SEASON 3- EPISODE 21
WARNING: YOU COULD END UP IN AN ASYLUM IF YOU AREN’T PREPARED FOR THE SPOILESR CONTAINED HERIN!!!
Tonight’s episode was written by Joe Pokaski. It was directed by our long-time line producer, first time HEROES director, Jim Chory.
As I mentioned last week, production of this episode underwent a unique and somewhat stressful situation. Because Bryan Fuller’s script for last week’s episode #20 was, initially, too complex and expensive – it was determined by the powers that be that episode #20 would be delayed and that this episode - #21 – which was leaner and more easily produce-able - would be moved up.
This type of switch-up is not unprecedented, but like all TV shows, we have a very tight and very specific prep period on HEROES… About eight days total to find all the locations, set all the new cast, and decide how all the special effects, action and other aspects of the scenes are going to be produced. Now Episode #20 had already been being prepping for two days when this decision was made… This posed a problem for Joe Pokaski, because at the time this decision was made, there was a strong outline for this episode, but there was no script. So prep began on this episode with an outline only… Joe started to write as fast as he can, but if I remember correctly – they prepped on a Thursday and Friday with the outline only and Joe trying to pound out the script between meetings… Joe had to write the whole script over the first weekend, and we producers got it at about 1AM on Sunday night. Monday was day 5 of 8 days of prep.
I must commend Joe, because given these conditions; the first draft was in excellent shape. Everyone was pretty nervous behind the scenes, because, even though the outline was strong, there is not always a one-to-one correlation between outline and script. If the first draft didn’t sing – there would be almost no time to correct it.
I was struck by the emotional strength of the scenes. The structure has a greater simplicity than most of our stories. Essentially it is three two-character stories – Angela/Peter, Nathan/Claire and Sylar/Danko (with a little HRG thrown in) there were many more two-character pure-dialogue based scenes than we ever usually get. This can either work – if the writing is strong – or can fall flat and get boring if it’s not. Obviously, you will be your own judge of whether the episode works or not – but it worked for me.
Given the crazy-short prep, it was lucky Jim Chory was at the helm. Jim has been the line producer since the beginning of HEROES. I never mention him on the blog because he’s paranoid or something and always threatens to sue me if I even mention him…. But I told him, that since my blog is primarily about direction, that when he directs I can’t help but mention him…. Anyway, Jim is an organizational mastermind. He is the force behind the scenes figuring out how to put together the crazy schedules, balancing manpower and cast and even cast requests for time off and publicity, etc. etc…. So if ever there was someone to figure how to prep an episode in only three days – it was he.
Jim is not new to directing. He has directed episodes of AMERICAN DREAMS and THE DISTRICT, two shows he worked on before…. And he has an immense amount of experience prepping EVERY director on this show and those. But he hadn’t done a HEROES before. I think he thought the rest of us producers were nervous, but we really weren’t. We assumed he’d do a great job. Maybe he was nervous, wanting to do great, but I’m not sure. Anyway, I think Jim did a great job. He’s a maniac on set. He is completely organized and knows every shot and every angle he wants. He pushes like crazy and was getting an incredible number of setups a day. A setup is what we call every distinct shot. If you use two cameras at a time you can get two setups. If you use three you can get three. For myself, I tend to do longer shots and get less coverage (i.e. setups) in a day. A lot of days, using two cameras only a few times, I’ll get twenty-two to thirty setups a day. Allan Arkush likes having more choices of sizes and shots in the cutting room so he gets closer to forty. That’s a lot…. (Now remember on a typical day we will be doing three or four scenes that add up to six, or so, pages – so twenty to forty shots is all you get to tell all those stories) Anyway – Jim was getting some crazy number of setups a day – like seventy!!! It was insane. It was good, because when we got into the cutting room – if I ever said, something like, “Oh man, I wish we had a closeup of Nathan once he walks over to this side of the room” the editor (Scott Boyd) would say, “We got it!” No matter what angle I could think of Scott would say “We got it.”
Besides getting a bazillion and a half shots per day, Jim also really concentrated on performance and made a point of intensively directing the actors. This was a good idea and, in my opinion, resulted in some excellent scenes. My overall favorite storyline is between Sylar and Danko – there are a lot of really meaty scenes in that story and a lot of great twists and turns.
Interestingly, Tijuana, Mexico was filmed in Venice California – on many of the same streets used by Orson Wells when he filmed Venice for Tijuana in TOUCH OF EVIL. If you’ve never seen this movie do so – it is, for me, a seminal movie. In film school I studied and copied this movie’s style – and the long takes, the low angle wide-angle masters in which actors recompose themselves in shots are still techniques I frequently go to when staging scenes. Allan Arkush recently gave me as a present a new director's cut of this film recently released from Criterion. It is based on a 58 page memo Wells wrote upon seeing the studio re-cut of his film, the film has been restored to his original vision and has been released posthumously You should see it.
Now, while on the one hand, moving the production of this episode up a week resulted in stress during production – it also resulted in less stress in postproduction. Because last week’s episode had been delayed in shooting – it had to be rushed through post production… As I remember, we had only 9 days to lock the picture and the visual effects of Ali Larter Freezing, etc. had to be turned over very quickly. Here the opposite was the case, especially since there were substantially less visual effects than in most episodes. There was a nice long time to edit this one, and every producer who wanted to, really got to have their turn with the film.
There were also a number of scenes omitted or drastically reduced. There was a subplot in which Noah Bennet took Micah under his wing (I’ve included a couple of photos of these scenes)… There was a follow up fight in Tijuana, where Claire and Nathan got assaulted by the college students they’d been drinking with. This was funny, because, in order to defeat them, drunken Nathan flew. There was also substantially more to the church scenes with Angela and Peter, including a scene where Peter flew to avoid the agents. These were all great, but the first editors cut was over ten minutes too long and so – in the end – they had to go.
OKAY ONTO “LOS PICTUROS”:
ADRIAN GIVES HAYDEN WHAT'S WHAT IN MEXICO
ALI LARTER IN “HOT HOT HEAT”
HAYDEN AND ADRIAN IN “MEXICO”
HIRO AND BABY MATT (from last week but TOO cute!!!)
HIRO AND BABY MATT 2
HRG AND MICAH IN AN OMITTED SCENE
CREW WORKS ON OMITTED MICAH SCENE (they didn't know it was omitted at the time or they might have objected)
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOOODMAN A PICTURE OF DIGNITY
HRG CONFESSES TO LIKING THIS EPISODE
JIM CHORY DIRECTS THE CAST
MAS CACAHUATE’S POR FAVOR