SEASON 3 - EPISODE 20
WARNING SEVERE SPOILER CONDITIONS EXIST HERIN - PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Tonight’s episode was written by Bryan Fuller, and marks his return to HEROES for the first time since season one. Greg Yaitanes directed it. It is the third episode this season he directed.
This episode was an unusual one experientially for me. It appears as episode #3.20 in our ongoing storyline – but it was actually shot in the twenty-first slot. Let me explain. At first this episode was going to be shot, on schedule, right after episode #19. I, of course, was in the middle of directing episode #19 – which was filmed right until our Christmas hiatus in mid-December. This one (as you can probably imagine from seeing it) was expensive and complex and hard to wrangle down… And so, because of these things, it was decided, mid-stream, to move up the shooting order of the more-manageable episode #21 and to move back this one. Therefore this episode was shot in the 21st episode slot – which bought it more time to be financially reconceived. This also meant, happily for me, that I got to be more involved in it. Whenever I am directing it is very hard to have too much to do with the episode that directly follows me. (That’s why we tend to schedule Allan Arkush into the slots that follow mine.)
Anyway – the prep of this episode was delayed until the New Year, and I was glad – because, I thought it was a very beautiful and well-realized script, and I wanted to be part of it. Tracy’s story and particularly the titular “cold snap” scene were, obviously, very exciting – and I knew right away that it was the kind of scene that Mr. Yaitanes always rips it up on… But the storyline that really jumped off the page for me, on first reading, was the one between Matt and Daphne, which culminates in Daphne’s realization off her death - in Paris. There was something so sad and haunting about that sequence. It also was a very unique and clever way to kill a character off. The other story I was quite fond of was Angela's. I like seeing her shown at her wits end and out of lifelines.
These icy parking garage and the flight through Paris are clearly very big scenes (and I think the audience will want for nothing, scope-wise, on this one)... but the art-versus commerce process on this one was particularly tough. There were other scenes of large scope that had to be scaled down.
Specifically, the Hiro-Ando frozen-time scene was more elaborate. It originally took place in an interior and an exterior of Janice's house, then travelled through LA and ended up in a book store/coffee shop. In the end, the scenes at Janice Parkman’s house were confined to interiors only and the action as scaled back a bit. The coffee shop/book story journey became a bus station we built in our back lot. Nevertheless, these scenes, I think, are very satisfying and funny. Ando in the wheelbarrow – to my mind – is hilarious and the twins playing Baby Matt Parkman are genius! More on that later…
I think the action with Peter and Angela and the agents was originally more complex too – but the details of this escape me now.
We had to scale back the action that was filmed as well. Besides the visual effects, the sequence in the parking garage was expensive, because the products used and the manpower needed by our FX-Meister Gary Damico to realize this scene, were very expensive. The products used were a vacuum-formed plastic that had to be designed and molded to the cars and the walls of the parking garage – a flocking product (the same thing that is used on your Christmas Trees) was then added everywhere. Finally, Ice was laid on the ground wherever actors walked. I went into the garage the day before filming began - there were ten guys in that parking garage using heat guns and glue guns for a full day – molding ice into cars and the garage and the walls.
The scene was additionally complex because it had to be divided into two distinct parts – first the water part, when Micah lets loose the sprinklers. Then our crew had to stop filming – allowing a full day to build in the ice and then we returned two days later to the garage to complete the icy half of the sequence.
It was a complicated sequence conceptually, but this is exactly the kind of thing Greg Yaitanes is good at. He laid out and thoroughly storyboarded the entire scene and we walked the set with FX crew art department and producers numerous times – literally laying out exactly what would and wouldn’t be seen – and building ice only exactly where it was needed.
Greg had the whole scene well in mind and particularly the shot that appears to move continuously around the garage ramping from slo-mo to sped-up motion. In my mind, it all turned out quite well.
PUSHING DASIES fans may suspect that Bryan Fuller’s relationship with Swoosie Kurtz got her into this role – and we’re glad it did. She was a true delight to work with. There was one day of rehearsal between she and Christine Rose. The two actors really seemed to enjoy working together. The dialogue in this scene is so simple and so wonderful that it really facilitated the performers relationship, on and off camera, to evolve quickly. It was fun for me to get a glimpse into Angela’s “real” life before The Company took it over. And her dignity in desperation in was great to see.
Back to those babies - Using babies on set is always a highly problematic thing in the first place. By law, their hours are very limited. I think a baby of that age can only be on set for a total of four hours – and can only work in front of the camera for one hour total. This is why productions always want to use twins. We saw three sets of twins for this project. We chose the little guys we did, partly because they were small for their age – but also because they had actually done a fair bit of work already. Believe it or not, these 10-month-old kids have already done recurring work on a soap opera and a number of commercials… Well, we really lucked out! First of all, both of them had the best temperaments. They never cried. They never looked at the camera – and, miraculously, they did all kinds of behavioral things exactly as scripted! This never happens! Usually, when filming babies – one can count on nothing except for the need to get a lot of gooey-cute close ups whenever the kids happen to be in a good mood.
Watch the scene where Hiro rolls Ando into the bus station. There’s a long continuous shot when Hiro takes a bottle from a frozen woman, he hands it to the baby who takes it from him and immediately drinks it… ON CUE! It’s a small thing – and probably goes unnoticed because it seems so-obviously what’s supposed to happen – but behind the monitors a cheer went up when Greg Y yelled, “cut!” OMG WHAT A BABY!!!
Last thing – Production Designer Ruth Ammon and the art department deserve special commendations this week for two complex projects that were done quickly and quite well. Turning sets into new sets. The first is that they took our old Deveaux rooftop set and transformed it into Daphne’s dreamy Parisian rooftop. First of all, the old set had been taken down and hadbeen “folded and held,” as we say. Secondly, we had to find the space on stage to even fit it. The space the rooftop set had formerly occupied was now taken up with Building 26. One of the more mundane, but very important jobs, Ruth and her crew have to do is to figure out the geometric math of how to put sets up in our large, but limited stage space. This involves a math skills. Ruth uses a big blueprint of the stage and overlays 2-D models of the sets to make sure they fit. Often she will have to make changes to the edges and shapes of a set to make sure they work in the space.
Artistically, there were a number of conversions that Ruth made, to hide the façade of the old rooftop. But the most impressive was the steel structure and light arrangement that we first find Daphne sitting on.
This art department conversion was good, but it’s not completely undetectable. The more impressive job was taking the Bennet house and converting into Janice Parkman’s apartment. Bottom line – we were out of stage space and the writers knew, by now, that we would not be returning to the Bennet house for the rest of the season. Tim came up with the idea of converting the space. But Ruth and Bryan both strongly wanted the design of Janice’s to be a mid-century modern. I’m not sure how Ruth did it, because I know she had not-much money and no time. I am sure no-one would look at Janice Parkman’s and say – “Oh yeah…. That’s just the Bennet house turned over.”
A last note: All eyes were dewy as we said goodbye to Brea Grant. She has been great – and is a favorite of the cast and crew. I think she brought a lot to her role of speedster, both in terms of humor, pathos and raw spunky energy. I will miss her and I’m sure I’m not alone.
OK – I’ve got a lot of pictures this week fans…. SO HERE WE GO!
BEGIND-THE-SCENES (OR EVEN IN-THE-SCENES) PICTURES COMMENCE NOW:
BRYAN FULLER AND GREG YAITANES PRESENT DAVID H. LAWRENCE
BRYAN FULLER MONKEYS AROUND WITH THE SCRIPT
YAITANES PREPARES TO OPERATE ON THE SCENE
ICY ALI #1
ICY ALI #2
BEEMAN SAYS "I SHOULDA BROUGHT MY SNUGGY"
BEHIND THE SCENES #1
BEHIND THE SCENES #2
BREA IN PARIS (I.E. A REDRESS OF OUR DEVEAUX ROOFTOP SET
BRYAN FULLER WELCOMES THE RETURN OF LISA LACKEY
BRYAN FULLER, ALI LARTER AND GREG YAITANES - HANGIN' IN THE ICE CAVE
DP CHARLIE LEIBERMAN LEST US KNOW WHAT'S WHAT
FLY MOM FLY UP UP TO THE SKY
GREG G AND BREA IN PARIS
GREG Y SUPPORTS HIS ACTORS
GREG YAITANES PLAYS "PINCH SOME HEADS" WHILE ALI AND THE CREW LOOK ON
OUR CAMERA OPERATOR PETER MERCURIO - OPERATOR IS THE SEXIEST JOB ON SET!
I SPY GREG YAITANES AND FX MASTER GARY DAMICO
MASI AND ME
JAMES KYSON LEE STRIKES A POSE
MASI PLAYS WITH THE WILDLIFE
PUPPET MASTER UNDER A HEAT LAMP
SENDHIL AND SHOT-UP-BREA
TIM KRIING LED THE APPLAUSE ON BREA GRANT'S LAST DAY
ARKUSH AND I BID OUR 'LIL SPEEDSTER TO GO NOT GENTLY INTO THAT DARK NIGHT!
ACTRESS MARA LaFONTAINE AND I AND THE CREEPY RUBBER "STAND IN" BABY