Monday, September 29, 2008

BEEMAN’S BLOG - SEASON 3 - EPISODE 3

“ONE OF US, ONE OF THEM”
(WARNING: SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN. SPOILERS MAY BE HAZERDOUS TO YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE)

Episode three of our third season, was, from my point of view, a hard birth. I’m happy with the final result, but the process getting there was tough.

The director of tonight’s episode was Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. Interestingly, he was Steven Spielberg’s Assistant Director for many years on some of Spielberg’s biggest movies. He made the transition to directing on “Taken” 6 years ago. If you want to check out his impressive resume try this link… Sergio Mimica-Gezzan.

He came recommended to us from execs at NBC – he had directed successful episodes of “Battlestar Galactica”, and I had also seen the pilot he directed for the TNT network show “Saving Grace” starring Holly Hunter. We hired him last year to direct our 13th episode of season 2. He was halfway in the middle of production on it, when the writer’s strike hit and we shut down. Much of what Sergio directed ended up on the cutting room floor, or as DVD extras for the Season 2 DVD package. My personal experience with Sergio is that he is an extremely focused and intense guy with a great eye.

The writer of tonight’s episode was Joe Pokaski. He is a producer on the show, who came up from being Tim Kring’s assistant on “Crossing Jordan.” Notably Joe is also the writer of the current Marvel comic book series “Secret Invasion: The Inhumans” and “Ultimate Fantastic Four.” He also wrote many of the HEROES online comics that have been assembled in the highly successful HEROES HARDBACK GRAPHIC NOVEL.



THE HEROES GRAPHIC NOVEL

The first draft of the script, from a production standpoint, was very big. It had the bank robbery more-or- less as it currently exists. It also had a Claire/Meredith scene, which currently occurs in a cargo container. This scene originally took place in a deserted warehouse where Claire was surrounded by fire. The Hiro/Ando/Daphne scene, which currently occurs in a German movie theatre, originally took place on a train traveling through India, complete with Hiro and Ando on the roof of the train and Ando nearly falling out the side of a baggage car.

Personally, I loved the first draft of this script. It was a great, incredibly exciting read. I loved the way the bank robbery was written, and the idea that Sylar was to become HRG’s new partner blew my mind. The entire component parts were great – but, collectively, it was also, obviously, too big to be affordable. Beyond that though, the choices we producer’s faced of how to get the budget down became very subjective. The bank robbery was the obvious thing that had to stay because it drove the central story and the key recurring stories for the series– For me, the scripted moment where time freezes and future Peter appears was a key event (it sent a chill down my spine when I first read it.) So the Claire story and the Hiro story were what had to be attacked.

The prep process was odd because, it felt like, at every turn, whenever we attempted to make something cheaper, it either seemed to stay financially neutral or, ironically, became more expensive.

For instance, when the decision was made to shift from a burning warehouse to a metal shipping container – it sure seemed that that would reduce the scope… But then conversations started up about how to create an effect for the walls to appear to be glowing molten hot. Those conversations evolved until, at one point, we were going to create an entirely 3-D greenscreen environment of glowing metal walls. That lasted a few days until reality set in and it became clear that that would cost more, and take longer to shoot than the original warehouse idea. We backed off the digital environment and the glowing walls and just decided that there would be a couple of key shots of Meredith’s fire going up the walls and digital heat waves would be generated throughout to sell the heat.

As far as the Hiro/Ando/Daphne scene – we explored two plans. We needed two railroad cars – a passenger car and a cargo car – as well as a roof. One plan was to find existing trains and re-dress them and shoot them on location with green screen out the windows. But the cost of going on location and re-dressing was prohibitive. So we explored building the two train cars on set surrounded by blue screen. This was also too expensive.

Many discussions were held and we came to realize that this story could take place anywhere. The writer’s wanted it to be in an exotic foreign country, and the story had to be containable enough that the Haitian’s power would shut down Hiro and Daphne’s powers. The location department was sent off to come back with exotic-looking locations, which Joe Pokaski could write to. They came back with several. My favorite was a mosque that looked like it could be in an Arabic country. There was also a beautiful library – which would have been set in London. But the German moviehaus was what the writers selected – and from that choice stemmed the fun choice to have the Buster Keaton movies playing in the background.

Interestingly – the mysterious woman who is exchanging the briefcase with the Haitian is Sendhil Ramamurthy (i.e. Suresh’s) real-life wife Olga Sosnovska. They met in London, where she was a star on the British television series MI-5.

There were changes made to reduce budget in the bank scenes as well. Most noteably – at first Jesse’s power was Earthquake-stomp (Like Gorgon of the Inhumans from the Fantastic Four comics) But this power implied cracking floors and walls and all manner of damage that would be expensive to produce. At the last minute we changed him to a Sonic scream (like DC’s Black Canary) – this was easier to accomplish but was a bummer too us because we already had Echo from the online webisodes with sonic power – Oh well…..

There’s one last thing worth talking about: Originally episode 3.2 (the episode I directed) ended with the scene where Angela brought Bridgett to Sylar and “fed” her to him. Ironically, that scene is, literally, the only scene we kept from the two incomplete episodes shot last year. Double-ironically Sergio directed that scene in the never-completed episode 2.13. Triple Ironically – the only new material added to that pre-existing scene was two close-ups – one of Angela and one of Sylar – where Angela spelled out “I AM your mother.” And I directed this. So, in the end, Sergio’s material ended up in his episode and my material ended up in mine.

Episode 3.3 originally opened with Tracy exploring her freeze-o power on the rose, it then went to Nathan in his office asking after Tracy, then it went to Angela introducing HRG to his new partner Sylar. This section of the show ended with Peter and with villains arriving at the bank to rob it. For some reason, even though every scene was in-and-of-itself good, it felt like the show began in an un-focused way.

Katherine Pope, the president of Universal, was the one who came up with the idea of ending episode 3.2 with “I am your mother” and shifting the Bridgette part of the scene into this episode.

At first, from a selfish point-of-view, this bummed me out. When episode 3.2 ended with Bridgette screaming and Angela stalking down the Level 5 hallway – I used to imagine fans leaping out of their chairs screaming “OMG this show is SO F%#d up!!!”

But, on the other hand, when I saw episode 3.3 with the Bridgette scene shifted into it as the opening, the whole episode seemed re-focused and clarified. It’s always amazing to me what editing and juxtaposition of scenes can do… Without the new scene, this episode felt like an episode about Peter and the Villains at the bank robbery. With this new opening it became an episode about HRG/Sylar and Angela. It fact, the whole episode, became balanced (as if by design) with both the first and last scene of the show involving Sylar and Angela in Sylar’s cell.

Now a brief interview with writer Joe Pokaski:

GREG BEEMAN: So, Joe, where are you from?

JOE POKASKI: I grew up back east in a town near Boston, Massachusetts.

GB: And you went to Tufts University?

JP: Yes. With Sendhil Ramamurthy.

GB: Really?

JP: Yes. We were in the same fraternity together at Tufts.

GB: Did you have anything to do with Sendhil being on HEROES?

JP: I don’t think so. I recommended him for a part on “Crossing Jordan.” Which was the Indian friend of someone on the show, and I think he read for the casting people. But that script changed and that role went away. So either they knew him from their files or it was a coincidence.

GB: And you, famously, were Tim Kring’s assistant.

JP: Yes… famously.

GB: So how did you get from a small town near Boston to being a writer/producer on HEROES?

JP: Well, mostly I was just a TV fan. I loved television and shows like “Cheers” and “Mash” and “Quantum Leap” and I dreamed of being a television writer. But that didn’t feel like a job a real person could have. It felt more like “astronaut” -- just a fantasy job that regular people couldn’t do.

GB: Right. I remember you telling me that when you were a kid and you first saw “Alf,” that you though t television had peaked.

JP: That’s true. I was eight and I remember thinking that TV couldn’t get any better than that – a Muppet from outer space. I’m still waiting to be proven wrong.

GB: So what did you do then?

JP: At Tufts I studied to be a lawyer. But, I quickly knew that that was never going to happen. So when I graduated I went into advertising in Boston, because it felt like that, at least, had a little creativity.

GB: But you kept dreaming the impossible dream…

JP: Yes. I suppose the real game changer was meeting my future wife, Jessica. I met her and fell for her and told her my dream and she didn't laugh. Quite the opposite. So I went back to school. To get my Graduate degree in Television Production at Boston University.

GB: Then what?

JP: Then my girlfriend at the time, agreed to move out with me to Los Angeles to become a Television writer. She didn’t disagree loud enough, and so we moved.

GB: And how many high level contacts did you have upon arriving here?

JP: Exactly one. A guy named Mike Daley who worked on Crossing Jordan. He was a friend of a friend of Jessica's (who was my girlfriend at the time) co-worker. In fact, it was on the night that I was going to ask her to marry me, and we were already planning to move, and I had the ring in my pocket, and I was so nervous, and we were out at a restaurant and her friend was saying “When you get there you should call Mike.” I could barely hear her, I was so nervous…

GB: So you didn’t even really know Mike?

JP: No. Now he’s one of my best friends - but at the time I didn’t. He was very helpful though and he promised me that as soon as any job came open on “Crossing Jordan” he would let me know. And he did. A production assistant job came open and I got it.

GB: How old were you at this time?

JP: 28.

GB: And how was that experience?

JP: Being a P.A. at 28? It sucked. I felt miserable. I had cut my salary in half and I had to get coffee for people. But I was there in the middle of what I’d always dreamed of, and I met a lot of incredibly cool and talented people – like Tim Kring, Damon Lindelof, and Aron Coleite.

GB: And how did you go from P.A to Tim’s Assistant?

JP: Well, his old assistant left and Tim asked me to fill in at his desk until he could replace him. And after awhile it just became clear that he was never going to do that and that I had become his assistant. This took awhile.

GB: And when did you become a staff writer on “Crossing Jordan” ?

JP: I never did. Tim, graciously, asked me to write a freelance episode. And that was the first Television script that I had produced.

GB: So you never were on staff before HEROES?

JP: No.

GB: So, you’ve only recently begun to really live your dream?

JP: Uh, I guess. Thanks a lot.

GB: No, I didn’t mean it like that. I think it’s good. Perfect, really. So tell me about your involvement with the pilot of HEROES?

JP: Well, Tim was thinking of the idea. And, as any good writer does, he was excited and he wanted feedback and input. He went to Aron first who was famous for being an avid comic book reader. Tim really didn’t know the conventions of comic books and he wanted, at first, Aron’s feedback and later mine.

GB: And…?

JP: We were blown away by the whole idea. We thought it was awesome. Then, when it began to be clear that it was going to become a pilot and more than that… We just volunteered to do anything Tim needed. Whenever he was too busy to do anything related to HEROES we stepped in and helped.

GB: What’s an example of this?

JP: Well, Tim’s mantra at the time was “What’s next?” Where would these characters go? What would the stories actually be beyond the pilot? So Aron and I worked together to think about ideas for the characters and stories – a lot of which became elements and aspects of episodes 2 though 5 of the first season.

GB: Now you are also writing comic books. ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR and SECRET INVASION: THE INHUMANS? Did Jeph Loeb facilitate this?

JP: Absolutely. Jeph is a great and very big-hearted guy. And when the writer’s strike happened he came to me and to Aron and asked if we’d like to keep feeding our families by writing comics. I said “Sure. I love feeding my family.” And the people at Marvel somehow trusted him enough to just let it happen.

GB: So, which impresses you more? Writing for HEROES or writing FANTASTIC FOUR?

JP: Wow. Now you’re really putting me on the spot…

GB: Because I’ll tell you I’m pretty impressed with the latter. As you know, my main dream in life, up until about age 17 was to be a comic book artist. Unlike you, I failed in this dream - and I regret it to this day.

JP: Well, twelve-year-old me is pretty wowed that I’m writing FANTASTIC FOUR. But, truthfully, HEROES is so amazing and exciting and there are so many talented people on it that have become like a family to me – it’s pretty hard not to be impressed to be on HEROES.

So there you have it kids... The lesson here is one that I always believe in and frequently promote – YOU TOO CAN ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS – AS LONG AS YOU HOLD ON TO THEM AND WORK HARD TO ALLOW THEM TO HAPPEN!!!!

That’s enough. I have to direct episode 13 in the morning – so I’m knocking off for tonight. See ya next week… Until then…

THIS WEEK'S BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTOGRAPHY:


SERGIO DIRECTS THE CAST


WRITER JOE POKASKI – JUST THRILLED TO BE HERE


SERGIO STUDIES HIS NOTES


THE VISUAL EFFECTS MEETING – D.P. CHARLIE LIEBERMAN (BACK) AND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ROBERT SCOTT (FOREGROUND)


THE VISUAL EFFECTS MEETING – JOE POKASKI UP FRONT AND LEAD VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR ERIC GRENAUDIER IN BACK


GREG GRUNBERG IN CHATSWORTH/AFRICA – “WHOA - IT’S WEIRD TO HAVE GIANT PAINTINGS OF ME ON THESE ROCKS”


GREG GRUNBERG AND NTARE MWINE AS USUTU IN CHATTSAFRICA


SERGIO AND JOE IN “AFRICA”


BLAKE SHIELDS AS “FLINT” ONE OF OUR “VILLIANS”


ADRIAN PASDAR ON SET


ALI LARTER ON SET


SERGIO AND ZACHARY QUINTO


CRISTINE ROSE AND JACK COLEMAN


SERGIO, JOE AND CHARLIE ON SET – LIVIN’ THE DREAM!


ME – LURKING ON “LEVEL 5”



IN A STAGED RE-ENACTMENT OF REAL EVENTS - JOE AND I GO OVER SOME NOTES


THIS ONE’S FROM LAST WEEK, BUT I LIKE IT – ALI LARTER AND “GREATEST AMERICAN HERO” WILLIAM KATT ON SET

Monday, September 22, 2008

BEEMAN’S BLOG - SEASON 3 - EPISODE 2

“THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT”
(WARNING – SPOILERS ARE PRESENT – IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO SPOILERS TAKE PROPER PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT YOURSELF)

Wow. Two episodes on one night means I gotta write two blogs on one night… Ouch!
Tonight’s episode was written by Tim Kring and was directed by me. It’s interesting for the viewer because NBC has designed it on premiere night so that the two episodes run back-to-back with just a brief fade to black and fade up – when the episode re-runs, or on next year’s DVD, we will have to add a “previously on” and add more credits in the first act…

When I first got the script, and began contemplating directing it, I was struck by two things – first that it was cram-packed with story and that all the characters really developed quickly. Also, by our standards – it had a simplicity and lean-ness about it. In fact, in the end it was produced in just a bit more than 10 days – which, for us, is pretty short – we frequently go 11-13 days in production.

I think this is because Tim writes in a very concise way – and designs many of his scenes on the page to be delivered in a way that is straightforward but still impactful. A good example of this is the scene where Claire talks to the camera about “is she still human?” and then steps in front of the train. The design at the script level was for this to all be done in one shot – a camera’s point of view. It was meant to be reminiscent of the pilot, but now Claire is alone without a friend – so she has to set it up on a tripod. From a dramatic standpoint Claire has been told by Sylar that she is “different… special.” What this means exactly will unfold as the season progresses. We also set up, in the first scene, that she can no longer feel pain. Claire is distressed – does this lack of ability to feel physical pain reflect a coming lack of ability to feel emotional pain? If so will she still be human?

The day we shot this was, literally, Hayden Panettiere's first day back on set. Whenever we can, we producer’s try to accommodate the actor’s desires to do other projects – and we’d allowed Hayden to do a movie in Vancouver - I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER directed by Chris Columbus and starring Samm Levine and Alan Ruck. So, we had waited a month to get her back, and had had to delay the shooting of all of her scenes in episode 1. Ironically, she came back and filmed this scene for episode 2 before all the action scenes of Sylar chasing her around the house in episode 1.

Because the Bennet's were re-set from Texas to California in Season 2 – it’s always been important to me to try to find really California locations for them whenever we can. The script only indicated that she was at “a train track” – but I had the idea to create a train track adjacent to a beachy setting – I set as a goal for the location managers to find a hill that overlooked the ocean with a community of houses in the distance – where we could believe there was a train track.

Of course no location like this really exists – but they found the hill, exactly as I had imagined it. The train and the train tracks are all added digitally. For the main shot, we brought Hayden out to location, but put her in front of a green screen. She acted out her dialogue to camera then turned to an imaginary train and then jumped up and back into a stunt pad that had been laid out below frame for her. Luckily for us, Hayden is remarkably adept at understanding how all of this will look and how to work within this highly imaginary scenario. Maybe it’s because she’s been acting in front of a camera since she was, like, three – maybe it’s just because she’s smart. After Hayden was done we removed the green screen and filmed the backplate – in this case the hillside and ocean view.

Later Eric Grenaudier and Mark Spatny, our lead visual effects supervisor and visual effects producer from STARGATE went to a train yard and shot film of a train rushing by. This was all put together as a digital split, with the train yard integrated into the ocean background and the green screen of Hayden. Then, as Hayden jumped into the air – she is replaced by a digital animated version of Claire and a completely digital Peter flys into frame and grabs her. Milo Ventimiglia had, previously, been digitally scanned for this sequence so that we could create a digital version of him. After all that was put together we added the kind of icons you see in the eyepiece of a camera and horizontal scan lines. The scan lines annoyed Eric Grenaudier and he argued against them because he feels modern cameras are better than that. But, to me they clarify the story to the audience and they make the scene more reminiscent of what was done on the pilot. I don’t know what you thought of this scene, but for me we got way more than I was expecting… I had expected the digi-Peter to just be a blur, but even though it’s quick there is a real level of detail as he flies in and grabs her – and the integration of the train is excellent.

And, getting back to my original point, even though there is a technical complexity to the way we post-produced this scene – it is really very simple… all just one shot that we completed in less than an hour of production time. And of course all of this was storyboarded.









HAYDEN ON GREEN SCREEN


COSTA VERDE BACKPLATE




TRAIN BACKPLATE


DIGI PETER PETRELLI


THE FINAL COMPOSITE SHOT


THE FINAL SHOT WITH CAMERA ICONS

Of course, as I always say, the cool visual affects and stunts and cool shots we do must be the salt on the HEROES meal, not the main course. Hayden’s heartfelt performance is the key to why it all really works.

Now while we waited a few weeks for Hayden – we had to wait a few months for Kristen Bell. At the end of season 2, when it became clear to Tim and the writers that a writer’s strike was imminent and that episode 11 would be our last one of the season – he was able to come up with a way to re-write episode 11 to wrap up the main stories… But, this was not the case with the storylines for Elle, Bob and HRG – they had all been left hanging. Now, unlike Hayden Panettiere, we did not have Kristen Bell under contract. She was off doing a Movie in Rome called WHEN IN ROME, and wouldn’t be available for four months – until we were in the middle of episode seven. Now we love having Kristen on the show – and I think she loves being here… So we made a deal to have her do a number of episodes for a block of time in August and September and we put the scenes in episode 2 on hold until she came back into town.

For me this meant that I had to plan out storyboard and budget every scene with Elle in May but not shoot them until August. In fact, by the time I got Kristen, she had already completed two later episodes of our show. It was frustrating for Tim and for NBC, because we never had a finished version of the episode to look at. With all of those scenes missing we could never watch the show as a continuity or even know if it’s timing would be too long or too short.

However, even though it took me months to get to it, the scene where Elle comes into HRG’s cell, followed by the sequence where HRG shoots Sylar, where Sylar returns to life, etc. etc. and the follow-up scene where Elle half-comes-to and the prisoners escape “Level 5” is one the favorite ones I’ve done. Maybe it’s because I had so long to think about it – maybe it’s because, for me, it was a high-pressure scene, a scene I knew had to be great. It was a very designed scene where I had to move from shot to shot quickly, and in a highly organized way. The shots are all very graphic and interesting and every shot tells a specific part of the story in a specific way. I, personally, love shooting in level five. The stark blockiness of the cells and corridor make the space very graphic and comic-booky. Anyway – I’m happy with that sequence – I hope you like it too.

One fortunate thing happened by shooting so late, though. By the time we’d gotten to this scene we had already shot through episode 8 and had cast through episode 10… This gave us a chance to bring in all the actors for the escape scene that we normally wouldn’t have had cast yet.

In fact this resulted in me taking one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken… As we were shooting the scene where Elle had shorted out the power and all the villains were escaping - a random moment occurred where all the actors were strolling back to their marks for “take two.” As always, I had my blog camera on me, and I saw an opportunity… I shouted “stop” and I quickly posed the guys. The A.D. and crew would get annoyed if I took too long so I just started shouting, “You, move there – and you, move there… All right, all of you look tough… YOU’RE BADASSES!” They all gave me their toughest looks and SNAP I took the picture – it took about 15 seconds to get. Yay!



The other scene worth talking about is when Suresh displays his new "bug-like" powers to Dania. As a director, there are some sets on our show that get challenging to shoot over and over again. (Both incarnations of the Bennet house and the halls of Primatech are like this for me.) But I never get tired of Isaac's loft. It is loaded with interesting angles and places to stage.

But the new twist for this ep. was that Suresh was to bug-crawl up the wall to the level of the ceiling. This (combined with some info the writers gave us about where this bug power was going) made it clear that we had to add a ceiling to the set.
Up to now we've never had a ceiling on the set, even with all the low angles we shoot. The ceilings we very high - about 20 feet - so we never shot off them. This helped the director's of photography because they were able to light from above. Most sets on most normal shows don't have ceilings at all - because if you're shooting mostly at eye level you never see the ceilings. If you ever do see ceilings, on most shows, the grips drop a piece of stretched musilin (like canvas or cloth). Lighting from above the set is the norm.

But on HEROES we see ceilings all the time, and it makes lighting the sets challenging. Luckily our brilliant Emmy-nominated production designer, Ruth Ammon, really knows how to build lighting into her sets. Anyway, all that is just a long digression to say that, as of this episode, we added ceilings and had to change our lighting plan.

Anyway, early on there's a shot where Maya enters the loft - the camera is low and very wide and we push in past a foreground table from a wide shot of Maya coming down the stairs and into a low angle shot across her where we see Suresh at rest up in the girders of the ceiling. There's a couple of close ups and then Suresh drops down from the ceiling into a medium shot with a big smile on his face.

Now, we wanted this scene to be sexy - and sexy means shirts off - which means that there was no place to hide a traditional harness under Suresh's shirt. Sendhil had just a waist harness. He was hoisted up in the air and had to hang upside-down. Now, from what I've heard from the various actors I've hung upside down - hanging upside down hurts. Apparently the blood goes to your head and you get all goofy to the point of passing out, and every joint and muscle in your body hurts.

For the part where Sursh drops down - we had originally planned for a stunt man to do this bit. But Sendhil came to me and pleaded that he could and wanted to do it himself. Now - philosophically it's always better to have an actor do their own stunt - but if they do you should have (whatever it is) end in a big close up - so you know it's them.

Hanging upside-down was one problem, but this gag was much more complicated. Sendhil got hoisted by a winch to the ceiling where he then had to spin around in the original upside-down position and the riggers had to adjust the slack on the line so it was just right. As I say this, itself, hurt. Then we rolled and slated. Then Sendhil had to push off, do a flip in the air - which, on the harness is a much more unnatural action then flipping, say, off a diving board. Since he couldn't see the ground coming, Sendhil had to work off a count in his head as to when he touched down on the ground. The line was adjusted so he wouldn't break his legs - but what happened on the first 5 or 6 takes was that he under or overestimated the landing and ended up either bouncing back up, or hanging splayed out in mid-air three feet off the floor. After ten takes Sendhil finally hit one and stepped forward and said his line, but he and the camera (which was pushing in) weren't in harmony and he
stepped out of frame. Three more failures occurred after that - and now I was starting to worry that Sendhil was too tired and beat up to ever get it. He was pouring sweat and was obviously exhausted. He was also getting angry and frustrated with himself.

Then, on take fourteen - he nailed it. The flip and landing were so perfect and, I think because he was so tired, his brain went into autopilot and he smiled and said "hello" like he was too-cool-for-school and that this was no big deal.

I yelled cut and, the part that may be a DVD extra someday, was Sendhil throwing his hands into the air and yelling "YEEEEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!". It's awesome when something like that works out.

OK that's enough for now. More next week.....onto the pictures!

Also – after the show tonight - check out NBC.com where I do commentary on this episode with James Kyson Lee and Brea Grant – as always we had a lot of fun.


SENDHIL (YES HE REALLY DID THAT STUNT HIMSELF) ON SET


SENDHIL EXAMINES THE TASTY MORSELS THAT HAVE SPRUNG UP ON HIS BACK


ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR THE FANS - I APPLY A LIGHT GLAZE OF OIL TO SENDHIL'S BODY


JACK, ASHLEY AND JESSALYN GILSIG


JUST ANOTHER DAY ON SET


MASI AND THE NEW GIRL BREA GRANT WITH A FRENCH VERSION OF "9TH WONDERS"


ADRIAN AND MALCOLM PLAY A GAME OF CHESS WHILE THE CREW WORKS


ALI LARTER AS TRACY (YEP, NIKI'S REALLY DEAD) AND GOVERNOR BRUCE BOXLEITNER


ALI STUDIES HER LINES (GLAMEROUSLY)


BREA GRANT DEMONSTRATES THE ART OF KNIFE WEILDING


BREA GRANT PRACTICES WITH ZACH THE ART OF HEAD CUTTING


FUTURE PETER TAKES SOME PHOTOS TO SHOW HIS PALS WHEN HE GETS BACK (TO THE FUTURE)


GREG GRUNBERG AND THE "BODY POD"


ME (I LOOKED SO DAMN COOL IN THIS SHOT I JUST HAD TO INCLUDE IT)


MILO AND HAYDEN ON SET (BOTH ON THEIR FIRST DAY BACK ON THE SHOW) IN THE IMAGINARY TOWN OF COSTA VERDE


PROPER TURTLE PLACEMENT IS ALL IMPORTANT


THOSE WACKY PETRELLI BOYS


TIM KRING, GREG GRUNBERG AND I IN AFRICA


MALCOLM MCDOWELL AND I SHARE A PROFESSIONAL MOMENT

BEEMAN’S BLOG – SEASON 3 EPISODE 1

“THE SECOND COMING”
(WARNING! –AS ALWAYS – SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN)

Okay fans! Tonight’s the night! Episode One Of Season Three – which will be immediately followed by episode Two of Season Three. Which means to me that I gotta write two blogs on one day!!!!! AAAAAARGGHHHH!!!

(And I’m right in the middle of prepping to direct episode 13!!!!)

For tonight’s festivities I thought I’d interview Allan Arkush. Allan, besides me, is the other producer/frequent director on HEROES – and he is the auteur behind tonight’s gem. I know I’m sometimes accused of hyping the show – (which is really just my innate enthusiasm) – but tonight it will be no hype when I tell you that the episode is really really good and that you will like it! (Unless you are a real sourpuss – or especially squeamish)

It was written by Tim Kring and Directed by my interviewee, Allan Arkush.


Greg Beeman: So, Allan, how would you compare HEROES to other shows that you’ve been involved with?

Allan Arkush: There is no point of comparison.

GB: (laughs) Why not?

AA: If you took everything that was the hardest thing in any other TV show, and I’ve worked on thirty different shows, the kind of thing that was so hard they only did it for their season opener or season closer – and that would be one day on HEROES.

In fact, I would say, HEROES is the decathlon of television directing.

GB: What does that mean?

AA: It has a lot of action, a lot of special effects, a visual style that’s hard to achieve. Complex shots. Complex emotion. It has a big cast. And, every episode has four “A” stories.

GB: What is an “A” story?

AA: Most television shows have stories in them with three degrees of intensity. The “A” story is the titular story – usually involving the series’ lead, which would have the most depth of character and complexity of plot and in general is the most important. On my last series CROSSING JORDAN, this would usually be a story about Jordan – in which she was solving a case and also having a development in her personal life.

The “B” story is a secondary story, usually involving one of the shows secondary characters. This story would take place over five or six scenes in which, generally, a secondary case would be solved that relates thematically to the “A” story.

The “C” story might be a comedy runner – a story that completes itself in three scenes and is very slight.

Well, on HEROES, it’s all “A” stories all the time.

GB: So, every story is equally important?

AA: Correct. AND… Every story has a different tone, a different visual style and different actors – which requires you to work in a different style. Also, and this is no small thing, it all takes place in different locations. There is no police station or hospital or law firm where the majority of your scenes can take place.

GB: Yes. Now that you mention it, all that is hard.

AA: Which means that we spend more time in scout vans than on any other show I’ve ever done.

GB: A scout van is literally a van where the key crew members and the director drive around looking for potential locations to film in.

AA: Right. But the upside of this is that we get more scout lunches than on any show I’ve worked on as well. We have a lot of people on this show who like to eat well and we go to some great restaurants for lunch.

GB: So, the first episode of the season is an important one isn’t it?

AA: (laughs) Yes.. It’s important to get off to a good start.

GB: So what burdens did you feel directing the season three opener?

AA: The trick is to get all the stories in motion for the season, and at the same time not to burden the audience with spoon-fed exposition. You have to create the feeling that you’re already in mid-stream even though you’re just starting.

GB: What scenes are you particularly happy with from this one?

AA: I am very happy with the scenes of Sylar stalking Claire. Especially the scene where Sylar explores Claire’s brain. That may be one of the favorite scenes I’ve ever done.

GB: Why?

AA: Because it’s very tense and also funny and horrific in a way that’s intellectually satisfying – and all at once!

GB: I heard that when they screened the episode at Comic-Con a fan or two fainted during that scene and had to be taken away.

AA: I heard that too. And as a director, that’s a good feeling.

GB: When Tim first presented this scene to you, he talked a lot about it being done in the style of a teen horror movie.

AA: He sure did.

GB: But you’ve never worked in that genre before.

AA: No. And whenever I’ve attempted it it usually comes out kind of goofy and funny rather than scary. That’s just how my mind works.

GB: So what did you do to prepare for this unfamiliar genre?

AA: I watched a lot of movies. That’s what I do. I watched HALLOWEEN and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and WHIP AND THE BODY by Mario Bava, and ALIEN and SORRY WRONG NUMBER and WAIT UNTIL DARK.

GB: And what did you learn from those classics?

AA: Tension and release! Make them wait – then let them see something the main character’s about to see, but hasn’t – and then when the action finally happens it happens fast, in a rush.

What was interesting about this scene was that, usually in these movies, the main character has to do something very stupid in order for the story to progress. I wanted Claire not to do anything stupid and to stay aggressive. That is our twist on the genre.

The other scene I am very happy with is the scene with Nathan and Peter in the hospital room.

GB: Really? That is a smaller scene than so many others in the episode. Why are you so happy with that one?

AA: Because there are lots of levels to that scene. You’re not sure whether future Peter will kill Nathan. I like to direct scenes where the characters have hidden agendas. Where two people are playing different levels at the same time. Also, those two actors, Milo and Adrian, just have a great chemistry together. It’s fun to watch them.

GB: Anything you’re disappointed with?

AA: That we had to lose the Sylar/Mr. Muggles scene. The big growl down.

GB: Could you explain what that was?

AA; I came up with a scene for the moment when Claire was in the closet and Sylar was outside the door, where Mr. Muggles shows up and growls at Sylar barring the path – he’s trying to protect Claire. Sylar raises his finger, the way he always does when he’s going to take off the top of someone’s head. So, you started to get worried if Mr. Muggles is going to be Okay. And then, Sylar flicks his finger – and Mr. Muggles shoots backwards out the doggie door. Oh well, it’ll be a great DVD extra.

GB: I know… I loved that scene. Why did it go?

AA: Partly for time – the show was long. And partly because some people thought it was too goofy and funny... Story of my life.

GB: Well, take it from me, I think they were wrong!

AA: Thank you. I think so too.


SCOUT LUNCH #1 - DIM SUM


SCOUT LUNCH #2 - DELI


SCOUT LUNCH #3 – IN WHICH THE RULE “”NEVER EAT ANYTHING BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD COMES INTO PLAY”


A LOT OF TIMES WE ACT OUT THE SCENES ON SCOUT – HERE CO-EXEC PRODUCER JIM CHORY AND I AND LOCATION/PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR ALEX REID ACT OUT A SHOOT OUT FROM THE FUTURE (FROM AN EARLIER SCRIPTED VERSION WHICH HAD HIRO AND FUTURE PETER TOGETHER)


LOCATION MANAGER STEVE HASSON AND ALEX REID ACT OUT CLAIRE SHOOTING PETER IN THE FUTURE


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ANNE BERGER ACTS OUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE SHOT DEAD IN THE FUTURE


SCOUTING IN TOKYO – LED BY EXECUTIVE PRODUCER DENNIS HAMMER THE CREW ACTS OUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO BE A BUNCH OF FROZEN-TIME TOKYO OFFICE WORKERS (AND HE’S THE SERIOUS ONE!!!)


SCOUTING IN TOKYO – PRODUCTION DESIGNER RUTH AMMON ACTS OUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO BE A FROZEN-TIME TOKYO OFFICE WORKER


SCOUTING IN TOKYO – IN WHICH I ACT OUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO BE A FROZEN-TIME FEMALE OFFICE WORKER WITH A LOT OF HAIR (DON’T ASK)


DO I LOOK GOOD IN THIS? (HAYDEN MODELS THE LATEST IN LADIES’ HEADWEAR)


MMMMMM…. BRAAAAAIIINS!!!


JACK COLEMAN LOOKS LIKE A BADASS EVEN IN HIS PAJAMAS


DANIA AND SENDHIL…QUIEN ES MAS SEXY?


TIM KRING, DANIA, ALLAN ARKUSH AND SENDHIL


TINY GREG GRUNBERG AND A TECHNO CRANE IN AFRICA


GREG GRUNBERG – LOOKIN’ GOOD IN AFRICA


THOSE WACKY PETRELLI BOYS


ALI LARTER ON A DAY WITHOUT SUNBLOCK


ALLAN ARKUSH AND MASI – “HEY, I KNOW, LET’S GO BLOW UP THE WORLD”


THE DESTRUCTION OF TOKYO BY DIGITAL TSUNAMI


HIRO AND ANDO IN FRONT OF GREEN SCREEN


HIRO AND ANDO AFTER BEING COMPED TOGETHER – IN TOKYO!


DIRECTOR ALLAN ARKUSH DEEP IN THOUGH ON A SCOUT