Take a trip round the City and you seem to travel through different countries, different climates and different seasons--all in the space of a few hours--so you actually do feel as though you have somehow been magically transferred to some sort of dreamworld.
Out of all these different areas and "national" towns, the "western" zone is one of the biggest and most often used. Stands to reason, I suppose, when you think of the number of Westerns that are in production every day in the States--both for the big screen and TV.
BEST OF THE BUNCH
So not all the cowboys you see strolling around the studio will have come from "Alias Smith & Jones", that's for sure. But it's equally certain that that's where you'll find the best of the bunch!
It's usually about 6 a.m. when people first start moving about the location allotted to the team for that day. First to arrive is the makeup artist, who's scheduled to be there at 6.18 on the dot--there's nothing rough and ready about this outfit...everything has to be planned right down to the last detail.
Then, at 7 o'clock, the wardrobe staff start arriving, together with the guy who's in charge of props and the first of the lighting crew, who need a bit of time to get their equipment lined up for when the cast is ready to start.
The regular stars of the show and the director and producer all live quite close at hand, so their alarm clocks are usually ringing just before 7.00. They can get breakfast on set if they want it, but mostly they prefer to eat at home before starting out, so they can drive in to the studio ready to go straight into action.
The makeup call for Smith and Jones is for 7.30, to be on set by 8.00. This may sound mighty early to most of you, who probably don't need to get to school or work until 9 o'clock at the very earliest... but, for a filming schedule like this it's pretty reasonable!
It's the actors who are playing strong "character" parts who get it really rough-- or any actresses who need an elaborate hairstyle for their role. For a hairdressing session before makeup, or a heavy makeup, the call is more likely to be 6.30!!
The camera crew, and all the technical boys get busy while the makeup session's in progress, so that there won't be any danger of a hitch to hold up the shooting schedule. You see, this has been timed in advance through the day and, unless there's a real emergency, it's kept to at all costs.
This is vital from the studio's point of view, because a hold-up on "Alias Smith & Jones" moving from, say, Stage 42 to Stage 43 could easily put out another show's shooting program, if they're scheduled to move in to 42 afterwards.
So, at 8.00 a.m. precisely the clapperboard makes contact and the cameras start to roll for the first sequence. This might only last for a matter of minutes on the screen, but usually several "takes" use up about half an hour until it goes exactly right.
With so many fast action scenes, "Alias Smith & Jones" presents a big challenge, because the target is to complete each episode within a five day schedule. As you'd imagine, the more there is going on at any one time, the more there is that could go wrong!
That's why it's so vital that every single member of cast and crew should be absolutely alert during these sessions and maintain total concentration without any let ups, till there's a break called, or the stand-ins take over for a while for an adjustment to lightening or camera angles for the next take.
And so it goes on right through the day with only a standard lunch-hour for a quick lunch, usually eaten in the studio restaurant between 1.00 and 2.00.
Then back to work for the afternoon. There's always a fixed routine as the basis, but it's packed with infinite variety, outdoor scenes on horseback alternate with spells of shooting on quieter indoor sets; and sometimes there's a bit if extra lively action, when the stagecoach rolls, "into town".
One thing's certain: the variety and excitement make the time fly past--at any rate for a visitor who's absorbed in every single detail and seems to need at least three pairs of eyes to take in everything at once!
It's like trying to cram a lifetime's
experiences into one day. And it really makes you think, when
you remember that for all the other folk around, this is just
a normal working day!
A casual moment on the set: Pete stops for a chat between takes.
(One of the pix in the Pete Duel Memorial Kit)
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