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TV shows filming on location?

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I need to find out what it would be like if an episode of a popular TV show was being filmed in a character's town: how long the crew and stars would be in town, what the setup would be (trailers? security?), all that kind of stuff. Any suggestions?
#1 - December 19, 2011, 07:31 AM
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Talk to Jaina.  She lives where they film something I forget the title of.
#2 - December 19, 2011, 08:19 AM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

They film lots of stuff here (mostly bad movies and corny TV shows), but for TV shows, this is usually their home (meaning they're not just coming into town for a little while and then leaving once the episode is done).  For movies, it's a little different, obviously--they don't stick around.

The stars for the the shows that are based here live here, obviously, and I think they tend to rent bigger houses in the more private neighborhoods, or beach houses in a more secluded area--not regular houses with the common folk.  So it's not the same as if a star came in for a single episode, in which case I'd imagine they'd stay in the most secure/expensive hotel (?) or perhaps a really great bed and breakfast with a separate entrance or perhaps a short-term rental of a gorgeous house or beach house (privacy being the key).  They mostly seem to stay in out-of-the-way places, from what I've seen, and now and then they mingle in a coffee shop, bar, or whatever, giving the locals a thrill, and then go back to their hidey-hole.  Word quickly spreads about which stars are nice in public and which ones are jerks.

I don't know how long they have to shoot your average episode of X show, but I think it's probably going to shoot for a couple of weeks(?)  I could definitely ask about this.

In our town, much of the interior shooting is done in the film studio we have, but if shooting is done on location, here's what you'll see:

Signs directing the crew and extras to park.  "CREW PARKING" with an arrow or "EXTRAS PARKING" with an arrow.  Often this parking is in a city parking deck for us.
Trucks, trucks, trucks--mostly all white, unmarked, sometimes with the name of the studio on the side.  See big white trucks with no logo parked halfway on the sidewalk?  You know they are filming.
Cables--really thick black ones--and scads of other electrical looking stuff running back and forth out of back of the trucks.  Lots of plainly dressed engineer guys to stand by the trucks, looking bored, or walk around doing whatever it is they're doing.  Nobody seems to be in a hurry--that would be uncool!
Weird-looking things that look like large electrical boxes on a trailer--these are portable batteries/power sources/generators for some of the equipment, I think.  Some have the name of the studio on them.
Large lights and huge white reflector sheet things, if the filming is actually done outside and the actors' faces need lighting.  (Otherwise, these reflectors and lights will be inside the building where they are filming--you can see them through the windows.  BUT they may also cover windows and such.)
HUGE lights if they need to film at night--sometimes on a really big cherry picker crane up in the sky.
Catering truck with cute name ("On Scene Eats" or whatever).  Looks like a "food truck"--opens at side.  Parked along curb near filming. Bored-looking Production Assistants (hipster 20 year olds) and Engineer guys getting coffee and such.  Sometimes a table is set up right there beside the catering truck--right on the sidewalk.  Complete with condiments.  However, I have never seen anyone actually having a sidewalk picnic at this table--probably most people would rather not sit in middle of public sidewalk eating a meal.  This stuff is not blocked off, BTW, and I often have to walk right by it to get to work.  Have wondered what would happen if I marched up to truck and asked for coffee.
Stars don't walk themselves down to a catering truck, that I've seen--the PA or whoever would fetch them what they want, most likely, maybe not even from catering.
(BTW, I have been on set where extras catering was different from actual actors catering.  Thanks a lot!)
Trailers for real stars--parked nearby, but not in *immediate area* of set sometimes.  Maybe a couple blocks away on large lot (around here, they used to use a nearby church lot quite often).  Star trailers I've seen have been outlandishly large and shiny, like motor homes, as if person inside is Pope, not star of minor TV show on The WB or made-for-TV movie.  There are companies that specialize in providing these star trailers, it seems, because their names (the company's name) will be on the side.  I assume they are rented/transported here.  Provide way more comfort and privacy than the tents or whatever are provided for extras.  Have been part of production where stars were driven from these trailers to the set in large rental van--even if set is no more than 200 feet away.  I suppose they can't walk across a parking lot like the rest of us.  Too tiring?

Security will be around in form of ball-capped, bored/cool looking production people keeping a look out.  Fans, if any, will be small group of young women (mostly) (and maybe one of their moms) huddled by car across the street, with cell phones out to take photos.  They have driven here from out of town just for this reason.  Fans point and talk to each other if anyone who is anyone is seen, unembarrassed at looking like fans (meaning they don't have the bored/cool look, unless truly nothing is happening, in which case they still feel happy to take photos of trucks and such).

Fans are kept at a distance by polite, bored-looking PAs, who ask that they stand over there, out of the shot, etc.

Sometimes off-duty police are hired, but this seems to happen when/if they have permission to block of an actual street.  Officer parks his car in street near barricade, is often friendly and chatty, but will ask people to walk around production or hold them off from walking during a shot, etc.  Probably there are laws about how much they can really prevent public from using public streets and so on, but public doesn't know that, so respects production company/cop's requests.

I have been stopped from riding my bike behind the park during a shot (very far away in middle of park) by one of the ball-capped PA types--friendly, apologetic, and probably knows that legally they can't keep me from using sidewalk (?).  Communication is by walkie-talkie thing, maybe with headset.  Kind of self-important "look at me, I work on a TV show" attitude goes with it.  Worse attitude with higher budget of production.

Speaking of using the sidewalk, downtown businesses here grow aggravated at losing business from people because the sidewalks LOOK closed (because of filming, cables, etc.).  They are adamant about putting up signs that say they are still open.  City puts up signs for them on street corners "Yes, our local businesses are open!"  Therefore, you can walk right through the filming, or past it, rather, as long as the cameras aren't rolling, and as long as you don't look like you're a loitering fan (strike bored/cool look, walk with purposeful stride).  You could easily trip over a cable, though.  They do put down those portable rampy-things over cables sometimes.

Sometimes "fun" filming is seen--a car scene or something.  Husband once saw people dressed in space suits standing on top of a car, while it drove (for a shot in what I can only imagine was a terrible movie).  Once, they filmed a prom scene of teens riding in a limo (and standing up out of the sun roof) in front of our house.  The limo was actually on a trailer being pulled behind a truck with the camera and lighting on it.  They drove down the street over and over again to get this shot.

If you need to see pics of some on-street filming mess, I actually have taken some in the past.  I'm sure I could find a few.
#3 - December 19, 2011, 09:23 AM

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Wow, Jaina! How exciting! And annoying.  :stars
#4 - December 19, 2011, 09:51 AM

You're so right--it is both.  And the thing to do is look bored and "over it" and to tell everyone you've never even seen one episode of X show, so they'll know just how little you care and how cool you are--which makes it even sillier!

The fun part is when you don't realize they're filming and you see all street signs replaced with NYC signs and NYC cabs parked, or when you show up at work, as I have, and it's surrounded by ambulances and people in doctor/nurse outfits and you think some dreadful disaster has happened--and it turns out your work building is pretending to be a hospital that day.

The cool part is you can make a little money being an extra, if you're up for it.
#5 - December 19, 2011, 10:16 AM

Love your description of it, Jaina. I could see where it would be both fun and annoying. I've been on set for some studio tapings of a weekly TV show and was surprised at just how long it takes them to get through a scene. Hours and hours of just one scene with different takes and different camera angles. It can actually be really boring.
#6 - December 19, 2011, 10:39 AM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

I worked on this as an extra, and I have to agree.  It was very boring, indeed--probably because I was an adult extra, and therefore--a frumpy teacher!  The teens had much more to do and more fun, I'd imagine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwjzZYRvUlQ

A casting associate for our local casting agency just got back to me and said they spent 8 days filming for each ep. of a locally-filmed drama.  That's just filming, mind you--not the pre or post-production.
#7 - December 19, 2011, 11:07 AM

Interesting clip. Were you in the hallways of the high school?
#8 - December 19, 2011, 02:04 PM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

Walking out of the school at the beginning and past the school bus and girls in the car is one of the things I did, but the "teachers" were toward the back, behind the crowd, so I don't even know if I got on camera at all.  The other scene we shot that day was one later in the movie--in the school cafeteria.  I did a lot of walking around, talking to other "teachers" and so on.  It was interesting to watch and do, but also frustrating--hearing them yell at extras (a hundred teens and young people?) all day long who couldn't understand the concept of "quiet on the set."

It got old really fast, and it doesn't pay all that well, considering.  I think if I were single and bored, it would be easier to justify really long days spent that way.

However, I'm definitely going to use these experiences for a book, sometime.
#9 - December 19, 2011, 02:33 PM

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This is great info! Thanks so much!
#10 - December 19, 2011, 04:16 PM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY!
THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

Mara,

Jaina had so much great info on this. In case you want more, they used to film parts of 24 at my parents' house. A crew would arrive early in the morning (like 5am) the day before filming to rearrange furniture. They would set up catering on a vacant lot nearby the house. They were always extremely meticulous. This crew took photos of exactly how everything looked in advance and would set it up precisely the same way afterwards. They put plastic covering over everything and there would be a supervisor as they were taking the stuff out who would tell everyone things like, "Be careful! Move slowly! Don't break anything!"

They would only actually film there one day at a time. The stars would arrive early I think, but they had private trailers and would not really come out until filming. But growing up in LA I knew people who had much longer filming and they were actually moved into a rental house for months!

If this detail is amusing or helpful you are welcome to use it: one time my sister and I wanted to watch the filming so we went over there and went upstairs to her old bedroom. It was nighttime and the house was pitch dark and we were sure they couldn't see us. They were filming one of the guys walking up our parents' front steps to their porch. We were peeking out the second story window. As they were filming, the director said, "Wait! Why do I see two heads in the upper window!!" OOPS!  :shame

I grew up and live in Los Angeles and a lot of filming of course takes place here. A house near where I currently live does a lot of filming. When that happens, they'll come by and leave a blue slip on our doorstep. It says "notice of filming" and it lists the dates, exact addresses, etc. when they'll be filming. Their trucks take up tons of street parking so they want to make sure the neighbors don't cause an uproar. It is a very standard form and at least in Los Angeles they always post this if they will be filming near your house. Here's a photo of the latest notice we got in case that helps.

Glad to answer specific questions if you have more.
#11 - December 31, 2011, 03:34 PM

Mara--one more random but interesting tidbit I remembered! I don't know if they do this everywhere, but frequently when filming will take place at a very busy location in Los Angeles, when they post the directional signs Jaina was talking about (such as for the crew, cast, extras, etc. to find the location) they won't actually put the name of the show. Instead they'll put some kind of code word. That's so that a bunch of fans of the show or actors don't go invade the location. So you'll be driving along and you'll see a sign that says, for example, "French Fries" or "Brothers" or just some word like that. They put a code word instead of the name of the show.
#12 - December 31, 2011, 03:37 PM

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That's great, Christine! Thank you so much!
#13 - January 02, 2012, 08:22 AM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY!
THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

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It's been fun reading about all this behind the scenes stuff.

Christine, I especially liked discovering your parents' house was used in 24. Which season? Which family? I am still a little in mourning that the show is over.
#14 - January 02, 2012, 10:17 AM
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Mara, I'll bet if you search on YouTube after looking at Jaina's video, you can find all kinds of videos showing shooting on location, so you can SEE what it's like....
#15 - January 02, 2012, 02:31 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Yes!  There are YouTube videos about everything, so just searching for "filming on location" will bring up lots of stuff, I bet.  Don't you just love YouTube?

I wanted to mention a neat documentary I saw yesterday on Netflix streaming.  It's called "Strictly Background"--it follows a number of off-beat people who are extras/background players for a living (though it's not much of one, really).  It might be worth checking out as it shows on-location shooting, with the trucks and the cables and whatnot.
#16 - January 02, 2012, 02:42 PM

Tammi-I think it was season 4. It was used as someone's house and office who was on that particular season.

Good luck on your project, Mara; sounds interesting!
#17 - January 03, 2012, 09:19 AM

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