Jennifer Getzinger started with Mad Men as the script supervisor, and has been with the show from the pilot. In Season 2, she graduated to the director’s chair, and has been gifting us with some amazing episodes ever since. This week’s The Forecast is her last episode of Mad Men. We sat down with Jennifer on April 20, right after it aired. Part One of our interview covers The Forecast as well as one of Mad Men‘s greats, My Old Kentucky Home. Part Two will kick off with Jennifer’s most lauded episode, The Suitcase!
Note: Basketcase solves mystery! Read below for a movie name that slipped Ms. Getzinger’s mind…a mystery solved by one of our own.
Roberta Lipp: Congratulations for last night. [The Forecast] was killer. It was everything that makes Mad Men, Mad Men.
Jennifer Getzinger: Thank you. I was really happy with it. Usually the first time I watch an episode, even one that’s become my favorite, I never like it the first time. I’m seeing a cut that’s different from the cut that’s handed in, because Matt’s changed it. A lot of times I like the changes he’s made, but the first time you see it, it’s just, “Wait, what’s that? Why is that happening?” And there are flaws. But this time, because I shot it a year ago, I watched it and I loved it.
That might be the key to being able to appreciate your own work. Just wait a year.
RL: Thinking about the different creative things I’ve done, a year sounds right.
We don’t play everything every which way, but we try to do things at a few different levels. A good example is the real estate agent in The Forecast. That actress is very funny. And she came in and we were all cracking up hysterically in the casting room. The question became, do we want her to be funny?
JG: I just don’t remember what was hard and what was easy, it just looks like a good episode to me. A lot has happened in the past year.
RL: And congratulations on your [new infant] son.
Deborah Lipp: He’s beautiful!
JG: Oh, thank you. I hit the jackpot with him.
RL: So what kind of things does Matt change?
JG: It’s funny, a lot of times, the first time you see it, you think it’s a big change. And then watching a few weeks later, I’m like, “Wait a minute, what did he change?” At first it seems like a huge change, and then later it seems subtle. A lot of it is picking a different angle, a different performance, sometimes he’ll go for a different reading.
We don’t play everything every which way, but, actually mostly when it’s guest stars, we try to do things at a few different levels. A good example is the real estate agent in [The Forecast]. That actress is very funny. And she came in and we were all cracking up hysterically in the casting room. The question became, do we want her to be funny? We definitely did different levels, there are some really funny takes with her. And then it was like, that’s too much. The job with her was to try to get her not to be funny, because there’s a bit of a funny quality to her even when she’s playing it straight. Matt even said, “She’s just funny as a person, she doesn’t have to act funny”. That was something where we went for the really subtle takes.
That might be something Matt would change. He might be like, ‘No, I don’t want any jokes, she has to play it straight.’
Sometimes it’s just a different sequence of shots.
A big thing I always noticed in the beginning and I learned from him, how important it was, he’s putting in reaction shots, cutting to people who weren’t speaking. It’s very important to get these great moments with people who don’t necessarily have the lines. Other shows almost never cut to people when they’re not talking, if they’re not the main part of the drama of the moment.
RL: I’m thinking of the Sopranos. Gandolfini’s reactions were so important. I wonder if Matt got that there.
There are certain moments, when you’re having a meeting with Matt, he acts out the moment. ‘Cause it’s so specific, exactly what he wants a person to do physically. It’s always great, it’s always very entertaining when he does it.
JG: What’s tricky about Mad Men is Matt likes all the dialog played on-camera. Other shows they use a person’s reaction if it’s the person they’re talking to; sometimes they play over the reaction of the person they’re talking to, but they wouldn’t then cut to a third or fourth person sitting on the other side of the room watching. We do that, but the tricky thing is that Matt likes all the dialogue being on-camera, so when can I cut to that person? So you have to find moments when there’s pauses in the dialogue. Sometimes we overlap it a little bit.
RL: That’s going to affect how Deborah and I watch.
JG: I’m probably getting too technical.
DL: Definitely not—our readers are really focused on digging deep. And speaking of The Forecast, is it in any way inhibiting to direct the boss’s son?
JG: It really wasn’t. If anything, Matt is the dad. When Marten comes in, he’s his dad. He was nervous for Marten and wanted him to be okay. He was like, ‘I don’t want to hang around, it’s just going to make him nervous, but I want to come down and make sure he’s okay’. I’ve known Marten for years now. I feel like it was comfortable. It’s tough because Marten hasn’t really studied a lot of acting. I think he likes doing it [and has] grown into it. It still feels hard for him, though; he feels out of his element. But it’s not uncomfortable like…
DL: Like “Boss’s son”.
JG: Yeah. I think a lot of the reason he cast Marten is that he wanted Glen to have the speech pattern and awkwardness that Marten did when he auditioned. A lot time people are like, he’s awkward, but that’s what he wanted Glen [to] be.
RL: Matt from the beginning has talked about how he wants these kids to be real kids, so that really worked. The funniest thing that’s all over Twitter is that he’s Greg Brady.
JG: Oh my God, that’s hilarious!
DL: I want to ask about one of my all time favorite episodes, which is My Old Kentucky Home.
JG: Thank you! I love that episode.
RL: It’s brilliant.
JG: Thank you. That was actually the second episode that I directed. I was kind of overwhelmed because production-wise, it was so much bigger than what we were doing, especially at that stage. Things got bigger, but just to do that whole dance, and all those people and all those scenes, it was really involved.
I ended up loving that. Juxtaposing that with them smoking pot in the office, and then Joan having a dinner party at her house.
DL: And it was a musical!
RL: It was an incredibly pivotal episode.
DL: We had a writer on Basket of Kisses talk about how that episode was like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and when we saw Matt recently he said he wanted that, and I’m wondering, especially when you were filming at the country club, at the Derby Day party, if you were creating a sort of twilighty, sparkly atmosphere.
JG: I do remember that coming up, but there was a more specific movie that Matt had referenced when we were doing that. It’s an all-night party, an old black and white movie, that was more a reference. But A Midsummer Night’s Dream was more in the design and lighting aspect.
We tried to come up with the movie Matt referenced, but failed. Basketcase Sandra suggested the mystery movie might be La Notte, and Ms. Getzinger confirmed that yes, that’s it.
The other movie that was emotionally what it was like, sort of where you get to at the end of a party like that, that’s so loaded and has so much going on. We had those moments at the end, with Don and Betty, also there’s Roger and Jane dancing. There’s this mood we wanted for the end of the party. But the Midsummer Night’s Dream was definitely [part of] the aesthetic quality.
RL: Betty’s white dress, that was a spectacular costume. Where did that come from? Did you say “Get me a white dress”?
JG: I didn’t. It probably came out of the brilliant mind of Jane Bryant. I don’t remember it being something Matt asked for in particular, but yeah, it was perfect.
The whole thing with meeting Henry and touching…that lace is very, it’s perfect.
DL: That strikes me as something difficult to film, that one moment, “How do I play this as attraction without it being disgusting?”
JG: That was a really tough moment, and we were shooting at five o’clock in the morning. We had been shooting since one in the afternoon. Like, okay, and now let’s shoot the Betty meets Henry scene! It was a really, really long day. ‘Cause we did that whole Kentucky Derby in one day. And we ended up having to film a couple of other things and bring them back to the studio to do, just because it was insane, like you can’t shoot this whole party in one day. But we tried to! It was crazy.
We were doing that and it was really interesting. You know, there are certain moments, that when you’re having a meeting with Matt, he acts out the moment. ‘Cause it’s so specific, exactly what he wants a person to do physically. It’s always great, it’s always very entertaining when he does it. That one was really specific of what he wanted the moment to be.
But it was something that all of us were like, “Well, Matt—we completely understand that you want it to be this intimate kind of sensual moment, but you understand it’s weird, right?” And like, he did know it was weird, but he felt the sort of intimacy and the sort of boldness of coming up and doing that and the sincerity with which he did that would take away the weirdness. And I think for the most part it did. You weren’t like, “Ooh, who was that creepy guy!” I mean, you have to tell me what you thought, I think it still had a little bit of a strange [quality], but I do think the charm of it won out, which is what we were trying to do.
DL: Yes. Exactly.
RL: Yeah, I think so. I think it was how you knew it was something important, that he pulled off something creepy—I mean, Betty already had an established history, she already had a boyfriend that was eleven or eight—there was already a history of creepiness there—it definitely elevated it from creepy. It was the fact that it could have been creepy that made it intimate, somehow.
JG: Right. Good. That’s what we were going for. Like, that should have been strange, and way too boundary-crossing, yet it feels kind of okay in an odd way, and kind of sexy.
RL: You always have to account for the time. Women still struggle with “don’t touch my baby.”
DL: You don’t actually have a whole lot of agency when you’re pregnant. The world is not interested in your damn agency when you’re pregnant.
JG: Like, oh, big belly!
After we laughed over that, we segued into discussing The Suitcase, which will kick off Part Two of our interview.