THE MINDY PROJECT Director Michael Spiller on Telling Stories on a 'Gigantic Scale,' the Christmas Episode that Almost Wasn't, and the 'Very Big' Season Finale - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE MINDY PROJECT Director Michael Spiller on Telling Stories on a ‘Gigantic Scale,’ the Christmas Episode that Almost Wasn’t, and the ‘Very Big’ Season Finale

May 6, 2014 by  


THE MINDY PROJECT finishes up its very strong sophomore season with a very fitting season finale tonight at 9 PM on Fox. To get a little bit more insight into the wickedly funny series, I spoke with director Michael Spiller (who has directed more than a dozen episodes of THE MINDY PROJECT so far) about the working on the show, the scramble to complete the fabulous Christmas episode, tonight’s really big finale, and more…

You’ve directed dozens of different shows at this point in your career. What makes THE MINDY PROJECT different than the other projects you’ve been a part of?
Michael Spiller: Every show is its own animal, and the chemistry is made up of all the different people who contribute: who write, the crew, who act, and guest star on. I think THE MINDY PROJECT is different because it’s a little more cinematic than a lot of comedies: shooting scenes so we can cross cover it, shooting both sides, so the actors can improvise, and we can light it simply and get the funny, and move on. But then we balance it with big romantic set pieces, or an amazing location [at] a party on a Hollywood hotel rooftop pool, or the observation deck of the Empire State Building, or a music festival. We take a big bite, and tell small stories in a gigantic scale, and I think it’s really cool.

The other thing that makes it different is we have the creator of the show who is also the star of the show and the executive producer [in Mindy Kaling (Mindy)], and wearing so many hats, that she can’t possibly do it all. So we all have to support her that much more, and she’s amazing.

How has your approach changed in directing the show between seasons 1 and 2?
MS: Well, I think we’ve only gotten better at recognizing the things that tend to work on the show. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that in the heat of the moment, and once you start shooting the season, that wheel is turning, and it feels like there’s barely a chance to catch your breath. But as we’ve all grown more comfortable with what the show is, and the studio and network have been so amazingly supportive, it’s just made it easier to focus on the things we know work.

And I think Mindy feels more relaxed. And our writing room is so strong. And our cast and our crew are really having a lot of fun showing up to work every day and making the show. I think that’s probably the biggest difference between the two seasons. You get that vote of confidence, you get the renewal, and it’s like, “OK, we can take a deep breath now. We’re finding it.”

Because the writers’ room has been on top of it and we’re getting scripts earlier, we’re able to better produce [the episodes]. We’re able to better use our resources so that we can take those big swings that a lot of shows don’t get to do.

Since you guys have take some big chances for a television comedy, is there a particular episode you’re still surprised you were able to pull off in the amount of time you had to make it?
MS: I think the Christmas episode [“Christmas Party Sex Trap”], because not only was that an incredibly ambitious script to begin with, but Adam Pally (Peter) got very sick in the middle of the week that we were filming it, and we had to juggle our schedule and turn things upside down.

So all of a sudden, we were like, “We’re not shooting a scene in the doctors’ lounge, we’re going to go out to New York Street, which wasn’t [prepped for filming], and shoot a night exterior in the snow.” The crew was amazing. They pulled countless rabbits out of the hat. Some actors weren’t available when Adam was well, so we had to shoot half of a scene, or shoot someone else’s shoulder, and then shoot the rest of it. It was not easy. And there were fantasy scenes.

I love the episode, and I love the script, I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I hope — and think — that most people watching it would have no clue it was so chaotic at times behind the scenes.

Out of the episodes you’ve directed, do you have a favorite episode or episodes?
MS: I love [the Christmas episode], I love “Indian BBW,” which was almost the opposite end of the spectrum, because it was so simple in some ways: being able to intercut Mindy and Peter’s quest to get that sex tape back, and Danny in the hospital room was so much fun.

I’m [also] really, really proud of this season’s season finale. It’s a very big episode, it ties together a lot of stuff. We shot in New York  for a day. We built the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Again, big time stuff a lot of movies wouldn’t do. I’m really, really proud of it.

And speaking of tonight’s finale, come back to Give Me My Remote after the episode airs for more from Spiller!

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