Rail to Reel
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The cameras start rolling.
The plot: Public defenders and prosecutors battle wits in a TV pilot filmed by Warner Brothers.
The scene: Judiciary Square Metro station in downtown Washington.
The action: Scott Burdette (played by actor Lou Diamond Phillips), a contentious public defender, accosts a prosecutor as she steps off a train. She is charging his client, a small-time drug dealer, with murder. They argue. She storms off. He calls after her, a doughnut in one hand, an angry look on his face.
"STOP!" comes an order offstage.
The cameras abruptly halt.
But it's not the director screaming. It's the Metro rep.
"I yelled 'STOP!' You can't film that," said Taryn McNeil, who oversees film requests for Metro.
Phillips was eating a doughnut. His co-star was drinking coffee. As regular Metro riders know, eating and drinking are not allowed in the subway system. And anything not allowed in the system is not allowed to be shown in anything filmed there. The script had no mention of food. McNeil wasn't about to let ad-libbed eating sneak in.
The director was furious. " 'Who is this woman?' " McNeil recalled him shouting.
Directors love the distinctive look of Washington's subway -- its vaulted ceilings, long escalators and shiny trains with the "M" logo. But filmmakers hate Metro's rules: No eating, drinking or running. No jumping over fare gates. No shooting bad guys on the tracks. No exceptions.
With Metro, fiction meets reality, and reality wins. And McNeil is the person who makes sure of that.