TV producers share cross-cutting strategies

Hanson, Peterman, Schneider on past experiences

Here are three ways showrunners have solved production challenges without breaking the budget.

“What we would love to do is show our murders or do flashbacks. But flashbacks can be expensive, so we’ve come up with other ways of getting to what happened to the victim. During season one, we ran a frozen ‘pig’ through a wood chipper as an experiment to demonstrate how the bones of the victim were dispersed across a golf course. The audience reaction was delight, for the most part. Our show is a little gross, and I think our audience likes things that are gross. Our experiments tend to be a little perverse, because what you’re trying to do is figure out what happened to a human being (but) not using human beings. This experiment showed that the victim had in fact been fed through a wood chipper, so the murderer was the guy who had access to the wood chipper. It cleared up a plot problem that we had, it cleared up a length problem that we had, and it did it in a very amusing and yet not very expensive way.”

— Hart Hanson, executive producer, “Bones”

“We have had several guest stars (Larry David, Heather Locklear, Camryn Manheim, Brooke Shields, among others) that we would never in a million years be able to afford, but they did the show because they wanted to do something that their kids will enjoy. That’s a wonderful thing for us. I’ve seen kids walk onto our stage and look at the set like it was the ring in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ So we’ve had people come on and do us favors simply because it made them special in their own home. And that’s really cool.”

— Steven Peterman, executive producer, “Hannah Montana”

“We did an episode of ‘Drake & Josh’ where they’re in the back of a police car on this sort of scared-straight program. The cop gets out and a bad guy gets into the car and steals the car. And then there’s a 2½-minute sequence where the criminal is driving the police car with Drake and Josh trapped in the back and they’re being thrown around. Ideally, I would have loved to put camera mounts on the car and gone outside and done an actual location shoot. Well, that’s really expensive. So what we did was greenscreen. Over the years, we’ve done so much greenscreen work we’ve perfected it to the point where if I showed it to you on TV, you’d really have to be looking hard to figure out that it wasn’t authentic.”

— Dan Schneider, executive producer, “Drake & Josh”

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