How ‘Reno 911’ Pulled Off Its ‘1917’ Homage

During its six-season-and-a-movie Comedy Central run, “Reno 911” was always always known for off-the-cuff comedic riffs, and its new season on Quibi is no exception. But, bringing the law enforcement comedy back more than a decade after originally signing off, and on a digital platform, has allowed the show to take its humor to new, more polished heights. In the third episode of the revival, “T.T.’s Auntie’s Funeral,” the show pays homage to “1917” with a tracking oner that follows the members of the Reno sheriff’s department, a marching band and mourners as they carry a casket out of a funeral home, through road blocks, sprinklers and a construction explosion, to the cemetery.

Robert Ben Garant
Co-creator, writer, actor
“We started with the idea of doing a scene seeing more of T.T.’s family. People love T.T., and we thought the idea of a bunch of T.T.s could be really wonderful chaos. We put them at a funeral, because T.T. is at her best when she is very upset about something. Then we came up with the idea that we sheriffs should be pallbearers — simply trying to get from point A to point B: the church to the hearse, or the hearse to the grave. And the mobs of upset T.T.s would be throwing themselves at us and the coffin — we just had to somehow get through it. Conflict always helps a ‘Reno’ scene. Then all of us saw ‘1917.’ It was all we talked about for a couple days. So we thought, ‘Let’s do that.’”

Frank Barrera
Cinematographer
“Since this scene was an obvious homage to ‘1917,’ our starting point had to be the same as theirs: one camera only and often on some type of stabilizer head. We had the wide zoom lens on [a Steadicam] and used the S35mm equivalent field of view of a 28mm lens for the entire shot. Graham Kennedy, one of our camera assistants, used a 3D printer to create a thin 9×16 plastic frame that we could use to slide left and right over the video monitor so we could see possible vertical frames. As far as lighting, we got lucky with the route of the funeral and shot it towards the end of the day. The low winter sun was always either side-lighting the cast or hitting them from behind, making for a beautiful set up. At the very end, when they reach the cemetery plot, we did have a 20’x20’ Ultra bounce reflector waiting for them just to sweeten the moment as the sun backlit the dramatic ending.”

David Lincoln
Director
“‘Reno’s’ three creator-stars and I scouted, prepped and planned as a team. On the day, they’re in character, carrying the coffin, yelling ‘To the starboard! Double-time!’ but that’s also them, shepherding from inside the scene, while I was directing behind the camera, focused on the shot and pacing, to deliver maximum comedy mayhem as laid out in the script-ment, and to capture any unplanned dance moves or improved jokes that happened in the moment. Over the years we’ve all gotten pretty good at not laughing even when things are very funny, so we won’t ruin a take. Luckily, this scene was loud enough that I didn’t have to worry about that.”

Eric Frazier
Special-effects supervisor
“We had specially designed sparking devices that shot sparks out over our actors as they passed by; we built a sprinkler system that was placed in line with the procession that could be turned on at the right time; one of our guys was the backhoe operator who did the dirt dump as they passed, and of course the explosions. The size of the explosion is accomplished with black powder and an electric spark. We call them lifters once finished; in this case we decided on 6-ounce lifters. [That] was then placed in a metal mortar that was hidden on set. We filled the mortar with potting soil, FX dust and other safe products that gave the explosion a unique look. The electric spark could be detonated from a distance by one man firing. We all wore headsets [so] we could hear an abort call that could be given by anyone for safety, but [it] was up to a visual cue to make the decision to fire.”

Kathryn Langston Orindgreff
Costume designer
“The uniforms are actual law enforcement uniforms that were modified to look like the Reno sheriff’s department. They are a cotton-polyester blend that withstands dry cleaning and machine washing. The only exceptions to the uniforms are Junior’s vest and Dangle’s shorts, [which] were custom built specifically for the characters. We did have multiples on hand on the off chance we needed to reset a costume for continuity. However, because the scene was shot in sequential order, we maintained how they looked from start to finish without a change.”

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