Ah, shooting in New York. As a writer/producer, it's living the dream. This city rocks. Eating at great restaurants, meeting fascinating people from different professions and all walks of life, dating women who aren't after me to get them an acting role?... I LOVE it here.
My last several TV shows were all shot in LA. I love LA too, mostly cuz you don't have to wear thermal underwear on location. But that aside, you can't beat the visual scale and grandeur of New York. Sure, I've written "globe-trotting" TV dramas where spies travel to exotic locales, but it's usually cheated with back-lots, green screens and visual effects.
KINGS has some VFX, as we change the skyline and backdrop of New York to create the Kingdom of Gilboa and its capital, Shiloh. But location VFX only gets you so far before it looks cheesy. New York has so much to shoot, so many breathtaking locations, that it lends KINGS a majesty that would be impossible to reproduce on the left coast. (Kudos to the hard work of our Production Designer Kalina Ivanov, Location Manager Paul Kramer and their crews, who slave long hours to find and prepare those great locations that bring pain-in-the-butt writers' visions to life.)
Heck, in my episode alone ("Insurrection") we shot scenes that would have been budget-bustingly impossible on any other TV show I've ever worked on: Ian McShane fly fishing in a river, with the leaves changing around him as a dam gushes water over his shoulder? Thanks to our talented and adventurous crew, who waded out with equipment to get the perfect camera position, and Ian, who braved frigid temperatures and slippery rocks to perform the scene so convincingly, it looks like a scene out of "A River Runs Through It."
Then there's the scene with two brothers strolling through a corn-field that's ready to harvest. (We actually found a corn field that was ready to harvest... in October!) A riot scene with hundreds of extras battling police set against a bustling shipyard. A scene at a working TV studio overlooking a busy midtown avenue, another in a spectacular modern church. And countless other scenes filmed against the backdrop of grand marble corridors and halls of some of New York's landmark buildings.
Yeah, KINGS ain't your standard "talking-heads-in-a-hospital-corridor/law-office/cop-precinct" TV fare.
To be honest, when my friend (and "JACK & BOBBY" co-writer) Michael Green told me two and a half years ago that he wanted to create a show of this scale, a show that would tell the sweeping epic story of King David's rise, I had my doubts that any TV executives would have the guts to do it. When Michael added that he wanted a battle scene in the pilot, with tanks, I laughed. And when he said he wanted to write a drama that wouldn't "talk down" to audiences in the way that most TV shows do, but would instead respect the audience's intelligence? That's when I started to worry that Michael was on crack.
But boy am I glad now that I signed on for this adventure. We took a chance, we kept the faith and thanks to the hard work of an army of talented people, and the
support of some unusually courageous television executives, KINGS is on the air.
As I write this, we have yet to air the pilot. If you're reading this, hopefully you're watching. But do me a favor, wouldya? Ask your friends to watch too? Cuz I LOVE shooting in New York.
Erik Oleson is a Supervising Producer/Writer on "Kings."