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mouse and weens

part comedy, part life. A podcast.

Episode 30 - Interview: Weens on the Job

Catching up, Weens talks about her week on The Rookie, the hit ABC show which comes out mid October with all of the new Fall series. Mouse asks questions about some of the photos and videos Weens has sent her throughout shooting, so Weens gets into the stages of working locations on a TV show. They are working on the 6th episode and it is crazy. Cop shows are known to be fast-paced, and this show is especially ambitious to film. There are a lot of locations in a day – maybe 3 per day – and it is a ton of work to get everything lined up to close off major streets in LA and to make these shots work.

First the writers release the draft of the script, then all the department heads read the draft in a production meeting. It is mostly logistical, with people like those in the wardrobe department talking through big ideas of scenes, such as putting star Nathan Fillion in a smoking jacket! They will splinter off and have separate specialized meetings, but this is the general, first, overall look and feel discussion.

After the script is handed to the crew, the following day often there will be a Director’s Scout. Again, TV is very fast-moving so they immediately start driving around LA with the director, the producer, and the location manager. With a feature film, the managers would usually have more time to read the script, think about locations, and plan. But they instantly begin finding locations often based on general ideas that the director and locations manager have thought of based on preliminary outlines. These locations may change though, once the first draft of the script comes and there are more details.

The length of time that it takes to shoot scenes is often based on the length of the script pages. For example, a half of a page might take about 4 hours to shoot. They shoot 12-hour days, so they will choose other scenes to fill up the remaining 8 hours. And they will want to find locations close together so that they don’t have to move the company too far. Generally speaking, it is a page a minute on film. Weens and other key locations crew start scouting locations. An example scenario is that the director may say they need a Mexican restaurant and that he has one in mind he likes. But then they will need to make sure that there is an alley next to the restaurant to be able to film a chase scene after the restaurant scene. So scouting can sometimes feel like a needle in a haystack in making it all line up.

After the Director’s Scout, and once all the ideas and photos of the locations are shared, chosen, and locked in, the team goes on a Tech Scout. This is usually on a bus with all the department heads, and they travel to each location where they are going to film and finalize the details of each shoot. For instance, once the director, and sometimes the first assistant director, explain to the team what the vision is, the set decorators will start measuring, the lighting crew will decide where the lights will go, and so on.

Mouse asks if Weens has ever made a big mistake while securing locations or if there has been a mishap during production. Weens explains about the need for a legal team, city permits, law enforcement (usually off-duty LAPD), and fire crews, and how a shoot can be shut down for public safety if the rules of the contract or permit are not being followed. Sometimes a headstrong director might try to go over their permit and keep shooting past their end time, but they will be warned by law enforcement to stop. Usually they can then call in a rider, but in some situations they can’t. Sometimes a director's production will be shut down for doing something outside of their permit, such as firing guns. She also tells a story of a certain movie she was working on where during a shoot, a light was too close to a sensor in a building, and set off a ceiling sprinkler!

Mouse wonders about the relationship between a writer and a director and how a show comes to be. Weens explains that there is a show creator, and there are directors hired to come in and do different episodes. For Yo Gabba Gabba and The Aquabats Super Show, that show creator was Christian Jacobs, who then hired different directors. The creator comes up with the concept and the idea, they shoot a pilot, and then a network will see it and decide whether to buy a certain number of episodes. Many times the creator will be the writer or will hire other writers to continue on with more episodes. Weens has a friend who is a writer for SpongeBob  so hears about how they worked as a team although he was the main writer. 

Mouse asks about Weens being a writer and about her writing goals. Weens has always had many creative projects, and has written and shot parody commercials, plays, a rock opera and other short films. She recently wrote a feature length adventure comedy script and received guidance from another writer friend whose work has been picked up. He is catching her up on how first meetings go and reminding her that all you can do sometimes is to get your script into as many hands as possible and cross your fingers. She was able to give hers to a writer and producer of the Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan Shanghai Noon movies and is hoping for the best. But she knows that even though it is read by people who say they want to make it, and even if it gets greenlit all the way up until there is money in the bank, it may still fall through and never make it to production.

She remembers that happening with Scott Aukerman, who is her ex’s good buddy, and asking him about a project he was working on. He told her that he was still working on getting the project picked up, likely Comedy Bang Bang, and that it took years. But he stuck to it and now look at him! It takes tenacity, hard work, and constantly showing up. You do it because you have to do it, and you love it. You always have to deliver your best, most polished and concise work. If it is your passion and you put everything into it, and you are in the right place at the right time in the universe and your vision matches someone else’s, then it may succeed.

Mouse asks if it is a good idea to shoot a pilot and shop that around versus solely having a script, and Weens says that she wishes she had done this on past projects. She is a perfectionist but now realizes that it is also a good idea to just make your creations and put them out into the world even if they fail. She cites the Aquabats shooting their pilot without much of a budget. That low-budget pilot was what was then used and picked up by a network to shoot a better show. Weens says it is difficult to explain a concept or idea, especially in comedy, when it may have a certain vibe or is quirky, so having a final product you can show is a good idea.

Mouse assures Weens that she will succeed and that she is creative, interesting, gets ideas in her head that come out of nowhere, and is able to put them together in a wonderful way. Weens is receptive but is also okay knowing projects may never go anywhere. She believes that you have to do what is fun and interesting while putting out your best effort.

Mouse echoes that this is what she tells her kids – to do what you love and that the rest will follow – but Weens laments that she was always paralyzed as a child having to choose that one, singular career path in life. That seems to be the traditional way - to choose a major in college to determine what you are going to do for the rest of your life. In Mouse’s case, she chose medicine but failed to get into medical school. So then she chose science, but didn’t love the idea of going down the PhD path. She switched to art, then marketing, and then paused it all to have a family. But she later began gardening, and now is into podcasting and following that passion and solely doing what is interesting to her. Mouse and Weens’ mom is like this too – a jack of all trades – and trying to turn hobbies into ways to make money. Granted, this is exceptional to those who have the freedom to do so.

We close out by talking about our anonymity again and go over the fear around it. Mouse is keeping things under wraps because she is worried about online bullying of her kids if they are teased about their gross mom! But we will figure it out, and we still want the community of listeners.

So please find us on all of our social media @mouseandweens especially the Facebook group where we will post our more behind-the-scenes info. Thank you!

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