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Third Watch, ER and Pickles in the Basement: chatting with Guy Bee

Guy Bee has been around a while in the film industry. If you take a quick look at his entry on the IMDB you can see that.  Before “Supernatural” fandom claimed him as one of the family he was working on such his shows as “Third Watch,” “ER” and “Criminal Minds”.

AM: ER was one of my favorite shows ever. How do you come in as a director when you have a cast that size and make it work?

Guy: Well, you know I came in the first two seasons as a camera operator and , I’d worked with Tony Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene) before, I’d worked with George Clooney (Dr. Doug Ross) before on previous things. Not that that made my job any easier but it was nice that number 1 and number 2 on the call sheet were like “Hey, didn’t we work together? Yeah!”

And so that was two seasons and I didn’t come back to direct until Season 7.

AM: so it wasn’t like you were walking in cold…

Guy: No, thank God, I mean, and you know I asked to come back for the third season and they offered me more money and I said ‘keep the money just let me direct an episode’. And they kind of hemmed and hawed a little bit so I had eventually moved on and did other things. Which was fine because a couple years later was when I got the shot to do “Third Watch”. I came in as a camera operator to help set the look of the pilot and the first 12 episodes and the agreement was we’ll let you direct one of the first 12. That was the end of ‘99 so about 12 years ago.

“Third Watch” was like the little engine that could but just sorta never really did that great. It still went six seasons. People were shocked when they realized. And I didn’t really have anything to do at all with the last two seasons.

‘Cause once I started directing, I got a pretty good agent and over the course of the first four seasons I directed 13 and sorta needed more of those episodes on my reel so I started seeing what more was out there.

AM: Was third watch easier? The characters weren’t all working at the same spot… on ER the entire cast could potentially be in the same scene.

Guy: Yeah, it’s true but that’s the beauty of an ensemble. An actor will come to one of the producers and go “man, I’m tired” and they’ll write him light in the next episode. It’s really easy to give one doctor character another doctor characters lines. Or you know, you bring four actors in at call and then by lunch they’re wrapped, then you bring another set of actors in from actors’ lunch to wrap and that way you’re not burning them out all day.

AM: So is this kind of thing on supernatural unusual where you have 2 or 3 key actors

Guy: No because if you look at a lot of shows, I mean this thing Chloe King – when your name is in the title – odds are she’s gonna be in almost every scene. She’s only 17 so she can handle it. But you know, there’s like duos or even like “The Mentalist”, Simon Baker is in almost every scene. They’ll go away and do a B story like this episode I don’t have Jensen and Jared, they’re only in five or six scenes.

I’m doing a 9 day episode and they only work 5 or 6 days. I think we’re giving one of them a four day weekend and one of them a five day.

We try and get the writers to write accordingly with that in mind. Anything that’s not a huge ensemble you have some tired actors. You try and give them three day weekends.

AM: That doesn’t happen a lot with supernatural though does it? They seem to constantly be wrapping Saturday morning and coming back Sunday night.

Guy: I have a whole, well, this one in particular I have a whole B story that’s mostly to do with Bobby. So, I’m able to – my ninth day is Bobby and other characters I won’t tell you about!!

The big spoiler I won’t say!!! Put it this way it’s good to see this person, I hadn’t seen them in years because I directed them on another show. This character revealed a little bit in Phil’s show but I have them a lot in mine.

AM: so you did an episode of “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” anymore of that?

Guy: I don’t know, I did episode seven of ten. They’re gonna know pretty soon if they’re getting another tem. That’s the pattern for ABC family. That’s the same as when we did “Kyle XY”.

AM: Are there restrictions on filming because of the actor’s ages?

Guy:  I think everybody was over 16 and Skylar is emancipated. Her mom, her dad or this assistant is with her on the set all the time. Not so much because she needs to be babysat because she’s 17 going on 40. Very wise and mature. But just in case she’s tired or wants something to drink – she has somebody that can help. Evidently it’s doing well overseas. Tonight was episode 7 … I’m sure they’ll have a good idea what they future is.

AM: You are time-limited sometimes with filming, right? Jim Beaver tried to explain that to me on twitter one night. About actors only being able to work so many hours…

Guy: Well, yeah general it’s a 12 hour turn around so if you wrap them around midnight you can’t get them back till noon. You can also schedule accordingly. You know, “Is there a way to get Jared out of here at 10?” They call it a forced call. If you wanna keep the call early and not get into a start at 7 am Monday, 9 Tuesday … then Fraturdays… 4 pm on a Friday – that’s depressing. You try and schedule accordingly. Bring the actor in late or generally you wanna get them done because the sooner they get home the 12 hours starts ticking.

There are some shows where your lead actor is in every scene period. I did dragnet with Ed O’Neil and all he wanted was – well, he was comin’ to me because he trusted me, I don’t know why but he did. And you know this was my first AD’s (Assistant Director) job and he’s like “I just wanna hit the gym in the morning. I’m not as young as I used to be! I know I’m handsome but…” Ed O’Neil is the best. If you watch Modern Family, he’s great. He’s funny himself. He’s THAT fuckin’ cool. I can’t say enough great things about Ed O’Neil.

So, we go “hey, if we do this in this order we could bring Ed in at 11.” So, he’d come in at 11 and I’d say you get some time at the gym and he’s say “they took a look at my schedule and they brought me in to do ADR at 8 am, sons of bitches!” (ADR is dialogue replacement)

He’d tell stories about growing up in Youngstown, Ohio which is like a big mob town and growing up in the 50’s and 60’s and how every Saturday they’d be playing stick ball and they’d hear “Boom” and they’d look around for the black smoke and somebody’s Cadillac had been blown up. Like clockwork. “My town’s a tough town Guy Bee!”

Guy (2nd from right) on set filming Danny Devito in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

AM: Lots of people are Criminal Minds fans.

A lot of the “Third Watch” producers [on “Criminal Minds”].

AM: What’s the cast like?

Guy: Joe Montagne, again, like the Ed O’Neil school of awesome guys. Amazing actors and just… he doesn’t go to his trailer, he kinda hangs out. Gubler is just naturally gifted. Funny as hell – Misha Collins style sick sense of humor. [Gubler] is a lunatic. Paget is great. Kirsten is awesome.

AM: when you get assigned an episode, how do you research the actual show?

Guy: Well, if it’s a new show obviously I’ll look at the pilot but I’ll also look at whatever cuts are like … “Chloe king”, I watched the pilot. Then that was done and I watched some cuts of what were gonna be episodes one and two. And they weren’t quite done yet but I got a feel for it. And I would say to the producers, “what do you want me to avoid? What’s working? What’s not working? Who am I gonna have to hold their hand a little? Who’s great?”

And they’ll say “this actor you gotta sit on she gets big quick…” and that’s my job and I’ve gotten pretty good at it ‘cause it’s all politics. Someone will come in and do a really big like sitcom “Ahhhh” and I’ll say “you know, if that was a nine do a six…it’s big and I dunno if that’s the right tone for it.”

Sometimes, I’ll say “I think you’ll be mad at me if I don’t get you to do another version.” “We’ll print ‘em both!” That’s the wonderful thing about cinema you get in the editing room and these things take on a life of their own. Not every take is gonna be used from the time the slate leaves the frame until I say “cut”. You create a patchwork, you’re putting a puzzle together.

One take where the beginning is horrible, the end may be perfect and then another take where the beginning is perfect and the end is shit. That’s what cinema is – creating something that didn’t exist in real life.

AM: Are you still doing Raisin’ Jr?

Guy: We haven’t shot any for a while ‘cause the money we had to do those was all out of Gary’s pocket. So – he’s keen to spend more money but the problem is to get a crew together; it’s difficult to ask people to work for free.

And then the ongoing Canter’s documentary. That thing keeps going and going.

AM: that seems like it will be interesting

Guy: I kinda quite don’t know what the story is. But I showed Gene because Gene’s my partner and Gene is really good friends with Mark Canter. Gene – all through the 80s and 90s was one of the top rock and roll photographers in the world. He was one of only two guys that Guns ‘n Roses would let anywhere near him, Aerosmith. He texts Steven Tyler, Billy Gibbons and Ozzy.

So we had lunch a little over a year ago and he said nowadays – with the internet – people steal his photos. Nobody calls him to get negatives like they used to. That was his income.

He’s got all these classic pictures and people just find them on the internet. So I said, “let’s turn you into a documentary filmmaker.” So we went after ZZ Top and a couple different bands and then one day out of the blue he calls me and says “I’ve just had a three hour lunch with Mark Canter who is the grandson of “Canters” that started in LA 80 years ago.”

He goes, “The stories that he’s told me!”

So we went down and met with Mark again and we made a list of all the things we wanted to touch on and we interviewed him, we interviewed his sister, employees, customers that are there almost every day. That was great.

They make everything there except for one type of bagel. It’s all awesome food. Every time we go there the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches come out with pickles that they pickle in the basement… and plates of rugala and I’ve never paid for anything and I feel guilty!

AM: you don’t always know what’s gonna happen with a documentary though, right?

Guy: Well, that’s the thing. Out of the blue, one of my buddies who helped me shoot the first round called me and said “I’m shooting a short film and we got the permission of the Canters to shoot there.”

I said, “Tell Mark I said hi” and he says “Dude, it’s Gary.” I was like, Gary who’s Gary?? “Gary Canter, Mark’s brother.” I texted Gene and said “how come we didn’t know Mark had a brother?” “Oh yeah, Gary, I’ve never met him.”

So we go meet Gary and the guy is like right out of “The Jersey Shore” Track suit, the whole bit. Nothing like the rest of the family and he’s the black sheep of the family. But we interviewed him and he became a different person – so then I looked at Gene and I said – “this might be the documentary about this family.” ‘Cause Gary is just the most eclectic.

-=-=-=-

More to come in the final installment!

-=-=-=-=-

After spending 12 years as a camera operator Guy made the jump to director in 1999.

His directing projects have included:
ER, Third Watch, Las Vegas, Veronica Mars, Supernatural,
Jericho, Criminal Minds, Kyle XY, Knight Rider,
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and many more.

(originally posted at affairsmagazine.com)

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