Monday, June 3, 2013

"Homeland" comes to the Observer; Why I'll never be an actor

The view of "Homeland" from my desk.
The Charlotte Observer newsroom turned into the set of Showtime TV show "Homeland" for about 12 hours May 28.

The show, which is filmed in Charlotte and surrounding areas, used the newsroom to film one scene for the upcoming season. Claire Danes was in it. I could have reached out and touched her, but I didn't. Probably a good move.

Here's what I learned.

  • It takes a village. This scene lasted about two or three minutes. About 100 people were in and out of the newsroom all day, setting the scene, lugging in camera equipment, rigging lighting and feeding the cast and crew. In addition to the three main actors in the scene, there were a couple of dozen extras posing as journalists walking through the room, ruining my chance to make a cameo.

  • Slow and steady wins the Emmy. The set up and filming of this scene took way longer than I would have imagined. Some of the crew arrived at 8 a.m. to set up the props. They were there until at least 8 p.m. taking everything down.

    The crew completely remodeled four desks in the newsroom with fake books, mementos and folders. They brought in new computer equipment and had a fake news feed going through the TVs.

    The actors arrived around 2:30 p.m., did a couple of rehearsals and then kept shooting the same short scene until well after 6 p.m., when I left. 

  • I know nothing about my own workplace. We have these numbers sticking out of the ceiling at the Observer. A crew member asked me what they were for, and were they related to the sprinkler system? I had no idea. (They were.) I think he felt a little bad for calling me out, but I didn't care. Now I know that sprinkler 70F has my back. 

  • TV is magic. Midway through shooting, I watched one take and thought, "Man, our newsroom looks shabby. How are they going to make this look good?" Then I caught a glimpse of the monitor the director was watching. It looked great. The magic of television. 

  • They work hard for the money, but love it. I sit right by the door of to the newsroom so I had the chance to talk to some of the crew members during downtime. One, who is from Charlotte and had been with the show for about a week, said they started at 5 a.m. and would be going until well into the night. And that's a normal day.

    You could tell he was tired, but he also talked about how fun and exciting the job was and how passionate the crew is about it. All the crew members seemed to be enjoying the work and were friendly to all of the nosy journalists.

    Acting also isn't easy. I can't imagine how hard it is to say the same lines and do the same movements so many times in a row. They shot the scene from six or seven different angles, which meant running through it dozens of times. It was impressive how consistent Claire Danes was. Which brings me to my last bullet ... 

  • Danes is a superb curser. And consistent. Without giving away too much of the plot, Claire Danes character, Carrie Mathieson, yells at people in this scene. If you've watched the show, you know that comes with some cursing.

    Danes really knows how to accentuate her F-bombs and bull----s. I couldn't hear much of the dialogue from my position in the newsroom, but I heard those.

    I was also amazed by how consistent she curses. Her final line in the scene (I think I can tell you this without giving anything away) is "This is bullshit! You know that, right?" I swear she said it the exact same way at least 50 times. That's when I realized I could never be an actor. My cursing is too inconsistent.

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