Thursday, March 13, 2014

The "Abby" is Up - That's a Wrap on Mr. Singer

""In television, we would make maybe five or six moves during the day — going from one set to another, or from one stage to another. Or we'd move from the back lot to a stage. I would say, 'Fellas, we'll do this [shot] and one more and then we're moving.' This would give the crew a chance to begin wrapping up their equipment or to call transportation for gurneys, so they'd be ready to get out quickly... I did it really to save time for the director. If we did it during the day, I could save 10 to 15 minutes each time we had to move. I could give the director another hour a day of shooting." - Abby Singer

Anyone who has been a 1st Assistant Director, a position I have been blessed to have filled, has called "the Abby."

Here is how it is normally explained to AD's: "Abby Singer was this AD who called the last shot (the martini) too soon.

Abby Singer passed away Thursday at the age of 96. Variety shares this obituary, which I encourage any production person to check out.

In fact, Abby Singer was not some hack who called the "martini" (the last shot of the day) too early, which is how it is normally explained to newbies.

He was a pro who spent many of his years as a Unit Production Manager for MTM (Mary Tyler Moore Productions), which means he was the UPM and later production exec on my favorite television show of all time ("St. Elsewhere") and such classic television as "Hill Street Blues", "Lou Grant" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." If you are a millennial and too young to remember these shows - they cut a large swath that laid the ground for the shows you love today, in an environment that was nowhere near as accepting.

In 1985, he was awarded the Frank Capra Achievement Award, reserved by the DGA for assistant directors and unit production managers/

It is a bit ironic that I just posted about "the Abby" in a post on Sarah Jones - and why I did not want the first shot called "the Jonesy."

The way these things work, years later, only a faint memory and some lore lives on. I think both Abby Singer and Sarah Jones deserve better.

Abby Singer's death comes at an odd time for me. Today. the day of his death, is my Mom's 93rd birthday. I do not need reminders of my Mom's limited years remaining.

It is also less than a week after the death of a female monk who I greatly respected, who showed nothing but strength up until her last year and who I have still failed to find the words to honor. My apologies, Kaijun.

The film business, especially the production side, is, as my long-time First AD Brian said recently, a "young man's game." With every job, I wonder if the job has passed me by, and, with every job, I work my hardest to keep up with a game whose rules change as we speak.

We all owe a legacy to those who came before us. No one can say they have not learned from an elder, from camera to grip to production.

I never met Abby Singer, though I, like most AD's, used his name - sometimes in vain.

The Buddhist tradition is to offer a poem on the passing of someone who has touched us. Though I write this blog, and have written some screenplays. poems are, well, not my strong point.

All I can offer is this:

The "Abby" is up, the martini can not be far behind;
The end of the day nears. but there is still work to be done;
Leave that work for us, Abby Singer,
As you have earned this "martini,"
No more "one mores," no more companies, no more moves;
To those of us who have finally crossed out that last shot at the end of the day,
The one that meant we could all go home,
We take this moment to bow to you.
Take off the headset., take off the walkie;
That's a wrap on Abby Singer.
Enjoy your send-off*; you've earned it.

*When an actor is wrapped, the AD will often do a "send-off," reminding the crew that it is a 'picture wrap on (so-and-so).' Figured Abby deserved that.

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