Thursday, April 1, 2010

3Questions: Jesse Collver - Insert Unit Coordinator

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Jesse Collver, an Insert Unit Coordinator on the hit CBS show, CSI:NY.

As he explains, "Basically, I'm the middle man for all inserts and 2nd shots on the show. My daily routine involves working with the 2nd Unit director in figuring out what sets/dressing/props/actors/spfx/vfx are needed to accomplish what the editors and producers are asking for. If the 1st Unit shoots on location at a restaurant with 5 principle actors and 50 background and a producer wants to see an additional shot of an actor picking up a bloody glass, what do we need for that?

"Well, we don’t need any principle actors, nor do we need 50 background actors, nor do we need to go back to that location. If they want the actors POV (point of view), then all I need to do is hire a hand double (a background actor with matching hands) to pick up the glass, two body doubles to be the people across the table from him (which don’t even need to be the same people either if we don’t see their faces), ask construction to build us an 8x8 section of the floor, have set dressing supply a matching table, and get props to bring in the matching bloody glass. All shot in the comforts of our home stage rather than on location.

"My crew of 15 shoots 50 to 120 of these types of shots per episode! We also get the joy of shooting all the cool inside the body/blood n guts CSI shots with the make-up effects department and special effects department. The idea is that when you watch the show any shot not including a star's face is probably done by us on a different day, on a different set and you should never be able to tell the difference."

HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?

I guess you could say I got my start in my bedroom with my parents first camcorder making movies with Star Wars action figures or running around in the woods operating the camera or acting with my brother and friends making cheesy zombie movies. I studied psychology in school but always took film classes on the side as well as working as an actor in independent films all thru high school and college. My break came when I started working as the Las Vegas Executive Assistant to Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise. When he became the show runner on CSI:NY I came to Los Angeles and started as an office PA on the show.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

The most difficult challenge I would say would be that when I moved to LA, I started at the bottom on the show as a Production Office Assistant. Despite the amazing amount of information I learned about the business and of T.V. production, it was an incredible challenge trying to make it month to month living in L.A. making barely more than unemployment with no family and few friends to help me get by. I lost a lot of weight my first year out here from stress and lack of money for food. All I could do was stay focused and work hard in order to move up as quickly as possible and thankfully that’s exactly what happened. Shows often promote from within and I stepped into my current position the following season.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a...well, multi-multi-hyphenate?

The advice I usually give to people trying to break in to the industry is don’t be afraid to start at the bottom and earn your stripes, its worth it in the long run if you continue to work harder than everyone around you. People will take notice of hard work and ambition. Another piece of advice I like to give is just get out there and do it!! Don’t wait for breaks to come to you, you need to create your own, get out there and collaborate with friends/peers, create, be active in working towards your dreams everyday you can. Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are too big or that there is too much competition out there. Never base your future off of other peoples failures, they have absolutely nothing to do with you.

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