Monday, February 23, 2009

BEEMAN'S BLOG - SEASON 3 - EPISODE 17

HEROES: “COLD WARS”

WARNING: IT’LL BE A COLD WAR INSIDE YOUR HEART IF YOU IGNORE THE FACT THAT SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN

Tonight’s episode was written by Chris Zatta, Joe Pokaski and Aron Eli Coleite. It was directed by Seith Mann – a newcomer to HEROES. Seith's Credits

Every year, one of the challenges is to try to book directors in to direct the various episodes of HEROES. We know, starting out, that Allan Arkush and I will end up doing 8 to 10 of the 25 episodes. Beyond that, we hope to fill up another 10 or 12 with people who have already successfully done several episodes for us. (i.e. Jeannot Szwarc, Greg Yaitanes, Dan Attias, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan.) But – as a TV producer, one has to be constantly discovering and trying out new people all the time. New directors come to our attention in a number of ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as – Allan Arkush or Dennis Hammer or one of the writers or I will be home watching TV and a particularly good episode of some show will come on – and we’ll keep a mental note of who directed it. I also make a point of talking to my other friends who direct or produce and ask them who they like. NBC and Universal also are always recommending people to us who have done well on other shows. There are also a large number of agencies in Los Angeles who represent directors – and agents are always calling and pitching their clients to us. As soon as a season is done, a lot of my time gets devoted to watching DVDs of episodes to familiarize myself with the many directors out there.

But, the booking-directors-for-episodic-TV game becomes a big jigsaw puzzle, and is one of my greatest frustrations in the pre-season. See, we have our 25 episodes, and we have the dates that we plan to make them on. All of the other directors are booking numerous other shows, each with their own schedules. To make matters more complicated, our schedule will usually shift one or two times, a week here or a week there. Also, all the other shows will shift a week or two as well. So, here I am with the list of directors we want to book. All the agents at the various agencies around town are trying to make their clients dates work so that their clients can direct as many episodes as possible within the annual TV season – and it becomes a big rugby scrum of trying to push and pull dates around.

Phenomenally – it’s also difficult to predict who will work out on our show (or any show.) HEROES is complex to direct – technically, creatively, schedule-wise, as well as interpersonally. Some people are excellent directors, but their personality and process may just not fit in with ours. Literally, every show out there is very different – both in terms of what is on screen and with what goes on behind the scenes. People who have worked out very well for me on one show, might not translate well to the new one.

I was a journeyman director for many years, going from show to show – and it’s a peculiar discipline. You, essentially, have to go into somebody else’s sandbox and play with their toys. Obviously, one critical aspect is having the ability to figure out what the creative needs of the show are to make a good episode. But that alone is not enough – one must also be able to adapt one’s style and personality to suit the quirks of the behind-the-scenes personalities. On some shows there is very dominant and sometimes difficult actor, or group of actors. Sometimes there is a very strong willed show runner/creator. Sometimes it is the opposite – perhaps the creator is vague or even passive aggressive. Sometimes there is more than one person in charge – which is fine, unless their personalities and goals are in conflict. Sometimes the actors are inexperienced and need strong guidance. Sometimes the paramount goal is to make a great episode damn the costs (but no one will ever directly say that.) Sometimes it’s more important to be on budget and one’s creative contributions are fine – as long as they don’t get in the way of hitting the number (But no one will ever directly say that either.) It’s a funny business that requires a certain chameleon-like quality to succeed.

All of which is a long way round the bend to get to the fact, that Seith Mann, who is a relatively new director (at this point he has 18 produced credits), really did a nice job of fitting into our system. His name came to us from NBC who had had a good experience with him on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Allan and I watched two of his episodes– FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and JERICHO. I was impressed with them, because not only were they both very good examples of those shows – they each had a distinctively different visual style and directorial approach – meaning that Seith could adapt to the necessary conditions of the show. This is more rare than it might seem. Many times you hire someone, knowing and accepting that, while they may be very good at performance direction and that they’ll get the basic dramatic beats and put the camera where it needs to be to record the drama – they may not be able to adapt to your visual style. Others might be very visual, but they cannot direct the cast adequately or they may just not have a fundamental awareness of “what’s important” – I.e., where the camera needs to be to capture the moment. Of course I also made a few phone calls to producers who had worked with Seith before – he checked out very well and so he came aboard!

We actually brought Seith in to interview in June of last year. At this point, in season 3, we’d learned all the pitfalls others had fallen into. We were pretty blunt about the fact that HEROES is a tough and challenging show and not for the faint of heart. We producers are pretty up front and self-acknowledging about our own quirks and requirements. To boil it down, simplistically, between Tim and Dennis Hammer’s demand for performance and emotion, my demand for visual style, Allan Arkush’s desire to have adequate coverage to create options in the cutting room, NBC’s demand to stay on budget and the amount of action and visual effects plus the large cast who (while really a very good bunch) have their own needs and idiosyncrasies – it is not an easy show. Seith did not run out of the room – so we decided to book him.

But then came the schedule rugby scrum – we wanted to put him in earlier in the season – but he was booked up on ENTOURAGE and a couple of other shows. Our schedules couldn’t come into synchronicity until this episode - #17. So here it is.

Seith came in facing another big challenge. Back in June we were shooting as many days as needed to complete episodes. But by December a much stricter budget mandate had come down from NBC/Universal. Ever since episode #15 we had to do our episodes in ten days and hit a specific budget number – no “if “ “ands” or “buts.” This script – which had been divided up in the writer’s room between three of our best scribes - was designed to be lean and mean… By design, a large portion of the story took place within one hotel room as Matt, Suresh and Peter grill Noah Bennett (aka HRG.) The rest took place in Building 26, a storage locker and Danko’s apartment (all of which are on our sound stages.) The only days out on location where two at the motel complex and one for the scenes on the park bench between Angela Petrelli and HRG and also the scene in Suresh’s cab which were all shot in downtown L.A. Now - this is all well and good in that it facilitates making our schedule – but for a director it creates a new challenge – How does one keep to the high standards of performance and visual design established by HEROES in the new, more interior, paradigm?

I was working on Seith really hard. I kept proposing that he focus on the long lens, hand held look we had been using in episodes 14 and 16. To me this is a way to go fast and still keep a visual design – plus it had worked for us recently. Seith was always polite – but I could, kind of, tell he was blowing me off throughout prep. In the end I was glad. I never mind someone resisting what I suggest – as long as they end up being right. In the end I realize that Seith had really studied HEROES on a long-term level and was more interested in doing the wide angle/low angle/moving camera look we’d been doing from mid-way through season one than anything developed more recently.

It wasn’t clear to me until I saw the first cut that Seith really had a strong visual design and emotional plan for the episode. In my opinion, despite its containment – it has a strong sense of rising tension. When he could; he really moved the camera well. I was especially impressed with the shot he uses to open the story - where the camera (on a techno crane) glides around the motel – really laying out the geography of the place (which was necessary to establish early as it becomes important for the audience to understand this later.) Even the scenes in the hotel room had enough variety of angles and intensity of performance to ratchet them up successfully as the show goes on. There was also (the critical) attention to performance. There are a number of great scenes and specifically, there is a really strong scene between Jack Coleman and Zeljko Ivanek in Danko’s apartment. The cast really liked Seith and made a point of coming to me and the other producers throughout the episode to say so.

Two interesting facts: When the locations department took us to the motel (which is way up in the San Fernando valley) I liked it right away. It had a very strong, yet contained layout. I said out loud, “It works great. But I feel like I’ve seen this place before.” The location managers kind of shrugged and looked confused. They didn’t mention that it’s THE EXACT SAME motel where MY NAME IS EARL shoots. I guess they know that filmmakers are notorious for not wanting to shoot at places that have already been shot a lot – especially on the same network! But the place was perfect for our needs and so – despite the deception – what the heck!

Last interesting fact: The original version of this script was a much more elaborate story in which – instead of just reviewing HRG’s memories – Matt was inducing hallucinations into his mind. Some of the scenes where similar – such as HRG and Sandra enjoying marital bliss – but then it got weird moving into eerie forests and Isaac’s loft, where Sylar revealed himself as HRG’s dark alter ego. Truthfully it was a very exciting ride. But two things caused it two mutate to what it is now – first it would, clearly, have been more expensive and difficult to produce. Secondly, the network was afraid that it would be overly confusing what with the worlds-within-worlds and ever shifting characters. It was potentially confusing, I admit, but it was also quite dynamic and original. Maybe there’s a world where we could try a story like that again sometime.

All right, loyal fans – I am spent from typing. I am also currently prepping to direct our season finale and must do, at least some, homework tonight. So – until next week ---

THE PICTURES:


SEITH MANN DIRECTS ON SET


THREE TOUGH GUYS DISCUSS TOUGHNESS


THREE MORE TOUGH GUYS TOUGHING OUT A COLD COLD NIGHT IN DECEMBER


ME ON SET


A STEDI-CAM ENTERS THE FRAY


JACK AND ADRIAN


LIFE BEHIND THE MONITOR


SEITH MANN MANS THE MONITOR


LIFE ON SET


SEITH WONDERS “WHAT KIND OF CAMERA IS THAT?” (JACK COMTEMPLATES HIS NEXT MOVE.)



SENDHIL – READY FOR ACTION!


SENDHIL AND HIS STUNT MAN PREP FOR PAIN

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BEEMAN’S BLOG - SEASON 3 - EPISODE 16

“BUILDING 26”

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:

THE PICTURES::


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"

Monday, February 09, 2009

BEEMAN'S BLOG - SEASON THREE - EPISODE 15

“TRUST AND BLOOD”

WARNING: THERE IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER OF SPOILERS BEING CONTAINED WITHIN…

Hello and welcome back HEROES-fans. Tonight we bring you another chapter in the fourth volume of the ongoing saga called HEROES. Tonight’s episode was written by Mark Verheiden and was directed by one of our executive producers and frequent directors Allan Arkush.

Mark Verheiden is new to HEROES but probably not to you. He and I worked together on the first three seasons of SMALLVILLE. He is an all-around nice guy and a pleasure to work with.

One of the things I enjoy doing with this blog is using it to introduce you to some aspects of the filmmaking process that you may be unfamiliar with. A critical but often little-thought-about step in the process is that of color timing. Color timing (and I don’t know why it’s called “timing”) is the process in which, after the film has been edited and the visual effects are completed, the show is rectified in terms of its color and overall look. In color timing (also called color correction) every shot in the episode is adjusted and unified so that it (a) goes with all the other shots around it and (b) looks just right.

Every one of us executive producer types overlaps each other in many job categories. For instance Dennis Hammer, besides working hard on prepping the show, the story and the budget, loves to deal with advertising, promotion and all of those kinds of things. Allan Arkush, besides his many other duties, loves to deal with postproduction and especially music. And I love all things to do with the visual design of the show – so I spend a lot of my time with the production designer the directors of photography, and I enjoy overseeing the color timing of each episode.

The color timer on the series is named Scott Ostrowsky. He has been aboard since the pilot. Tonight I interview him.

GREG BEEMAN: Good afternoon Scott and thanks for doing this interview. So – what is your job on HEROES?

SCOTT OSTROWSKY: I balance the color. Basically I take the film that has been shot by the DP’s (Director of Photography) and the director and I add a look. I add or subtract color, contrast, lights and darks and so on. Visually I work with the DP’s to achieve the look of the film they are after and I match the look of each shot and scene from shot-to-shot and from episode to episode.

GB: So, if I was to observe you at work. What would that look like?

SO: I’m in a big, darkly lit room, usually with a CRT (cathode ray tube i.e. traditional TV) and maybe a projection screen TV and plasma screen TV. Basically, I’m watching all of the various ways that the show will be delivered to the viewers at home. All of these are set up to very specific specs. And using these screens, I go through a G.U.I. (or ‘goo-ey”) which is a computer screen which I use to navigate through every shot in each episode one-by-one. I use a keyboard, a mouse, a WACOM palate and pen and I have a large panel with track balls, which I use to control the different blacks, mid-ranges, gammas and gains and colors. I also have various vector scopes and rgb (red-green-blue) scopes, which tell me what all the different colors and hues are doing from an electronic standpoint at any moment. It’s a very encompassing system and I use it all to make the show look balanced and beautiful.

GB: How long does it take to complete an episode?

SO: I do it in stages. I make a preliminary pass on my own, and then another pass when I go through it with the director of photography and then usually one with the producer. Lori Motyer, the postproduction producer supervises it all. I do a final touch-up pass once all the visual effects and so on are in. It takes a week to ten days to complete. About 16 hours of work.

GB: Then how does the show end up?

SO: It is on a hard drive the whole time I’m working on it. Then, once I’m finished it’s copied onto a Sony HD Cam SR tape in 1080 dp. That’s where the show lives when it’s all finished.

GB: So how did you get into this line of work?

SO: In college I was studying philosophy believe it or not. I thought I was going to end up a lawyer. But I also played music and always had. I was paying my way through college playing guitar with some very well known musicians, like Lou Rawls. I was attending Los Angeles Community College and someone I knew, who knew I was into music, suggested I see a film being scored. That was amazing. Just great. And through that I made a contact and I ended up working as an editor at Select-TV on an old COMEX machine. This was in 1986. Anyway, I was editing and producing international pieces for that company and it was the very beginning of electronic color timing. Before that everything was color timed on film using a very limited dye system. The only control was red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan and dark and light. The colorist at the station was a kid who knew almost as little as I did. So I worked with him and I had a natural affinity for it. I got a job doing that and for awhile I was working a day shift as an editor and a night shift doing color. One thing led to another and here I am today.

GB: So what are some of the kinds of things you can do on the system you work on?

SO: You can key on to certain colors boost them or diminish them. You can also create windows around areas within the frame, which can travel - for instance the faces – and make them brighter or darker or more colorful or less colorful. We can push the colors very strongly. Or dimish the colors all the way to black and white. We can add grain. We can bloom or overexpose the whites. Pretty much we can do anything we want to with the image as long as the original film negative has been properly exposed so that we have the information on it that we need.

GB: What are all the colors and hues you have control over?

SO: Well, first of all black, white - which is called gain - and greys, which is called gamma. But within each of these I have control over the dark blacks, the mid-range blacks and the high blacks – and the same for white and grey.

With color I have the main colors, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan. But I can also combine and control every combination of these colors.

I can also control “hue”, which is a way of describing the degree to which a color sits on any object within the frame. I can diminish the hue and make the color very faint or I can increase it and make it very strong. I can make a color “deep,” “bright” or “devalued.”

I can also control the luminance of every color – which means how bright or dim that color is.

Then, by using windows and power windows (which can move throughout the shot) I can isolate certain sections of the shot and alter these colors and hues any way I want within a certain section of the shot only.

GB: And, since you are working on the show shot by shot, how many shots or edits are there to deal with in a given episode of HEROES?

SO: To give you a place of comparison, when I was on CROSSING JORDAN – it would average six hundred to seven hundred cuts perepisode. HEROES, in season one had about nine hundred shots on average. Last week’s episode, episode 14, had one thousand and fifty eight shots – a new record!

GB: So, besides volume, what makes HEROES different than most shows?

SO: First of all, HEROES has a different writing style. It’s a story-based series where everything ties in from episode #1 right up to the present. It’s also a very visual show. You, the producers, and also the directors and most specifically the directors of photography shoot the show in a unique and specific way in order to tell the ongoing stories. It has a lot of different looks. For instance, in the beginning New York is always cool, Texas is always gold, California is always warm and colorful, in this weeks episode there is a device in which Nathan is on the phone that frames the whole story. The goal of that one part was to make it edgy and uncomfortable, in those scenes we pulled out color, added grain, added contrast and made the whites and highlights bloom and halite.

HEROES is also global it takes place in India and Japan and Haiti and Russia and each of those places has a look. Next week there is a big sequence in India with very bright colors in the sets and wardrobe. There the goal was to maximize and saturate the color but still to not oversaturate the flesh-tones of the faces.

Most shows on TV have one look which they want continuity with. On HEROES the look is always changing and evolving. But there are also ongoing stories that have to have a continuity of look – some of which go back to the first episode.

This is why it’s so much fun to work on.

GB: It seems that some aspects of your job are creative and some are technical. I guess that’s how it is with my job too, or anyone’s job on the show.

SO: You’re right. The creative is to establish a look. The technical is to keep that look consistent from shot to shot and show-to-show. First I watch the scene and see how you or Allan or whoever the director of the week was shot it. Then I study how the DP’s lit it. Sometimes they give me notes of what they are going for. If not, I try to interpret what is right emotionally. If it’s a pre-established look I’ll go back to when it was established. If not I’ll start right then and there. I always start with the widest shot, or the master and establish the key look. Then I go into all the shots and make them match that.

GB: Now we have two different director of photography’s on our show. We need two to just keep up with the schedule. But does that create any challenges for you?

SO: Challenges? No. I love collaborating with both Nate and Charlie. They both do great work for the show and both are working toward the established “look” of the show. But, yes they do expose their film differently – so I have to adjust to each of their styles.

What can be challenging is, if within one episode say Nate shot most of it, but Charlie ends up shooting a day or two of second unit – then their styles get intermixed and that is an adjustment I have to make.

GB: One catchphrase I’ve come up with is that Nate lights the spaces and Charlie lights the faces. It seems to me that Charlie really concentrates on the faces of the actors and he lets the sets fall off around them. Everything draws the eye to the key figure in the frame. Nate comes from a much more naturalistic point of view. He creates, in his mind, a logical pattern for how the light would enter and play within a space and he lets the sectors move through that space, letting the light play as it would upon them.

SO: That sounds about right. Charlie does a lot of mood lighting. He lights with certain kinds of fill lights and certain kinds of key lights. Nate does something different. He has a lot of foreground light. But they both have great styles and in the end it all ends up being pretty much the same as the HEROES look. I try to make it work within the established look and balance it all out.

GB: And how did you come to the HEROES team after all?

SO: Really through Lori Motyer (the Producer who’s in charge of post production). She and I had worked on a couple of pilots together and a feature called CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES, she brought me aboard CROSSING JORDAN and I’ve been with that team, ever since.

GB: Well I can tell that you really enjoy your work.

SO: I do. I really do.

GB: Thanks for the interview. Any last words?

SO: No. Just that I do really enjoy the show and working with Lori and you and the DP’s and the whole team. Everyone is great. It is really creative and I feel I have the freedom to get creative and to really be part of HEROES. And I really do feel like I’m part of it. So thank you.

That’s it for our interview with Scott. And now….

LE PICTURES:


ON SET WITH MR. ARKUSH AND MR VERHEIDEN


OUR DIGNIFIED DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN


MSSRS ARKUSH AND PASDAR


ALLAN ARKUSH HAS A PASSION FOR NOODLES


FAN FAVORITE MARK VERHEIDEN


OUR COLOR TIMER SCOTT OSTROWSKY


SCOTT AT WORK


SCOTT PUTS A WINDOW AROUND HAYDEN


HAYDEN AND JACK – WAITING TO GO IN


BREA GRANT TALES A PICTURE OF ME TAKING A PICTURE OF HER (IT’S PROBABLY ON HER BLOG SOMEWHERE?)


NATE GOODMAN IN TOYKYO


ZACH Q ON SET


ALI AND I


ALLAN AND SCRIPT SUPERVISOR VAL NORMAN


HAYDEN TO ZELJKO – WHAT’S A TEN LETTER WORD FOR BAD-ASS ASSASSIN?

Monday, February 02, 2009

BEEMAN’S BLOG - SEASON 3 - EPISODE 14

“A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER”

WELCOME BACK AFTER A LONG HIATUS – AND REMEMBER SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN

Tonight’s episode was written by Tim Kring and was directed by Greg Yaitanes.

Hello loyal fans and welcome back after 6 long weeks off the air. As we’ve discussed before – the network plans these mid-winter breaks long in advance. First of all, less people watch TV in December and January, and the break is necessary in order to allow us to catch up. Every HEROES episode takes more or less 10 working days to produce, plus a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks to post-produce. Some shows, like “24” and “LOST” have chosen to delay airing until after January in order to run all of their episodes in sequence. We (and NBC) have chosen to premiere in the traditional late-September spot – run thirteen episodes in a row (which, believe me, is hard enough) – and then have a second (almost) continuous run of 12 more until late-April.

Tim Kring has chosen to deal with these inevitable mid-season interruptions by dividing the show up into separate Volumes. Episodes 1 thru 13 of this season were, as we know, entitled “VILLIANS” and this volume will be called “FUGITIVES.” As you may remember, the final scene of episode 13, technically, began this volume. In it, Nathan went to the President of the USA and told him about the “Specials” and asked for a special force, he felt was needed, in order to round them up.

Tim was looking to re-direct the show in several ways with this new story arc. First, the goal was to re-set our HEROES in a way that is more human and earthbound. He sets the episode 6 weeks into the future since the last time we saw them. Each of them has returned to a version of their "normal" life - even though we may not know how they got there. This mystery is part of the fun. Tim also wanted to separate them from each other. He wanted to diminish their powers, especially as regards our two most powerful characters Hiro and Peter. And he then wanted to rip them away from their newfound normalcy and put them into continuous jeopardy by having them pursued and hunted by a new threat which uses tactics that are more aggressive and less forgiving than those imposed by the former “Company.”

Greg Yaitanes, now doing his fourth episode for us, was tapped to direct this one. (Interestingly, Allan Arkush was originally scheduled to do episode 14 and Yaitanes was going to do ep 15. But Yaitanes had complications with his very booked-up schedule. Allan, manfully, took one for the team, and swapped episodes with Greg.)

Tim very much wanted to find a new/additional look for this episode to signify the new direction he was taking the show in. There were many meetings about this – but the obvious choice was to use a combination of hand held camera, long lenses, obscured foregrounds, jump cuts and no stage-line (more about stage line in a moment.) This kind of look has been used in movies like THE BOURNE IDENTITY and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. It is also something we had been doing from the beginning, but always as a spice and not as the main course. This look suits this storyline because it creates a visceral, documentary-like vibe. The jump cuts and line crosses create tension. And the long lenses through lots of foreground create a sense of voyeurism and observation. All of these elements really suited this story and this look will be used extensively (but not exclusively) in this volume.

Now, gentle readers, on to "stage-line." The stage-line is a rather complex concept that I'll be able to describe here only in the briefest way. (If you're really interested buy any basic book on directing for film or TV.) When filming a scene there is an imaginary line created between any two actors in that scene. Imagine a scene viewed in overhead, say, between Ali Larter and Adrian Pasdar. The stage-line connects them down the center of their bodies. If, in the "master angle," (or widest shot) Adrian is looking left to Ali and Ali is looking right to Adrian - then, as the director proceeds with the scene - he or she must make sure that EVERY shot has Ali looking right and Adrian looking left. If in, say, a closeup this line is crossed then Ali might end up looking to the right of frame and Adrian would also end up looking to the right. This would create, in the viewer, an undesired dis-orientation for a few moments. It would "feel" wrong. Now the stage-line concept gets much more complex than this, because there are stage lines between every character in a scene and as the characters move the stage lines move. Trust me, the stage line concept is an ABC of film-making. I have been on many sets that have ground to a stop as the director, the script supervisor and the director of photography discuss whether a stage-line mistake has been made. If a director gets way behind in his or her schedule - one of the easiest tricks is to lock the actors down, and keep the stage lines simple. The math just adds up to less shots overall.

Anyway - in the style chosen for this episode - the stage line is PURPOSEFULLY crossed all the time. The characters are always jumping the line and looking the wrong direction - and the designed intention of this is to create tension in the viewer. As with all rules, one needs to understand the proper implementation of the rule before one can feel secure breaking it. And it needs to be broken aggressively - not piecemeal. I think Yaitanes and Nate Goodman did an excellent job in this regard..

The mis-conception is that this style is faster to shoot or easier to design. It IS actually faster and easier to do a sloppy version of this style. But to do it right takes coordination and planning - because this style also requires a lot more shots and angles than usual. The key is that, even though more shots and cuts are required – we still have to make sure to be in the right place emotionally at the right time. So strategic close-ups have to be filmed also. And – of course – the beautiful lighting that HEROES has become known for also can’t be sacrificed.

Greg and (our Director of Photography) Nate Goodman really talked through the shots they wanted to get in detail. Two cameras were used almost all the time. And on the shooting days, Greg maintained a discipline of doing only one or two takes of almost every angle. For him, it was more important to “move on” and get another shot than to make perfect the one shot he was working on at the time. Of course, during the course of the scene, he was crafting and perfecting performance and pace as always – but he was also cognizant that this style is largely dependant on discovering the structure of the scenes in the cutting room.

Speaking of editors, Lois Blumenthal, who recently moved up from assistant editor, is cutting her second episode with this one. I think she did a great job, and this was reinforced by the voluminous e-mails that flew around between all of us producers after seeing the “directors cut” (which is the first cut we see) including one’s that said “great” “fantastic” and “All we have to do is get it to time and ‘ship it!!’”)

Of course, one of the biggest projects in the episode was the sequence where all the heroes are captured and loaded onto a military transport plane, which later has a hole blown open in it resulting in all manner of chaos.

There are two parts to this sequence. The exterior sequence, where the plane takes off, and the interior of the plane where all the action takes place. We used two types of planes for this sequence. A C-123 for the exterior plane taking off on location, and a C-130 for the cockpit work we shot here in our parking lot. Now obtaining and shooting a whole type C-123 plane is easier said than done. Our line producer, Jim Chory, looked far and wide and found one finally from a private vendor based out of Arizona.

At first we were going to film the exterior scenes at the Ontario airport. This location was looked at by our scouts and thoroughly scouted by Greg Yaitanes and our crew several times. Then, as things tend to go, a couple of days before filming, that airport fell out. Ontario is very busy and getting the clearance to land this big beast of a military plane and control the runway for an entire day and night became impossible. With just two days to go before filming had to commence we were without a location for our major set piece. There was a scramble and we found a second possibility. This was the Chino Hills Airport in Chino, California. This was a much smaller place and also much farther away. It was over a two-hour drive for our cast and crew. It took an entire day of prep and an all nighter to film the scenes and this was all done on Halloween!! There must have been some Halloween celebrations going on in the area, because, if you look carefully in the background of one shot (one where the hooded specials are being led out of the hanger to the plane) you can see fireworks. Now Chino is a fine town, and I don’t disparage it… But, besides working all night on All Hallows Eve, the cast in crew was very happy to be breathing in the deep smell of cow dung, which permeated the air all night. It was a good time!

The interior of the plane was also a major set. The first path we went down was to consider shooting the interior of the plane practically. But this became untenable for many reasons. One, it meant renting the expensive plane for several more days. Two, in order to light it meant we would have had to crane it into a controllable warehouse space. Three, the walls would have all been solid and the space is only ten feet wide – so it would have been almost impossible to get any angles over our characters. Four – there was no way, in the real plane, to do the sequence where the plane wall freezes and breaks out…

So… we decide to build it. But this had it’s own set of problems for our production designer Ruth Ammon and her art department team. First of all an airplane is a set that involves numerous compound curves. These are easier to deal with when constructing out of metal (as a real plane would)… But for speed and cost we had to build out of wood. The design of this involved a lot of design complications as well as carpentry complications. Also, from a painting point of view, we had to paint wood to look like metal – which is trickier than it sounds. Walls had to be designed to be “wild” (meaning they come in and out easily) and we had to design one wall to be frozen and broken so that it could swap out easily with the pre-frozen wall. AND… The whole thing had to be built in seven days.

One note – the cockpit of the plane (where Claire discovers HRG as the co-pilot) was not built. It was a C-130 that we rented and set up in our parking lot. These shots were done first, over a week before the rest of the plane sequence.

This is, in my humble opinion, a really fun sequence. It is an unusual sequence for us in that it is quite lengthy with almost all of our principle characters in one place. It is an elaborate sequence that required a lot of design and planning all at our usual very fast pace. It was also a sequence that seemed to be a lot of fun for our cast. They don’t usually all get to work together. Usually they are all off on their own stories, overlapping each other’s story arcs just once in a while. But for a whole night, they all got to hang out. Our cast really does like each other, and it was a very fun and happy vibe on set that day.

One last thing – I’d like to tip my hat to Tim Gilbert, our stunt coordinator – who, along with his team, recently won the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series. Tim has been with us since season two and he and his team do a great job. They make the many complex things we do look easy. This sequence is a good example of why.

OK, that’s it for now. On to the pictures. Thank you fans for sticking with us. And I will speak to you again NEXT WEEK!!!!!

THE PICTURES:


GREG Y ON SET


DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN


THE GANGS ALL HERE


STRAPPIN’ IN


ALI LARTER PREPARES FOR LIFTOFF


GREG GRUNBERG FEARS MOTION SICKNESS


HAYDEN AND GREG G BETWEEN TAKES


MASI AND FIRST A.D. ROBERT SCOTT


MILO HELPS OUT HIS FELLLOW PASSENGERS


SENDHIL ON SET


GREG YAITANES STUDIES THE MONITOR


MASI ON SET


ASSITANT DIRECTOR ROBERT SCOTT SUGGEST BETTER USE OF MY TIME THEN STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SET TAKING PICTURES