Okay, as promised, in the next weeks, while HEROES is on hiatus, I’ll use the blog space to answer fan questions.
If you have a question, send it in to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again to HEROSITE.NET webmaster Craig for gathering the questions for me.
From Mike Kim:
1. Why are there gaps between episodes?
Mostly it’s a math problem- like one of those seventh grade “word problems” that you thought would never matter. In July of last year we began filming HEROES. It takes eight days to complete filming of every episode (actually it takes much longer - more like ten to twelve days - but any episode which shoots over eight days we complete with simultaneous units – meaning, most of the time, we have two complete film crews shooting at the same time.)
Now that means eight “working days” so depending on how the weekends fall it takes 10 to 12 calendar days to complete filming of an episode. It also takes a minimum of 4 weeks to complete post production of each episode – including picture editing, visual effects, music, sound mixing and color timing.
On September 25th we aired the first episode. At that time we already had 5 and a half episodes in the can. But from that point on, every 7 days a new episode airs. The math of 7 days between airings and twelve days between completing episodes catches up to us pretty quickly. By November we were in a situation where we couldn’t get any more episodes on the air.
Combine that with the fact that, from a network point of view, December is a slow TV-watching month. We design in a hiatus in December. Because the cast and crew take a two week break around Christmas (so we don’t die of exhaustion) the same phenomenon happens now, in early March.
Some shows like “24" and “Alias” (and “Lost” halfway this year) have opted to not begin showing their first episode until January and then run them continuously. They also start filming in July, but don’t air anything ‘til the new year. For many reasons NBC and HEROES did not want to do that in season one. Maybe in another year.
2. In the sneak peek, I saw a person who looks like Claire with HRG but I can’t really be positive if it is Hayden, Is my theory right that that is Claire in the future with HRG?
Make sure you watch episode 20 on April 30th, and all will be answered. Just remember in our universe multiple timelines and universes are a very possible phenomenon.
From Wrion Bowling:
I know many young directors make the mistake of focusing all of their prep. on visuals and not performances. What “homework” do you do to prepare for a scene, as far as directing actors is concerned?
Excellent question. First of all, I recommend for all directors to take or audit an acting class,, so that you can begin to understand what the actor’s process is. All actors are different, but there are many aspects to acting which are about the technical manipulation of emotions.
Then go over your script, work hard to track the emotional arcs of all the main characters. Where are they starting emotionally? Where do they end up and how do they get there? Go over these things with the writer and if there are any inconsistencies in the characters emotional path, try to fix it on the page.
Actors work from “intentions” – meaning what does their character want in the scene? An actor in a scene (and all people at all times really) have something they want to get or accomplish within the scene. They may want something physical, like to find out where the money is hidden, or to kill their enemy. They may want something actively emotional - like to seduce, or frighten the other actor. They may want something more passive, like to make the other person go away, or to not tell a secret. If you and the actor can describe and agree upon the intention of a scene, you’re halfway home because you will both be working towards the same goal.
Remember the language of actors is emotion. Direct them with emotional words. I try to stay simple. i.e. “You’re pissed off, but you want her to think you’re calm."
I read a quote from Robert DeNiro once, which I think is very true, and I always remember. He said that, in real life, people spend a lot more energy hiding their true emotions than in showing them. This is very true. If an actor and director play only the obvious emotion, anger, sadness, etc. it can be real hokey. Layering an subversive intention on top of an emotion can be much more interesting. i.e. hiding anger with calmness. Hiding sadness with busy activity.
From Jenna DeVillier:
Is there going to be just 23 episodes or as some sites claim – 5 whole seasons?
We will do 23 this year. We will do 22 or 23 next year. After that it’s all about ratings. If our ratings stay strong we’ll live to see five years or more. No one can predict that far ahead right now. (Except maybe Isaac.)
From The Torres Family:
If Isaac couldn’t paint as well as he does, could he still see the future?
Yes. He just would draw sucky pictures of the future. When Peter absorbed his power, in episode 2, he drew stick-figure style future drawings.
From Mike Nilrad:
1. With such a big cast, 12 main characters and multiple recurring one’s, and so many stories all revolving around each other, how difficult is it to film each episode, with about every scene needing an almost completely different setting, as opposed to other shows, which might usually film in only one main location, with fewer characters?
The bottom line, HEROES is an incredibly difficult show to produce and direct for exactly all the reasons you mention. It’s also what makes it special and great. I remember watching X-FILES in it’s second season and thinking “How do they get all that done for one TV show?” It’s the same for us. A lot of smart, talented people working really hard.
2. Which power is the most difficult to film?
Claire’s is kinda hard because we have to film a before and after version. One with a bloody prosthetic appliance, one without. Peter going invisible is pretty easy. We just shoot him in one spot, then he steps out, we film the background, and, in editing we ripple the background. DL’s “phasing” through walls is OK. We film the wall background, then film DL on green screen, coming at us and put the two together. Flying is probably the most difficult. We have to do a day on a green screen stage with the actors in flying rigs that are quite uncomfortable, blow tons of wind at them, and swoop the camera around – to mimic their movements. Then we have to go to New York and film helicopter shots (called “back plates”) to be the backgrounds. We marry the two in post and add digital mist, etc.
From Eric Willett:
Is HEROES only going to be on for one season?
No. We are already picked up for season two.
I noticed in this episode (16) that some of the scenes seemed to have a prominent lighting color (like one of the rooftops scenes was mostly green if I remember correctly). How do you decide what color to use? Is it based on the emotions of the scene, or the characters?
Good question. We base the color palate on region, not character or emotion. The original thought behind this was to subtlely let the audience know what story they were watching, no matter which characters were in it. New York is cool, a little blue. Texas is warm, gold/yellow. Nevada is hot, bleached out. Los Angeles is neutral, warm with rich colors. Tokyo is neutral, but we do a lot of colorful signage and a lot of neon.
We also search for different kind of architecture based on region. New York is older buildings with lots of character and age. California is a lot of craftsman and Spanish architecture. Texas is open landscapes with formidable, concrete structures – strength. Tokyo is ultra modern. Nevada is kind of crappy suburbs and glamorous casinos.
There were emotional/intellectual reasons for all these decisions, but that’s too complex to go into right now.
From Scott King:
How big is the production staff for HEROES compared to other shows? HEROES just feels so epic at times and it’s hard to believe that the average size crew and staff can do all it does.
HEROES is, indeed, bigger than most other shows. We have a writing staff, production office staff, a shooting crew, a post production team – which is what all shows have. We also contract out a company that does our visual effects and another company that does our prosthetic makeup effects. The main reason we’re bigger is that we frequently have two main units going at the same time. That means, two sets of trucks and trailers, two directors of photography, two make-up and hair teams, two caterers, two sound crews, etc. etc.
There have even been a couple of times when we had two main unit crews and an insert unit crew going.
Bottom line the size of the crew varies… On our smallest days we employee 85-100 people and on our largest days about 300.
Can you please tell me if the scenes with George Takei (episode 14) were really shot in Port Washington, NY or if it was supposed to look like it was.
P.S. Great show by the way. LOL.
We film every scene in Los Angeles. One of the challenges of the show is to find locations in the L.A. area that look like places from all around the world.
I had a good laugh when I looked at the license plate of Mr. Nakamura's car (episode 14). I like those little jokes. Did you place it deliberately or was it just someone from the equipment staff having fun?
Believe it or not, none of the writers, directors or production team planned that. It was the idea of one of our prop people – a great, hard working guy named James Clark.
From Brandon and Christi Tyler:
So, when will Episode 19 air? And when is the season finale? I am trying to plan a party for this and can't find any dates.
Episode 19 will air on April 23rd and the season finale will be on May 21st.
The one question I have is how many people and how many hours were needed to make all those origami cranes (episode 11)? It was really beautiful.
I went down and asked the art department this question and the answer blew me away.
First, by pure coincidence, there is a Catholic girl’s school in the area, and one of the school’s teachers was very sick. The girls had read, in class, a story about folding 1000 paper cranes to get a wish to come true, and they decided to fold cranes to wish for their teacher to get better.
We rented the first 1000 cranes from them.
But 1000 actually wasn’t enough to fill out the diner and look good.
So we hired another 10 people who folded cranes and attached string to hang them - for 3 eight hour days!
All departments got involved in engineering how to hang them and string them. It took six hours to install them, and due to excellent design, ten minutes to strike them so that other scenes could be shot the same day.
All for one scene! Like I always say, HEROES, it’s like a TV show only bigger!
(By the way the teacher did get better and is back in school teaching)