Winter 2015

Tony Eng

Solid 2nd

DGA Quarterly Magazine On the Job with David Webb

Second AD Tony Eng, currently on the runaway TV hit How to Get Away with Murder, is young enough to remember two seminal moments from his time as a DGA trainee.

“My first day on ER [in 1997],” he says, laughing, “I was told to go get George Clooney out of his dressing room.” The second experience was seeing Steven Soderbergh at work on Erin Brockovich (2000). “No video village, no director or cast chairs, just this company of filmmakers on location near Barstow, making what felt like a little indie movie, even though it cost more than $50 million.”

Eng later returned to ER, spending an entire decade on the Emmy-winning medical series. “Everything moved so fast,” he recalls. “We shot on Stage 11 at Warner Bros. You could see into all the trauma rooms from the main floor, so that meant 85 to 95 background artists every day. We’d do these five-page walk-and-talk scenes, which were very exciting to set backgrounds for.”

He credits ER 1st AD Fernando Castroman with teaching him the art of backgrounds. “People do a better job if they feel invested in the scene,” Eng explains. “Giving them a backstory and how it would affect their actions was important.”

Simulating medical emergencies was not the career the Bay Area native had imagined. He studied political communications at San Francisco State University and hoped to land a White House staff job. “I was accepted into the same [unpaid] internship class as Monica Lewinsky,” he says. Instead, Eng sought out a paying internship at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch, in Marin County, CA. “That’s where I first heard about the [DGA] Assistant Directors Training Program.”

Recent stints include working with a live audience on the Disney Channel kids’ show Liv and Maddie, which Eng describes as a “whole different world” from single-camera episodic.

“With live multi-camera, you run first team with actors [getting them into and out of hair and makeup], do production reports, and help the 1st AD get the scene in a single pass. The whole show is shot and cut by the end of the day!”

Eng says working on How to Get Away with Murder is a throwback to ER, “because it’s a hit series, with a very prominent [executive producer], Shonda Rhimes. It doesn’t feel like a first-year show because the expectations are so high and everyone kind of elevated their game going in.”

(Photo: Dale Berman)

At Work With

Short profiles of Guild members in all categories sharing their experiences at work.

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