The Infamous Pad Thai Episode: A Creative Turning Point

Meme_S1E5_5I know I’ve been yammering on about the business side of things for a while now, but when I re-watched what will be our video for the day today (which just happens to be the one Mhairi and I lovingly refer to as “The Infamous Pad Thai episode”) I realized its time to get back to talking about the creative.

The Pad Thai episode was yet another creative turning point for us for multiple reasons.

First, there was the obvious turning point in storyline. I think if anyone still had any doubts about whether this was an actual web cooking show or not, this episode killed that and showed that we were up to much more as this episode gave a more overt glimpse into the deeper narrative we were eventually going to tell.

Second, this episode showed me what an incredible actress I was working with and that the sky was going to be the limit in what we could do with this show. It sounds silly now, but prior to seeing this footage I had never actually seen Mhairi in action. I am a Second City trained yes-and-er, so when she told me what she wanted to do with this show I just said yes, and then assumed she had the acting chops to pull it off, but up till then I hadn’t seen any proof. I just trusted that she was in fact “Classically trained”.

We had discussed prior to shooting that we wanted Tallulah to have an emotional arc for the season and what that arc would be, but when we sat down to look at the footage I realized she had pulled it off in a much bigger way than I was expecting. She had yes anded me. 🙂

Allow me to explain…

For me there are 2 types of comedy: there’s the kind where the character knows they are funny, where they often keep it light, sometimes even ham for the camera and we, the audience, laugh with them and then there’s the kind where the character is actually quite serious, deeply invested in their circumstances and we, the audience get to laugh at them.

I genuinely love both (as for me comedy is like Chocolate, some kinds are better than others, but I pretty much like them all) but if I’m honest, as a lifelong fan of Writer/Directors like James L. Brooks, The Coen Brothers and Cameron Crowe, Nancy Meyers, the second kind of comedy is my all time favorite, which is why I was over the moon to discover, based on Mhairi’s layered and nuanced Improv performance, that this was the kind of comedy we were going to get to make.

The third turning point came in the form of another much needed confidence boost for me.

Editing this episode was difficult, and not because I didn’t have good material to work with, but because she had given me so much. I was staring down the face of 3 awesome takes I was attached to, each with different emotional aspects that I adored, each offering different story elements I thought were important. I found that I was wanting to use the very best parts of all of them, but since this was Improv rather than scripted material, it was not at all obvious how all these elements would line up seamlessly and to be honest I didn’t know if I could pull it off.

I found myself needing to draw from all my years of both writing and editing to perform the mental gymnastics needed to marry these takes together in a manner that looked like I had done nothing at all. And after a long series of “hang on a second, I know this is crazy but let’s try this” and “maybe if I put this chunk here, and that chunk there” I was overjoyed to discover that it had worked. That I had been able to pull it off. I surprised myself! Which lead to the quiet confidence of “I can do this” that you can only get to when you are first challenged and then rise to the challenge. And now…

Industry Tip #7
When shooting Improv performances always use at least 2 cameras. (Or at the very least shoot some close ups that can act as cut aways)

I would not have even had the option to grab the best of each take and make it look like it was seamless if I hadn’t had two different camera angles to draw from. Even with the 2 camera choices we still needed to employ the use of title cards on occasion to give it that seamless effect.

Without further ado, here is the Infamous Pad Thai Episode. The episode that saved Marge’s life. The episode where Tallulah gives us an example of the difference between being the eagle or the chicken. The episode where Tallulah was not actually making a Pad Thai. Hahaha. In fact, I think all of you should ask her about that story.