Monday, March 26, 2007

BLOG FAN QUESTIONS WEEK 3

Remember to write your questions in to: herosite@gmail.com

From Porschia Lewis:

From a planning aspect, how does everyone get together and decide what the actual direction of a season will be? How much does the outline change from the teams’ original vision based on outside influence from the network, etc?

This is more of a question for one of the writers than it is for me, but I will give you my perspective on it.

Using the pre-existing pilot as a launching point, Tim Kring and the writers began to meet last May and planned extensively the key beats of the whole season. They knew full well that the serialized storytelling would require a lot of long range planning. Because some of the writers (like Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb) had done serialized shows like LOST and ALIAS, and because of Tim Kring’s unique relationship to Damon Lindelof, co-creator of LOST, I get the feeling that the staff were already aware of many upsides and pitfalls of a serialized show... I think key goals and story targets were conceived from the very start – but not necessarily the details of how they would be gotten to. Remember, one of the beauties of TV is that it is an organic evolving thing. When we see what works, we go more into it. When something, which we thought would work, doesn’t, we begin to steer away. For instance, the Claire/HRG/Bennet family story became more prevalent when we saw the amazing chemistry that was occurring in those storylines.

Rightfully so, there was a lot of early discussion and many opinions from the network, as everyone tried to conceive of what the show should be. All of it was very positive, and many positive debates and tussles took place. The network has a lot of input, but has always been very supportive of the series. As the early episodes began to air, it became clear what was working and how the stories could be told and the process of giving notes and overseeing the episodes became less about “What should the show be?” to “Let’s make sure this is working.”

My perspective, which is somewhat outside the writer’s room, is that the overall writing/planning/network-involvement experience, has been extraordinarily collaborative and supportive on this show. Much more so than many situations I’ve seen in the past.

From Jolo:

As a director, do you have a trademark screen shot or camera angle just like the Asian directors (Wong Kar-wai and Nagisa Oshima) where they swiftly and smoothly show the power struggle and emotions of their characters in their screen shots?


This is a question for which a couple of answers are possible. First of all, trademark styles work if you are always working in the same genre. Even a director like Scorcese who has a consistent, dynamic and unique visual style, which suits his gangster movies, will change up his style for a movie like THE AGE OF INNOCENCE or KUNDUN. A style that suits a horror film will probably not suit a light comedy. A TV director needs to be a chameleon, as he or she will tend to work on many types of shows. Having said that, the average TV style, which is bland, eye-level coverage and master/over/over type of coverage is anathema to me. There is, frequently, in television an assumption that one must, mathematically march through a series of sizes on every moment of every scene. In my opinion this creates a lack of directorial design that deadens a show.

I do have many preferences though, and I do think some of the filmic things I personally like have stayed as ongoing aspects on the shows I’ve produced and directed. (a) I love moving the camera, and try to design sequences where there is lyrical camera movement that flows cut to cut (b) Because I studied Orson Welles in film school, and because my student film was a homage/parody of Welles' THE TRIAL I developed a taste for long masters with no coverage. (c) I also have a simple philosophy I call “See the spaces, see the faces.”’ I push and encourage the art departments to find and build unique spaces with interesting architecture and built-in sources of light and I try to shoot the sets so that we see them. I also love big tight close ups (a la Sergio Leone!) Ultimately there is nothing more interesting than emotions playing across the human face. I like big giant wide shots and huge close-ups where the eyebrows and chin are just in frame. (d) Because of my original love of comic books and comic book angles I love super low angles and super high angles.

However, on HEROES, the challenge is to have many varied styles that are each appropriate for the different types of stories we tell. I find myself able to use my usual moving-camera, low angle/high angle, super wide shots, and super tight close-ups. But there are also many other styles that are different than what I usually do and kind of hard for me to adapt to. Sometimes we attempt a long lens/off-centered composition/Michael Mann style. Sometimes a hand held/edgy/”Babel”/”Constant Gardener” approach is appropriate. The key on HEROES is in designing transitions between the scenes. If good designed transitions scene-to-scene occur, the varying styles seem to flow together.

From Jae Moreland:

My question is regarding a more technical aspect of the show’s workflow. After reading your blog, I’m assuming that the show is still shot in a traditional manner, on film. Once the shots are done, what happens from there? Is the film scanned into cineon? What type of setup do the editors use? Avid? Final Cut? What about compositing and visual fx?

HEROES is shot on 35mm film. It is then transferred to a digital format through a process called Telecine – this happens at another company called Complete Post. We have 3 editors and three assistant editors who cut on Avid’s (5 Avid systems total) They cut using the Avid Adrenaline Program. The visual effects are produced by Stargate digital. The main system for 2D compositing is AfterEffects that runs on Windows XP machines. They also use in 3D: Maya, Lightwave, Massive for crowd simulations, Realflow for water simulation and BouJou for 3D tracking. All of the rendering is done through a render farm and tracked using a system called Smedge. They track all of the shots, data, stock footage etc. through a proprietary intranet based program called VOS. VOS is the nerve center that allows every artist, supervisor, producer, and coordinator to be incredibly efficient and it ensures that we get all of the shots done and delivered on time as promised. Stargate handles a bunch of shows. The output in dailies each morning is anywhere from 50 to 120 High Definition shots a day depending upon how many shows have material being produced.

From Lauren:

The reveal that Mrs. Petrelli was the one The Haitian was working for was just brilliant. I’ve loved the character since the pilot: Great combination of a great actor and a character you just want to know more about. Much like Nathan, she’s complex. Any thoughts on doing a “Company Man” like episode for Mrs. Petrelli? And can you give any hints as to what her story is? Also, was it just me or when Mrs. Petrelli was talking in English did one of her words tilt to a little bit of a French accent? Was that a clue? Whatever you do, don’t let Cristine Rose go, she’s just wonderful. We need more great strong female characters (of all ages).


I agree she’s a great character, and Cristine Rose, the actress, continually impresses and surprises us with the choices she makes. While her character is evolving and expanding, there are no plans this season for an episode that singles her out. As for hints – no I am not allowed by binding contract – to give any. I suspect that, if our heroes can stop NYC from ka-boooming, her story will continue to expand.

From Nick Basile:

First off, I love the show, I watch constantly and I cannot wait for it to return and to get it on DVD to see what great extras get packed along with the episodes.


We have big, fan-satisfying plans for the DVD

As for my questions, I have two which are about two of the powers shown in the series thus far. Did Peter absorb all of the powers Sylar had at the time of their first encounter or was it only the power that Sylar was using? This question has caused a lot of debate on the message boards I frequent and there doesn’t seem to be a real clear-cut answer. He did gain the healing ability that Claire has from their encounter but I assumed that her ability was something that is constantly active and not something she could ever turn off or on. Sylar on the other hand has a multitude of abilities and can turn them on and off at will, from what we’ve been shown so far, so the encounter with Claire was a unique one for Peter at the time.

Guess what? I don’t know. Obviously, though, Peter only absorbed the telekinesis – which Sylar was actively using. And he did not absorb freeze-o power, super memory or the incredible pot-melting ability.

Speaking of Claire, another question about her powers came up as well. It’s been shown that a stick lodged in her brain seemed to halt her regeneration, so I assume that her abilities are controlled by some aspect of her brain. Some people have speculated that even if Sylar was to kill Claire and remove her brain, she would still recover. I personally don’t think that is the case since her brain seems so important in what she can do.

The writers tried to clearly show that if Claire’s brain is cut off from her spinal column she is in fact dead. In Ep 3 -the stick in her neck severed her spinal cord, and she was dead. When it was removed she was able too regenerate. But if Sylar takes Claire’s brain she would be dead dead dead – with no capacity to regenerate.

From Jonathan Schell:

Is the source and/or meaning of the symbol that the Haitian wears and Jessica’s tattoo going to be revealed this season? Especially why seemingly unconnected people all connect to it?


I’m not sure about this one either … but I have theories… First of all the symbol is a half-helix, half of a normal DNA strand. That I know. Secondly, I’m beginning to think it’s a purposeful secret symbol that is symbolically important to some group. (A group which probably includes Linderman, Mr. Deveaux and Hiro’s father,) The placement of the symbol could (a) signify an officially sanctioned location. (b) could mark a “special” to the group or (c) Could function as a warning tag that opposing groups have thrown up.

But, be clear, these theories of mine are no more valid than any other chatroom speculation. All I know is Tim Kring told us that the symbol was important he tells us when he wants to see it in specific locations… He never revealed why.

From AbeOL30:

I’ve been a fan of yours since SMALLVILLE. I visit your blog often and the information you provide concerning directing is indispensable. Thank you for offering up your thoughts and behind the scenes knowledge…now to the questions: What did you do to get yourself noticed and land your first directing job?


The rule of thumb is… a writer writes, an actor acts and a director directs. A writer can easily write a spec script and an actor can, with a bit more difficulty, act in local theatre or student films… For a director it’s harder because you have to make a film that people can see to believe you can do it. You must direct something by hook or by crook.

I went to USC film school and my 16-millimeter, 18-minute student film was noticed by the industry and launched my career. Nowadays with Hi-def video and final-cut available so readily, it is much less expensive to make a short film than it was in my day…. But, if you endeavor to make a film or music video to get yourself into the industry, you should strive to make the writing, acting, lighting, and production design as first rate as you can.

Also, how do you maintain the show’s consistent look and feel between episode directors but still let them interpret the story in their own way?

First you have to hire the right directors. Secondly you must have a specific look and feel that you are going for that can be clearly communicated and understood. Thirdly, you have to train the crew as to what the standards are, so that they can help the directors work towards the norm. Fourthly, once you’ve hired the director, taught the vision and trained the crew, you have to let all that go and let the individual directors be additive in whatever way their unique strengths lend them to be.

From Frank:

How do you guys get such a movie quality feel to every episode? I end up feeling like I’ve watched the best movie of all time every Monday night – a feeling that has been severely lacking from prime-time TV since I was ten. Further, I’m wondering how you can possibly afford the effects that go into this show. I may not be in the business but I know that turning a man invisible can’t POSSIBLY be that cheap – and that’s one of your minor effects. You’ve had atomic bombs blowing up, whole houses turned to radioactive ash, the sun being blotted out for heavens sake! How can you pull such apocalyptic special effects out of a weekly one-hour drama budget? Seeing as how this is probably the only chance I’m going to have to communicate with someone of your stature, sir, I’ve just got to say that HEROES is one of the best programs I’ve ever seen on TV – or for that matter on the Silver Screen. It’s cleverly written, produced, managed and marketed by all involved. This is one of those Karmic Moments, rare and powerful conversions of power that lead to great things. I hope to see HEROES on for a very long time to come. I’m overjoyed at the news of a second season and while you’ll probably never even see this E-Mail, I wanted to thank you for saving us from another season of – with limited exception – mostly mediocre TV.


A key rule, in all aspects of life, is that you will never achieve a higher goal than the one you set for yourself.

I think one of the reason’s the show looks and feels the way it does is because we set the bar very high. Starting at the top – with Tim’s writing – the standard is set very high. As the filmmakers we continue to set very lofty goals – goals which, frankly, are unreasonable to expect to achieve on a TV level. We expect great scripts, great acting, brilliant sets, beautiful lighting and a highly unique cinematic style. We have hired great people in every department who are all willing and able to do more than the norm. An expectation is placed upon every member of the crew that we will achieve these goals, and there is zero expectation of failure.

I remember an ESPN special I saw years ago, about the superbowl when the 49’ers were against the Bengles. The 49’ers were down by, like 9 points with two and a half minutes to go. They interviewed some of the offensive players, and they were saying how, in the huddle, Joe Montana was incredibly calm. He wasn’t clapping his hands and pumping them up. He was just calmly calling plays. And in that moment they all knew, with certainty that they were going to win the game. That’s how I try to be. And that’s how I feel the management style of HEROES is, from the top down. We don’t have to push and cheerlead to achieve our standards. We just have the right team in place and we expect to win.

Then, to be fair, we shoot for more days than the average TV show – at least the average network TV show (I think HBO and Showtime shows, like THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD and ROME might film for a similar number of days.)

As far as the Visual effects – yes they are expensive, but not as high as you might think. We don’t finish on film, and computer effects have advanced so far and so fast in the last few years that I don’t, personally, experience that as one of the difficult areas of our show.

To get all the sets built and to film the complex sequences that have been written in the allotted time is a much more stressful aspect of getting the show out.

From Nick:

What happened to Hana/Wireless?


She is around and will recur. Her character is especially active in the on-line comic book and the 360 experience. In ep 16, Matt asked if she was coming to Odessa and she said “Not this time.”

You will see her again this season.

From Kate:

I have a question about the use of the “HRG-Cam.” When you do those over-the-shoulder POV shots through Bennet’s glasses, do they symbolize or represent something? Is it just for a cool effect? Are there hidden clues in those shots? What makes you choose to use that perspective in a particular scene?


Truthfully, it’s just a fun shot that occurred in the pilot and we try to have fun with in the episodes. The director’s try to out “HRG” each other.

From Andrew, Philly, PA:

I have loved your work both on SMALLVILLE and now on HEROES. What are some of the major differences between the production processes of these two heroic shows?


There are many aspects that are similar. The nature of filming a scene, from a nuts and bolts level, is always pretty much the same. A script comes in. All aspects of it are planned and budgeted. Locations are chosen. A crew is in place to film the scenes. A scene is rehearsed and lit and shot. Etc.

The most notable similarity is that both shows are very, very big, as compared to regular TV. They both take more days to film than regular TV. (Almost every other network show on the air films in 8 days. SMALLVILLE, for non-season openers and closers is 10. HEROES averages 11.) They both have big scope. Special effects and visual effects, etc.

To be fair, I’d probably need to compare HEROES season 1 to SMALLVILLE season 1. SMALLLVILLE season 5 (my last season) was very different from HEROES in that we’d, kind of, tamed the beast. By season 5 of SMALLLVILLE there were many established standing sets that recur every episode. Scripts were written to the sets and scripts were written with a general eye towards how many special effects and visual effects we could do for the established budget. My experience on SMALLVILLE season 5 was one of sheparding an established entity and to maintain quality control, but it felt controllable.

SMALLVILLE season 1 was a different animal. I sometimes think I am the only one on HEROES that is having a kind of déjà vu, because the experiences of both first seasons are incredibly parallel. First of all, both had an amazing pilot and incredibly high expectations from the network. Both HAD to be hits, and luckily both were right out of the gate (which only keeps the pressure on to continue to be great.) As a filmmaker, on both, I felt both empowered and challenged to rise to the occasion and make something great. On both there was enormous struggle over the budget and scheduling. Neither seemed to want to be reigned in. Both were incredibly hard and exhausting, both for myself and the production crew. For instance, both had two full production units shooting simultaneously most of the time. There is relentlessness to both, a sense of “How can we keep pulling this off every week?” And ultimately a huge sense of pride.

From a visual design standpoint HEROES is challenging because of the many varied looks that are needed. On SMALLVILLE one of my biggest tasks was to create and craft the “look” of the show. I’m very proud of SMALLVILLE for what has ultimately become a very very consistent looking, and in my opinion, beautiful show. A year after my absence I still watch, with pride, that the physical production of SMALLVILLLE has maintained its integrity. The lighting, the set design and the camerawork are consistent week-to-week. But in the end it was just one look that we were going for.

On HEROES there is the very exciting job of creating numerous looks and finding a way to make them feel integrated. (In all these endeavors I want too be extremely clear I was not the sole inventor of anything - I am merely relating my personal experience and personal focus.)

In some ways HEROES is harder, because we have no real standing sets. The art department is designing and building vast numbers of BIG sets every week. From a purely logistical level, to shuffle these around on our limited stage space is a huge challenge.

HEROES is harder because of its seamless, serialized storytelling. SMALLVILLE, by design, attempted to have stand-alone episodes. This resulted in the “freak-of-the-week” situation some fans complained about, but if ever there was a gaffe, or miscasting or failure of an individual episode, you could recover the next week. HEROES isn’t like that. Every episode has to flow from the one that precedes it and into the one that follows it. The style and storytelling have to be more uniform on HEROES.

SMALLVILLE was harder in that it attempted more pyrotechnics and stunts, which are very planning-intensive. HEROES is more about character and performance, than stunts and visual effects and blowing things up. Also, the HEROES cast, by and large, are much more experienced actors than the SMALLVILLLE cast was in its first season. My job, at the beginning of SMALLLVILLE, was much more about performance crafting and coaching than it is on HEROES.

One of the biggest differences between HEROES and SMALLVILLE is the cast size. On HEROES, fortunately the cast gets top work intermittently and can rest and plan their performances on days off. On SMALLVILLE in the beginning, Tom Welling was in almost every scene of almost every show. I thought we would kill the poor guy. He was working 16 hour days, six days a week and frequently shuffling back and forth between two units. Tom’s job was incredibly brutal, and he rose to the occasion very well. It really wasn’t until season 3 or 4 that we started to diversify the storytelling and tell stories that didn’t ONLY involve Clark. It’s not so bad for Tom up there now, but in the beginning it was brutal.

OK that’s enough for this week.

Keep your questions coming in to herosite@gmail.com and, as my Grandmother used to say, “God willin’ and the crick don’t rise,” next week I’ll answer more.

Monday, March 19, 2007

BLOG QUESTIONS - WEEK 2

Remember to write your questions in to: herosite@gmail.com

From Karim in Bordeaux:

1. What does it take to get in the business besides damn good ideas and perseverance?

Mostly it takes good ideas and perseverance. Also living in Los Angeles. The film and TV business is absolutely centered here and almost all jobs come from here.

2. Will HEROES have a solid ending on the soon-to-come-apocalypse and enter season 2 with a fresh new story? I hope it won’t go on forever and ever like LOST.

Yes. Yes. And it won’t.

From XvSablevX:

1. Are you killing off Peter and Mohinder? Cause to me they are the central characters of the show that can bind all the others together.

Only Tim Kring knows all. But if I were laying odds in Vegas I would bet that both of them have better than average chances for survival.

2. What does the future hold for Hiro and Ando?

There are many futures with many possibilities. Some are happy. Some are not.

From Charles:

1. What’s it like working with Michael Green? We are fans of EVERWOOD who’ve turned into this lovely series, have loved Michael’s writing for some time now and we were wondering if you could give us some insight into him and his work!

Michael Green is a lovely, hard working and charming guy. He worked on SMALLVILLE in season one, but I didn’t get to know him then because I was exclusively up in Canada that year. He has been a big creative contributor to the show this year – but as for insight?... Michael remains mysterious.




MICHAEL GREEN, MAN OF MYSTERY

2. When are you directing again? You are definitely in my top ten (it’s a pretty intense list) directors list. Keep up the good work!

I will direct episode 22. Intensely.

From Arnaud Bodet:

I was curious as to the region of Peter’s face in which the scar appears. Many are suggesting it’s at the forehead, considering what Sylar is currently doing to him, but I’m thinking it could be elsewhere. Milo requested a scar and future Hiro made a reference about it so I doubt there’ll be no scar at all. Hopefully one with as much insight as you could help clear up my muzzled mind.

Tune in to EP 20 on April 30th and all will be revealed.

From Brad Butler:

1. I read in an interview that you were going to take a “24”esque take on the seasons, meaning each season is a different story. All right, I can see that. I’m a fan of 24 as well! Does this mean though, that the heroes from this season (those who survive at least) will fade into just a memory of the beginning? Will some return as main characters and others as re-occurring? Going with the “24” theme, and without reveling specifics, will there be a “Jack Bauer” of HEROES, one character that stays persistent through the entire series?

Kind of a hybrid of all your hypotheses, based on the little I know. But then, Season 2 is just now being theorized by Tim Kring and our crack writing staff.

2.I know you don’t have any direct control over this, but I’ve yet to hear back from NBC. The HEROES 360 Experience. It’s beautiful, wonderful, interactive…and seemingly unavailable in Canada. Canadians are people too! I don’t know how much sway you can give with the Network, but any at all would be helpful! As I said, I need my HEROES fix.

Sorry. I know nothing of this. But I lived in Canada myself recently for 4 years working on a different TV show. Things are different there, even when they feel like they shouldn’t be. The TV stations, and Internet service for two. I know I couldn’t buy mp3s on iTunes in Canada two years ago, for instance – even though I could in France and Germany… Your problem sounds similar.

3.While I’m here, anything I can answer for you? You’ve asked all these people to ask you questions, I think it’s only fair that I offer you the same courtesy!

Is iTunes available in Canada now?

From Stephanie:

My question is about the HEROES music. I’ve noticed that the score is very unique and the background music often feels like an orchestral style, almost like the background music in epic feature films. The musical score from “Company Man” was especially strong and poignant and I think was strong in itself, and it made me wonder. To the composer of the music on HEROES, are you planning to put the music together in a soundtrack? If not, do you have clips of your music without episode dialogue? Sheet music? I’m as fascinated in the music as I am fascinated in the background score of movies like TITANIC, ET and anything John Williams wrote.

Our music is composed by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. You might remember them as Wendy and Lisa, who played with Prince and the Revolution in the 80’s. Besides continuing to play rock and roll, they have had a long career doing film and TV scores.


WENDY AND LISA

Here are some of their credits:

- Nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video, Long Form for Prince and the Revolution LIVE! (1985)
- Won a Grammy for Best Album of Instrumental Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special for PURPLE RAIN (1984)
- Composers for: HEROES, CARNIVALE (TV, which Clea DuVall was also on), JUWANNA MAN (film), CROSSING JORDAN, SOUL FOOD (film)
- Both also acted in PURPLE RAIN

I agree that HEROES music is haunting and unique. Tim Kring, from the very beginning, had a strong sense of what he wanted the show’s music to be. Evocative, world music, heavily percussive without traditional instrumentation.

I plan on doing a more extensive blog exclusively about our music at some point in the future. Probably for the season finale.

From Acacia:

Is there going to be more Eden stuff in future episodes? Further reveals on her storyline, characters who knew her talking about her, anything about such an excellent character would win my eternal worship.

None is planned, as far as I know. In the present reality Eden is dead.

From Anna-Maria Jurma:

Hi, I’m a big fan of the show and thought Episode 18 was fantastic! There’s just one question I had… If Sylar’s abilities were impaired by the drug Mohinder had given him, how did he stop his IV in the first place? If there were a shot in the show that tells us this, I’d love to know. Thanks!

I think Sylar has incredible will power and physical strength. I think he used his telekinetic abilities to reverse his blood flow and willed the drug back into the i.v. (That was actually in an earlier draft, but we didn’t end up shooting it that way.) Basically Mohinder monologued him for too long and should have shot him while he had the chance.

Next week: more questions answered.

Remember to write your questions in to: herosite@gmail.com

Monday, March 12, 2007

SPRING HIATUS 1 – FAN QUESTIONS

Okay, as promised, in the next weeks, while HEROES is on hiatus, I’ll use the blog space to answer fan questions.

If you have a question, send it in to: herosite@gmail.com

Thanks again to HEROSITE.NET webmaster Craig for gathering the questions for me.


From Mike Kim:

1. Why are there gaps between episodes?


Mostly it’s a math problem- like one of those seventh grade “word problems” that you thought would never matter. In July of last year we began filming HEROES. It takes eight days to complete filming of every episode (actually it takes much longer - more like ten to twelve days - but any episode which shoots over eight days we complete with simultaneous units – meaning, most of the time, we have two complete film crews shooting at the same time.)

Now that means eight “working days” so depending on how the weekends fall it takes 10 to 12 calendar days to complete filming of an episode. It also takes a minimum of 4 weeks to complete post production of each episode – including picture editing, visual effects, music, sound mixing and color timing.

On September 25th we aired the first episode. At that time we already had 5 and a half episodes in the can. But from that point on, every 7 days a new episode airs. The math of 7 days between airings and twelve days between completing episodes catches up to us pretty quickly. By November we were in a situation where we couldn’t get any more episodes on the air.

Combine that with the fact that, from a network point of view, December is a slow TV-watching month. We design in a hiatus in December. Because the cast and crew take a two week break around Christmas (so we don’t die of exhaustion) the same phenomenon happens now, in early March.

Some shows like “24" and “Alias” (and “Lost” halfway this year) have opted to not begin showing their first episode until January and then run them continuously. They also start filming in July, but don’t air anything ‘til the new year. For many reasons NBC and HEROES did not want to do that in season one. Maybe in another year.

2. In the sneak peek, I saw a person who looks like Claire with HRG but I can’t really be positive if it is Hayden, Is my theory right that that is Claire in the future with HRG?

Make sure you watch episode 20 on April 30th, and all will be answered. Just remember in our universe multiple timelines and universes are a very possible phenomenon.

From Wrion Bowling:

I know many young directors make the mistake of focusing all of their prep. on visuals and not performances. What “homework” do you do to prepare for a scene, as far as directing actors is concerned?


Excellent question. First of all, I recommend for all directors to take or audit an acting class,, so that you can begin to understand what the actor’s process is. All actors are different, but there are many aspects to acting which are about the technical manipulation of emotions.

Then go over your script, work hard to track the emotional arcs of all the main characters. Where are they starting emotionally? Where do they end up and how do they get there? Go over these things with the writer and if there are any inconsistencies in the characters emotional path, try to fix it on the page.

Actors work from “intentions” – meaning what does their character want in the scene? An actor in a scene (and all people at all times really) have something they want to get or accomplish within the scene. They may want something physical, like to find out where the money is hidden, or to kill their enemy. They may want something actively emotional - like to seduce, or frighten the other actor. They may want something more passive, like to make the other person go away, or to not tell a secret. If you and the actor can describe and agree upon the intention of a scene, you’re halfway home because you will both be working towards the same goal.

Remember the language of actors is emotion. Direct them with emotional words. I try to stay simple. i.e. “You’re pissed off, but you want her to think you’re calm."

I read a quote from Robert DeNiro once, which I think is very true, and I always remember. He said that, in real life, people spend a lot more energy hiding their true emotions than in showing them. This is very true. If an actor and director play only the obvious emotion, anger, sadness, etc. it can be real hokey. Layering an subversive intention on top of an emotion can be much more interesting. i.e. hiding anger with calmness. Hiding sadness with busy activity.

From Jenna DeVillier:

Is there going to be just 23 episodes or as some sites claim – 5 whole seasons?


We will do 23 this year. We will do 22 or 23 next year. After that it’s all about ratings. If our ratings stay strong we’ll live to see five years or more. No one can predict that far ahead right now. (Except maybe Isaac.)

From The Torres Family:

If Isaac couldn’t paint as well as he does, could he still see the future?


Yes. He just would draw sucky pictures of the future. When Peter absorbed his power, in episode 2, he drew stick-figure style future drawings.

From Mike Nilrad:

1. With such a big cast, 12 main characters and multiple recurring one’s, and so many stories all revolving around each other, how difficult is it to film each episode, with about every scene needing an almost completely different setting, as opposed to other shows, which might usually film in only one main location, with fewer characters?


The bottom line, HEROES is an incredibly difficult show to produce and direct for exactly all the reasons you mention. It’s also what makes it special and great. I remember watching X-FILES in it’s second season and thinking “How do they get all that done for one TV show?” It’s the same for us. A lot of smart, talented people working really hard.

2. Which power is the most difficult to film?

Claire’s is kinda hard because we have to film a before and after version. One with a bloody prosthetic appliance, one without. Peter going invisible is pretty easy. We just shoot him in one spot, then he steps out, we film the background, and, in editing we ripple the background. DL’s “phasing” through walls is OK. We film the wall background, then film DL on green screen, coming at us and put the two together. Flying is probably the most difficult. We have to do a day on a green screen stage with the actors in flying rigs that are quite uncomfortable, blow tons of wind at them, and swoop the camera around – to mimic their movements. Then we have to go to New York and film helicopter shots (called “back plates”) to be the backgrounds. We marry the two in post and add digital mist, etc.

From Eric Willett:

Is HEROES only going to be on for one season?


No. We are already picked up for season two.

From Jacki:

I noticed in this episode (16) that some of the scenes seemed to have a prominent lighting color (like one of the rooftops scenes was mostly green if I remember correctly). How do you decide what color to use? Is it based on the emotions of the scene, or the characters?


Good question. We base the color palate on region, not character or emotion. The original thought behind this was to subtlely let the audience know what story they were watching, no matter which characters were in it. New York is cool, a little blue. Texas is warm, gold/yellow. Nevada is hot, bleached out. Los Angeles is neutral, warm with rich colors. Tokyo is neutral, but we do a lot of colorful signage and a lot of neon.

We also search for different kind of architecture based on region. New York is older buildings with lots of character and age. California is a lot of craftsman and Spanish architecture. Texas is open landscapes with formidable, concrete structures – strength. Tokyo is ultra modern. Nevada is kind of crappy suburbs and glamorous casinos.

There were emotional/intellectual reasons for all these decisions, but that’s too complex to go into right now.

From Scott King:

How big is the production staff for HEROES compared to other shows? HEROES just feels so epic at times and it’s hard to believe that the average size crew and staff can do all it does.


HEROES is, indeed, bigger than most other shows. We have a writing staff, production office staff, a shooting crew, a post production team – which is what all shows have. We also contract out a company that does our visual effects and another company that does our prosthetic makeup effects. The main reason we’re bigger is that we frequently have two main units going at the same time. That means, two sets of trucks and trailers, two directors of photography, two make-up and hair teams, two caterers, two sound crews, etc. etc.

There have even been a couple of times when we had two main unit crews and an insert unit crew going.

Bottom line the size of the crew varies… On our smallest days we employee 85-100 people and on our largest days about 300.

From CP:

Can you please tell me if the scenes with George Takei (episode 14) were really shot in Port Washington, NY or if it was supposed to look like it was.

P.S. Great show by the way. LOL.


We film every scene in Los Angeles. One of the challenges of the show is to find locations in the L.A. area that look like places from all around the world.

From Anonymous:

I had a good laugh when I looked at the license plate of Mr. Nakamura's car (episode 14). I like those little jokes. Did you place it deliberately or was it just someone from the equipment staff having fun?


Believe it or not, none of the writers, directors or production team planned that. It was the idea of one of our prop people – a great, hard working guy named James Clark.

From Brandon and Christi Tyler:

So, when will Episode 19 air? And when is the season finale? I am trying to plan a party for this and can't find any dates.


Episode 19 will air on April 23rd and the season finale will be on May 21st.

From Marti:

The one question I have is how many people and how many hours were needed to make all those origami cranes (episode 11)? It was really beautiful.


I went down and asked the art department this question and the answer blew me away.

First, by pure coincidence, there is a Catholic girl’s school in the area, and one of the school’s teachers was very sick. The girls had read, in class, a story about folding 1000 paper cranes to get a wish to come true, and they decided to fold cranes to wish for their teacher to get better.

We rented the first 1000 cranes from them.

But 1000 actually wasn’t enough to fill out the diner and look good.

So we hired another 10 people who folded cranes and attached string to hang them - for 3 eight hour days!

All departments got involved in engineering how to hang them and string them. It took six hours to install them, and due to excellent design, ten minutes to strike them so that other scenes could be shot the same day.

All for one scene! Like I always say, HEROES, it’s like a TV show only bigger!

(By the way the teacher did get better and is back in school teaching)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Episode 18: Parasite

Remember in the next few weeks HEROES will be off the air. If any of you have questions you’d like me to answer, I’ll take the hiatus opportunity to do so.

SEND QUESTIONS TO: herosite@gmail.com

As for tonight, our eighteenth episode!!

It’s so weird. It’s going so fast. In my reality we’re about to start prepping episode 22 (which I’ll be directing) of the total of 23 we’re going to make. I was just up in Jeph Loeb’s office and we were saying how incredibly fast it’s been going. It doesn’t feel like a year since we both started on this little endeavor.

Tonight is another big one (surprise, surprise). To give you an indication, here is the email I sent out to Tim, Dennis Hammer, Allan Arkush and the other writers upon reading the script: (I’ve cleaned it up a bit for public consumption.)

"Holy sh*t!!! This is the holy sh*t-est episode yet! The shockers just keep coming! It may be too much for a weak-hearted viewer and we may need to attach a warning up-front!

AWESOME SCRIPT!!!"

Anyway, this one is chock full of twists and turns – and, true to the promise Tim and the writer’s have made to the public, we will reveal the mysteries as we go and not make the audience wait interminably.

For instance tonight we reveal who Linderman is and what his master plan is. We reveal who the Haitian is really working for, and we reveal whether Hiro saves the future after all. It’s also got a pretty kick ass ending, in my opinion.

I think all of the actors did great this week. I think tonight I’ll tip my hat to Sendhil who gets to a level of intensity in his scenes with Sylar that we haven’t seen from him before. I also think that Adrian magnificently underplayed the internal struggle his character is going through. Malcolm McDowell does most of the talking in the excellently written scene that introduces Linderman, but, as they say, acting is reacting and Adrian’s reaction is amazing as he sits their half-listening and churning with internal struggle.

Also, Ashley Crow is excellent. I just yesterday called her up, after last Monday’s episode and this one to tell her how amazing she’s doing. She has been amazing since the pilot, but this episode really allows her to stretch into new arenas. Her scene with HRG where she says “I’m good at playing dumb” is one of my favorite moments.


SCRIPT DISCUSSION BETWEEN THE CAST, DIRECTOR KEVIN BRAY AND JEPH LOEB


ALI LARTER AND JEPH LOEB DISCUSS SCRIPT


HIRO AND ANDO IN THE FUTURE


HAYDEN PANETTIERE – HAVIN' FUN ON LOCATION


JIMMY JEAN-LOUIS – IS IT WRONG FOR A MAN TO BE THIS HANDSOME?


HAYDEN AND JIMMY FILMING


NEW HERO - MISSY PEREGRYM


MISSY UNDER THE SPELL OF HRG’S GLASSES

TONIGHT’S INTERVIEW:

CHRIS ZATTA “LIVING THE DREAM”

Tonight I’m doing something a little different. Because Chris Zatta, who is the young man who wrote tonight’s episode, is very new to the business. Chris has been the writers's assistant on HEROES all year. This is his first produced credit of any kind. He strikes me as a very earnest, thoughtful, hard-working and all-around nice guy. He should be a beacon of hope for anyone aspiring to be in the film business who’s smart, eager and willing to put in a little elbow grease.

GREG BEEMAN: Chris, I’ve been joking about this for a few weeks, that on this one I was going do a blog called “Chris Zatta, living the dream.” And now the time has come.

CHRIS ZATTA: Yes.

GB: How old are you, Chris?

CZ: Twenty-seven.

GB: And how long ago was it that you were a p.a.? (production assistant)

CZ: Well, I’m the writer’s assistant on HEROES, now. I was the writer’s p.a. on CROSSING JORDAN last year. Before that I was an on-set p.a. on AMERICAN DREAMS, and a few other jobs, catch-as-catch-can, before that. Including back in Boston.

GB: And as an on set p.a. and writer’s p.a. what were your job responsibilities?

CZ: Photocopying. Getting lunches for the producers. Getting coffee. Getting breakfast for the cast. Delivering scripts to people’s homes at night.

GB: The classic “a lot of hard work for a little money”

CZ: Yes.

GB: Then this year you’ve been the writer’s assistant. How did you get that job?

CZ: Tim Kring, Joe (Pokaski) and Aron Coleite brought me over from CROSSING JORDAN. I worked on the pilot as well with them.

GB: So, obviously you did a good job in their opinion?

CZ: Yes. I hope so.

GB: What does the writers assistant job entail? Describe it.

CZ: Yes. There’s a big table. Eleven writers. And they all come in every day, around ten. And they stay in there all day until about six. They are just talking about the show. About the stories. About all the characters. Very fast, with lots of ideas coming and going and changing all the time. Basically, I’m a stenographer. I’m taking notes on everything. I take notes all day, and then at night I have to type them all up.

GB: Wow. That sounds like it would take a long time. How long does it take you to type up a whole days worth of talking?

CZ: A lot of times until pretty late. Until midnight or so.

GB: And then what?

CZ: Go home. Sleep. Wake up. Come back and do it all again.

GB: Well all the writers obviously liked you and felt you did a good job. So, how did typing notes translate into being offered to write an episode of the show?

CZ: One of the first things the writers have to present to the studio and network is an outline of the episode. It’s a scene by scene breakdown, and, actually in HEROES case, also a character by character breakdown of the story they’re planning on writing. It’s the first thing the network and studio give notes on.

GB: So it’s important?

CZ: Yes. And I guess my notes were decent enough that they felt that they could become the rough draft of the outlines. One of the writers would take my version, and add some flair, and that would become the outline that was sent in. That lead too them noticing that I was doing well.

At this moment Joe Pokaski bursts into the room:

JOE POKASKI: Greg I didn’t have any luck getting a hold of any of Chris’ ex-girlfriends for the “Chris Zatta Living The Dream” blog you’re doing.

GB: No?

JP: You know, Chris, so they could say what a huge mistake they made breaking up with you and everything.

Joe runs out.

GB: You do seem like a good catch, Chris. A good prospect that any Mother would love.

Chris Zatta shrugs and looks embarrassed.

GB: Okay, so then what?

CZ: They let me write a few scenes. On HEROES all of the writers work on different scenes of every episode. Every writer takes a pass. The writer in charge of the episode then takes it and polishes it. It all changes a lot. In the end only a few lines I originally wrote stayed in.

GB: Really. That’s cool. So what are some of the scenes you worked on first?

CZ: I worked on early versions of the first scenes where Peter and Cluade were first in Peter’s apartment. Also scenes with Hiro and his sister. The storyline of Claire in which her mother got sick and went to the hospital – I did the first drafts of some of those.

GB: That’s awesome. I had no idea. I ended up directing some of those scenes. So who was the first one who told you you’d be writing a script for this hit show?

CZ: Tim Kring was first. He said they were thinking of giving me some kind of writing credit.

GB: Were you surprised?

CZ: Yeah. It was unexpected. I was told that a first season show rarely gives scripts to assistants. I knew Tim had a reputation for giving people a chance. But on a show like this I thought they’d go out to someone more established. So I hoped, but I didn’t expect.

Then the writers asked if I had any writing samples.

GB: And you had them?

CZ: Yes. I had a spec script for BIG LOVE. Also a one-act play I’d written. And a feature.

GB: What kind of projects were these.

CZ: The feature was a drama, a coming of age story, about three friends in their twenties. The one-act was a comedy, about a couple who are trying to have dinner and all sorts of things keep preventing them from doing this.

GB: That’s great. Perfect. This reminds me of the old saying, “When opportunity knocks you have to be ready for it’s arrival.” You had a spec script of an existing show, and both a comedy and a drama of original work. That’s exactly what you should have.

CZ: Yes. It’s not luck or good timing. If I hadn’t had my samples this wouldn’t have happened.

GB: Okay let’s backtrack. What’s your background?

CZ: I was born in New Jersey. My Dad worked for General Mills and Campbell’s soup so we moved to Toronto when I was 6 for a few years, and then back to New Jersey and then to Belgium for two years. Then back and I finished high school in New Jersey.

GB: Where did you go to college?

CZ: Boston University. I majored in film and minored in German. I graduated in 2002.

GB: How long did you know you wanted to be in the film business?

CZ: Since I was 16. My family were all film buffs. They were very into movies and we always used to go to them and watch them together on TV. My parents loved movies.. When I was 16 I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYESSY on cable. I didn’t know what it was exactly before I saw it. I knew it was science fiction, but as I was watching and I started to realize what the story was and how it was being told. That it began with primitive man and followed mankind into space. I had a realization right then about the kinds of themes and the kinds of stories you can get across.

GB: That was your epiphinal moment?

CZ: Yes.

GB: That’s so cool. I had almost the exact same experience, when I was 15 when I saw STAR WARS in the theatre for the first time. I walked out of the movies and my life was changed. I knew I was going to make films… I had no idea how or what… But I knew.

It’s great that movies can do that, isn’t it?

CZ: Yes.

GB: I bet someone out there - some kid - will be inspired by HEROES the same way. I love this work. It’s the best! Okay, I’ve gotten off topic. So where did you go from Boston U?

CZ: I worked at a video store and whenever I could I’d p.a. on commercials or movies that came to Boston. There was a guy who kind of was an agent for all the local people who wanted to get work on films that came through. I worked on MONA LISA SMILE when it came into town. That was the first experience I had with a big project, and where I got to see stars that I’d seen in movies all my life.

GB: Was everyone nice to you?

CZ: Very much so. I met Julia Roberts at the wrap party. She was really nice. Nobody was a jerk at all. But after that I realized Boston didn’t have much to offer. So it was either New York or L.A. I wanted to get a little further away from the East Coast. So, it was LA.

GB: Did you know anyone when you got here?

CZ: A few people from high School. A few from college.. Maybe a half dozen people. My college friends were working as assistants, and they helped me start to try to get jobs.

GB: So when go from that to you, on set, with Malcolm McDowell and Adrian Pasdar doing your scene.

CZ: I know. I was sitting, with you, at the monitor and they’re saying the dialogue, but it’s on the monitor. Then I’d poke my head around the corner and see it was real.

GB: How was the whole experience for you?

CZ: Amazing. Amazing to be on set and actually to have a creative say in things.

GB: So you actually are “living the dream?”

CZ: Yes. Definitely.

GB: Are you happy with the episode?

CZ: I’m happy with it. It taught me to step back. It’s my first experience and I really saw how you have to step back. There are a lot of departments and producers and the director who all have such a strong say and who all put their stamp on it. Some things change from the way you first conceive it. Many times for the better. From beginning to end there are so many voices and so much input. I have definitely learned a lot and it will help me next time.

GB: Now what? Hopefully it’s just the beginning for Chris Zatta.

CZ: from this experience I have been able to get an agent. I’m working on another spec feature, an idea I’ve had for awhile, and I’ll write it over the summer. I’ve been speaking with my agents about what to do next. It’s all going very fast. I’ve been waiting for a while now it feels like it’s here.

GB: Excellent. I’m proud of you. Well, if I have any advice, not that you're asking for it, if I have any tip for longevity in this business it’s just… Don’t quit. I look back and realize now that I’ve done nothing but direct or produce, in some fashion or other, since, like, 1984. I’ve had big ups. I’ve had big downs where I was unemployed and unemployable for a long stretch. But, looking back now, it never even occurred to me to quit. A lot of people I’ve worked with or went to film school with, they moved on. But I never did no matter what.

CZ: That’s great.

GB: One last thing. I think we should pause and note Tim Kring’s generosity with you. He has a huge job and all the pressure and responsibility that goes along with creating and maintaining a show of this magnitude, but he took the time to help you out also.

CZ: I know. I’m very grateful. He has that reputation. Joe and Aron were both writers’s assistants. I think Tim thinks it’s the best scenario, when you give someone a chance. The person knows the show and the ways the stories are told and also you’re helping them get a foot in the door. And that’s a good thing. It’s great he’s done it for so many people. I am grateful. Very grateful.


CHRIS ZATTA – LIVING THE DREAM


CHRIS ZATTA – LIVING THE DREAM WITH MASI OKA


CHRIS ZATTA – LIVING THE DREAM WITH MALCOM MCDOWALL AND ADRIAN PASDAR

Okay. That’s it. For the next six Weeks HEROES is of the air. I’ll be answering fan questions for the next week or two (if I get any)

If you fans have any questions you’d like me to answer, remember send them c/o Craig at HEROSITE.NET at this address:

herosite@gmail.com