FLASHBACK: Location Shooting...A Soap Could Visit Your Home Town (Part 1)

Search for Tomorrow went on location to Washtington, D.C.—where
it was warmer—to shoot park scenes.
Location Shooting...A Soap Could Visit Your Home Town

The Soap Box
Vol. IV No. 3 March 1979
by Linda Susman

Not long ago, passersby in the business district of a small New Jersey town rubbernecked to get a glimpse of a teenage girl sprawled in the street, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run driver. A passing car stopped, and a priest got out to offer his help. Fortunately though, none was needed: The "victim" was actress Andrea Evans who portrays Tina Clayton on One Life to Live. She was rehearsing her accident scene in Maywood, N.J., the home town of producer Joe Stuart, and local residents were caught up in the excitement of the day. A nearby attorney let the show put the "LLANVIEW HEALTH CLUB" sign up over his shingle, and the Mayor was among the many spectators and cooperative local officials who helped make the "remote" successful.

Although the presence of OLTL was big news in the suburban town, it was far from an isolated instance. Today's soaps take to the streets... parks... rooftops... resorts and even foreign countries to add a realistic dimension to their storylines producers believe audiences are demanding.

There are a few shows that haven't yet gone on location—and say they have no plans to in the near future—but most soaps see the remote as necessary, desirable and increasing in frequency. All of the shows emphasize that the decision to "get out" comes from the storyline; it is too expensive and time-consuming to be done for its own sake.

Art Richards, producer of As the World Turns, says the location should "enhance the storyline. There are times when you have a highly dramatic storyline, when even a simple location is effective, and dimension is added to the overall look of a show." Edge of Night's Niles Goodsite sees location shooting as an "effort to make the show look better—more nighttime. Daytime audiences are more sophisticated today than ever before."

Granted that location sequences lend a welcome realism and provide an exciting challenge for the cast and crew, but the experience is not without its drawbacks. Stuart cites them as "being very time-consuming and very expensive. You always know there are going to be troubles because of all the variables once you get outside. Unlike the studio, you can't control all the elements. There are unexpected flight patterns, people revving up their cars, etc. When you get outside, there's very little footage in a day's shooting."

For that reason, OLTL and ATWT say they make a special effort to stay close to the studio whenever possible. Richards notes that for his show, a one-hour radius of the studio allows about 35-40 miles outside the city, affording a variety of potential sites while making the work schedule feasible. Often, the expense of overnight accommodations for a large entourage can be avoided; and, from the standpoint of equipment maintenance and possible breakdowns, closeness to home provides some protection as well.

Ryan's Hope, the only soap actually set in New York City—not far from its studio—has an advantage in selecting locations, according to producer Ellen Barrett: "The beauty of being a New York City soap is that it's very easy to find realistic locations close by. We don't have to find places in the city that are supposed to look like they're somewhere in the Midwest."

All the soaps believe the city has abundant possibilities for remotes, and praise the various city agencies for their cooperation. Yet, shooting in NYC is not without its own brand of hazards:

Leslie Kwartin, a producer of Guiding Light, says the main problem with Ed and Rita's pre-honeymoon scenic tour was that "you can't empty the city. There are crowds, and it's impossible to control the noise. Audio is very difficult when there is dialogue in a scene." GL tried to schedule its tour stops when places would be "least populated."

Other problems that affect soaps on location—no matter where—are weather and time. Unlike movies with flexible shooting schedules, daytime TV has little time, if any, to spare.

Gail Starkey, assistant to the producer of Search for Tomorrow, says that "by the time the director gets down there for the actual shoot, he's worked out everything exactly as it will be done." All the shows do a thorough survey of the location after it's been selected, with producers, directors, production personnel and technicians going over all aspects. Even with the most careful planning, however, shows have learned to expect the unexpected and to compensate.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned for Part 2 of Location Shooting...A Soap Could Visit Your Home Town.

4 comments:

  1. I can attest to the impact, that an 'on-location' shoot has on the audience. During the 1970-71 Keith Whitney/Jonah Lockwood storyline on 'The Edge of Night,' I was so take with the scenes of the Whitney Summer Estate, and the infamous tower, where Keith threw his uncle, Dr. Charles Weldon, over the top, and, where, later, Keith came to his grizzly end, when he stumbled down the spiral staircase, inside. At the time, he was planning to hurl an unconscious Laurie Ann Karr, off the roof, but he was stopped by his horrified mother. He lost his balance, and fell to the ground. I promised myself, then and there, that one day, I would visit the 'tower.' It took some 40 1/2 years, for me, to fulfill my promise, but, not only did I see the Tower and the grounds of the 'Whitney Summer Estate,' but I was given a red carpet tour, and I gave a talk to the club's members, as I, dramatically recounted the 18 month long Keith Whitney/Jonah Lockwood storyline, which is, considered, by many, to have been the best in Edge's 28 1/2 year history. . Perhaps, sometime, you will let me share my talk with your readers.

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    1. I also remember that wonderful storyline --- after all these years --- still gives me chills! Hope you took pictures of your visit --- would love to hear your story.

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    2. Yes, I took photos. I had a, simply, marvelous time. Director John Sedwick was a member of this country club, and had suggested to head writer Henry Slesar, that it would be a great location for a shoot. I'd be happy to share photos and the text of my remarks with you. Please contact Mr. Newcomb. He knows how to contact me. You'll be pleased to know that, none other than, the legendary Bette Davis saw that episode, and sent a telegram of congratulations to the cast and crew.

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  2. Wish we could get a video of these scenes ---- after all these years --- they are still vivid in my memory. I still remember "keith" running "laurie ann" thru the woods trying to shoot her with a rifle --- before he took her to the tower........ I wonder how many days this actually played out on the show ???????

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