A Tuesday night with the Saturday Night Movie Crew

November 10th, 2008

Inside Thirteen Blogger: Matthew Kells, Series Producer, Reel 13

A white Yukon crammed with crew and conversation rolls down Lexington Avenue on a cool October evening.

“…it is, hands down, the best American film ever made.”

That is the DP on the shoot, Srael Boruchin, the film he is referring to is Police Academy II, and he is egging on the host of Reel 13 Classics, Neal Gabler. A tiny smile creeps along Neal’s lips as he measures his response:

“While I will not deny that Mr. Guttenberg is one of the true gems of the New American Cinema, the best American film ever made is without a doubt, is Meatballs.”

Neal Gabler and Matthew Kells in Times Square

The two of them are laughing now and I am checking my notes to make sure that we are still on schedule. We are heading down to the State Supreme Court Building at 60 Centre Street to shoot the introduction to Sidney Lumet’s courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. Normally we shoot outdoors, but since the entire movie is set inside a jury room at 60 Centre Street we are making an exception. As we pull up to the courthouse, Srael unloads gear onto a small cart and Neal tucks the script he’s been studying back into his pocket.

While the jury room would be the logical place to shoot in, those rooms are small and ugly, so we decide instead to shoot in one of the courtrooms. The guard unlocks the door and we roll our gear inside. Srael and I read through the script once together and then discuss the shot…Srael starts:

“Normally I’d opt to see the entire courtroom in the shot, but maybe we should just see the jury box since the whole movie is about the jurors.”

“One of the very first shots in the film is the jury walking out of a jury box so if you shoot it at this angle, it will be an almost perfect match.”

“We’ll be ready in fifteen minutes.”

Neal and I have passed drafts of the script back and forth for over a week but it is always different by the time he shows up on set; we read through it briefly and discuss how the words will sound coming out of his mouth. We make some minor fixes, which Neal commits to memory, and we are ready to shoot.

“Camera is rolling…”

“Everybody stand by…in 3…2…1.”

“Welcome to Reel 13, I’m Neal Gabler and once again we have a full evening of movies…”

For as much work goes into getting to this moment, the reads themselves are pretty much what you see on the air (minus music and some movie clips). We do four or five takes of the intro and the outro, then pack up and move on to the next location. We shoot the wraps for two or three films every time we go out, which means that there’s much more to do tonight and much more time to listen to the crew discuss “The New American Cinema.”

Reel 13 is Thirteen’s weekly movie showcase for classic, short and independent films. Every Saturday night beginning at 9:00 pm, viewers can catch a Classic hosted by Neal Gabler, followed by a Short selected by visitors to the Reel 13 web site who vote for their favorite of three short films every week. The evening ends with an Indie, hosted by Richard Peña, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

A minute with Sidney Lumet

October 24th, 2008

Inside Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President, WNET.ORG

One might expect one of the greatest American filmmakers to be an egomaniacal, unapproachable, cigar-chomping maniac. If I had directed 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I would probably be a terror. But Sidney Lumet, who stopped by for a Q&A with Reel 13 host Neal Gabler on Wednesday, could not have been a nicer guy.

A friendly crowd of Reel 13 fans and contributors turned out for the event, but I had the opportunity to talk to Sidney in the green room before he went on. Being a news guy at heart, Network has always been one of my favorites, and hearing stories and anecdotes about that production from the horse’s mouth was a rare opportunity. When I asked him who he thought the most underrated director was, he barely hesitated: “William Wyler.” When I asked him who the most overrated director was, he hesitated a little, then said that a good way to figure out if someone was overrated was to look at their reviews. If the critics begin by saying, “Not since Orson Welles…”, then you know that something’s fishy.

He may have worked with Brando, Pacino, Newman,
and Hepburn, but now Sidney can add two Neals
to that prestigious list.

During his discussion with Neal Gabler, topics ranged from his origins as a child actor to working with “Hank” (that’s Henry Fonda to you and me) to a touching remembrance of the late Paul Newman. Sidney was thoughtful, humble, and candid. What more could you ask for?

It’s not often that we show someone’s debut film as a part of Reel 13 Classics, but Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men airs this Saturday at 9:00. Not bad for a first-timer.

Neal Gabler on Movie Musicals

March 1st, 2008

Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President

This Saturday, we’re taking a break from our normal Reel 13 block. If you’re a big fan of the Saturday night classics, don’t worry, because Neal Gabler will be in-studio. Viewers know Neal as the host of our Saturday night classic films, and as you can probably tell, the man knows his film history. But he’s also an accomplished author, professor, and even a news commentator. Neal’s just a man of many talents; must have something to do with that name…

On Saturday, he’ll be on hand to talk about Hollywood Singing And Dancing: A Musical Treasure, which celebrates the movie musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Age. And since my stage career ended with “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” in the fourth grade play, I can’t wait to see professionals like Debbie Reynolds and Judy Garland at work.


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