit Wilson/Mark/CJP Digital for helping us with everything we needed ahead of time (locations, etc) and being so accommodating to the cast and crew. Also, kudos to Wilson as acting as a great Exec Producer and bringing together a lot of great people/actors onto the team (and hell, he’s actually a hilarious actor too).
We’re in post now and the plan is to kick this thing out by mid-November. Stay tune and join the Facebook page for more updates.