Lunch with the President of Warner Bros Television
11 December 2017
During the Warner Bros Studio Tour today we were told we were not permitted to hand CVs or scripts to anyone we came across during the tour. Otherwise I might have whipped out that amazing script I have for a television pilot (I wish) when we dined at a table next to Peter Roth, President and Content Manager for WB Television (yes really, our tour guide pointed him out). Apparently somebody once leapt from a tour cart to find some random person to be the lucky recipient of their script. It failed to reach anyone’s hands, let alone the screen.
The first half of the tour was mainly about exterior shooting. Our tour guide, Thom, was very knowledgeable about multiple uses of a wide range of house fronts, tailored to an extent to the interests of our group. We had a delightful girl in our group who was an enthusiast of Gilmore Girls so we had some extra stops to cater for her. I’m also a fan so took the opportunity to pose for photos too. The rotunda has also been used in many shows. The house below is now more in the style of Spencer’s house (Pretty Little Liars) than the blue house Lorelei Gilmore owned. Pretty Little Liars added a ‘barn’ to the lot which Warner Bros would normally require to be knocked down once the series concludes but they liked it so much they kept it. The subway entry/exit pictured below leads nowhere but can hide a couple of groups of extras ready to be cued to exit.
|The fake Chicago railway as seen in ER and Shameless|
Other than a new lick of paint, some exterior facades can have their ‘skins’ changed, meaning they can change from brick to concrete to weatherboard or whatever. They’re usually made out of fibreglass. However, High Definition (HD) has meant they can’t always get away with this. So the skins, though still merely veneers, are now sometimes made with the authentic material, making them heavier, and consequently cost more time and money.
It was quite clear from today that money, not the love of movies, is the main motivator of the business. Warner Bros are not fussed with which film company leases out their sound stages or exterior lots, whoever is paying, they can come. In fact, the deals are usually an all-in affair. For example, if you are filming at Warner Bros, the massive costume warehouse on site (which we toured) is at your disposal but there’s a catch. If you make any of your own costumes, they become the property of Warner Bros too. Two Broke Girls has been canned so all the props and costumes have become the property of Warner Bros. Some of this has been selected for the archives, such as the wait staff uniforms, the rest joins standard stock on offer to others, for a fee.
An area we could not visit today was being prepared for A Christmas Story Live. It is a version of the 1980’s movie, A Christmas Story, set around 1940, a traditional TV favourite at this time of year. A few years ago it became a stage musical. On this Sunday night it is going to be performed live, starring Matthew Broderick and Jane Krakowski, on Fox. All that backstory is to show how important this is to Warner Bros and the viewing public. So important they were making fake snow ALL DAY. It was happening on the other side of Lorelei’s house so while we were posing for photos white dust was falling around us. The more exciting part of all this, for me, is that they were also setting up for a 2.5 minute segment to promote Hugh Jackman’s Greatest Show on Earth, being released on the big screen this week. All I could see was a humongous red curtain being hung. Some guy from the set told us rehearsals were happening in a couple of days time and will involve 220 extras. We were just a couple of days too early to meet Hugh Jackman!
After lunch we went inside some sound studios. No photos were allowed in these areas. We visited the set of Mom which is filmed in front of a live studio audience. On Fridays. The writers are always on standby because if a joke fails, the writers have to try again. And again. And again. Until people laugh. And oh, apparently they all have to laugh the same way. Yes, the same way. The audience has to all laugh in the same manner, so no one laugh stands apart from another. Otherwise they’ll turn the microphone near you off.
Next we went throughout the soundstage of Lethal Weapon, the TV series. We learned how they fake the police office to be on the 11th floor. One aspect of the illusion is gigantic curtains of the LA skyline hanging outside the windows with a light acting as the sun. I was most intrigued by the intricate level of the staging of the props. It really felt like we were standing in a police station, except that it was missing police officers.
The last stop was the more interactive section of the tour where we saw heaps of gorgeous costumes and a clip of Gravity four times over: (1) only dialogue (2) only sound effects (3) only music (4) all together.
The highlight of Stage 48: Script to Screen, though, was Griffin acting as Batman. The perfect way to end our day.
Plus the video!