Sunday, June 24, 2012

SEASON 2, EPISODE 3 "COMPASS"

FALLING SKIES


SEASON 2, EPISODE 3 "COMPASS"
Written by:  Bryan Oh
Directed by:  Michael Katleman

WARNING – SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN, IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO SPOILERS, DO NOT CONSUME THE FOLLOWING BLOG

Link to TNT.COM for more "FALLING SKIES" news...   TNT FALLING SKIES


Also link to more "FALLING SKIES" good-stuff at  K-SITE TV "FALLING SKIES


One of the saddest and most difficult things about this episode, both behind the scenes and in the show is the death of Jimmy.   Dylan Authors plays Jimmy, and has been in FALLING SKIES since the pilot.  He is a lovely, funny kid who is incredibly happy to be on the show.  Dylan is from Toronto where his father is one of the top assistant directors in town.  So he comes from a show-biz family and is pretty savvy about how things work.  Because we relocated the show to Vancouver this season, Dylan and his Mom (as well as  Mpho Koaho) had to take the long cross continental trip to the west coast.
Well, I don’t know when the god’s of filmmaking made a rule that the show’s Producer-Director is the one who has to tell actors they’re going to be killed…  But many years I have been the one that has to either take an actor out to dinner, or into my office, or on a walk away from set – to let them know that they’re character is not coming back to the show.   The first actor I ever did this with was  Eric Johnson, who played “Whitney,” Lana Lang’s quarterback boyfriend on the first season of SMALLVILLE.   In that case the writer’s felt that the Lana-Clark story couldn’t progress if Whitney stayed around, Eric took it well and so did Dylan.
I’ve learned that as soon as I say, “Hey can we talk privately” to an actor, or any crew member – they get nervous.  So it’s best just to sit them down, not beat around the bush and say what’s what.  I brought Dylan in and told him straight up.  “The script for episode 3 is going to come out tomorrow, and before it does, I want you to know that, in that script your character is going to die.’  Then I told him how much we loved him personally and as an actor, but that the cool thing about our show is that people that we and the fans love actually have to die from time-to-time, in order to keep the stakes high and the world we’re telling stories about real.  I also told him that the writer’s were largely doing it because of the direction they wanted to take both Weaver’s character and Ben’s character.  They felt they needed a strong inciting incident to push both of their stories along.
I could tell it was tough on him, but Dylan took it well.  There’s not much to say guess.  Then the next thing he asked me is, “How do I die.”  
“Well, it’s pretty good…” I said, “You get picked up by a skitter, thrown 20 feet and impaled on a tree.”  
He smiled, “cool!”
I had told  Noah Wyle   about Jimmy’s impending death, and Noah had asked me if, to let him know as soon as I told Dylan.  Noah took Dylan on a walk around the production offices.  I’m not sure what he said, but he definitely cheered him up.  The cast rallied around Dylan.  They took him out to a big dinner one night.   I’m not sure if ya’ll know this but Collin Cunningham is a masterful magician.  Dylan had become Collin’s protégé and had learned a number of impressive magic tricks from him.  At the dinner both Collin and Dylan put on an impressive display of magic to loud applause.  Later, at the script read-through (which we do just a day before we begin shooting) and again on his last day of shooting, Dylan was again given a standing ovation.
 
Probably the person most affected by Jimmy’s death and Dylan’s departure from the show was Will Patton.  On and off screen, as Weaver and as himself, Will can be a tough and gruff customer.  But he is a very sensitive man and he had grown very fond and affectionate of Dylan.  One of the most touching scenes (to me) in the episode is the scene between Ben and Weaver near the end of the show when Ben breaks down crying with guilt, because of his role in the death of Jimmy.  It was a beautifully acted scene, and there was something very special about it.  It has been rainy and blustery all day that day, but just as cameras rolled on that scene the setting sun broke from behind the clouds, illuminating the set in gorgeous golden light. 
My old friend Michael Katelman directed the episode.  I picked Michael for the 3rd slot because I was directing the first two episodes and I wouldn’t be around much to supervise the prep of episode 3.  I knew I needed a vet, with strong creativity and ability to self-guide.  Michael filled the bill for this.  I also knew that Michael, like me, loves to do long, long takes.  Long unbroken handheld master shots are one of FALLING SKIES signatures, and I try to compel the directors to do at least one or two per show.  Michael did two impressive ones.  One is early on, when Tom and Anne walk across the compound discussing the cold.  The other is right near the end when Tom and Weaver are getting the company to “move out” to Charleston.

Speaking of which, the idea of Charleston as a goal driving the 2nd Mass was our head writer Remi Aubuchon’s key ideas for the season, and I think it speaks to what makes Season 2 generally better than Season 1(again in my humble opinion.)  This Season we are on the move, changing locations all the time – nomadic – with a strong group goal which may or may not be real, but on which all of characters can hang their personal dreams and wishes for the future.

 

In general, the weather in Vancouver in the winter of 2011 was relatively mild by Canadian standards.  But not for our third episode.  A couple of days into shooting, Vancouver was hit with cold sleeting rain and winds as high as 80 MPH.  The nature of the script also forced us into all-nigh shoots.  The cast and the crew all knew that this was what we were going to do this season.  Noah Wyle was a particularly strong advocate of this.   As much as it made the shooting days long, cold, dark and miserable – it makes the show better and we all knew it.   But 3 days into shooting the misery index got of the charts.  After a long hard day of prepping episode 4, I was driving to set which was about 30 miles away.  It was about 10 o’clock at night.  I was driving in rain so hard that no matter how fast I turned on the windshield wipers the rain wouldn’t disperse.  And the wind was buffeting my vehicle (a vey-solid Jeep Grand-Cherokee) all over the road.  It was scary driving and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through on set.  I had a walkie-talkie with the set channel on my seat and as I got closer I started getting the on-set chatter.  “The 5K just went down!  We just lost the 5K!” (That’s a light.)  “Uh guys, the hair/makeup just blew away!”   “Okay, okay we’re all getting to shelter now!”  And finally, the inevitable…  “Okay, guys – that’s a wrap.  We’re calling it due to weather.”  With some relief, I turned around and headed home.
During the scene where Jimmy and Ben were hunting skitters the set had been hit with 80 MPH wind and sideways rain.  Our heavy movie equipment was tossed around randomly.  On set the next day I stepped into a small tent to discover our whole hair and makeup team huddled in they’re next to a large amount of camera equipment boxes.  “Where’s your tent?”  I asked.  The head makeup artist said matter-of-factly “It blew away.”  I shrugged, “Okay, so where is it?”  She stared at me…  “It’s gone.  It blew away, away.”
At that moment I was truly scared.  I had, personally, made the decision to leave our company exposed…  With no sets and no stages…  If the weather stayed like this all season it could be a disaster from which we would have no recourse.
During the fight between Tom and Pope, the wind again got up in the 60MPH range.  Sometimes it was raining.  Sometimes it was windy.  Sometimes it was suddenly sunny.  Katelman came to me and said, “What should I do, the weather is crazy…  It’ll never match.”  I looked at him and said, with years of experience behind me…  “It’s TV baby!  Keep shooting!!!!”   And the scene, while technically inconsistent, is great.  One of my favorite shots is a CU of Noah, in the early part of the scene, as he’s confronting Pope, behind him this tarpaulin and camouflage netting is just whipping around crazily.  It makes the scene so dramatic!  I love it!
Also, the location we found was a real airplane hanger at a small private airport.  We were shooting in November – and it was freezing…. The unheated hanger was actually colder inside then the outside temperature.  When you watch the episode, notice how almost every actor’s breath is visible almost all the time!
Luckily this dreadful weather didn’t last…  Beginning with episode 4 the cold continued but the wind and rain never returned…  And the season went on. 
Thank God.
And now the pictures you love so much…

ME AND CAMERA OPERATOR MICHAEL SOOS IN THE WILDS OF CANADA

OUR DIRECTOR - MR. KATLEMAN
MR. WYLE ENDURES THE COLD

MS. BLOODGOOD, THE SWEETEST AND THE BESTEST


CONNOR JESSUP AND MY ALL-STAR ASSISTANT ASHLEY SHIELDS-MUIR


MR. SHINKODA DOESN'T EVEN FEEL THE COLD - HE'S JUST THAT MUCH OF A BADASS

OUR "JIMMY" - DYLAN AUTHORS

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (I.E. HE LIGHTS EVERYTHING UP REAL PRETTY AND SETS UP THE SHOTS)

EVER-CHEERFUL MAXIM KNIGHT



CONNOR JESSUP HAS HIS SKITTER-SPIKES APPLIED

ON-SET SKITTER WRANGLER JENY CASSADY SNUGGLES WITH HER SKITTER

FILMING A SCENE - TOM IN IMMINANT DANGER (NOTICE HOW THE SKITTER LEGS ARE MISSING - THEY'RE ADDED DIGITALLY LATER)

THE ON-SET MONITORS SHOW TWO CAMERAS AS THEY FILM A SCENE

MICHAEL SOOS SETS UP A SHOT


12 comments:

Kat said...

Excellent post again. I just went to my first weekend filming seminar (I work full time as an engineer so I take classes where I can fit them in) on "Essentials of Film Directing". The comments you make, the two cameras, the issue with light changing and why that would make a shot inconsistent, I actually know (well, can guess) what you're talking about, and it makes reading your blog so much more real. Thank you for adding so much detail about what really goes on in the actual production and shooting of the show, and the people behind the scenes.

The scene with Ben and Weaver was incredibly touching and well acted. It felt like it was about more than both of them feeling bad; it was about (IMO) Weaver being uncomfortable with Ben but previously very fatherly towards Jimmy, and now Weaver being forced into a position of acting like a parent. You could see his hesitation. And Ben as well, wanting to be strong, wanting not to need comfort but in the end just grabbing Weaver by the shirt and crying against his chest. Just beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and said so much about their characters and how this WAS a changing moment for them. Weaver remembers that Ben is human and vulnerable and still essentially a child, rather than a risk or resource. And Ben realizing that his blind forward running to kill all skitters has serious consequences, and that he needs comfort/forgiveness as much as anyone does. At least that's what I got from it. Can't wait to see the next episode and hear how it was filmed. Thank you again for doing this.

Kat said...

I noticed that last season you had a questions and answers post. Do you only do this at the end of the season, or do you answer questions within the post as well? (Or does anyone else who reads this know, as if he DOESN'T answer questions within the post, obviously he won't be able to answer this one).

I just might have a few. Will be tough to hold out till August?

Anonymous said...

Hi, my first viewing of the show was the season one finale and now season 2. So I may have missed this but I do have a question for you. While I am guessing its a budget issue, but where are all the bodies of the people that died? What I mean is like in the season 2 opener when Tom is walking down the high way and finds the car with money. Why do we not see any human remains anywhere?

Anonymous said...

HI ALL STAFF,, i added in my comments as a solitictored free lance designer last time,, i said make the aliens look real,,they are pretty scary stuff ,thanks,,,,,,,,,...i think the mainthing is with the series its loking to district 13,,all boring cgi,,,,i think out of box stuff is needed,,guy in alien suit for the upstanding waling armoured laser aliens for close up and running shots.. ! the current cgi does not look real............and spoils the show i think ! men in alien rubber skins with spacers for air breathing circulator... on stilts would work..,but they'd act like human legs..but longer.....or the series i think might fail..,,to prolong the series do what srat trek voyger did use the borg method,i mean make the aliens indestructable it lasted series and series in star trek....as they could not figure out how to kill the borg aliens in series..they kept adapting,maybe the aliens in falling skies hook up with other like minded critters for better tech to kill us ! there is no way to prolong series otherwise i fear this,thanks....other that that AMAZING 10 OUT 10

adrianhickman said...

Great explanation of something that is very difficult on both sides of the camera and all sides of the fan base. However, shows grow stagnant if you only kill off the guest star of the week. Writing my own little blog post about the episode now, and I am going to reference this as well as some thoughts about what the 2nd Mass may be facing in their journey. Also seeing some great references back to the history of the US. Even appreciated the Charleston pilot being named "Churchill". Immediately thought of WWII England and Winston.

Going For Greatness said...

I love your style of directing and how eager you are to share your amazing cast and work with the fans. This sets you apart from the rest and makes me, honestly, eager to see what you are up to with future projects!
Thank you for making us a part of things, it's a view that not many get to experience!!
~Gabi

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Jerome said...


Episode very moving, death jimmy made ​​me profoundly change the look of the series and makes me really sad. But if I continue to watch the series is on the one hand, because it is good, but also because I hope to see one way or another jimmy new. This episode is the most tragic and sad that I've seen it all season confused and puts his death reminded each time a new episode, it marked my same through the series and my affected and still affects me the life of every day ...
Dylan Authors embody his character very well and I shall never see better.
If I have a greeting new year I would like to see exaussé is the review stage Dylan Authors as Jimmy in falling skies.

Cordially.