Jan 01
(thoughts from a tv show with lukewarm ratings)
If you don’t build it, they won’t come. I realize only now that I haven’t posted in this space in a year.  My visitor count is down to zero, but who’s counting.  I don’t write on this blog for world views or domination.  At first glance this might seem lame or lazy, considering the pressure to be relevant in the digital space — but energy is not endless, and as I’ve devoted most of my energy this year to making a TV show called RED BAND SOCIETY, I am absolved.

Octavia Spencer on the set of Red Band Society


It’s a lot harder to make a good TV show than you might think.  I’m not looking for sympathy or compliments.  And I use the word “good” here with hesitancy.  What I mean is something artistic, though I similarly want to avoid a discussion of what art is or isn’t.  Art ultimately is the work an artist produces.  If you’re an artist, you will make something artistic, regardless of the conditions present and the sweat and toil it takes to make it. In the case of a network TV show, with dangerously looming air dates, limited resources, over-ambitious scripts, it takes a village.  You just have to pray that your village is filled with artists — and absent of even one idiot. 
Every set is different.  As a guest director on other projects, I can only ride the waves of the sea before me.  It doesn’t matter how collaborative or willing I am to participate.  If the existing hierarchy wants less of your thoughts than you’re thinking, then you give what you can.  As an executive producer, I often suffer the illusion that I can set the tone and other people will miraculously bend to the breeze I’m blowing.  Of course, the energy on any set is a function of many things beyond one man (or woman).  Billy Wilder said, “you can tell from the dailies what the crew had for breakfast.”  When shooting in Atlanta, with it’s preponderance of fried chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, our dailies must’ve looked amazing.  So we can’t blame catering for the ratings.  

Charlie Rowe and his bald head play LEO on Red Band Society


Mostly, the vibe on set is a function of the combined energy of all the cast, crew and miscelleaneous personnel who have gathered to approach the tremendous task before them.   As well-intentioned as the majority of a crew may be, all it takes is one unconscious, misbehaving non-professional to ruin your whole day – or put you in jeopardy of not “making your day.”  Note: The expression “to make your day” in film production is not a reference to anything Dirty Harry might be encouraging you to do at the risk of your own life – it is instead the responsibility of the director to complete the planned work for the day: i.e. to “make the day.”  In the case of a network TV show, this is almost always 7-9 pages of scripted work – which includes anywhere from 3-15 scenes containing 1-12 characters with sometimes questionable dialogue – or at least dialogue that every actor at some point questions.  You have to make time for these questions, you have to take into account how long it takes for actors to get ready, the time it takes to light a set in more than one direction, time for duplicate wardrobe in the case of stunts or coffee spills — you have to subconsciously prepare for alternate takes, alternate staging, alternate alternates, and then consider time to actually shoot the thing, which in the aggregate of a 12hr day, probably adds up to about 3.5 hrs of actual work on film.  And if nothing goes wrong, you might – maybe – probably not – make your day. The tone on the set partly determines your chances of success.        
Sometimes you get lucky.  Red Band Society was lucky.  This isn’t to say it was without struggle.  Who needs to work without constriction?  What I mean is there were no divas or hypochondriacs.  We never waited for an actor to come out of their trailer or to finish a text. There were no camera operators who yelled “cut” because THEY didn’t like the shot.  The sound department accommodated noisy jewelry and extras with clunky shoes without cursing me out — as far as I know.  No one whined, no one didn’t get it, or pretended to not get it, so that for a minute it could be all about them.  We were instead a community of artists, craftsman, storytellers, striving for excellence: 100 perfect strangers who had the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even when at times, what with many creative changes, that vision became extremely blurry.  

Ciara Bravo gives an amazing performance as EMMA, a girl struggling with Anorexia.

And we were strangers.  At first.  And perhaps ultimately we will remain.  But in the process, we had become something more – a family?  Is that too much to project onto what some may see as just a gig? Wherever we had arrived from separately, there were certainly sacrifices — and conceivably the biggest sacrifice of all was coming to Atlanta — away from our home, our spouses, our children.  And why?  We’re all looking for fulfilling work.  A job that provides a deep sense of purpose – something that reflects our values, passions, personality.  This feels like a modern invention.  Philosopher Roman Kznaric observes that “for centuries, most inhabitants of the Western world were too busy struggling to meet their subsistence needs to worry about whether they had an exciting career that used their talents or nurtured their well-being.  With our material prosperity, we’ve come to expect more from life.” We still like money — now we want meaning as well.  But isn’t work, hasn’t work, always been mostly menial?  The latin labor means “to toil” and the french travail derives from tripalium, an ancient Roman instrument of torture.  Aren’t we supposed to grin and bear it – put up with the bullshit at work so that we can get back to “our real lives?”  Trouble is, the hours are long, the weeks and months blur into each other, and time spent with unfamiliar persons slowly becomes your very real life.  

Zoe Levin is the rebellious and cold-hearted KARA. Smoking is bad for you.

Some gigs are torture.  Some are bearable. Most are what you make them.  Red Band Society was a blessing.  Though it remained unspoken, we all showed up with a paltry discrimination between work and play – between labor and levity.  We just got up in the morning and pursued our individual and collective interpretations of quality, and left it to whomever was attending this soiree to determine if we were working or playing.  Even after the news that we would shoot no more than 13 episodes, we could’ve just done the work, but we kept on keeping on with our found spirit, knowing that though weeping may endure when we’re done, joy cometh in the morning!  We knew what Rocky Balboa said to his son in Rocky Balboa (the last and perhaps best installment in the franchise since the first one):  ”Nothing will hit you harder than life.  And it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done!”
The ratings say we lost, but I say we won.  I don’t know if the three remaining (and amazing) episodes will air.  I don’t know if there will be a second season.  I don’t know if Charlie Rowe will ever grow his hair back.  I do know that we stumbled upon something that you wish for, and then unwittingly carry with you after it’s done.  Robert Frost writes that “a poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.  It is never a thought to begin with.”  Perhaps it was the promise of the brilliant pilot that put a lump in our throats — maybe the exuberant energy of a cast of young people who lacked cynicism and regret — maybe it was homesickness.  Whatever the reason, we didn’t compromise, we didn’t waste time. We worked.  With joy.  If there’s some artistic merit to it in the end, so be it.  If not, we still had a blast.  


Rebecca Rittenhouse is nothing like NURSE BRITTANY

Jim, our PA. He locked that set up like a fly in amber.

Astro Bradley is in fact Self-Made. Check out his new rap album on Spotify.

Darren Kagasoff is the resident bad ass.

Eric Henriquez, a very handsome AD.


Tracy Zigler, Script Supervisor. She sees everything.


Joe Pennella. Italian for great DP.


Crystle Clear Roberson. In charge of me and everything.


Chris Campbell, Steadicam, B Cam, Wears a Suit.


Nolan Sotillo, Griffin Gluck, Zoe Levin, Dave Annabel recover from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.


Dave Annabel on the day we said goodbye.

More Villagers in Next Post.  Happy New Year!


23 Responses to “RED BAND – THE END”

  1. It was a pleasure. My family will be forever grateful for our time working RBS. Wish you, the cast and crew the best in 2015. Thanks for everything.

  2. This was great! And seriously, what a blessing!

  3. Sir, please do not let this TV series go. There is so much unfinished business left to do with the red band society I believe u have struck a gold mine with this show its a very good show and it has a message to it unlike the other TV shows these days. I can relat to all of the people on the show no I’m not sick or had that type of stuff happen but I know how they are feeling on the in side. I’m 16 years old live in between two small towns in the state of Florida where my whole family has lived for almost two centuries now and there is not that much promise in this place but a broken down job drugs and achole addiction. I always had the dream to make it big in acting I have done two plays at the community theater in town I just finished my second play and I enjoy acting but I have always had thoughts like all of the kids in the red band society like I’m never going to make it of this town unless I die or in there case hospital but then there came your TV show red band society and I thought oh boy another sob story but I’ll watch it and see because I seen Octavia Spencer was on the show and I liked her from the help. While watching the show it gave me more hope  of my future because while watching these young people who are myage and are having a harder time in life then me these ppeople who can die in a faster second then I can was bringing hope and light to life these people had open my eyes some more on how life isn’t always fair at one moment but keep having high hopes and stand for what you believe in and you will get to that dream one day in life. so please do not take away this show, this wonderful gold mine you have created.
    -Tyler J. Barber

  4. I haven’t seen the entirety of this TV series because of territorial reasons but I believe that this has a chance to stand and be on air again where it actually belongs and I just loved everything you have said. XD

  5. [...] a uncover ending, with executive Jason Ensler posting a intense and romantic goodbye to fans on his personal blog Jan. [...]

  6. You can’t cancel this show. You just can’t.
    Tv shows recently have been awful. Most of the ones especially aimed towards teens are publicizing bad things and things we should not be involved in, or do not show good morals or lessons. Red band is different. I understand how hard it is to keep a show going, but I believe this one is worth the effort. Not only is this show entertaining and heart warming, it’s also showing everyone how you can’t let your obstacles define you, and you need to keep fighting no matter what. Please sir, don’t cancel this show. It’s inspired me in ways you couldn’t understand. This show can’t be cancelled already it just can’t. Please were begging you. Don’t end this revolution

  7. Jason, it was an honor to be part of the eclectic family we became on Red Band. I hope we get the opportunity to continue. Whether we do, or don’t, the experience was/has been incredible. Thank you for your steady guiding hand at the helm. And thank you for letting me be part of Red Band Society.


  8. Thank you so much for your amazing work on red band that I aspire to. Thank you for creating the show and giving me hope that such projects will continue to be developed! Red Band is both moving, funny and educational. Again I say thank you. In 2015 it is my intention to contribute to projects that uplift and inspire..thank you for being a powerful example that such work can be done and done phenomenally well! I sincerely hope you are renewed! Thank you for this well written blog as well. Fantastic to hear about such a positive, hard working creative team! What a dream! Thanks again! Oh and ps. .did I say thank you? Thank you. All the best to you and the Red Band team!

  9. I don’t understand why no one is standing behind this show. There should have been a weekend marathon on Lifetime or another channel to get people into the show. Many of my friends that abandoned the show due to slow character development and unrealistic hospital situations were shocked to see how far the show has gone in the final 2 episodes of the fall season.
    This show needs to be reaired in the summer with the remaining 3 episodes on a different day and time such as Monday at 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm when the seriousness of the work/school week sets in. The start the fall season early to hook the audiance.

  10. you honestly cannot cancel this show. you can’t do it. I need another season, I HAVE to find out what happened to Emma. for some reason I felt a part of me in Emma when I watched the show, at the end of episode 10 when her father found her on the bathroom floor I couldn’t do anything but break down. I know it seems crazy because it is “just a show”, but it’s a show that has made a humongous impact on my life. I have never in my life seen a show this amazing, it’s showing real kids our ages in the right way. it’s not like disney channel hiding all of the reality in teenage years. it shows teens the way we are, we aren’t all the same, were completely different! it shows that just because you’re different from others doesn’t mean it’s bad. there is uniqueness in every character on the show & I love it! even Charlie shows through. it shows that teens have sex, it shows that they drink, it shows that they do drugs, but it also shows that that’s not all we’re about & that not ALL of us do those things. it teaches about love & hardship, it even teaches us about slutting around, but most of all, it teaches us about friendships & how there is no greater bond. family may be blood, but it shows that they’re not always going to be there for you, maybe not even in your darkest times. but this show has to be renewed, it has to. I can’t not figure if Charlie ever talks again, or if Kara gets a heart, or if Bash gets his lung transplant, or Jordi survives his cancer, if Leo ends up a soccer player, or if Leo & Kara end up together, but the one most important to me is if Emma is okay, I need some closure on this show. it’s made a ginormous impact on me & I can’t leave it empty handed. this show means way more to me than a television series should ever mean to anybody, but it’s so important that there is a season 2.

  11. Please finish this … Hopefully someone will pick it back up…. All the shows are recorded on my dvr I don’t want to delete them!!

  12. It is a damn shame that this show has ben cancelled. I signed the petition to save the show but I know that it won’t make a difference. TV is a business and ratings are the currency. This show’s ratings are so low it makes the show bankrupt in the TV sense. But it is one of the best shows I have seen in a long time and I’m sad to see it go. There is so much garbage on TV these days. So. Much. Garbage. When a show this good comes along it should be embraced instead it is neglected while the garbage is embraced. Hopefully the show will get a second chance but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed. The TV business is brutal. Good luck to everyone involved in the show and thank you for the ten episodes we were given the pleasure of watching!!!

  13. Jason, thank you. I am a 23 year old sick kid from New Zealand who has spent their whole life in hospital for one reason or another. I stumbled upon RBS at a pretty bad time in my life, when I felt I had no direction and no where to go. After studying hard and dedicating several years of my life to being an Ambulance Paramedic, my allergies became too severe for it to be safe for me to be in that environment. I was struggling with a new undiagnosed condition, and the numerous scans and tests were beginning to break me apart.

    I remember watching that pilot episode and the wave of emotion that seemed to hit me all at once. Every character was relatable. Straight away I felt myself getting drawn in to their individual stories, and yes- I even began to swoon over the dreamy Dave Annabel. After just that first episode, I was hooked; and for the nine episodes that followed, every moment mattered. Thinking back, every character affected me in a different way, but it was the character of Emma who had the greatest impact. Now I don’t think RBS glamourises illness too much, but for some strange reason I found Ciara Bravo’s ‘Emma’ really triggering. I don’t have an eating disorder but Emma really made me question things and feel confused. Fortunately, I like food too much for an ED to ever become an issue. It just goes to show how powerful these character’s stories really are.

    I hold nothing but high hopes for the future of RBS, and I sincerely hope that you’ll all be sticking around for a long time. Thank you for the joy that you have brought me and so many others over the past year. Once a red bander, always a red bander.

  14. I truly hope that Red Band Society does not get cancelled, the show is amazing and a family affair at my home. We always looked forward to watching every week. There aren’t many good shows on TV right now and Red Band was one of very few great shows. Thank you, hopefully another network will pick up Red Band if fox doesn’t realize what a huge mistake they are making. I’m sure it will succeed if given the opportunity.

  15. Red Band Society is everything you wrote. The whole series, the whole cast, flowed together and worked together like a well oil machine. Your love for your work came through and we fell in love with all of you. I want to believe with all of my heart, you will be back and be a crowd favorite for years to come. There is something so very real about Red Band Society that is like no other series I’ve ever watched. A sense of Hope is always there every Wednesday night at 9. Hope is something we all need. I surely HOPE to see all of you again soon on Red Band Society!

  16. The problem was the series didn’t fulfill the promise of it’s excellent pilot. The writing in series was a different show.It was spiritually not of the same quality. It went flat and obvious. The actors (the original cast) were always fantastic!!!! They carried the show.. The idea of the kids finding life, friendship and love with one another was smashed into a teen show written by people who never met a teen with an adult soap opera subplots stolen directly from the pages of Grey’s Anatomy. Great actors playing great characters can only make an okay show if the writing is so-so. Love this cast and hope to see them in other things.. There should be a Red Band movie.

  17. I loved this show so much!!! It had great characters that made the show very interesting and great character arcs! It was special and unique and very much unfinished!!!!! It was a beautiful show!! The actors and plots were amazing and I can’t wait to see another episode because they have to show it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fox doesn’t understand the show’s signifiance or values!!!!!!

  18. [...] a uncover ending, with executive Jason Ensler posting a intense and romantic goodbye to fans on his personal blog Jan. [...]

  19. The one show that I find hope in is leaving. I’m too young to understand how the business works and why the show can’t be continued somehow. As a teen I really liked this show a lot. If there was some way that i could keep it going I would. All I know is that this show means something to people even if it’s not a lot of people. Maybe no one will read this and maybe just one person might and that’s okay but just consider how much this means to people.

  20. Well you built it, and they came! Beautiful beautiful post, with so many interesting portraits!

  21. Watched the pilot ten times. The idea of the show was so awesome and made me cry. I didn’t like where the characters were going. It was frustrating and weird. These 13 shows will live on. Loved Charlie (Griffin) and Dash )astro) and Kara. Bye Red Band. You could have been better but you were never bad. Good photography.

  22. The writing was stupid. The show was not. The original cast was incredible. The new actors weren’t half as talented. The show wasn’t about sick kids being sick. It was about teen crap from the 80′s This must have been an old group of writers. The pilot was so young, fresh, hip and the rest was like episodes of a Lifetime show. KNow you didn’t write it you just shot it. Looked beautiful.

  23. Best pilot of the year turned into the worst series. What happened? The characters became cliches. Sad to see a show fall so far from what it could have been. Wasn’t the directing or acting but the writing.

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