The Office Lip Dub

Q&A with writer Danny Chun

Whose idea was it?

Danny: Back in April or May, a few of the writers got the idea of doing a bad lip dub — we’d seen many lip dubs before but none that were full of mistakes. But then we forgot about it. I take 100% of the credit for remembering it, which if you think about it is just as important as coming up with the idea.

How long did it take to plan?

Danny: I wrote it in a day, but then it took many many man-hours for production to actually make it doable. There was one full day where professional dancers worked out the moves. Then on the day of shooting, they worked with the actors all morning to rehearse it, and then we shot it. We had blocked out the whole day to shoot it, but we managed to get it right after 3 or 4 takes.

What were the challenges in blocking all the action?

Danny: The timing was the biggest challenge — i completely guesstimated the timing when I wrote it, but then Mary Ann Kellogg (our choreographer) and the dancers had to actually make those timings work. Little things like getting Erin from reception to the kitchen in the time the script allowed were problems that Mary Ann and company did a great job of solving.

The Kevin/Meredith thing was also a challenge. I very vaguely wrote that Meredith was “strapped to” Kevin’s back. But our production team actually figured out how to make it possible.

Jenna also had a deceptively difficult task. She had to flip the blinds, then run backwards to a very specific mark, all while lipsyncing. She worked hard to get it just right.

Was it filmed in one take?

Danny: Yup. The original version actually had the number starting in the parking lot, then going through the warehouse, then ending in the office. But because of how our set is arranged, that would be physically impossible to do in one take. So Jeff Blitz (‘Nepotism’ director) urged us to move it into the office so it could be a true one-take video. It was a good call.

What mishaps occurred during filming?

Danny: Nothing really. No horrible collisions or anything. Steve’s flashpaper trick was a little scary but only one person died and he was not important.

What was the most difficult part to film?

Danny: It was filmed by Matt Sohn, our Director of Photography (not Toby). In spite of all the tricky timing and having to hit specific targets with the camera, he kept saying it was “straightforward.” So I guess it wasn’t difficult at all. Or he’s just a superman. Probably the latter.

Were there alternative songs considered?

Danny: No. When writing it, I looked for a song that was a) short, b) upbeat, c) fun to lipsync, d) not too current or zeitgeisty (I didn’t want a song that would seem like we were trying too hard to be current or cool), and e) something I really liked (I’m always trying to force my musical taste on the show and have precious few chances to do so). Nepotism kicked off Season 7 with a lip dub to the tune of Nobody but Me worked on all counts.

Which cast member had the most difficult task?

Danny: Brian, for obvious reasons. Also Ed and Jenna, who had the most actual choreography to do. Ellie had to roller skate but she’s actually really good at it anyway.

Was any part of the sequence improvised?

Danny: Steve’s part was pretty much improvised — we just gave him those dorky magic tricks and told him to do his thing. The various people’s dancing at the end was also improvised.

22 comments

  1. Thanks so much Danny and Tanster! The cold open was awesome! Great job on everyone’s part!

    love always-
    Emily

  2. I’m so glad they went with a classic song, instead of using something current and popular. Not only does it fit the underlying dorkiness of The Office (you can totally imagine Andy rocking out to it in private), but it will age nicely throughout the years of syndication–always a plus!

  3. Love this interview. I have decided to start my day each morning by watching this cold open to really get me ready to face the day (at my office).

  4. Stuff like this makes really appreciate all the work Tanster does for us. Thanks to Mr. Danny Chun as well. It was the best cold open, ever.

    [from tanster: i’m just a big dork for this show. and always will be. :) ]

  5. I really loved Jim’s “Charlie Brown” dance in the background at the end. It seemed like a very “Jim” thing to do!

  6. @Amanda: I was wondering if anyone else caught Jim’s little dance at the end. I thought the exact same thing about it – it fits his character.

  7. It was just too cool! You can tell the whole cast is having a blast! Thank you, Tanster, for getting the scoop.

  8. I’d say that since it has to end sometime, this was an excellent beginning to it. It made my heart hurt just a little less. :)

  9. Thanks so much for the interview! Danny has such a great sense of sarcastic humor. So funny! It really was a great cold open, Pam looked so ridiculous singing and I love that we got to revisit Jim’s boxy dancing style. I guess he’s the one who’s actually the dorky dancer in the Halpert family!

  10. @Amanda and Kristin, i also love how jim’s version of “dancing” is just jumping up and down. he did the same thing in “cafe disco”.

  11. Thanks for sharing the interview w/ Danny. I always enjoy hearing from the writers/directors to learn their backstories on the episodes. I’ve watched the episode 3 times already.

  12. Behind the scenes Q&A posts make me so geekily happy! Thanks very much for all of this fun and really interesting information. I’ve watched the opening a ridiculous number of times–it was such a wonderful start to the season!

  13. Yup, Jim’s “Peanuts” dance, Cafe Disco style, gotta love it! And Pam totally rocked out there at the end. Definitely re-watched this scene more than any other from the episode. Finally Michael put his “multiple magic sets” to some use!

  14. “Steve’s flashpaper trick was a little scary but only one person died and he was not important.”
    LOL!!

  15. Thank you very much for the reports! It’s amazing how much work they’ve put in these two and a half minutes. It’s also incredible that there were three crew members behind the camera.

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