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Hamptons Life

Sep 29, 2008 3:13 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hamptons familiar location for director

Sep 29, 2008 3:13 PM

Even with the incentives, if HBO decides to order a season of “Suburban Shootout,” Mr. Sonnenfeld does not anticipate shooting the whole season, or even most of it, in the Hamptons. “We’ll build our sets in New York City and probably shoot on Long Island within 50 miles of Manhattan,” he said. The 50-mile range allows the crew to go home at night, so there will be no need to pay for their lodging, he explained, noting there were about 100 employees who needed lodging for the pilot.

At least a few crew members employed on the shoot are local to the Hamptons, including Marissa Friedes, a 2002 East Hampton High School graduate and aspiring screenwriter who has dual jobs for “Suburban Shootout”: assistant to producer Graham Place, and assistant to the director, Mr. Sonnenfeld.

Ms. Friedes said she has many typical assistant duties, like making coffee runs and taking messages, but even the most tedious jobs gave her access to the set. “I would watch how Barry directs, how the actors respond, how the lighting guys light and make sure to take mental notes,” she said.

To pursue her chosen career, Ms. Friedes said she always expected to leave town by the time she turned 25, but said that could change if more productions like “Suburban Shootout” come to East Hampton.

Considering that “Suburban Shootout” is a 30-minute show and a first season would likely be 12 episodes, Mr. Sonnenfeld said “Suburban Shootout” might spend two or three weeks of a 12-week production period filming exterior shots in the Hamptons.

“We’re not shooting the Hamptons as the Hamptons. It’s a fictional town,” the director pointed out. “We’re just using the Hamptons because it’s so pretty out here and we want the town to look sort of idyllic and beautiful. But the truth is, if you were doing a satire about the Hamptons, this show wouldn’t be it. It’s not about rich people coming from New York City or the Hamptons cultural community.”

Using his local knowledge, Mr. Sonnenfeld pointed location scouts to some places he wanted to capture on film—at least for the pilot—like Louse Point. He also said he could imagine a scene at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, but the Sag Harbor Village Police were not very cooperative when it came to filming anywhere in the village.

“If we go to series, now we know not even to look in Sag Harbor,” he said of the logistical difficulties, adding, “It’s too bad, because there’s some great looking houses there.”

The director also said that if the pilot is picked up, he would love to direct a few episodes each season, especially early on in the first season, so he can set the tone for the rest of the series. He said that his vision calls for a tone that is somewhat dryer than in the British series.

Last month, at the Primetime Emmy Awards, Mr. Sonnenfeld picked up an Emmy for directing the pilot of “Pushing Daisies,” an honor he said he did not expect, going up against “The Office” and “30 Rock” in the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category.

Mr. Sonnenfeld is also an executive producer for “Pushing Daisies,” a title he shares on “Suburban Shootout” with Ms. Ashford. As an executive producer, he reads and comment on scripts, looks at the dailies, location photos, edited cuts of the episodes and calls up actors to offer advice, he said.

Mr. Sonnenfeld is reviewing many more scripts and ideas for television and the big screen that he is looking to get made, including a script called “Moist” to be developed by “American Beauty” producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jink.

With so many responsibilities stacking up between his television and film careers and directing and producing, Mr. Sonnenfeld denied that he might be worried about spreading himself too thin. “I don’t sleep much, so I can do a lot,” he quipped, before expressing his ultimate goal: “I’d like to have four or five television shows on the air—that would make me very happy—while I’m directing a feature film.”

“Suburban Shootout” was brought to Mr. Sonnenfeld’s attention after Ms. Ashford pitched the show to HBO.

“We felt HBO was wavering on whether or not they wanted to do it, and we felt like, if they knew who was directing it, they might have a clear idea of what it would look like in the end.” Ms. Ashford said. She said she knew Mr. Sonnenfeld would be the right choice. “I thought he was absolutely perfect for this material, and he turned out to be exactly that,” she said.

Mr. Sonnenfeld said he wasn’t aware of the British “Suburban Shootout” when he signed on to direct the American pilot, but he has watched the British pilot since and found the comedy to be too broad and self-conscious for his taste.

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