At Work on the Set
Ashley Fetterman didn’t get to sleep in very often over the past six months. As the makeup department head for Homeland’s Richmond production, Fetterman settled into the makeup trailer on set long before the sun came up – she was there around five in the morning most days. The set of Homeland was her home for twelve to sixteen hours. The shift was long and the job was demanding, but Fetterman wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A Midlothian High School and Radford University graduate, Fetterman landed her job with Showtime’s popular television series last August. The filming of season seven wrapped last month.
Fetterman started in the makeup field in 2000 when she left the Richmond area, moved to Los Angeles, and attended school to learn makeup techniques. First came small independent films as a makeup artist, then she landed a job for a year at Harlow Makeup FX creating special effects makeup for the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“I thought I wanted to go in that direction working on a series, but after working on independent films, I got a feeling for working on sets. My parents kept calling me and saying that Richmond was doing more film work. So I decided to come home and nestle into the film industry here,” she says.
Fetterman is just one talented Virginian working on movies, television shows, and commercials filmed in the commonwealth. In 2016, the Virginia film industry had a total economic impact of $696.8 million, providing roughly 4,300 full-time equivalent jobs for Virginia workers. That figure is expected to continue to expand in 2017 and 2018, thanks to the economic impact of Homeland.
On Location in Richmond
When Fetterman came back to Richmond, she started working on commercial shoots to build up her resume. Then came independent films such as Unanswered Prayers. In 2013, she moved up to department head on the films Killing Kennedy, Killing Lincoln, and Ithaca, as well as the television shows Turn and Mercy Street.
Now she’s doing talent makeup – think Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin – for the perennial Emmy and Golden Globe-winning hit drama Homeland. On the show, Danes plays former CIA agent Carrie Mathison and Patinkin plays her mentor, Saul Berenson. The show kicked off its seventh season on February 11.
As the season begins, Carrie has left her job in the White House and is living with her sister Maggie in D.C., preparing to take on the Keane administration and secure the release of the 200 members of the intelligence community, including Saul Berenson, arrested by President Keane last season.
Homeland was developed for American television by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon and is based on the original Israeli series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff.
The show was a bigger project than Fetterman had worked on in the past. “I was honored to be part of it. I was nervous and excited at the same time,” she says.
She and her second-in-command, Rhonda Bareford, were responsible for getting talent through makeup each day. “Typically, it’s just the two of us. When we need help, we will call in additional people. After the actors come in, we all pack up and go to the set,” Fetterman says, adding that the makeup trailer moved to different locations around the region, depending on filming.
On set, Fetterman and Bareford stood on the sidelines until a production assistant gave them a heads-up that it was almost time for shooting. “We go over and make sure everything looks good, and we do our touchups,” she says. “We only have seconds to get them ready. Between takes, we check on their makeup – looking at the monitors to make sure everything looks good.”
Since working on the show, Fetterman has gotten used to being around celebrities. “You get to know them as normal people. They are friendly,” she says of the show’s stars. “You become a family and that feeling of nervousness goes away.”
Her biggest challenge during filming was keeping up with her sixteen-hour-a-day schedule. “You don’t see your family ever when you are working on a project,” she says. “Everything else about it I love. I love the creativity and meeting people.”
On the Homeland set, she was a real salesman for Richmond. “I’ve come up with a list of my favorite restaurants,” she says. “People love the artsy vibe of our city. It gives me a warm feeling to know that my city is loved.”
Putting It All Together
Lesli Linka Glatter, executive producer/director of Homeland, loves Richmond’s restaurant scene, even though she didn’t have time to zero in on a favorite hangout. “It’s fantastic being in Richmond,” she says. “I’m stunned by how many great restaurants you have. It’s surprising because it’s not a huge city.”
A Dallas native, Glatter started her career as a modern dancer and choreographer, following in her mother’s footsteps – or in this case, dance shoes – before plunging into directing. “I worked out of New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. In Tokyo, an old Japanese man told me a series of stories that were incredible. I knew I had to pass it on,” she says, adding that the stories led her to produce her first film through the American Film Institute in 1985, Tales of Meeting and Parting, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the live action short film category. “I have been directing ever since.”
Since then, she has had four primetime Emmy Award nominations for outstanding directing for a drama series for episodes of Mad Men and Homeland. Her filmography also includes Twin Peaks, NYPD Blue, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, House M.D., ER, and Pretty Little Liars.
“I love being a storyteller,” she says. “We are now in the golden age of television. We have some of the best writing and acting right now.”
Glatter, who was serving as executive producer of another show when Homeland started, came in as director in season two. “When I saw the first season, I loved it. It was profound, complicated, and layered with an amazing female character at the heart. Carrie is an iconic character with so many layers,” she says. “This is a show that takes place in shades of grey, versus black and white. It asks a lot of questions and makes you think about it.”
Every year, Glatter and her team reinvent the show in a different city with a new storyline so it’s “fresh and exciting all the time,” she says. “This is a team sport. I am with the most amazing team.”
Many of the show’s story ideas come from meetings she and her team have each year with a wide array of people in the intelligence community. “The story dictates where we will be shooting. It all comes out of the story,” she says.
Richmond and various other places around the state will sub for Washington, D.C., where much of this season is set. Richmond will also appear as itself in a couple of sequences. “We needed to be somewhere with the look and feel of D.C.,” Glatter says of Richmond. “There were a number of cities we thought about.”
The show reached out to Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, when they scouted locations. “Their decision matrix involved going back to Charlotte or going to Maryland or Toronto or New York,” he says. “We do the Richmond/D.C. trick like no one else. They were blown away with the opportunity in Richmond. They fell in love with the city.”
Homeland has filmed around the world over the years. Last year’s show took place and was shot in New York City. A Morocco sequence served as the stand-in for Israel, and the crew also shot in Abu Dhabi. The show was shot in Berlin for season five and Capetown, South Africa, stood in for Pakistan in season four.
Glatter and her team arrived in Richmond last August to set up the whole production team. “It’s a group of people, about ten of us, who’ve been with the show a long time,” she says. “Otherwise, we are hiring a whole new team. We certainly have hired a lot of people locally. We’ve also hired people from Wilmington and New York when we filmed there. We always look to put together the strongest team.”
Not as Glamorous as You Think
During shooting, Glatter worked at least twelve hours a day and then went home to prepare for the next day’s shoot. “That can take several more hours at night,” she says, noting she’s on set at six-thirty in the morning when she is directing. “We will have seven days of preparation for the next episode, so we are either preparing or shooting. Each episode shoots for eleven days and preps for seven days.”
Glatter is directing four of the show’s twelve episodes. “Every hour of my day is packed,” she says. “If I’m not shooting, I’m editing or preparing for the next show. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes, I can’t believe we keep it together.”
She and her team laugh at the notion that the work is as glamorous as some people believe it to be. “There is nothing glamorous about it. I love my job, but you work like crazy. These are the hardest working people,” she says of the whole team. “There is so much to do every single day. For the actors, if Claire has eight pages to film, that is a lot of words to say. Then she is working the next day and has to go home and memorize words for the next day. It’s endless – and God, we all love it.”
Directing is not an easy career path, especially for a woman. “It’s not for the faint of heart, but it should be the same for our sons and our daughters,” she says, noting that there are not enough female directors in Hollywood. “We want an equal playing field, but it hasn’t been equal.”
That’s why she mentors up-and-coming directors, mostly women, and some men. She has teamed up with NBC president Jennifer Salke to spearhead an initiative called Female Forward to develop more female directors for television while working for gender parity among scripted series directors across the network.
“I’m looking forward to the point when this is not an issue,” Glatter says. “The fact that it’s still an issue from when I started directing is amazing – and that’s amazing not in a good way. Anytime we can mentor the next generation, we need to do that.”
CBS6 news anchor Julie Bragg was intrigued when Homeland casting contacted Richmond media stations to find a local anchor interested in playing the role of a national news anchor in the show. “They said it’s hard to find an actor who can play a news anchor,” says Bragg, who decided to try out for the part. “They sent me a script and I sent in a tape.”
She signed a confidentiality agreement before the audition because she was reading the top-secret script from the show. She taped her part, which appears in episode five of the season, the week after Thanksgiving. “Everyone on the show was so welcoming and friendly,” says Bragg, who worked out of a trailer with a newscaster star on the outside. “Lesli is so approachable and gracious. She came over and gave me tips after the first taping and said, ‘It’s obvious you do this for a living.’”
When she was shooting her scene, Bragg noticed several differences from doing her regular newscast in Richmond. “Between takes, someone would run over and powder my nose or fix my hair,” she says, noting she does her own hair and makeup each day at work. “When I am in the news studio in Richmond, there are usually about six people in there. On this set, there were dozens of people.”
“When the bell rang out through the warehouse right before shooting began, you could hear a pin drop,” Bragg says. “At that moment, it was all me.”
It was fun for her to act in the show that she had been reporting about on the news for CBS6. “I have always thought it’s neat that we have so many of these projects coming to Richmond,” she says. “To be in this was exciting for me, and I met people from Richmond who were working on the show. It’s cool that Richmond has become such a destination.”
A Boon to the State
According to Edmunds of the Virginia Film Office, Homeland is the biggest project Virginia has ever had in the production realm in terms of direct expenditures in the state, north of $40 million. “It presents numerous job opportunities, and it touches hundreds of Virginia small businesses,” he says.
An ingredient that helped secure the show was the oval office set the film office has had since First Kid shot in Virginia in 1995. “Lo and behold, here comes Homeland and that is what they need,” Edmunds says about the set, now located in a 200,000-square-foot warehouse, a former IRS processing facility currently owned by NASCAR. “They were able to see it in full scale.”
While they were using the oval office set, the show added a West Wing. “Now that set has been enhanced in a big way,” Edmunds says. “We will be able to use it as a marketing tool for future prospects.”
Filming Homeland in Richmond may lead to other production opportunities in Virginia. For example, the show is being produced by Fox 21 Television Studios for Showtime. Fox 21 is part of 21st Century Fox, most of which is being bought by Disney. “There are many legs into other opportunities for production,” Edmunds says, adding he hopes “season eight of Homeland will include some continuing drama related to D.C. giving us an opportunity to have a piece of that in Richmond next year.”
Series television offers an economic boost for the region and ongoing jobs for locals. “It creates a longer-term employment opportunity for crew. We want to get more series and/or small independent films like Loving coming this way to grow our film industry in Virginia,” Edmunds says, noting “a larger tax credit pool offers the opportunity to attract more work.”
According to Edmunds, the production team for Homeland has given Richmond rave reviews. “It’s a testament to our partners and local government as well as the community at large that we create a film-friendly environment that always sends our clients away with a super impression of our great city,” says Edmunds.
Photos: Antony Platt, Jacob Coppage