October 10, 2012

Students "Mad" for Television Symposium

Television Symposium hosts panel for Mad Men

By Valerie Turpin

Few shows, particularly those outside of the arena of the main television networks, have made quite the impact that Mad Men has made on modern television series. Its historical authenticity and steamy plotlines give the show a unique combination of high ratings and critical acclaim. On October 8th, Television Symposium delighted its students by featuring a high-profile panel of guests from Mad Men, with a Q&A moderated by Professor Howard Rosenberg. The main takeaway message? Working in television is not for the faint of heart.

Matthew Weiner speaking in SCA 108

Executive Producer Scott Hornbacher explained, “I think there’s such a machine and a process that is established and everybody knows what their job is. It’s so well-defined. It’s not like anybody is running around saying, ‘You better do your job.’ Everybody knows what their job is.”

Each Monday evening, Television Symposium profiles a television show and features a guest or guests to discuss their work and field questions from students hoping to learn more about the television industry. Following Monday’s screening of the fifth season’s finale, the panel included Mad Men creator and writer Matthew Weiner (SCA MFA Production alum ‘90), executive producer Scott Hornbacher, writer Jonathan Igla, director of photography Chris Manley, costume designer Janie Bryant, editor Christopher Gay and actor Rich Sommer, who plays the recurring role of Harry Crane.

Mad Men is particularly conscious on bringing the most depth possible to each and every episode. Matt Weiner detailed that thought process by saying, “More than anything, knowing the script means being an amazing audience. You must maintain your focus on that set and be the audience. You can’t just check off the list, you have to sit there and say, ‘What does this scene feel like? Did that actor do the best that they could do? Was it deep enough, is there something else that’s there?’ And you know, that’s a really hard job.”

Mad Men is a period drama set in the 1960s, which explores the business of ad agencies in New York City as well as the personal lives and issues of its inhabitants. The seasons have developed within historical context of the decade, highlighting the tumultuous era of the 1960s. The series has claimed fifteen Emmys, four of which were for Outstanding Drama Series for its first four seasons, and four Golden Globe Awards.

With shooting an episode being only half the battle, the show must undergo the nearly impossible task of being edited to the correct time while still maintaining everything that gives the show its specific tone and thematic resonance. Christopher Gay discussed his work as editor, explaining, “In television, the one great thing it teaches you on my end, which is very instinctual, is to go with your gut. You have to learn how to be really fast and efficient with your tools.”

Matt Weiner added, “It’s a very special gift to maintain the tone and quality of a show that you’ve watched hundreds of times. To find a way to make it play like the show we wanted and still be on time, and that’s really, really hard.”

Mad Men has completed its fifth season and is underway for its sixth, which will air on a yet unannounced date in 2013.

For more information on Mad Men, visit http://www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men