"Soprano" 20 years ago and I was an infiltrator in an episode – Observer

adminJanuary 10, 2019

It has been 20 years since the world's most famous mafia family (perhaps on a par with Corleone, but there is no security) debuted on the HBO cable channel on January 10, 1999, an event considered to be the point of turning to the advent of the so-called Golden Age of Television. Even though I lived in New York at that time, I didn't see the show soon. I had no television at home and had not even seen an episode of "The Sopranos" when I met two of the actors in the series – Michael Imperioli and Johny Ventimiglia – through Bruno de Almeida, who then prepared a movie with both "On Run").

And it was far from believing that one day I would infiltrate myself, not into the New Jersey mob, but into the Silvercup studios in Queens, where I played as an extra feature in a sequel to the fifth episode of season two – When I entered the Screen Actors Guild (through a voice-over job I did in Portuguese) and took advantage of winning a few changes as a bonus in productions made in NY. So, although I was a writer and director at the beginning of my career but hiding this facet and limiting myself to the role of extras, it was a great opportunity to spend a day watching and working on the movie of what that would be recognized, consensually, as one of the best series ever.

That guy out there in his shirt and glasses? No more: Artur Ribeiro, in the episode "Big Girls Do Not Cry"

In the episode "Big Girls Do Not Cry", the character Christopher (Michael Imperioli), who, in addition to his ambition to climb the structure of the mafia organization, also has creative ambitions, namely to write for films, will do workshops for writers. Well, not even on purpose, I was called to become one of Chris Moltisanti's "colleagues". In addition, since it was the same height as the actor who played one of the main roles of this mini-plot, I also entered repetitions and metering – and then I was a true infiltrator, from a privileged point of view to director Tim Van Patten's work with a photographer Phil Abraham, who serves as a guinea pig to prepare the scene.

The day started badly for production, but good for extras – when he was a member of the actors' association (SAG), made a hundred bucks a day for 8 hours of work, and all overtime was paid and also. If we went into overtime on the movies, it was thanks to Tony Sopran / James Gandolfini, who had been called too early to shoot some scenes in the office of Dr. Melfi, the psychologist who ran the biggest of all mobsters.

[Assim começavam todos os episódios de “Os Sopranos”:]

When the team started the day after our sequel, after an actor's anger, they changed the order of the movie and went to shoot the scenes first in the office. In this way, all the extras hoped for a delay that would translate into a few dollars more at the end of the day. In my role as an "infiltrator" I could not help feeling in inner conflict.

As a filmmaker, I know the stress of going into overtime (and production costs) and even though in this case I also get more, I felt a strong conscience because I understood the production side very well: to have to stop all the preparations that were made to cater to the actors' whim. Still, I also noticed the side of Gandolfini, it was obvious that the calls from the service sheet were not well made (after all, dear colleagues and Portuguese actors, it is not only here where the staff complains about the service leaving …). But at lunchtime, next to Tony Soprano in the canteen, I can assure you that he was already very well-functioning and showed good appetite, and we arrived at the end of the day without anyone breaking the broken joints (at least, leaving the police know …).

Why is it that "The Sopranos" is still today an inevitable reference for those watching or making television? It is certainly not of my modest participation, of course. And unlike many of my friends and co-authors and filmmakers, I don't have a very fanatical and enthusiastic affection for the series (but I'm also the guy who didn't pass the fourth episode "Breaking Bad" …), no doubt, "The Sopranos" one of the best TV shows ever. But I saw it later (on DVD), I didn't feel the same excitement that would have left anyone who eventually got tired of the TV standard, especially the open signal channels, and had this giant of Tony Sopran, and by changing the paradigm and the measurement values ​​between television and film, forever and ever.

[Entrevista de 2001 com David Chase:]

And the key issue, in this case, is really cinema. It is well known that the creator of the series, David Chase, had to make movies and the frustration he felt, after nearly two decades on television, always with the dream of moving to the other side. Although it seems so distant today, television was a minor art at that time – movie stars refused to work on the small screen, and if they accepted it, it was a sign that they were already shooting stars and the same for filmmakers and scriptwriters. So when Chase finally had green cards from HBO leaders to do something that had never been done – or maybe even done – on an open channel, he changed all his willingness to make films for the episodes in this series that. As he said, he wanted to make a movie a week.

The result is undeniable. After "The Sopranos" we began to watch television, filmmakers, film actors and film actors, attracted by this "serialization format" of a story – began to distinguish in the TV series characterization, among which is episodic series, series of closed episodes, which can be seen in order, without continuity, namely procedural (criminal series), and series, a story with a larger arc being told in episodes of continuity, such as soap operas, or telenovelas, with the fame associated with the format. Although "The Sopranos" was not the first such series, it definitely changed the paradigm, and today the format of most of the hit series, especially in the new forms of display in streaming and binge watching.

[Excerto de uma entrevista com James Gandolfini:]

At the bottom is why this format has become appealing, for as many creators as for the actors coming from the cinema, it is, unlike the feature films, that need a lot of narrative economy, synthetic power in dramaturgy and a narrative arc within two hours of length on television, writers can develop and dive their characters more extensively, with time, in a way closer to the literature – which, from the actor's point of view, also translates into a larger exploration site in the construction and growth of the sign.

If the premise of "The Sopranos" was not possible in an open signal channel because of violence, language or nudity, these elements did not make the series a worldwide success and remain unforgettable today. A series that apparently is about New Jersey mafia, turns out to be much more than that. Chase created a microcosm that, while perfectionist in the details of the society it portrays, is universal in humanity, which is exposed and amplified through the seven seasons, in family relationships, in the inner conflicts of the character, in social analysis, but also in humor, irreverence and even moments of almost pure delirium (To keep a story like this, living in seven seasons requires an unusual creativity, but also against knowing when it ends – and the end of the series is still being discussed about the meaning and meaning).

[A cena final de “Os Sopranos”. Se nunca viu a série, não carregue no play:]

On the other hand, if TV actors often enjoy playing the "villain" because they have more levels and nuances of emotional and dramatic exploration than the "good," we at Tony Soprano have an anti-hero that incorporates all the shadows into one antagonist, but mankind, the weaknesses and challenges of a protagonist. Tony Sopran opened the door to the success of a wide variety of anti-heroes, even though he is still the most reputable and beloved, just rivaling, perhaps with Walter White, "Breaking Bad", who personally did not find the same affinity or empathy.

When I return to my experience, now no longer as an extra, but as a writer, I believe that, like all my colleagues, I have a feeling of great gratitude towards David Chase, because with the success of Sopranos, author series, as he himself how showrunner, ironic in all its creative aspects – from casting to production and performance – tled to a huge prestige and greater emphasis on the character of the author, on television, as opposed to the cinema, where the director's figure is undeniable as a writer and the actor is often not even welcomed at the film site. I can only quote an episode featured in a 2007 Vanity Fair article: An actor approached Chase with what many actors often say, "My character wouldn't say this!" Replied Chase: "Who told you the character is yours? "As the screenwriter Adi Hasak said," Cinema is a cemetery for writers. " So on behalf of all writers, thank you David Chase and congratulate Sopran's family.

Artur Ribeiro is an actor and director.

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