Having directed and produced such shows as Jack Ryan, Hunters, For All Mankind, Hell On Wheels, Legion, Waco, Goliath, and frankly too many others films and shows to count…Dennie Gordon is no stranger to working with giant crews on massive sets. Having also directed a feature film in China during the SARS outbreak, I think it’s safe to say that Dennie knows something about keeping her crew members safe despite the risks.
And not more than 2 minutes into our interview, Dennie rolled the following grenade into the middle of the room:
“I think the cameras are going to start rolling again when there’s a vaccine.”
So what does that mean for everyone who’s livelihoods depend on cameras rolling? On needing makeup and hair done, sets to be designed, built, and painted…lights to be set up, focused to be pulled, costumes to be purchased and fitted, and in the case of most of my listeners…footage that needs to be cut.
What’s the plan if cameras don’t roll again until we have a vaccine? And are there alternatives? Will production flee to other states or other countries that are willing to take the risks? Are crew members going to have to choose between unemployment or signing death waivers?
There are a lot of questions right now, and neither I nor Dennie promise to have the answers. But we do our best to discuss all of the various options out there so all of us can make more informed decisions about what comes next.
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Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- Despite the “when there’s a vaccine” grenade Dennie rolled into the room, she assures us the Industry is putting protocols in place to make sets as safe as possible. But we have a long road ahead.
- Why she thinks talk shows, game shows, stage studio events will come back much sooner. Location set pieces won’t come back for a while.
- The astonishing story of Dennie Gordon’s experience working on a feature film in China DURING the SARS-COV2 outbreak.
- Insurance. Waivers. Liability… Who’s really going to take this on at the end of the day?
- What should we expect working on set to look like before a vaccine?
- How do we tell good stories while following physical distancing guidelines?
- How can creative professionals continue building their careers? After all, we never learn anything when we’re not working.
- How will we be able to collaborate at the same level as before? For example, if writer’s rooms are meeting on Zoom calls instead of in person, how much gets lost in the creative process?
- Why not create stories that reflect the reality we’re living in with COVID-19?
- Dennie’s thoughts on having everyone live on set as a closed community where everyone is tested. (Example: Tyler Perry who built a set on a former army barracks.)
- Does she think people will be willing to live in a quarantined set, isolated from family and friends for months just to have a job again?
- What about reality shows? Will they resume before scripted?
- People in some countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Iceland, & South Korea have already started shooting. What opportunities does that present?
- How do you navigate production when one state says they’re not ready to start shooting because it’s unsafe and in the next state, they’re saying “We’re already making television, what are you guys doing over there?”
- Since it’s going to be more expensive for productions to operate and doing so with less people, and considering that so many people will want to work and do it for less money, what effect do you expect that downward pressure on wages to have and what would you hope to see?
- What are we going to do about post-production or are they in a good enough position with remote workflows?
- Can you still tell the same quality stories if you never meet your post-production crew in person?
- What does pilot season look like? Do we think the structure of the way we do the business side of things is going to change?
- What do you think is going to happen to television in general considering the expected reduction in the volume of shows that will be produced?
- What are some of the ideas you’ve come up with to pivot and be innovative when it looks like you may not be able to go back to directing for a year or two?
- Does it make sense for you to provide value in other ways such as mentorship? And what does mentorship and networking look like in the time of coronavirus?
- Dennie Gordon’s words of wisdom: “Use this time. When this is all over, people will be able to define themselves by how they used this time.”
- Why Dennie expects us to have to get much better at communicating their ideas to each other.
- Do you think we’ll end up going towards making features and not doing episodic T.V. for a long time because it’s just so hard to sustain the level of production T.V. requires?
- Can we expect a resurgence of small indie movies?
Useful Resources Mentioned:
How The World’s Biggest Producers Are Plotting Their Way Out Of The Pandemic
Reopening Hollywood: From Insurance To Testing, Crowd Scenes & Craft Services, Here Are The Pandemic Problems Studios Are Trying To Solve Before The Restart
Reopening Hollywood: Kurt Sutter On How To Bring Back TV Dramas After Coronavirus Shutdown
What’s needed for Hollywood to get back to work safely?
Ep85: Mentorship, Networking, and Surviving Hollywood Blockbusters | with Dody Dorn, ACE
Ep97: When Are We Going Back to Work? And How Can We Earn Income Now? | Community Q&A
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Dennie Gordon has been a trailblazing female director her entire career; spanning the worlds of feature films, television series, mini-series and branded content. Her range of genre busting entertainment spans an unusual spectrum of comedy and drama.
After being one of the first women to graduate from Yale’s School of Drama with an MFA in Directing, Gordon first gained recognition when A HARD RAIN was chosen by Showtime’s Discovery Program. Thanks to Steven Spielberg, a rough cut of her film attracted the attention of George Lucas who donated the
film’s mix at Skywalker Ranch.
A HARD RAIN, which Gordon also wrote, went on to win dramatic awards at the British Short Film Festival and the Hampton’s Film Festival. This film also caught the eye of David E. Kelley who enlisted Gordon to helm multiple episodes of his television series including GOLIATH, (where she was Co EP) PICKET FENCES, CHICAGO HOPE, ALLY MCBEAL, and THE PRACTICE. Gordon has directed over 100 hours of network television including such critically acclaimed series as LEGION, which was on many critic’s lists as a top 10 show of 2017, with the “astounding direction of Dennie Gordon and her twisted visionary imagery taking the X-Men universe to a whole new level”.
Her other work includes BLOODLINE, RECTIFY, EMPIRE, KINGDOM, POWER, HELL ON WHEELS, GRACE & FRANKIE, THE OFFICE, 30 ROCK, Aaron Sorkin’s SPORTS NIGHT, and HBO’s TRACEY TAKES ON, for which Gordon won the DGA Comedy Award. Gordon recently completed the mini-series WACO, JACK RYAN Season 2 FOR ALL MANKIND for Apple, and THE HUNT starring Al Pacino.
Gordon directed the comedy cult hit JOE DIRT starring David Spade, and Christopher Walken, and WHAT A GIRL WANTS starring Oscar Winner Colin Firth, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Jonathan Pryce. Gordon was the first American woman to direct a film for the domestic Chinese market, called MY LUCKY STAR. The
2013 film starred Oscar nominee Zhang Ziyi and Wang Leehom and was filmed in China and Singapore in the summer of 2012. MY LUCKY STAR was the number one film in China for 4 weeks on 5000 screens.
Gordon is a sought after commercial director having completed campaigns for Honda, Toyota, Tsingtao beer and Xcel energy as well as campaigns with Jimmy Fallon, Betty White, Adam Devine and Don Cheadle. She recently completed a short dramatic film for Huawei, which was shot in Prague. She is repped by Little Minx
Dennie in the L.A. Times article: What’s needed for Hollywood to get back to work safely?
This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Glen McNiel.
The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).
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