Tuesday, October 30, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 6 - "THE LINE"

NO SPOILERS AT ALL THIS WEEK AS THERE’S BARELY A BLOG!!!

Dearest readers, I apologize, but I just can’t get out a proper blog this week. It’s been crazy around HEROES-town lately, with 3 shows shooting at once and us working 7 days a week and trying to get 3 episodes locked in the editing room. I just couldn’t get my blog homework done this weekend

I promise a nice juicy blog next week, and at least here’s some photos:


DANIA AND SHALIM IN MAKEUP TRAILER ON THEIR IPHONES


HAYDEN IN GYM CLASS


MYSELF AND PRODUCTION DESIGNER RUTH AMMON


FIRST A.D. ANNE BERGER


HAYDEN AND WRITER JEPH LOEB


MILO, DAVID ANDERS AND HAYDEN


LADIES AND GENTLEMEN… MR. MUGGLES

AND SOME STORYBOARDS.......













Monday, October 22, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 5 - "FIGHT OR FLIGHT"

WARNING SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN

Episode 5!

Episode five was written by, the sisters, Joy and Melissa Blake – who are new to HEROES, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter who is also new to the show. But even though she was new here, if you check out her resume, you can see what an experienced director she is: http://imdb.com/name/nm0322128/ She directed the pilot episode of THE GILMORE GIRLS, and numerous episodes of WEST WING, ER, and even TWIN PEAKS! She is a super great, super enthusiastic person and a strong performance director. She has a background as a choreographer so she has a natural affinity for choreographing camera and actor. But she had never done any of the kind of visual effects we do. She was hungry to learn and it was fun to teach her.

This episode develops some of our storylines and resolves some others. Our New Orleans story progresses, as Monica begins to learn what the scope of her power is, and you can see the beginnings of a new team-up in her and Micah’s relationship. Matt and Nathan continue working to track down and meet Matt’s father, “The Nightmare Man” who has been tormenting Molly. Suresh makes, what is perhaps, a fateful mistake when he brings Molly in to the company, and finds himself becoming entangled in their web. Peter resolves his story in Ireland, as a new “Company Woman” enters the picture, moving his story in another direction.

This episode is, perhaps, most notable for the introduction of Kristen Bell to the HEROES lineup. We have been introducing a lot of new characters in these early episodes. I know that, to some people, it feels like it’s been too much too fast, and some wonder where have last year’s heroes gone? But Tim Kring expressed from the beginning of the development of this year that it was important to him to keep evolving the big-picture story. He really wanted to create a global sense to the show this year. Having said all that, I truly think everyone will agree that Kristen is an awesome addition to our recipe.

If you don’t know her already, Kristen was the star of the well reviewed, but little-watched UPN and later CW show “VERONICA MARS.” Her performance as the eponymous character was routinely critically lauded. (Catch it on DVD if you’ve never seen it – it’s a real good TV show!!)

Anyway, the story behind how she ended up on HEROES is a pretty good one. Last summer, after the HEROES panel at Comic-Con, two of our writers, Joe Pokaski and Aron Eli Coleite were riding from San Diego to LA on the train. Sitting in the same car, they saw Zach Quinto and Kristen Bell – who, as it turns out, are old-time best friends. Everyone got to talking, and Joe and Aron said “Hey if you ever want to be on the show, we’ll write a part for you.” To which Kristen replied, “Really? Well, maybe I’d be interested.” More talk revealed that Kristen was a huge fan of the show (mostly through her palship with Zach.) The deal was sealed when, later, Kristen’s cell phone flew out of her hands and she told Joe and Aron how she had “energy hands.” Seems she waves her hands around a lot when she’s talking, which builds up a lot of energy. When she stops waving them and holds on to an electronic device, that device will frequently fly out of her hands and break.

Joe and Aron knew that, just that week, the writers were developing the character of Elle. Elle was a young woman who worked for the company, who could shoot lightening from her hands, and who was intended to be a dramatic doppelganger/compliment to the innocent/earnest Claire. In that instant on the Amtrak train fate connected the dots. The next morning Joe and Aron told Tim Kring, Dennis Hammer and anyone who would listen. That very morning phone calls started flying in the way that they only can in Hollywood. Agents, network executives and producers began scheming and hatching plans. Talented actress without a show. Hit show in need of talented actress. It seemed the perfect fit!

Two weeks later Kristen was standing in a Hollywood parking lot full of shipping containers, surrounded by green screen (which – with the help of CGI - was standing in for a shipping dock in Ireland.) She began that day to explore the character of Elle, the slightly demented, slightly power-mad “Company Gal.”

Having worked with her quite a bit since then, I, for one, hope she sticks around. She is a treat - a pro of an actress who knows her lines, hits her marks, and consistently delivers the goods in an unexpected way. She is also a lot of fun to be around. We have fun on HEROES and Kristen fits in well behind the scenes as well as on screen!

I also wonder - Who the heck is “Daddy???”


HI I’M KRISTEN AND I’M NEW HERE


KRISTEN BELL SEARCHES FOR HER NEW TV BOYFRIEND


HEY LIGHTENING POWER IS FUN!

Meanwhile in New Orleans, Micah gives a name to Monica’s power. He shows her a 9th Wonders comic, which is our comic-within–our-world. Tim Sale’s cover depicts “Saint Joan” (Pay attention to all this!) Micah tells Monica that she is a “muscle mimic,” a copycat! (Jeph Loeb calls it photo-reflex-muscle-memory.) What it means is – anything she sees she can copy. As I mentioned before Tim Kring’s goal was to create a new dynamic with this duo (heh heh.) Freed from always worrying about his father and mother, Micah can begin to have fun with his powers. In the last episode and in this one, a real chemistry breaks out between these two characters.

Noah Gray-Cabey, who plays Micah, is such a great kid. He’s, like, a genius. He’s only 11, but he’s already in 9th grade. He’s a real sweetie on set, and I love seeing his big smile break out in this episode. In real life, he is a virtuoso piano player. I believe the OPRAH WINFREY SHOW originally discovered him (he played piano there) which led to a Hollywood talent agent approaching him about acting. Tim had been wanting to create a scene for him to play piano in the show. And, so, the scene where Monica enters the house, sees him playing, and mimics it, was developed.

This is an interesting scene to study. As Monica plays the piano, there are a number of specific edits that develop the story. The scene begins with side angles of her hands playing, intercut with side angles of her face and Micah’s face. Then the angles onto the hands become straight down. And the angle of her face becomes super low – straight up. The tempo of the music and of the editing builds faster and faster until it hits a crescendo as Monica leaps up in fear. This, very specific shot and cutting pattern, is designed to accentuate her rising fear as she realizes something she can’t control and doesn’t understand is happening to her.

Some of our heroes have easy powers to accomplish on screen and some have hard ones. Greg Grunberg’s is easy, he just tilts his head, we do some editing tricks and voil’a, mind reading. Kristen Bell has an easy one, she just puts out her hand, the visual effects team rotoscopes in lightening and voil’a – Lighting Power! But there’s no voil’a with Dana Davis’ power. In this episode she has to double dutch, do kung fu backflips, juggle and play the piano (although I think we edited out the juggling – hmmm???) That meant we had to get a double dutch photo double, a kung fu photo double, a piano-playing photo double, and a juggling photo double – and we had to teach her to do all of these things. Luckily Dana is very game to try stuff, and she ended up doing most of the moves herself.

The double dutch scene is a good example of how complex it is to direct one of our episodes. In just this one scene, there is a lot to pay attention to because there are so many levels, both technical and emotional, which one has to bring out for the audience. In this one scene, where the characters walk into a busy playground, looking to try out her powers, the director must remember to develop Micah and Monica’s new relationship for the audience. Then the director must get the shots to tell the story of a busy playground – skateboarding, basketball, double dutch, Then the director must stage and shoot that Monica has a challenge from the neighborhood girls, and that she stands up to them in a tough but nice way – which is another important aspect of her character to show to the audience. Then she begins to double dutch. This involves shooting wide shots over Micah to the jump roping double (you must connect the two characters visually on screen!) Then closer angles of Monica jumping rope. Now, Dana had learned the choreographed move, but wasn’t really able to jump rope. So she was photographed against a blue screen. The background girls were photographed as what is called a back plate behind her. And they were twirling wooden handles only. The spinning ropes were digitally added in post. Of course once Monica’s jumping – the director can’t forget to get close up angles of Monica looking to Micah and smiling, and of Micah looking back and smiling. (The cool power is nice, but the emotion is what really matters!) And all that for a 35 second scene that had to be completely shot in 4 hours before lunch! Ouch!


DANA DAVIS STUDIES HER DOUBLE DUTCH MOVES ON DVD IMMEDIATELY BEFORE SHOOT


EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ALLAN ARKUSH OVERSEES A REHEARSAL OF THE PIANO SCENE

Another complex sequence in our little weekly TV show is the entire nightmare man sequence where Maury, Matt Parkman’s father. This character throws both Nathan and Matt into their respective worst nightmares. We had to show 3 things at once: First, Matt Parkman’s nightmare of being locked up for abandoning his family. Second, Nathan’s nightmare that New York had blown up and that he had to do battle with his own inner demon. And third, that in reality, both men were fighting each other under the control of Maury.

This was a difficult sequence to both comprehend and visualize. It had many technical complexities – for instance, Adrian Pasdar had to have 3 hours of makeup to play the scar-faced version of himself. This meant we had to split up the scene where he fights himself over two days. The first day he wore the makeup and on the second one he didn’t. There would be a stunt/photo double for him to fight himself. But we also wanted to put Adrian in the same frame with himself 2 or three times, which meant moving split-screen shots. We decided to blow ash on the set, coming from the burning NYC buildings. Etc. Etc.

We had numerous meetings about how this scene would be shot and edited, to both maximize coolness and clarity. We drew storyboards and then had a few more meetings. I think the sequence is pretty satisfying, and the visual effects guys at Stargate Effects outdid themselves with burning New York. I particularly like the building crumbling in the foreground!

We spent a LONG TIME in the cutting room working on this one. How to intercut the fight to get it just right. But still, I wish we’d had more time to both think about it and design it. I always felt like the process on this complex scene was a little pell-mell, and, even though it’s good – that we didn’t have time to get it perfect!

Okay that’s it for now. Next week: Hiro and gang take on White Beard in feudal Japan, Peter and Caitlain visit a new city (and a new version of and old city!?!), Claire makes the cheerleading squad in her own special way, and HRG visits and old friend in Odessa (Russia that is!)


DIRECTOR LESLI GLATTER


PRODUCTION MEETING ABOUT THE NIGHTMARE SEQUENCE


LESLI AND GREG GRUNBERG GO OVER THE “STORYBOARDS”


GREG GRUNBERG AND WRITERS JOY AND MELISSA BLAKE


LESLI AND MILO VENTIMIGLIA –THEY BOTH USED TO WORK ON “THE GILMORE GIRLS”


ADRIAN PASDAR AND I ON SET – HEY KIDS, ALWAYS REMEMBER TO USE SUNBLOCK!


VOTE PETRELLI, HE’S THE SCABBIEST

Monday, October 15, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 4 - "THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS"

SEASON 2 - EPISODE 4 “THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS”

WARNING – SOME SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN


Tonight… Episode 4 of season 2. The episode was written by Tim Kring and was directed by Adam Kane. Adam, as you may remember, was the Director of Photography on the pilot. His work there was so exemplary that Tim Kring and Dennis Hammer gave him his first break directing on HEROES on last years episode 119.

In this episode we bring both new characters into our ongoing story, and we reinvigorate old ones.

Specifically, Nathan begins to take a larger role in the story again. It was important to isolate him at the beginning of the year. Whatever happened after the events of the season finale, Nathan was clearly disturbed and distressed when we discovered him at the beginning of this year. He had given up his political office, pushed away his family and he had been drinking heavily. Tim Kring’s design is to keep the exact reasons for these changes secret for the moment. But, rest assured, in true HEROES fashion, they will be explained in due time.

In this episode Nathan realizes it’s time to clean up his act. Tim had encouraged Adrian to let his beard grow over the hiatus, to better play the fallen Nathan. I know Adrian loved having the beard. He said it kept him perfectly anonymous in public. But, I know that I, for one, had no idea it would be so big and bushy! Adrian is one swarthy guy. Once it got on film, I’m not sure we loved it. So, with his characters redirection in this episode we decided to have him shave it.

This of course presented some scheduling issues. We had to shoot the one scene where he visits his kids at school (the one where his son tells him he doesn’t like the beard) first, before we could shoot the rest of the (shaven) scenes. Interestingly the school scene originally ended with Nathan looking into the mirror and seeing the scar-faced version of himself. He then took a few steps into a discreet area and flew into the sky. Both these effects where quite good, but, as he often does, Tim omitted them in post, opting instead to end on the most emotionally impactful moment – the one in which Nathan realizes he’d better change if he doesn’t want to lose his children.

This episode also begins a several-episode team up between Nathan and Matt Parkman. Greg Grunberg and Adrian actually didn’t have too many scenes together last year. Here they finally get together as both characters attempt to solve the mystery of who has been attacking Angela Petrelli. I know Greg and Adrian really enjoy working together. Both of them are good natured jokesters – and the days always fly by easily when they are on set together.

I particularly like the scenes in the hospital hallway, between them – the one where Matt first reveals that he can read minds and that he knows Nathan can fly. In many ways it is a purely expositional scene, one that gets information out and aligns the characters. But there’s something special about it. I remember Adam Kane working with them. He wanted the scene to play quietly, but with great pace and great intensity. He talked about how neither character trusted each other, and that the more Matt revealed of himself the more suspicious Nathan should get. I also like the way the scene is staged. The art department dressed in a flower display case in the hall. Adam staged the scene next to it, and the fluorescent glow from the case reenforces the intensity of the scene.

This episode also introduces Dana Davis, Carlon Jeffery and, most excitingly, Nichelle Nichols??? (of Star Trek fame.)

As I understand it, this character and storyline came from two impetuses on Tim Kring’s part. The first was to tell a story set in post-Katrina New Orleans. The second was to create a new family dynamic for Micah. He wanted to separate Micah and Niki, giving both characters a chance to evolve independently of their mother-son obligations. Niki, as we saw last episode, is going to reside/work at “The Company.” Micah is now living with relatives, and circumstances will finally allow him to explore his desire to use his powers for good. (Exactly HOW this happens you’ll have to wait for.)

In Monica, Tim wanted to create a character who is an upbeat, positive and smart person – but someone who life has given tough breaks to. She is someone who never gives up, but who, right at this moment, is lost.

As always, we auditioned many people. Dana Davis won our hearts with her great smile and upbeat personality. Many of us producers had seen her work on last years ABC show THE NINE.

Whenever we have a new character, I try to be on set as much as possible to make sure they are headed in the right direction. Many times, the first couple of days will bring up lots of questions from the actor, the director and the writers. But, on set, it felt like Dana was slipping quite easily into her role.

I’m also excited by the way Noah Gray-Cabey’s and Dana’s scenes together play. Theirs is a friendly exuberance when they are on screen together. And I think Tim is right, by freeing Micah up from his family dynamic we get to see a new side to this little super guy.

One of the production challenges was to create New Orleans in L.A. This is a tough project. Many other cities are relatively easy to recreate here. But New Orleans is SO distinctive. We found a locally owned fast food resteraunt in south central L.A. to play as “Burger Baonanza” – the menial job Monica toils at. And the art department labored hard to build the interior of Monica’s house. It’s a great set with lots of different mis-matched wallpaper. And there’s a carefully painted in Katrina water-line that runs throughout the house.


Perhaps the most memorable scene of the episode is the Hollywood Sign sequence with Claire and West. In my opinion it’s one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes we’ve ever done – with imagery that will become iconic, I am quite sure. Both Adam Kane and the VFX guys at stargate really outdid themselves on this one.

Interestingly, the scene, as originally written had West flying Claire back to Odessa Texas, to the top of the abandoned fuel rig where she originally jumped in the pilot. But as we prepped the episode, problems, both practical and logical came up. Logically, how fast could West fly? They left Claire’s neighborhood in the late afternoon and were home that night. Even a jumbo jet takes a few hours to fly from LA to Texas, so the time-line didn’t work. Also, the abandoned fuel rig location is about an hour out of LA. The scene was set at night and there wasn’t any work we could schedule with it. So, on a practical, production level it didn’t work either.

Booth of these factors caused us to re-evaluate. While Tim liked the callback to the pilot, he understood the problems. What mattered most was that it was a tall enough structure that Claire could feasibly jump off it and West could jump down and save her.

We kicked around different ideas and finally, now it seems obviously, we came up with the Hollywood sign.

Of course, soon enough, we discovered that the real Hollywood sign doesn’t allow filming at night, and will only allow a very limited crew. Filming on the real location wasn’t practical either.

So we came up with the idea that we would just build the top section of the letters and that the whole scene would be filmed on a blue screen stage in an all-digital environment. This solved all the problems except one of expense. Blue screen, inevitably, films slowly and with every shot being CGI, the costs skyrocketed. Adam had storyboarded an elaborate sequence and it was estimated that that would take almost two full days to film. Well - 2 days for one scene is not practical for TV. So, the scene then came under attack. Maybe it wasn’t needed at all. Or maybe a simpler version without Claire jumping could be done. The scene was reduced to that for a day or so… But I’m proud of Adam Kane. He really wanted to do this sequence, and rightfully so… So he called up all of the producers and said that he would figure out a way to shoot it all in a day.

That’s how things have to go sometimes. Somebody just has to will it to happen.

The guys from stargate took a helicopter and flew around the Hollywood sign to get backplates. Of course the final product is a little hyper-real with more lights and a greater view of lights than you see in real life. The letters in our version of reality are also about twice as tall as the real Hollywood Sign letters too.

On stage we draped a 120-foot wide 35-foot high blue screen. We painted the floor blue with 150 dollar a gallon blue screen paint. We built 12-foot tall letters. And Hayden Panettiere and Nick D’Agosto had to rehearse in fly harnesses with descender rigs to jump and fall 25 feet at a time – just another day on HEROES.

That’s it for this week. Next week Micah and Monica explore what the heck is happening to Monica, Matt and Nathan meet “The Nightmare Man,” Peter resumes his adventures in Ireland… And a new super baddie enters the fray!!!


CHRISTINE ROSE AND ADONIS-LIKE ADRIAN PASDAR


DIRECTOR ADAM KANE MANS THE MONITORS


NEW HEROES DANA DAVIS AND HER “NANA” NICHELLE NICHOLS


NOAH GRAY-CABEY AND CARLON JEFFERY


DANA DAVIS AND TIM KRING ON SET


ZACH QUINTO AND DANIA RAMIREZ ON SET (NOTE: THEIR CAR WAS ON BLUE SCREEN AND ALL THE DESERT BACKGROUNDS WERE CGI)


ZACH ENJOYS A HEARTY MEAL (BRAIN SALAD SANDWICH???) DANIA LOOKS WORRIED


ADAM KANE MANS THE CAMERA (MAN, HE MANS THINGS WELL)


LOSE THAT CAR DOOR? NO PROBLEM. BIGGETS A.D. IN TV MILOS MILICEVIC GETS THE JOB DONE


THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN "BEFORE" CGI


THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN "AFTER" CGI

Monday, October 08, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 3 - "KINDRED"

WARNING SOME SPOILERS BELOW

Hello blogreaders. Tonight’s episode of HEROES is entitled “Kindred.” It was directed by Paul Edwards, (http://imdb.com/name/nm0250267/) who directed 2 episodes last year, “Seven Minutes To Midnight” and “Five Years Gone” (which many felt was one of our best last year). It was written by JJ Philbin, who is a new writer on the show this year (http://imdb.com/name/nm0679902/). JJ is a great addition to our team. She’s excellent in the writer’s room and was also a strong steady hand on set. HEROES, as you can imagine, is a complex show to drop into – but she has done so seamlessly.


DIRECTOR PAUL EDWARDS


WRITER JJ PHILBIN IN SCRIPT DISCUSSION WITH GREG GRUNBERG


WRITER JJ PHILBIN AND GREG GRUNBERG IN FURTHER SCRIPT DISCUSSION

This episode is a little tricky structurally. It begins to solidify and focus some of the new ideas that were introduced in episodes 1 and 2. Peter, who was discovered alive but without memory in episode 1, begins to fit in and function within the Irish gang and begins to be attracted to Caitlin. His attraction will guide his decisions in the next few episodes. Matt and Suresh begin to realize what they’ve gotten themselves into with the decision to take down the company, and that they may just be in over their heads. Maya and Alejandro’s desperation to get to the USA gets them in trouble – and this situation forces Maya to use her powers intentionally for the first time. Claire and West reveal who they really are to each other and this takes their relationship to a higher level (heh heh). And HRG sees the final painting in Isaac Mendez’s sequence... What he sees will drive him to desperately find paintings #2 thru #7 to try and prevent the events of the paintings from happening - even though the paintings have prophesied inevitably up to now.

I’m sure fans will also be very happy that this episode brings two of last years characters back.

Sylar is rediscovered in paradise – or is he? And what has happened to his powers?

Niki and Micah also return. But what happened to DL? Although shot, he seemed to be fine at the end of the finale. How did he die? And why is Niki turning herself over willingly to the company???

Zach Quinto returned for this episode and he was very happy to be back. He wanted to get back to work and into the stories. Sylar is a great character and a lot of fun to play. And, as you probably can tell by my pix and other sources - we are a pretty happy fun-loving group over here. (If you have any further doubts check out Adrian’s “buckshotwon” videos on YouTube http://youtube.com/user/buckshotwon). Zach was itching to get back into the stories. But we had held off revealing Sylar for a few episodes. We have a lot of new stories to set up, and we wanted people to wonder whether he really had died that night on Kirby plaza.

Of course, the original plan was for Missy Peregrym to reprise her role as Candice. Unfortunately for us, Missy has landed a new job as a series regular on the CW’s REAPER. And REAPER shoots in Vancouver (where Missy is originally from, and I’m very happy for her because I’m sure she’s glad to be back in her hometown.) The writers’ original plan was for Candice and Sylar to have a several episode adventure together - but with Missy’s lack of availability we decided to tie it off in just one. We really tried to work out a way to have Missy do this episode. First we squeezed the story down to where we felt it could be shot in one day. Then we began working with the REAPER production team trying to find a day she could be made available. Missy was great, she was willing to come back at any time – even a weekend to do the episode. But in the end there were reshoots on the new show and they pulled her dates up. (And truthfully our work was never realistically going to be done in one day.) So we reconceived.

Luckily, Candice’s character is one of the easier one’s to recast. JJ explained it all with the dialogue “I used to go by Candice. But ever since I dragged you off of Kirby Plaza, police are kind of looking for my old self. So, I went for a new look. What do you think? Too generic?” Once we could wrap our heads around that idea - the rest fell into place.

Rachel Kimsey came in to read for the newly conceived role and we were all really happy. She brought a comedic sexiness to the part that we all really liked. After seeing her dailies and the first cut of the episode, we discussed whether we could conceive of a way to keep her alive in the stories. But that bus had already left the station. So (similar to what happened with “Charlie” in Paul Edwards other episode “Seven Minutes To Midnight” last year) another great actress will be here for just one episode!

The first scene – where Sylar comes to, and discovers Candice taking care of him - was shot in our parking lot, a huge blue screen surrounding sand and deck chairs. The VFX guys at Stargate had several angles of backgrounds they’d taken in Kauai, but they would have limited us to static shots. Paul Edwards had a shot he really wanted to do where we began on Candice and moved past her arcing around to reveal Sylar and then re-reveal Candice. Stargate had to do some work to “stitch” several backgrounds together. They then added moving clips and birds to bring life to the shots. It made the scene more expensive but worth it.

The transition from the beach to the concrete shed that Sylar is being kept in was also tricky. This shot was sort of a last second thing that Paul thought of on set. It was designed to be a cut, not a dissolve – but he really felt it would look cooler to see the beach fade away in the background. But because of this it was not done on a blue screen. Paul started in very tight on Sylar, and the VFX dudes had to roto the concrete out and the beach in at the beginning of the shot (a frame by frame process.) D.P. Nate Goodman designed a lighting transition into the middle of the shot, he cross-faded hot “sunny” light into cool fluorescent lights on camera. It’s a pretty cool transition, I think!

Also, interestingly, the original structure of the script had the teaser (which is what we call the first sequence of scenes before commercial) ending on revealing Sylar. The first act (the second sequence of scenes) began where we left off and transitioned to the concrete bunker. In the cutting room, Tim Kring put the two scenes together because he felt we went out with more overall impact -- and I think the episode is better for it.


ZACH AND RACHEL RELAX IN THE WARM GLOW OF A BLUE SCREEN


PAUL AND SCRIPT SUPERVISOR VAL NORMAN DISCUSS THE SCENE WITH ZACH AND RACHEL

Meanwhile, over in Claire’s story – West (the is-he-creepy-or-is-he-cool? boy from her school) has spotted her excessive toenail clipping. They reveal their powers to each other, fly around the beach cities of southern California, and make out. Yay!! Claire has a boyfriend!

Nicholas D’Agosto plays West. He is one of the many new characters who have joined our show. This was a very tough part to cast. In the first two episodes he was portrayed as dark and mysterious, but we knew he had to evolve into her boyfriend. We read A LOT of young men for the part. Some were too soft (i.e. too “non-threatening”) some were too dark (i.e. TOO threatening.) Some were too old. Some looked great but couldn’t act well enough. We knew that whoever we cast, they had to hold the screen with Hayden Panettiere, who is a very strong actor. Nicholas was one of the last we saw, and I think we all blew a sigh of relief when he left the audition. He seemed to have it all. http://imdb.com/name/nm0194900/

There’s a little movie called ROCKET SCIENCE that Nicholas is in that I totally recommend. It’s a great, unexpectedly told movie that he has a big part in. It’s very good.

Well, let me say, Nicholas is a great young man. Nice, polite – the kind of guy you’d be happy to have your daughter go out with. He’s very happy to be here, with such an important part on HEROES. (I know, you’ll probably think, “who wouldn’t be” – but you’d be surprised.) He’s especially good at the fast-talking comedic aspects of the character. On set, when Paul Edwards was directing the scene at the high school (where Claire tries to play off what West saw as a pedicure and spilled toenail polish) Paul kept telling them to talk faster – “It’s like Pat and Mike” he said. I don’t think either of these kids had any idea what that reference meant, but they both played the scene very fast, yet with clear enunciation. It’s a scene that makes me laugh. That’s one of the things that I love about our show. It’s got a lot of funny parts. Of course that makes it harder to find directors and writers – because as we all know – dieing is easy. Comedy is hard.


NICK AND HAYDEN FLYIN' HIGH
(MAN, THERE'S A LOT OF BLUE-SCREEN ON THIS EPISODE)

The writer’s have written the Bennet’s story this year in the city of “Costa Verde.” Of course Costa Verde doesn’t really exist, but we’ve imagined it as being similar to Palace Verdes, which is a beach town just south of Los Angeles. We, in production, were very happy when we heard that one of our storylines was actually going to be set in L.A., where we film the show. Of course, inevitably, this became harder than it sounded at first. The beach cities near L.A. are actually hard to get to, expensive to film in and restrictive to film production (meaning, most of them won’t let trucks drive in until 8 AM and you have to be gone by 10PM - a minimum HEROES shooting day is 12 hours, plus pre-calls for makeup - so that wouldn't cut it.) We ended up finding the town of Costa Verde in pieces. We found the high school in Panorama City, which is about as far from the beaches as you can imagine. But it’s a brand new school, with very graphic and colorful architecture. We wanted to go as far away from the stark structures of the Odessa Texas School as possible. The exterior of the Bennet house we found in a community near Magic Mountain – which is even further from the beaches. But Tim Kring wanted to find a planned community where all of the houses looked alike, to emphasize the anonymity of the family’s circumstances. The interior is built on stage in Hollywood... But of course, to sell beachy California we also have to go to the actual beaches. So, in classic form, in this one episode and one storyline we had to spread the Bennet storyline over four locations all very distant from each other…. Ah, the HEROES way!

In Hiro’s story, Hiro finally convinces Takezo Kensei to "man-up" and be the hero he is supposed to. First of all, when we were filming feudal Japan in Ventura California, last August, it was about 105 degrees. Very hard to be heroic under those conditions. Especially in Samurai armor.

Even though there were several scenes with a lot of page count in the Japan scenes - I felt that the work was relatively easy for us - just people talking in a day exterior. There were no stunts, visual effects or other complex scenes. I challenged Paul Edwards to try to do all the scenes in one day, which would by him time to do more elaborate work in other areas. He took the challenge and succeeded. I think we did four scenes and eight pages that day, which is still a record amount of work for us.

The one scene that wasn’t done at that time, was when Hiro and Kensei blink in and face off against the 90 hungry Ronin. On this scene, we all made some compromises in pre-production, which we all agreed to. Originally what was written was that the Ronin came running down the hill and the first clash of battle happened on screen. We gave that up and agreed that we were going to just cut away with the Ronin running down the hill the moment before the battle. We agreed the Ronin’s castle would be CGI, but we were going to build elaborate gates and the lower part of the stairs.

I’m not sure how the rest of the producers feel, but for me I feel like this is one scene which, because it was confusing conceptually, and because it was inherently expensive, and because it's inherent-expensiveness meant it kept getting dragged on and on in prep with many meetings where nothing really got decided – the scene became kind of an orphan. I feel like I (and we) kind of took our eye off the ball on this one. It wasn’t until we got into the cutting room that I said, “Hey I thought we were going to build a huge set of blue screen stairs so we could have a closer angle of the Ronin running with swords drawn right at us.” But nope, somewhere along the way, we agreed that the Ronin were going to be all digital creations, which meant that they had to be really tiny on screen. The only live action shot is one really quick one of about seven Samurai raising their swords and grunt. To make matters worse, the original concept was that they were the 90 “hungry” Ronin. But the way Hiro pronounced it, made you go “Huh?” And then we all started asking, “Why the hell are they hungry? What’s so scary about that?” Apparently there was some elaborate backstory about the fact that White Beard was starving them in their castle and they became cannibals. But that was never on screen anywhere. So we changed them to “Angry” Ronin – which seemed scarier. We even went back and re-voiced “angry” instead of “hungry” into the description in episode 2. Oh well -- it all goes by fast.

I do think the CGI of the castle is quite good though!


DAVID ANDERS AND MASI OKA PLAY PAPER-ROCK-SCISSORS TO SEE WHO GETS THE FIRST CLOSE-UP

One last thing – Milo Ventimiglia directed some short films and we all went to see the premiere! Milo has always been interested in directing and directed the WB's image campaign for 2 years. The first year he was 1 of 4 directors and the next
year he was 1 of 2. He got a gig during the hiatus to do some shorts called “MALL WORLD” for American Eagle clothiers. You can see them on line at http://www.ae.com/web/77e/mall-world/143/ He did a great job. Check them out! Anyway – during episode 4 he had a first rate premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles and many of us came out to support him.


MILO’S PREMIERE – IT WAS A BIG SCREEN EVENT


MILO’S PREMIERE – MILO’S CREDIT


MILO AND DIANNA AGRON WHO PLAYS CLAIRE’S CHEERLEADING NEMESIS – SHE’S IN MILO’S SHORT FILMS TOO!
(WHAT A COINCIDENCE!)


JACK COLEMAN AND LEONARD ROBERTS SUPPORT MILO


JEPH LOEB AND HAYDEN PANETTIERE SUPPORT MILO


JAMES KYSON LEE AND DATE SUPPORT MILO


SENDHIL AND HIS iPHONE SUPPORT MILO

Okay that’s enough for this week. Next week, Claire and West go on a unique date to a scenic L.A. landmark. Sylar hitches a ride. Nathan tries to straighten his life out. And a major new storyline unfolds in post-Katrina New Orleans!

Until then…. MORE PIX:


ADAIR TISHLER AND THE HELIX!


ME AND FUTURE CLAIRE AT COMICON


PAUL EDWARDS LINES UP A SHOT


PAUL AND DP NATE GOODMAN LINE UP A SHOT


BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT – MILO WITHOUT HIS SHIRT ON