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Film set legend Abby Singer dies in California

March 13, 2014

Abby Singer, a famed production manager whose name became synonymous for the next-to-last shot of the day, died Thursday. He was 96.

The Harlem-born Abner E. Singer was a longtime production manager and assistant director who worked primarily in television from the 1950s through the ’90s. He became famous for his efficient habit of preparing a crew of an impending move to the next scene by calling out the second-to-last shot.

Since the late ’50s, it’s been routine on sets for the penultimate shot of the day to be announced as “the Abby Singer” or “the Abby.” (The final shot is nicknamed the “Martini.”)

His daughter, Jo Ann Singer, confirmed Singer died in Los Angeles. She said cancer of an unknown origin was recently discovered.

“Abby Singer was renowned for working consistently, enthusiastically and most importantly — efficiently,” said Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay. “It was this efficiency that led to the coining of a phrase known throughout the entertainment industry and around the world as the ‘Abby Singer shot’ — the next to last shot of the day.”

In his lengthy career, Singer worked on shows such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” ″Hill Street Blues” and “St. Elsewhere,” for which he received five prime-time Emmy nominations.

Singer once told the DGA that he suspected his name became shorthand for the second-to-last shot in 1957, while working on the western series “Wagon Train.” Before he knew it, “the Abby Singer shot” caught on, he said, “like lightning.”

“Working in TV we made many moves per day — from the back lot to the stage, or from one stage to another,” said Singer. “I’d say to the guys, ‘One more shot and then we’re moving,’ so when we moved, they were all prepared. The time saved could add up to a full hour of shooting for the director.”

Singer served actively in the guild, which in 1985 honored him with the Frank Capra Achievement Award, a career achievement tribute for assistant director and production managers.

“Next to my wife and children, the film business is everything I ever wanted,” he once told DGA Quarterly.

Singer is survived by his wife, Lotte Singer, two daughters, stepdaughter and three granddaughters.

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