SALVATION – A RETURN TO THE PAST FOR YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER
EXTREME WARNING!!!! SPOILERS ARE PRESENT!!! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE SPOILERS!!!!
Hello Loyal Readers –
(I'm not sure how many of you are still out there) It's been a long time since I posted. I started MELROSE PLACE last year, and, at first I was planning to do the blogging thing the same way I had on HEROES with pictures and weekly updates. But as I was directing the first episode and snapping pix - I just vibed it out and it didn't feel right.
Don't get me wrong. MELROSE PLACE, for me, was a great experience. I took the gig for many reasons personal and professional - not the least of which was that, in looking for a job last year I kept getting the feedback - "But he's the guy that does SCI-FI/superhero/action shows." That got me nervous because, I've found that, for career longevity, it's important, from time to time, to shift up what you are perceived as being able to do.
Anyway – MELROSE PLACE was a great experience. It kept me in town with my family for a year. The show's creator’s Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (who I knew from SMALLVILLE) were fantastic to me. I felt respected and listened to always. The whole writing staff, many of who came from SMALLVILLE, were a dream. I loved my line producer Lisa Cochran. I loved the crew we put together, many of whom I'd worked with in the past on other projects. Notably, my old pal, Director of Photography, Chris Faloona, and the production designer CeCe DeStafano were just great. I also REALLY loved the cast. All of them were receptive and brave and open and great fun to work with. The execs at CBS/Paramount and the execs at the CW were incredibly supportive. So, all in all, it was a dream cast and crew and we had a really good time every day. I was treated with great respect and my opinions were highly valued - so it was all good. I wish the ratings were better of course, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
But, of course, I didn't continue the blog. It was still here just dormant. I kind of forgot about it - but when I went back I realized that just letting your blog sit there is kind of like not mowing your lawn. All sorts of weird spam grows like weeds in the comment section. Korean lettered spam and bizarre - "I-found-your-blog-quite-informative-so-please-log-onto-this-erectile-dysfunction-websight" spam. It's weird for me because I'm, basically, a private person. The blog was created as a behind the scenes for HEROES. That made sense. But after HEROES it made no sense to me to, like, update you guys on my life and deep thoughts and whatever...
But now I've got some things I DO think are worth updating you about. First off - I directed tonight’s episode of SMALLVILLE – The Season finale’. That’s the main thing I want to write about tonight but there is other big news in my life as well…
As it turns out that, at least for now, they ARE still making sci-fi/action shows and I’ve just landed on one that’s a gem. It’s a TNT show, currently being called “Untitled Steven Spielberg Alien Invasion drama.” I hope that’s not the final title – but it does kind of tell you what it’s all about. Anyway – it stars Noah Wylye, (formerly of E.R) and Moon Bloodgood (of Terminator Salvation.) I’ll go into more about it in the future, as this show definitely does seem blogworthy. For today suffice it to say – it’s cool as hell, it’s stylistically and tonally quite different from anything I’ve done up to now… and it’s Steven Spielberg. I actually met him for the first time the other day to discuss the show. This was incredibly exciting for me. I was chill though, after all we had business to discuss and his time was quite short. Nevertheless it was a very exciting moment. All signs are that TNT and Dreamworks are very classy and supportive organizations. But – as I said – more to come on this.
The main thing I want to write about tonight is “SALVATION” – the SMALLVILLE season 9 finale.
First off – I need to thank Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson for making this happen. They were really kind to offer me the episode, and my main concern was to not let them down.
The events leading up to this were bittersweet. It began at a funeral. Rob Maier is one of SMALLVILLE’S most important people. He began on the pilot as the construction coordinator, became at one time its art director and production designer and eventually he became a producer. As of next season Rob will be (I believe) the only person on the show, besides Tom Welling, who has been there full-time from the pilot on. He doesn’t get a lot of press and the fans, I’m sure, don’t know enough about him, but trust me – he is the heart of the show. At times, he has carried SMALLVILLE on his back almost single-handedly. Anyway – he is a great man and a great friend, and very sadly last fall, Sandy, his wife of many years passed on. I hadn’t been to Vancouver in four years but when I heard this news, I knew I had to return. I went to the funeral, which was simultaneously a very sad and very joyous occasion.
For myself, I remembered how much I truly love SMALLVILLE and the people who make it. It is, without a doubt, the project closest to my heart. Anyway, I got it in my head that I needed to come back, at least one more time. I did the math, and realized that, even if MELROSE PLACE went a full season, I’d be available to come back for the finale. At that time it seemed likely that Season 9 would be the last – and so I put the bug in James Marshall’s ear. He moved things forward, and eventually, Kelly and Brian made it happen.
Believe it or not, I was a little nervous going back. I hadn’t been keeping up with the show the last couple of years – and when I started reviewing the episodes I was very impressed how, despite significant budget cuts, the show had maintained an excellent look and feel. The stories are great. And I got right back into it as a fan!
Well, I went to Vancouver and was treated like a king. Everyone was so kind to me, and gave me so much credit for helping to launch the whole enterprise. I was especially proud of James Marshall. His first work on SMALLVILLE was as second unit director early on in season one. I guess he became my protégé, for lack of a better description. And now he has blossomed and really runs the show very smoothly.
Tom Welling has matured and grown so much – especially behind the scenes.
Erica Durance has also grown. I take special pride with her, because I feel instrumental in having cast her. The rest of the regulars came with the pilot, which I wasn’t involved in. But, when we were looking for a Lois, I saw this roughly put together audition on VHS and I remember calling Al and Miles and saying “Hey, guys, check out this gal from Vancouver. I think she’s really got something.” Erica and I have always been bonded. We stay in touch a little. She is sweet and gung-ho and I love her.
Also, Alison Mack. It was amazing to see her again. She was just a girl of 18 or 19 when the show began. Now she is a woman, so mature and together. I am crazy about her as an actress, from the very beginning she was together and committed in her performances and that hasn't waned one bit. As a person she is big-hearted and fun to be around.
It's funny but AFTER 9 years on the SMALLVILLE set is a happy place to be!
I don’t know what else to say – it’ll just be a laundry list of gratitude and happy memories.
I guess I should say a few words about the actual episode and the behind-the-scenes of it all.
The script was written by my friends Al Septien and Turi Meyer. I knew both of these all-around great gentlemen before SMALLVILLE. My kids went to school with Al's kids - and when we were hiring new writers in (I believe) season 3 or 4 I got their scripts in Miles and Al's hands. The rest is history. We are good friends socially and have worked side-by-side but this was the first time I've ever directed a script of theirs. In fact, I'm going to Al's house tonight for dinner and to watch the finished project for the first tim. I'm excited (partly because Al's wife is an AMAZING cook)
It was for me, an interesting experience because I truly was just a visiting director. On my last three shows I was there day-to-day as director and executive producer. And, even with all my history on SMALLVILLE, I’d lost touch over the years. In the weeks leading up to doing the episode I had to quickly catch up on where the series was at – Oliver Queen, Tess, Zod were all new to me and I had to get up to speed on their characters and arcs.
Brian Peterson did something really nice – he took time out of his busy schedule to write a document that laid out where everyone had been and what they’d done since episode 100, which was effectively my last episode. (I actually worked pretty hard on episode 101 too as producer – but the 100th episode with the death of Jonathan Kent was the last one I directed.)
Frankly, I thought it would be easier. The technical aspects of the show were the same as ever - but I had to work pretty hard to get my head around some of the emotional/character ones - Especially as regards the Chloe-Clark relationship, the new Clark-Lois-Blur relationship and Tess.
Interestingly, the scenes that open the show (The ones where we see Lois in the future and where Clark gets the mysterious package from Martha) were not originally in the episode. The show opened with Lois meeting Zod.
Throughout prep, something felt wrong about this. It wasn’t really Clark’s story enough – It was too much Zod’s story. As we were going through the usual VFX meetings and production design meetings, this issue kept coming up. Finally, and it was just a day or two before we started shooting Brian called me on the phone one day and pitched this new opening. I was thrilled. It is certainly and “event” moment. I could immediately envision how to shoot it – even from just hearing it described. When ideas “shoot themselves” for me in this way it is usually a good sign. I think Brian and Kelly had imagined this scene opening season 10 – but they must have come to a place of “What the heck – we’ll just have to figure out a new great idea for next year and make use of the great idea we have now for now!”
The big project on this episode was the final sequence between Zod and Clark. From the time Clark arrives on the rooftop, through the Kandorians arriving and the Book of Rao placed in the dais and the fight and the rain and Clark getting stabbed and dying and Zod flying away (I TOLD YOU NOT TO READ IF YOU DIDN’T WANT TO HEAR SPOILERS!!!!) was all one long sequence.
In the original draft this was set on the Rao Tower, which was mostly destroyed from when Clark heat-visioned it in an earlier episode. James Philpot had some excellent designs for this set – but it was quite large and expensive and it would have meant renting a whole new stage space at great expense. Two or three days of prep were spent exploring this, until we finally came around to the idea of making the scene happen on the gargoyle rooftop, which The Blur uses as his perch. But even this was a lot of work. The gargoyle rooftop was just a very small set that had been used for limited shots. So a new set had to be created that expanded upon the smaller one. It was built on one of SMALLVILLE’S many stages and surrounded by hundreds of feet of green screen. It was a huge engineering achievement that was thrown together in just a couple of weeks. Standing on that set, which was fifty by a hundred feet, surrounded by 30 foot high and two hundred feet of green screen, was pretty impressive. What the SMALLVILLE team accomplishes on a weekly basis is really quite amazing.
I had a lot of fun with Cassidy Freeman by the way. We had met once before. It was at the premiere party for MELROSE PLACE. She was there with Kelly Souders (I think) and someone introduced me “This is Greg Beeman.” She, basically, screamed and jumped into my arms with a big hug. It was a bit of a surprise, since I’d never met her, but I went with it! So we hugged and she was screaming and I twirled her around a few times (Film business people are passionate people!) I’m not quite sure why she was so excited to meet me, but hey! For some reason my legend has grown large since I departed Vancouver. I think perhaps larger than is realistic, but, anyway – they remember me fondly there and I guess Cassidy had heard the many stories of “Beeman” and – well, there you go. Anyway she is a hoot. She is a hard worker and up for anything. When it came time to kick Zods ass with kryptonite brass knuckles, or spend hours getting gooey burn makeup applied – or die in a hospital bed – she wanted to do it all!
Erica also loved playing the future incarnation of Lois. We talked a lot about how and where Lois would be, several years in the future after she had fully become the classic character. I wanted to invoke the energy that Richard Donner had put into the original movie. That film was done before the invention of the stedicam, and in several places he did long dolly/tracking shots with lots of energy and pace of dialogue in the Daily Planet scenes. I tried to do the same thing. I used dolly only not stedicam and moved with Lois as she traveled the newspaper offices. I kept pacing her up and making her snappier. At the top of the stairs I had one of the day players add-lib “Look Up In The Sky” to invoke the classic line (Truthfully, I haven’t seen the final cut – visiting directors don’t get that privilege – I assume Brian and Kelly kept that line in, but I also did a version without that line and I realize, as I write, that I’m not 100 percent sure what’s in tonight’s episode. I guess I’ll find out along with you when I watch it.)
Then there was the big Clark-Lois kiss scene. This was huge. But the scene itself was fraught with peril. On the first night we went to film this scene - and this is obviously a big deal scene - Lois kisses "The Blur" and realizes that Blurry = Clark. Well that night there was a howling wind and a pouring rain and it was soooo cold. And I was in deep dismay and so, I think, was Kelly Souders, who was there. And I was thinking "Crap we're not getting this scene due to the fact that Erica is laying in freezing cold blizzard water (among other things) But, thankfully, the wind howeld so strongly that it started to destroy the set and we had to stop for safety reasons... God must be a SMALLVILLE fan because he shut us down that night and we had to return to the scene when we were better prepared! A week later we came back and re-filmed it and (I think) it is all good!
And FINALLY – I want to tip my hat to Tom Welling who has grown and matured so much since I last worked with him. During the whole of the production of this episode he was also producing the pilot to his new series HELLCATS. And he really was producing it too! As of this moment the show looks very likely to be on CW’s slate next year. That’s an amazing feat. Tom is a true go-getter and I’m quite proud of him.
Ah – so that’s it. Too bad I didn’t know about blogs back in my SMALLVILLE days - it would have been fun to do this every week. But, I WILL keep you all posted as to my new show and maybe the Beeman Blog can grow big and strong again!!!
But, today I concentrate on saying “thanks” And it was nice to be able to go home again, and now I look forward to the future and yet another new show.
Hopefully some of you will join me there.
All the best,
ME AND MY KIDS WHO ARE NOW "ALL GROWD UP"
TOM WELLING, KELLY SOUDERS
ME DRESSED FOR TYPICAL CANADIAN WEATHER... "DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT?"
ERICA WITH HER HAIR PREPPED FOR 'FROZEN TIME"
ERICA JUST HANGING AROUND
ME AND ERICA DURANCE AS FUTURE SARAH PALIN... ER, EH... I MEAN FUTURE LOIS!
TOM AND ERICA JOKE AROUND BETWEEN TAKES AS ERICA RESTS ON HER "FROZEN TIME RIG"
THE MAN HIMSELF - ROB MAIER
MAIRZEE ALMAS - MY BELOVED A.D. AND NOW A FULL-TIME SMALLVILLE DIRECTOR
BARRY DUNLEAVY DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
ME DIRECTING ON SET
CASSIDY FREEMAN GLOWS GREEN
CASSIDY TO TOM "IS THERE SOMETHING ON MY FACE?"
CASSIDY'S FACE GOO IS ACTUALLY MADE FROM A NUTRITIOUS JELLO-BASED PRODUCT
MY OLD PAL JUSTIN HARTLEY FROM "AQUAMAN"
ALISON AND JUSTIN REHEARSE IN THE NEW (FOR ME) WATCHTOWER SET
TOM AND ERICA
TOM AND I ON THE NEW (FOR ME) METROPOLOIS STREET SET
TW ERICA & I
KELLY SOUDERS, ALISON MACK AND I
MAIRZEE GIVES ALISON A HUG AFTER HER LAST SCENE OF THE SEASON!