Short-Shooting, Crew-Borrowing, and other Traditional Production Methods

Of Maureen Ryan’s 13 Facts about “Epitaph One” (the Dollhouse direct-to-DVD episode), my favourites are the first three, which deal with the technical and scheduling aspects of shooting an episode on a tight budget and schedule:

1. The director of photography for the episode, Rodney Charters, as well as the entire film crew, came from “24.”

2. The reason “Dollhouse’s” regular film crew was not used was that they were all off shooting “Omega,” the show’s on-air Season 1 finale.

3. Parts of “Epitaph One” were filmed at the same industrial facility that was used for parts of “Omega.” Joss Whedon said in one interview that the episode was shot in six days, which is hard to believe since it looks great.

Dollhouse‘s regular cinematographer is Ross Berryman, who shot the last few seasons of Angel.

Borrowing a crew from other shows on the lot, and shooting an episode on repurposed sets from another episode, are not actually that unusual historically; nor is the six-day shooting schedule for a one-hour episode. (If anything, six days is pretty generous by historical standards; when studios first got into the production of one-hour TV episodes, they shot each episode in five days.) It’s an indication of how much greater our expectations are now when it comes to the production values of a network television episode: shooting an episode as if it’s a B-movie — with sets and crew members left over from bigger productions, and a short schedule — is now an exception to the rule. Network TV shows are now “A” productions, definitely not “B.”

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