OK guys, this to me, is one of the most exciting episodes we’ve made so far. It’s true that its existence is reliant upon the rest of the season. It could not exist separately from the rest of the episodes, and maybe, viewed on it’s own, it will make no sense. But then, let’s face it – that’s how ALL of HEROES is. If you haven’t been watching all year, this is a tough show to jump into the middle of.
This one takes us 5 years into the future, courtesy of Hiro’s time leap. There we view a cautionary tale of what the future could be if our Heroes fail in their mission. I loved this idea when I first heard it. (I think Jeph Loeb first laid it out for me.) It reminded me of X-Men 141-142 “Days of Future Past” (which I bought off the rack as a kid and still own.) I know all the comic geeks in the writer’s room - Loeb, Alexander, Joe Pokaski (who wrote the episode) and Aron Coleite used that as a touchstone. The prep and shooting were hard. There were many, many conversations about tone -- How dark? How sci-fi? What was the look in this future for wardrobe, hairstyles, architecture, etc.? (The writer’s had pre-thought out some of this. By setting the story only 5 years in the future we weren’t obligated to create any wildly futuristic looks.) Another concern was tone of performance. It’s a lot of fun for the cast to create a new version of their character both in terms of performance and look. But there are also opportunities to, without discipline, run off the rails. I know that, ahead of time, I went down to set to speak to as many of the cast as I could about what they were thinking and what we were thinking. The shooting, for me, felt arduous. I think I was just overly nervous about it. Our director, Paul Edwards, had things well in hand – but I made more set visits to anxiously oversee things more than I had been lately. The shoot was quite drawn out too. Episode 21 came and went and we were well into the prep of episode 22 before this one was finished. This is because we had several internal actor conflicts. Masi was very heavy in both 20 and 21 and we had to delay a couple of episode 20’s days for it. We also had some late breaking trouble with one of our locations and had to delay shooting for that as well. It’s all a big juggling act on this show. Anyway, despite my early anxieties, by the time episode 20 finished I had, kind of, lost track of it. 21 had it’s own problems and then came 22 which I was directing and which was very big.
It was a weekend after shooting on 22 had started when I got the director’s cut. I had a mild trepidation, but also vague neutrality. We all watch dallies, and we may get advanced looks at a scene or two – if there are any questions about something. But the director’s cut of an episode is the first time the producers see it all put together. Whenever possible I like to be alone when I’m seeing a first version, and I think it’s important to watch it all the way through, without stopping, in order to get a full and true impression of it. It’s a mixed bag, watching these. The show is still usually in an early stage of it’s development. There are no visual effects, temporary sound effects and temporary music have been added. Usually they are sporadic and frequently not-quite-right. Usually it is several minutes over the final length. A few are great. A few are God-awful. Most are OK and, over the years, you train yourself to see past the first cut and into the ultimate potential. (By the way I’m not spared this experience when I direct. Seeing the first version of my own episodes is an, often, unsettling time for me.) Anyway… All this is prelude to say, that as this episode unspooled before me – I had the rare experience of true excitement. I felt that this was going to end up a great and very special hour of television.
You may have your own opinion that is quite different from mine. Maybe you'll think it was just OK. Maybe you'll think it stunk. But I love this episode, I think it’s cool, and I am very proud to have participated in it.
Speaking of the director, Paul Edwards is back, directing his second HEROES. Paul directed episode 8 “Seven Minutes to Midnight.” Sadly that was one of the ones I spaced on and never wrote a blog about (back before I was fully committed like I am now :) ) Anyway, we all felt like episode 8 was great and that Paul had contributed well to it. So we brought him back. Paul was a camera operator for years and years before he recently began directing. As you can see if you iMdb him he has a lot of credits as an operator http://imdb.com/name/nm0250267/ including a number of movies for Tony Scott. Paul has a very intense personality. He never sits down on set. His mind and his mouth are going a hundred miles an hour. And sometimes you want to suggest that there are delightful decaffeinated beverages available as well. But his film rocks and both his shows have turned out excellently.
STAGING A SCENE – PAUL EDWARDS, CAST, AND D.P. NATE GOODMAN
One scene I was particularly happy with the way Paul concieved of it and shot it, is the one where Peter and Niki are in her dressing room in Vegas just before Peter leaves. He had a very limited space to work with, and the scene plays deceptively simply. But but the way Paul used mirrors and the way he blocked the actors to and from camera was very clean, and really enhanced the progression of the emotions in this scene.
The whole cast did great in this episode, but there are a few I’d like to single out: First, I really think Milo did an awesome job in this episode. His scar-faced character is a much stronger and much more bitter man than the innocent Peter of today. He’s a completely different character in some ways, and yet you can feel the logical extension of how he got from A to B. Milo’s performance helps us fill in all the gaps in between. I think Milo’s work in this episode is masterful and subtle at the same time. At the end of the day, his character, across the whole season has had the biggest arc and Milo has made it specific and real. I’m sure when the DVD comes out and we can watch the shows in quick succession we’ll see his progress more clearly… But, IMHO (as you posters say) he has been in strong command the whole time – much more so than I realized in the early going.
Also, Adrian Pasdar kicks ass. He had in his head to subtlely play Sylar the whole time, but only to let it slip in the moments before he kills Claire. I know that he got together with Zach Quinto ahead of time and had Zach read the scenes for him. And on the day of the scene where Nathan/Sylar kills Claire – he had Zach do a pass at the blocking of the scene so he could study his mannerisms. If you watch the show a second time you’ll see how it is a slightly different performance than the usual Nathan.
And finally, Masi. Masi had the most technically challenging role – as he frequently switched back and forth between Hiro and “Future” Hiro several times a day. In the long scene where Hiro and Ando confront “Future” Hiro, we used a motion-control camera, a device that perfectly replicates dolly and pan/tilt moves so that Hiro and “Future” Hiro can be in the same frame at the same time. But for Masi, it meant that he had to play “Future” Hiro first and then do a pass as Hiro later, where he had to hit his marks and space out his dialogue perfectly to fit into the take that he had already done. Luckily Masi has a very mathematical mind and he was able to do this relatively easily.
A couple of other points of interest. We had to find an oval office set for Nathan’s scenes as president in the future. The set we used was the one built for WEST WING. I always assumed we’d just go to Warner Brother’s studios for the day, but it turned out that the set had been dissembled. So we had to drive it over and rebuild it. A complicated endeavor.
Also, I think Ruth Ammon and the art department did a beautiful job with the ground zero set, particularly the eternal flame portion of it. The VFX crew at Stargate deserve a nod as well because they did great set extensions. But the best part was that because we built the set in the parking lot outside our offices - it provided a surprise opportunity for Tim Kring, Allan Arkush, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale (the famous comic-book artist who creates all of Isaac’s work) and I to all be together. We are almost never in the same place at the same time!
TIM SALE, GREG BEEMAN, ALLAN ARKUSH, TIM KRING, JEPH LOEB (TOGETHER AT LAST!)
HAYDEN PANITIERRE GLAM-OR-OUS
HIRO AND ANDO IN THE FUTURE
Next week – the saga continues!