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« A Little Piece of God | Main | Wires To Wings »
Sunday
May122013

An Open Letter from a "Nashville" Widow

I probably shouldn't be writing this. I have always prided my tight lips after a steamy episode of pillow talk. Too many things happen during my husband's day that could easily end up in The Enquirer.

Ten months ago, he began working on a brand new show. It was hot. But not in Cleveland. It was in Nashville. The last time I hit Music City was as a young and struggling songwriter who couldn't catch a break. Now we sat atop my favorite skyline, complete with the Batman Building. (It's not really Batman's, it just looks like Batman.) My husband was tapped as Production Supervisor of the most touted new show on television, "Nashville" on ABC, written by Oscar-winning Callie Khouri of Thelma and Louise.

With our family based in Los Angeles, the experience of being bi-coastal sounded romantic. And it was for a while. Until my spine blew its horn. Horns aren't allowed in Music City. Then I witnessed how hard the crew worked. The 14-20 hour days with an unrelenting schedule due to issues beyond their control. (I have since been corrected by my husband that he rarely worked twenty-hour days. Nineteen, yes.) My husband, Don, was the Production Supervisor. Every square-inch of every set, location, stage, is because of a dedicated team led in part by him. Until yesterday. You know you've made it in Hollywood when a studio replaces your team, and doesn't even bother to call.


We have always been fortunate. In a business where many rarely find work, the work has always found my husband. Because Don is good. He is real. He will never tell you what you want to hear when fifty million dollars is at stake. He will tell you what you need to hear. And that's why he is unique. He does not schmooze anyone. Networking is not his thing. His thing is family. He lives for stolen moments, when he kisses his children on the top of their heads and holds me in his arms. Because these moments are his fuel. For working days when lunch comes at midnight.

Season One of "Nashville" was a blessing. One of my dear friends, Judith Hoag, was coincidentally cast as Connie Briton's sister Tandy, so it was a special event in my life on a personal level.
The show itself faced challenges. Nashville was a town unrigged for the immediacy of needs by television series. Lionsgate had never done a 'network series'. It had a star who worried, a creator who cared so much it broke his heart, a community that was filled with pride, a small cafe with bluebirds became famous overnight, and in this mix a life on the crew was almost lost. It happened during a string of endless and exhausting shooting days. This is not new to production, but a string of delayed scripts and tripping storylines kept everyone on edge. Then one of our crew lost his footing while rigging for a huge arena shoot at The Bridgestone. He fell twenty feet. And almost died. So he could make a living.

I met Don when he was an accountant on a small untested pilot called "Arrested Development". He had a vision for his future, to work his way up the ladder. Don doesn't say much that doesn't happen. Like the night we sat at Puckett's in Franklin and he shared his concern for a show that could lose its way if it wasn't careful, if certain certain people would only care more. Livlihoods were compromised by the shuffling of decisions back in Los Angeles. Decisions made by men and women in suits behind desks who didn't know the right questions to ask.

Don has already looking at other shows, some closer to home, so I can fold into his arms more often. I am writing this because something needs to change in an industry. It is a cliche. But cliches exist because something is said so often that it begins to lose its affect. Bringing good stories to life was and is a dream for so many young people who reach for the stars, only to realize the Heavens were moved to another location. And humanity has been lost.

Why aren't shooting hours regulated, so men don't fall from the sky? Why is it that some seem incapable of caring about people as much as their numbers? Because in the end, we are all trying to experience something real. Even if it's only make believe.

The studios will argue they must shoot long hours because of their budget, the deadlines, the people that call them at midnight. The reality is, nothing is important when the humanity in the process is lost. When the writer's hands are tied. And when the very people who broke their backs to create something special were never even told they were being replaced. Not a phone call or a thank you for all they had done. I am so tired of seeing the emotional toll the industry takes on so many who work so hard. I do not begrudge Lionsgate for its decision to make changes, I am just saddened in how they did it and even moreso by the fact that this is the norm. Everyone moves on, but it's how we are let go that makes the experience that was, worth-while.

This is for the men and women who now may not know where their next job will be. You are appreciated more than you will ever know. You made this show possible through excruciating days that turned into nights that turned into days. When lunch was at midnight. And you still smiled. You made it happen. And you made something good. So good, it is getting a second chance for the world to see what you made possible.

Most of all, thank you to Callie Khouri. Upon hearing of the news, and how things were handled, she called. She made him smile because she told him he mattered. She shared in the loss because he will be missed. And she reminded me, a production wife, that there are good people in this industry who truly do wish that they could make it different.

This is a love letter to "Nashville" and the city we have grown to call our own. Tootsies, The Loveless, The Bluebird Cafe. We will miss you for now, but will return to love you more than we ever could before - because we will have time - all the way to the top of the Batman Building.

 

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