Cinema Students Visit the Set of TNT’s New Series, Major Crimes, and James Cameron’s Production Company
The suspects and clues were plenty on the set of Major Crimes, this summer's new TNT series executive produced by University of Miami School of Communication Alumnus Michael M. Robin, who gave cinema students a sneak peek of the new series in Los Angeles.
Major Crimes, a spinoff of the hit show The Closer, premiered on August 13 and drew 7.2 million viewers, making it cable's top new series launch this year. The series stars most of The Closer cast as they continue to solve some of L.A.’s most baffling crimes.
Robin and alum Paul Orehovec, a producer of The Closer, led the tour, which took students into the fictional headquarters of the L.A.P.D. where actors, directors, and stagehands buzzed around filming an upcoming episode.
“Making a TV show is the same process as making a movie, but we do it in seven days,” Robin said. “On cable, it’s easier to define an idea and pitch it.”
Robin, who uses several law enforcement consultants on the show, pointed out key pieces of the set and talked about the importance of authenticity.
“Whatever stories you do, when you are authentic about it you can really find smart ways to springboard into great storytelling,” Robin said.
“Every show you work on you learn so much. I know more about cops and blood spatter than I ever thought I would,” Orehovec added.
The executive producer also showed students how scenes were lit and spoke about the equipment used on set. They observed the filming of a key scene set in a hospital room, where a female victim (or perpetrator) was on the verge of a breakdown.
Robin introduced the students to grips, production assistants, and set designers working on the series. The students bumped into Raymond Cruz, who plays Det. Julio Sanchez and veteran actor Paul McCrane (ER’s Dr. Robert Romano) who directed the show’s pilot.
“I really enjoyed this. It was so interesting to see how they were shooting an episode downstairs and editing another downstairs, and how truly collaborative making a TV show is,” said Dawn Minkow, a recent cinema graduate.
The students were the winners of the 2012 ‘Canes Film Festival and showcased their short films at the school-sponsored L.A. Film Showcase at Paramount Studios to SoC alumni working in Hollywood and industry elite.
Before their stop at the faux L.A.P.D., the students arrived at Lightstorm Entertainment for a visit to Academy-Award winning director James Cameron’s production company.
Jon Landau, the Oscar-winning producer of Avatar & Titanic —the two highest-grossing films of all time— treated the group to a tour. After a lengthy Q&A session with Landau on filmmaking and 3D technology, the students made their way to a prop room that held hundreds of gems from Avatar, including clay models, story boards, and wardrobe worn by the actors.
“To be able to see the actual props and artwork that was made for this blockbuster film is so impressive,” said Marola Yersel, a recent Cinema graduate.
Landau who met Cameron during the making of his 1994 hit, True Lies, said his first job in the Hollywood was as production assistant on a movie of the week. Someone asked him to stay to help the accounting department and he did. That job led to others and ultimately to Landau’s role as a studio executive. He eventually decided to go into producing.
“The film industry is transient,” Landau said. “You will have one job that leads to the next and when you’re in one job you are working for your next job.”
Titanic in 1997 was Landau’s career maker and the beginning of 17-year collaboration with Cameron. Though it ended up being a huge success, the infamous story about a doomed ship wasn’t an easy sell.
“The press was bad to Titanic because it come on the heels of Water World. We had to work very hard to prove everyone wrong,” Landau said.
During the tour, students were invited to Lightstorm’s screening room where they watched production clips from Avatar and learned about the advances in 3D technology during a special presentation by Landau.
“When 3D is done right, it becomes a much more voyeuristic experience. I believe it engages you more than traditional storytelling,” he said.
But it still has a ways to go.
“For 3D to become truly ubiquitous it has to enter the home. We need to see sports, the Olympics, the Rolling Stones in 3D,” Landau concluded.