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Matthew Weiner & Others Behind the Camera


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#1

catrina

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 10:05 AM

So I wanted to start this thread to talk about Matt Weiner and some strong correlations I'm seeing to this week's plot and his real life. (Mostly just to talk about WM and not this week's show).

Remember the story about Kater Gordon his "Peggy?"

Slate's TV club discussion finally made the connection outloud that I'd been thinking.

"Remember last year there was that whole kerfuffle about Kater Gordon? She was Weiner's assistant, who was then promoted to his writer's assistant, and then to staff writer, and then co-wrote a script with him for which they won an Emmy. Unlike, say, David Simon, Weiner is always listed as co-writer on every episode, which you could interpret either as generosity (he's sharing credit with the young members of the writing staff) or selfishness (he sprinkles a little Weiner dust on someone else's script just before they shoot it, and that entitles him to equal credit). I don't know which it is. It's probably impossible for us to know. But there was a suggestion, in his body language during the Emmy acceptance last year, that he wasn't entirely happy sharing the spotlight with his protege. And then for some reason Kater Gordon was fired. Remember all that? I think it's impossible to read Don's speech to Peggy last night as anything but an apologia for the boorish tendency of creative-genius-mentor types to want to run the awards-ceremony victory lap alone, and a commentary on the whole master-and-apprentice relationship played out both in the Mad Men writers' room and at SCDP."


I actually thought MW was rather churlish at the Emmys when Mad Men won for best show. There he was, surrounded by his entire cast and crew and he thanked his KIDS? He'd already gotten to speak for best writing, he should have allowed others to speak and/or thanked his crew WHO WAS STANDING BEHIND HIM.

MW is really starting to remind of Aaron Sorkin in seasons 1-3 West Wing. Sorkin also was churlish about giving credit to his staff of writers, even at the Emmys when Rick Cleveland co-wrote the episode that won. Sorkin trashed Cleveland on Twop and the rest is history. There wouldn't really *be* a story about Weiner "making up" with Gordon publicly but his behavior at the Emmys made me think he learned nothing, despite whatever story he wrote.
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#2

Carlita09

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 11:39 AM

Little things here and there have made me really dislike Matthew Weiner; one of them is the way he acts at awards shows. He's definitely not short on ego. That's why I'm always kind of grossed out by the way fans of the show seem to worship him, or at least always bring up his name in worshipful tones: "Trust Weiner." "Weiner doesn't do things on accident." "Matt Weiner is a god." I mean, for one thing, the actors and others behind the scenes deserve a LOT of credit for the show's success. For another, I'm pretty sure the guy reads online message boards about the show, so I don't like to see his ego stroked any more than it already is.
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#3

catrina

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 12:42 PM

This is what I don't understand. No one watching the Don-Peggy scenes would have sided with Don. Maybe it's because more people in the world feel like Peggy than Don. So if one takes the story as MW "working out" his own issues with taking all the credit, then why, when this story has been written and filmed months before the Emmys, does he still act like the same jerk two Emmys in a row?
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#4

Sister Magpie

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 1:25 PM

No one watching the Don-Peggy scenes would have sided with Don. Maybe it's because more people in the world feel like Peggy than Don.


I empathized with Peggy but thought what Don was saying was completely true. What's to side with? He described how her job worked pretty accurately and also accurately pointed out a problem Peggy has with always looking for more reward. Just as Peggy accurately pointed out Don's own bull at work. They know each other.

Weiner, as the writer, is probably both Don AND Peggy. Both the guy who feels like other people are unreasonable and the person who feels like people are trying to take his recognition away at times.

It's not unusual for writers to be far more insightful about the issues that they struggle with in life when they're writing about them. I wouldn't read the Don/Peggy scene as MW talking about whatever thing went down in real life. Credit and recognition is obviously something he's interested in as a dramatic thing but it's different when it's his real life. I don't think he has the exact issues that Don or Peggy had in that scene or that any one of his writers is exactly in the same position. I mean, on the most basic level, as Don says: There are no credits on commercials. There are credits on TV shows.

Edited by Sister Magpie, Sep 8, 2010 @ 1:25 PM.

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#5

Red Medicine

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 2:28 PM

If anything, I'll bet Kater Gordon was fired from the show due to her lackluster performance in writing "The Fog," which is definitely the weakest episode of season 3.

I'm really more interested in knowing why Robin Veith quit soon after Gordon was fired. She was also Weiner's former writing assistant.

Weiner may have somewhat of an ego problem, but he always comes across as cordial and enthusiastic on the episode commentaries included with the sets.
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#6

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Posted Sep 8, 2010 @ 7:15 PM

Based on everything I've watched and read I'm inclined to suspect that Weiner does indeed have an enormous ego.

That being said--

I empathized with Peggy but thought what Don was saying was completely true. What's to side with? He described how her job worked pretty accurately and also accurately pointed out a problem Peggy has with always looking for more reward.


I totally agree. I didn't feel myself siding with either one of them. They both had legitimate points.
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#7

catrina

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Posted Sep 9, 2010 @ 6:35 PM

It's not unusual for writers to be far more insightful about the issues that they struggle with in life when they're writing about them. I wouldn't read the Don/Peggy scene as MW talking about whatever thing went down in real life. Credit and recognition is obviously something he's interested in as a dramatic thing but it's different when it's his real life. I don't think he has the exact issues that Don or Peggy had in that scene or that any one of his writers is exactly in the same position. I mean, on the most basic level, as Don says: There are no credits on commercials. There are credits on TV shows.


Well there are credits on TV shows but MW doesn't like to 'give' credit out in real life. I thought when I've heard him talk about Peggy/Don it does seem to imply that Don is more in the wrong than Peggy. Because Don is seen as the creative genius (and we've seen him stealing ideas this season).

The other thing is MW seems to be a difficult boss to work for. The veiled references to his stickler for perfection aren't just about period-accuracy. What I guess I'm curious about is whether its really possible he wrote the Don-Peggy story and *not* realized its also about him? Has Kater Gordon done anything since MM?
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#8

bmsartre

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 10:08 PM

I think I know why a couple of writers got let go, if episode 4.09 is any indication. This episode verged on soap opera, IMO.
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#9

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 12:57 AM

I watched all the DVD commentaries over the summer and one thing started to really bother me. I can't tell you the number of times MW said excitedly, "That was in the script!" Every time there was a great moment that could have been attributed to an actor or a cameraman or a director or even a set dresser, Weiner hastened to mention that it was his idea and that there's so much detail in the scripts that there's very little room for improvisation or improvement. He's clearly a great writer and I don't want to take that away from him, and I don't know anything about his writer's assistants, but it's also pretty clear to me that he has ego issues.
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#10

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 3:48 AM

Damn, that sucks. I've worked with people who refuse to give credit to anyone else, and it's a major drain. And completely useless. As if admitting that one has chosen a fantastic group of gifted people to work with--fantastic enough that they can be trusted to carry their part of things off fabulously well without one's micromanaging--would be a bad thing! I rather think letting others bask in their own achievements would make him look better than playing spotlight hog.
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#11

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 3:50 AM

Attack of the double post!

Edited by mswyrr, Sep 20, 2010 @ 4:34 AM.

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#12

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 6:37 AM

From what some of the actors have said about the scripts, they are incredibly specific "Joan exhales. Joan inhales." I don't know that this is a bad thing, but it sounds like it's not the most collaborative atmosphere.
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#13

Gypsy

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 9:11 AM

I watched all the DVD commentaries over the summer and one thing started to really bother me. I can't tell you the number of times MW said excitedly, "That was in the script!" Every time there was a great moment that could have been attributed to an actor or a cameraman or a director or even a set dresser, Weiner hastened to mention that it was his idea and that there's so much detail in the scripts that there's very little room for improvisation or improvement. He's clearly a great writer and I don't want to take that away from him, and I don't know anything about his writer's assistants, but it's also pretty clear to me that he has ego issues.


The actors and crew say the same things on the commentaries - that they can't take credit for most things because it's all in the script from the start. So it's clear that Weiner is telling the truth there.
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#14

IDrive65

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 9:36 AM

In an interview, John Slattery said that he once ad-libbed a line and got a royal dressing down from MW who said something like "Don't you think I already considered that? Read it AS WRITTEN!" Not only does MW know how to write, he's considered every possible alternate wording! [sarcasm] I think he comes across as extremely smug in his interviews.
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#15

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 10:22 AM

The actors and crew say the same things on the commentaries - that they can't take credit for most things because it's all in the script from the start. So it's clear that Weiner is telling the truth there.

He's also more than willing to give credit to other people for their contributions to the script -- in the commentaries, he also frequently points out lines that were written by one of the other writers, or that he overheard on the street. Just as he often compliments the actors and production people for their contributions to the series.

And if he still claims the bulk of the credit for himself, well . . . the sense I get is that he deserves most of the credit. Mad Men is far more of an auteur piece than most television series, and maybe it's arrogant for Weiner to constantly point that out, but that's not the same thing as being disingenuous or unfair.

Edited by Dev F, Sep 20, 2010 @ 10:24 AM.

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#16

kayzee

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 1:56 PM

The actors and crew say the same things on the commentaries - that they can't take credit for most things because it's all in the script from the start. So it's clear that Weiner is telling the truth there.

Yes, but just because it's true doesn't mean it needs to be said ad nauseam. Especially in combination with his award show behavior and little hints in interviews, it really made me like him less. I never said it was unfair, but it did come off as arrogant and it did get old after awhile. I kept thinking "I get it, you're brilliant, now say something interesting and new - these DVDs were expensive."

Edited by kayzee, Sep 20, 2010 @ 1:58 PM.

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#17

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 2:44 PM

He always seems so surprised when an actor contributes something that he let stay in. It's kind of funny really. Like wow, can you believe the actor came up with something that I could use?! I don't think he means it in a bad way, but that's how it comes across.
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#18

kayzee

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 5:22 PM

Exactly, Luciaphile. I was going to say the same thing and forgot to. He sounds a bit incredulous and presents it like a rare exception to some rule.

I sounded mean before... I want to clarify that I don't think he's a bad guy. My impression probably comes from watching all 3 seasons' commentaries in the space of just a few days, which amplifies the annoying parts. Obviously a little ego is necessary to make it in showbiz; he just needs to tone it down a little so as not to drive away his colleagues and fans.
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#19

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Posted Oct 7, 2010 @ 1:38 PM

From an article about Matt Weiner written for Wesleyan Magazine by another alum.

AS I SIT DOWN WITH MATTHEW WEINER ’87 in his office at Los Angeles Center Studios, he proudly shows me a tray on display that was a wedding gift to his parents. This tray became a key prop on his Golden Globe-winning show Mad Men when one of the lead characters, Pete, traded it for a rifle.

Weiner is surprised by the idea that he, or his show, is sexist. “The treatment of women on Mad Men is the point,” he says emphatically. “The women characters are informed not only by my mother, an attorney, and two older sisters, an attorney and a doctor, but by the philosophical underpinnings of what I learned at Wesleyan. It’s right out of The Feminine Mystique. My show is saying ‘This is not right.’”

The violence of Tony Soprano and swagger of Don Draper are a cover for the quiet desperation Weiner sees in all of us. They are liars who want to be what they are not. They represent the duplicitous side he believes lurks in each of us.


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#20

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Posted Oct 8, 2010 @ 1:28 AM

He always seems so surprised when an actor contributes something that he let stay in. It's kind of funny really. Like wow, can you believe the actor came up with something that I could use?! I don't think he means it in a bad way, but that's how it comes across.


This is a few weeks old (I've never looked in here before), but...yeah. I see what you mean. I always find the DVD commentaries interesting, but he bugged me a little this most recent time around. Not that I've done a word count to prove it, but I don't think in the first season he dominated them as much. He's reached a point now where he'll talk nonstop for what seems like 10 or 15 minutes, and then suddenly put one of the other participants on the spot. "Kiernan! What do you think Sally is thinking in this scene?" "Vincent! Talk a little bit about what Pete does here." Almost as though he's presiding over a class. Sometimes they almost sound as though he's woken them from a light sleep.

But he has a long way to go (in terms of megalomania, contemptuousness, and self-approval) before he becomes as repellent in his utterances as David Chase became to me in the last couple seasons of The Sopranos. (I respect Chase's achievement on that show, and he may be a wonderful human being and collaborator; I'm just describing my perception of his interviews and commentaries.) And the worst of the cheerleading for DC's do-no-wrong brilliance was far more sick-making than anything Weiner has been granted, in my opinion.

Edited by Birdhee, Oct 8, 2010 @ 1:32 AM.

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#21

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Posted Oct 10, 2010 @ 7:15 PM

See, here's the thing. There are two basic ways to shoot a movie/tv script. There's the collaborative way, where everyone gets to add their own take on the characters, the lines, the feelings behind the scenes, and then there's the other way (I can't remember the exact term, of course!). The way in which the writer is the ultimate authority on what he/she meant when they wrote the piece. They created that particular universe, in effect, they are God for that particular piece of drama.

The writer has decided how the characters will act and feel at that time. The writer has presumably thought out how and why a particular character will behave at a particular time in the script, and what they will say. And what the other characters will do in reaction to that. It is up to the director and the actors to determine exactly how that will look, but it is not up to them to determine what the characters are thinking as they deliver and shoot those scenes - that should already be evident in the script. I think that this is how Weiner works. He has determined how and why the characters behave as they do, it is up to the actors and the directors to pull off his vision.

For something as tightly conceived as Mad Men is, this is the only way it can work. The writer's ideas, as exactly conceived, have to be conveyed on-screen, so that the audience gets the exact message that was meant to be conveyed when the script was written. If not, the whole theme of a particular episode can be thrown off, and not move the entire storyline forward.

I recently worked on a movie where the writer was also directing his script. He started off letting his script be a guide to the actors and letting them ad lib several different takes of several scenes. It worked fairly well, the actors were having a good time, the feel of the set was fairly loose, and the basic storyline was moving forward. But when we got to the pivotal scene in the movie, it didn't work at all. He started out by letting the actors ad lib their dialogue, letting them put their own spin on his idea. But, it didn't work - at all. They never could get to the idea or the emotion that he had written - the most crucial idea and emotion of the entire script. After about 12 hours, he finally had to put his foot down and demand that they do the scene as written - he finally realized that at some point, the script is gospel. It totally pissed off the actors, who had become used to just acting by the seats of their pants, but I've seen the scene cut in two different ways. One was using the ad libbed dialogue, kind of skirting around the central idea of the scene, and one cut with the exact dialogue that the writer had written, and the latter cut is infinitely more moving and makes so much more sense in relation to the rest of the plot. Sometimes the actors just have to act the lines they are given. It doesn't necessarily make the writer an egomaniac, just the writer - the creator.
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#22

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Posted Oct 10, 2010 @ 7:18 PM

...and then there's the other way (I can't remember the exact term, of course!).The way in which the writer is the ultimate authority on what he/she meant when they wrote the piece. They created that particular universe, in effect, they are God for that particular piece of drama.

Auteur (originally used for directors like Hitchcock and John Ford, but it certainly applies in Weiner's case) [/film school major]
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#23

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Posted Oct 10, 2010 @ 7:58 PM

The writer has decided how the characters will act and feel at that time. The writer has presumably thought out how and why a particular character will behave at a particular time in the script, and what they will say. And what the other characters will do in reaction to that. It is up to the director and the actors to determine exactly how that will look, but it is not up to them to determine what the characters are thinking as they deliver and shoot those scenes - that should already be evident in the script. I think that this is how Weiner works.


I...don't think so, surprisingly. More than once on DVD commentaries, when he and one of the actors have been discussing an episode together, he has asked the actor what the actor "thought" about a particular scene, and sometimes he seems surprised that the actor took a different view of the scene and played it that way. And, of course, there's the now-much-repeated story of him, Kartheiser, and writer Lisa Albert all being on slightly different pages re: Pete and Gudrun in "Souvenir." I think he (Weiner) is very controlling of such specifics as he can control (such as the exact words; the physical look of the show; editing; and things like his blow-up because he thought "Suzanne" had full makeup on in bed with Don, when in fact the actress's skin is just that good), but he does leave the actors some slack.

In any case, a supreme example of one of your suggested "collaborative" types is Robert Altman. He left a very distinctive body of work (to the point where "Altmanesque" has entered the lexicon, and moviegoers know what to expect when it's used) while giving actors a loose framework and a lot of freedom to suggest and improvise. He did it in his television work as well. That method would probably give a Chase or a Weiner night sweats. It worked as often as it did because he chose collaborators well.
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#24

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Posted Oct 10, 2010 @ 8:25 PM

I'm curious as to why in the last two "Inside Mad Men" vignettes on AMC< Weiner hasn't weighed in with his comments. The last one was "Beautiful Girls." In that one, he said something to the effect of, "the use of Satisfaction and the episode signifies a change in the things will go forward."

So, of course, my wondering mind wonders if that's why he had decided to not comment on the last two episodes in the "Inside" clips.
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#25

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Posted Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:04 AM

MM's casting directors talk about how they cast roles on the show at the AMC website.

Q: Who was the hardest character to cast this season?

Schiff: Probably the role of Megan. We always knew what Matt [Weiner's] intention was when we started casting that part, but there was no material written for her yet.

Audino: And of course we couldn't tell anyone else what the story was. We couldn't tell [talent agencies] this was going to be Don's future wife. We needed to just tell people that they're really going to want to come in for this part.

So for Jessica Parè, trust paid off!

I'm curious to know whether whether Matt Weiner added the Montreal-born, French-speaking elements to the character of Megan after Jessica Parè was cast, as these are attributes of the actress herself. It could explain why the character's name doesn't seem to line up that well with her background.

Edited by Inquisitionist, Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:34 AM.

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#26

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Posted Oct 29, 2010 @ 11:03 AM

MM's casting directors talk about how they cast roles on the show at the AMC website.
Q: Who was the hardest character to cast this season?

Schiff: Probably the role of Megan. We always knew what Matt [Weiner's] intention was when we started casting that part, but there was no material written for her yet.

Audino: And of course we couldn't tell anyone else what the story was. We couldn't tell [talent agencies] this was going to be Don's future wife. We needed to just tell people that they're really going to want to come in for this part.

So for Jessica Parè, trust paid off!

I'm curious to know whether whether Matt Weiner added the Montreal-born, French-speaking elements to the character of Megan after Jessica Parè was cast, as these are attributes of the actress herself. It could explain why the character's name doesn't seem to line up that well with her background.



That's all very interesting. It's kind of telling to go back through the episodes prior to the Chinese Wall and watch what Megan is doing. She is nearly always dressed in some vibrant color that stands out.

It makes me laugh at myself because I was one of those who tried to explain away Don's gaze at her after she handed over the Beatles' tickets.
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#27

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Posted Oct 29, 2010 @ 3:45 PM

The actors and crew say the same things on the commentaries - that they can't take credit for most things because it's all in the script from the start. So it's clear that Weiner is telling the truth there

Reviving this - I think all that's clear is that's what the actors say on the dvds, and nothing more.

Michael Patrick King (SATC) is one person who says one thing on DVD's and another other places. I think DVD commentary is politics unless it's a reissue years later. But definitely not unvarnished truth while the show is still filming - not necessarily.

I was put off by Weiner in the Paley Center commentary. Slattery shared his story about thinking he was reading for Don Draper, finding out they wanted him for another part, and then hesitating when assured that the part of Roger would be a good one, since it's typical for supporting actors to be assured their role is great stuff, and find out it's a nothing. Weiner kept interjecting - why would he need to be reassured - the executive producer (Weiner) already told him. He was like lifting up his hands in a "go figure - *I* already told him and still he wondered." IMO his comments sort of fell flat. Then when he spoke of auditioning actors, he started to tell a nice story about how Elisabeth Moss was the second person in for the part, and how he was almost like Peggy in the bathroom later, weepy, all "I found someone!" Then he continues saying "I said, find me six more just like her and we'll take the best one." It wasn't a mocking story, as told, it was serious, including the find me six more. Then he was all - but there wasn't, it was her, she was the one. Then he sort of repeated the story with Hendricks - how he had had an Eve Arden type in mind, but she comes in, and what she does is great, and so he goes "Get me six more just like her and we'll pick the best one." It wasn't really self-deprecating; it was sharing his process, and I know the casting process is a whole lot less "lightening strikes" than show runners later make out, but the way Weiner told this story was eh.

Also, I recently read a short interview with Marten Weiner (Glen) and from what I gather, Marten Weiner already KNOWS Glen in weird. So Matthew Weiner's theatrics about how he'd never find out what was said aren't necessary. The younger Weiner seems to have figured it out just playing the part, when the kid walked into the bathroom. Go figure.

Edited by WaltzinSpringTm, Oct 29, 2010 @ 3:49 PM.

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#28

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Posted Jan 24, 2011 @ 9:51 AM

Matt Weiner: I am not looking for a new job

“I think all of AMC’s decisions about their scheduling and so forth have nothing to do with me, and I don’t have a deal yet,” Weiner told EW, while walking the red carpet for the Producers Guild of America Awards Saturday. “I have every intention of making the show when they decide to work out their business with Lionsgate. I can’t wait to come back to work. I have said over and over in public that I want the show to go on and on and on until it has worn out its welcome with viewers and we can’t think of anything more for the characters to do.

“I am not looking for a new job. I’m dying to go back to work,” Weiner continued. “But the truth is I don’t even know what their plans are. We have not started writing. I am not back at work. My contract expired. They are fighting over a very lucrative property, and who is going to pay for it to get made; it’s one of the biggest perils of success — everyone wants a piece of it now and they are fighting over who is gonna get the biggest chunk. Then they will come to me because talent is last. It would be heartbreaking for me if they don’t work it out, horrifying really. It would be a shame for fans to never get to see what great stuff we have planned for Don and company.”


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#29

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Posted Apr 10, 2011 @ 3:40 PM

Matt Weiner Interview

This has got to be the definitive interview to date.

I love some of the Sopranos stories he tells, and he says, remember how Megan told Don 'I know everything about you, you're in my head all day'? That was me and David Chase.
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#30

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 4:24 PM

This thread seems as good a place as any for linking to a new set of Season 1 "behind-the-scenes" photos at the AMC web-site. I'm always stunned by how close the cameras often are to the actors. I can't imagine how they get "in the moment" with all that chaos around them. :-)
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