Netflix binge

Looking for something to binge on Netflix tonight? Check out America’s Test Kitchen, and watch the cool animation our very own Stephanie Stender directed for Special-Occasion Roasts (Ep. 11).

Get Excited!

Editing our new short Gimme a Break! Can’t wait to share it with you! Until then, here is a sneak peak, a picture of our hero Dan Strom.

Welcome our new member, Caileigh!

Doorstop is very pleased to announce the latest addition to our outstanding roster, Caileigh Bravo. Please help us in welcoming this amazing editor to our team!

Making movie magic today!

Filming our new comedic short Gimme a Break today. Here’s a sneak peak:

Women in Film and Video New England

We are proud to announce that Stephanie is the newest board member for Women in Film & Video New England!

2014 Taste Awards

Stephanie has won a Craft: Best Producer Taste Award for America’s Test Kitchen!
America’s Test Kitchen Radio also won a Best Food or Drink Radio Broadcast at the 2014 Taste Awards.
Check out all the winners here.

AWD Diary

Below is Stephanie’s diary from her experience shadowing Gail Mancuso on the TBS show Ground Floor. Stephanie was selected as the 2014 Alliance of Women Directors’s TV Shadowing Candidate.

Week One:
Name a successful comedy sitcom, and Gail Mancuso has directed it.

Gail initially started her career as an usher on several talk shows and later became a script supervisor on the show Brothers.  Soon after, she was hired as an AD on Roseanne.  When one of the directors left the show, however, Gail fearlessly asked Roseanne if she could direct an episode.  Roseanne said yes, and with that yes, launched Gail’s directing career.  Gail would go on to direct such hit shows as Friends, 30 Rock, and Modern Family, which she won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series last year – the second woman in the history of the award show to win such a title.  She is up for an Emmy again this year for directing the Modern Family episode “Las Vegas.”  (Update: Gail won her second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards on August 25, 2014.)

After years of directing multi-camera, Gail’s first single-camera directing experience came on the show Gilmore Girls.  Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, an old friend of Gail’s from their Roseanne days, asked Gail to direct an episode of her new show.  As they say, the rest is history.  It isn’t hard to see that the friendships Gail formed on Roseanne have lasted and thrived over the years.  I was lucky enough to meet Jody Margolin Hahn, also a Roseanne alum, on the set of Ground Floor.  Gail invited Jody to set, as Jody will be directing a couple of upcoming episodes this season.

I was able to chat with Jody, who has directed such shows as Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place.  Jody spoke about her love of multi-camera directing, as well as her love of working with children and animals.  It was fascinating to hear her tips on how to coax performances from performers who might not be the easiest to work with (per W.C. Field’s advice: “Never work with animals or children.”)  I myself have had difficulty directing children, so it was great to get her insights.

When I mention that I am shadowing Gail, the crew and cast remark on how lucky I am, and understandably so.  With a sharp eye and a quick wit, Gail commands the set but in her own calming way.  Even when things get hectic, she is grace under fire.    “No matter what happens, even if someone is out of line or rude, Gail is always calm and cool and steers the boat,” one crew member says.   With the stereotype still present that directors are primarily bearded, boorish men, it’s inspiring to see a woman director at work.  As Gail says about her Emmy win, “Seeing is believing. Showing a woman winning an Emmy for directing helps normalize the idea that women can and do direct.”  The same holds true of watching her direct.

It’s wonderful to watch Gail block.  You recognize that you are watching a master.  She instinctively knows which cameras to use for coverage – and is quick on her feet when something changes.  Unlike some other directors, who need many second passes, Gail has coverage in the first pass.  As such, she only needs a few takes.  To top that, her comedic timing is unparalleled.  She has the keen ability to recognize the correct rhythm for a joke to land, as well as how to punch up the script.  Although I cannot give too much detail, as not to spoil the episode before it premiers, I can say that Gail’s direction in extra casting for the premier episode of Ground Floor brought the opening scene to a whole other comedic level.  Gail doesn’t miss a comedic beat.

Ground Floor follows the same cycle as other shows.  They have their read through on Tuesday, blocking on Wednesday, writers review on Thursday, network executive review on Friday, camera blocking on Monday (as well as the pre-shoot), and filming on Tuesday.  And the process continues from there.  Following our shoot date, they will have the read through for episode two.  There is only one week per episode.

The next time I write it will be show night!  I cannot wait to see it all come together!

Show Night:
It’s show night!

The day begins with one last rehearsal to make sure we are fully blocked.

During this time, Phil Lewis, who will be directing the next episode of Ground Floor, comes to visit.  Phil originally started as an actor, appearing in such shows as Friends and How I Met Your Mother.  Phil is also a well-known comedy director; his directorial debut was on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.  He has gone on to direct such comedies as Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls, and Melissa & Joey.  I was lucky enough to speak with Phil about his process in preparing for a shoot.

With a background in acting, Phil plays out characters as he breaks down the script.  He keeps in mind that this may change once they move into rehearsal.  He said one of the main characteristics needed by a director is to be flexible.  Great ideas can come from listening to your actors and incorporating their ideas.  Of course, the director helms the ship, but scenes can only become better with collaboration.

When asked about the director’s influence on the final edit, Phil mentions that after they film (on Tuesdays), he typically receives a cut copy of the episode by Friday.  He then has the weekend to give notes.  Once his notes are incorporated, it goes to the producers and executives.  The cut might change after these notes are incorporated; after this edit, he will receive another cut to review.  In other words, the director’s job is not done when he says cut; he still has a hand in the final cut.

When I sit down with Gail for dinner before the show, she urges me to watch everything.  She recommends that I watch different multi-camera shows, and keep an eye on the blocking and which cameras are used for coverage, while also learning about comedic timing from the best shows.  She also encourages me to take improv classes to improve my comedic timing and my ability to think quickly on my feet.   The advice undoubtedly makes sense once we begin filming.

Gail mentioned to me during my first day on set that she likes directing multi as it felt like live theatre.  This was not an overstatement. It definitely has the energy of live theatre come show night!  As we step onto the soundstage that was quiet as we left for dinner, there is an unmistakable excitement in the air.

Show night is quite special.  The entire team, from writers to producers, put on their best blazers and dresses.  The audience buzzes with anticipation, laughing at the emcee’s jokes and dancing to the pop hits spun by the audio man.  There is an amazing energy with the audience there, and they act as the comedic gauge for each scene.  If a scene plays flat, the writers and Executive Producer Bill Lawrence huddle on set and rewrite the scene on the fly, taking the audience’s reaction into consideration.  It’s amazing to see them work out jokes on set, so quick and so on point.  It is no wonder why Gail recommends the improv class I was considering taking.  This is improv at its finest.

The shoot runs exceptionally smooth with Gail at the helm.  The first shoot back after a hiatus always has the possibility of running long, as everyone finds her legs again.  Yet, under Gail’s direction, we wrap at 11pm.  Remarkable!

As Gail drives off into the night, off to direct Modern Family the next day, I cannot help but reflect on the amazing experience.  It is hard to say goodbye to the team on Ground Floor, filled with such talented people both in front and behind the camera. Thank you so much to the entire cast and crew of Ground Floor for making me feel so welcomed and at home.  It was a pleasure to meet you all; I miss your warmth and humor already.  The bestest of luck on your new season!

I would also like to thank the Alliance of Women Directors for this amazing opportunity and Dan Samiljan for all his help, as well as to incredible Gail Mancuso for taking the time out of her busy schedule to mentor me. I truly appreciate and value everything I have learned from Gail and cannot wait to implement her advice into my directing career.  Her mentorship has meant so much to me, and I look forward to the day I can do the same for another Alliance of Women Directors shadowing candidate.

Shadowing Program

That’s a wrap! Stephanie has just finished shadowing Gail Mancuso on Ground Floor!

Thanks to the Alliance of Women Directors – AWD for selecting Stephanie as a 2014 TV Shadowing Program candidate and to the wonderful group at Doozer for putting it all together. And BIG thanks to Gail for taking time out of her busy schedule to mentor Stephanie as well!  What an amazing experience!


Thank you SO MUCH to all of our donors in our fundraising campaign for La Sirène! We cannot tell you how much we appreciate all of your support. We can’t wait to finish the film and share it with you all.

Thank you so much to all our fabulous donors! You will always be magical mermaids to us!

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