Monday, April 27, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: My Day on Top of the WORLD

Guest Columnist Tony Gagliardi longs to work alongside Noah at Java and also hopes that Java, many years from now, with Noah in the CEO position, will one day decimate Starbucks. He has been watching ATWT for a few years now, and hopes to continue to enjoy the show many years into the future.

Located in Brooklyn, New York, in the shadows of the hustle, bustle and bright lights of the city that never sleeps, is a television studio that is filled with cast members, a crew, and staff that can often work such long hours that they also might lack sleep. Murders, kidnappings, and many other assorted crimes and evil doings take place in this studio, yet this place still manages to be a wonderful location filled with terrific people. I had no idea how true this was until, a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be part of a group of fans to tour the AS THE WORLD TURNS Studio for a day.

I have always wondered what goes into making a soap opera on a weekly basis. I’ve often pondered what goes on behind the camera in order to put one show together. Now I can say that I know, for the most part, and am completely amazed how it all gets done on a daily basis. I never really had an appreciation for all that goes into making this show until I was able to see the process with my own eyes by which the show is made.

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While spending a day on the AS THE WORLD TURNS set, I learned very quickly that creating one episode of this show is a lot more like running a marathon than running a 5k race. The director for the day, Jennifer Pepperman, bounced back and forth between the set and the control room all day like a ping pong ball. She would first give directions and go over each scene with the actors, and then head on over to the control room in order to supervise the actual recording of each scene. If she wasn’t satisfied with the first take, the actors would be instructed to re-do the scene either from the top or starting from any point in the scene. It was interesting to see that they would often re-shoot singular, two to five second close-up/reaction shots of the actors, usually for the fade-outs for the ending of the scenes.

Once each scene was done to her satisfaction, Jennifer would return to the set to prep for the next scene with the actors. This process was to repeat all day long, requiring Jennifer to have a lot of stamina, patience, and skill - which are all qualities that she demonstrated to me that she has in abundance.

The studio is divided into two sections or stages. The show shot on one stage during the first part of the day, and on the other stage during the second part of the day. The cast and crew would go from set to set, shooting scenes not necessarily in the order in which they were written, but in the order most convenient as it pertains to set placement.

Everyone on the crew was simply amazing in how efficiently they worked from moving from one set to the next set. From the cable guy, the camera operators, the lighting crew, to the boom operators, each person in charge of their respective tasks usually took only a matter of minutes to move production from one set to another set. These folks knew their jobs and knew them well, some having worked at the same studios since ANOTHER WORLD taped there! Their promptness in getting everything ready for the cameras to roll definitely helps in preventing an already long day of shooting from being even longer, a fact that I’m sure the cast appreciates tremendously.

The AS THE WORLD TURNS crew shoots, on average, well over 11 hours of footage each week to fill five different episodes! It is the job of the editors to cut that huge amount of footage down to approximately 3 hours and 10 minutes of show each week. Each episode is approximately 38 minutes, minus the commercials, hence the 3 hours and 10 minute total for a week’s worth of shows. The editors lock in any episode in final form a few weeks ahead of an episode’s airdate. Episodes might get finalized for air a bit closer to airtime when location shoots are done as those are often shot closer to airtime. Material that is shot in the studio is currently shot approximately 8 weeks before the episode is to air.

Editing out many hours of footage, cutting and splicing scenes together, and adding location shoots to episodes at a later time has got to be maddening, yet the As the World Turns editors seem to do it with ease. It’s amazing how much work they have to do every day, sorting through hours of footage. I’m not sure how they do it, but they definitely do get the job done, and do it quite well!

One of the final additions to each episode before it airs are any special sound effects and music that each episode requires. The sound editors get this done usually a couple of weeks before each episode is to air. I can image, being the people who put the finishing touches on each episode much give these sound editors extra pressure, but they always somehow manage to do an admirable job of getting everything done on time.

I’ve always wondered how often this show needs to resort to the time-consuming process of ADR – “automatic dialog replacement,” which is a process that involves an actor watching his/her performance repeatedly on a monitor and then he/she goes about re-performing each line to match the wording and lip movements. This is done in television and movies when the original sound picked up from the microphones on set isn’t audible. I was surprised to hear that the show almost never does this. The filters on the microphones that they use in the studio do an excellent job, meaning that the spoken audio on set comes out perfect most of the time. Hence, ADR is almost never used on As the World Turns, which is a good thing as it’s a very tedious process that would take more time than I believe the sound editors have.

When each episode is locked into its final form, you might think that the show would send a physical copy of the episode to CBS in California so that CBS could transmit the show when it was time. If you thought that, you would be wrong! AS THE WORLD TURNS has truly gone high tech in that each episode isn’t mailed to California, but is instead uploaded over the internet to CBS! This is most likely a much more efficient and cost effective way of getting each episode into the hands of CBS.

While I’ve thus far gone over the inner workings of the show as I saw them, I really haven’t delved yet into the heart of the soul of this show – that being the cast, crew, and staff that make this place, I believe, a truly great place to work. Enough cannot be said about how amiable and fun-loving the cast and crew were to not just each other, but also to us visitors. The impression that I got from all of them is that they all seem to behave like one big family, and I was so giddy and thankful to be treated like a member of that family, even if only for a day.

The crew and cast seem to truly love their jobs as they all get along extremely well. When they’re shooting a scene, they’re all doing their best to create the best results possible. When there is downtime, they love to have fun and joke around with each other – which is something I saw in full effect when poor Mick Hazen tried to walk his character’s bike off set at the end of a scene without first putting up the kickstand!

Many on the cast and crew were nice enough to find time to come over and talk to us for a bit between scenes. All of us set visitors were tremendously impressed with the graciousness and genuine interest that the cast and crew showed to us during these conversations.

While we conversed with many cast members, including the extremely friendly Roger Howarth and Ellen Dolan, in particular, I feel compelled to point out how cool it was for Jake Silbermann and Van Hansis to find some time to talk with us. Both guys were very engaging and couldn’t have been sweeter. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit to being a huge Luke, Noah, Van, and Jake fan, but that doesn’t mean that I am lying or exaggerating when I state that these guys are truly genuinely nice people who deserve all of the accolades that their fans throw their way.

Please forgive me for going on about my two major league “geek/fandom moments,” but I must say that it was truly an awesome experience to see Noah “at work” at Java. I really wanted to ask him if he could make me a hot chocolate, but unfortunately, I couldn’t for two reasons. First off, asking Noah for a drink would require him to actually work, which is not something Noah does much of (sorry Noah, you know I love you man, but you know it’s the truth!). Secondly, asking a fictional character to do their fictional job would probably result in me getting institutionalized. Hence, I thought it best to refrain from asking!

I also “geeked out” when I witnessed Van and Jake use their super (hero!) like acting ability to transform into Luke & Noah before my eyes. Seeing that was a magnificent treat that I will cherish forever.

The AS THE WORLD TURNS episode that I saw taped is scheduled to air on June 12th, 2009. I can’t wait for this episode to be broadcast as I’m sure it will bring back to me all the fantastic memories of being on set the day the episode was shot. It will also help for me to see how the pieces of the puzzle, presented to me out of order on set, without background music and sound effects, will finally came together to form a finished product.

This final product of an episode wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the determination of the cast, crew, and staff of As the World Turns to do their best to put together as good of a show as they can. Every employee that I saw working in the studio during my visit was doing their job, and doing it well.

Speaking on behalf of all the fans, I would like to thank them for what they do for us on a weekly basis, and wish them all continued success. Though the show’s future may be uncertain at this point in time, it is my sincere wish that things improve and that the show continues indefinitely. The cast and crew are so damn good that I believe they deserve a chance to continue, and hence I hope that the fans that might have tuned out give the show another shot. I highly recommend that they do!


  1. you lucky son of a B! I am soo Jealous!

  2. =your so lucky.. glad you had fun Tony and that was great artical

  3. thank you for the article. wish i could take the tour.

  4. Thank you for such a thorough and informative report! Your descriptions help me to get a feel for the atmosphere and the challenges of putting together a daily show.