When you have Steve Martin and Martin Short together hosting “Saturday Night Live,” it’s kind of hard to pass up an opportunity to do a “Father of the Bride” sketch — so the long-running NBC show didn’t. But according to director Liz Patrick, that homage went through a whole lot of changes. You can watch it in the video above.
Patrick, who is nominated for her first solo Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for her work on the duo-hosted episode, took over directing duties from Don Roy King for Season 48, after previously working alongside him on the show.
And though Patrick admits she was “a little” nervous about working with some of her personal comedy heroes for the episode, she was excited more than anything else. The real hurdle came in the technical execution of it.
“Originally it was like, ‘Oh, we almost want to look like a different room for each setup.’ And then as the creative process evolved on that one, we were like, ‘Well, you know what? Let’s just make it one set, like a giant living room with different areas,'” Patrick recalled to TheWrap.
She noted that she ended up bringing in a steadicam to get the shots they needed, but not because they needed a steadicam specifically. They just needed a camera that could get in and get set up quickly, considering the speed of the show.
“We only had five to 10 seconds, between — or, not even 10 seconds, we had, like, five to eight seconds before the next vignette started,” she explained. “So I tucked [the cameraman] up in the corner to try to get them out a window and then I had them turned around and we’d shoot in the other direction. So it was just trying to make best use of that space.”
Even with all that preparation of angles, things sometimes need to adjust rapidly on “SNL.”
“The hardest thing about that sketch was, I believe it changed between dress rehearsal and air,” Patrick explained. “The writers go over the changes with the cast and host in between shows, because often it’s happening as the show is starting, those changes are being relayed to them. And it’s just getting everyone to remember what mark they need to be on for that vignette.”
Of course, even with seasoned actors, things don’t always play out perfectly.
“[In] one of them, people ended up on the wrong marks, and I was like, ‘OK,'” she recalled with a laugh. “‘Hopefully this works!’ Let’s make it work, right? And you know, the coverage changed a little bit, but that’s live television, you got to figure it out.”
Really, that’s what Patrick loves most about live television: “It’s controlled chaos.”
“I’ve never been afraid of live,” she admitted. “In some ways, it’s almost — we used to joke around that it’s easier, because you never have to do anything over again!”
Before she came to “SNL,” Patrick started directing live television at MTV and later worked as the director of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for 13 seasons. Granted, she knew “Saturday Night Live” would be a different beast.
“Coming to ‘SNL,’ I mean, it’s a high-speed train. It’s a show on steroids,” she said. “Those are things I’ve said before, where it’s just this huge, huge event, but it’s an adrenaline rush! I think I thrive in some of that chaos, and I’m not afraid of it. So I’m grateful for the opportunity beforehand to set me up for this.”
Of course, Patrick also has a strong bench to back her up, and she’s the first one to sing their praises. As director of the show, she works closely with each of its departments, from the writers to the cast, production designers, camera crew and more.
Patrick is present at the Monday pitch meetings, wherein the writers throw out sketch ideas and get to know that week’s host. Tuesday is meant for writing — “and I’m just in awe of what they create,” Patrick adds. The rest of the week is spent planning, building and adjusting. In short, there are a lot of meetings, and a whole lot more juggling.
But always, Patrick noted, there’s a team there to back up or help elevate her vision.
“I’ll come in with a plan of where we want to start, and then we evolve and we change together,” she said. “You’re only as good as your team and the people around you, and they’re so much fun to work with. I have so much fun with the cast, and I enjoy the writers. It’s been such a great experience.”
Naturally, Patrick is eager to get back into that experience after the WGA and SAG strikes end, and is hopeful that “SNL” could be among the shows that ramp up again almost immediately.
“I don’t want to speak as as the voice of ‘SNL,’ but I will say, from my perspective of it all, as soon as the strikes are resolved, I think we are the type of show that literally, if we know by Monday or Tuesday — or, hopefully Monday, just to give to the writers Tuesday — we just turn the lights on and we go,” she said.
“I’m sure there’s more details, and there’s more scheduling and all that, but I think we are hopeful at some point that it’ll all be resolved,” she continued. “And we’re looking forward to getting back in there. For us, we’re on summer hiatus, so we’ve already planned this time off. So hopefully, yeah, we’ll see what happens, but I think we’re a light switch production.”