Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Question: Do You Know How Melissa & Joey Films?

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Did you realize that Melissa & Joey is back in action starting this Wednesday? They're going to be the first show in the ABCFamily New Comedy Wednesday, at 8pm Eastern, 7pm Central. In preparation for the show's second season, I wanted to share the basics about how Melissa & Joey films, which I heard about directly from Melissa Joan Hart last week. Stay tuned Wednesday for a second post about things I learned from her regarding not just Melissa & Joey but also her other projects and a bit about her personal life as well!

As with most sitcoms, we work a five-day week. We do a five-day episode. We start on Mondays with a table read where we all get together and read it with the network and everybody sitting there so they can all hear it out loud. Then the writers will go and rewrite it while we go and rehearse and we’ll do our wardrobe fittings usually that day so we can figure out what we’re going to wear for the week.

Then Tuesdays we come in and we rehearse the new script. We’ll rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and we’ll put the show on. We’ll do the whole show once through, called the run-though for the producers. The writers and producers will come down and watch a run-through and then they’ll go back and that night they’ll work on their changes.

Wednesday, we’ll do the exact same thing where we work the new script through all the way. Then we put on a network run-through where the network comes and listens to it and they see it. Then they make their notes on it and the writers go away again and rewrite it.

Thursday, we come in and we block the whole show for the cameras. We basically go through the whole show scene-by-scene so the cameras can figure out where they go, where we go. We put tape on the floor and literally mark every piece of blocking we have and the cameras do the same. Then we get in hair and makeup and shoot a few scenes that the audience needs to see for the next day. They’re usually on swing sets, so they’re somewhere where the audience can’t see them or they’re big costume changes or something like that, so we can knock those out of the way.

Then Friday we come in again and do the camera blocking in the morning and then get ready for the live show. We eat dinner all together at 3pm, 4pm we’re in hair and makeup doing the speed-through of the script with the cast while they’re getting their hair and makeup touched up. Then 5pm we go live on the show and we usually wrap by 9pm.

I didn't really know how standard of a schedule this is, but it appears that it is a great schedule, at least for Melissa Joan Hart. She gave a little more detail about some of the interesting parts about shooting the show as well.

’re not shooting until 11 or 12 or 2am like some episodics, and we’re not doing 9-day weeks. Sabrina the Teenage Witch worked 12-15 hours every day, since it was a single camera and no audience. With an audience, the pressure is on, but the schedule is nice all week where you’re hanging out in a t-shirt and jeans."

Mondays they really only work about three hours. Tuesday is about five, and it gets longer every day. Fridays end up being 12-hour days, but “that’s not bad at all in this business.” Thursday night you "memorize the crap out of the script" for 2-3 hours and then the next day there might be changes. They might do one take for the audience the way it’s written and there will need to be changes in 3, 4, 5 lines in a scene, so they do it again with those changes. There’s a balance to keeping your brain locked down but at the same time leaving space for “alts” which are alterations that happen. Then they have several different options to run. For instance, in an episode last fall, Mel spits wine across the room in a take they used for a preview for that episode, but in the actual episode they used a take where she just choked a little on the wine.

I don't know about you, but I found this all very fascinating! I've never seen a live show taped (I saw a podcast taped once, if that counts)
, so it was neat to hear about how that really affects how it all works!
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