The team at Universal Studios Florida Production Group (USFPG) recently conducted an in-depth video interview with Producer Wayne Morris.
The interview took place on the set for season two of Warner Bros. Television’s critically acclaimed series David Makes Man, which made its home on the Backlot at Universal Studios Florida. Outtakes from the interview appear below and can be viewed in its entirety at universalstudios.com/studio/florida
As a producer, Wayne Morris’s illustrious production credits span dozens of A-List features and groundbreaking television series. Since 2015, that includes the Peabody Award-winning series David Makes Man, plus The Right Stuff and Blood & Oil, as well as All Eyez on Me, the feature biopic of Tupac Shakur directed by Benny Boom.
Having established his career as a UPM on countless all-star TV movies, Morris has been an Orlando resident since 1998, and a longstanding USFPG client. Over the years, he has helped attract some of the region’s most high-profile film and TV projects, many of which have made innovative use of USFPG’s resources. Principal of production company Wonderland Creative Group, he is also the developer of the game-changing Proscenium App, which is helping production executives and those in other hands-on industries do their work safer and more efficiently.
Q: What brought you to Central Florida originally?
Morris: We had just finished shooting a picture called Rush Hour, which was produced by New Line Cinema. When we got into post-production, New Line had a scripted TV series that they had an obligation to produce. They asked me if I would produce the series, and they wanted to go to New Zealand. While I said I would do the series and I loved New Zealand, I wanted to see if I could keep it domestic, for the same production scenario and the same money. We looked at three different cities, and Orlando was one of them. We ended up deciding to shoot it here. We have found a very unique and happy circumstance in Orlando that doesn’t really exist anywhere else that we’ve been able to make successful.
Q: What are your main reasons for making your home base at Universal Studios Florida?
Morris: The State of Florida has no film incentive right now. So, instead of saying we don’t have an incentive, we said, there is an incentive here, and the incentive is us. The crew actually made bumper stickers that say, We Are the Incentive. And that incentive is to be different and more efficient and more of a compatible group than anyone else. When studios come and see how we are doing things for a lower cost but higher production value, they’re realizing there is something to this.
Q: What are some other valuable production efficiencies at Universal Studios Florida?
Morris: There is a very unique opportunity for me with Universal Production Group that I can translate when I go to sell studios on bringing projects here. Certainly sound stages are a nice thing to have, and there are lots of areas where studios are shooting without sound stages – but it’s the overall infrastructure at Universal that makes it a unique opportunity. On David Makes Man Season 2, we utilized four sound stages and a fifth one that we used as a mill and scenic shop. And to have all of those together but in separate rooms, it gave us the opportunity to do a lot of unique things. For instance, we could do double-ups, and have two crews shooting two totally different episodes at the same time, while only having one support group of hair, makeup, wardrobe, transportation, and so forth.
There are also incredible opportunities around the parks, if you open your heart to it. On Final Destination, we used Fifth Avenue on New York Street for the final scene in the movie, where Death finally comes and gets the main characters in the coffee shop. And the way we do it to make ourselves valuable to the parks is we actually embrace the Theme Park guests as much as we can. And that makes us valuable and that opens many opportunities for us.
Q: Can you share something you learned about production during COVID?
Morris: The COVID of it all has been an interesting challenge and opportunity, but we embraced it, as opposed to other productions that reel against it every day. We couldn’t go anywhere where there was a population because our people were literally coming to work and going home and basically staying out of harm’s way so that we didn’t shut the show down. A lot of that ability comes out of the relationships and partnerships that we’ve garnered over the years with Universal Studios Florida with Pamela Tuscany and the Production Group here. We made the production value on our show huge, much bigger than it could have been if the crisis wasn’t going on.
Q: What do you think about the future of film and television production?
Morris: I’ve thought a lot about the future and production in general, and this is the greatest time ever. We have so many unique perspectives and opportunities and appreciations. You look at the fact that basically theatrical distribution disappeared, and yet we continued, with all of the new streaming possibilities. And virtually every studio and network has opened their own distribution avenue, and there are so many people that want content created… that it’s created a great opportunity for all of us to move into the future. You know, when we started this whole adventure, we were still shooting on film; now, nobody shoots on film, for the most part. The advances in technology, the things that just make our lives safer and more efficient, this is just an amazing time to be part of the whole thing.
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