Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Overlaps, Eyelines: Thoughts on the Behind the Scenes Production Teams

Watching the episode commentary from a Spooks dvd makes me feel guilty. Maybe I should first explain that having gone to Catholic school as a youth, it doesn't take much to push me into that realm. But, truly, I am just so impressed with what goes on in the background when you hear the commentators -- in this case, the directors, producers, writers -- speaking about their part in making an amazing television series.

What they do is incredibly technical, detailed and valuable and yet here's what I, as a typical viewer, notice first and most about any of the programs that I watch:

1. The actors and acting
2. The writing -- in terms of basic plot and storyline
3. The locations, costumes and cinematography
4. Everything else.

When you listen to people who are at the top of their game and clearly know all the ins and outs of their trade talking about the production of the show, it is staggering how much work goes into basically allowing random people like me to give all credit to the actors and stoylines. Thankless job.

The various production people who I can't take the time to know by either position or name, are talking of the camera set up, tracks, and dolly, of the extras in the foreground or background, where the focus is, the nature of the sound (meaning the sound quality of the actors and the background sounds), not to even to mention the actual musical score that I often fail to notice at all. Its the kind of work (sort of like parenting) that when you do it right, no one is likely to notice it all. Only when things seem catastrophically off, do you get attention.

So there are people fundamentally focused on whether, for instance, in a scene where the team is interrogating someone and a train is going by outside, you should hear the sounds of the train. Or whether, when two actors are speaking, there should be two cameras shooting them separately or whether their voices should be "overlapping". Or whether extras should be visible as distinct shapes or as blurs in the background. Or whether, when the spies sit around the meeting table they have or should have something called "eyelines". (or was it "sightlines"?) And all of these, and thousands of other, very real decisions designed to merely blur into the background unnoticed while the actors get praised.

So here I am gushing about the spy teams and the actors and plots, and throughout, I have no real idea what goes on behind the scenes. But the good part is that I don't really need to know.

If my child grows up a good strong caring man who helps his family and works in his community, no one needs to know whether I properly curtailed too much screen time, encouraged him to take chances on his bike, or made him healthy snacks when he was 4.  I guess the reward is intrinsic on that one too.

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