New York-based Julie Bloom says her favorite part of being a 1st AD is visiting places she’s never been, whether it’s five different countries in 13 days [for The Rebound], or a period street in Upper Manhattan [for Boardwalk Empire].
“Right after we wrapped six weeks in New York on The Rebound,” she recalls, “the director [Bart Freundlich], the DP, a camera assistant, producer, the main actor and I jumped on a plane for Hong Kong, where we spent just two days filming as a tiny guerrilla unit, before going to India, Kenya, Turkey and France; same deal. It was exhilarating.”
In 2004 Bloom began work on HBO’s award-winning series Rome, a homecoming as she grew up in the Eternal City with her filmmaker father. “On Rome I ran the set simultaneously in Italian and English,” Bloom says proudly. “I remember one magnificent marketplace scene: hundreds of extras in togas bathed in gorgeous Italian light, smelling incredible aroma; cumin, coriander, lavender.
“In the U.S. we would buy dye powder to get the color and look, but here everything was real. I asked the set decorator and she said,” relates Bloom in a thick Italian accent, “‘but, Julie, we want the people to feel like they are in a marketplace. How we can do that with powder?’”
No production has captured Bloom’s love for discovery as much as Boardwalk Empire, which is shot mostly on location with exhaustively researched period details. “I’ve run sets in upscale period brothels and tiny church basements, where you walk down a flight of stairs and the pastor unlocks the door to a room that is stopped in time,” recalls Bloom. “We shot in a mansion [built for Bailey of the Barnum & Bailey Circus] that I didn’t even know existed way up on the West Side.”
Bloom, who was known as “the background queen of New York” when she started out as a 2nd AD, says overseeing Boardwalk extras near the camera is an art unto itself.
“People walked much differently during that era,” she explains. “Holding hands, strolling with walking sticks down the boardwalk, during different seasons. I try to know each extra by name and give them bits of business that is unique to the characters in that time.
“There are so many pleasures to this show,” she concludes. “And working with the best television directors in the industry; people like Allen Coulter, Tim Van Patten, and Eddie Bianchi; on a 12- to 15-day schedule, is up at the top.”