Superior Donuts: Lessons From a Donut Shop
This week, amid rounds of show renewals and cancellations in Hollywood, the unfortunate news came that after two seasons, CBS would not renew it’s multi-camera comedy Superior Donuts for a third season. Before visiting the set of Superior Donuts, I had breif interactions with high end professional productions. I was looking at video production on at it's peak. I have to stop and say thanks to that show for what it taught me.
During the September of 2016, I flew out to Los Angeles to work with Jermaine Fowler to help with behind the scenes action on set while the pilot of the show was being taped. All of my best projects had been ones involved or related to the entertainment industry. Being right there on set, talking to people who I’ve seen play some of my favorite characters, in the thicket of that industry, was like planting myself in the perfect soil to absorb all the information I could.
I spent those few days I had with the cast, waking up under the golden California sun, having a call time that I needed to Uber my way down to the set by as we winded through the myriad of winding LA roads. Inside the sound stage, I ended up watching part of the cast rehearse their lines off-set while others took their positions on stage, speaking lines they had spent hours rehearsing. By this point, I had been in there with them to the point where I knew the cues as well, the lines that followed, their cadence etched into my head. Seeing this friendly group of artisans at their craft, pushing themselves to make the best show possible, showed me, as I recalled from one conversation, “how much effort it takes to get a show on to that little box”.
Being there, on a tightly monitored studio lot in the middle of Los Angeles, walking past icons I had seen on syndication so many times, among so many moving pieces, was a great way to figure out what position I play as a photographer who loves this industry. As we worry about things like lighting, shoot times, gear, other logistics, there's so much other pieces that depend on each other to make a successful production.
My biggest takeaway from the experience:
- Be Ready, Always: Things move at an incredible pace on set, so being prepared for any changes is a huge part of making production successful.
Case in point: I had brought my camera with me, and in-between press shots, was asked to do a group shot. I only had a few seconds to dial in my settings, but it felt like second nature after shooting so much. The various lighting of the soundstage and offset didn't phase me, I felt certain of my settings. I took the photo with certainty and it's one of my favorites out of anything I've shot.
Thank you Superior Donuts for giving me my first taste of working in Hollywood. More than anything, you gave me a true taste of the industry, and for that, I'm grateful.