Monday, January 29, 2007

Episode 13: The Fix

WARNING: SPOILERS ARE KEPT TO A MINIMUM, BUT THERE ARE SOME!!!!

Tonight’s episode pushes the HEROES story forward on several levels. Peter meets a mentor, invisible man Christopher Eccleston http://imdb.com/name/nm0001172/ Hiro meets “The Big Boss” who may be behind it all! (And fans of sci-fi synergy get a major treat!) One of the series regulars is revealed with a new power (one which may seem small now but will play out in a big way at the end of the season!!!) And Claire makes contact with her birth mother (Who is pretty hot! :o)! )

The episode was directed by Terrence O’Hara http://imdb.com/name/nm0641343/ I originally hired him for SMALLVILLE because of an awesome X-FILES episode he did. He’s a super nice guy, efficient, visual and great with cast. He’s a favorite on SMALLVILLE, and has done eight or ten episodes. I thought he’d fit in well here also.


DIRECTOR TERRENCE O’HARA


TERRENCE, THOMAS AND HAYDEN IN THE BURNT TOAST DINER

This episode was another one of the handful that was designed to be smaller budgetarally. Most of the show shot in or around our sound stages with only 1 day and one scene shot “out.”

For instance the entire Hiro storyline was shot in the parking garage where our crew parks. We dropped a huge blue screen for one angle and we matted in an NYC city street in the background. It was kind of a pain in the butt because we had to park the crew 2 blocks away and shuttle them in that day. I thought the director and the Stargate VFX team did a good job of putting it together… Especially the shot which dollys with Hiro and Ando as they walk away from the ticket booth and tilts them up the stairs.

The scene on the NYC city street at night where Peter first meets and confronts the invisible man was filmed in one night in downtown LA. The original plan was to have only a very little bit of that scene in episode 12 and most of it in episode 13… But in the editing bay Tim Kring decided he liked going all the way up to Chris Eccleston choking Peter in episode 12 and then reprising most of that scene again in 13.

A very interesting thing in this series, that I’ve certainly never experienced before, is the vast flexibility of how we tell the stories episode-to-episode. Sometimes we pick up stories right where they left off, actually reusing previously shot footage. Sometimes we re-shoot scenes that have been previously seen, using new angles to tell new nuances. Sometimes we “park” a story and don’t come back to it for 2 or 3 episodes. It’s both enormously freeing and challenging creatively.

One of the big challenges of this episode was, how do we tell the story of two invisible people, who can see each other, but who can’t be seen by the public, in the middle of a downtown New York street. Tim never wants this show to lean too heavily on visual effects, and is always looking for the more human way to tell the stories. And in this case, even if we did want to go VFX heavy… what would they be? If we made Milo and Christopher look transparent amongst the other people they’d look like ghosts. We talked about ways to switch between visible to invisible on camera, but worried that that would tell the story that they were transitioning back and forth instead of staying invisible in and amongst other people.

In the end, after much discussion, we decided to try to “double-cover” lots of the scenes, seeing it sometimes from our characters points of view and sometimes from the world’s. Frankly, this episode became a learning experience. We made a couple of mistakes. One was not using the exact same angles when we transitioned from Chris and Milo struggling and knocking over the table, we change angles to a slightly wider view as the table they bumped is knocked over. This moment isn’t as visually clear as I wish it was. Also, I don’t think we hired enough actors (as opposed to extras) to react to the invisible struggle. The first cut seemed confusing… Can people hear them even though they don’t see them? We improved this a bit in post by adding dialogue, but we could have done better to see more specific reactions from the street people.

I think you’ll see at the beginning of the next episode (#14) how we greatly improved these problems. TV is a learning medium on many levels.


MILO AND CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON

We also built a new major set for the series, which makes its debut in this episode. It is the rooftop of the Deveaux building. That’s right, the rooftop of the building where Simone’s father lived and died and where Peter first met Simone.

In upcoming episodes this will be scene in the past, the present and the future. In it’s glory, in mild disrepair and in destruction. Of course, the Deveaux roof is in downtown Manhattan – so how do we achieve its look?

During this episode’s prep we had a spasm of financial responsibility where we decided not to build it at all and to rewrite it to Isaac’s loft. Another, more minor spasm, where we decided to build it on stage – but build it mostly surrounded by close-in walls and a very minor blue-screen. And then we did it the HEROES way. We built a 1,200 sqaure foot set, elevated 12 feet off the ground, surrounded by a 300 foot wide 40 foot high blue screen which can only be adequately shot by using a 50 foot techno crane. And then, when all is said and done 80% of the shots are visual effects shots where we matte in New York City in the background… Day and Night!!!

Like I always say “HEROES, IT’S LIKE A TV SHOW… ONLY BIGGER!”


OUR NEW SET: THE DEVEAUX ROOF


IT TAKES TWO DP’S (JOHN ARONSON AND NATE GOODMAN) TO NOT BE ABLE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SHOOT THIS BABY


SET DETAIL – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS


D.P. JOHN ARONSON


JOHN ARONSON PRECISELY MEASURES A SET WE’RE BUILDING ON LOCATION

Well, that’s it for this week. Hope you like the episode.

Next week… The adventure continues!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Episode 12: Godsend

Well, we’re finally back on the air.

HEROES went off with episode 11 on December 4th. We kept shooting through December 20th and actually got 15 episodes in the can. December 21st thru January 3rd was our winter hiatus. Everyone on the cast and crew disbanded for a couple of weeks – some on vacations to warm weather like Hawaii and Cabo, some back East to see family and some just stayed here in LA. Let me tell you, we were all really exhausted.

I actually prepped episode 16 before the break and came straight back to work shooting it. I guess I’ll talk more about 16 when it airs, but lemme tell you… It wasn’t that well prepped. Everyone was so tired that we don’t exactly remember that last week. Also, I spent three of my seven days of prep directing scenes from other episodes. We’d gone so long on episode 13 and 14 that both directors had to leave to start their next jobs before we’d finished – and I had to mop up.

But – more on that later…

Twelve is where we restart our story. I think we left the audience with a pretty satisfying cliffhanger in December… Peter dreams he is the bomb that will destroy Manhattan. Eden is dead. Sylar has been captured. The Haitian is protecting Claire who knows her father has mind wiped her family and now she has to pretend she’s been mind wiped too. Niki has turned herself in to the police for the murder of Linderman’s men in episode 1. Hiro has lost his powers and has met Isaac who paints a future (or is it the past???) in which Hiro battles a dinosaur with a sword!

So, what’s next?…

A pretty exciting second half I think!

A lot of us are nervous that we now go head-to-head with “24”…. We knew our last run of episodes had to be great! Personally, I feel confident.

In part 2 of our season - which will go for 6 episodes - the noose tightens and the characters are drawn inevitably more together and towards the bomb blast, which they will either stop - or which will destroy Manhattan. 3 major new characters will be introduced and some that we have come to love may be killed!

Episode 12 was directed by Paul Shapiro. Paul also directed episode 5 (Frankly, I can never remember the titles of the episodes… I have to think about them in numerical sequence, because, from my point of view, what number they air in dictates many decisions we make.) Paul did another great job. It’s funny, he’s gotten both of the Hiro-Nathan scenes we have had. Which are always hilarious. Masi brings out comedy in Adrian. In fact, the whole “billan-villlian” thing in this episode was ad-libbed by those two. On set Jeph Loeb and I were dubious and thought the boys were going too broad with the comedy – we made sure a straighter alternative was shot. But Tim Kring loved this version, and, in fact it was the piece that they showed when Masi went on Jay Leno.


PAUL SHAPIRO


PAUL SHAPIRO AND PRODUCTION DESIGNER RUTH AMMON AT THE OIL DERRICK


HAYDEN AND THOMAS AT THE OIL DERRICK (IT WAS FREEZING OUT THERE!!!)

The main thing I remember about episode 12 is that it took FOREVER to get done filming. It had lots of small scenes in specific locations which couldn’t be scheduled with other work. There were also numerous conflicts with actor schedules between other episodes that were shooting at the same time. Also, we had to get several of our cast to New York for the Macy’s Parade, Regis and Kelly and the Carson Daley show, etc. There was also a situation where many scenes in this episode also appear partially in other episodes. The bomb sequence that concluded episode 11 recurs here but re-visualized and with new elements – including the dialogue with Nathan and the introduction of Christopher Eccleston – but Chris Eccleston, who’s from England, had issues with getting a work visa in time which delayed shooting his shots… The final scene where Peter walks away from the hospital on the NYC Street also plays in episode 13 – not enough work for two nights, but too much for one…. There are two scenes of Claire and the Haitian at the oil derrick in this episode and one in episode 13 - which is a distant location – we had to shoot all three in one day, in the eight hours of available November daylight (i.e. that’s FAST!!!)... The museum scene with Hiro and Ando was shot at the L.A. Natural History Museum – which was only available from 6 PM to 6 AM... The crew shot until dawn and then many (including the director) had to go directly up to the PrimaTech paper company to film scenes from this episode and episode 11. There was one brief scene of Hiro and Ando running out of the museum in day NYC which didn’t schedule with anything. We started filming the padded cell with Ali Larter – but there were problems with the set that caused us to have to stop and re-work it. Hayden Panettiere got sick, etc. etc. – All of this resulted in the episode shooting many partial days and having many “hold” days -- we were actually finished with most of episode 14 before we had12 completely finished.

To make matters worse, from a post-production point of view, we wanted to lock picture, score and mix episode 12 before we broke for vacation. We knew that episodes 16 and 17 would have very tight post schedules – so if we could get ahead it would greatly benefit us down the road. Tim Kring and the writers got us the scripts in plenty of time, but we couldn’t get it done.

The late shooting and the complex visual effects (Peter exploding, Ted’s nuclear hands, invisibility - as well as many other subtle VFX, made this impossible. We were able to lock picture before the break, but that was all.

Ah well, The best laid plans of mice and men…

There were a lot of cool things done in post, though. I love the way editor, Scott Boyd, treated Peter’s dream with many little flashes. And we went bold with the color of the show again – as we had in the very early episodes. Separating NYC as blue, Texas as gold, and draining color and adding grain to Nevada.


MASI CONTEMPLATIVE




FUN ONES FROM EP. NINE – MILO WITH 4 LEGS

Last thing to talk about is what an exciting time it’s been as HEROES has been nominated for several awards – the writers guild award for best series, the American Society of Cinematograpgers award for Adam Kane, D.P. of the pilot, The Art Director’s Guild award for Ruth Ammon for episode 10 (“Six Months Earlier”), The Golden Globe for best drama and for Masi Oka as best supporting actor (which we lost) and The People’s Choice award for best new drama (Which we won!!!)

It’s an amazing feeling to be recognized for your work like this. We’re all so proud of the show, but to have others acknowledge the show as well is especially gratifying. But more amazing than any awards show is the personal effect the show is having on people. Dennis Hammer and Tim Kring recounted a story from NAPTA (The National Association of Professional Teaching Assistants) in Las Vegas where a school teacher from, I believe, Indiana, told them about her class of special needs students who have adopted HEROES as their own and used it as a tool for why it’s good to be special. It’s so touching.

See you next week…

P.S. Check out the number on the buisness card HRG hands to Suresh....Have you tried calling it yet?