The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Blogisode Six)

It’s 9:50pm.  Beatrix is sitting up in bed belting out Go Tell It On the Mountain and clearly not going to sleep, my mother just showed up and is now in bed with her, my father is down stairs watching O’Reilly (oof) and I am going on not-very-much sleep today due to a very late night pow wow with my Dad.  So that means this will be a short post, but I promised Cathy Creason and Mark Motz I’d try to bang one out tonight, so here we go.  Warning–typos probable. ***Late breaking news WordPress decided to update the photo insert plug in and I can’t figure out how to add pictures, so this is a text only post.  If you need pictures, draw some as you go along.  If you do that, please send them to me because I’d like to see them.  I’ll troubleshoot the problem tomorrow morning.  Sorry.**

You do realize that I do not have my regular editor with me, right?  Rob Meffe (aka Rupert McFee on this blog), is in New York City and shirking his editorial duties, the bum.  Sitting around eating bon bons all day.  Sheesh.  I’ll soldier on without him.  I miss that guy.  This is the longest we’ve gone since the 1994 trip to Singapore with Les Miz (remember last year’s series One Day More?) and it is the longest I’ve ever been away from Charlotte.

I could write a book about everything that has happened since I last wrote a blog post, so I won’t even try.  Suffice it to say that my mother spent the night in the hospital with abdominal pain, my nephew graduated from college that morning, my father’s blood sugar went a little scary-wacko, and yet some how I managed to buy a lot of Christmas presents.  And that thing in Connecticut happened, but I am incapable of talking about it without becoming an inconsolable mess, so let’s just skip it.

Beatrix just came over for a “huggie” which is her little girl way of getting out of bed and looking cute and using cute words to stay awake.  I will report that she is in Santa Claus footed pajamas, so she DOES look cute and I got a nice hug out of it, so basically……score one point for Beatrix in ye olde manipulation department.  I can’t resist a flannel footed pj.

So let’s get back to TV land.  Remember I’d just totally outted myself as a TV set newbie and an idiot by unknowingly cutting in front of the entire crew to get lunch.  They’d been there since 5 am, setting up and working while I’d strolled in at about 11:30am, had my hair and makeup done, tried on a few pairs of pants and talked to the owner of the house about schools.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to share the information with you (I’ll reiterate)  the crew goes first in the lunch line.  Like, if it were alphabetical they are all A’s and you are a W.  Got it?  Please avoid the situation where the director breaks that news to you because I’ve been there and done that and oh man, if you thought I was nervous before you have no idea how I felt then.

So let’s talk about what happened next.

Right after lunch, Natalie (the talented girl who played my daughter, and yes the very same “crier” from the audition) and I were called to set.  Oh–and you’ll get a kick out of this.  No one called me Sharon or her Natalie, we were forever referred to as “Mary Jo” and “Marissa”.  What’s funny about that is my mother’s name is Mary Jo, so some how it was completely normal to hear Mary Jo–an unusual name–for three days straight and respond to it.  “Mary Jo to set!”  “Mary Jo to makeup!”

Totally normal.  And I have a cousin named Marisa, so there you go.  This gig was all in the family for me.

I got the call.  “Mary Jo to set.  Mary Jo to set.” and I looked around for my mother and I realized they meant me and I said a quick prayer to the Lifetime Gods and I walked up a flight of stairs to “set”.

Let’s break it down.

You remember I was shooting in a 3 story Victorian house in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, right?  You remember that I mentioned it was hot (late June).  You remember that I said they were shooting several episodes at a time, right?  You remember that I said it was a large crew, right?  Did I actually say that?  It was a large crew.  I think I inferred it when I talked about the lunch line.

Crew basics:  Full disclosure, I knew NONE of this and I am still pretty confused, because  let’s face it you need one of those giant genealogy charts to keep them all clear and they are all assistant somethings or some kind of a grip.

Basically there is an Assistant Director who is in charge of getting everyone to set on time.  Basically this person is the liaison between the actors and everything that is happening on set.  If you are a theater actor think of the stage manager.  Same thing and they even wear a headset (most people have on a headset on set).  Okay, then once you get to set there is the director–who is usually in a different room watching everything on a TV monitor.  There is an art director who is in charge of setting up the shot.  Then there is a slew of assistant directors, the most important one probably being known as the “First AD”.  That is the person who communicates between the director and the actors and the camera men.  In addition on set, there are numerous camera people, prop people, wardrobe people, makeup people and the list goes on and on.

Are you getting the point that it is crowded?  Are you understanding that it is really scary to walk in to a set?  You would be correct.  Of course they all know each other, and they know who you are, and you have no idea who anyone is and maybe you will get a quick hello and maybe an introduction, but don’t hold your breath, because as much as you have waited around with nothing to do for hours on end, the second you hit set it’s hurry, hurry, hurry because time is money.  Well, that and in this case they were shooting 6 shows at once so it was hurry, hurry, hurry, because the woman who married a doctor who removes bones from corpses and sells them needs to shoot on this set as soon as you are done.

Not kidding.

So I get there and here is what I notice first.

It’s really hot.

Not a little hot.

Not like an oven hot.

Like a kiln hot.

And there are 25 people who’ve been inside this kiln for about 6 hours already and the place smells pretty ripe.

And oh, did I mention that I was wearing jeans and a wool sweater?

So the very first scene we shot was the scene where the 14-year-old daughter tells her mother that she’s pregnant. And here’s what happened.  Auggie, who was the First AD, talked me through the shot after Jordan (the director) explained what emotionally he wanted in the scene.  Auggie showed me the pattern he wanted me to walk–down a hall and then stand in the doorway and start the scene.  No big deal, right?  Right.  I thought, okay, I can totally do this.  They called for “final looks” which is a TV phrase for all the makeup/hair/wardrobe people to check the actors and make sure everything looks good.  There is also a lot of photographing of the actors at this point to make sure they’ve documented all the clothes and jewlery just in case we’d have to come back on another day to re-shoot.

Is this still interesting?  Is anyone still reading?  I’ll keep going for Creason and Motz.

Okay, so they call final looks and I get re-powdered and they focus the cameras and they call for sound to start and they call “action”.  I start the scene, so I take a deep breath and think–hey–four Broadway shows–I can totally do this.  No problem. And I walk down the hall to the door way to start the scene and immediately everyone starts yelling


And I have moment number two of total mortification.

They had to cut on my very first 5 seconds of shooting.

And that brings us to the next lesson, which I will tell you tomorrow.

I want to mention–because almost every single person has brought this up to me–that I know I didn’t really speak in the episode.  Yes, the woman I play narrates the story and my job was more to act it out as she did it.  But what I want you to know is that Natalie (my actress daughter) and I were doing Macbeth up there.  We shot entirely improvised scenes that lasted for a long time and they shot the whole thing.  We were wired for sound.  WE thought we were doing scenes in a TV show that would be heard.  It isn’t how it turned out, but I want you to know what my experience was.

Okay?  Okay.

(To read the next post in this series, go here)




About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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