Office Set Visit Report: Part 2

Part two of my set visit report describes the process we observed in shooting ‘Women’s Appreciation.’

Note: Please forgive me if I ‘geek out’ a little on this part of the report; the whole process really fascinated me. And if I got any of the terms wrong, please let me know!

The shooting process

  • An episode of The Office takes about a week (five days) to shoot.
  • The day that we were there, the call sheet listed 13 scenes to be filmed, plus an additional scene “time permitting” (this was Creed’s “I’m a pretty normal guy” talking head). By the time we arrived for our tour at 9am, two scenes had already been shot. By the end of the day, around 6:30pm or so, all 14 scenes had been shot.
  • The scenes are shot completely out of order. (Which made watching the final aired version of the episode a little disconcerting, as I was expecting the Jan/Michael scene to appear earlier since that was one of the first scenes to be shot during our visit.)
  • From what I saw, each scene is shot eight to ten times.
  • Each time a scene was done shooting, Tom the set P.A. would ceremoniously highlight it with yellow marker on the call sheet taped to the office door. Tom basically stayed in the hallway all day directing traffic, giving updates on his walkie talkie to other staff members, and graciously taking pictures of Kathie and I when he had a free moment. Thanks Tom!
  • The writers for this episode, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, sat in Greg Daniel’s office, a room off to the side of the set, watching the action on the monitors. It was a HUGE treat to be able to watch the shooting of scenes with them. The best part was listening to them laugh at their own lines, take after take!
  • As soon as an actor is not needed in a scene, they immediately go to their trailer and change into their comfy clothes. Jenna’s mentioned more than once in her MySpace blog that she sometimes wears sweat pants and her Uggs when she knows that she is only being shot from the waist up, and it’s true.

The beauty that is the call sheet

The call sheet is the “cheat sheet for the day,” and a thing of organizational beauty.

On just a single sheet of 11×17 paper, the entire day’s shooting schedule is listed, including scene descriptions, cast call times (Angela had the earliest call time that day — a very cringeworthy 4:30am), and notes on props (“list of Dwight’s rules for women on DM lettterhead, Pam’s sketch book and art kit, bananas”), costumes (“Angela is dressed per Pam’s description”), and set dressing (“Meredith’s van is strewn w/take-out containers, wrappers, trash, teenager’s stuff, feminine items”).

The atmosphere on set

  • The staff all have copies of the call sheet, and they seem to follow it to the letter. I was really impressed with how much of a well-oiled machine it was.
  • Kelly was the AD in charge of making sure that everyone kept on schedule. I asked her what her job was like, and she jokingly described it as “driving a wayward bus full of eight year olds.” Ah, but they’re pretty well-behaved eight year olds.
  • Everybody works together really well. The actors are just incredible; they are so well-prepared, knew their lines, and I didn’t hear any of them once “ask for a line.”
  • Despite its efficiency, the set is very casual and relaxed and full of laughter.

The Jan/Michael scene

In the scene where Jan listens to her voicemail in Michael’s office, it was a joy watching Steve and Melora improvise off each other. For each take, either Steve or Melora would put just a different little spin on something which would, in turn, make the other person react in a different way.

One time Jan growls, another time she starts to cry, and another time, she accidentally gets tangled up in some phone cord or something, and exits Michael’s office in a flustered huff.

On another take, Jan actually throws an orange (or an orange ball, I couldn’t tell which) at Michael. We asked Steve later if he knew that Melora was going to throw something at him. He said, “she got that look in her eyes, so I knew something was coming.”

On the take where she starts to cry, Gene and Lee asked us what we thought, and we said no, she should be mad, not crying.

The writing/editing process

I asked Gene about the writing process — do the writers write the script, then they shoot it, and then the editors edit it? He said not quite; the editors do take a pass, but the writers are quite active in the editing process as well. He gave props to Greg Daniels for making the writers feel like “mini executive producers” on the episodes that they write.

When I asked if this was normal on other TV shows for writers to have this much creative control, he said no.

At the end of the day when I was saying goodbye to Gene, I told him that his episode looked great. He thanked me, and then said, “I hope we can edit it well.” It was amazing to me that, after a full day of shooting, he told us that he was going to the writers room to put in some more time. An Office writer’s work is never done!

Go to the next page for a few pictures.

40 comments

  1. OMG! I love this recap of your visit!! I have been waiting with baited breath for this episode to air so you could finally reveal the whole process to us! Wow!! How exciting. I love this!! Yay!

  2. Besides being imo the best writers on the show, Gene and Lee seem like real cool guys

    Nice recap

  3. This was so neat! Thanks so much for sharing. It was like an extra treat to hold us over ’til next week. Very cool.

    Thanks again.

  4. I love that Gene and Lee asked for your opinions on how Jan would react. Yet another example of how much The Office values its viewers. You guys had the experience of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. Thanks so much for this! Especially the Michael/Jan scene details. Steve and Melora are awesome.

  6. Great info.! I loved reading both your and GMMR’s take on the behind the scenes goings-on at The Office. Of course I’m so jealous of you two, but am so glad that such big fans of the show had this amazing opportunity! I hope you both get to go back next season!

  7. i think i have mentioned this before… but i’m still very jealous, LOL! you are a very luck girl, jennie. =D thanks for sharing!

  8. Such an interesting, not to mention well-organized, set report! Thanks for sharing with us, glad you got to do that.

  9. Jennie-

    In the Jan scene that made the cut, I got the impression that Melora was about to cry, and that that was her reason for turning and fleeing before she let amyone see her tears.

    That would seem very much in character for her, in my opinion.

    I think you made a good call!

    Ray

  10. Fantastic Jennie!! I forgot about Melora throwing the orange ball at Michael. And I’m glad she left angry rather than crying. So sad that it’s come full circle, and it’s all over. Until next year (fingers crossed)

  11. Loved the insight on the Michael and Jan scenes! Everything else, too. It’s all so interesting to me.

  12. Thanks for the info!!! Loved it! I’m so jealous! My favorite part of the DVDs are all the bloopers, so I loved that you described many of them – so funny!

  13. Me again – I think most of the messed up take/blooper talk was at GMMR – I’m getting my Office Set Visit info all confused! But both insights were fun and interesting.

  14. Has anyone tried calling the number on the poster? I keep getting a busy signal, anyone have better luck? I’m just curious since most numbers given out on TV are 555.

  15. Ray, I agree with you about Jan’s reaction to the voice message. I saw clearly that she was shocked and sad rather than angry. Now that I got the episode from itune and watched it again, I am sure I was right. I felt so bad for her, and Michael. I hope they will work out.

  16. Song-
    Despite Jan’s tough exterior, she is obviously very hurt. Her personality prevents her from allowing that she be seen crying, but you know she did. Big time.
    I think she really loves Michael in her own way, but has been taking advantage of him.
    This definitely isn’t over.
    I find it fascinating that they filmed different versions and edited according to what they felt was the best fit to the characters and story. Too angry wouldn’t have worked, nor would a crying meltdown. Once again, I think they nailed it.

  17. Ha! The phone number works. It’s a message from Dwight, so keep trying…

    1-800-984-3672. It will change your life. ;)

    [from tanster: let’s post comments about the episode here. thanks!]

  18. Thanks for the behind the scenes info and also for posting the picture of the Dwight sign!

  19. Jennie: I bet it was hard not to spill all this behind-the-scenes knowledge sooner. Thanks for the excellent reporting. Oh and I’m once again a lovely shade of chartreuse.

  20. Thanks GT! I’m glad I took notes — it seems like the visit was a long, long time ago … I never would have remembered all this otherwise. :)

  21. Hey Jennie! I’m the one who posted the link on LiveJournal! Thanks again for sharing all of this with us, so that can all live vicariously through you! Good times.

  22. Ray, I cannot agree more with you that they nailed it. And many thanks to Jennie for the detailed description. It must be hard for you to hold until the episode was aired.

  23. Thank you, thank you Tanster, for indulging my inner geek! the whole process of an episode going from writing to the final shot fascinates me to no end.

  24. Thank you for the insights, Jennie! I love this kind of stuff, especially when it is about my favorite show!

  25. I am so jealous! Thanks for sharing!

    Question. Why did Meredith have ‘feminine products’ in her van? She had a hysterectomy…. lol.

  26. wow, thats some great insight, thanks for posting. I think my head would’ve exploded…and some blood would have gotten on pam just like if Ed trucks accident had occured next to stanley hahah..

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