Saturday, August 29, 2015

Karin Gleason's #GACrewCall: Production Designer Brian Harms [20150827]

*I do not own this logo. It is owned by ABC's Grey's Anatomy
*I am not a professional writer and do not work for ABC, Grey's Anatomy, or anyone involved with this amazing show. (one day-fingers crossed*)

Brian Harms: Production Designer
*Content written below is based on what was said directly from the periscope session in a mix of my words and his.
Brian is the production designer for the ABC drama series Grey's Anatomy. According to the periscope session he has been working on Grey's Anatomy since season 6 under the title art director and just this season he has the new title of production designer. Harms states that the production designer is one part of the umbrella title "art department." The art department consists of the production designer, art designer, set designer, and art coordinator. The role of the production designer is to oversee and coordinate all efforts of the construction department, paint department, coordinate rigging grips, coordinate rigging electric, set dressing, set deck, props, and wardrobe. He is also in charge of creating the logos of the made up businesses of the show and he is also responsible for the logos for the jackets worn by the crew.

Additionally, Harms provides technical support for other departments. For example, we learned last week by Mimi Melgaard (costume designer of Grey's Anatomy) that she keeps multiples of the same outfits for multiple takes, and the same goes for the popular scrub caps the actors wear on the show. Character Derek Shepherd wears a very popular ferry boat scrub cap. Well, they only had one, and the fabric to make more was discontinued. So Brian Harms had the scrub cap disassembled. Then he scanned the cap into his computer, photoshopped and cleaned up the image in order to send out to print new fabric so that more caps can be made. Do you realize what that means? Brian Harms was the person who saved the ferry boat scrub cap and allowed it to live many more days on the show. As you saw at the end of season 11 even though Derek Shepherd is gone, Meredith Grey is keeping his spirit alive by wearing that famous cap herself. "It's a beautiful day to save lives"
*I do not own these photos. Belong to ABC's Grey's Anatomy
What's the difference between an art director and a production designer?
The top position for the art department is Art Director. It has its own union, Art Directors Guild (ADG). In order to be allowed to use the title "production designer," it has to be petitioned to the ADG. "It is a protected honorary title." Contractually not every show or production needs a production designer because the needed tasks can be managed by one art director. Since Grey's Anatomy is such a large show with so many components it requires both titles, an art director and a production designer.
*If you want to learn more about the two positions the ADG website goes in detail on the two jobs. A link to the direct page for the info is here.

How did you come to this job?
Harms explains that being born in such a small town (Lander, Wyoming) he didn't know that what he's been doing for years was an option, he didn't know what to do for a career. He knew that he had to go to college, but he didn't know for what so he ended up going to school for business since that's what he was told most people were doing. He started as a business major, then biology resources (with a goal of a career as fish and game officer or Forrest Services). Then he ended up getting a music scholarship (for voice & saxophone). He started working in the recording studio, then doing sound for theater, then sound reinforcement. When it was realized that his dad was a wood working teacher he was asked to work part time at the scene shop, he then started working for a touring company doing national tours as a technical director. He was doing all this while still going to school. He realized he liked what he was doing so much that he got his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theater. Later he decided to go to grad school getting his Master of Fine Arts in theater scenic design. John Shaffner, (University of Montana alum and award winning art director for his work on shows like George Lopez and The Big Bang Theory) after Harms worked as an assistant on some of his projects, invited Harms to move out to Los Angeles to work. Not ready to take the plunge he didn't go, but 10 years later after getting his Masters he decided that he was ready. He ended up never working for Shaffner, but because Shaffner introduced him to people in the business he was able to get jobs here and there and hustled doing many non-union jobs until he got to where he is now. Brian Harms got his Associates of Arts from Central Wyoming College, his Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Montana, and his Masters of Fine Arts from Pennsylvania State University.

What are some skills that are needed to be a production designer?
"Every show is different and requires something different of you." Harms states that so much of the job is logistics, thinking something through ("what is it going to take to accomplish this objective"). Karin Gleason adds that if a tough situation arises it's not about knowing how to make everything happen, you have to know where to do the research to attack the task at hand. You also need a solid grasp of architecture, decorating, and style. Brian Harms makes an emphasis on how a portion of the job is script analysis (discussing characters), which his past work in theater and classes he's taken in acting and directing has helped him do.

What is the best part of your job?
"Most of us must be masochists, because it's such a tough environment with very long days." Harms contributes his co workers as one of the best parts of his job. The people he works with makes the job a lot better then what it seems. Some of the people he has worked with have become his best friends. Another great aspect of his job is feeling "the elation of the achievement [of overcoming a tough situation and] how it keeps us coming back for more." See, part of his job is getting put in situations that almost seem impossible, they have to figure out how to make things work in an unbelievably small amount of time. Gleason adds that it's the joy of seeing something through from beginning, middle, to end. "Most people will never know what it took to make a Grey's Anatomy episode work," says Harms.

What advice would you give to someone trying to go into your same profession?
Harms jokingly states, "RUN!" This job requires you to have a real passion, not just a want to work for a giant hit show. You really have to like designing sets and be okay with doing things yourself, and be able to stick it out through hard lessons until you are entrusted with harder jobs, and earn a little more. It's a tough job because there are no straight paths to get you to the job you want like maybe a career as a lawyer or a doctor. Brian Harms recommends an internship the Art Directors Guild offers, check out their website for more information:

What is a favorite set you designed for the show?
Since his favorite set is in the unaired season 12 Harms couldn't answer the question, but Karin Gleason promises to come back to the question and answer it in the future. However, he did say that one of his favorite accomplishments would have to be his hospital logos he designed and his graphic arts work. He considers it to be a hobby different from his day-to-day art direction duties. For example when Seattle Grace hospital was getting rebranded during the merger he was struggling with trying to make up a good logo for Seattle Grace Mercy West. It was such an impossibly long name with too many words. However despite the struggle he made many versions and presented the pages to Shonda Rhimes and Rob Corn and a logo was chosen.

*I do not own this photo.

Thanks again to Karin Gleason and Brian Harms for their time on this weeks session. Feel free to follow Karin Gleason on twitter at @karingleason for updates on future #GACrewCall sessions on periscope. You can also follow Brian Harms at @HarmsDesign or you can follow my random rants at @TheAmandaAponte! Feel free to leave comments below.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Karin Gleason's #GACrewCall: Costume Designer Mimi Melgaard [20150820]

*This logo belongs to ABC's Grey's Anatomy
*I am not a professional writer and do not work for ABC, Grey's Anatomy, or anyone involved with this amazing show. (one day-fingers crossed*)

Mimi Melgaard- Costume Designer
*Content written below is based on what was said directly from the periscope session in a mix of my words and hers.

Mimi is the costume designer for the ABC drama series Grey's Anatomy. According to the periscope session she has been working on Grey's Anatomy since the middle of episode 17 of season 2 aka "the bomb in the chest episode (2.17-As We Know It)." Her job as the costume designer is to read the script and figure out what the characters need, where the characters are going, and who the character is. The vision for the character depends on where Shonda Rhimes (show creator/executive producer) wants it to go. She then has 7 days to fit, alter, and then get it on screen.

How did you come to be a costume designer?
Melgaard states how she has always loved fashion, always loved clothes, and always loved how the clothes can help tell the story. Even when she was in school she knew that she wanted to be a costume designer. She has had jobs in theater, commercials, film (movies), and television. She does favor the pace of TV since she has so much energy to dedicate to it. Working on a film (movie) is slower because there is more time to pick out outfits for the characters. For example, when filming wedding scenes in TV despite how big the wedding may be she still has about 7 days to pick outfits for the bride and groom, as well as the outfits for all the guests that will be in the scenes.

What are some skills that are needed to be a Costume Designer?
It is very important to be super organized, have a really good work ethic, and you have to be good with managing a lot of different personalities. "Every artist has a different way of communicating." You also need to know where to get the research for whatever project that you are working on. For example, you need to know what people look like or do during the setting of the project whether it be a Western, a period piece (civil war, renaissance, etc.) or a present day project at the Mall of America in Minnesota.

How do you choose different types of outfits for the various cast members?
A wardrobe meeting is had to discuss the characters. In the meeting Melgaard discusses what she will need, and character details like where the character is coming from, who they are, what kind of person they are. The "wardrobe is an extension of the character." What the character does in the scene makes a difference to what she will need, for example if the scene has a vomiting or bloody component she will need more of the same outfit then usual since it will require multiple takes.

Best thing about your job?
"Coming to work [at Grey's Anatomy]." She states that even after almost 12 years of working on the show she can't wait to read the scripts to know what is going to happen next with the characters. To have so much excitement after so many years is a rare thing.

Any advice for those trying to work in your same profession?
The film business takes a special kind of person. You have to work really hard and be committed and open to hearing other people's points of view. You have to be committed to your own but listen to others. Melgaard states that you should take every job that you can, work for free if you have to or 1/2 price until you get to the point where you can charge full price. "Keep plugging along and eventually people will start hiring you"

Are you in charge of choosing the scrub caps for the show?
She is in charge of choosing the scrub caps. Melgaard chooses the fabric and then works with the actor and Shonda [Rhimes] to choose which one is the best for each character. The scrub caps are an extension of the character as well as all of the outfits, it's a part of the storytelling.

*I do not own this photo
For those that asked the costume designer does keep the clothes from past seasons. They are kept in storage just in cases they are needed for a flashback in a future episode.

**Below is a video of an interview Mimi Melgaard did with the Curvy Cutie Gavin Pickens last year that showcases some beautiful dresses she picked out for past episodes.(

Thanks again to Karin Gleason and Mimi Melgaard for their time today. Feel free to follow Karin Gleason on twitter at @karingleason for updates on future #GACrewCall sessions on periscope. You can also follow the talented Mimi Melgaard at @MimiMelgaard or you can follow my random rants at @TheAmandaAponte! Feel free to leave comments below.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Karin Gleason's #GACrewCall: Production Sound Mixer Beau Baker [20150813]

*I do not own this logo. It is owned by ABC's Grey's Anatomy.

*I am not a professional writer and do not work for ABC, Grey's Anatomy, or anyone involved with this amazing show. (one day-fingers crossed*)

First I would like to apologize for not thinking about doing this for the first Periscope #GACrewCall for the 1st Assistant Director Annette Sutera. Only decided to do this after I saw a tweet on Twitter asking if someone was writing a synopsis/wrapup of the periscope interview for those who couldn't see it live or within its 24 hr window. Or for those awesome fans who came to join in on the fun later then the others (Better late than not at all, right?- sometimes).

On last weeks periscope session (from memory) 1st Assistant Director Annette Sutera discussed how she came into the position after first working for IBM with her engineering degree and feeling that it wasn't a fit for her. She has worked on the show for almost its entirety. Her job focuses on scheduling crew and actors among countless other things. Again, my apologies, feel free to add anything else in the comments that she discussed so I can add it in later.

Beau Baker- Production Sound Mixer
*Content written below is based on what was said directly from the periscope session in a mix of my words and his

Beaux is the production sound mixer for the ABC drama series Grey's Anatomy. He has been working on the show for 11 seasons (since Season 2). His job is to record actors speaking when they're being filmed by the camera. The main goal is to try to record the clearest sound for post production because in post it is easy to add sound to a scene but difficult to cut or separate the sounds. On his team he has a Mixer and 2 Boom operators that handle the boom poles that record the dialogue in the shots. He has been working for about 30 years in the business and 16 years as a mixer. He has worked all over the U.S. and has worked on a couple films in Europe. He is VERY appreciative of his job on Grey's because he can stay local and spend time with his family. Joke: "Never do a job that has midnight or snow in the title" and Grey's doesn't have either.

How did you make being a sound mixer a career decision?
As a USC (University of Southern California) film student he wanted to be a writer/director like many. He was fortunate to visit different film sets and the world of sound became very interesting to him. He was fortunate to start working with a well known sound mixer in his 20s and work with him on jobs that he had. When he started his career he traveled on jobs but when he started a family his main focus was to find jobs close to home.

Challenges of his job?
Some of the greater challenges of his job are (1) that the microphones can't be seen in the screen shots. "Have to be invisible to record their sound." Therefore, he has to be very particular about where mics are placed and hidden. Also (2) microphones "have no brains" so they pick up sound or dialogue that he wants but they also can pick up sound he doesn't want such as cars, background noise, equipment sounds, etc. The microphones can't differentiate what sound the mixer wants and doesn't want from the shot. The microphones have directionality so they can put them directly facing an actor or machine but it can't pick and choose the bits of sound that is trying to be collected on its own.

What determines which Microphone will be used?
If actors are standing at a nurses station or patient table the sound is recorded by microphones held over the actors on boom poles and cue the mic as they speak. If it's a scene where actors are walking & talking they wear small transmitter microphones hidden in their clothes. The action in the scene determines what mic is used in the shot. The goal is to minimize the outside noise as much as possible (engines, ambulance and police sirens)

*Different types of microphones

How was it working on the musical episode of Grey's Anatomy (7.18-Song Beneath The Song)?
That particular episode had people singing. The performers pre recorded their songs and during filming the music was played for them during each shot. A play-back operator was hired to manage the pre-recorded music. The most challenging thing was timing the dialogue perfectly to the pre recorded music. Actors wore ear wigs (costing ~$1,000 each) to hear the songs/music that way music wasn't being recorded while he was recording the background sound and dialogue.

How is the dialogue recorded during the surgical scenes when the actors are wearing masks?
The challenge in the operating room (OR) scenes are that on set, real medical equipment that makes noise such as the heart monitor and suction can interfere with the sound of the dialogue that is being said during filming. Sometimes he will do what is called a "wild track" (also known as wild sound or wild lines) which is when he has the actors run through their lines with the right timing but not actually have the camera rolling so he can focus on recording the dialogue. However, if need be actors do have to do ADR (automated dialogue replacement) to go back a record those particular lines. Because they are wearing masks it isn't as an arduous of a task because since their mouths are covered with the masks it isn't so time consuming trying to match their words to the movements of their previous recorded mouths. However, ADR is avoided when possible so that actors aren't taking more of their time to go to a studio and re-record their lines when so much of their time is already used while filming on set.

What are some must have skills as a sound mixer?
Focus on what it is you do or want to do. If your interested in sound focus on learning the sound. Same goes if you want to work as camera crew, make-up, set design, etc. Listen and learn. Working in film is a trade profession so you want to work with someone as an apprentice. Learn by doing it and watching it being done. All in all, you have to be attentive ("paying attention") and cheerful. You have to work long hours in sometimes hot, wet, cold conditions;" keep yourself happy in your work and you'll go far."

Favorite episode he worked on? (7.07-That's Me Trying)
There is a scene in the episode where there is a mass casualty trauma scene drill. In the scene there is lots of rain in the background and dialogue of the doctors treating the mannequins. He states that it's his favorite episode because despite the strong, loud rain and issues of wetting the microphones he was able to record all the sound during the 3-4 day shoot without requiring looping (another term for ADR). He states it "Was a very prideful moment in my life."

What is the best thing about your job?
Beau states that having two guys working with him on a team has been the best. They've worked together for awhile so they sort of become one entity when it comes to working together to get the task done. The other great thing about sound is he is part of the movie but not part of the "box" (metaphor for the whole scene and all the workers that make it up). So he doesn't have to worry about what others worry about such as if the sets are right, or if the wardrobe matches or other things like that. He works outside and independently of those kind of things. He is "not part of the world that we see, [he] is part of the world that we hear."

Any advice for those trying to work in your same profession?
What you need to do is work hard at finding what you don't know and learning what you don't know. He states that the benefits of today are that there are many ways to record, a regular cell phone is being used in the periscope video that many people are watching now. You don't have to find a film camera and buy the film like was the problem years ago. He states that tech is becoming more affordable, so learn the basics of audio with the affordable technology that is out in the world, if you network you can probably follow around someone or a teacher that that can teach you some things that you need to know. It is a trade craft so "you have to dive in the water and learn how to swim with it."

At the end of the interview he makes a point to thank Executive producer Rob Corn for hiring him. Creator Shonda Rhimes and the writers for writing amazing stuff and the cast for saying the amazing words that we listen to.

Feel free to follow Karin Gleason on twitter at @karinggleason for updates on future #GACrewCall sessions on Periscope. You can also follow Beau Baker at @beaumix or follow along to my random rants at @TheAmandaAponte! Feel free to leave comments below.