I recently shared with you guys all about my friendship with The Muppets. When I was out in LA for the #ABCTVEvent we also had a chance to go check out the set of their awesome new series: the muppets. Set visits are probably one of my favorite things to do. To go inside the show and see how things work is so much fun. We also met with executive producers Randall Einhorn (and director) & Bill Barretta (and performer) who showed us around the set.
About The Show:
The Muppets return to primetime with a contemporary, documentary-style show. For the first time ever, a series will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, breakups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires.
One thing I wanted to point out that you can’t really see is that every single piece of the floor is moveable so that the puppeteers and the muppets can get wherever they need to be. Behind that podium I’m standing by? It’s actually a permanent cut out back there, which is why I could not actually be “behind” the podium. It’s the little things that are the most fascinating. Speaking of little things Bill and Randall talked a bit about producing, directing, and being the Muppett Captain:
Q: What does an Executive Producer do?
Randall: My Mom asked me that. What does an Executive Producer do? I mean, it’s interesting because even though we’re both Executive Producers, we have similar but different things that actually, eventually combine or come together at some point or quite often around. I suppose the top is that obviously the stories and what the stories are gonna be and Bill more so than I because he’s been a Performer forever. Keeping track of what the Characters are doing and advising us whether we’re keeping them in who they are because this has been going on for a long time and obviously, most people writing for the stories are relatively new to this so there’s a lot of it, at the script stage. At the Production stage, OK how are we going to do that, is where Bill and I tend to work together cause Bill’s the the Muppet Captain so in terms of everything that’s gonna happen to his logistically. He’s logistically out doing it.
Bill: What’s been a really interesting and fun challenge is you know, Randall brings obviously to the table the, aside from just being a great Director, great guy to work with, is the Documentary style of all of this, that the Muppets are not used to. We’ve always been used to working to a frame that we kind of help create composition with the Characters and where they are in the frame. We tend to play more presentational with the Muppets in most things that we’ve done, just about everything.
In this case, it was trusting and learning from Randall how to let the camera find the Characters. So it’s a very different approach to how we do things. It’s similar logistically because of what was explained briefly about the floors and how we need to prove and and do all this stuff, but it’s Randall who kind of has the raw vision as a Director of how these pieces are ultimately all gonna come together.
Q: Talk about the mechanics of using the Muppet Characters.
Bill: Well there’s different types of puppets. Kermit for example, is a puppet that you can almost see if you really look. You can almost see the knuckles of Steve Whitmire’s hand and they create those facial manipulations. He’s a very malleable Puppet. He also has arm rods that go into his wrists so he’s what we call a Rod Puppet. A character like Fozzie, is usually operated by two people. It’s one person that’s doing the head and the behavior and the body of the Character. It’s a whole collaboration between Puppeteers and different Characters operate in different ways. I mean for the majority of the Characters, I don’t want to leave Peter Lintz who’s a guy who’s been around the Muppets and being doing this for years and created Walter who is in one of the Movies. Aside from Peter, most of the Characters are performed by 6 people. Not leaving out Julianne. There’s also kind of peripheral Characters that are becoming more involved but the ones who do the core kind of Muppets.
Q: What is your production technique like?
Randall: For a Director’s standpoint, we prep an episode for 5 days, and then we shoot for 6 days. We’re trying to do like four 10 hour days and two twelve hour days or two 14 hour days depending on if we go on location. A lot of that is just because of the time it takes in order for us to do the simplest thing, we need monitors and monitors and monitors, and floor removed. I would say that like for me, in directing any TV Show, be it a Comedy or be it a Drama, it takes 15 minutes at least to rehearse a scene and talk about it and block it. It takes 45 minutes to light that scene and do camera rehearsals for that scene. So if I have a scene like last week, this episode had like 28 scenes which means 28 hours in normal conditions of not shooting, like Fargo, I think I had 56 scenes which is 56 hours of not shooting.
This takes double, takes 2 hours to get your first shot off with, in a proper scene. So we have 28 scenes. That’s 56 hours of not shooting. That’s just to getting to the place where you’re shooting which, you know, in five 12 hour days, is 60 hours, doesn’t leave a lot so we got to move.
So every episode we actually watch takes hours of prep, hours or set up, hours of rehearsing, filming…just everything. It takes so much to create what ends up being brilliant and amazing episode for our entertainment. So many people that make it happen.
TUNE IN TONIGHT
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AND FOO FIGHTERS’ DAVE GROHL GUEST STAR
“Going, Going, Gonzo“– After a show-stopping duet with Miss Piggy on “Up Late with Miss Piggy,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins Scooter, Pepe and the gang for poker night; The Great Gonzo gears up to perform his dream stunt; and Dave Grohl challenges Animal to a drum-off, on “The Muppets,” TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1 (8:00-8:30 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
***Disclosure: I attended the #ABCTVEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***