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Chris Hayden: Unit Production Manager
*Content written below is based on what was said directly from the periscope session in a mix of my words and his.
This season of Grey's Anatomy (season 12) Chris Hayden has taken on the role of Unit Production Manager (UPM). The UPM "looks over budgets." They hold on to the budget and make sure the money is being spent wisely. It is a union job that falls under the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
Chris has been working on Grey's Anatomy for 12 years. He started working not on the original pilot but during the pilot re-shoots (when Justin Chambers was added to the cast). He has been working as an Assistant Director (AD) until this year when he became the UPM. He has also directed 2 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, one of which was split into two episodes ("Throwing It All Away" 10.15, "She's Leaving Home" 11.22) and is set to direct another episode in season 12.
How did you get into your field?
Chris was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He majored in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He started doing entry level jobs in TV commercials. After doing that for a few years and getting into the DGA he worked as the 2nd assistant director on commercials then television shows. The first show he worked on was The Pretenders (NBC) for 3 seasons and then worked as 1st assistant director for a year. He also worked on The Shield (FX) for a few seasons and the movie Hustle and Flow until he got to where he is now.
How does being an AD differ from being a UPM?
Chris states that they are very different from each other. As an AD he is out with the crew working on set getting the shots needed for the episode and as the UPM he stays in his office looking at budget reports, reviewing where the network money is being spent. He looks over preliminary call sheets to see what money will be spent the following day such as wood, boards, linoleum, etc. He jokes how his job is the most glamorous on set. However, even though it isn't the most exciting job it is a necessary job. He states how his philosophy degree has helped him, western philosophy has lots to do with rigorous analytical thinking which has helped him in his job. As a UPM he supports the director by making sure they get what they need to get the best shots. He has to find the most efficient way to get the story told.
What are must have skills?
Chris states that you need to be analytical, logical, and have an easy to write signature to prevent writers cramp. He works closely with the accountant to crunch numbers but it would help to have knowledge/experience with budgets.
What is the best part of your job?
After so many years on set he has a bigger image of what goes on to make a project work. Chris recalls when he worked as a director, how he was so nervous and how different it was from what he has ever done before. He adds that he considers it a fun experience now that the episodes are done. He has worked on both the creative side of a production and now working on the efficiency side which all in all is what he considers the best part of his job, seeing all the working parts of a whole.
What is your favorite Grey's Anatomy episode?
Chris and Karin discuss how with so many episodes they all tend to blend. Chris states that despite how difficult it was to film he really enjoyed the Thanksgiving episode with Burke ("Thanks for the Memories 2.09) He really liked the bomb episodes ("It's the End of the World " 2.16, "As We Know It" 2.17) and working with executive producer Peter Horton. Another favorite was the two part ferry boat episodes ("Walk On Water" 3.15, "Drowning On Dry Land" 3.16). He adds an anecdote about a guy on set dressed as a firefighter that had his knee pop out of its socket. He was cool about the whole situation and had it popped back into place and came back to work the next day fine.
Any advice for someone wanting to go into your field?
Chris Hayden states that he never went to film school and he doesn't thing it is required. He states that in order to be proficient at something you have to do it everyday. It's something that needs continuous practice. His first job ever was a Sunkist commercial that a friend got him one day of work on. He knew that he didn't have experience on sets or had knowledge about equipment but what he did have was strength, he was smart, and he had hustle. He remembered how the other production assistance were telling him to slow down because they were making them look bad. But in this business you have to "up your game or get out of the way."
What was the most expensive episode?
It was determined that the gala event which so happens to be the 200th episode ("Puttin' On the Ritz" 10.04) was the most expensive stand-alone episode. It cost more because of the many extras, the circus performers, and formal wear cost more than street clothes. However the ferry boat episode was costly with the use of green screen and the extras but because it was a multi part episode they spread the budget between the episodes. The musical episode ("Song Beneath the Song" 7.18) was also costly because they had actors on set more time to rehearse, had to hire another team to manage the musical music, and a team to prerecord the music.
*I do not own this content. It is placed to show the viewer the content of the ep that made it costly.
Thanks again to Karin Gleason and Chris Hayden for their time on Thursday. Feel free to follow Karin Gleason on twitter at @karingleason for updates on future #GACrewCall sessions on periscope or you can follow my random rants at @TheAmandaAponte! (Does not look like Chris has a twitter or social media account.) AND don't forget to watch Grey's Anatomy's season 12 premiere on September 24th on ABC.