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The making of Dallas

As a hit series, Dallas is essentially in production fifty-one weeks a year.

Behind the scenes on Dallas

The writers work alt year except for a week at Christmas; the actors have a hiatus between the first of April, when the filming season wraps, and the first of June, when they report to work at MGM-Lorimar studios to shoot interiors for the first six shows of the new season. Then they migrate to Dallas from mid-June to mid-August to shoot exteriors for twelve shows. While in Dallas, cast and crew work six days a week (Sundays are off); key producers and production personal with throw in an additional half day on Sunday as required.

Leonard Katzman with Victoria Principal and Patrick DuffyA new season officially starts the day after the old season, when Capice, Katzman and the Dallas creative staff sit down and say, "All right, this is where we ended, now where do we begin'?" The bible is worked out and new actors in supporting roles are signed. (One-shot actors will be cast as each script is developed.) "We differ from some of the other shows in casting," says Capice. "I think that other shows go after a big name and then create a part for that person to play and work it into the story. On Dallas, the story always comes first. We shy away from a big name actor who is best known for being himself. We want our audience to accept the actor as the character." When an actor is signed for multiple appearances (a minimum of seven shows), he does not know what will happen to his character in the story or how long he will be around. During the show’s developing years, it was not unusual for characters to be tried out. Both Dale Robertson and Howard Keel played suitors to Miss Ellie, but Robertson’s character disappeared into the sunset.

After the twelve-show bible is developed, each show will be plotted act by act and scene by scene. There will be approximately twenty-five scenes in each Dallas script, divided equally into four acts. The act climaxes are chosen as the story is developed orally. (Each act climax is a mini cliffhanger that serves to move the story toward a greater climax while allowing commercial breaks.)

A show traditionally takes seven "prep" days and seven "shoot" days. Although the prep days actually involve only the director and production personnel, the script has to be finished before they begin. Directors are contracted by the producer’s office on a show-by-show basis. Several directors have multiple deals (for two to six shows a season), but each episode is still assigned separately. Directors are paid the union minimum of approximately $16,800 for the fifteen days they work. They also receive residuals if the show is rerun or goes into syndication.

 

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