Law & Disorder
Executive Producer Danny Salles goes into detail about how they got the shots they needed ... despite some disturbances from the crew.
My strangest memory of working on this episode was meeting with Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni on set to let them know how our D-List production works. Since they were busy shooting Law & Order: SVU, it was important that our roving documentary-style cameras didn’t distract from their usual paid gig. So, prior to shooting, my fellow executive producer, Lisa, and I drove out to their set in New Jersey and waited to meet with them in their producer's office. Now, understand, I am a huge Law & Order fan – and the signature “ching-ching” sound can pretty much be heard in my house at any time day or night since some form of L&O is always on the air on some channel 24/7. It’s like Ryan Seacrest. It’s everywhere. So, we’re waiting to meet with Mariska and Chris, and they enter – in full costume, right down to their belts and firearms. Lisa and I do our usual explanation about how we’ll just be a fly on the wall with our cameras, etc. Mariska and Chris start to lean in with fixed attention, fascinated by the low-budget process of our reality show and, as they ask questions, I begin to have my own private out-of-body experience. Somehow, I now feel like a suspect being interrogated by Benson and Stabler – and I have convinced myself that I must be guilty of something. I started to sweat, staring into Olivia Benson’s probing eyes. Luckily, they were totally cool with us shooting and happily returned to set after 10 minutes of what seemed like a long interrogation in lock-up. If it had gone on any longer, I probably would have confessed to some brutal (albeit fictional) crime.
I have to spend a moment to describe Liza Minnelli’s apartment. It’s exactly like what you’d imagine. I mean exactly. It looks like Liza. Sleek, black and white, New York chic. Smooth, classic surfaces of marble and suede, generations of awards modestly placed everywhere and giant, black and white photos of her father from Meet Me In St. Louis and of Liza herself in Cabaret. And the view beyond the glossy grand piano is a city skyline that looks like a fake backdrop you’d see behind a Leno or Letterman set — but it’s real. My other fond memory from this episode was when Kathy wanted to shoot a Law & Order spoof outside the New Jersey studio with Ice T. Ice, if that’s his first name, was nice enough to agree to do the scene with us but we only had five minutes between his real scenes to shoot it. We were all set with tour manager Tom to play the victim (much to Kathy’s delight). We had fake blood (food coloring and Karo syrup) and a grey sheet for the body, thanks to the Law & Order prop department. We quickly made Tom lie down outside and traced his lifeless body with police chalk (OK, it was kid’s chalk, but it did the trick). Ice rushed out and we started rolling. The D-List crew almost ruined the take because we were laughing so hard. Kathy started riffing that they should check the “vic” for anal tearing and Ice played right along with her, not missing a beat. And poor Tom had the double indignity of being dead and rudely violated. We got the bit shot in four minutes, including a wide overhead shot we got D-List-style by having the camera man stand on the hood of a car. Ice T was impressed with our crazy speed and joked that we should direct Law & Order: SVU episodes since we’d be able to shoot a whole show in just one afternoon.