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Friday, July 11, 2008

Q. Hi, is any chance to find out how are TV series produced? I mean an hour episode in USA is supposed to be shot in 8 days. I've just produced a pilot of drama for the major Czech TV station and we have had problems to shot it in 10 days (about 40 scenes, few locations but 12 hour shifts and lots of over-times). I wonder how it may be possible for US crew to manage it in 8 days with its incredibly quality...
Well, the American series probably has many more technicians on staff. And access to more concentrated resources in LA. That saves a lot of time.

There may simply be a difference in working styles. American PA's are expected to run. The impression I have from producers who've worked in the States and overseas is that overseas crews in various countries simply take their time. PA's walk. British crews are notorious for taking tea breaks.

This may be a function of budget. Czech crews probably get paid less; there may be less pressure to get the shoot done in 8 days. Low budget American movies shoot in 18-21 days. Low budget Hong Kong movies used to shoot for six months, I'm told. The staff wasn't getting paid much so they could afford to take their time. Any good director in the world will push to use all the available time on his schedule to get the shots just so. If he can afford ten days, he'll use ten. (And you're lucky if he doesn't grab 11.)
I believe there must be some other thing. I don't know how to say... some hidden trick or anything. I mean to achieve shooting an hour drama in 8 days the script must be well structured (in production sense). The hour drama is not 60 minutes long but less than 50. Ally McBeal is about 45 minutes long. Lest take off time for main and closing credits and estabilishing shots etc. and the actual length to be shot for the main unit may be 40 minutes or so. Am I right? Are the some other rules or trick how to simplify the script to shoot? Returning sets are the most obvious ones, but what about some others?
How long are Czech "hour" shows? British hour dramas seem to run 52 minutes or so. American hour dramas are more like 44. There's your two extra shooting days right there.

But I think it all gets back to money. A show like Ally McBeal can afford to build her entire law firm on a sound stage. The Czech Ally McBeal probably rents an office. Sound stages are far easier to light, and you never have sound problems. You can even afford to have one lighting staff come in overnight and pre-light to speed up the main lighting crew's job. When we did NAKED JOSH, we didn't have the budget to build convincing sets on stages, so we did all location shooting. That means the crew is spending time unpacking and packing equipment; you're waiting for that truck to go by; the sunlight shifts; etc. I bet if you gave the Czech show the same budget Ally McBeal had, they could get it done in 8 days, too. 



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