Two TV shows from script to screen
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the programs 'That's So Raven' and 'Darcy's Wild Life' made their way into your living room.
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So initially, the creators shot a pilot episode with Raven cast as the friend, not as the star. A pilot is the first episode of a new show, but it can be reshot and changed before it finally reaches the air (or dropped altogether). Pilots are tested. This is when an audience is privately shown the first episode and asked for their opinions. Creators also pay close attention to what jokes make the audience laugh.Skip to next paragraph
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In the case of "That's So Raven," the audience really loved Raven. She's versatile, endearing, and her range of funny expressions keeps viewers giggling. (Some viewers may know Raven from "The Cosby Show," on which she played the young girl Olivia.) It was obvious to the creators that Raven should be cast as the star. So the script was rewritten, and Raven changed roles. The show was even renamed to include Raven's real name.
After the next round of testing proved successful, Disney Channel put "Raven" on the air. It's now a very popular children's sitcom.
In the case of "Darcy's Wild Life," Rogow offered Sara Paxton the role of Darcy without an audition. He had worked with her on "Lizzie McGuire," and he knew her style. He wanted Darcy to be optimistic - a girl who could triumph over challenges and show audiences how to do the same. He felt Sara was perfect for the job. (See interview, right.)
"Darcy's Wild Life" is shot more like a movie, on location and in one big chunk. The cast and crew travel to a farm just outside Toronto. It takes longer to shoot this way because the environment can't be controlled as it would be on an indoor set.
The production team consists of directors, actors, producers (who do the writing), technicians, wardrobe and makeup artists, and chaperones. There are even teachers. During the school year, the young actors are required by law to spend three hours a day in classes. The teenage cast does this on the set.
The actors must learn their lines each night, rehearse, and perform the next day. It's hard work, but the kids have fun together, too.
Each episode is edited right after it is filmed. The soundtrack, including music and dialogue, is also put together. Then it's showtime! Five to six weeks may elapse between shooting an episode and the time it airs.
"That's So Raven" is taped more traditionally, in front of an audience in a set on a soundstage. The show typically shoots two days a week, with breaks to accommodate the children and their school schedules. "Raven" operates on more of a weekly schedule - with read-throughs of the script and rewrites early in the week, followed by rehearsals and tapings of shows. Episodes are edited weekly.
Although changes can still be made, these are the basics of how two shows are put together.
For Poryes, hearing his own child laugh during tapings of "That's So Raven" makes his work rewarding. "When you make a bunch of kids laugh, that's the best," he says. "That's my favorite thing in the world - to hear my kid laughing."
She's young, she's bright, and she's a rising star. But underneath it all, Sara Paxton is a normal teenager who says she has never been to a glamorous Hollywood party.
As the star of "Darcy's Wild Life," this animal-loving actress fits neatly with her character, Darcy, especially when it comes to having an optimistic outlook.
One difference is that Sara is 17, while her character is only 14.
"She's a lot more 'girlie' than I am, but I do identify with her," Sara says. "I don't wear so much pink, frilly stuff.... But I do try to stay positive and stay happy, even when things aren't going my way - like Darcy."
Sara usually spends the first five weeks of the school year in Canada shooting her show.
Then she continues to audition and act in other series and movies throughout the year. She had to find a school that would let her study on location. So she enrolled in a coed private school last year. Sara is a senior now.
"It was really hard when I was in public school," she says. "But the teachers at my new school are really helpful. They e-mail me assignments. And I have really good teachers [on location], who are experts in their fields. We spend three hours a day in class with them, and they keep us from falling behind."
Sara has appeared in movies, too - 12 feature films to be exact. She just spent last spring in Australia making a film called "Aquamarine," in which she plays a mermaid. It debuts next spring.
But acting is not all she wants from her career. "I would love to keep acting. But I want to produce and direct, and maybe have my own production company someday. That's why I'm going to college," she says.