WARNING: SPOILERS EXIST HERIN!
First of all an apology for getting this blog up late. Presidents’ day and some family stuff prevented it coming on-line on time.
Tonight’s episode was written by Rob Fresco and was directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. Mr. Fresco has been on the HEROES staff all year. This is his second episode. His first was VILLAINS. Rob Fresco's credits This is Sergio’s second full episode for us. He also directed this season’s ONE OF US, ONE OF THEM, as well as what was to be last season’s episode 12, which was begun but never completed and never aired due to the writer’s strike. Sergio Mimica-Gezzan's credits
This marks the third installment in the FUGITIVES arc. As we began prep with Sergio, we familiarized him with some of the stylistic additions we’ve emphasized since episode 14. We are using much more of the handheld, voyeuristic camera style. This is not the style of every storyline, but I pointed out to him, it seemed logical that it follows anything to do with the story of The Hunters and the eponymous BUILDING 26. We also talked at length about the ongoing emotional status of our characters and how, in this volume, the pressure is always on our characters. The emotions are always on simmer and occasionally go to boil!
I think Sergio melded into this style quite well. He was quite familiar with it, having done BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and other feature work with similar looks. The most complex scene he had, and also the most discussed, was the shootout at the diner. We found a little place in San Fernando. It had a naturally interesting layout that afforded numerous advantageous camera angles. In the story, from the time that the Hunters enter and shoot the place up, to the time Sylar escapes, Sergio was only allotted about 8 hours to film the whole thing. These 8 hours were spread out over two days because we were also filming at the time of year when there’s very little daylight and, on both days we were there, when it got dark we had to move to another location (like the inside of the Hunters van.) I think this sequence is a nice compact action scene. Sergio also brought a new color to the sandbox (to mix metaphors) by using a 90-degree shutter on the cameras in the scene after Sylar shatters through the windows and he and Luke run to the car. This technique gives a crisp – non-blurry – look to every frame. I figure he borrowed the idea from when he was an assistant director in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
Sylar and Luke is a storyline we’re pursuing for several episodes. Luke is played by Dan Byrd. Dan came in and gave a good read, but when he was brought back to go through lines with Zach - the rapport between the two was really noticeable. They played off each other and responded so well, Dan was the kid for the part. Interestingly, Dan is probably recognized from the sitcom ALIENS IN AMERICA – in which he played someone the complete opposite of his serial killer wanna-be in HEROES. Like Hayden, Dan grew up in the business and can bounce between these two extremes. Writers continue to enjoy exploring this dynamic of Sylar and, essentially a young-wanna-be-Sylar. Zach liked it too. On set there was an easy affability between the two. As always, Sergio worked on pace and performance – but the scenes were well written and seemed to flow very easily between the two. Zach Quinto has always been a lovely and very focused guy on set. But my personal observation was that he seemed even more relaxed on this one and that he enjoyed the scene he played with Dan.
One of the other jobs on this one was to design and build the actual “Building 26.” One of the problems we’ve had on an ongoing basis on HEROES is that, unlike most every other TV show in the world, we don’t really have “standing sets.” A standing set is simply a set that’s always standing on stage that you can shoot for every episode. Yes, we have Suresh’s apartment and The Bennet House, and we still have Isaac’s Loft up… But none of these are sets that are easy to write to every week. And, with the “FUGITIVES” concept – of our heroes on the run, this becomes even harder. So Tim Kring’s concept was to create, at least, one standing set that can work every week to the end of the season. As a film maker you have no idea how valuable this is – to have at least a few scenes that you don’t have to scout and design gives one a bit of breathing room in the hectic prep schedule.
But what was this building to be? A heated debate went on between the various creative forces behind the scenes. The concept of Building 26 ultimately became that it should be a very anonymous space that this organization moved into quickly and could move out of quickly. Almost like a boiler room where shady phone solicitations could be made from. Arguments were made that the Production design should not even include windows – Building 26 should be purposefully bland. Ruth Ammon (our production designer) and I have joked with each other and called this the “no aesthetic-aesthetic.” Truthfully, because I am a person who approaches things from a visual standpoint, this design goes against my nature. While I absolutely agreed with the concept behind the building – and new that a high tech h.q. would be wrong – in my experience, in order to create dynamic compositions, one needs the elements of angles, and foreground, and light (amongst numerous other things.) I really worried that the squared off corners, low set of desks squared off in the center of the room, and lack of light sources – would hinder our ongoing look. But that was the way it went. Ruth combated this by creating windowed offices at the perimeters of the set, which we could shoot through, and she brought in lots of practical light sources on the desks and mixed and matched them in a way that I think was interesting. A concession was made, because it fit the concept, that we could have tubes of computer wiring and electrical wiring coming down from the ceiling, being twist-tied together as the lines dispersed to the various desks. This provided, at least some, natural foreground.
Sergio and I walked the set along with, director of photography, Nate Goodman – and we discussed where the most dynamic angles could be achieved. Ultimately hand held, long lenses, moving foreground into every frame became the key. We also discussed the idea of having people moving back and forth in front of the lens – creating “wipes.” This is a technique that adds energy, especially when the wipes are used as cut points between shots.
One assignment that was fun to do revolved around the Claire story. The ongoing idea is that Claire hates that she’s been given a “free pass” from the Hunters – and that she wants to do something to help the other specials who are in danger. In this episode, for the first time, and with the help of the mysterious “Rebel,” Claire takes action. One standing set we did have was a comic book store left over from episodes 10 and 11, and the writers came up with the idea of bringing Claire to that to continue her adventures. But, along the way, there were a number of exterior locations – meant to be in the beautiful (but fictitious) Costa Verde California – home of the Bennet family. I really like whenever we get to film California for California on HEROES. We scouted a number of beach communities and landed on Playa del Rey. I really liked this place because it has a funky-freshness that we don’t get to use much. I really impressed upon Sergio – “see the palm trees – see the sand - see the ocean!” We film in Los Angeles, but we are always pretending it’s Washington, or New York or Tokyo. Our first assistant director, Sam Mahony, also seemed to like this selection – as it is where he lives and it meant that he could roll out of bed and go to work that day.
Again, Sergio had a large amount of work to do in a short amount of time. Everything set in Costa Verde (excluding the comic store interiors) had to be done in a day. It meant we had to pick locations that were all (literally) within a block of each other – but still had that California look that I kept pestering him about. This work was all done on the first day of filming, Sergio was very organized and I was proud of him for getting through it so well.
I really like Justin Baldoni who played Alex – the Comic Book Guy. Justin Baldoni's credits He is a big, strong, handsome, guy – but he has a good sense of timing and comedy. Believe it or not, because I have kids, I was familiar with his work on the Disney Channel’s SUITE LIFE OF ZACH AND CODY, where he played a very goofy role. The idea to put glasses on him was the finishing touch - it created a Clark Kent quality to the character. Again, Hayden seemed to have a good time playing her scenes with Justin…. And I am, personally, quite happy with her work and the work we did in this storyline.
There’s so much more I’d like to talk about – Adrian Pasdar and Zeljko Ivanek’s evolving relationship, Ali Larter and the heat lamp sequence – (She was a trooper on this one by the way – the shackles we put her in weighed about 30 pounds.) How we did the Freezing guy effect. Etc. Etc. But my time runs short and the pictures call:
BREA AND JKL - IS HER CHARACTER DEAD???
MASI AND AMRAPALI AMBEGAOKAR ON SET
MS. HAYDEN PANETTIERE
NATHAN KEEPIN' COOL IN THE HOT ROOM
SERGIO DIRECTS THE CAST
SERGIO, TIM KRING AND D.P. NATE GOODMAN
TIM IN INDIA (ON OUR BACK LOT)
TONIGHT'S DIRECTOR SERGIO MIMICA-GEZZAN
ZACH AND DAN BYRD
ZACH BEHAVES BIZARRLY ON SET
MSSRS. QUINTO, GOODMAN AND MIMICA-GEZZAN
ZACH QUINTO SAYS "DON'T HATE ME BECAUSE I'M BEAUTIFUL"