Sunday, July 10, 2011

HOUR 5 - "SILENT KILL"
















IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE - THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!


Look faithful readers – my friends at TNT have helped give the Beeman Blog a visual upgrade.  Thanks to them for that!

If you haven’t heard yet – FALLING SKIES has been officially picked up for a second season.  There had been reports for weeks now – even before we aired, that we’d been picked up.  But that wasn’t exactly right.  TNT really believed in the show – so several weeks ago they hired a writing staff to begin conceiving/writing the second season.  In and of itself, that’s a positive sign – but the official pickup didn’t happen until mid-week of last week.  Myself and the other cast and crew had been on pins and needles until we heard (even if they were short and kinda dull pins and needles.)

The show seems to be a hit.  I hope you guys out there are enjoying it.  I loved making it for you…

Also – sorry for the super short post last week – but 4th of July made it impossible to log in the hours necessary to write a decent post.

Okay so here we go… Episode 5 – “Silent Kill”

STORIES ARE TOLD:

Way back in May of 2010 Graham Yost and the writer’s room were just getting started.  The Dreamwork's team (Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Lindsey Springer) and I went over to the writer’s room – and Graham pitched out the first four episodes that they were breaking. (Note: "Breaking" is when the writers first conceive of the stories and write down the beats on a big dry-erase board.  "Pitching" is when the stories are formally presented, orally, to producers or studio execs.)
When he got to (what eventually became) “Silent Kill” – there were two moments that were chilling to me: 

One was the moment where the skitter looked Hal in the eye, reached out it’s spiky claw and then… patted Hal on the head gently.  That, to me, was cool.

The other was when Anne killed the skitter, and then went to the memory board and slapped her bloody handprint on the wall.  She had no other memorabilia from her family.  I thought that was chilling.

There was a lot of debate amongst the writers and producers about how the 2nd Mass. should deal with their prisoner of war.  Some felt that the skitter should be tortured, or brutalized.   Others thought the humans should show it compassion.  

Mr. Spielberg weighed in with the final verdict – his point was that the most important thing we could do is to try to communicate with it. 

The other interesting idea from the writer’s room – was that the skitter’s seem to communicate via very simplistic radio frequencies.  This concept will become important in the upcoming weeks.







SKITTER KILL:

I was excited about this episode, because of the way Anne gets to kill the skitter.  She’s been so compassionate and understanding, but when the chips are down WHAM! – She just jabs it in the mouth with a knife and does it in. 

Moon was very chill about doing this scene.  She’s done lots of action and shooting and knife fighting and parachuting into scenes in her career – so she doesn’t get as excited about this stuff as others on the cast who have never fired automatic weapons before. 

Nevertheless – I thinks the way director, Fred Toye, staged the scene and the actor’s play it is very good.  There are really just two simple key shots.  One behind Tom and Hal – facing the skitter cage - where the camera moves back and forth with Anne.  And one is pulling with Anne where we see her face and expression. There is also an angle behind the skitter and a Close-up of the skitters face - but all of the acting plays in the other wider shots.

The way Moon played the scene was very placid – you know she’s up to something but you’re not sure what.  Tom and Hal are, like WTF’s going on.  And then she just does it.

Of course the strongest moment is just after when she marches into the hall and slaps a piece of paper with a bloody handprint.  This was a well written scene – but tough to play.  And it plays almost in one shot with Moon in the foreground and Tom, stunned, in the background.  For the actor there's a lot of adrenaline pumping to get to the necessary emotional state but also a lot of words to say.  We rehearsed the scene a lot and talked about it on set – but believe it or not this is take 2 that’s in the episode.  Moon just nailed the moment quickly.  The director did one or two more takes – but in the cutting room we felt that the early take had the most power and emotion.

It's tough for me when I'm emotionally attached to a scene from the "pitch" stage.  Because then you feel like you need to nurture it through script, and shooting and post.  But, on set I knew Moon had nailed the key moment - and so I sighed a sigh of relief.

So… Good on ‘ya Moon!

SAVING THE KIDS:

My personal favorite sequence in this episode is the extended sequence at the hospital, from the time Tom and Hal and the gang arrive – to the time the kids have been saved.


For once, we got lucky with locations.  There was an abandoned hospital in Toronto that suited our requirements very well.  

It was an all-night shoot and it was pretty cold.  All night long shots are pretty grueling.  We do them a lot in the film business, but they take a lot out of you, and usually by 4 or 5AM the cast and crew are getting fried.  But Noah and Drew the other actors were in a very intense mood – and they kept their intensity up all night.
During the parts of the scene where the actors had to react to the mech walking by, obviously, there was no mech there – so a crewmember walked through the space with a large pole with a light on it.  This gives the actors the basic size and speed to track to.  Then we did a take without the crewmember.  Whenever the mech was meant to contact the shrubbery, the effects crew attacked fishing-ines to the bushes, which were shaken in sync with when the interaction was meant to happen.

I really like the moments between Drew and Noah, when hugs his son.  There’s a moment that feels very parentally real as they hug, and also when Noah touches the harness. It’s subtle but strong.

When Drew enters the hospital there is a very nice long take that director Fred Toye designed.  If you watch the episode again, notice how long the continuous shot is as Hal moves through the hallway, sees a skitter, avoids it, then sees the harnessed kids walking behind a skitter, he joins them.  If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know how important the long masters are to me.  I feel they are a signature piece of the show.  And in this case, the patient movement, without editing, in my opinion, enhances the anxiety of the sequence.
There were two other cool beats that Mark Verheiden and the writers had conceived, which we had to drop for scheduling reasons.  First, in every draft, up until a day or two before we shot, when Hal’s character sees the skitter and the kids – there was a weird moment when Hal was walking with the kids and they all stopped at a big metal trough in the hall, filled with water.  The kids all kneeled in unison and bent their heads into the water and began drinking.  Hal hesitated only a second and then he had to do it to.  It didn’t drive the story at all, but it was weird and creepy.  The thing was that the days were so complex and the hours we were shooting were so long, that we had to drop that beat for time.  I remain disappointed about it – but it’s the kind of choice you have to make in TV.
There was also a weird creepy scene where Hal found a room with a blood soaked floor…  Our brilliant production designer, Rob Gray had the idea that this scene would take place in the maternity ward.  You can still see the lead-up to this never-shot scene as Hal passes cartoony paintings of storks carrying babies.  Anyway Hal ducked into a side room to hide into the maternity wards incubator room to hide from a passing skitter, then he slipped on something and he looked down and saw it was blood.  Then he looked up and saw… Well, I can’t reveal more, in case this concept comes back in season 2 – but suffice it to say. It revealed more about the nature of the harnesses and why the skitters chose a hospital to house the kids in. 
This set was built and we were ready to shoot it.  But the crew fell behind that night and we dropped the scene.  We rebuilt it a month later on another day in another venue, and again the scene never got shot.  Maybe it was never meant to be.

The scene where Hal lays down in the pile of kids was another weird creepy moment I love!  It’s just such a bizarre concept that the skitters and kids just sleep in a pile on the floor.  It also makes you think about the skitters - are they really attached to these kidnapped kids?  


This scene was interesting because as we cut it together there were some moments we felt were missing and we went back and re-shot a few key shots to enhance and clarify the sequence.  

As Hal walks into the room which is being guarded by the skitter, Fred got an excellent reaction from Hal where he looks off-stage to the skitter, looks scared, worried he’s been found out and then keeps going.  But there was no shot of the skitter reacting to Hal, just a wide shot.  So we went back in and got a closeup of the skitter turning his head towards Hal.  This made the moment much stronger.  Also as Hal was fighting with the skitter, when we cut it together, we felt there were no reactions from the kids.  How did they feel about their beloved skitter being attacked?   So we got some of the extra kids together again and picked up a few shots of them reacting and tugging on Hal.  These are cut into the sequence quite quickly – but I think they help the overall vibe.

REMOVING THE HARNESSES:

The harness removal sequence, where Moon Bloodgood oversees the removal of 5 harnesses from 5 kids is the other signature scene of the episode. 
I had done a similar sequence in “Prisoner of War” which aired two weeks ago.  But in that scene only one harness was removed.  That was a difficult and time-consuming sequence for me to do then and I many less kids, actors, extras and speaking parts.  I knew Fred Toye’s work was cut out for him.  We scheduled the episode focusing on this sequence – and tried to give Fred as much time as possible (I think 8 hours) .

The Director of Photography, Chrs Faloona, had three cameras that day. And they just started banging away getting shots to tell the story.  
Fred took a long time to rehearse the scene – I think an hour and a half, which is an eternity in TV – but it was the kind of scene where every actor and every extra and every prop had to be highly choreographed.  The actors had many questions along the “Where do I go and what do I say and when?” variety.  This is natural.  The director tends to think of the sequence in the way that it will eventually be put together on film – i.e. there’s the moment when you focus on Anne cutting, then the moment where the girl spasms, etc….  But the actors are all there during the whole scene – and just because they’re off camera or not being focused on, they still need to understand what they’re meant to be doing in every moment.  Since there were ten or twelve actors or extras in this scene it meant Fred had to coordinate all those performances for the duration of the scene.  

To make things more complex – the scene was always meant to be played with time cuts.  We would edit the scene together to compress the time and add energy – but Fred decided it would be more comprehensible to direct it in “long form” so that once the camera rolled he could film the scene continuously and then cut it up later.  I think this was a very good decision.

It’s interesting to me because the scene I did in “Prisoner of War” and this scene are similar in many ways – yet from an energetic and emotional perspective – they are opposite.  In my scene (where Rick was being de-harnessed) I started with a long slow shot to build the tension up, and then designed the scene to have increasingly faster edits and movement.  The idea for me was to start slow and build the tension.

Fred’s scene was almost diametrically opposed to this.  He comes in fast and hard with many fast cuts and camera “whip pans” and lots of movement – The idea in this sequence is to create a sense of coming in in the middle of a tense action/adrenaline filled moment.  But then, towards the end, when the 5th kids dies…  Everything suddenly stops…  Fred then went to a long take with a slow push in as Moon moves to the foreground wracked with guilt and self doubt…. So his scene starts fast and then slows.

By the way, I love the way Moon plays this moment.  It’s quiet and understated, when many actors would have gone to histrionics.  She stands there in deep pain and we feel it. 

HOW TO BUILD  A SKITTER:

Finally I thought it would be fun to show you the “making of the skitter” videos that were created for the producers by Todd Masters who built the skitter.  Todd is a veteran, and knows that nervous producers need progress reports.  So he created these very amusing videos and narrated them.  They’re quite informative.
If any of you need a radio-controlled animatronic creature, I recommend Todd Masters in Vancouver Canada.  He’s the best.
Todd Masters



video

HOW TO BUILD A SKITTER - PART ONE




video




HOW TO BUILD A SKITTER - PART TWO




AND NOW -  MORE PICTURES:



DIRECTOR FRED TOYE DISCUSSES A SHOT WITH D.P. CHRIS FALOONA



CONNOR JESSUP - A SWEET YOUNG MAN, ALIEN HARNESS OR NOT


LUNCHTIME ON SET



DE-HARNESSING - IT AIN'T PRETTY


OLD FRIENDS NOAH WYLE AND Steven Weber


THE CAST AT REST BETWEEN TAKES


THE SKITTER GETS AIR BETWEEN TAKES


A PILE OF GUNS ON SET





19 comments:

Kurgan Nazzir said...

Excellent post, yet again. I really enjoyed this episode, especially the scenes with the Skitter and the kids in the room; I immediately thought (in baby voice) 'momma'. If I'm not mistaken, I also counted six kids before Hal joined them. So that's six kids for an alien that has six legs. My dad pointed out that when Ricky was rescued, the aliens killed five kids. So it appears there are six kids per Skitter. Also, when the Skitter was making noises are it touched the kids, my first thought was it knew the one harness was 'dead' but then I started thinking it was more of a content or happy motherly noise.

Yes, I think too much but you know you have something good when the people watching/reading put so much thought/emotion into it.

Kimmy said...

I look forward to these posts on Mondays. <3 Love the candid pics

NZRobFL said...

Yea it was 6 kids. Cause i remember them saying "You saved 5" and Moon replied "But I lost 1". I too caught the 6 kids, 6 legs thing. Its too bad the ward scene was cut. I think it would have only added to the creepy part of the show for this scene. However i think it may have given away too much too soon and would be good maybe in season 2. Love the blog, keep bringing the behind the scenes shots!

Sterling Silver Jewelry said...

yeach i realy enjoyed this episode too

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This show has people asking all kinds of questions. But I noticed the 6 legs and 6 kids as well. As in episode 1 they pointed out that they made the mechs with only 2 legs as if a mockery to humanity. This show is really intriquing and I hope that it keeps coming back for more. Really great show!

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