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Dallas back stage

Linda Gray on location in DallasA 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.

At the production meeting before shooting, the director will run through each scene and explain to the heads of departments – props, costumes, sets, and so forth – just how he envisions each scene. After the meeting, department heads will work up their budgets for the show. The producers and budget director will then decide if the director’s version is "doable." The experienced director will ask only for things he knows can he covered in the budget (about $1 million an episode) and knows how to keep cast and crew in good spirits through the pace of the grind. The job is technically, physically, and politically demanding.

"If a writer makes a mistake, we can fix it," says Katzman. "For the director, once you have the film, you don’t get another chance. If it's not there, there's nothing we can do."

Because a show takes seven days to shoot, it can become difficult to tell when Patrick Duffy and Priscilla Presley on the Dallas setone show is over and another begins. Every Monday does not bring a new episode. The changing faces of the directors are about all that varies in the grueling schedule. While each show has a title, the title is never broadcast and is merely a reference point for writers. Cast and crew refer to shows by their numbers in the sequence of each year – they do not keep a running tab.

After the Texas shooting, additional episodes are shot on the lot or in the Los Angeles area. The cast and some crew members may return to Dallas for certain night shots or stunt shots. For the show in which Sue Ellen and Mickey Trotter were involved in a car accident in front of Southfork, for example, some of the cast and crew returned to the scene of the crime, and additional local crew were added on. For the excursion to Hong Kong, Len Katzman accompanied Linda Gray and Victoria Principal, and used a local crew for most of the technical work. Some location scenes that are meant to be in Dallas are shot in Los Angeles – Lorimar leases a ranch (J.M.J.) in Hidden Hills, California, that doubles as the back prairie of Southfork. Restaurant scenes can tie shot in nearly any area restaurant or on a soundstage. Patricia Shepard's home exists not in the posh Dallas suburb of Turtle Creek, but in Hancock Park, a wealthy residential area of Los Angeles. The Oil Baron’s Club is a standing set on Stage 5 at MGM.

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