Swag Bags For All My Friends!
I can’t tell you how happy and proud I am that NO RESERVATIONS just got nominated for three Prime Time Emmy Awards. But I am particularly exuberant that the camera work and editing have been individually honored.
True, the show was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction program, a category which brings glory, presumably, to all of us who work at Zero Point Zero Productions.
Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia, my friends and partners and fellow creators of this whole enterprise most of all. But they’re always getting nominated for stuff — and winning too: For that other excellent show they make: Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie.
It’s veteran shooters Zach Zamboni and Todd Liebler I thought instantly about. And our poor, tormented editor, Jesse Fisher, usually isolated from society behind an always-closed door, hunched in front of his blinking screen … I thought of them, imagined them loaded with swag bags, careening drunkenly down the red carpet, Todd inadvertently crushing Ryan Seacrest’s tiny foot beneath his heroic hoof, blundering magnificently towards destiny and his gold statuette. Jesse, ordering up Mai Tai’s, cases of grapefruit and Gerber Mini-Magnums from the pool at the Chateau Marmont (and charging them to Lindsey Lohan’s room).
At various low moments on the road: one camera down, weather turned suddenly to shit, sidekick slumped over into incoherent heap, power failure, threatened military coup, diarrhea, cloud of mosquitos, war (the sort of travellers annoyances that pop up from time to time), it has become a recurring practice of mine to cheer on the crew with the well-worn comment, “I …smell…EMMY!”
As often as I meant it in a facetious, sarcastic, embittered, “What-the-hell-are-we-doing-here–this scene is a wash” kind of a way, I did mean it for real. Because the truth is, the level of camera work and editing on this show has been getting steadily better every year. The shooters have been busting their asses — pushing themselves — often under truly ridiculous conditions — to get better and better looking shots, to frame and compose and capture them in exciting new ways.
This has involved the development of some really extraordinary (often jury rigged, homemade) equipment and rigging and a lot more time, effort and sheer physical endurance to make optimal use of it all. Zach and Todd have been all over the world with me, hanging out of helicopters, strapped to the roofs of cars, riding backwards on horses, bombing downhill on skateboards while holding cameras, and humping an ever heavier load of improvised steadi-cams, gyros, monitors, and long, mutant lenses around in sub-tropical heat, hip deep mud and driving rain. I’ve come to learn that if they ask me to “do it again — slowly,” (walk down a street, up a hill, down the stairs, over a cliff), I may hate to hear it, but if a guy carrying about 35 pounds more than me insists he wants to do it again (and backwards in his case), then, it’s probably for a pretty good reason. I’m guessing he sees something pretty goddamned through that lens.
It’s a very good feeling seeing a happy cameraman on this show. They get this look from behind the lens and I can see that they’re picturing how what’s happening now is going to look after 9 weeks of editing and post-production and how they can possibly make that eventual outcome even better … It’s nice to stand on a bamboo bridge, early in the morning in Luang Prabang, mist rising off the river and just know that this is going to be great.
As a story teller it’s a joy to know that all these talented and creative people are around me to help find new and exciting and ever changing ways to tell those stories.
All the veteran editors on the show; Jesse Fisher, Eric Lasby, Chris Martinez and Dave Robinson are an inestimably important component of the finished show … All the great photography in the world, the best story, all that would be useless without the people back in those dark cubicles in New York — all of whom have their own signature styles and strengths– who put it all together in compelling and thrillingly manipulative ways. In the end, it’s the editing that tells us how to feel about what we see. Its powers are extraordinary — the seemingly simple process of putting one shot after another. And choosing and laying in the music. Those juxtapositions absolutely rule the finished work.
For me, to be able to stand on that bridge in Laos, aware that Zach’s shooting from one angle–and Todd wandering around on the far bank getting B-roll — and knowing how good they are at what they do, to imagine what they might be getting on tape, to know who’s likely to be editing the finished footage is an inspiration. It alternately allows me to tell stories I might never have been able to tell — or (alternately) saves my ass when I can’t even see a story in what we’re doing.
I’ve worked so long with these guys, that I find myself sometimes, writing sentences in my head, just by looking at where they’re pointing their lenses. I’m guessing — I hope — I’m pretty damn sure that these nominations mean a lot to the people who work so hard to make this show. You might swing over to the section on this site called Meet The Crew to see what these people look like. Someone missing from that rogues gallery is Paul Cabana, who produced the Laos episode — and who graciously appeared in any number of episodes as ”Asian Number #7.” A while back the bastard went off to work in the real world. We missed him then. Now we have even more reason to miss him.
Whether we actually win anything or not? I have no clue. But I’m pretty sure we get some cool swag bags. And I’m hoping the network will pay for mini-bar.