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A Final Chat with Guy Bee

The final installment of my interview with Guy Bee focuses on his style behind-the-scenes. I was a pleasure to learn a bit about the “other side” of the camera from Guy.

For those of you interested in hearing more from him – Guy will be doing a panel at the Creation “Supernatural” Convention in Vancouver, BC on Sunday, August 28th. Tickets for the day are available here.

Please note!! Article contains photos that “spoil” the filming location of Episode 2 of Season 3 of “Supernatural”.  No actors are revealed.

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AM: do you write, Guy?

GUY: Yeah, but I’m better at sitting with a writer and collaborator. Physically sitting down and writing, I can do it but I’m not a wordsmith. I‘m better at describing cinematically; describing the shots and having somebody go “okay give me an hour”

Some of the writers on the shows – they’re very literal and they’ll say “you know we can simplify this by having you do this or this” I can describe it well … and then pink pages come an hour alter and it’s almost exactly what I described to them. So I’m good at that or at least that’s what I prefer to do.

I don’t mind … but I don’t think what I type out is considered good writing.

AM: And do you think being a camera operator and THEN being a director has helped you?

GUY: Yeah, for me it was the greatest training in the world. First of all, I feel very comfortable on any set. I know the dynamics of the way a set works. I know what everybody’s job is. So that’s cool because some people begin their directing from being a writer or something so they don’t know what to do with their hands on the set.

That part – you know – I communicated with actors. It was technical – but I know who to approach and how to approach. Also as an operator for 12 years you see that you can’t get precious about things. I’ve seen some directors who are like between every take “did you move the glass here” and it’s like when we’re doing a close up you can’t even see that glass so it doesn’t matter.

It’s that micromanaging of the minutia that just wastes so much time and energy so fortunately I’ve spent enough time with bad directors that I always joke I learned more from the bad ones – the good ones just inspired me. Made me go “that’s how I wanna do it when I get my shot”

AM: Who are the good ones?

GUY: My mentor is a guy named Chris Chulack who was a producer and then started directing “ER”. He’s the one who gave me my shot to direct on “ER”. He went on to direct the pilot of “Presidio Med”, and then “Southland”. So he gave me my shot.

He was always fun to work with because he’s very passionate – he was real good about knowing what was important and blowing off what wasn’t and not getting bogged down in something that’s gonna be onscreen or that’s gonna be way in the background. ‘Cause we have a saying “if they’re looking at that” – you know there’s a truck in the background – “if they’re looking at that we’re in the wrong place.”

You’d be surprised how people, especially new directors because they’re so afraid of failing and it can happen. I mean, look. So many directors are at the mercy of the editor. Because once a director turns in a show – I hand it to my editor in L.A. and then I go “okay let it go, let it fly”. And sometimes I get a call from the editor or one of the producers the next day going “hey man, we love it. We gotta pull some time out but it’s great. We’re all happy.” And then you won’t hear anything which is just ‘cause they’re busy.

But you’re at their mercy because once you leave and the big producer gets in there, Bob Singer or Phil Sgriccia, it’s so easy for the editor to go “I couldn’t cut this show, It was horrible.” Well, you’re not getting invited back. But it’s better if the editor goes, this guy’s got his shit together; he shot more than I needed.

@Charlotte KinzieThe compliment I got on Chloe King was – it’s a seven day episodes – SPN and big network ones are 8 and sometimes 9. He said “I couldn’t’ believe the volume of footage you got. I got everything I needed and more.”

AM: is that because you shoot more or because you run the cameras longer?

GUY: I certainly don’t, in a weird way I’ve got the guts now to walk away after 2 or 3 takes. “Okay we got the spare tire.”

How many years did I sit there as an operator and you’re on take 11, take 12, take 13 and you’re going to the director “So you’re saying you want us to dolly in or you want us to pan across or come out of the sky?”

“Oh no, just do it again!” It’s pure fear and I know that because I’ve been in that place. But you know, one of two things happened. I’m scared to move on because I’m not quite sure what I need next and I don’t have the guts to go to my cameraman and supervisors and say “help”. Or, I’m making it up as I go along, which is fine, we all have that right.

Everybody has the right to dress funny or do whatever. Is it right? Or the bright way to go? Probably not but you have that right. But a lot of times that “Let’s go one more” is because I don’t quite know what I want to do next and it’ll come to me.

Having spent so many years as an operator and watching good and bad directors dissecting a scene and saying “we can go here, we can go here, we can get something big…” “Maybe we’ll go big first and the tight then…get that out of the way” Knowing that the clock is ticking, it became so second nature to me as a director.

AM: how do you deal with someone on set who is difficult?

GUY: There’s a couple different things you can do. You can dig in and say “look man, this is not working. I don’t know what you’re trying to do…” It’s rare that that happens.

AM: So the director deals with something like that?

GUY: Generally, because I come in as a guest there’s a deep underlying issue. I never take it personally. Because I don’t have it in my DNA to say anything or be… Selfishly I want the actors to be very happy and comfortable with me and vice versa.

Generally there is something deep-seeded. I remember having some kind of resistance from an actor once, and I said to one of the producers “man, I’m having a tough time with this guy” And they were like, it’s not you. Every time he comes to work he complains about the way the season has gone. If it’s any consolation we’re killin’ him off. And they did! He wanted out and they let him go.

So, yeah, generally it’s never directed at me and then… if there is some kind of resistance – a lot of times it’s a test. The actors are poking me to see – am I gonna be a pussy about something or am I gonna hold my ground. Veteran actors just wanna see what you’re made of.

AM: Does it change depending on whether show is new or not – like “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” is new… or a show that’s been going 6 seasons like “Supernatural”?

GUY: A lot of times when you come into a show that’s being going for a while they’re happy to have fresh blood. And you can kinda…I always say, any show I come into, I say “Look if there’s something I block or something that feels weird – that you’ve done in season 3 episode 9 let me know.”

And Kevin Parks (first Assistant Director on “Supernatural”) has been there since episode 1 of season 1. He’s like, he’s the maven for anything, he’ll tell you what episode – it’s freakish. You gotta kinda come in…willing to not be the egomaniac.

A new show, a lot of times, they need direction. They wanna hand you the ball and go okay show us something. Because if you can press a new show, I like to do a new show because if you can impress them they know in the future to say “oh let’s just get Guy to do three of ‘em.” Selfishly, it’s like alright, cool. More security. But they’re not gonna have to hold your hand and they want to know that you’re gonna take the initiative and then the show cuts together and when the proofs go down they say “how did you like Guy” and all the actors go “Aw man he’s great, he was funny as hell” and the crews go “Yeah, it was great it was nice to know that we’re gonna put a camera, we’re not gonna waste time. We’re gonna shoot it or move on. There’s not a lot of head-scratching.

Also in the middle of that – you can be confident and then on day 6 suddenly go “I don’t quite know how to do this scene.” And maybe a camera operator will say “you know, there’s something nice about… if you come off the empties….” And I can be like “fuck that’s great. It’s passage of time. Not only have they drunk all this but there’s nobody there to pick it up.” Meanwhile, in your pee brain you were gonna start on the guy coming’ out of the kitchen but this way tells a better story. So if you’re willing to kinda like, let go of your ego…’cause again, selfishly, at the end of the day the studio and network and execs are gonna be well, “Man we love that shot when you came up of the glasses.” And it’s like good yeah!

AM: Does anyone get hired anymore to do entire seasons?

GUY: Well, it’s impossible. The closest thing is like what Phil and Bob do when they do four a year. Sure, they can do more but each episode is a month commitment. You sorta have to prep for seven days then you shoot for 8 or 9 and you wanna give the editors a couple days with the material. And then you wanna look at it and give yourself at least a day to cut – so there’s about a month. If you went back to back to back – If Phil and Bob each did 11 … man.

AM: So is that why Jensen has to film his first?

GUY: He did that with weekend at bobby’s too because that week of prep – that seven days – he didn’t have to act.

AM: so your episode airs second?

GUY: Yeah, it’ll air second. Phil’s that they’re finishing right now airs first. It makes sense ‘cause they wrote it accordingly. Episode 1 is Phil’s … mine is the second part. Literally, (Phil’s) episode starts right after the season finale. They were matching the lighting when I was there… looking back at the DVD and saying “that light was brighter, there was a bigger pool of blood.” Because they ripped all the lights out. A lot of the props and wardrobe – like when he made Raphael explode – all that was still kind of intact.

I call it “shake it up” – you know put fresh blood and cherry bits. So yeah… Phil’s goes, then Phil’s last scene is my first scene 1. So he’s actually shooting my scene one for me. I’ll be there tomorrow but it’s gonna be so blocked that if I came in – the idea first of all is that we wanna get Misha once he’s in “that makeup” .

I don’t know what level – there are some levels of crazy shit happening! So it just makes sense that he would just direct my first episode. I’ll be there, I’ll go by when I know they’re doing it. Mine ends with the “to be continued” and picks right up on Jensen’s first scene. I’m directing a scene for Jensen because they hadn’t built the set yet. You’ll see.

Say 15 days of in the trenches and you throw in a few weekends and it’s about 21 days.

AM: Can we expect to see you up in Vancouver for more Supernatural?

GUY: Yeah I’m doing 7 09, and 7 21. Beginning, middle and end. Timed out perfect. Phil’s doing four, Bob’s doing four, Jensen did one, Ben’s doin’ I think episode 20. I just looked at the schedule. The usual suspects. All directors that have done the show multiple times.

AM: And 23 episodes for “Supernatural” this year?

GUY: It may, I don’t think that’s sold yet. I don’t know. I’ve been hearing it – Jim keeps saying “they haven’t said yes yet”

But anyway yes! Criminal Minds – I’ve done 10 so it’s like old home week when I go and do it. I didn’t get booked this season because by the time they checked my season was full. They may do 24 though so we talked about me doing one in April.

AM: How many shows will you direct in a year then?

GUY: Well, in a calendar year – I’ve had slow years but in a calendar year I can probably do 9 or 10. Again, if you say that’s a month – each episode you kinda wanna have a little bit of a break.

“Ringer” and “Southland” and “Chloe King” were all in town – so that was cool. I have 10 – 12 days between everything this year. After “Ringer” I have what amounts to two months off but I’ve been working on this whole “Dee Snider: Twisted Sister” project. “Dee does Broadway”. We’re THIS close to getting the money. He’s gonna be on Celebrity Apprentice so we wanna shoot it before he does that.

AM: Twitter. You guys are so accessible now if you choose to be – to a community of viewers that 5 or 6 years ago might not have known you – what’s the like?

GUY: 99% of the people are awesome. It’s interesting! Again, people ask me questions there’s no way I can answer. And I’ll get 10 people respond to something I’ve said and I’ll maybe respond to 2 of them and it’s nothing personal – it’s just like something about that one tweet – or I came up with something witty real quick.

If I can find the time I’ll answer anybody’s questions.

It’s also been interesting to track when you get time, to track something like a news story. I always try and follow people that are interesting. Some of the most interesting people are comedians. Jim Gaff and Patton Oswalt they always have such a twisted slant on things.

Right when I was leaving somebody said something about “Chloe King”, they’d just seen the east coast airing – and were like “I didn’t like the fight scenes, I thought it was gonna be more like supernatural fight scenes…” and it’s like, you can’t respond to that because what IS a supernatural fight scene?

AM: and that’s interesting because there are people watching Chloe King just because you’re involved in shows like “Supernatural” and “Criminal Minds”…

GUY: Well, that’s the thing that’s been interesting I’ve been able to say to the producers “hey! If there’s interesting stuff for me to post I’ll retweet.”

It’s like when we did Raisin’ Jr. and we thought well, we’ll get it on facebook and everyone was telling us – twitter is the way to go because if one NASCAR driver likes it and he retweets it that’s the true definition of viral. Gary’s gotten really far with it. I mean he ran into Michael Waltrip and Michael Waltrip knew – he said “I’ve heard of it.”

Some of my best friends are like genius improvisational comedy actors Bob Stevens

AM: Give me your top five movies

GUY: That’s really tough.

AM: You can do it

GUY: Uh…

God – subcategories would be better. ‘cause “Slapshot”, “Animal House”, “Caddy shack”, “Monty Python”, “Hangover”…that’s one category. But like, “Bladerunner”, “Alien”, “Road warrior” and then just like another sub category is “Sexy Beast”, “Layer Cake”… and then, you know, the Cohen brothers, some Kubrick.

AM: which Kubrick?

GUY: “Dr. Strangelove”, “2001”. Hitchcock … with the lack of technology … how brilliant he was. Yeah, I mean not even one of the more popular movies but “Strangers On A Train” which is a genius Hitchcock. Strangers was remade as “Throw Mama from the train” – in fact there’s an episode of “Modern Family” called “Strangers On a Treadmill” where Mitchell and Julie Bowen’s characters – the brother and sister have to do each other’s “bad thing”.

AM: One more serious question. What do you think of the push to do straight-to-web film? Like Tello films, Divine: The series?

GUY: The problem is and we’re sort of experiencing that a little with Raisin’ Jr. is there’s no money in it. There’s no way to monetize it because you can say “hey we got a million hits” but until you have an advertiser take recognition of that that’s traditionally the problem. There’s no way to monetize it. I mean, it’s a great thing and you can get established on YouTube all that stuff and treat it like a publication – like a magazine – “here’s another installment” but the way to do it is like production does where you go from this day to this day we’re gonna shoot 25 episodes and that takes money.

And then you put them up one a week and somehow or another you gotta recoup the cost and advertising is initially the way to do it – or in the case of nowadays – you can sell the package to a French broadcaster or a German broadcaster. But if it’s on the web for free – there’s your problem. Nobody’s ever gonna pay and the only way you’re gonna get money are advertisers are gonna go “okay a million eyeballs are gonna hit this this week ok…” Then where do you put those ads… the side? The banner? Eventually – somebody’s gonna crack it – they’ll figure it out.

Even like with something like Supernatural – ‘cause they don’t air them on whatever BBC or whatever in England but somewhere in the world a minute after it airs here somebody’s cloned it which you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about it. It’s even worse with the web because you can watch it at your leisure and send the link to a thousand people. That’s been the DGA (Directors Guild of America) and SAG’s (Screen Actors Guild) thing is that, traditionally, in the past – there wasn’t that outlet so when they re-ran them everyone got paid again so now it’s all literally being pirated. Not a bunch anybody can do about it – all they can really do is that if there’s a site and that’s all they do – they can go after them – cease and desist. But it’s like Pirate Radio and all someone has to do is go offshore and keep moving.

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Again, I would like to thank Guy for giving up some of his time off to do this interview. It was a pleasure to meet him and I, for one, am looking forward to hearing him speak at The Vancouver Convention.

All photos ©Charlotte Kinzie and Affairs Magazine

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