How Did You Do CJ In Five Days?Complications Ensue
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Friday, April 02, 2010

Q. I was particularly curious about the way you had to do each CHARLIE JADE episode with only five days main unit / two days second unit -- could you let me know what tricks you had to use to take that into account in the writing? Limited locations, lots of simple two-hander scenes, farming whole plot threads out to the second unit, that sort of thing? Any other bits of
cleverness?
Elifino. I asked Bob Wertheimer, our showrunner, if he could add anything. He says that 'by the time we were reduced to 5 day shoots, the crew was pretty solid and knew the show. And good. So that saved time. And by then we weren't getting a lot of network notes, so we never had to redo anything.'

You can't farm a plot thread to second unit. Second unit isn't for shooting dialog. It's a stripped down unit for shooting long shots, cars driving, inserts, stuff like that. If you tried to shoot dialog you'd need another director, sound guy, etc., so you'd be paying for a second first unit, and at that point you might as well just lengthen the schedule.

We did do one bottle show, which was also a clip show. A bottle show takes place only on studio sets; you can usually save a day on the schedule. A clip show reuses clips from previous shows; the less new footage you have to shoot, the more time you save on the schedule. To take the curse off the clip show, we made it a Rashomon episode, where we kept showing the same footage, but with new beginnings and ends to the clips, to change the meanings of what we'd seen earlier. Props to DMc for penning that episode so beautifully.

Oddly, we didn't shoot the bottle show on studio sets. We wound up shooting it at some sort of abandoned factory. Because who doesn't love an abandoned factory?

It was an oddly structured show from a production point of view. We had a studio. But the only sets we had were the Evil Corporation Headquarters, the Sidekick/Mentor's Office, and O1 Boxer's Club. Our hero, being as he was on the run from the Evil Corporation, couldn't plausibly have his own place. In other words there was no set for the A story of each episode!

So we gave a lot of business to the guys in the Evil Corporation, O1 Boxer, and (to a lesser extent), Sidekick/Mentor. Fortunately the corporate HQ and the club existed in multiple dimensions, so it didn't seem so narratively claustrophobic.

We did have a bunch of locations rented for the duration of the show, and those places also existed in each dimension. So we could have Charlie's Place in Alpha (lovingly restored by Sew Sew Tukarrs) and Charlie's Place in Beta (once we came up with a good reason why Vexcorp wouldn't find and kill Charlie on sight).

With a location, you have an interesting challenge. Production hates a location move. It takes more or less two hours to wrap up all your lights and camera and stuff, drive anywhere, and unload again. But if the writers can write exactly one day or exactly two day's worth of stuff at a location, then there's no location move and no loss of time. So, ten to twelve pages at one location = good. Six pages = not so good. Eighteen pages = not so good. Twenty to twenty-four pages = good again.

Overall, we didn't have tricks. We just had a great South African crew working their Boer buns off. Props to them for a great-looking show.

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