Jennifer Getzinger sat down with us for over an hour. In this segment, we discuss A Little Kiss, Orange is the New Black, Michael Ginzberg’s nipple, the job of script supervisor, and the influence of Darren Aronofsky. Here’s Part One and Part Two.
Deborah Lipp: You’re working with amazing ensembles. Now you’ve also done Orange is the New Black, which is my favorite thing on TV that is not Mad Men.
Jennifer Getzinger: Oh good!
Roberta Lipp: Are you going to be back?
[About rehearsing Zou Bisou Bisou] It’s funny, certain things I remember Matt doing, like the pointing thing she does, that was a Matt thing. He was like, “I want her to do this.” And my little thing was, I put in the thing where she puts her leg up on the ottoman.
JG: I don’t think I am. I didn’t do season 3 and I don’t think I’m going to do 4 either. Season 3 was kind of a scheduling thing. I really like and respect Jenji [Kohan, the OitNB creator]. She does a great job with that show. But I feel like she’s very fickle when it comes to directors. There’s directors who directed in season 1, and she didn’t want them season 2, and brought them back season 3. And so I’m just, maybe I’m just out of favor, I don’t know. Everyone there told me they were happy with my episode, and I was happy with it. I had a great time doing it.
RL: It’s a fun cast.
JG: You get to do these huge things with everybody in it, but then you get to do these great emotional, intimate things. That’s a fun show to do.
RL: I want to go back to A Little Kiss, specifically as a season opener. Any season opener, you’re [answering] our questions, filling us in. What’s this marriage like? Talk about some intimate stuff! The fight/sex scene at the end, can you talk about what Matt told you about this marriage. What are we here to learn?
JG: I remember talking a lot about the sex stuff, had to be really sexy in this raw way: slightly dangerous, slightly wrong, but definitely hot. In this way that is not marriage sex, the way you think of it, but is not so outrageous that it would turn you off. Let it have this real spark, this real fire going on that was opposite of his sex life with Betty. Polar opposite, this girl is not afraid of sex, she uses her body, she’s totally comfortable with exploring, she’s got the little French in her.
Luckily, Jessica was so fearless. That episode was such a huge episode for her. She started to get the bigger episodes towards the end of the season before, but it kind of amped up so quickly, but then that episode—that was the first two-hour premiere that we did—and it was so much her. She was just like, “Oh my God!”
RL: Zou Bisou went so viral, as you know, it was one of the most important moment on television. Who knew, right?
JG: Yeah. As much as there are so many things that are like, “Who knew?” I think we all kind of knew it was going to be spectacular. It just was so amazing. That’s why, the composer was the one who suggested we could put it on iTunes at midnight that night. We had goosebumps.
I got to go into the recording studio when she recorded—to sing it. We were all, “Oh my God, this is amazing,” just [from] doing the voice, and then we did it on set.
We had this great choreographer, Marianne Kellogg. She did the choreography for My Old Kentucky Home. That was great. She came down and we talked about the feel of it and they would just go work. These were days when I was prepping. I’d be running off doing something and they’d be like, “Oh, come on, they want to show you her version,” so we did that a couple of times. And then Matt went down and watched it.
It’s funny, certain things I remember Matt doing, like the pointing thing she does, that was a Matt thing. He was like, “I want her to do this.” And my little thing was, I put in the thing where she puts her leg up on the ottoman. We’re not dancers, we’re just adding these gestures that we think look sexy. But that’s what was great, was Marianne could put it in and make it just part of the dance. It was super fun and really exciting.
And then Janie [Bryant] made that dress! Janie kept going, “I have the dress! You’re not going to believe it!” And then when I saw it I was like, Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me! That’s so perfect!
RL: It’s so perfect.
JG: So that was really fun. And just to have all those people in Don’s apartment, just to have the whole cast there was really fun.
RL: And the band…
DL: And Stan’s cousin…
JG: The sailor. “Happy birthday Don!” That guy.
RL: I was left with, whatever this weirdness is, it is a marriage.
DL: The other thing that happened, we’ve interviewed Matt and he says he’s planting seeds for the season in his season openers. He was purposely foreshadowing Lane’s suicide in A Little Kiss. Were you in on that?
JG: No, but there was one line in there [Jennifer tries to think of it]
DL: Something about ‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life in this office’.
I was like, ‘I don’t need to shoot a close-up of this receptionist, right? I mean, who is this person?’ And a little bird told me “She’s the future Mrs. Draper.”
JG: Yes! That was the whole thing with the wallet. Yes, that was foreshadowing. I did know about that. Although it probably wasn’t Matt who told me. Sometimes things leak into my ears from other little birds. They maybe shouldn’t, but it’s helpful for me to know that!
It’s funny, there’s another little thing that leaked to me, speaking of Megan. In The Suitcase, there’s a scene where Peggy goes into the bathroom with Trudy, but before [that], there’s a receptionist in the bathroom, and she’s like, “Oh, it’s your birthday, how old are you?” And then she leaves. I was like, ‘I don’t need to shoot a close-up of this receptionist, right? I mean, who is this person?’ And a little bird told me “She’s the future Mrs. Draper.” I barely knew who Megan was at that point, so I was like, “Oh, okay, I’d better shoot a close-up.”
RL: It was the first time I really noticed her, so you did it.
JG: Someone needed to tell me that.
DL: It’s interesting that these things can slip past you.
JG: It’s not that someone forgot to tell me, it’s that they try to tell you only what you have to know, because we’re trying to be secretive. I know they’re not trying to be secretive from me, necessarily. They try not to give out more information than necessary, but sometimes there’s information that’s necessary. Like foreshadowing.
DL: Let’s look at The Runaways.
JG: The Runaways? You know what, I only did half of that episode. It ended up being Chris Manley, who is credited with that episode.
At this point, we ended up discovering that AMCtv.com has Jennifer Getzinger credited as the director on this episode, but the IMDb has Chris Manley. I corrected Basket of Kisses after we spoke.
JG: I started that episode and had to leave. I don’t even think of that as my episode anymore. It was right after my father had died and I was really sick. It was actually really nice. We’re such a family over there. They had moved the schedule around because my father had suddenly passed away, so they made it work that I could do an episode, but then I came in, only a few weeks later, and I wasn’t up for it. It affected me physically, to the point where the set doctor was like, ‘She has to stop working’. So Chris took over that shoot.
DL: There’s iconic moments in Mad Men. You’ve got The Suitcase, and then you’ve got Ginsberg’s nipple.
JG: [laughs]. Exactly.
DL: There’s got to be something specifically challenging about filming somebody’s break with reality.
JG: Yeah. Chris did the actual discovering the nipple scene, but I did the scene when he goes to [Peggy’s] apartment, and he’s really losing it, he’s freaking out. It’s tough because that arc of his, [Ben Feldman] loved it, he was totally embracing it, but it was one of those arcs we do that is a little crazy, really bold, and we’re just going to go for it. We had those shots when he’s paranoid at the computer, that’s what’s causing all this.
I loved the story line and I thought Ben did a great job. He just went for it.
RL: I want to ask you about [being a] script supervisor, and what that role is. And how did you transition?
JG: Script supervisor is in charge of the script on the set. You’re making sure all the actors say their lines correctly, you’re making sure you’re covering everything, meaning you’re getting enough shots for everything that happens in the script. You might want to remind the director, “Oh, we’ve got to get this moment here,” or sometimes if people are going too fast, they might forget a moment, and you’re like “It actually says they need to do this.” You end up working with the director a lot, and often you can get close with directors, which I did, because I always wanted to be a director. It’s why I was script supervising.
A lot of directors would take me under their wing, [with] me shadowing them. But I would definitely help them, covering their ass, I might make suggestions. But often they would talk to me about everything from how they would shoot the scene, to performance things.
You keep track of continuity, so you’re working with all the other departments, to make sure that the props and costumes are right, and the hair matches from the other scenes. And you’re keeping notes of everything you’re shooting, dealing with the camera and sound departments, just technically. And you’re dealing with editorial, because all of your notes go to editing. So you give notes of what you shot, sometimes of what the director says, of telling them, “Oh tell them to start with that shot,” or a dissolve between two shots, or “Tell them I like take 3, it’s the best performance, try to use as much as possible,” or whatever it is.
It’s such a great for learning because you’re so involved in so many different parts of the production.
It’s one of those things I did because I was like “That’s a great place to learn about directing. Maybe I’ll do that for a few years.” Well, of course a few years turned into fifteen years! You never think you’re going to do it that long. I learned so much.
I worked on a lot of great things with a lot of great directors. I worked with so many different directors. That was so helpful. It was a good lesson to me: There’s no one way to shoot anything. There’s no one answer for how you direct. I’ve worked with Darren Aronofsky on Requiem for a Dream, and I worked with David Frankel on The Devil Wears Prada. You couldn’t have two more polar opposite movies, and very different directors, but I think they both are great movies, and great directors. People who really knew what they were doing, and are really smart, and creative. Completely different in style!
And then working on Sex in the City for years, I worked with all those greats. I worked with Alan Taylor on Sex in the City, and that’s why I ended up on the Mad Men pilot. That’s how I got connected. I also did one episode of The Sopranos.
I did always want to be a director, so I did always ask a lot of questions. Trying not to drive directors crazy, but being involved, and really care and really learn. While I was in New York, script supervising, I took all these directing classes. I also did this AFI Directing Workshop for Women.
JG: It’s a really great program at AFI. They do it in the summers. They accept eight women every year, who want to be directors, who come from some kind of creative visual arts. The year I did it there was a casting director, a producer, a writer, me, a visual effects producer. People who came from all different parts of the business. Some years there’s been people not even so directly [involved]. Lesli Linka Glatter did one of the first classes they had, and she was a dancer and choreographer. Lesli was actually the person who told me about the program, and wrote me a recommendation. I knew Lesli from years ago, before Mad Men.
In the program, you make a short film. You apply with a script, and they put you through a mini-film school.
The program’s gotten even better now. They’re having their screening out here of the eight films that the women made this year, and Jill Soloway is the keynote speaker. Last year it was Kimberly Pierce. They’re getting really good people to support the program. I did a panel there last week.
I had done that program in 2005, so when I script supervised the Mad Men pilot in 2006, I was just getting the DVDs of the short film I made, so I was giving it to all the AMC executives, and to Matt, and to basically anyone who would take it. So it was like right from the start, everyone knew that I wanted to be a director and that’s where I was going. So when Matt wanted me to script supervise the series, we were talking about me directing right from the start.
RL: And what timing for you.
JG: It was so lucky!
RL: Is this a cheesy question? When did you have an idea how big [Mad Men] would be?
JG: Maybe some people had bigger ideas about it, but I swear, I almost think the whole first season, I did not know. Certainly could not foresee that it would become what it became. I would think, “Wow, this is really good” as it was going, but sometimes you’re in such a bubble. It felt so different. Some of what we were doing felt like a cable show, and its own thing, it felt like it could have a small niche audience.
Honestly, what it became? I never dreamed it would be this huge. It was like, it would be more cult. We didn’t really know that it have such broad appeal.
When it first started airing, I remember the New York Times review coming out, I remember all that stuff. You’d be like, “Oh my God, they like us! Oh my God, they like us!” I remember getting the call that we got picked up for season 2, and we were like OH MY GOD!
A week later, I got the call that I’d been approved to direct an episode. I was so excited. But we hadn’t won any awards yet. Even the Golden Globes hadn’t happened yet. Just great reviews.
It was such great timing for me. And it was Matt. He fought for me, he wanted me to do it, he believed in me. I think he felt like I got the show right from the beginning. He felt he was having too many other directors come in who were just directing a TV show the way they’d direct a TV show. And he’d be like, “No, no, no, this is different.” He was spending half the time telling them what not to do.
I know part of the reason he wanted me was because I had no agenda, I had no bag of tricks. I had no “this is what I always do” because I had never done it. I was a clean slate. He had confidence that I would know how to direct, and that I would listen to him. It was almost a perfect match. He wanted someone who was in that place. He didn’t want someone to come in and say “This is how I do TV,” and he’d be like, “I want someone to do my show, which is different.”
I always say, he kind of ruined me for all other shows. Because I want to do everything the way we do Mad Men, but not everything is Mad Men, so you can’t.
DL: He’s ruined watching TV too.
RL: Nothing is as good. But we’re going to wrap. You’ve been way more than generous with your time. Is there anything else you want to add?
JG: It sounds corny, but I’m very emotional about [The Forecast] airing, and about it being over. It totally changed my life. Creatively, and obviously there’s the family element, the people, all of that is hard to let go of. But the show has meant so much to me. I’m a huge fan of the show, and to be able to be a part of it, it’s very emotional. In a good way. I feel proud to have been a part of it. We’ll see what comes next. Luckily it’s put me in a great positions. I get really good offers. I’m doing an episode of the show Manhattan.
DL: Thank you sincerely for your contribution to a show that we love. You have directed some episodes that I cherish.
RL: That have broken our hearts. We’re fan.
DL: You’ve done beautiful work and we’re grateful for it.
JG: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thanks for wanting to talk.