Thursday, June 07, 2007

Great moments in Ledger/Sopranos history

Inspired by my buddy Phil, here's a little pictorial ode to the odd relationship between "The Sopranos" and the paper that employs me.

"Pilot" (Season one): Tony's first trip down to the end of the driveway to pick up the paper, which would become a season-opening tradition. Both the Ledger and Tony look very different these days.

"The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti" (Season one): Christopher is so excited to learn that his name was mentioned in a Star-Ledger article about the mob that he steals every copy from a vending machine.

"Two Tonys" (Season five): The first season to open with Tony not living at the McMansion, and what better way to illustrate it than with the paper lying untouched at the base of the driveway until Meadow runs it over with her car?

"Mayham" (Season six): Silvio, serving as acting boss during Tony's coma, has a bathroom reading session interrupted by Paulie and Vito.

"Mr. & Mrs. John Sacramoni Request..." (Season six): This is more of a tabloid-style headline than anything we usually do, but it's really funny, and it's also the most visually accurate recreation of a Ledger page that they did over the years.


David J. Loehr said...

As someone who occasionally manufactures realistic props like the paper in the last shot--and someone who used to read the Ledger when living in NJ--I've got to say, that's beautiful work. (And a great idea for a different Sopranos story to boot.)

Anonymous said...

So, can I ask -- why is it so hard to get the look of the (any?) paper right?

The printing? The fonts? The style?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jeff, I'd have to ask a page designer that. Before the series began (but possibly after the pilot; Matt would know better because he was covering the show at that time), the producers reached out to us and asked for a bunch of Ledger logos and other stuff to help make props. But the occasions where they've had to assemble a fake paper have been rare. The one in the pilot's definitely a fake (or very old even for the period), as we had already shifted to a full-color front page by that point, and the Don Squirrel-Leone is obviously a fake. In most other cases, they could get away with using a real paper. (Even when Chris steals all those copies, the only time you see the article with his name in it is in extreme close-up.)

Anonymous said...

Alan -- How about when Livia's friend goes to pick up her Star-Ledger in the driveway and Livia runs her over with the car? The paper wasn't shown, but that should count for something...

David J. Loehr said...

Jeff, it's all of those things.

Depending on the paper or magazine, sometimes you can get away with a little creative license. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, things that are widespread and iconic are actually easier to duplicate than other things. But a good designer tries to get it right, because who knows how many people in NJ would watch and say hey, that's not the Ledger.

It helps if you're able to get some help from the paper itself, but it's possible to do on your own if you have a good selection of fonts, can do layout, have a scanner, etc.

The trickiest thing is the style. You have to be able to do the layout to begin with. (A shortcut there would be to visit a paper's website, look to see if they have a PDF of their front page, then set that as a transparent layer in your design program and work from there.) But you have to know when to stop tweaking it. If you want it to look realistic, you don't want it to be too cute.

The Don Squirrel-Leone headline is a giveaway because it's more of a New York Post headline than a Ledger, but the majority of viewers aren't going to notice that.

One thing I like to do for theatrical props is to create front pages for papers that don't exist anymore, fine-tuning the logos and bringing their design up to date. They look plausible from a distance--and usually have headlines designed to make the actors laugh in rehearsal--but no one's going to say hey, that's not what a New York Herald-Examiner looks like.

Anonymous said...

Alan and David,

Thanks for your comments. Being a theatre guy as well, I do get a great kick out of manufacturing and manufactured props; but newspapers always seemed to be the hardest things to get right.

In the spirit after watching last night's finale, I went back and watched Season One's finale, and in it Artie goes to see Livia and it starts with her reading the Ledger obits which she then lowers to reveal Artie in the doorway.

It was a semi-shoddy prop as you could see the outlines of white-out tape over the bigger names in the headlines, and then fairly obvious inserts of crew members names... but they did replace two columns which were rather funny, and convinced my wife I was delusional since I took the time to transcribe...