‘Threat Level Midnight’ Q&A with B.J. Novak

chuck: How did Michael get access to professional grade film equipment, and the necessary film crew?



Jaci: Did you guys have any specific inspiration/guidelines for how the cinematography looked in Threat Level Midnight? Was there a different camera for TLM, or were most of the adjustments just made with coloring in post?

B.J.: Michael had been working on this for eleven years; he re-shot substantial portions after his disastrous first screening; and he’s been known to spend way too much of his own money on misguided ideas.

I think that over the course of the years, Michael has at various times rented expensive equipment, hired some local help, and gone for it himself. We’ve established that Michael knows how to edit and that he has made decent video projects before, and this movie is a much greater ambition of his that he would have put much more time into.

We didn’t want the joke of the episode to be how bad he was at filmmaking, which we felt would be a little easy and actually a little out of character; we wanted it to be more about how he actually did a heartbreakingly good and diligent job on something completely ridiculous.

Tucker Gates, who directed the episode, and Matt Sohn, our director of photography, were careful to use different shooting styles for Michael’s movie and for the show itself (for example, no handheld, and no zooms except in isolated and poorly-executed instances) and we changed the coloring in post-production as well to reflect the cheaper cameras that Michael would have used.

Nathan: Have you always wanted to do more with Threat Level Midnight since the story first appeared in season 2? Or was this just a spontaneous episode idea to pay tribute to Steve before he leaves the show?

B.J.: We had always liked Threat Level Midnight as part of Michael’s back story — as his show business dream that he still hadn’t let go of — but it hadn’t occurred to us to show the movie in an episode.

It was Steve’s idea to focus an episode on the completed movie, and once we heard it, we all wanted to do it.

Threat Level Midnight: Michael Scarn

Once again, a big THANK YOU to B.J. Novak for taking the time to answer fan questions with such love and care.

Thanks also to LaVerne Caracuzzi-Milazzo, who answered questions about makeup, and pessimistreader, who provided the icons.

22 comments

  1. Thanks BJ and LaVerne for the answers! It would have been so cool to have Amy Adams show up in the movie and now I can’t wait to watch the whole thing!

  2. Wow, that was completely amazing.

    I love that the office writers get so involved.

    Thanks for the behind the scenes look BJ!

  3. Fantastic Q&A! Thank you so much. This is the type of thing that sets The Office apart. Awesome generosity!

  4. Wait So Erin wasn’t in the movie because Michael had stopped filming awhile ago, but Helene was in the movie?

    Erin was working in the Office when Michael was dating Helene.

    Michael must have done some pick ups and re-shoots :)

  5. Well, I’m glad I figured out why David Wallace wasn’t in the movie, or why he hasn’t been seen on the episode. I hope I find him on a deleted scene.

  6. Yay! He answered my comment (which ended the segment)! This made my day…

    So thank you B.J. for not only answering our questions, but maintaining the world’s greatest and smartest show as well!

  7. Thanks, BJ and crew! I loved the description of going back in time…that was how it was watching it for me. Just a great episode and really appreciate the insights.

  8. @ #5
    Didn’t Michael not like Erin for a while, but finally got used to her? Because he was reluctant to let her go with him to the school in “Scott’s Tots” maybe he didn’t want her in it then but was already done filming when he finally liked her.

  9. Great interview! It’s always good to see the process behind bringing all those elements together on screen.

  10. Thank you, BJ, for sharing such interesting information about the making of TLM. As usual, you gave us a great insight into how you put this all together. And I loved how expertly you captured Michael’s mind and intentions — he truly is a most remarkable character!

  11. This was awesome! I’m sitting here going through back episodes on Netflix tonight and forget just how incredibly funny some of these are. I LOVE THIS SHOW.

  12. Thanks for all the detailed answers B.J.! I hope the David Wallace talking head makes it as a deleted scene on the DVD. It’s amazing how much work every department put into making this a great episode. It would have been funny to see Katy come out in the movie. I can’t believe this episode was Steve’s idea. Steve is a genius! I’m so glad everyone decided to jump on board to do this episode.

  13. Thanks Tanster and BJ! I can’t believe he answered my really stupid question! I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t see it because I felt so embarrassed for submitting it. But look how well he answered it!

  14. Thank you so much to B.J., LaVerne, and everyone else involved for the great Q&A and the great episode.

  15. Wow – what a great Q & A! Thank you BJ and the entire Office crew – this is such a gift for us fans!

  16. What a fantastic Q&A — It deserves a second reading! I will never get tired of geeking out over the behind the scenes Office stuff. Thanks so much for facilitating this and thanks to wonderful BJ Novak for his great responses, and to sweet LaVerne too!

  17. What a great Q&A! It really rounds the episode out for me. Thanks, BJ and LaVerne, for those great answers, and thanks, as always, to Tanster for making this happen!

  18. Thank you BJ! I can never get enough behind the scenes insight. Love this stuff. We Office fans are sure lucky. Look what we get! Such a great group of people.

    Very interesting to find out this was Steve’s idea. Sounds like an amazing experience for everybody involved. And I too hope to see that David Wallace TH on the dvd.

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