Monday, February 23, 2009

In which we see the Future Site of Our New Home

We pick up messages While We Were Out: Missy's ready to come over and show a costume design. We're pumped, our minds awhirl with th' cosmic possibilities of it all, come on down! Missy shows us a sketch that's a riot of big hair, neon blues and greens, layered with blacks and topped off with a pink wifebeater emblazoned with the word Arrgh! What's that about, Missy? "I don't know, it just looks cool." Doesn't look like anything we imagined, even during the thousands of miles of brainstorming; doesn't look like anything we would imagine; doesn't look like anything we could imagine.

We love it. Alls we gots to do is run it past WLEX, just to make sure they don't have heartburn with it.

Bill hates it. It's one thing to hear someone talking about a monster movie teevee show that isn't going to look or be like the monster movie teevee show you imagined and sold to your Higher Authority; it's quite another thing to hold in your hands incontrovertible evidence that said teevee show will never, cannot possibly ever look or be like the show you imagined and sold to your Higher Authority. We say all the words -- new, spontaneous, ad-lib, freewheeling, unique -- the response is, "Well, if this is what you want/if you think you can make your show work/I hope you know what you're doing." Lotta second person impersonal pronouns there, few to none first person plural pronouns; this somehow isn't sounding much like a Notice to Proceed, much less a Ringing Endorsement of Creativity, but we press on: so, can we get some advance money released for costume materials? The crickets return in full chorus, then Bill agrees to get a check cut. While we wait, he takes me to WLEX's scene dock, which is in WLEX's studio.

WLEX at this time is a smallish cluster of connected buildings off Russell Cave Road, on the fringe of an industrial park. There's a main front entrance that's open during business hours; the reception area is a circa-70s living room, with a big console teevee that shows the broadcast feed as well as studio feeds. There's a long central hall that runs lengthwise through the main building; going down the hall one way takes you past the management offices and conference room to the news operation, going down the hall the other way takes you past the production offices and carrells to the studios and support areas, and then past the guard post out to the parking lot. There's one studio; it's about twenty-five feet wide by sixty-ish feet deep, maybe a twelve foot ceiling. The News Set takes up most of the rear of the studio: a big desk with three or four seating pods, monitors and blue panels behind the main desk; a map of the US on the wall to camera left, with magnetic letters and little weather symbols, a large-scale map of Kentucky to the left of the US map. A plate glass window: the control room. There's a wall-mounted speaker box above the window, with a standard 8" speaker in it; what's that? Three pedestal cameras, some pointed at the news set, others pointed at the not-news set: a shower-curtain cyc that covers the short wall, stopping short of about twelve feet of drywall painted blue. Ah, this must be the famous Chroma-Key backing I heard so much about. But I thought that a proper Chroma-Key Backing consisted of a trade-secret fabric of a certain Pantone blue. You can see the drywall seams on this bad boy; what's up with that? There's a cluster of lights over the News Set, and maybe a dozen or so lights pointed toward the Not-News Set.

Bill turns the lights on for the Not-News Set: "This is where you'll do your show." He explains the studio rules: your set can't be set up during news, because it would distract the news anchors; you can't move or touch the lights, which have to be left as is for the Sunday morning public affairs show; you get the three studio cameras, that's it, and oh by the way they don't move during show; your set has to be carried out, set up and lit in fifteen minutes, because the crew doesn't get off lunch break until 12:30, and you're live on the air at 1 so you'll probably need a few minutes to go over the opening of the show with the crew, but you can't talk to them while they're doing the news or eating lunch. And you can't use the blue wall, because it'll take too much time to set up a shot and you won't have the time.

I'm not sensing that there's a lot of support for this here show, logistical or otherwise. But I can ignore warning signals with the best of 'em, so I pace off the available space, identify where the lights are focused -- three hot areas, including the Blue Wall, roughly equidistant from each other and the shower curtain; and ask to see the scene dock.

The scene dock is behind the News Set; it's about eight feet square, at best. It's really a sound lock between the news set and a kitchen that appears disused: seems this was the breakroom until fairly recently, and nobody's formally claimed this area yet. There is a very small, very random collection of odds and ends, a trunk, and a dozen or so flats of some kind or other, including some badly painted vacuformed panels that purport to be a library. Take some measurements, take some notes; Bill observes that there's not much to work with.

"We can make this work." Damned if I know how, but we can.

"Today is Wednesday; can I have a scene design for the staff designers by, oh, Friday afternoon? We've budgeted the weekend to build your set."

Forget about ordering anything; forget about buying anything, for that matter. And I'm not hearing tools, or smelling sawdust or paint, or detecting anything that might suggest that there's a carpenter or painter, or for that matter another live human being lurking about. When in doubt, give the benefit of the doubt:

"We can make this work."

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