“Conversations in L.A.” is the brainchild of creator Anne Marie Cummings. Following her drama education, she spent the next thirty years honing her craft as a regional theatre actress, Off-Broadway playwright, director, producer, as well as artistic director of her own theatre company in Upstate New York called The Readers’ Theatre of Ithaca. But things began to shift when Anne Marie moved her theatre company out of a black box theatre into a movie theatre where she began to screen a few of her plays in her first, and simplistic attempts, at the one-shot style. Her inspiration came from one-shot films such as “Birdman,” and the German film, “Victoria.” This was when she asked herself: “How can I create, in my own unique way, the exhilarating and continuous experience that actors have, on stage, but for television, since I’ve never seen that done before?” Her curiosity got the best of her so she sold her home, moved to L.A., studied screenwriting with award-winning TV writer Ron Osborn (“Moonlighting”), and then wrote a conversation between two characters as a one-shot episode. This was the start of “Conversations in L.A.”
Conversations in L.A.
Season One Trailer
Conversations in L.A.
Season Two Trailer
Conversations in L.A.
Season Three Trailer
CONVERSATIONS IN L.A. TRIVIA
One could say that Anne Marie was “winging it” as she wrote one episode, rehearsed and revised it, and filmed it, only to repeat this cycle for the next thirteen episodes in Season One. But here’s the trivia, the first season was a bit of trial and error because it wasn’t until mid-way into Season One that Anne Marie “found” the structure of “Conversations in L.A.”: one-shot episodes with two-minute montages (with cuts) as the intros and outros for each episode. So Anne Marie, cast, and crew, continued to the end of the first season and then Anne Marie re-wrote and re-directed the camera moves for the first half of Season One so that it matched the structure of the “found” second half. It should be noted that while some TV shows, (“FLEABAG,” as an example) break the fourth wall and a main character speaks directly to the viewer to divulge their secret thoughts, Anne Marie incorporated a different device into the framework – – having a few entire episodes where the main character, Gus Borrero, would be thinking and the audience would hear his private thoughts as he ate a meal at McDonalds or rode the Ferris wheel in Santa Monica. It should be noted that due to the trial and error of Season One, the length of episodes varied. Some of them ended up being 15 minutes in length (the majority) and others only five minutes.
Season Two was when the story broke out to incorporate new characters. And additionally, the structure was set for eight episodes that fell in the range of 25 to 30 minutes each. Season Two was written, in advance to filming, locations were secured, and actors were cast by Brett Banner and Debbie Romano. Furthermore, to take the burden off of Sebastian Heinrich, who was the DP, sound-recorder, and editor for almost all of Season One, Anne Marie brought Roland Andre-Miller on board to film Season Two. What drew Anne Marie to Roland’s work was his experience filming music videos. “One-shots require so much flexibility with the camera, given the way I liked them to be filmed, and Roland had a real nice handle on that and brought something interesting to Season Two,” said Cummings. The crew also expanded to incorporate additional sound mixers and gaffers, but everyone new to the production had to learn the structure for filming each one-shot episode which took one month to film. The reason? Everyone’s work schedules outside of filming “Conversations in L.A.” So in short, each episode was rehearsed between director-writer and actors for two, sometimes three weeks, and then rehearsed on location, with full crew, for three or four days prior to shoot day.
Season Three was a real labor of love for Anne Marie. She did an additional season primarily so that she could “master” her meticulously-plotted one-shot episodes and see if she could make the conversations and her highly choreographed camera moves even more exciting. Sebastian Heinrich returned as DP and remained the editor. A variety of sound mixers and gaffers were hired. A production manager came on board, and new casting directors, Christy Faison and Jami Rudofsky, cast this season bringing in well-known actors like Lou Diamond Phillips, Justin Kirk, Amy Pietz, and Willie Garson. Gustavo Velasquez who played Anne Marie’s co-star produced Season Three with her in order to make it the best season yet. “And it was,” said Cummings. “I can honestly say that we all did it this season! We took so many risks, and we really mastered this style as well. I am so proud of everyone and can say that this has been one of the most challenging projects of my life, so far!”