For the Dec. 12 HBO docu “Wishful Drinking,” in which actress-writer Carrie Fisher recounts her life story and struggles, HBO Documentary Films topper Sheila Nevins approached frequent collaborators Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey about translating Fisher’s stage show to TV.
The trio previously collaborated on almost two dozen programs, including “Monica in Black & White,” a doc about former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
For “Wishful Drinking,” which was taped in June at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, Barbato and Bailey filmed additional material with Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, that didn’t make the cut of the program. Nevins suggested making the interview available online at HBO.com.
“It became quite clear to us that cutting Debbie Reynolds into the show itself wasn’t going to work, but it was a shame to have this interview and not be able to use it,” Bailey says. “This seemed like a simple and happy solution.”
With the death of Eddie Fisher in late September, producers added a brief tribute before the start of Fisher’s performance, which takes place on stage in front of an audience.
“The stage show would appear to be very unstructured. It’s this loose, discursive structure, and Carrie is so much about the audience in the room and the response and interaction,” Bailey says. “But for TV, you have the smallscreen and you can’t really see the audience, so we couldn’t have all that interaction.”
Producers thought they could simply trim out parts of the program to make it fit the desired 80-minute running time.
“When you start cutting it you realize it’s been structured by a phenomenal intelligence,” Bailey says. “You take one piece away, and it has all these implications. So the real challenge was in knowing how to compress the show and make it fit within a feature-length presentation.”