By APRIL DIODATO
OBSERVER Lifestyles Editor
The Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles is a long way from the tranquil community of Conewango Valley. During his childhood days in the heart of Amish countryside, Pine Valley Central School alumnus Darryl L. Frank couldn't have imagined that is where he would be a few decades later, as a nominee attending the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Photo by?Ursula Coyote
Darryl L. Frank on set, doing sound mixing for AMC’s television series, “Breaking Bad.”
Photo by?Ursula Coyote
Fans will recognize Walter White’s lab behind production sound mixer Darryl L. Frank, Conewango Valley native.
A production sound mixer on AMC's hit drama, "Breaking Bad," Darryl has been nominated in the Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour) category for the show's season four finale, "Face Off." The ceremony will be held Saturday, with highlights to air on the Reelz Channel on Sept. 22, the day before the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards.
"Being nominated is an accomplishment in and of itself," Frank said in a phone call from Albuquerque, N.M., where "Breaking Bad" is filmed on location.
This is Darryl's second accolade this year. He was nominated for a C.A.S. (Cinema Audio Society) Award for his sound mixing work, also on the "Face Off" episode. He also received an Emmy nod in 2008 for his work on "Commanche Moon," a CBS miniseries. Although he has yet to win, he has no complaints.
"It's just nice to be invited to the dance, as they say."
The son of William and Joyce Frank of Conewango Valley, his mother is elated about his success - "thrilled to death, because he's worked awful hard," on his production company, D-3 Productions, she explained.
"We're very proud of him," Joyce said. "It couldn't have come at a nicer time because his father's in a nursing home and this was really a step up for us after what we've been through."
Joyce travels back and forth between Heritage Village in Gerry to be with her husband, who has suffered several strokes. She still gets excited to watch for her son's name in the credits, which she has done since his early work on "20/20" and "48 Hours." She was also happy to catch the odd glimpse of him when he worked on the ABC Family television series, "Wildfire."
"A couple times they needed extras so they would just use the people that they had there, which was kind of a clever idea. We got to see if he was gaining weight or losing weight," she added with a laugh.
What began as a little-known series on a small cable network, "Breaking Bad" has since exploded like a meth lab gone wrong.
"It's interesting, being on the show for as long as I have - I've been on it since the beginning," Darryl said. "It's pretty amazing. It's hard to explain because we used to travel around and (people would) see 'Breaking Bad' written on a shirt or something and ask you what that meant or what it was all about."
The series follows Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, as he delves into a crystal meth-cooking operation to help support his family after his is diagnosed with cancer.
Darryl had been interested in sound recording since his youth, but his small school did not offer many opportunities to get his feet wet. After graduating from Pine Valley in 1981, Darryl studied recording technology at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
"He worked for Kodak for a little bit then a friend of his went to California and he went (with him)," Joyce said. "They shared an apartment out there in California and both of them got into the field they were going for."
Darryl has a long list of credits, including the series "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," the movie "Lemonade Mouth" for the Disney Channel, action film "Terminator Salvation," and Arnold Schwarzenegger comeback vehicle, "The Last Stand."
Of all of the actors he's encountered over the years "Probably anybody you could name, I've either met or been around them," he explained Darryl continues to be stunned by the talent of "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston.
"He is the best actor I've ever worked with," Darryl said. "He brings his A game every day. He really enjoys what he does and you can tell that it really shows up on the screen."
The breakout success of "Breaking Bad" certainly owes something to its star, who has earned several Emmys for his work on the show - quite a departure from his well-known role as bumbling dad Hal on long-running comedy "Malcolm in the Middle." In fact, Darryl lists Cranston's first Emmy win as one of his career highlights while working on the series.
"We were this little cable show that no one really knew about," Darryl said, "And then all of a sudden, someone obviously was watching and someone thought that he deserved to be recognized, which helped us all. It helped get us recognition for the show."
Cranston is also very down-to-earth, Darryl added.
"He says hello to everybody, he knows everybody's name. He's just a really nice individual," he said. "Here's a guy who's won three Emmys in a row and he would give you the shirt off his back."
This is not always the case with actors, in Darryl's experience.
"Working with different actors is definitely challenging. Some people are not fun people to be around or to work with. They all have their own little things because," he laughed, "they're actors."
One memory that will last a lifetime is of one fateful day just before the holidays, while filming "Urban Justice" with Steven Seagal.
"It was literally 3 a.m., it was snowing, it was about two days before Christmas," Darryl recalled. "There was a problem (with the sound) and the director didn't hear me. I kept telling him, 'We should cut. We can't use this.'
"It was this whole big two- to three-minute dialogue scene at the end of the movie. He thought it was the greatest thing he ever did. And then at the end, I said, 'We gotta do it again.'"
Seagal grabbed the microphone, asked the boom operator if Darryl was listening he was, a distance away from where the filming was taking place - and Seagal said, "Tell him he's fired."
"For about five minutes they actually thought I left because I didn't answer them," Darryl said with a chuckle. "I didn't leave and he didn't fire me, that's just the way it is."
Lest anyone believe that working on a television series is glamorous, let Darryl dispel this myth - it's a grind.
For "Breaking Bad," there are typically eight days of shooting per episode, covering four to six pages of script per day. According to Darryl, the average work day is 14 to 15 hours which can add up to 75 to 80 hours per week.
"On top of that, usually on Fridays, you go to work at 6 o'clock at night and you'll work until 6 o'clock in the morning," he said. "So basically your Friday night is 7 or 8 on Saturday morning, that's when your weekend starts. And then you have to be back at work on Monday morning. So not only have you been up all night and had your (internal) schedule totally turned around, but you have to be back at work at 6 in the morning on Monday. It takes you a day just to get back on your schedule and then you do it again."
Since "Breaking Bad" is a location-based show, it can present many challenges for the cast and crew. Precious few scenes are shot at Albuquerque Studios, such as the scenes taking place inside of a home. Unlike shooting on a sound stage, while on location, it's impossible to shut the door, turn on the red light and order silence. Since authenticity is important to the show's creator Vince Gilligan, they are filming in the midst of everyday activities and everyday people.
"The majority of what we shoot on are practical sets - working law offices, real gas stations and stores," Darryl said. "A lot of times, you can't shut them down. You don't own this hospital that you're shooting in, you're a guest there and they're letting you film there so if somebody has to do something, you have to let them do it. You can't tell them, 'Hey, be quiet. We're shooting a TV show.'"
The show has a shooting crew of about 100 people with a full crew totaling approximately 200, working nearly year-round. Darryl said the "Breaking Bad" crew is incredibly close-knit, all with one thing in common: passion and commitment.
"It's a love for what you do," he said. "We spend more time with these people than we do with our own families. We watch their kids grow up, (we're there for) the tragedies they're our family members, too. And it's really fortunate."
When Darryl does have time to spend with his family and friends, he must be careful not to share any details about the show no matter how much the fans may press him. Since the show has become more popular, very few on a need-to-know basis get a glimpse into how the show will unfold. As the audience has grown, so have the blacked-out portions of the scripts he has been receiving.
"Security has just become such an issue with movies and TV shows," he said. "That happened with 'The Avengers,' it was shooting right here at the (Albuquerque) studio. Samuel L. Jackson left his script behind, someone found it and an hour later it was on the internet. It was for sale! They had to rewrite the end of the movie."
Though he enjoys working and living in Albuquerque with his wife, Darryl still returns to Western New York at least once per year. He isn't above doing a little production work in his spare time, putting his skills to use for family videos.
"He came back and took pictures and sound of his sister's wedding, which is something we enjoyed because he did very professional work," Joyce said.
Darryl's current career is a result of some early advice that he received from mom and dad.
"My parents told me, if you're gonna do it, you better enjoy it because you're gonna do it a long time. Make it a hobby rather than a job," Darryl said. "That's how my job has always been I get to go play with toys and record stuff and travel around and see things. And then they pay you on top of it. I don't see myself retiring, I see myself doing this for as long as I can."
Currently on hiatus after the first half of the fifth season concluded, "Breaking Bad" will return to AMC in 2013.
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