Monday, February 26, 2007

Episode 17: Company Man

ANNOUNCEMENT:

I’ve been thinking of an idea for an upcoming blog. After episode 18 (next week) HEROES will be off the air for a few weeks. If anyone has questions about the show, which they would like me to answer, email them in and I will use those off-weeks to answer fan questions.

Craig of HEROSITE.NET and KRYPTONSITE.COM fame will be helping me with this, by gathering your questions. So, if you have any questions about HEROES – (writer/story questions are OK, but production/behind the scenes stuff would be more appropriate) - email me with the subject header “Question for Beeman” in care of Craig at:

herosite@gmail.com

EPISODE 17

Tonight is episode 17. It’s a beautiful and powerful episode. It is unique for us because it has one story and one story only. True, that story is told over 15 years of time – but it is, specifically, the story of the Bennet family. Matt Parkman’s story definitely progresses as well – but it is, fundamentally, about the Bennets.

Allan Arkush directed the episode. He is, of course, the other director/producer on staff. Allan, in my opinion, did a spectacular job with difficult material. Don’t get me wrong, Bryan Fuller’s script was great… evocative, chilling and poignant… But at the end of the day, the purely mechanical directorial challenge is that more than half the script takes place between 6 characters in one three-room set. Think about it -- On a purely mathematical level, having 6 people in a scene adds numerous more shots to every scene than, say, having two people in a scene… But to have six people in EVERY scene – well then… Much of the other parts of the script take place in the past where the characters we know are either recast or have to be made up to look younger. Then, to top it off – we take the set that we shoot day in and day out and burn it down. And not all just in one go – in stages!!! To keep escalating the tension and to make clear the various nuances of performance under those circumstances is quite a challenge.

Typically, but not exclusively, Allan concentrates on post-production issues with the show, and I, typically but not exclusively, concentrate on prepping the episodes and getting incoming directors up to speed. Whenever I direct, I’m unavailable to prep the next director. For that reason, I prefer when Allan directs the episode directly after mine. All of which is a long way around saying that I was not very involved with this episode personally.

For that reason I’ve chosen, this time, to use this blog to interview episode 17’s editor, Donn Aron. Donn is one of three excellent editors we have on HEROES. Each editor rotates through the episodes, working on every third show. Donn cuts his show together from the vast amount of film we shoot. And he toils with the film continuously, making it work through all the stages, working first with the director, then with the producers and Tim Kring, then taking and implementing notes from the studio and network – all the while finessing the material and making it better and better. He also lays down a temporary sound and music pass with the film – which is not the final version, but which serves as an important guide to the music composers and sound designers. Donn’s film cutting is excellent, as is his sound work.

He has worked closely with Allan Arkush a number of times. I experience him as a very innovative guy who has made many contributions to the ever-evolving HEROES look and feel. He has also been on HEROES since the pilot.


DONN ARON - HEROIC EDITOR


ALLAN ARKUSH - HEROIC DIRECTOR

Greg Beeman: OK Donn, tell me about your background. Where did you grow up?

Donn Aron: In L.A.

GB: Were your parents in the film business?

DA: No. My father sold insurance. But I grew up in a neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley where it was very common for people to be in the business. I had a girlfriend whose father was a sound editor. That was one of my first real exposures to it. Also, Army Archerd was a neighbor. So it was part and parcel of the world I lived in.

GB: It didn’t feel out of reach?

DA: No. But I didn’t plan on being in that field at first. I went to art school and got a BA and an MA at Berkley. I was a conceptual artist. Painting and sculpture. I did shoot some performance piece films. I moved to New York as an artist and I showed in galleries, like “Artists Space” and in Amsterdam in an installation called “Apollo.” This was all in the mid to late 70’s. Then, for a while, I went to NYU Film School and took film and writing classes. I began to realize that it would be easier to make a living in the film business. So I moved here.

GB: To back home?

DA: Yes. I left the art world which was impractical, to the film world which would be equally impractical. I had no skills and no background, and I began, literally, pounding the street.

GB: So, how did you get started?

DA: I applied for a job at a commercial house. I became a runner and eventually a production assistant.

GB: We are getting into the 1980’s by now?

DA: Yes. In commercials. I hooked up with a couple of commercial directors. But I knew I didn’t want to edit commercials. A girl I knew had a boyfriend who was an editor and he got me a job as an apprentice on a show called GRINGOS and then another one called THE BEAST WITHIN – just terrible films, but they were my first break.

GB: How did you go from apprentice to editor? How long did that take?

DA: Well, eventually I got into the union. I’d already become an assistant by then on non-union shows. But when I got in the union I had to go back to apprentice. At that time you had to spend two years as an apprentice and then three years as an assistant before you could edit. But also at that time there was a lot of work, and if you got on the union availability roster and you make a good network of contacts and were a hard worker and you were on the ball, you could work all the time. Everything was still on film at that. The work for assistants, at that time, especially on big features, with all the syncing and coding and logging of dailies – it was incredibly labor intensive. A movie would need a veritable army of assistants.

GB: So it was good times?

DA: Sure. I was still in my twenties and there was a lot of work. We used to watch in a screening room with a group at that time, and my job was to take notes – the editor would shout out code words - “close up here” “best take for performance” - and things like that and I had to jot it all down and keep track of it. Tom Rolf was one of the first editors I worked with. And then Jackie Cambas– She was cutting a movie called RACING WITH THE MOON and she gave me my first scene to cut – she was very generous in that regard.

GB: Then what?

DA: I worked on AT CLOSE RANGE with (editor) Howard Smith. And then I began working regularly with Freeman Davies who used to cut for Walter Hill. Walter Hill always used three editors, and on a movie called RED HEAT Freeman Davies made me a co-editor and that was my first editing credit.

I totally learned how to edit on Walter Hill pictures. He used to shoot so much film. He would shoot these huge, massive action scenes with dialogue and character beats interspersed in them. He would shoot as much film for a scene as we shoot for a whole episode of TV now - 35,000 to 100,000 feet of film. That is where I really learned how to look at film. You had to sift through this massive amount of material and organize it in a logical way – I mean real mechanically – by action – by angles – by character – by direction. You’d really have to watch the film and think what parts you wanted to get to and when. I would plan for a couple of days before I even began to cut a scene. Of course the post schedule on those movies were very long. You’d be editing for a year.

GB: So you edited regularly for Walter Hill.

DA: I did several. ANOTHER 48 HOURS, JOHNNY HANDSOME, GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEDGEND.

GB: So, when did television come into the picture for you?

DA: I’d never done TV until three or four years ago – I always wanted to. I like the idea of the constant employment and the seasonal employment. In features you can wait a year or more between jobs. I had a family to support and it was a financial decision also.

But of course, just because I’d made that decision, it was still hard to break in. People didn’t want to hire you unless you’d already worked in TV.

GB: But, eventually you got to CROSSING JORDAN

DA: Right. I came to CROSSING JORDAN with Tim Kring, Dennis Hammer and Allan Arkush halfway through season 5…

GB: That’s it?

DA: Yes.

GB: Wow. I had assumed, from the way you work with them you’d been working together much longer.

DA: No, I did the last half of last season. And then Lori Motyer (the co-producer in charge of post) came and intimated that maybe Tim would want me to work on the pilot.

GB: I had no idea.

DA: Now I was not alone. That is very important to make clear. There were three editors on the project. Myself, Michael Murphy, who is also a very talented editor from CROSSING JORDAN (who now also works on HEROES) and Louise Innes. I started first, because my rotation on JORDAN was finished first. Michael came along later because he finished his last CROSSING JORDAN episode a week or two later.

GB: Three editors. Really?

DA: The pilot was a very big project. A 24 day shoot. The director, David Semel, shot an enormous amount of film and the turnaround was incredibly fast. Semel had only 3 days to do his director’s cut. Tim had, again, only 2 or 3 days to deliver the cut to the studio. Picture was locked maybe 4 days later, and the whole thing was completed to be presented to advertisers in New York, finished, only a week or two later… That’s with finished visual effects. Obviously it was a very big project.

GB: My impression of you, Donn, is that you are very innovative. You think outside of the box as to how the film can be presented and how the story can be told.

DA: I suppose that goes back to art school. There was no clear definition there of what was expected of you. You were to think on your own and create the project as you instinctively felt was right. I guess I’ve always carried that experience over with me.

GB: Well, in my experience, many editors in TV are very mechanical. There’s a feeling of “you always start with the master. You move into coverage progressively. You cut to reaction shots on certain key lines. You always end close, or always end wide,” that sort of thing.

DA: Believe me I’ve been fired for being to stylistically eccentric. On one feature I showed the director something I was just playing around with, just some ideas, and he fired me the next day... in an email. You have to be careful.

One of the reasons I so enjoy working with Tim and Dennis and Allan, on CROSSING JORDAN and on HEROES, is that they are very open. They aren’t tied to a traditional approach. They want a clearly told story. But they encourage you to improvise in how that story is told. They want clear, interesting, in some ways inspirational storytelling. As long as you are servicing ideas that help tell the story they don’t squash your impulses.

GB: Some of the innovations you did first are starting to become part of the everyday visual language of the show. I’m talking about things like the jump cuts between a character during continuous dialogue during intense parts of the show, the little mini-speed-ups and blur cuts, and what we call the “ka-chunk a chunk” cut ins that sometimes end scenes. There are these and other innovations that are specifically and exclusively post production effects.

DA: Well, it’s an evolving process. And I don’t want to take credit for all of those things. Especially on the pilot with the three editors, ideas get hashed over and hashed over by one or the other, until all the ideas blend together. But things like jump-cutting, motion effects, rapid blur cuts, I’ve been doing some of those things for a long time. I did work in documentaries for a while. In that medium, sometimes you literally have no angle changes, and yet you have to make cuts in dialogue to create a fluid idea. I became comfortable cutting where I wanted to, or where I felt the material was telling me to, without worrying about traditions of coverage. You can create the idea on camera without letting the coverage dictate to you where you have to go. You want to get to this moment in that take and you can just do it.

Also, it’s about finding the moments when it’s appropriate to do that kind of thing. Not to hide from it, but to just do it, because there’s a sense within the story that it’s appropriate to be thrust from one place to another without being taken there gently.

Always they key is to service the writing.

GB: I can think of one example of this on HEROES that we worked on together. In episode 8, there is a scene where Matt and Audrey are interrogating Ted, and Ted gets frustrated and the water starts to boil, which freaks Matt and Audrey out. The director had done a nice thing to keep the action moving – he was dollying back and forth on every piece of coverage… It was good, there was motion left-right/right-left on every cut - but still, when it was all cut together it was still too, kind of, lyrical... not edgy enough. We discussed a bolder approach and you started adding a lot of subtle video zoom in and zoom outs to the coverage and weird little speed ups in Ted’s shots and it added an immense amount of energy and tension to the scene.

DA: That scene was all about the hands. Ted’s hands. It was building to a moment of shock and fear when they realized they could all die. I looked for movement in Ted’s shots. Sometimes just 8 or 10 frames where he made a distinct body gesture. I would exaggerate it by speeding up the film. Less than a second of speed up. It makes the person look like they’re having a spasm. Or I’d stay in the same angle during this spasm. Or jump cut to another angle and repeat the body movement. You just have to find these little jewels and gems and start sketching them together like a sketchbook. I was trying, there, to sketch a moment of everyone in shock as Ted loses his temper and they all realize they could die.

GB: So, let’s talk about Allan Arkush and episode 17 “Company Man.” I’d always assumed, by the way you two work together so closely, that you’d worked with him a lot. But now I realize you’ve only done a few CROSSING JORDAN episodes.

DA: I think, before HEROES I’d done one, or maybe two of Allan’s episodes. But he’s always in the cutting room. He’s the producer who always supervises post, so I feel like I’ve worked with him a lot.

GB: Tell me about your relationship with him.

DA: Allan, as a filmmaker, has a strong point of view. It’s funny, when you first edit film for a director, it’s like going on a date. A blind date. And with Allan it’s a very good date. When I see his footage I have an immediate understanding of it. Sometimes with a director I don’t get it and you tear your hair out. But with Allan, I really get him and his film.

He always has very prepared beginnings and endings to his scenes. He is very prepared. I always enjoy the scenes he directs. They’re always a lot of fun. There’s always someplace to go with the film – a lot of places. He shoots a lot of film and gives you a lot of choices. Now, there are a lot of directors who shoot a lot of film with a, sort of, shotgun approach. A lot of takes and angles, but none with any point of view. How many angles do you really need? They shoot tons of film but they have no idea where they want to go with it. There’s no one thing that’s more important than anything else.

Allan shoots a lot of film, but it all has a plan. In going over the film you discover lots of currents that can take you in lots of different directions, but they all can take you to shore in a very satisfying way.

The danger, when you have so many good choices is to not over-edit. To stick with the choice that’s working even when you know there is another good choice out there.

GB: And how do you learn that discipline?

DA: Because you’ve watched dailies carefully.

GB: The Walter Hill experience again.

DA: Watching dailies. Noting moments. Noting what really matters. Watching dailies is 50% of it. I remember, and I take lots of notes. Nowadays watching dailies is a very private experience. As I said before it used to always be in a screening room with many people. I make notes. Then I gather my notes and then I go back to the original script. I read. What was the writer originally intending? Is there a clue in the scene description? Working this way I weave my notes, which are my memory of the dailies, and the script together - and I start to form my plan of how I’ll cut the scene. The key moments of the script and the key moments of my notes tell me what are the moments from the dailies I want to make sure are in the show.

I go first to the key moments I’ve found, and they become the pillars of the scene I want to build.

GB: I think most other editors work much more linearly.

DA: Now, after 20 years I have many ways I work without really thinking about it any more. But this is the general process. The key essence of it is finding the most important moments of the film that’s been shot.

GB: Episode 17 is a very powerful episode. We just screened it for the crew and they were blown away. By the way, I’ve never had an experience like the one on this show. Frequently on a TV show, the producers will screen the finished product to the crew at lunch. By this point in the season, usually, there’s been a significant drop off in attendance. But on HEROES, the room is packed. Every member of the crew comes to the screenings. It’s amazing!

DA: It’s terrific. I visited the set quite a bit. And seeing the actors, seeing Allan, everyone was so focused. You could tell by the mood on set and by how Allan was directing – how intense it all was – that it was going to be a great one.

GB: Can you elaborate on that?

DA: The actors were so familiar with the dimensions of the story and the dimensions of the scene. Allan has it all in his head, and he works so fast, he’s thinking so far ahead – the pace in TV is fast anyway, but on this one, on set, it felt particularly fast. It’s hard to imagine that everyone can keep up.

GB: It’s a unique episode, because it’s so claustrophobic in nature.

DA: And the writing is so good. To keep that kind of tension up and to have it build. The writing (by Bryan Fuller) and the direction are so good. The writer was so confident in Allan’s work. You could tell on set. The writer was on set the whole time. These scenes, trust me, could have fallen very flat. The key is the moments and the angles. All of them are so well chosen and planned by Allan. And how he staged them. There is a subtext to his angles, why he’s there for emotional reasons, what it means to see the character from that angle in that moment. This is a film language, spoken in a visual emotional manner. It’s in the editing room you really discover how the right moments have been selected for the right angle.

In many of the scenes there are 6 people gathered in what must be an 8 foot by 12 foot room – and technically, the eye lines are always right. Also, Allan always covers every shot from the top of the scene – so all the performances are there in every shot, all the actors are always in the right moments. People can say, why is he shooting so much film? Why? But in the editing room you know why. The fundamental key to Allan’s scenes is that you can build a story with this kind of intensity because you have all the right pieces to do so. As an editor I’m just trying to get to the good parts.

GB: Any specific examples?

DA: I’d like to talk about one scene Allan did a terrific job with. Two scenes actually, that parallel each other. The one, in black and white, where Claire’s father is going to kill Claude. And the same scene repeats itself, shot-for-shot in the end, when Claire’s father drives Claire to the same bridge where he shot Claude so many years ago. Because the shots are the same, it breaks your heart. Because the shots are all the same, you know what’s going to happen. And in both scenes there is this big sweeping crane shot as the car arrives on the bridge. Allan told me his plan before he shot it, but I know he shot all those shots on different days, and that there were weather issues so he had to go back. And some actors weren’t available. So it was all shot piecemeal, but it goes together perfectly.

One moment I especially like is when Claire’s father shoots Claude. He has this surprised look on his face, like he can’t believe what just happened. He pulled the trigger, but still he can’t believe it. And then he shoots him again. It’s a wonderful moment.

That’s why I really respect what a director does. All that planning, and holding it all together in your head no matter what the conditions it takes to get it. It’s amazing how Allan knows what angles he wants. He reads a two dimensional script. Words on paper. And he can visualize how all of it will look, and all of the performances, and how it will be cut together, all from just the words. And, it seems to me, that would be even harder on a TV schedule like we have.

GB: Thank you, Donn. I’ll leave now and let you get back to work. (currently Donn is editing episode 20)

DA: Thank you.

More next week…

And remember. Send your questions in to:

herosite@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Episode 16: Unexpected

Sorry for the delay in getting this week’s blog up. We were shut down for President’s day and I didn’t have the tech support I needed to get the blog online. (i.e. I have a very limited knowledge of computers and I need my awesome assistant Erin to actually do anything.)


AWESOME ASSISTANT ERIN

OK – last night’s episode was one that I directed, which invariably means that I have more to say about it.

First of all, this is the one split episode that every TV show does each season. This means that we prepped the episode in late December, then took a two-week vacation, and then came back shooting. Historically, on whatever show I’m on, this episode is one that I, as the show’s producer, frequently take on, because it’s hard on any other director. In late December the crew is tired, everyone is really ready for their Christmas break, and the prep is frequently kind of sketchy. Jim Chory, the line producer and I, joked about how there are several days back in December that we don’t even remember.

Then, to make matters worse everyone goes and rests and forgets all about the show, and then, with no days of additional prep – we all just come back and start shooting. I took this episode on because I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches and thinking on my feet. And, because I know the show so well, I can compensate for anything that slips between the cracks.

HEROES is a real tricky show as a director, because there are so many different stories going at once, and because each story has it’s own unique visual style, pace and performance style. It’s hard enough to grasp the different styles, if you don’t also plan how the styles will integrate together you can end up with an episode that feels vaguely erratic. I don’t knit, but I imagine it’s like knitting a sweater with a number of different types of wools and thread pattern. You have to carefully plan what you’re going to do ahead of time and then make sure you’re executing it in the moment.

Maybe the thing to do is to just talk through a few scenes and talk about what I was going for stylistically and in terms of performance.

First of all, I’m very happy with the whole Peter/Claude/Isaac storyline. My whole directorial style is to try to first glean (a) which character controls the scene – sometimes it shifts within a scene (b) what is the inherent emotional quality of the scene – meaning, both, what do the characters feel and what do I want the audience to feel? – sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re different. (c) what stylistic techniques – i.e. what colors, compositions, camera movement and camera lensing – will support these emotions. I wanted the Peter/Claude – Peter/Isaac storyline to have a uniform quality, an inherent tension. I’d been noticing that handheld really works for us. I’d done a lot on my episode 6, less so on episode 9. I consciously chose to do most of this storyline handheld.

In the first scene with HRG and Isaac, HRG is in control of the scene. So in that one I used cranes and dollys and let the shots sweep and push in. Trying to visually mimic the emotion of the scene – pressure. The pressure HRG is putting on Isaac. After that, there’s a scene on the roof with Claude and Milo, where Claude beats the hell out of Peter with a Bo Stick. In this almost every shot is handheld and the camera trades off from character to character a lot. This technique adds a sense of chaos and unbalance - and whenever I cut wide to show the special relationship’s (important to do so your audience doesn’t get completely disoriented) I used big sweeping wide shots done from a crane, which are always passing over foreground objects. Moving past close foreground on full figure shots adds both a sense of speed and a sense of pressure.

In the second rooftop scene, the one at night (which begins with Claude and Peter and then shifts to their being attacked by HRG and The Haitian), I began the scenes on the dolly, with lyrical dolly shots. The first shot is a longish dolly shot which begins on a pigeon, drifts across the birdcage into a two shot of Peter and Claude and then pushes in. There was no coverage (i.e. other shots to cut to) until Claude turns and says, “I think he meant you friend." Eccleston came to me before the scene and expressed that he thought it was important on that one line to express a softening in his character. That he’s beginning to like and be impressed with Peter. I agreed and supported this with gently moving shots. When HRG appears all the angles on Claude and Peter go to handheld – but the ones on HRG and Haitian are stable – on the dolly. I particularly love the wide wide shot where Peter jumps off the edge of the building. Our set is a huge set on a blue screen stage. I shot it as wide as I could and the VFX people at Stargate added a background building extension and New York backdrop. It’s so cool. It’s a quick cut, but it looks like Peter just jumps off the building and drops into nowhere.

The flying shots I had actually shot way back in December, at the same time as we had done shots for Peter being thrown off the roof for episode 14. I’ve done flying before, on SMALLVILLE. There’s a sequence in the season premiere of season 4, when Clark flies into the air, out onto the edge of space and up to Lex Luthor’s jet. I thought that was pretty good TV! But trust me flying is hard too do right. You have to hang the actors in uncomfortable positions on a huge blue screen stage and blow giant wind-fans at them, then you have to swoop the camera around them to mimic their flight through the air. The hours fly by as you have lots of discussions about “tilt” and “yaw” while the actors are getting angrier and angrier because their testicles are being crushed by the harness they’re in. It’s not that fun. I’m pretty happy with the way Peter’s flight turned out – but I don’t think it’s 100% brilliant or groundbreaking. I tell you this is a really hard thing to do right. Next time I’ll do better.

I’m very happy with the scene in Peter’s apartment where Claude wakes up, gets all paranoid and runs out. This scene, to me, was driven by Claude. Claude is scared – a state we’ve never seen him in. He knows he’s in danger. Peter is confused. I wanted to support this emotion, again by going handheld and also by dropping back and shooting with long lenses through windows and French doors – long lenses compress the filmed image and this created tension and a sense of “surveillance” – like they might be being watched. I alternated this by doing super close close-ups on relatively wide 40mm lenses. Alternating between long lens full shots and wide lens close ups is sort of the opposite way from the traditional. It gives the scene an unbalanced “afraid” feeling.


MILO ON A VIDEO MONITOR


CHRIS ECCLESTON – FIXIN’ TO FLY


MILO AND CHRIS – LEARN TO FLY


MILO AND CHRIS – LIKE A FREE BIRD

I’m pretty happy with the Suresh/Sylar story as well. First of all I think these two actors are terrific together. Zack Quinto was amazing at shifting between the mild mannered character of Zane and the frightful Sylar. The gust star Rusty Schwimmer was great and brought great empathy to her character in just 2 short scenes. I got a little experimental in these scenes and with, in my opinion, some but not complete success.

Again I went hand held for a lot of the firsts scene when the two guys arrive at the car repair shop. The first phase of that scene, for me, was about general movement – Mohinder controls the scene – but he’s not completely “in” control of the result. In this part I made the camera move handheld on a relatively long shot that tracks them in, playing a fair bit of dialogue on their backs. Being on backs when people are talking creates a sense of discomfort in the audience. You have to be careful with it, because it can also alienate the audience from the characters – so you have to do it at the right time. As the scene progresses Sylar begins to take over. Here I began to use a “swing and tilt” lens on many of the close-ups. The swing and tilt is a lens that was invented for architectural photography – to photograph buildings and keep the whole surface of a building in focus. With most lenses the plane of focus is flat. With these lenses the plane of focus can be shifted to the diagonal, either up and down or side to side. So, as Rusty’s character began to tell her story, and Sylar gets excited about obtaining her power – I used these lenses in his close up and her close up – but not on Suresh’s CU. To the audience the close ups look “weird” kind of in focus, kind of not – but now what we’re normally used to seeing. Again – it’s uncomfortable. I’ve been using these lenses a lot on HEROES, but not so aggressively in a place where you would normally use a traditional lens – like this scene. At the end of the day I feel it’s only a partial success. The shots are a bit too self-conscious. And, because we’re in traditional coverage, we cut back to them several times, which makes them call attention to themselves more than I’d like. Next time I’ll back off this technique or use it AND get a regular shot – so the weird ones can be used more judiciously.

Later, however, I used the same technique to good effect. In the scene where Sylar comes to kill Dale, I used one swing and tilt lenses on one shot on her close up when she says, “What’s that sound in your heart.” And again in the close up where he says “murder.” Once more, the shots feel weird and the plane of focus is not what we’re used to. But because each shot is used just once or twice the technique doesn’t become so apparent – and it works better.

All the scenes in the Bennett storyline I’m quite happy with as well. Claire’s scenes tend to be driven by Claire. She is always fighting for understanding and stability. I tend to be more stable with the camera in Claire’s story. Not moving the camera or moving it slowly and menacingly. In the scene where she nervously tells her mother not to trust Dad, for instance, the camera was always static… But I alternated between big wide shots where Claire and her mother were on opposite sides of the frame and the couch and coffee table dominated the foreground. I shot Mrs. Bennett’s close ups traditionally and shot Claire’s shots either super-tight, or off-center with uncomfortably little room on the leading edge of the frame – all designed to create a sense of discomfort. Because the camera’s never moving, the pace of editing determines the rhythm of the scene. In the mother’s speeches we tended to stay in one shot. In Claire’s speeches we tended to jump from one Claire close-up to another. Again this adds a sense of disquiet and tension.

The scene in the hospital with Claire and her father is one of my favorite scenes I’ve done on the show. I did nothing fancy besides shoot two close ups… But Jack and Hayden were awesome. On a performance level I talked d to Jack about the idea of losing control. That this is the first time in the show we’ve seen a chink in the armor. . I think he played that wonderfully. I particularly love his expression when he thinks that, once again, he’s been able to win her over and she suddenly shouts “No!” and pushes him back. Sometimes in my job it’s about style. Sometimes the most appropriate style is to get out of the way and let the actors and the script do their thing.

If there’s any area I’m not as happy about it’s a couple of the Hiro/Ando scenes. Typically I shoot Hiro’s story framed a bit wider and more traditionally... i.e. in a more comedic style. I think I let the comedy get away from me on this one. It’s the first time I’ve had a situation where there were other characters who were meant to be comedic besides Hiro. At least that was my interpretation of what Hope and Gustavson’s roles were intended to be. Specifically, there is the big shootout scene. Jeph Loeb kept telling me that they didn’t want it to be about the gunfire or cars blowing up. Frankly, I was confused. I think I sort of nodded and “yeah, yeah, yeahed….” But I’m not sure I ever got what he was saying. I mean, the two characters were shooting at each other for a page of dialogue. So I photographed the scene, figuring we can either choose to see or not see the gunfire in editing. By the way that kind of work is hard. It was two all-night shoots. It was freezing cold. And it takes a long time to set up shots between explosions. I was off my game in that I didn’t have my own strong point of view about the scene… I kept thinking about the what-not-to-do instead of the what-to-do. In the end I feel disappointed with myself. I don’t feel like I found a way into these scenes that was special or especially well planned like the others I’ve been describing. I feel I did let the comedy get a little too big I’m not sure how you, the fans, felt… But I know that I have a sense of not having completely succeeded here and it’s makes my stomach turn in knots and has for weeks. But, in reflection, I’m not 100% sure what I would have done differently…

Actually, the last Hiro and Ando scene I really like. The one where Hiro says goodbye and gets on the bus. I think Masi and James did a very nice job and the scene feels melancholy in a good way. Also, when Hiro gets on the bus, the bus driver is played by Stan Lee… Stan Lee! The guy who invented Spiderman, The Fantastic Four and the X-Men!!! How cool is that. He’s like the funniest nicest guy too.

That’s it for now. Next week we blow up West Texas and see how it all began for Claire and HRG!

See you then!


JEPH LOEB AND I


SANTIAGO CABRERA AND I


MILO, SANTIAGO AND A PAINTING OF MILO


MASI, STAN LEE AND JEPH LOEB


MASI AND STAN LEE HAMMING IT UP FOR THE PRESS


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR TONY ADLER CONTEMPLATES LIFE AND DEATH

Monday, February 12, 2007

Episode 15: Run!

WARNING: SPOILERS ARE KEPT TO A MINIMUM – BUT THEY DO OCCUR

Tonight’s episode is a little different for us. It feels, at least to me, like it focuses on fewer characters than usual. There’s no Peter story, no Isaac/Simone story, a different kind of Hiro/Ando story, a new character (previously peripheral) takes center stage – Sylar, and two characters cross that have never crossed before – Niki and Matt. The center of the episode is dedicated, for a relatively long stretch, to the scenes in the diamond district where Matt, Niki/Jessica and Malsky have their showdown. I think the episode is a success and I think tonight’s director, Roxann Dawson, did a really nice job of bringing all the different elements together. The story moves fast, looks great and all the performances are right there.

At this point in the season, Tim and the writers are beginning to re-direct the show towards the season finale. New subtle changes in character and character trajectories are taking shape. This episode represents (at least in my opinion) some shifts in the way we’ve told the character’s stories up to now. Claire’s story is in a natural progression, except for the fact that Nathan enters into it. Hiro and Ando’s story on the other hand, is an experiment. In this episode, they step outside the flow of “the big story” and we introduce new characters into their story. It’s purposefully more comedic. Sylar takes a new role in the series too. For the first time we follow him as he tracks down his victims. When Suresh enters, he enters into Sylar’s story instead of visa versa. (The new connection between Sylar and Suresh should prove very fruitful dramatically.) But Matt and Niki’s cross represents, in my opinion, a bigger stylistic difference for us. Matt is now off the police force, and as he searches for a new identity, new darker choices will be presented to him which will influence him in (potential) futures. Jessica is in charge of the body she shares with Niki. She’s hiding who she is from Micah and DL, and her dominance will ultimately force Niki to grow.

In a typical HEROES episode, every character gets a three or four scene arc. As Tim Kring has said, this requires very streamlined writing. There’s no fat for characters to get to know each other slowly. The fact that characters get to the point quickly is, I think, part of what gives HEROES its narrative drive. These few sequences are then inter-shuffled. In this episode, for a full act and a half (meaning from commercial break to commercial break), we stay with the story and the action of the Matt and Niki/Jessica story.

Tonight’s episode was directed by Roxann Dawson. Roxann is a bit of a different kind of director for us. This is because of her long, extensive background as an actor before she began to direct: http://imdb.com/name/nm0206259/

I’ve been distantly aware of Roxann for a couple of years. My friend, Ken Biller, who was one of the SMALLVILLE writer/producers in season two and three used to work on STAR TREK VOYAGER. Roxann was a series regular on that show, playing the troubled half klingon/half human "B'Elanna Torres." I believe VOYAGER is where she got her first break as a director. Ken Billler used to always recommend her and tell me how great her work was visually. But before SMALLVILLE could hire her she became a producer/director on CROSSING JORDAN (Tim Kring’s other show.) Through Tim, Dennis Hammer and Allan Arkush, Roxann came (for just one episode) to HEROES.

Obviously, the transition from actor to director is often very successful. Beyond their own craft, the actor is always on set, and is in a position, if interested, to watch and learn much of what goes on behind the scenes. As a producer/director myself it’s easy to i.d. which actors have an interest in directing. Simply, they are the ones who don’t go back to their trailer between takes. They stand behind your shoulder and ask a lot of “how” and “why” questions. I remember when I worked on THE WONDER YEARS, Fred Savage was always like that - asking questions and interested in the behind the scenes. The crew was always saying “I won’t be surprised if that kid becomes a big director some day.” Sure enough Fred went on to direct and produce PHIL OF THE FUTURE and lots of Disney Channel shows, and is now directing his first feature DADDY DAY CAMP. On SMALLVILLE you could always tell that Tom Welling was interested in the mechanics and reasons behind why I made the choices I made. Tom has directed two episodes of that show now and they turned out well. My understanding is that Roxann was also exactly like that.

I’m not sure Roxann would like me focusing on her acting. She certainly never referenced it during the whole time we worked together. And, she’s progressed from director to producer/director very quickly – so I’m sure that it won’t be long in the Hollywood community that she will only be known as a director and producer/director. But I always think it’s interesting how people make career transitions in this business.

From my point of view, Roxann was one of the best experiences I’ve had working with a director on HEROES. At first, I was a little concerned because there’s a lot of action in the show tonight and I didn’t know if she had much experience choreographing this. Also, HEROES aspires to being a pretty visually exciting/unusual show. I’m always challenging the directors to think outside the box in how they stage and shoot their scenes. I am frequently disappointed. I think a lot of people who direct TV get burned over time, because they go on shows and the producers say “We want a show that really looks different than anything else on TV,” and in the end, the producers don’t mean it – in fact what they really want is the same old over-the-shoulders and close-ups that every other show in the world wants. But on HEROES we really mean it. Roxann, to my mind, totally got it. Look at the way the scenes with Matt and Jessica on the stairwell are shot. There’s a lot of long lens shots with foreground messing up the close ups. The angles are not the usual ones – so, when cut together they result in a little more edgy feeling. Look at the way the limo scene with Malsky and Matt is staged. These are very unusual, nontraditional angles for a driving scene. In fact, according to traditional rules of editing – they shouldn’t “cut” together. But they do. I love the way that car scene looks. There’s another simple scene that goes by fast. But I LOVE the way Roxann shot the scene where Malksy and Matt approach the diamond district building and the reveal of Jessica waiting out front. It’s all a little off and a little dangerous. I don’t even know how to describe why this is, but it is. In the scene with Claire and her Mom walking in the grassy area outside the trailer park, the shots are more traditional – but Roxann shot extremely wide shots that give the scene an evocative loneliness.

Also, what I want in a director is a little tenaciousness to fight for the quality of their episode. As I’ve said before the director is the only one on HEROES who is focused ONLY on that one episode. There were several occasions where Roxann, very nicely, held her ground to shoot things the right way. The location we shot for the stairwell and for Zane’s apartment were both challenged by us, the producers, on financial or logistical grounds. Roxann has a great eye and she knew both of those locations would be visually rewarding, even though the stairwell was in an expensive, difficult-to-shoot-in location and Zane’s apartment was down in San Pedro, which is technically within our work “zone” but it’s far away – a haul for the crew. The Zane scenes where challenged because the question was “Do we really see enough out the windows to justify the long commute for the cast and crew?" Roxann thought it did – even though in rewrites we decided that Zane would drape plastic over his windows in the early scene. She thought the odd views from the window were different from anything we’d shot on the show up to now. I cautioned Roxann that if we did go to all the trouble to go there we had to make sure we saw the views. She agreed. She did it. And we see it.

There is another directorial/filmic challenge to this episode that may not be obvious at first glance. There are many scenes that are intercut between two or more sets of characters who are in separate places. Typically, most scenes take place with characters talking to each other in one place. Because of this, there is a natural rhythm and performance that a director can observe in these kinds of scenes. But Roxann had many more scenes than usual where characters are interacting, or inter-related but not actually involved with each other. In the beginning there is a sequence of three scenes – one in which Jessica is opening an envelope, while in another Matt talks to his wife and in another, Malksy arrives in LA. There are also a number of phone call scenes - i.e. between Claire and her Mom. There is a scene where Claire is outside the window listening to Meredith and Nathan talk, followed by a scene which intercuts between Claire angry and Nathan driving away. Even though all these scenes flow together smoothly in the show -- think about it. Adrian Pasdar wasn’t there when Hayden was looking off camera and throwing the rock. Hayden wasn’t there when Adrian reacted. Jessalyn and Adrian were there for a portion of scene when Hayden overheard them talking about her, but they weren’t there for every part of every take. These scenes are more difficult to control for a director. What’s really happening is usually that a script supervisor is reading off-camera to the actor at a far-from-performance level. The actors then have to work harder to maintain a real performance and the directors have to work harder to maintain a consistency of both actors’ performances, which aren’t actually happening at the same time. Also, by definition, the scenes have to be more designed by the director to make sure they intercut. A simple example of this is that, typically, in a phone call between two actors, shot at different times, one usually stages it so that one actor looks right and one actor looks left during the call. This way when the scenes are intercut it looks like the characters are, subtly, talking to each other. On HEROES we mix this up a bit. Sometimes having actors purposefully look opposite ways so they don’t look at each other in cutting. Or “short-siding” them compositionally (i.e. giving them less negative space in the frame in the direction they’re looking and more space behind their heads.) This adds tension because the frames are less “comfortable” for the audience than classic compositions.

There is a scene that Roxann enhanced in editing as well. The scene where Hiro slams against the wall of the closet he’s trapped in was written very simply. Roxann had the idea to start his “one… two…three” over black and then to rapidly cut together a series of takes of Hiro running at the door. This version is much funnier, and makes it look as if Hiro has been up to this for a much longer time.

There’s another sequence which was modified by Tim which is interesting as well. In the original version of the opening act, things played out in a linear fashion. Matt talked to his wife about being a bodyguard. Jessica opened a letter and talked on the phone about taking the hit on Malsky. And then Malsky arrived in LA to greet Matt. Tim felt that these played out without enough excitement. We experimented with several presentations (including split-screens), and settled on a version that intercut the three and ended on Jessica saying “Bang.” Sometimes there’s a great feeling in the editing process when you finally get it right. In this case the new cutting pattern created a sudden sense of inevitability – that these three characters are headed together. As I always say “peanut butter meets chocolate.” Like in the old Reese’s ads.

OK that’s enough for now. Next week an episode I directed.

So, until then….


ROXANN DAWSON – AN UNUSUALLY PHOTOGENIC DIRECTOR


ROXANN DIRECTS MASI


ROXANN DIRECTS MASI IN THE DARK


MASI CONTEMPLATIVE

The following pictures are from THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS. I couldn’t attend because I was shooting half of the “Somebody flies, somebody dies” stuff that night. The pictures are courtesy of Jeph Loeb.

I though you guys might like them.


LEONARD ROBERTS AND NOAH GRAY-CABEY


TAWNY CYPRESS


VIEW FROM THE SEATS


GREG AND MASI


TWO HANDSOME MEN - JEPH LOEB AND MILO AT THE AFTER PARTY

Monday, February 05, 2007

Episode 14: Distractions

WARNING MINOR SPOLIERS INCLUDED:

Episode 14 is on tonight! If I do say so myself, it’s an all around satisfying episode. Again, I try to keep up with the writers room, and know what is coming up… But, frankly, the pace of the show is so fast – that a lot of times, reading the first draft of the script is the first time I really know where we’re going.

Tonight, Peter gets a mentor/master – who’s a little rougher than Yoda. Claire gets quality time with her birth mother – a real “hottie.” Sylar pulls a fast one on HRG and spends some quality time with Claire’s Mom. Hiro stands up to his Dad (a “trek” for any young man.) And more!

One of the great things about being on a hit show with a reputation for great writing is the quality of actors that are attracted to the show. Last week I spoke a little about Christopher Eccleston http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001172/ I knew him mostly from the movie ELIZIBETH where he was chilling. Many know him from DOCTOR WHO – but suffice it to say, he’s a deep and talented actor who has never been seen on American TV before. Originally we offered him the role of Sylar. But, to his credit, Chris declined. I guess he’s played a lot of villains before and didn’t want to play one on HEROES. We kept him in mind though, and when Tim and the writers began to discuss Peter’s mentor – the invisible man – we remembered Chris and began to tailor the character to him.

Fate is our friend on this show – because after Chris passed on the Sylar character, we began to audition, and into the audition walked Zach Quinto http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0704270/ Zach’s audition was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. He had two scenes to read that were completely different. See at that time (back in late October?) there were no real Sylar scenes… (remember before episode 10 he was always just a black shadow with a baseball cap? Well, before then we used to film a stuntman or a stand-in – once we cast Zach we had time to go back and shoot him in the diner watching Charlie and Hiro.) In Tim’s very first draft of the pilot script was a strange intense scene for Sylar – he was imprisoned in a cell in Italy with long claw-like nails and sharp teeth. That version of Sylar, which never even made the final pilot draft, was way weirder and more monstrous, -- like Nosferatou. The writers had also banged out a version of what eventually became the first scene of meek Gabriel the watchmaker. So Zach came in cold to a room with 6 producers and 2 casting directors (I don’t know how actors take the pressure of auditions!) and read, first this intense monstrous scene, and then, second, a meek mild mannered role. After his first version of Gabriel – which he read kind of ominously, I gave him the note to play it like an incredibly introverted person who can’t even look people in the eye, but who loves watches and machines. He did an amazing adjustment – doing that perfectly. Then he read the monstrous Sylar scene – very monstrously. Dennis Hammer gave him the note to read it more casually, humanly and to be menacing subtextually. He again made this adjustment perfectly. As he left the room – we all turned to each other, blown away and said – “that guy just gave us four completely different characters – he can do anything!!! So Zach got the job. And as we keep shooting we keep delving into his amazing facility. Watch tonight how he slips into the character of the charming, shy Texas deliveryman with a slight accent – and then back to creepy Sylar – so fluidly! He’s the nicest guy too! Love Zach!

Then we auditioned for the role of Meredith, Claire’s real biological Mom - Jessalyn Gilsig http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0319698/ The two Claire/Meredith scenes from tonight’s episode were in the script. A few actresses came in and were OK. Frankly I kept thinking to myself – “Man these scenes are kind of long – we’ll probably have to trim them down in the editing room.” Then Jessalyn came in, and the scene suddenly sprang to life. Acting is an art/craft that I so deeply admire. It’s REALLY hard and when someone makes it look easy it’s amazing. But this actor stepped into the room (again with at least six people staring her down) and took the scene to a whole different level. She floated between nuances of joy, sadness, guilt, fear, almost laughing but not, almost crying but not. I was not aware of her before. But Jeannot Scwarcz, our director, had worked with her before – I think on THE PRACTICE where he claims she played a completely different (vampy and malicious) character. I was blown away. And the work she does in tonight’s episode is so great. I was in the audition, on set, in the editing room – but when I saw the final version of the scene where Claire first meets Meredith at the trailer park I got choked up! What’s up with that?!?

Obviously, Hayden regularly works with a lot of talented actors, but I always feel that Hayden brings out something more in the actors she works with – that there’s a real relationship there. With Jessalyn that effect was doubled. Even though the characters had never met we really felt a connection between the two.

A scene I want to focus on, which I mentioned a bit last week, is the opening scene of the show. Claude and Peter walk through NYC talking. They’re invisible moving in a visible world. I think this scene turned out very well. Trust me this is a tough concept to get across… Peter and Claude are invisible, but we photograph them normally. They move in and amongst the background and there’s nothing inherently in the shot to tell you that they’re different than the rest of the world. Two main elements sell this concept of invisibility: The first is the bagel and scarf that lift into the air with an immediate match cut to Claude grabbing them. The second is the interaction of the extras who are surprised to be bumped out of the way. Yes we had the bagel and scarf on a piece of green screen fishing line - but beyond that there are no visual effects or tricks beyond basic filmmaking to tell this story. The fact that what’s happening is actually clear is a result of excellent planning and coordination between the director, Jeannot Szwarc Director of photography, Nate Goodman and first assistant directors Tony Adler (who prepped the scene) and Mark Lyon (who shot it as a second unit.)


ISAAC AND SIMONE – UP ON THE ROOF


MILO – HUMMING FOO FIGHTERS “LEARN TO FLY” (IN HIS HEAD)


CHRIS ECCCLESTON – A LAD FROM MANCHESTER

Tonight’s episode is directed by Jeannot Szwarc. You gotta check out this guy’s imdb: http://imdb.com/name/nm0844358/ He’s been around 4-Ever! He directed JAWS 2, SUPERGIRL and SOMEWHERE IN TIME (with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.) But he also directed episodes of KOJAK, IRONSIDE and THE VIRGINIAN in 1962 for Goddsakes!!! And he’s never lost even a scrap of enthusiasm. I met him on a show I used to direct, called JAG. When I started producing SMALLVILLE I brought him over. Jeannot is one of those rare people who is a favorite wherever he goes. He’s hard to book on a show because he’s every shows favorite director and every show he does would use him for as many episodes as they can. This is because he’s not only an excellent filmmaker who always gets all the style and emotional beats right, but he’s a delightfully funny and warm guy who makes it a pleasure to come to work. He’s about five foot nuthin’, with a thick French accent and an impish (or is it elfin?) vibe about him.


JEANNOT SCWARCZ

Tonight I interview Jeannot about what it’s like to direct HEROES, as a visiting director – and other thoughts about cinema and life in general.

(Imagine the following responses in a thick, sophisticated French accent!)

GREG BEEMAN: Hi Jeannot, thank you for doing this interview

JEANNOT SCWARCZ: My pleasure. You know, Greg, you have a phenomenon on your hands. You know that don’t you?

GB: Yes. It’s becoming clear.

JS: What is your secret?

GB: Me? I just showed up, and was happy they picked me for the job. But, yes. It’s very exciting and invigorating. The show is starting to feel like more than just a weekly TV experience. I personally just felt like I followed my heart and I’ve been very fortunate to get to be involved in two projects in a row that I passionately believed in. But, anyway, enough about me… I’d like to talk about your experience of HEROES – how was it for you as a visiting director?

JS: Overall – excellent. I love the cast. I love the crew. You’re very fortunate. You have no high management personalities either in front of or behind the camera. The show is quite difficult and challenging, and that is the part that makes it fun, but the people are wonderful.

GB: Now being a director who travels from show to show can be difficult. Always fitting in. Always having to adapt to new styles. But you seem to be a favorite everywhere.

JS: I do find I have affection wherever I go. I must be doing something right.

GB: Do you have a philosophy that helps you?

JS: Well, yes. The philosophy is that you are a guest wherever you go. You want to preserve your style and sensibilities, but you must also fit into the style of the show and into the group. I’ve never believed in the dictatorial approach. . I find a show functions better with love and not hostility. My style is more to convince and cajole. First thing is to try to make the show the best it can be within the parameters that are established. Try to improve the script as best you can. And to try to convince everyone to see it your way.

I’ve never liked tense sets. My approach, especially to performance, is like sculpting. Chip away to make it better. You know directing is about choices. Directing is about the art and about the art of time management. But then, you know. You’ve been very successful as a director as well.

GB: Yes. I think I have a similar philosophy to you. I take the work very seriously, but I like to have a lot of fun doing the work, and I like for everyone to feel they’re allowed to contribute.

JS: Indeed. If everyone feels relaxed. If everyone feels they are participating, then everyone can do better.

GB: How does your personal visual style mesh with the HEROES style?

JS: Well, I’d like to think it does very much so. I prefer bold angles. Not boring, tepid over-the-shoulders. I hate to be at eye level.. Nate (the director of photography) said I fit in perfectly..


GB: Let’s talk about the Japanese sequence, with Hiro and his father. It fits into the HEROES “look” very well, yet it is also different.

JS: Nate, the D.P. is a real film buff, as am I. We had a lot of conversations about taking that sequence into a Kurasowa style. Meaning that we played with depth and composition. Besides being spoken in Japanese, the scenes had a very Japanese content and conflict. They were formal in nature with lots of changes in the power dynamics between characters. So, beyond the dialogue, Nate and I said, “let’s do a Kurasowa style.” A very full frame. Not much camera movement. Instead the characters walk into their close ups. People move within the frame as the power dynamics change. Whoever has the power in the scene in any moment is also the largest in the frame. As the dynamic switches the composition switches. Also we used a lot of negative space, meaning the space between the characters and to the left and right of the characters. Nate and I were both very versed in this film language. We discussed it in prep, and we had shorthand about it on the set. At the end of the day, I think the sequences work well because they are supported by the very Japanese theme.

GB: Very much so.

JS: Greg, may I ask you, this blog – did you invent it? Or did it find you?


GB: Huh? Oh. Well I guess a little of both. Back in May when the show was just starting, Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb were really promoting the idea of HEROES having a strong on-line presence… They had experience with it with LOST and ALIAS. I had done SMALLVILLE, which does a lot on line too, but had no personal involvement other than the odd interview. So, I volunteered to do a blog. I like to yak and I thought it would be interesting for the fans to peek into the behind-the-scenes. But I had no idea how much work it would be. As the show gets more popular and the blog gets more popular, I feel more and more obligation. Now every Sunday before the show is on I have this massive homework project… But, hey, you got me talking about me again. I want to talk about you.

JS: I am so sorry.

GB: Okay, let’s talk about the episode.

JS: What I felt was special about my episode was that, I would say it was very Hitchkoian – more than the average HEROES.

GB: How do you mean that?

JS: I mean that there were many stories that were reaching their apex in this episode. There were many revelations and that they were very theatrical revelations as well. There is a lot of sleight of hand, meaning when you think you’re looking at one thing and then another is revealed. The most famous Hitchcock switch is in NORTH BY NORTHWEST when Cary Grant goes into the U.N. building and shows the man the photograph. The gentleman appears to be having one reaction and then, boom, he falls over dead with a knife in his back.

GB: What moments were like this in your episode?


JS: There were many. When Claire goes to see her mother. First there is the surprise of the mother’s powers. Then the surprise of who Claire’s father is.

My favorite is Sylar. When the little dog runs into the room and he grabs the dog. You think he’s going to do something, you think, “My God, he’s going to kill the dog. But he’s quite gentle with the dog. There’s mis-direction. And the same when he meets the mother. We keep stretching out the expectations.

Which is fun. Very few shows give you this opportunity. That’s the good writing. The audience is a little ahead of the characters – or thinks they are – but they still don’t know exactly what they’re up to or what’s going to happen.

The biggest success of HEROES is that it’s never predictable. I watch the show with my two sons. They are 17 and 21. And, usually, with most shows, twenty minutes before the end they know exactly what’s going to happen. Not with this show.

GB: Are your son’s legitimate fans?

JS: Oh my God, yes. It’s fun. And they don’t want to hear anything… any spoilers. Usually, with my work, they’re not that interested. But on this one they said, “Dad, you have to do a good job.”

GB: And you did.

JS: Thank you. You understand, it’s nerve wracking and traumatic to do a show for the first time. You don’t know the power structure the personalities or the references. I think I’m good at this because I try to read the show, the style, of course, the producers and the cast… whether the actor is strong or weak. If the actor has a strong ego and a lot of opinions it’s actually easier to be direct about their performance – what’s working or not. If they’re fragile, you have to be more delicate. If one wants to be a good director it’s not just about camera and angles it’s a lot of people skills.

You know, Greg, I want to make sure that you write down that I had a great time. It is not only a great show it is also a good experience behind the scenes.

GB: What’s great about you, Jeannot, is that – no matter how long it is you’ve been working, you’re still passionate. You’re a fan of films and you love what you do.

JS: You know, last summer I had lunch with an old college friend of mine, from Paris. And he said to me, “Jeannot, we remember you always busting our balls about how you were going to go to Hollywood and make movies.” And I have been lucky enough to do so. My parents were Eastern European Jewish immigrants. To them what was most important was that I get the right diploma. So I did. I did classical studies at The HEC (in Paris). Trust me it is a very fancy diploma. And the next day I got a job as a runner for a small French company that was doing documentaries. I love it because I never thought I’d get to do it.

GB: And to stay enthusiastic too. A lot of people get bitter, you know?

JS: Bitter. In what way?

GB: I don’t know. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It seems more common than not as far as I can see. Writers. Directors. Producers. It seems that many people who have done this job for a long long time just get bitter.

JS: Bitter about what? What we do is a dream. I love being on set. I get such a charge. Maybe a while ago when I was doing big pictures I got that way for a while – but it didn’t last. I have had my best years ever now. I have found my place in the sun. I am happy.

GB: Thank Jeannot. I know you’re busy with all your other shows this year – so I hope to see you next year!


JEANNNOT AND D.P. NATE GOODMAN DISCUSS HOW TO DESTROY CLAIRE’S HOUSE


ME AND JEANNOT ON OUR MAGICAL MYSTERY SCOUT BUS

And that’s it for this week. Next week – Matt gets a new gig. Claire’s Mom twists another knife. And Niki goes Terminator.

See ya then!

GB