Monday, April 04, 2011

SMALLVILLE: A REMINISSANCE


SMALLVILLE: A REMINISSANCE


The fact that SMALLVILLE is ending next week has me thinking. So, I thought I’d write about how it began for me. I know… I hope you'll forgive me if I reminisce about the past .

For SMALLVILLE, as with any project that achieves greatness – whether it be in the world of television, film, the arts, sports, and probably even politics and finance – A lot of people and elements have to come together just right. When this happens it can feel that there are outside forces drawing things together at just the right time and to just the right place. And this was definitely the case with this series.

With this show, there was already an amazing pilot and the series was already up and running by the time I got there in 2001. Peter Roth, the president of Warner Brothers Television, is an incredibly passionate man. He had been really wanting to do a “Young Superman” series. Peter Roth’s passion was really the fuel that drove SMALLVILLE to its heights – especially in the early years. Most of you know the history of this - how Peter had brought in Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins to develop a young Bruce Wayne show and when that fell apart the idea evolved to make it young Superman. So they brought in a number of writers to pitch concepts. Al Gough and Miles Millar had been one of several – but they were the ones with a brilliant and original take on the material. They’re concept has been documented as “No flights/No tights” – a version which insisted on developing Clark Kent before he had glasses and the suit.

But, for me, their most exceptional idea was that Kal-El’s spaceship came to Earth hidden in the kryptonite meteor shower, which was the destroyed remnants of Krypton. Besides the authentic teen emotion, the concept that the kryptonite rocks could mutate people into super-powered freaks based on their psychology, was what made the series work. I know a lot of fans complained about the “freak of the week” aspect to the early seasons – but any TV show needs a motor to run on – and this was SMALLVILLE’s

David Nutter, who directed the awesome pilot, also had a major hand in the series. Maybe most importantly, as Miles and Al explained to me – he pursued Tom Welling very aggressively. Tom, apparently, had concerns about playing Superman. And Mr. Nutter, as I’m told, really convinced him to do the part.

So – now to me – It was August of 2001. I had just gotten back from Australia, where I had directed a movie for The Disney Channel, entitled A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT. This movie starred a very young Mischa Barton and had been a very wonderful experience for me. I had loved Australia and had loved the movie, which was very spiritual and special to me. BUT, I was burned out on travelling and was really looking forward to being home with my young family the following year.

In fact - I was very happy with the year I had booked. I had, kind of reached a nice zenith from the point of view of being an episodic television director. I was scheduled to direct episodes in every genre and on every network. I was going to direct JAG for CBS, NYPD BLUE for ABC and MALCOM IN THE MIDDLE for FOX. I was going to direct PROVIDENCE for NBC and my agent was suggesting that I direct this new series SMALLVILLE for the WB. I had no idea what SMALLVILLE was, but I knew it shot in Vancouver, Canada. Every other show I was doing was in Los Angeles, where I live. But my agent compelled me it was a great series and I should at least look at the pilot.

When I popped the VHS tape in my deck at home, (this was back in the VHS days) I had no idea at all of what the show was. I didn’t even know the topic. I’m kind of like that -- pretty out of it. I’m sure all of Hollywood knew exactly what SMALLVILLE was – it was being really hyped up within the industry. But I had been in Australia for months and had no idea.

So I’m watching – and the show begins with some guy named Lionel and a kid named Lex riding around in a helicopter. It means nothing to me – but I recognize John Glover. I love his work. He lived in my neighborhood and I’d seen him from time to time in the supermarket and I’d been trying to work up the guts to approach him and tell him how amazing he was in 52-PICKUP, but I hadn’t done so yet. (If any of you have never seen 52-PICKUP, do so – Glover is the most evil bad guy ever – he outbeats Darth Vader – and he has one of the most intense, horrifying scenes ever in it)

Then there are some scenes of a couple riding around in a pickup truck. A little girl named Lana, and so on. But still I’m not getting the bigger context. (And, remember, I’m a big comic book fan.)

Then - this meteor shower starts, and the town starts blowing up - which is big and cool, and I like it. Then this goofy red-haired kid ends up in the cornfield, there’s this rush of wind and he’s knocked back and John Glover runs over and there’s this big crane up and John Glover’s yelling “Lex, Lex!!!” and the red-haired kid is now bald. And THEN it FINALLY hits me! “Holy sh*t,” I say out loud to myself, “this is Superman!”

So now I want to do it.

A week or so later I meet with Miles and Al and a big friendly guy named Joe Davola, who is a producer who works with Tollin/Robbins, and I interview to direct an episode. I knew Miles and Al and had worked with them a couple of times before. Joe is super enthusiastic. The interview goes well and they want me to commit to direct two episodes. (They were booking all the directors for two.) I let my agent know, I love the show, I definitely want to do it - but I’m not going to Vancouver twice. If they want me – tell them I’ll only do one episode. So that play works out for me - and they book me for one. It’s still more than a month away, and I’ve got a couple of other things to do first - so I kind of forget all about it.

A few weeks later it’s time to go – I get a script delivered on my doorstep the night before I leave and I read it on the plane. (This may sound weird to people – but in TV it’s common that you really don’t even know what the topic of the episode your doing will be until your already started) So, I’m on the plane reading the script and the script is crazy. It’s about this football coach – who, whenever he gets angry, lights things on fire. And there is A LOT of fire. He gets mad at the team and fire shoots out of water sprinklers, numerous people burn up, a car explodes almost killing the principle and the part I really remember is when Chloe is investigating the coach her office lights on fire and then she runs out into the hall and the script says something like “A living breathing column of fire chases her down the hall, roiling up the walls and up over the ceiling.” OK - I know from experience that fire is not easy. And I’m thinking – “This is the biggest freaking TV script I’ve ever read in my life.”

The funny thing is when I get to the production offices and meet the line producer he says, “Finally, we have a script we can actually produce.”

Anyway – to make a long story short - the series was kind of in chaos back in those early days. It's pretty common for first year shows to take some time to get on their feet - but SMALLVILLE's aspirations were just SO big - there were so many stunts - so much action - so many sets and so many complex sequences - that, at first, no one had a firm handle on how to actually get the show shot in the time and budget alotted.

As they say, though, in crisis is opportunity - and this was certainly the case for me. Now Miles and Al, Peter Roth, Joe Davola, Tollin Robbins, etc. all had a very clear idea of what they wanted the show to be, and the pilot provided the tonal template - but, let's face it, the pilot was friggin' gigantic. The trick was how do do it EVERY week. For some reason, as soon as I arrived, I felt oddly calm. I really felt I understood the tone of the show. I felt like I knew how it should look and how to shoot it efficiently. I felt comfortable with Miles and Al. I was thrilled by how actively the studio and network were supporting the show. And I felt like I knew how to make the show week-to-week and that I could teach others how to do so. I saw there was a need and I began to desire to fill it.

For whatever reason my mental attitude shifted from not wanting to go to Vancouver to REALLY wanting to get on this show. A key moment for me was one night in my hotel room there was a knock on my door and a p.a. handed me a VHS of episode 2, METAMORPHOSIS. I have no idea why he gave that to me. I had nothing to do with episode 2. But, I also had nothing else to do that night so I popped it in and watched it. There were scenes still missing, temp music no visual effects - it wasn’t complete – but I knew it was GREAT. Of course the pilot was great, but they had spent a lot of time and money on that. When I saw that the series was going to be great this weird feeling came over me – I started to think that maybe I could and should could get on the show full time. (And this is what I mean by forces coming together that seem beyond the norm.)

I called my wife in Los Angeles, and I said “Honey I have this crazy idea. The good news is I think I can get on this show full time as a producer/director. I think if I do, it will change my career forever. The bad news it means that we’ll all have to move to Canada.” There was a long pause and she said, “Well… How much do you like the show?" Then I gushed - “I F*ing love it. It’s great! I REALLY want to do this.” And then my wife – and I really love her for this said… “Sh*t. Then it’s going to be a hit. Whenever you really love something it’s always a hit.”

Now I don’t mean any of this to be self-serving and I’m not sure if my beautiful wife is right about my instincts… But she DID say it and she was right.

Anyway – I started to develop a fiendish plan to lobby to stay to get on the show full time – I started dropping hints with Al and Miles about how much I loved it on the show – and I did the same with Joe Davola and Lisa Lewis the Warner Brother’s production executive.

(Sidebar – Lisa Lewis is an unsung, un-credited behind-the-scenes secret weapon of the show. She was there from day one of the pilot through the last episode. Her job, ostensibly, is to keep the show on track financially for Warner Brothers, but she does SO much more than that. She loves SMALLVILLE as much as anyone and fought for it over and over again. MANY times, when all hope was lost - she'd come up with a plan to pull out the scene, the episode, and sometimes the whole series... I’m sure she never gets nearly the credit she deserves for the show’s lasting success.)

Eventually the fiendish plan worked... And sometimes I'd regret it.... That first year on SMALLVILLE was soooo hard that it almost killed me. (I distinctly remember driving home one Saturday morning at about 8AM after having worked 24 straight hours – and calculating how long it was until my next teleconference meeting and I realized – “Oh my god – I’m going to get SIX WHOLE HOURS OF SLEEP!!!!” I was pumping my fist with joy because I’d been going on 2 or 3 hours of sleep for weeks at that time.

Those were crazy days – we were all killing ourselves. And no one more so than Tom Welling – He was young but he was working fourteen to sixteen hours a day. Remember, back then he was in almost every scene – And to get the workload done we added a second unit (A BIG second unit) that would shoot two or three days a week. A lot of times Tom would shoot a full twelve hour day with the main unit and then drive to the second unit to work for another four or five hours.

It was nuts. But it was good. I think we all knew we were working on something very special.

Thankfully Warner Brothers let us ride through those crazy days - they increased the budget a little and we started writing scripts that were a bit more manageable. Also, bit by bit, we began to put together the right crew. The goal was to staff SMALLVILLE with people who were not only talented, but were upbeat positive and desirous of doing great work. Most of the people on the show today have been there since the end of season one/beginning of season two - although many have moved up through the ranks of their department as the years went by. About halfway through the first season (around episode 13 or 14) we were running much more smoothly. In Season two the production aspects of SMALLVILLE became a well-oiled machine and, while the show never became exactly "easy" to produce - a strong system of how we made it and what it looked and felt like came into being.

This was all helped by the fact that SMALLVILLE was an immediate hit. There was a glowing New York Times article that gave us credibility and we had a fan base for Superman that came and never left. Even in our Season-One punch drunk and exhausted state this was heady and exciting stuff. And season 2 was even bigger - the ratings were never higher than in Season 2 - when, on several occasions, we had more than nine million viewers.

I'm glad I was there from (near) the beginning - and very proud that I was asked to come back for the end.

Until next week....

I thought I’d post a few pictures - these were from KENT which was being directed by Jeannot Szwarc during the time I was prepping to shoot the finale’. Jeannot is an old friend of mine. I worked side by side with him on many episodes of JAG before SMALLVILLE. I tried to convince him to come up to Vancouver in season one – “It’s a great show – it’s a great crew and you’ll love it in Vancouver” I said. But Jeannot is a very busy man and it took me until season three and PERRY to get him up. As I predicted Jeannot fell in love with the show and the crew and he ended up directing episodes in every season since then. The crew loved him (The crew on HEROES loved him too – he’s a favorite wherever he goes because he’s so damn sweet and charming and French!)

He’s also a very emotional man (he’s French after all) – and he was making a big deal about the fact that KENT would be his last time on SMALLVILLE. So the crew decided to bake him a cake and send him off with a mariachi band. It was very sweet. The Vancouver mariachi band was a little dubious though. Two members were definitely white Canadian guys – One of them may have been Latino but I think, more likely, was Greek. They sang a credible version of “La Cucaracha” and “Guantanamera,” though, and then Jeannot cried and hugged everybody.

I was glad I was there for it.



JEANNOT - LISTING TO "GUANTANAMARA"


VANCOUVER'S FINEST MARIACHI BAND SERENADES EL DIRECTOR



THE CREW MADE THIS CAKE FOR JEANNOT
(note: When I directed the finale' episde - I did NOT get a cake -- and was not credited even as being the "2ND" most wonderful director they know)




JEANNOT SZWARC - HIS NAME IS HARD TO SPELL BUT HE'S A LOVELY MAN AND A GREAT DIRECTOR


TWO STUDLY MEN - (tip: ONE PLAYS A KENT)


THE BOYS - TOM, MYSELF, JEANNOT, MR. JOHN SCHNEIDER AND Director of Photography GLEN WINTER (Note: For purposes of scale - We are all taller than Jeannot)

Well, as my Grandmother in New Orleans used to say "If the creek don't rise and the bunny's don't get into the garden" I plan to bring you one-last SMALLVILLE-based blog next week, chock full of many photos...

Anyway – goodbye for now loyal fans – and after next week goodbye forever to SMALLVILLE.

Until then ---


36 comments:

Pilote said...

Thanks Greg it was really nice of you to reminisce for us fans. We're all going to miss Smallville intensely. I will never fall in love again for another show the way I fell in love with this one. Looking forward to a wonderful finale.

pocketrangers said...

I echo that thanks too.

I don't think I've ever held as much adoration for a TV show as I have Smallville. It is going to be sad to see it retire, but I am looking forward to seeing the conclusion of this great 10 year journey.

I still hold hope for a spin-off or for something to fill the obvious gap left behind at the end. Maybe it'll happen and maybe it won't, but Smallville is certainly something I'll watch on DVD for years to come. So many great memories. Thanks again Greg.

Tricia said...

What a wonderful post! It's so special to read the story behind those early episodes, and remember how exciting it was to watch them for the first time. I'm looking forward to reading your blog about filming the finale, and seeing more of your awesome photos.

Thank you for all your contributions to this amazing show over the years. Salvation was a triumph, one of my favorite episodes ever. I can't wait to see the finale, and I'm so glad you could be a part of it.

damdroop said...

I´m from Spain and I´ve been watching Smallville since the pilot. Like you, I´ve been a comic fan since I was a child so when I heard about a show about Superman I thought "OK, this is a MUST".

But I have to be honest with you... As much as I adore the character (and always will), is not that adoration what made me feel as close to Smallville than ever felt in my life with any other show.

It was the commitment and the passion of all of you, guys, what made me feel as a part of a family, a part of a big family with no frontiers or nationalities. I´ve met a lot of incredible people around the world thanks to it (fans, members of the crew, cast, writters, producers...).
Smallville was for me like a little bubble that helped me to keep going when I had hard & low moments in my life.

Now I feel like a part of me is ending with Smallville too.

I know that we all have to move on, but I can assure you one thing: you´ll always be in my heart.

Thank you guys for make this possible but, above all, thank you for being such an amazing people. -M.K.

tasabian said...

Thank you for a wonderful reminiscence, Greg! I look forward to reading your next blog and excited to see you direct SV again, especially the Tom and Michael scenes!

yfc_ua said...

Thanks for the wonderful post and for your directing of some of my favourite episodes on smallville. I can't wait for the finale. It will be bitter sweet. I've enjoyed watching smallville for 10years since pilot in the UK and no other show will replace smallville in my heart. Maybe it's the superman effect and the underlying message of hope. Thanks!

Wilson Constante said...

Parabéns greg pelo show!! Sou brasileiro, jornalista, tenho 26 anos e nestes dez anos nunca deixei de acompanhar a série! Muito obrigado por ter acreditado no show desde o início! É prazeroso conhecer alguém realmente apaixonado pelo que faz!
Tudo valeu a pena!!! Obrigado!!!

Aussiegirl40 said...

It was wonderful to read your blog Greg. I have loved the show from the beginning and I am not even American...I am Australian (glad you liked your time here).

The show is of such a high standard partly because of people like you who consistently demonstrate a passion and commitment to bring us quality programming.

I have loved all your episodes. You are really good at what you do and you are my favourite Smallville director!

Having said that I have enjoyed every single episode in every season. As sad as it will be I am looking forward to the finale because you are one of the directors and I know the episode will be of a high quality-Thanks for all your hard work and I look forward to your final Smallville blog.

santacruzliving said...

Thank you for that Mr. B.
I loved Smallville since the begining. It was bonding time for me and my son. I loved Tom Welling. He did a GREAT job as Clark Kent. It was his great looks that kept the girls interested. The guys loved ALL the girls on the show. I will miss his face in front of the camera. Good Luck with your next project.

Christine Maddox
Santa Cruz, Ca

Annette said...

What an enjoyable blog! Just goes to show that you are quite talented in writing as well as directing. Really glad you get to direct the finale and though I'm looking forward to seeing how they finish it (do they really have to??), I'm sad to see the best show on the planet end! As someone else mentioned, a spin-off would be great. Anyway, thank you for sharing your precious memories with us; really fun to read! I'm curious to know which show you will direct next and what you thought of Canada. If you decide to visit Niagara Falls, let me know! I'll show you and your family around. Looking forward to reading your next blog!

Christina said...

Aww what a sweet and funny story. I love it when people in the biz are so personal. 10 years is a long time, be proud, be proud!

My blog and then some... said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and story. You and all involved has done one helluva job all ten years. I have often mentioned how Smallville and the British series Doctor Who could really compliment each other since the lead characters do have alot in common if you think of it. Infact, you could do a prequel series for D.W. since the Doctor and The Master were close friends as children. Like Clark and Lex in the young adult years. I wish you all the best in future projects.

Alberto Angulo Morales said...

Greg Beeman thanks for Smallville.
My blog: www.smallvillechronicles-spain.blogspot.com

Look this page:

http://smallvillechronicles-spain.blogspot.com/2011/05/en-exclusiva-fotos-ineditas-del-rodaje_07.html

Life After Smallville said...

Thank you for your hard work on Smallville! You have directed many of my favorite episodes.

mak said...

that was beautiful. Emotional time for us fans too!

lazar said...

Knowing this way the origins of the series is so heartfelt and incredible, I haven't seen the word VHS written in a long time and the expression " this is SUPERMAN " was too damn glorious to read :)
Thanks for sharing this in the blog and it really touched my heart when the end of the series is so near now

auzzie-rix said...

I have enjoyed reading every line, every word, your love of Smallville and all it represents truly shines through. Thank you so much for sharing this special insight into the world behind the screen. I hope that you know how much you and the SV team are appreciated and loved for producing such an exceptional piece of work.

I don't think that "ratings" have ever really done Smallville justice. There are so many of us worldwide that have, for many years, had to use other means than TV broadcasts to watch the show. ;)

I am going to miss Smallville so much, but it is time.... and there are DVDs (thank heavens!!)

Thank you once again... (all the way from Oz)

haroonie said...

thank you for your wonderful insight into the show and for your work. i have enjoyed the show for all 10 seasons and a follower since day one. thanks for everything and im looking forward to the finale!

stellaville said...

Hi Greg, I have been a massive fan of the show since day one and although there were some seasons I enjoyed more than others (3 and 5 in particular) I am very grateful to all involved in the show's birth and evolution. Two years ago I paid a trip to Vancouver and tracked down some of main set locations which was magical and will always stay with me. I have also met some of the cast members e.g. Michael, Allison, Justin and Alan who were really friendly and down to earth. Although i'm sad the show is finishing I sure i'll enjoy the last episode and will look for a continuation via the fan faction and movies.

Stella, UK

Likalel said...

Greg Thank you very much for this 10 years with Smallville,

6663255a-79ce-11e0-a764-000bcdcb471e said...

Greg

I just wanted to thank you for bringing to life one of the greatest shows to ever air on TV. I've been watching Smallville since the series start, and will greatly miss seeing new episodes every week. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish desperately that the series would continue indefinitely. Man I'd kill to see a Justice League show with these actors.

Thank you though for all you did, and all you gave to Smallville. At least I have the dvds to watch repeatedly through the rest of my days.

If I sent you a photo with a self addressed stamped envelope - would you do me the great honor of signing it for me? I can't get out to comic cons for health reasons, so i'm afraid that's the only way I'd ever be lucky enough to get your autograph. It would mean the world to me. If so - email me at georgethree33@yahoo.com.

I'd greatly appreciate it. :)

George

Matt said...

An amazing show, and some of the best episodes from you, sir! I hope you're as proud of your work as I am to be a fan of this amazingly entertaining series.

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing the memories of Smallville. I was telling a friend of mine that this show is legendary, not only because of the story, but this show hit the 10 year mark, Awesome!! One of my all time favorite series and will be missed. Thank goodness for DVDs! The best comment is when you said, Holy Sh@#, it's Superman!!. Thanks Again!!!

Kris said...

Smallville ends tonight! How fitting that Tom Welling is awarded the Rogue of the Week! http://bit.ly/khU5u3

elizabeth bernot said...

Costa Rica Fishing

http://www.fishingcostaricaexperts.com/

jewelry beads said...

Beautiful brass. I love everything about using brass in my handmade jewelry … Brass Necklace. Brass is affordable, easy to work with and available in all kinds of fun charms and Brass Button. And while giving raw brass an antique patina with an oxidizing solution is not difficult, my favorite method of coloring Brass Bracelet is the torch! It tones down that Brass Pendant to a beautiful warm glow that is infinitely more appealing to my eye. Applying heat to give metal a patina is so easy! No chemicals, no rinsing, no waiting! Sometimes you can even get Brass Findings to appear by holding the heat on a few extra seconds. You all know to set up a heat Brass Pin before firing up your torch. This can be as simple as a cookie sheet. Tie back your hair, wear Brass Chain and just plain BE SAFE. Lampwork beads have nothing to do with actual lamps as we know them today. jewelry beads

dbarnesx7 said...

I am so much addictive of Smallville TV Show. Its fantastic show. Its cast is great and cool.

purplewedding said...

Give your wedding a hint of romantic with the vibrant daffodil drawing on these charming, indie-style save the date cards. This design is perfect for a destination or cheap save the date cards.

Anonymous said...

愛的蔓延,免費視訊,
情趣用品,情趣用品,AV女優,情趣用具,
飛機杯,自慰器,充氣娃娃,按摩棒,跳蛋,
威而柔,丁字褲,性感睡衣,角色扮演服

fashion jewelry wholesale said...

Very nice post. thank you.

fashion jewelry wholesale

Beate said...

Thank you so much for taking your time to write this comment. I only came across Smallville at the end of July this year (2011), but could not think of much else since. After 'studying' it for a month now, I still keep finding 'missing pieces', and yours were great - e.g. now I finally know who was responsible for the very existence of SMV....
thanks again (I also loved the first season of Heroes, which I saw earlier)

bsharking said...

The Smallville series focusing on the life of Clarke Kent (Tom Welling), who discovers in the series that he has superpowers and thus becomes superman, have come to an end. On 13th May 2011 the fans of the series viewed the Smallville Season 10 finale episode which was unfortunately finale episode of the series.

WOW Gold said...

I don't feel That i've ever placed all the adoration for a new Television show while i have Smallville. It will always be unhappy to view this stop working, however are looking forward to viewing concluding of this excellent Ten year trip.

http://foreverhumor.com/
http://handsomeboysclub.com/
http://style-shows.com/

Ding Michelle said...

Of the gals on this planet who have a distinctive fashion winter coats for women sense and also a good plan products they will include being a ladies handbag, most have in no way regarded voyaging straight into producing their unique totes. Whilst still being usually there are some suits for women who have given consideration to this and therefore are wanting to suits for women know just what exactly took these individuals so very long enter into the actual resourceful pool connected with building purses and handbags.

sohbet said...

y the negative attitude towards Anne, Tom and their baby. For one, I feel this is their ultimate revenge against the aliens, to continue the human race. 2, It adds a new dynamic to the show. 3, These people know that life is short and they have t

wowgame said...

he’s a favorite wherever he goes because he’s so damn sweet and charming and French!WOW Gold
Gold Kaufen für World of Warcraft