Monday, November 26, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 10 "TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES"

WARNING – SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED HERIN!

Tonight’s episode was written by Jesse Alexander and was directed by Adam Kane. Both of these gents have been workhorses for us. Jesse is a most formidable presence in the writer’s room – driving the scripts and stories forward. And he has written several key episodes for us. Adam, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, was the director of photography of the pilot. We gave him his first episodic break as a director last year with “.07%." This is his third episode for us.

Tonight’s episode weaves past, present and future together in the way that only we can. Adam and Peter finally leave the Montreal warehouse and begin working together… But for good or for bad? Sylar implements the next phase of his plan, which has unfortunate results for one twin. Suresh has a breakthrough, and then a setback. Claire contemplates life without father, unaware that dear old HRG is trapped in the basement of Primatech.

This episode is a penultimate episode of our “pod” of eleven. Episode 11 will be (and always was designed to be the end of a chapter.) Season one, as we all know, had a 23 chapter “VOLUME." But Tim Kring had come into this season specifically wanting to design smaller volumes. We knew well in advance how many episodes we’d run before our first break of re-runs and pre-emptions. After the eleventh episode on December 3rd, we knew we’d take a break. This year, Tim wanted to resolve the story more completely at this first break than we had last year, and begin VOLUME 3 in the Spring. Well before the writers strike was a serious issue, we had always planned on ending VOLUME 2 next week. It is true that, on the eve of the strike, as it was becoming an inevitability, Tim did some quick rewrites on episode 11, so that it would be even more resolved and complete if, God forbid, the strike goes on so long that there is no more of season 2 than the first eleven. If that happens 11 will be a de-facto season finale and can function as such. But if the strike is resolved relatively soon, we will most certainly come back and present VOLUME 3. But, this particular blog is about episode 10 not epsiode 11, and so...

One of the things that, sadly, has to happen from time to time on this show, is that an actor has to be called into Tim’s office and be told that the sand has run out of their character’s hourglass. All of us face this moment in our own lives. And on HEROES, as in life, Sylar, or a stray bullet, or a virus, or some other unexpected twist of fate comes inevitably to take us all. Telling an actor that they're off the show is one of the jobs that Tim likes least of all. But running two TV shows builds broad shoulders. It’s just one of those things that you have to do. Some take it well, some with sadness, and some rage against the dying of the light. This week, Shalim Ortiz got the call.

Shalim is a great guy. He has been truly thrilled to be on the show - more so than almost anyone. His nephews in the Dominican Republic have watched faithfully since the first airing, and, to hear him tell it, they literally flipped out when they heard he got the gig. He is a joy on set. He’s always prepared. He’s a great scene partner for the other actors. And he’s an all-around good egg. After he got the news, Shalim made a point of thanking all of the producers for the opportunity, and telling us what a great experience it was. And then Sylar stabbed him to death.

This episode was an unusual experience for me. We had a crazy production schedule this season. We were doing, what are called, “double-ups” – which means that we were, literally shooting two episodes at the same time. This wasn’t (as has been surmised) because of the impending strike. It was because we (and NBC) wanted us to make a lot of episodes, with very few breaks for reruns and pre-emptions. It was a brutal experiment, which had us literally writing, then prepping and then shooting two episodes at the same time. What that meant for me, specifically, was that while I was prepping and shooting my last episode, Adam was shooting this one. I was pretty out of touch with it, certainly more so than I like. Not that anything went wrong, it's just that I had the unusual experience that the first time I really saw ANY of it was when I saw the first directors cut. I had read the script, and briefly chatted with Adam and Jesse a couple of times to give a handful of notes – but otherwise I was removed from the process.

Then, because Allan Arkush (who is usually a little more post-production intensive than me) was shooting episode 11, I got into the editing room a little more than usual on this one.

Editing is an amazing experience. The old cliché is that it’s really the last rewrite of the script. That’s true, but what’s interesting is how much you can do with, essentially fixed elements. At the writing stage anything is possible. The writer can, literally, write anything they want to – and the (awe-inspiring) challenge is to create something from nothing. The production experience, which for me is usually the directing experience, is to realize the script while introducing the factors of time, money and other people. But still, you can put onto film almost anything you can imagine as long as you have enough time, money, and you can convince the right people (various studio execs, producers, writers and actors all have to be convinced, at some point, to do what to stuff they sometimes don't want to do.) But in the editing room, the film is now finite. Well, almost, you can usually go back and shoot a few inserts (which are generally close ups of inanimate objects, which don’t involve cast members – i.e. a comic book hitting the floor, a hand turning a key, etc.) You can also write new lines of dialogue or narration – as long as they’re off-screen. But, by and large, the film is done being shot and it’s all in the re-arranging of it. But what's amazing is how much can be done and how extreme the different choices are that can be made in post.

When I first saw the episode, it was working well, but it felt it was a little slow (it was running about 6 minutes longer than the final running time.) And there were things in the way it was presented that made it feel, to me, a little choppy and a bit emotionally distanced from the characters. Some of this is because of Adam Kane’s strengths. He shoots a lot of interesting shots, and (unlike many directors) he shoots many options for different parts of the scene. Most directors will shoot one shot which is specifically designed as the opening shot of a scene. Then, ideally, they design one shot as the ending, and they have a lot of general coverage in the middle. Adam will always have two or three shots which could, quite legitimately, open a scene, close a scene and be used in the middle. It’s a tough gig directing episodes. Unlike in features, the director rarely gets to finish the show. They deliver their cut to the producers and move on. The producers complete the work. But I know, from having directed a lot of episodes, that if you don’t show the producers what they’ve got available, they may never go look for it. So one of the obligations of the directors first cut, is to make sure that ALL the cool shots are used, however briefly, for the producer’s viewing. Later, this will be thinned out, but if you don’t show what’s there it can never be used. Yes, in the ideal world, one wants to take the time in the cutting room reviewing all the choices that exist. But in reality, especially when we get to this stage of the season when the post schedules are tight – if it’s working, many times, there’s no chance to review. Besides, you’ve hired excellent editors and directors and you trust that they’ve shown you is the best stuff. This doesn’t mean we never review takes and shots. We do. A lot. But usually, if a scene is working, you move on, concentrating on what doesn’t work first.

The other thing is that there seemed to be, in the first cut, a lot more exposition than usual, about the nature of the virus – it’s causes and it’s cures. I know that there was lot of discussion about this. I know that the network and studio were concerned about clarity and specificity in this area and that they gave a lot of notes about it. I know Jesse Alexander worked hard to service these concerns, but that he was always concerned that we ended up over-explaining. Frequently, in storytelling, if you try too hard to explain and clarify a difficult point, it ends up exacerbating the weaknesses of the storyline, rather than bolstering its strengths.

Film making is an always fascinating experience. It is one where the emotional experience the viewer has is what ends up mattering more than anything else. Logic and plot are necessary, but ultimately are cold emotionally. A brilliant visual design and a stylistic presentation are great, but they are cold emotionally. It is character and situation that are hot, and that drive the audience’s emotional experience. One of things I’ve been so happy about, since I came to this show, is that this viewpoint is shared by Tim Kring, and Dennis Hammer and Allan Arkush. We all chase emotion primarily, not style or plot.

So the process of this episode, from the first cut, was one of thinning and simplifying. A lot of the shots were dropped and we simplified the shot presentation in favor of performance.

I know Jesse was happy that we ended up dropping a lot of the explanation about the origin and nature of the virus. The scene at Primatech in 1977, for instance, originally was a lot more complex and we played more of the (newly introduced) characters of Young Kaito and Victoria Pratt. In the end, we culled out a lot of their dialogue and concentrated in Hiro who was watching from the doorway.

We also ended up re-arranging the scene order quite a bit from the original scripted version. This is actually very common on HEROES. The nature of the numerous characters and storylines makes the order that they’re presented in highly flexible. Generally, the scripts take the various storylines and distribute then evenly throughout the episode. There will be one Claire scene per act, one Peter scene, etc. In the editing room, again, we try to react emotionally, asking ourselves “Do I want to stay with this story?” “Have I been away from this story for too long?” And so on.

Here’s some examples of how the scripted order changes in the editing room on HEROES. Interestingly the scripted opening of the episode was the Maya/Sylar picnic scene. The scene where Peter finds himself in the future was second. The Sylar scene was good, but not an especially dramatic opening. And we didn't come back to that storyline until late in Act 2, so it felt like we were away from that story for too long. Additionally, the way Adam shot the future stuff was so compelling, with Peter watching in slow motion while Caitlin and his future self struggled in real time, it felt like it should be the opening. Also the original first act was very long. So all of these factors caused us to move the Sylar/Maya scene to the top of the next act.

That’s just one example, but it’s how we work through the whole episode.

Two other quick things. Kudos to the VFX guys at Stargate for the scene where Suresh is in the cab at the end of the show. This doesn't look like a visual effects sequence, I know... and that's to their credit. The taxi was actually sitting static on a green screen stage - and all the moving New York backgrounds were dropped in as visual effects. I think they're particularly good.

Another scene worth talking about is the one where Sylar stabs Alejandro. The first presentation I saw was an elaborate montage of stabbing and jump cutting and contrapunal sound effects like heart beats and ticking clocks. It was EXTREMELY violent, and worthy of Martin Scorsese. But it was obviously never going to fly on TV. I took a pass cutting down to, what I thought, was a bare minimum. Tim Kring and Dennis Hammer thought it was still WAY too much and went through it again and thinned it more. By now I was sure it couldn't get any shorter. THEN we showed it to NBC's standards and practices department. I think I ended up having twelve conversations with them, in which we cut and recut and recut and shaved frames and more frames and more frames. I knew the ultra-violent blood fest that Adam Kane directed wouldn't fly, but I'm not sure what we have left in there even makes sense. Oh well.

Next week, we close the book on VOLUME TWO

Until then, pictures:


SENDHIL ON SET


MILO AND KATIE CARR CHILLIN’ IN “THE FUTURE”


ADAM LINES UP A SHOT (DOWNTOWN L.A. STANDS IN FOR FUTURE N.Y.C.)


ADAM LINES UP A SHOT IN NEW ORLEANS APARTMENT SET


ADAM GOES OVER NOTES WITH DANA DAVIS


DANA DAVIS ON SET


DIIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY CHARLIE LIEBERMAN (HE MAKES IT SOOO PRETTY)


FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ANNE BERGER – SHE MAKES THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME


AN ART DEPARTMENT SIGN FOR OUR NEW ORLEANS STREET


JESSE ALEXANDER WRITING ON SET (ACTUALLY I THINK HE’S WORKING ON HIS MYSPACE PAGE!)


ADAM KANE AT THE MONITORS

Monday, November 19, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 9 - "CAUTIONARY TALES"

WARNING SPOILERS ARE DEFINITELY CONTAINED HERIN!

Tonight’s episode was written by Joe Pokaski and directed by Greg Yaitanes. And, if you don’t mind me saying so, both these lads did quite well on this one.

I think this is one of our best, most exciting episodes of the season. Like last year’s “Company Man” it concentrates on one main storyline, the Bennet’s on a collision course with Suresh, Elle, Bob and the destiny of Isaac Mendez’s painting. Secondarily, we follow Hiro’s story as he seeks to change time and fate once again, by preventing his father’s death.

Also, tonight George Takei discovers what others before him have - Just because you die on HEROES doesn’t mean you won’t come back and do a few more episodes.

Oh yeah, and HRG dies.

But before we get into all that, a bit of praise for the principle behind-the-scenes creative operatives of this episode. Greg Yaitanes is new to our team. He’s a guy I’ve been trying to book as a director for several years now. But he’s a hard guy to sign up. He’s always off doing pilots and features and so on. (One of the many advantages of being on a hit like HEROES in season two, is you can finally get to book all the directors you’ve wanted to work with, Greg, Dan Attias and Lesli Glatter certainly fall into this category for me.) . I first got to know about him years ago on the first TV show I ever produced, NASH BRIDGES with Don Johnson.

Anyway, in the area of performance direction, we mainly have good results with our directors. The primary quality we look for is the ability to work with actors and guide performance. But, in the area of visual style, what I find with the directors we’ve used, is that there are some things about our style that I can teach and some things I can’t. Certain things I say, such as - "Shoot low angles” and “Shoot big wide feature-style masters” and “When we get into the meat of the drama, shoot super tight close-ups” - get good results. They’re concrete instructions and people seem to get that. But when I say, “Look for incredibly graphic compositions – like a comic book or graphic novel.” Or “move the camera fluidly, yet aggressively, try to never have it call attention to itself, but let cranes and push in’s and sweeping camera moves become a lyrical part of telling the story” I get more haphazard results. Those instructions are more subjective and less concrete. And in those areas a director either intuitively has a graphic sense of composition or not.

Yaitanes, without question, has an incredibly graphic style. I know that he brings that style to all the shows he does. But it really fits here. I love the way he shot this episode. Image after image are SO graphic. In fact, he brought a couple of new ideas to our visual language that I intend to co-opt and make part of our ongoing style.

I loved the way he used silhouette in the Japanese cemetery, and the way he composed through the thin vertical headstones.

Look at the way he used the street signs in the scene where Suresh lies about West’s location. These simple shots work on so many levels. First they clearly and simply convey the critical story information – that Suresh is lying about what street names he’s giving HRG. Secondly, the shot is efficient, by putting HRG small in the background and the sign huge in the foreground, we get the story point AND HRG’s attitude about what he’s learning all in one combined moment. Thirdly the composition is wonderfully graphic with the sign dominating the top of the frame with its clean graphic straight lines, and the lower part of the frame is wide open organic because of all the foliage. HRG and West are small but their body language is clear. By using a very wide lens for this shot Greg was able to keep it all in focus. Finally, the shot is humorous. It’s hard to pin down why, but it’s a funny composition. The wide angle helps make it funny, and having HRG centered small in the frame helps too. A more conventional, and much less interesting way to film this moment, would be to have HRG look off-screen when Suresh tells him the street names. And then to cut to a shot of the street sign, which would be HRG’s Point of View. I promise, nine out of ten directors would have filmed it that way.

There’s another notable scene – The one in HRG’s car, between Suresh and HRG. This is an incredible directorial challenge. In this scene, two guys are, by the nature of the scene, static in an enclosed space for almost three pages! Greg used all incredibly tight angles, but unusual angles. Look at the shot over HRG’s glasses into the mirror onto Suresh. Greg Y used the swing and tilt lens to keep HRG in focus and Suresh in focus. Sometimes HRG turns back into profile, sometimes he turns away and addresses Suresh in the mirror. That simple shot is so full of tension and drama. Again, it’s also efficient. The split focus lens and the mirror gives you both performances in one shot. And then come the close-ups. Now, I LOVE close close-ups, but Greg Yaitanes went BEYOND in this scene. There are a number of shots that are just details: lips, eyes, HRG’s glasses. And he lets relatively long chunks of dialogue play on, say, a shot of HRG’s eyes. Frankly, it’s beyond what I would have been comfortable with as a director, but it works.

Alright, enough kissing Greg Yaitanes’ butt… And onto kissing Joe Pokaski’s! Joe, as I understand it, was one of Tim Kring’s writing assistants on CROSSING JORDAN. Tim gave him a script to write on that show. And, according to legend, when he was writing the pilot of HEROES, he had Joe (as well as Aron Eli Coleite) read all of the drafts and give him feedback all along. When the HEROES writing staff was being put together Joe was brought over.

I don’t know how old Joe is, but he seems young to me (of course “young” seems to be moving upwards every year.) He is super enthusiastic and collaborative – but mostly I think he “gets” HEROES, as well as anyone. So far he has written three episodes of the show: “FALLOUT,” and “5 YEARS GONE,” from last season - And now this one. What’s noteable about all three of those is, not just that they all turned out great, but that, other than for budgetary reasons, none of them were extensively re-written from the first draft. That is an extremely good thing. Sometimes, when we get a script (usually 10 days or so before we start shooting it) they are troubled. There have definitely been “all hands on deck” preps for some episodes, and that can really divert energy that is needed elsewhere. But Joe’s shows have uniformly come out of the gate both creatively satisfying and shootable.


DIRECTOR GREG YAITANES (HE’S THE ONE IN THE FOREGROUND)


WRITER JOE POKASKI - HRG BORROWS HIS GLASSES

I think the drama is great in this episode. There's an ever-escalating sense of tension, like a pot rising to a boil. All the characters feel like they're really under pressure. I especially love the way HRG and Sandra's relationship develops. How angry she is at first, and how she openly questions why she never left him before now. Then, when HRG is talking to Elle about why SHE was the reason he never handed Claire over to the company, Sandra's crying face - which we cut to two or three times - let's us know how she's coming to understand them. Another, very simple shot which I love is a close up their hands, as HRG tries to hand her a gun, and she puts her hands on his chest. So beautifully visual. And it completes the arc of their story.

Also, I want to talk about the scene in the cemetary where Hiro meets his younger self. This scene made me cry on the page. But it came under a lot of debate in prep. Many people believed that we'd never find a young boy who could speak Japanese and deliver the performance. Also, some thought the scene was extraneous and time consuming in an already busy show. Cooler heads prevailed, and we adopted a "let's see what happens" attitude (which I think is always wise.) We decided that if we didn't find the right kid, we'd cut the scene. If we did, we'd schedule the scene last and if we fell behind on the day, we'd cut it then. Well, our casting directors came through, as always, they somehow found a little kid in L.A. who could speak fluent japanese and act and looked enough like Hiro. And Yataines, God bless him, shoots fast. Yataines comes from low budget syndicated Tv - he did a lot of shows like VIP, which - wether you like that kind of show or not - have to be shot fast. VIP was always shot in six days. I've seen some of Greg's episodes and they're a lot of fun. But, in that medium, you have to be super specific, shoot the shot, get it right and move on to the next FAST! That served him well here - Greg made all his days (OK there were thirteen of 'em, more than double the shooting shedule of VIP, but stil!) The scene was shot and I welled up again the first time I saw it put together.

Not that there were NO problems with this one. It was a hard beast to wrangle episodically. There is A LOT that happens. And a lot of action. The scene in the alley where West flies in and saves HRG from Elle was complex. The scene on the beach, with its 6 characters, hostage handoffs, flying, zapping and shootings was EXTRA complicated.

We scouted several places for the beach parking lot. We needed it to be remote and deserted, but still large enough to stage the scene. The one we used was in San Pedro California; it was perfect! Unfortunately Greg and I scouted it at 4:30 in the afternoon, when the afternoon light was perfect. Our DP, Charlie Lieberman was busy shooting other episodes, so he didn’t see it for a week. He saw it at 10 in the morning, when it was shrouded in shadow. At that point (after we were already committed to the location) he revealed that we wouldn't be able to film on that spot until the afternoon - there wouldn't be enough light. That meant that what a one a 1 day scene would have to be split up over two days. We scrambled to find more locations that could go with this one. There was a little park, which I thought was beautiful, right above the beach location. And we found the streets where Elle and Suresh’s van is parked and where Suresh confronts HRG in his car and we built two days out of it.

Greg and Charlie really wanted a sundown feeling to the scene. But we couldn’t really wait until sundown to film the whole scene, or it would have taken weeks. So they made sure to film all the wide shots in the latest part of the day. They filmed as many of the other shots as possible in backlight. And then, in color timing (the last stage of the photographic process) we modulated the colors, adding red, and sometimes graduated filter effects in the sky to give the whole scene an end-of-day look. We also tried to make the scene feel more and more sunset-ty as it progressed.

One thing I was happy about, in general, was that I feel this episode finally featured the beachy Los Angeles setting that we’ve been saying the Bennett’s live in. Up to now, other than the odd oceanside scene, we haven’t had the opportunity or ability to really go to the beach cities (they’re kind of expensive to film in and kind of hard to get to.) But I think we well captured the L.A. beach feel on this one.

Okay now, pictures:


HAYDEN AND A TECHNO CRANE


CONTEMPLATIVE NICHOLAS D’AGOSTO


WE PAY KRISTEN BELL IN CASH AND SHE COUNTS IT OUT EVERY DAY


HRG – ONE BACKLIT BADASS


GREG YAITANES ON SET - HE'S THE ONE IN THE BACKGROUND


THE CAST OF “SUMMERLAND,” EH, I MEAN “HEROES”


HRG IS NOT A MAN TO BE MESSED WITH


SWEET REVENGE


KRISTEN BELL PLAYS “LADY MACBETH”

Now, the next group of photos falls into the “don’t ask/don’t tell” category. I credit Greg Yaitanes for staging all these pix, under the supervision of Joe Pokaski. Their cultural significance will become clear in the coming months, so… pay attention!


ANDO IS STARTLED BY SLUSHO


MOLLY, LIKE ALL GOOD GIRLS, LOVES SLUSHO


CLAIRE RECOMMENDS SLUSHO TO ALL HER FRIENDS


ADAM DRINKS SLUSHO AS WELL


SURESH CALLS ON SLUSHO


EVEN ELLE CAN’T GET ENOUGH SLUSHO


MATT PARKMAN ATTEMPTS TO MINDBEND SLUSHO – AN ATTEMPT THAT WILL BE DOOMED TO FAILURE!


MATT TRANSPORTS SLUSHO TO SAFETY


HIRO AND KAITO ENJOY A FATHER-SON SLUSHO


SLUSHO MAKES HRG LAUGH


BUT SLUSHO CAN TURN FROM FRIEND TO ENEMY QUICKLY – ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYES ON SLUSHO

Monday, November 12, 2007

SEASON 2 EPISODE 8 - "FOUR MONTHS AGO"

WARNING – SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN

Tonight’s episode was written by Tim Kring, and directed by me – your humble blogger. Oh, also, I’m doing the online commentary with Milo tonight on nbc.com. I know some of you enjoyed the commentary Greg Grunberg and I did a few weeks ago. So hopefully you’ll enjoy this one too.

I was really excited when I first read the script for this one. There were a lot of really fun opportunities in it – the structure which started four months ago, and then moved forward – to “three months ago,” “two months ago,” etc. was an interesting storytelling device that I had never done before.

I was also excited to work with Leonard Roberts again, and to tell the story of what happened to DL. He is a nice guy, who is always a pleasure to have on set.

Whenever I first read a script I always let an emotional impression wash over me. I try not to jump to quickly to “how am I going to shoot it?” or “what are the problems here?” I just try to let the emotions speak to me. For me, the emotional arc of the story will determine the visual design choices I make.

This episode felt like it wanted to be simple and elegant. It opens with a bang (Peter and Nathan flying and exploding), and it ends with a bang (Peter being hunted down by Elle and the Haitian.) But in between there was a methodical nature to it, which to me indicated a sense of constant, but gentle pressure. As I began to plan and develop the look and the blocking, I kept thinking of simple camera moves that were always moving in or around, not a lot of coverage (i.e. angles), and a constant sense of rising pressure.

One of the fun things that we do on HEROES, is that we frequently open an episode at the exact minute, or perhaps a minute before the end of the previous episode. In episode 7 Peter re-appeared in the present having abandoned Caitlin there. He screamed “Caitlin” and fell to his knees and we went to commercial. Later, after the commercial break and several scenes, we ended the show on Peter shooting a bolt of energy at Adam. Well, in this one, I had the idea of combining both of those two, previously separated moments, into one. After the “previously on heroes” segment, we come up on a shot of Peter, seen from above. Using a techno-crane, which is a crane with a telescoping arm - a device that can, effectively, both crane and dolly from a fixed platform, I moved through all of the previously seen moments in one unbroken shot. I wanted to do a long take to start the episode, because I thought it would give the viewers a sense of things happening in real time – which is an important theme of the episode.

I re-used a few shots from episode 7 as Adam first comes out, but then shifted to new film which was all shot hand held, to add tension.

After the camera zooms into Peter’s eye, we reprise some film from last year’s finale’, and then we go into the sequence of what happened when Nathan flew away with Peter. I knew this was a very important sequence on many levels. First of all, lots of you fans have had questions about this event since the beginning of this season. I also knew that I had to make the flying look great.

Trust me, flying is hard to do right. This year we’ve done OK a few times, (I liked when West flew outside Claire’s bedroom in the first episode, and when Claire leapt off the Hollywood sign in episode 4.) But in other places, notably episode 3 – we haven’t done flying so well. Bottom line, to even attempt to do flying right is a time consuming, and therefore expensive, proposition. In my experience, first off, you have to design and storyboard the shots very specifically, then you have to have a lot of very specific dialogues with the stunt coordinator and the effects riggers and the visual effects producers. In this case we had to pre-select the pre-existing helicopter backplates of New York, which the actors would be dropped into, and design the shots around them. Different rigging is required for each of the shots, and you have to be organized about this – not just so that you can do it all well, but also so that you can move efficiently through the day – going out of story sequence if needed so that you can shoot all similar rigs in sequence. Then, the actors have to be harnessed in unnatural (i.e. horizontal positions) on a green screen stage, and you have to design specific flying moves for them to perform and specific camera moves that support these performances. Then, you have to blow a crapload of wind on the actors. And then, in editing, you have to cut it altogether real fast so the viewer never gets a real good look at any one shot. When we haven’t done so well, this year, is when we’ve succumbed to budget pressures and said, “Just stand the actors on a box on the blue screen, move the camera around and stay in close-ups.” It just doesn’t work.

I knew I had a shot on this one though, because I had my two best athletes on the floor. A lot of what it takes to make flying right, is for the actors to have good abdominal muscle control. Both Adrian and Milo are strong and have excellent stamina and they were both into it. If you can imagine being hoisted fifteen feet into the air, in a tight fitting harness that squeezes your guts, and then being asked to lay out flat with your (unsupported) legs and arms straight (kind of like doing a “plank” in yoga) and then having to emote and do dialogue at the same time – well then you can get a picture of what we were asking the actors to do.

I hope you feel we did well. There are two specific shots where Milo really impressed me. The first is where Peter pushes away from Nathan and tumbles away into the distance. We had the two actors harnessed separately. When Milo pushed off we, literally, towed him on a line about twenty yards away from Adrian. He enhanced this by tumbling head over heels like a Cirque du Soleil performer. Another one was where (what I call) “Crispy” Nathan is falling and Peter flies up and catches him. We actually had a stunt performer doing Nathan’s role for that shot. (Not so much because Adrian couldn’t do it, and more because of the three hours the makeup took to do) “Stunt” Nathan had to hold himself in a very unnatural position with his arms and legs extended upward. I kept going up on a ladder to adjust his arms and legs. We rolled. Then, as the camera swooped down onto Nathan, Milo was released on a line, which he rode down like a bullet – maybe thirty or forty yards and he smacked into the stuntman like a linebacker hitting a tackling dummy. I jumped out of my chair on set and screamed “Yeah!!!”

I think the whole thing is nicely integrated, with the VFX boys adding mist, ocean, clouds and Nathan’s scorching face.


HEROES – IT’S LIKE A TV SHOW, ONLY BIGGER


MILO AND ADRIAN FLYING – IT’S ALL IN THE ABS BABAY!

In the scene where Angela comes and stands over Nathan’s bed, I had an interesting problem. I didn’t want to show Nathan’s burned body until the very end of the scene – so that the audience sees the extent of the burns at the same moment that the character does. I joked with the other producers later, saying, “Man it takes a lot more shots to NOT show somebody than it does to show them.” And it’s true. If I’d been willing to show Nathan’s burns early in the scene, then I could have just shot a close up of Angela, a close up of Nathan, and maybe one or two wider angles. But as it was, I had to shoot many angles, in which Nathan was either staged to not be seen (like a super low angle from below the bed onto Angela,) draped in shadows (like the super high down, super wide angle from above the bed) or shots where he was seen only in details. (Like the super tight close-ups of Nathan’s eyes and lips.) But, ultimately, this scene was all about Cristine Rose. More so than most scenes, she had to carry all the weight of the first 90% of the scene. Since I wasn’t showing Nathan, only her shocked reaction, tells you the extent of his injuries. Cristine and I talked about how she should feel this gut wrenching emotion, seeing her cherished first born so disfigured, but that she then had to hide her emotions so that she wouldn’t unduly upset him. I love working with Cristine. She’s a pro. She’s happy to be here. And she is an exceptional actor who always makes surprising, yet subtle choices. Having said that, I also want to compliment Adrian. We did four takes of the moment where he rises up and sees himself for the first time. He “discovered” it a little more each take. And, on the fourth, he surprised me with the take that’s in, where he put his hand to his mouth in an almost childlike reaction. I loved it!

Kudos, also, to our special-effects-makeup team from Optic Nerve. This makeup, literally took months to design, with Adrian going to their shop several time to be molded. Every day Adrian had to wear this makeup, it took 3 or 4 hours to apply, and an hour to get off at the end of the day. But it was magnificent. It holds up to really tight close-ups, which is very rare. Both Cristine and Adrian commented on how easy this makeup made their jobs. An actor’s job is, largely, to create honest emotional reactions to imaginary situations. In this case, the makeup took away a lot of the obligation to imagine, because it was so good.


CRISTINE ROSE (HOW AWESOME IS SHE?) AND “CRISPY” ADRIAN PASDAR


MILO AND “CRISPY” ADRIAN – KIDS, SEE! MOM TOLD YOU NOT TO PLAY WITH MATCHES (OR BUTANE LIGHTERS) AND HERE’S WHY


“CRISPY” ADRIAN PASDAR UNDERGOES A BIZARRE FORM OF PHYSICAL THERAPY

This episode also really introduces Kristen Bell into the show. She had been in a handful of scenes in episode 5, but now she comes in full force. First of all, I love her, and love having her around. She, like most of our cast, comes to play. As a director, on the most fundamental level, you want your cast to come prepared. They need to know their lines, and hit their marks (as Spencer Tracy once said.) And they should have a take on what they’re saying and doing. I know this sounds so obvious, but you’d be shocked how often it’s not the case – where an actor either can’t deal with the technical fundamentals of blocking with crew and camera – or where they really haven’t thought through the psychological underpinnings of their character and why they’re doing what they’re doing in a scene. The more organized the cast and the director are, coming in, the more they can play and invent the scene to maximum benefit. Kristen comes ready and she participates and invents very well with the rest of the cast. Luckily we shot, largely, in order. The first scene I did with her was the long one where Milo awakens in Bob’s office. Tim Kring had described to me how he saw Kristen’s character of Elle. That she had grown up her whole life inside the company, rarely traveling outside of the building and almost never unsupervised – all of which resulted in mal-adjusted social skills. How she had a, kind of, sexualization of her electrical power. And how she responded to everything on a very emotional, almost infantile level. This first scene, was very much one where she was discovering this character. It, I believe, was very different from anything she’s done before. As we progressed through the scene, I kept encouraging her to take more and more chances and be odder with the character. I discovered a sense that the character was very A/B -1/2, meaning, she viewed everything simplistically as something she desired or didn’t desire, and she either got her way or didn’t. So everything is very “want-get,” “want-don’t get,” “don’t want-get”, or “don’t want- don’t get.” Elle appears a very mature sexualized young woman, but she has a child’s perspective on the world. Anyway, after the firsts scene she grabbed a hold of the character and ran with it. Most of her scenes were with Milo in the cell and the two had a good time playing off each other. As I mentioned before, I kept my coverage simple. There are usually only a few shots in each scene and I tried to let the masters play as long as I could wherever I could. Shooting less coverage, ultimately, gave the actors more time to play with each other in the scenes. I hope for good benefit.


KRISTEN AND MILO PART ONE


KRISTEN AND MILO PART DEAUX


KRISTEN AND MILO - “AN ACTOR PREPARES”

That’s almost it. I also want to thank our hair people for creating a great wig for Milo Ventimiglia. Wigs are tough and this was a good one. It was interesting that when Milo put it on, it seemed to throw him immediately back into last year’s character.

AND NOW – ONTO THE PIX!!!


HYDEN PANITIERRE – GREEN ON GREEN


THE PAPERAZZI STALK ADRIAN WHEREVER HE GOES


ADRIAN, HAYDEN AND MILO


MICAH’S TV BIRTHDAY


ALI AND LEANORD RE-LIVE THE DISCO YEARS


ALI, BLOODY ALI


BATTLE OF THE DOMINICAN BEAUTIES


DANIA RAMIREZ – THE SCENE GOT CUT BUT THE LIGHTING IS SOOO PRETTY!!!


SISTER DANIA (SUNDAY SCHOOL REGISTRATION JUST WENT UP!!!)


JIMMY JEAN LOUIS LOVES YOU


ONE COLD NIGHT MY OLD PAL MICHAEL ROSENBAUM (I.E. LEX FROM ‘SMALLVILLE”) SHOWED UP TO VISIT


THERE WERE MANY CELEBRITIES THAT NIGHT


ZACHARY LEVI (FROM NBC’S “CHUCK”) EVEN SHOWED UP – LIKE I SAID IT WAS A CELEB HEAVY NIGHT


JEPH LOEB AND I LAUGH IT UP ON SET (BUT IS IT ME? OR JESSA-GREG IN THE MIRROR???)


MILO ON THE DOCK SET (WE USED BLUE SCREEN IN THE BACKGROUND TO MATTE IN NEW YORK – WE ALSO ADDED THE SNOW)


MILO VENTIMIGLIA – SHIRT OR NO SHIRT A MAN’S GOTTA TEXT!


PETER BATTLES THE HAITIAN

AND IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH – HERE’S STORYBOARDS!!! (I THINK YOU’LL FIND WE FOLLOWED THEM PRETTY CLOSELY)