Spring 2017

Lev Spiro

A director places an actor's health above all else


(Photo: Courtesy Lev Spiro)

In a key sequence from the "People Persons" episode in Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black, the character of Sam Healy, an inmate counselor, attempts suicide by walking into a cold lake at night.

Director Lev Spiro had meticulously planned 12 setups for the character's 40-foot walk out into the chilly waters of Long Island Sound, including the use of a 50-foot Technocrane to "shoot a variety of cinematic shots."

But after some delay, "The producer told me [the actor] was feeling very ill, and we weren't sure if we'd be able to shoot with him at all that night," recalls Spiro.

After another two hours, adds Spiro, "The 1st AD asked the line producer if we could write it off to insurance and come back to shoot it at the end of the schedule."

With time running out, the actor felt up to the task, but Spiro says his 12 setups had to shrink to one take out of concern for the actor's health.

"I got a third camera body from the truck, and I asked to replace our prime lenses with three zoom lenses," says the director. "We rerehearsed the action with the stunt coordinator doubling for the actor, maybe four or five times, and I carefully choreographed each camera to change focal length at specificmoments in the shot, in a way I knew would cut together well. In effect, I got six camera angles, with two moving and one stationary camera, and the sequence turned out beautifully, out of one take."

Problem Solving

Directors discuss overcoming challenges and, in effect, making lemons into lemonade when circumstances are less than ideal.

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