WARNING – SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN
Tonight’s episode was written by Tim Kring, and directed by me – your humble blogger. Oh, also, I’m doing the online commentary with Milo tonight on nbc.com. I know some of you enjoyed the commentary Greg Grunberg and I did a few weeks ago. So hopefully you’ll enjoy this one too.
I was really excited when I first read the script for this one. There were a lot of really fun opportunities in it – the structure which started four months ago, and then moved forward – to “three months ago,” “two months ago,” etc. was an interesting storytelling device that I had never done before.
I was also excited to work with Leonard Roberts again, and to tell the story of what happened to DL. He is a nice guy, who is always a pleasure to have on set.
Whenever I first read a script I always let an emotional impression wash over me. I try not to jump to quickly to “how am I going to shoot it?” or “what are the problems here?” I just try to let the emotions speak to me. For me, the emotional arc of the story will determine the visual design choices I make.
This episode felt like it wanted to be simple and elegant. It opens with a bang (Peter and Nathan flying and exploding), and it ends with a bang (Peter being hunted down by Elle and the Haitian.) But in between there was a methodical nature to it, which to me indicated a sense of constant, but gentle pressure. As I began to plan and develop the look and the blocking, I kept thinking of simple camera moves that were always moving in or around, not a lot of coverage (i.e. angles), and a constant sense of rising pressure.
One of the fun things that we do on HEROES, is that we frequently open an episode at the exact minute, or perhaps a minute before the end of the previous episode. In episode 7 Peter re-appeared in the present having abandoned Caitlin there. He screamed “Caitlin” and fell to his knees and we went to commercial. Later, after the commercial break and several scenes, we ended the show on Peter shooting a bolt of energy at Adam. Well, in this one, I had the idea of combining both of those two, previously separated moments, into one. After the “previously on heroes” segment, we come up on a shot of Peter, seen from above. Using a techno-crane, which is a crane with a telescoping arm - a device that can, effectively, both crane and dolly from a fixed platform, I moved through all of the previously seen moments in one unbroken shot. I wanted to do a long take to start the episode, because I thought it would give the viewers a sense of things happening in real time – which is an important theme of the episode.
I re-used a few shots from episode 7 as Adam first comes out, but then shifted to new film which was all shot hand held, to add tension.
After the camera zooms into Peter’s eye, we reprise some film from last year’s finale’, and then we go into the sequence of what happened when Nathan flew away with Peter. I knew this was a very important sequence on many levels. First of all, lots of you fans have had questions about this event since the beginning of this season. I also knew that I had to make the flying look great.
Trust me, flying is hard to do right. This year we’ve done OK a few times, (I liked when West flew outside Claire’s bedroom in the first episode, and when Claire leapt off the Hollywood sign in episode 4.) But in other places, notably episode 3 – we haven’t done flying so well. Bottom line, to even attempt to do flying right is a time consuming, and therefore expensive, proposition. In my experience, first off, you have to design and storyboard the shots very specifically, then you have to have a lot of very specific dialogues with the stunt coordinator and the effects riggers and the visual effects producers. In this case we had to pre-select the pre-existing helicopter backplates of New York, which the actors would be dropped into, and design the shots around them. Different rigging is required for each of the shots, and you have to be organized about this – not just so that you can do it all well, but also so that you can move efficiently through the day – going out of story sequence if needed so that you can shoot all similar rigs in sequence. Then, the actors have to be harnessed in unnatural (i.e. horizontal positions) on a green screen stage, and you have to design specific flying moves for them to perform and specific camera moves that support these performances. Then, you have to blow a crapload of wind on the actors. And then, in editing, you have to cut it altogether real fast so the viewer never gets a real good look at any one shot. When we haven’t done so well, this year, is when we’ve succumbed to budget pressures and said, “Just stand the actors on a box on the blue screen, move the camera around and stay in close-ups.” It just doesn’t work.
I knew I had a shot on this one though, because I had my two best athletes on the floor. A lot of what it takes to make flying right, is for the actors to have good abdominal muscle control. Both Adrian and Milo are strong and have excellent stamina and they were both into it. If you can imagine being hoisted fifteen feet into the air, in a tight fitting harness that squeezes your guts, and then being asked to lay out flat with your (unsupported) legs and arms straight (kind of like doing a “plank” in yoga) and then having to emote and do dialogue at the same time – well then you can get a picture of what we were asking the actors to do.
I hope you feel we did well. There are two specific shots where Milo really impressed me. The first is where Peter pushes away from Nathan and tumbles away into the distance. We had the two actors harnessed separately. When Milo pushed off we, literally, towed him on a line about twenty yards away from Adrian. He enhanced this by tumbling head over heels like a Cirque du Soleil performer. Another one was where (what I call) “Crispy” Nathan is falling and Peter flies up and catches him. We actually had a stunt performer doing Nathan’s role for that shot. (Not so much because Adrian couldn’t do it, and more because of the three hours the makeup took to do) “Stunt” Nathan had to hold himself in a very unnatural position with his arms and legs extended upward. I kept going up on a ladder to adjust his arms and legs. We rolled. Then, as the camera swooped down onto Nathan, Milo was released on a line, which he rode down like a bullet – maybe thirty or forty yards and he smacked into the stuntman like a linebacker hitting a tackling dummy. I jumped out of my chair on set and screamed “Yeah!!!”
I think the whole thing is nicely integrated, with the VFX boys adding mist, ocean, clouds and Nathan’s scorching face.
HEROES – IT’S LIKE A TV SHOW, ONLY BIGGER
MILO AND ADRIAN FLYING – IT’S ALL IN THE ABS BABAY!
In the scene where Angela comes and stands over Nathan’s bed, I had an interesting problem. I didn’t want to show Nathan’s burned body until the very end of the scene – so that the audience sees the extent of the burns at the same moment that the character does. I joked with the other producers later, saying, “Man it takes a lot more shots to NOT show somebody than it does to show them.” And it’s true. If I’d been willing to show Nathan’s burns early in the scene, then I could have just shot a close up of Angela, a close up of Nathan, and maybe one or two wider angles. But as it was, I had to shoot many angles, in which Nathan was either staged to not be seen (like a super low angle from below the bed onto Angela,) draped in shadows (like the super high down, super wide angle from above the bed) or shots where he was seen only in details. (Like the super tight close-ups of Nathan’s eyes and lips.) But, ultimately, this scene was all about Cristine Rose. More so than most scenes, she had to carry all the weight of the first 90% of the scene. Since I wasn’t showing Nathan, only her shocked reaction, tells you the extent of his injuries. Cristine and I talked about how she should feel this gut wrenching emotion, seeing her cherished first born so disfigured, but that she then had to hide her emotions so that she wouldn’t unduly upset him. I love working with Cristine. She’s a pro. She’s happy to be here. And she is an exceptional actor who always makes surprising, yet subtle choices. Having said that, I also want to compliment Adrian. We did four takes of the moment where he rises up and sees himself for the first time. He “discovered” it a little more each take. And, on the fourth, he surprised me with the take that’s in, where he put his hand to his mouth in an almost childlike reaction. I loved it!
Kudos, also, to our special-effects-makeup team from Optic Nerve. This makeup, literally took months to design, with Adrian going to their shop several time to be molded. Every day Adrian had to wear this makeup, it took 3 or 4 hours to apply, and an hour to get off at the end of the day. But it was magnificent. It holds up to really tight close-ups, which is very rare. Both Cristine and Adrian commented on how easy this makeup made their jobs. An actor’s job is, largely, to create honest emotional reactions to imaginary situations. In this case, the makeup took away a lot of the obligation to imagine, because it was so good.
CRISTINE ROSE (HOW AWESOME IS SHE?) AND “CRISPY” ADRIAN PASDAR
MILO AND “CRISPY” ADRIAN – KIDS, SEE! MOM TOLD YOU NOT TO PLAY WITH MATCHES (OR BUTANE LIGHTERS) AND HERE’S WHY
“CRISPY” ADRIAN PASDAR UNDERGOES A BIZARRE FORM OF PHYSICAL THERAPY
This episode also really introduces Kristen Bell into the show. She had been in a handful of scenes in episode 5, but now she comes in full force. First of all, I love her, and love having her around. She, like most of our cast, comes to play. As a director, on the most fundamental level, you want your cast to come prepared. They need to know their lines, and hit their marks (as Spencer Tracy once said.) And they should have a take on what they’re saying and doing. I know this sounds so obvious, but you’d be shocked how often it’s not the case – where an actor either can’t deal with the technical fundamentals of blocking with crew and camera – or where they really haven’t thought through the psychological underpinnings of their character and why they’re doing what they’re doing in a scene. The more organized the cast and the director are, coming in, the more they can play and invent the scene to maximum benefit. Kristen comes ready and she participates and invents very well with the rest of the cast. Luckily we shot, largely, in order. The first scene I did with her was the long one where Milo awakens in Bob’s office. Tim Kring had described to me how he saw Kristen’s character of Elle. That she had grown up her whole life inside the company, rarely traveling outside of the building and almost never unsupervised – all of which resulted in mal-adjusted social skills. How she had a, kind of, sexualization of her electrical power. And how she responded to everything on a very emotional, almost infantile level. This first scene, was very much one where she was discovering this character. It, I believe, was very different from anything she’s done before. As we progressed through the scene, I kept encouraging her to take more and more chances and be odder with the character. I discovered a sense that the character was very A/B -1/2, meaning, she viewed everything simplistically as something she desired or didn’t desire, and she either got her way or didn’t. So everything is very “want-get,” “want-don’t get,” “don’t want-get”, or “don’t want- don’t get.” Elle appears a very mature sexualized young woman, but she has a child’s perspective on the world. Anyway, after the firsts scene she grabbed a hold of the character and ran with it. Most of her scenes were with Milo in the cell and the two had a good time playing off each other. As I mentioned before, I kept my coverage simple. There are usually only a few shots in each scene and I tried to let the masters play as long as I could wherever I could. Shooting less coverage, ultimately, gave the actors more time to play with each other in the scenes. I hope for good benefit.
KRISTEN AND MILO PART ONE
KRISTEN AND MILO PART DEAUX
KRISTEN AND MILO - “AN ACTOR PREPARES”
That’s almost it. I also want to thank our hair people for creating a great wig for Milo Ventimiglia. Wigs are tough and this was a good one. It was interesting that when Milo put it on, it seemed to throw him immediately back into last year’s character.
AND NOW – ONTO THE PIX!!!
HYDEN PANITIERRE – GREEN ON GREEN
THE PAPERAZZI STALK ADRIAN WHEREVER HE GOES
ADRIAN, HAYDEN AND MILO
MICAH’S TV BIRTHDAY
ALI AND LEANORD RE-LIVE THE DISCO YEARS
ALI, BLOODY ALI
BATTLE OF THE DOMINICAN BEAUTIES
DANIA RAMIREZ – THE SCENE GOT CUT BUT THE LIGHTING IS SOOO PRETTY!!!
SISTER DANIA (SUNDAY SCHOOL REGISTRATION JUST WENT UP!!!)
JIMMY JEAN LOUIS LOVES YOU
ONE COLD NIGHT MY OLD PAL MICHAEL ROSENBAUM (I.E. LEX FROM ‘SMALLVILLE”) SHOWED UP TO VISIT
THERE WERE MANY CELEBRITIES THAT NIGHT
ZACHARY LEVI (FROM NBC’S “CHUCK”) EVEN SHOWED UP – LIKE I SAID IT WAS A CELEB HEAVY NIGHT
JEPH LOEB AND I LAUGH IT UP ON SET (BUT IS IT ME? OR JESSA-GREG IN THE MIRROR???)
MILO ON THE DOCK SET (WE USED BLUE SCREEN IN THE BACKGROUND TO MATTE IN NEW YORK – WE ALSO ADDED THE SNOW)
MILO VENTIMIGLIA – SHIRT OR NO SHIRT A MAN’S GOTTA TEXT!
PETER BATTLES THE HAITIAN
AND IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH – HERE’S STORYBOARDS!!! (I THINK YOU’LL FIND WE FOLLOWED THEM PRETTY CLOSELY)