Inside a barn, a squad of hair and makeup specialists, including some who previously worked on shows like "Boardwalk Empire" and Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera," prepared bit players to portray caterers, bartenders and guests at a wedding. They decided the powder I had applied for my "Squawk Box" appearance was adequate for my tiny role.
A van took me across the imposing estate to the main house that provided the backdrop to my scene. Not long ago, the property was used for shooting part of Woody Allen's 2013 film "Blue Jasmine."
Dozens of videographers, production assistants and crew members swarmed the driveway. The months-long shooting schedule for a show like "Alpha House" supports a large number of good-paying union jobs. One of the grips on set told me he got started by working on Allen's twice-yearly movie projects in the 1970s.
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The economics of the project reflect big shifts in the entertainment industry. The show is produced on a full-scale TV production budget, but not with the traditional financing model that relies on advertising revenue based on the show's ratings. It streams on the Internet through Amazon Prime, which uses its entertainment content to help retain Prime customers, who pay $99 per year for free shipping, among other benefits.
Garry Trudeau, creator of the iconic political comic strip "Doonesbury," sat in a director's chair pecking away at a laptop. The show, based on a real-life house on Capitol Hill where Sen. Chuck Schumer roomed with other politicians, is his brainchild. It uses cameo appearances by politicians like the New York Democrat and by broadcasters like Trudeau's wife, Jane Pauley, to lend versimilitude to its comedic plots.
Director Adam Bernstein, whose credits range from "Breaking Bad" to the "Love Shack" music video for the B-52s, darted around amiably in jeans, sneakers and a hat. He walked me through the pacing of my role, the duration of which was approximately 30 seconds. The actress Amy Sedaris, one of the stars, chatted up fellow cast members nearby.
I was playing myself, as a reporter seeking to interview a U.S. senator at a high-profile wedding. But another reporter with a different news agenda (fashion) blocked my path. She was played by the actress Evie Colbert, who in real life is married to late-night TV host Stephen Colbert.
We walked through the scene several times with the B-team (stand-ins for the main actors) so that Adam could set lighting and camera angles to his satisfaction. Then he and the A-team was ready.