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Shooting La La Land

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Misha Manson-Smith | 17:40 UK time, Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Gary Garner and a Hollywood agentDirector and Executive Producer of La La Land, Misha Manson-Smith, continues to explain how the show is put together - weaving the lives of three excruciating characters (all played by Marc Wootton) with the real people of LA and capturing the unpredictable directions in which it takes them.

In terms of how a shoot is prepared for, there's a lot of brainstorming involved. Rather than writing gags, it's more about Marc and I sitting with the other producers, like his long-term writing partner Liam Woodman, and working out a sequence of inherently funny situations that tell a story over an episode (and also tie into the series arc of the character) - if you can only come up with one good moment, it'll ultimately just be a sketch, and lots of ideas weren't filmed because they didn't pass that test.

The first episode is a little more sketch-like, as we found we had to favour talky scenes to set up why the characters are in LA. However from episode two on, you see each character play out a single relationship over the course of an episode, be that Shirley working with the PI, or Gary and his assistant Mina or Brendan and the climbers.

You also start to see a chain reaction of events from one episode to another, which is something we felt nobody else was attempting to do in this area. Part of what we wanted to do with this show was an elaborate experiment to see just how far you can get in Hollywood, despite being a total idiot.

For example, at the networking party in episode two, Gary meets some producers who invite him to their studio the following day to film a showreel. That's something that happened completely organically and we decided on the spur of the moment to cancel the stuff we had planned in favour of going out to the studio. Then we're up all night thinking about what we could do with this opportunity and came up with the idea that Gary would film a showreel using scripts based on his own life. Gary then takes his ridiculous showreel along to an agent who he hopes will represent him... which was a very funny scene in it's own right, but it's things like that give the show a sense of storylines being set up and paid off.

As much as shoots are planned for, this type of filmmaking is wildly unpredictable and it's often best just to roll with it, rather than force an agenda. Partly because it gives the show an edge that anything might happen next (it really can and does), but also because with an actor like Marc, most of the funny moments that end up on screen are the unexpected gems that come out of pure improvisation, as Marc has such a deep knowledge of his characters and inhabits them so completely.

La La Land continues on Tuesdays at 10.30pm on BBC Three. Read more about the making of La La Land.

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