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Angel by the Numbers

Friday 26 August 2011, by Webmaster

In May of 1999, I stood 6 feet, one inch tall and weighed almost 195 pounds, a good 20 pounds over my “fighting weight.” Back then I had sandy brown hair and blue eyes, my eyesight was 20/20 and my home phone number was xxx-xxx-8881. It was that phone that rang with an offer to work on an upcoming television series called Angel. (I had a cell phone but it rarely rang. Mostly because I rarely turned it on.) The show was a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV show I’d never seen and knew little about. Since the main character on Angel was in fact not a foxy actress but a man, and not only a man but a vampire (vampires mean lots of all-night shooting), it was with some trepidation that I accepted the position of Assistant Chief Lighting Technician (“Best Boy”). Since then, some pertinent numbers have accumulated.

I have worked on all 110 episodes of Angel. That’s 8 shooting days per episode for 22 episodes and 176 shooting days per season for 5 seasons, for a total of 880 shooting days. Add to that 80 prep days and 55 wrap days. Subtract 6 missed days, one due to illness and 5 just because I wanted a long weekend in Vegas or wine country, and that gives Angel and me 1,010 days together at an average of 13.5 paid hours per day. An average of 15.5 hours elapse from the time I drag myself out of bed to the time I crawl back in.

Since the start of Angel, I’ve had 5 offers to work on feature films, all within the first 2 seasons. All were enticing; all were turned down. The frantic pace of episodic television seemed to agree with me, as did the prospect of 9.5 months of steady employment. But who knew Angel would last? After the second season, the Director of Photography, Herbert Davis, decided to leave. When the new DP, Ross Berryman, was hired, he received recommendations from 2 people that he interview me for the vacant Chief Lighting Technician (“Gaffer”) position. Ross gave me one interview and my first chance in 15 years to be a Gaffer. I eagerly accepted.

As the Best Boy for seasons one and two, part of my job was to prepare sets for shooting and strike (or wrap) sets that were finished. Consequently, I rarely showed up on sets during the actual shooting. Not until I became the Gaffer and head of the Set Lighting department for season three, and took on the job of lighting the scenes, did I actually get to know the cast. Some of them didn’t realize I’d been working on the show all along.

Lighting the set can be a very physical job in any capacity. In 5 seasons, I’ve sustained 16 minor burns, 7 bruised shins, one pulled groin, 3 hairline fractures, 2 sprained necks, countless bouts of low-back pain, 2 cuts requiring stitches (only one was actually stitched), one separated shoulder, one dislocated collar bone, one serious concussion and 2 nasty hangovers. It should be noted that very few of these injuries occurred on the Angel set, and all were my own stupid fault.

My Set Lighting department used 1,560 dimmer channels throughout 4 Paramount Studios sound stages (5, 6, 7 and 17), and hundreds of lights of various types and wattages. The strongest light ever used was 100,000 watts; the weakest was 5 watts. Our Set Lighting crew consisted of one Gaffer, one Best Boy and 4 lighting technicians. Angel has had 2 Gaffers (one was me), 2 Best Boys (one was me) and 10 regular lighting technicians. There were 2 lighting technicians who voluntarily left the show, saving me the trouble of firing them (names available upon request).

Angel is produced and owned by Fox Television, airs on the Warner Bros. Network and is filmed primarily at Paramount Studios. Its highest weekly ratings rank was 85; its lowest 113.

A typical episode of Angel costs $x.x million (that number, I’m told, is privileged information) to produce, some of which goes to me. There are currently 12 producing credits on each episode: 7 executive producers, 2 supervising producers, one consulting producer, one co-producer and one producer, Kelly Manners. Lest these numbers fool you, make no mistake: Angel is produced by Kelly Manners. All x.x million dollars stop right on his desk.

At least 2 of the executive producers have never seen the set of Angel. A business deal signed at the outset of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer feature film gave these two a financial stake in all things Buffy. They’ve received credit and sizable checks for the duration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel for doing absolutely nothing. (Names furnished upon request.)

Angel has had 30 different directors and 22 different writers.

Each season has 2 First Assistant Directors, who alternately plan and schedule each episode. Angel has had 9 different First ADs.

Angel began with 3 main cast members, has had as many as 7 and will end with 6, and only one, David Boreanaz, will have appeared in all 110 episodes. He is the only cast member to direct an episode. D.B., as he is known on the set, grew up in Philadelphia, PA, near the mouth of the Schuylkill River. I grew up near the headwaters of the Schuylkill 97 miles away in the small town of Port Carbon, PA. D.B. and I are both fans of the Philadelphia Flyers and Eagles.

Three main characters have been killed off during the Angel saga (Doyle, Cordelia, Fred), one was transported (Connor), one came back in alien form (Fred), one died on Buffy and came back to haunt Angel (Spike) and one former cast member, Glenn Quinn, actually died. Several minor characters have been killed or vanished along the way (Kate, the Groosalugg, Darla, Drusilla, Eve, Lindsey, Lilah), and some have returned as story lines or contracts dictate. Death on Angel is just part of life.

In 5 seasons, 4 cast members have married. I found out D.B. got married after reading about it in the paper. Charisma Carpenter came to work one Monday morning and announced that she had married her boyfriend in Las Vegas over the weekend. Alexis married Allyson Hannigan, Buffy regular, early in season five and honeymooned in Tahiti. The beloved Amy Acker married her boyfriend between seasons four and five in Napa Valley. Approximately 3,700 hearts were broken that day, of which one was mine.

There have been 2 births. D.B. welcomed son Jaden; Charisma named her son Donavon. Much of Donavon’s gestation appears on season four of Angel.

For the character of Lorne, Andy Hallett has had to endure 4 hours of make-up—3 to apply, one to remove—241 times. Since becoming a cast regular he has purchased one Dodge Viper. He will not admit to any speeding tickets.

James Marsters has one black leather jacket. He has muffed only 4 lines of dialogue, all in rehearsal. He bears a scar over his left eye received in an altercation in New York some years ago. Details are sketchy. The scar is highlighted and accented with make-up for his character Spike. After Angel wraps, he plans to go back to his natural hair color as soon as he can remember what it is.

J. August Richards plans to grow his hair back.

The New York Yankees came from behind to win the 2003 ALCS and deny the Boston Red Sox a World Series appearance after D.B. put 7 “Shanshu” hexes on the TV we were watching in the lighting control booth. When I asked him how a Philly native could possibly root for any New York team, D.B. explained that as a boy his father took him to Yankee stadium for his first baseball game.

There were 4 conniption fits thrown by 4 producers the day Charisma Carpenter cut her hair without telling any of the aforementioned producers (names furnished upon request). I’d always thought she was sexier with long hair, though it took me 3 years to tell her that.

There were 2 occasions over 4 seasons that I’d worked up the nerve to ask Charisma out on a date. Both were foiled by the fact that 1) I already had a girlfriend, 2) she already had a boyfriend and 3) in the absence of the first two factors, I still would’ve never had the guts to ask her out.

There were 2 occasions that I wanted to ask Amy Acker out on a date. See above.

At any one time, there are 758 songs in J. August Richards’ heart (titles available upon request), one of which is usually emanating from his mouth in a silky voice whenever he’s not acting, eating or sleeping. I suspect he also sings in his sleep, but only his girlfriend knows for sure.

Two days of shooting were lost due to an ankle injury suffered by

D.B. doing a stunt in season one; zero shooting days were lost for his knee surgery during season five. Years of playing hockey had finally caught up with him.

Only part of one night of shooting was lost due to a severe cut suffered by Alexis Denisof at his home. Details are sketchy and Alexis isn’t talking. Some believe roses were involved.

Alexis did 12 takes of various angles high-kicking in dancing tights with Amy Acker (a classically trained ballet dancer) for an uproariously funny scene that was cut from “Waiting in the Wings” (A3-13). He did not require subsequent knee surgery.

A total of 18 minutes were lost because the entire cast could not stop laughing during their first rehearsal with the Angel Muppet.

I had never seen Andy Hallett’s face until the cast and crew party following season two. I didn’t recognize him until he spoke to me. There are 4 actors—Matthew James (Merl, who didn’t appreciate my comparing his makeup to an asparagus), David Denman (Skip, named after one of our writer/producers), Jack Conley (Sahjan) and Vladimir Kulich (The Beast)—whom I’ve never seen out of makeup and wouldn’t recognize if I saw them again.

James Marsters’ band Ghost of the Robot completely rocks.

Amy Acker has gained zero pounds since her debut on Angel.

There are 2 American-born cast members—James Marsters and Alexis Denisof—who affect English accents for their characters. Alexis studied in England; James studied in New York, but watched a lot of Monty Python.

I own the intellectual copyright for the “GunnLight.” The Gunn-Light is a light specifically adapted, placed and trimmed to highlight the delicately rough countenance of the character Charles Gunn. It never fails to bring an excited smile to J.’s face. Due to my development of the GunnLight, J. has graciously forgiven me the 82 points he lost in a computer Scrabble game because I gave him a misspelled word (word available upon request).

I loaned Alexis Denisof 12 lights and 6 different colors of gel to decorate his front yard for Halloween. He claimed that, in his neighborhood, not decorating was grounds for a thorough T.P.ing.

There was one serious fire on an unoccupied set (Cordy’s apartment) that was quickly extinguished by 4 alert crew members. Its cause is still unknown. No one blamed Phantom Dennis.

Producer Kelly Manners has chewed 7,208 pieces of Nicorette and nearly that many rear-ends. He still sneaks the occasional cigarette.

Director of Photography Ross Berryman has raised his voice in anger or frustration zero times over the 66 episodes he has shot, despite at least 264 valid reasons for doing so, many of which were provided by me.

Production Designer Stuart Blatt created a Kelly Manners bobble-head doll and has managed to sneak it into 6 episodes. The doll has also traveled extensively. There has been one attempted doll-napping.

Stunt Coordinator and Angel stunt double Mike Masa has suffered zero serious injuries during his five seasons of bouncing off walls, falling off buildings, running through fire, crashing though glass and getting beaten up, blown up, chewed up, impaled and mutilated. He admits to several bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, headaches and one hairline fracture.

Special Effects Coordinator Mike Gaspar has blown up 2 buildings, one mine shaft and one car. He has made walls bleed, swords fly, glasses float, cars drop, flames spout, rain fall, heads tumble, sparks fly, bullets hit and blood splatter.

Property Master Robert Anderson estimates upwards of 475 swords, daggers, dirks, knives, crossbows, guns, stakes and various other implements of torture have been used on Angel.

Construction Coordinator Ted Wilson has used the same 4 walls to create 7 different sets 6 times. He currently owns 42 various types of saws.

Head Make-up Artist Dayne Johnson has created 57 styles of demons and countless cuts, gashes, boils, warts, horns, protuberances and crooked noses. He also shoots skeet with deadly accuracy, a fact not lost on the occasionally cranky actor.

My girlfriend Heidi Strickler has been a lighting stand-in for 2 main characters (Fred, Spike), 6 minor characters (Kate, Eve, Harmony, Darla, Faith, Lilah) and 16 demons. She has appeared on screen 7 times, once as a mother being protected by Angel (and subsequently eaten by Darla) in “Darla” (A2-7). Her car has appeared (parked and moving) in 19 episodes. She has used my car in 22 more. She has refused my offer of marriage 3 times. I stopped asking after season three.

Camera Assistant Adam Ward won $4,200 in the Christmas party money pool during season three and $10,000 on a Super Bowl bet placed in Las Vegas while shooting “The House Always Wins” (A4-3). He then built an addition to his house.

Best Boy Jerry Mandley has covered my mistakes and made me seem more efficient than I really am 86 times. He has brewed 475 pots of coffee and crafted 331 cappuccinos, most of which I drank. He has 3 beautiful daughters and has to travel 475 feet to go surfing.

Lighting Technician Ray Ortega travels 862 miles from his home in Santa Fe, NM, to work on Angel and lives in Santa Monica, CA, during the season. When asked if the time away from his wife and home were hard, he replied, “It’s harder being broke.”

The 7 regular members of my lighting crew—Jerry Mandley, Carlos Torres, Ray Ortega, Tom McGough, Matt Little, Jason Beck and Jeff Noble—have a combined 14 irritating quirks and 26 annoying idiosyncrasies. (Various behaviors available upon request.)

In addition to 204 quirks and idiosyncrasies (available upon request), I have 64 pet peeves, but my crew (see above) will claim at least double that. They tolerate all of them.

There have been 6,703 gallons of coffee consumed on the set of Angel.

There are 17 people working on Angel that I hope I never see again (names available upon request).

There are at least 17 people working on Angel who probably hope they never see me again.

The entire cast and crew of Angel did not miss the irony of the WB Network discontinuing our vampire show to make room for another vampire show (Dark Shadows).

Over 110 episodes, I have been given 5 nifty Angel crew jackets, 6 Angel sweatshirts, 11 Angel caps, 2 hats, one bathrobe, 17 T-shirts of various styles and descriptions, DVD sets of seasons one, two and three, one Angel tote bag with water bottle and blanket, one bottle of “Vampire” wine with 2 “100 Episodes of Angel” wine glasses, one Angel action figure, 3 calendars, 6 comic books, 2 Swiss Army Knives (one was confiscated at the Burbank Airport) and one red bandanna. The jackets have never been worn and still have the tags on them; if they show up on eBay someday, it means I needed to make the mortgage payment.

I have 342 versions of Angel scripts, most with lighting notes scribbled on them. I’m told they’ll be worth a lot of money someday should it ever become legal to sell them.

I have won one first prize (one drink and 6 chicken wings) for best “Ho” costume at J. August Richards’ “Pimps and Hos” birthday party. Photos exist. I fear they may someday derail my aspirations for public office.

I have read 132 books since the start of Angel (titles available upon request).

The Set Lighting crew has worked very hard to place and power 991 lights of various sizes only to have me tell them to turn the lights off or move them somewhere else. They have also completed 2,105 crossword puzzles.

I have approximately 1,116 fond memories of my time on Angel and about 42 not-so-fond ones.

I owe Director of Photography Ross Berryman 1,000 thanks for the opportunity he gave me and I beg 1,000 pardons for the mistakes I made that he patiently endured.

There is one Joss Whedon.

There is one David Greenwalt.

There are approximately 4.5 million devoted Angel fans in the United States, and double that worldwide.

In April of 2004, I still stand 6 feet, one inch tall, but I now weigh 178 pounds and am closing in on my “fighting weight.” I still have sandy brown hair (though with considerably more gray) and blue eyes. My eyesight has deteriorated to somewhere around 20/60 (I like to blame staring into bright lights, but it’s probably just age). My home phone number is still xxx-xxx-8881. (I still don’t turn my cell phone on much.) The chances of a call to that number offering me a chance to work on a new episodic TV series starring 6 talented actors, with one fantastic producer and one incredible Director of Photography that will last 5 seasons and 110 episodes are approximately 12,721 to one. But I still hope.

(It should be noted that many of the preceding numbers are estimates, guesses, stabs in the dark or just plain wrong. Inaccuracies available upon request.) CODA

Six A.M., just out of the shower and ready to crawl into bed. After 5 seasons, 110 episodes, 1,010 days, 9 hours in a dank alley in downtown L.A. in the pissing rain and grown men hugging and crying . . . it’s over.

Angel is finished.

I hope I can sleep.