ANGELS & MONSTERS
NOTICE: A SPOILER WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THIS BLOG
Tonight’s episode was written by Adam Armus and Kay Foster and was directed by Anthony Hemingway.
Anthony is a first-time HEROES director. He came to us recommended by NBC. I watched an excellent BATTLESTAR GALACTICA episode he directed (which is a favorite of many in our writing staff.) He was an assistant director on THE WIRE which is the show he moved up to director on… he directed several episodes of that as well as ER and CSI: NY. Immediately after finishing his HEROES episode, Anthony got a gig directing a movie for George Lucas. He is currently in Pre-Production on the Lucasfilm movie RED TAILS. I think he did an excellent job here. He was a big fan of the show and had seen all the episodes. Whenever someone is new on the show, I get a little nervous, and maybe spend a little too much energy going over and over the numerous cinematic styles and techniques we use. I make lots of suggestions and am kind of opinionated. Different people deal with this in different ways. Anthony was very mellow with me and kept listening and nodding and saying, “Got it. No problem.” He tried to assure me he had it under control – and after watching him shoot for a couple of days I was confident that he did. He did what we do well – mixing up big close-ups with wide-wide graphic shots, moving the camera effectively and – most importantly – accurately locking into the emotions of the characters.
In some ways this was a big THE WIRE reunion – Jamie Hector had already been on the show for several weeks and now Andre Royo also came aboard as Stephen Canfield - The Vortex Man.
As always, everything springs from the script. The script is the soil that the actors, the director and the production team plant their ideas in. In this case I think Adam and Kay wrote a complex and rich script with a lot of scope and emotion.
Subjectivity part one: It’s always the case – but especially true on HEROES that ideas are very subjective. First something is written in the script (in this case I’m referencing the idea that a character creates a black-hole-like vortex that matter is sucked into.) At a script level, this idea serves a very pragmatic goal. Noah Bennet has stated that he plans to discover Sylar’s weakness and kill him. But how do you kill an invulnerable super-killer? The matter-sucking vortex becomes a simple answer.
But now, all of us have to visualize this event and figure out how to design the visual effect and shoot the scenes in such a way that support the effect. A day into the prep our whole team sat down and had a long meeting about what this vortex would look like. The writer’s started with their concept and then the director and the rest of us jumped in with our own opinions – expanding, enhancing and sometimes being in conflict with each other. At the end of that meeting – based on talking it out aloud – we all were in general agreement about what this vortex would be. The art department and the visual effects team would sketch up some drawings.
A couple of days later we met again and the drawings were laid out. A frequent response upon viewing these was: “What is this!?” “This isn’t what we talked about?!” A funny thing in this business is that, in discussing any abstract idea – whether it be a black-hole-vortex or a living-dead reptilian monster – each person has a different picture in their head. These various mental-picture-images can all agree with one verbal description and still be wildly different from each other.
After viewing and discussing the concept art, we all finally agreed upon an one art drawing of what vortex we liked best. But even then we were not finished. see, the final version would live as a moving live action element, not as a single frame upon a piece of paper. So, the next step was to get examples from other movies where things like this had been done. I suggested referencing the third HARRY POTTER movie when the death eaters sucked away at Harry Potter’s soul. Adam and Kay suggested a movie from the 80’s called: THE ARRIVAL – where a very similar event occurred. I think it was Jeph Loeb who brought up JUMANJI – when, at the end, the whole Jumanji world was sucked back into the book. I personally thought this was the best reference. In JUMANJI everything was dissipated into tiny particles of matter and then sucked down as if down a whirlpool. But then financial reality came to bear. A JUMAJI-like technique would require numerous 3-D objects to be created so that they could be digitally destroyed. The limited amount of time in postproduction was also a factor. Also, the director’s initial shot list included 30 to 40 cuts of this event. This also caused a general hue and cry and we finally agreed that we would stick to a 2-D vortex and that we would limit the total number of shots where the vortex was seen to about 25.
For the key sequence, to support the idea that the vortex would be in danger of sucking 3 of our main cast members into oblivion - we agreed the actors would all be hung on rigs and wind machines would be blown and the camera would be shaken and hopefully that would all work out.
In post, though, we were disappointed with the first few rounds of the vortex effect. It just wasn’t enough. We added digital objects flowing thorough the foreground of all the actors close-ups - even when there wasn’t a black hole visible. We even added the idea of the floorboards being ripped up digitally. When all was said and done I think we have about 65 visual effects.
And, even after I must confess that I'm not sure we got the best effect imaginable for this event. Just the best one we could afford in the time we had. That is the nature of TV, and even though HEROES is big TV - time and money are still our masters. Having said that, though, the story is of the Vortex is well told and what is happening is clear. That, in and of itself, is huge! So it's all good.
Subjectivity pt 2: The cocoons – I won’t go into as much detail as I did on the last piece – but this was an equally subjective concept. The writers informed us that Suresh was going to capture and entomb a number of people in cocoons on the walls and ceilings of his loft. Again numerous questions practical and conceptual immediately came up... What do these cocoons look like? Are they clear and luminous? Fibrous and thick? Viscous and bloody? Slimy? Dry? How do they function? (Both within the story and practically.) Can we hang our actors in them safely? How long will it take to rig the actors into them? What about stunt men/women? What about mannequins? How to rig them safely? How many are there? How do we photograph them? How can we see the actors in them and still feel like they’re trapped? How long will it take to make them once they are designed? How much will they cost? These questions went on and on while the clock of production deadline ticked louder and louder. In the end - all this is well and good - but the biggest question on everyone’s minds was never asked or answered – How and from where does Suresh make the goo that makes up the cocoon material???
Another note - It was fun for me to see Jack Coleman and Zach Quinto working together as partners. There is a short scene where they’re driving in the car talking and arguing over the radio. This scene was out of the episode for a while, because the early cuts were long time-wise – but in the end Tim Kring really wanted it in. He felt strongly that these little character moments add as much as any big action or special effects. So we found the time by trimming other things - little scenes within the episode.
The last thing I would like to comment on is the scene where Hiro kills Ando in the bar. I really liked this scene in the script. I like Hiro and Ando. And this really comes out of nowhere in a great way. What always blows me away about HEROES is that this kind of a scene - that would usually end any other show – It’s a big “What the f#@*?!?!?!" That would be a great “TO BE CONTINUED” moment on any show! But Nooooo…. Not here. Here it’s just the end of act 4. We still had to introduce 2 new villains, kill half our cast and paralyze Cristine Rose. Now that’s a real what-the f#@*?!?!?!
And now onto the pictures....
DIRECTOR ANTHONY HEMINGWAY (A MYSTERIOUS BABY FLOATS NEARBYE)
WRITER ADAM ARMUS WITH SENDHIL RAMAMURTHY AND DANIA RAMIREZ
JACK COLEMAN AND ANDRE ROYO GOING ROUND LIFE'S MERRY-GO-ROUND
"CLOSER... HAYDEN CLOSER...CLOSER...CLOSE ENOUGH."
"OKAY WHOSE GONNA CLEAN THIS UP?"
A MERRY GROUP
ALI BLOODY ALI - PART 2
CRISTINE ROSE - THE QUEEN IN HER CASTLE
D.P. CHARLIE LIEBERMAN REFLECTS ME BACK TO ME
DANIA AND SENDHIL GO OVER THE SCRIPT
HAYDEN & JACK ON SET
MALCOLM MCDOWELL AND BREA GRANT RELAX ON THE SET OF A 60'S TALKSHOW
MALCOLM MCDOWELL AND WRITER KAY FOSTER
SENDHIL DOWN IN THE DUMPS IN NYC'S CENTRAL PARK
SENDHIL MANFULLY HAULS A DUMMY AROUND
ZACH QUINTO RIGGED TO FLY
SEXY COMPANY MAN ZACH QUINTO
ZACH REFLECTS ME BACK TO ME
ZACH ADMIRES COMPANY MAN HE'S BECOME
FROM EPISODE 4 - ZACH AS CHEF - "ALL HAIL HIM"
FROM EPISODE 4 - ME 'N WHITE-EYED ZACH
FROM EPISODE 4 - WRITER ARON ELI COLEITE AND ALI LARTER