Tonight's episode was written by: Joe Weiseberg
And directed by: John Dahl
I love this episode (and I hope you do to) for all the ways in which it deepens and elaborates our big-picture storyline. We’ve been worried about Ben and how connected he (and all the harnessed kids) are to the skitters… And then, beginning with episode 3, of this year, we saw the connection, and perhaps control the Red-Eyed skitter, has over Ben – but now the story gets even more complex, with the idea that some skitters may have rebelled from their masters and want to join the humans in fighting. The way Remi Aubuchon and his team have taken our first year story and added to it is just great and this was an exciting episode to produce.
Usually a few weeks before we get a script for an episode, the writers will send us an outline. This is generally an 8 to 10 page document that lists the scenes and overall beats to expect in the upcoming teleplay. It’s a great way to begin planning, but usually they’re pretty dry. Well, when we got the outline for episode 5 – I was floored.
The opening scene – which depicted the various skitters on the rooftops of a demolished city, engaged in some kind of ritual chant, or war cry; and then Ben appearing and joining into their voices – sent chills down my spine. The scene struck me as having a spiritual component to it - and while this is not completely illuminated - it seemed (to me at least) to imply an answer Karen had asked last year: "Do the skitters have a God?"
It ended up being a very elaborate and complex scene to conceive of and shoot. First, as always we had to have a lot of meetings to talk about “What is it” and “How will it look”? Director John Dhal storyboarded the sequence which gave us a great jumping off point. It was decided by all that we would do a series of sweeping crane shots over and past the skitters and that we would depict them on different roofs. The problem is, we only had one skitter body and two heads. The “Red-Eye Head” and the “non-Red Eye head.” We also decided that we’d have to shoot these shots on a green screen stage, with a partial set that the art department would construct. Then Zoic Studios, the visual effects house we use, would build the backgrounds with CGI. Still it had to be efficient and budgetable. Production Designer, Rob Gray, a generally brilliant guy, had many specific ideas about how he would build one set with various setpieces that we could quickly change around.
But the part of the scene with Ben was more complex than that. Mostly because he was moving and running – he couldn’t be on green screen. We would have to find an appropriate roof! Our location scouts searched and found something very cool. There is an old sugar factory in Vancouver made of very ancient brick that has a great rooftop. Of course you have to go up a rickety old elevator and then climb three or four flights of rickety stairs to get to it. At first it felt impractical to go up there. The ascent was too difficult for the full crew… But a stripped down second unit crew with, literally just a camera crew, a couple of makeup artists, the director and Connor – no sound crew- no lights - could it.
Well, we fell in love with the sugar factory and decided to make it our home base for the scene where the 2nd Mass finds the skitter-mech battlefield – and when that decisions was made the next decision was easy. While John Dhal directed the main scenes at ground level, I would take a guerilla second unit, with Connor, up on the roof and direct the opening.
The sugar factory battlefield created it’s own problems. The script described a vast sea of destruction with numerous murdered skitters and mechs. We had already small truckload of skitter bits… for the opening, including a burnt up skitter and several bloody legs. But we only had one shot up mech head from season one. These little bits are actually quite expensive and time consuming to manufacture. We committed to building a few – but only a few. I knew we needed some big sweeping crane shots that showed the whole battlefield, and decided we would add CGI mechs into those shots. But Mr. Dahl had to limit his other coverage to only see the chunks of skitters and mechs that we owned. It’s always funny for me to see makeup effects crew running around the set throwing skitter chunks around and pouring blood on them. What a way to make a living! I frequently started singing a jingle (I must rememeber from some dog-food commercial from when I was a kid) “Skitters-and-bits-and bits-and bits… Rachel from the makeup team, sweetly, made a “Skitters and Bits” candy wrapper (See the photos below)
This script also creates another new development – which is that it steps up the relationship between Hal and Maggie, shows more complexities in Maggie’s world view, and gave Sarah Carter and Drew Roy a chance to develop their personal and interpersonal stories.
Drew and Sarah have a great on-screen chemistry and I'm very glad the story is taking us to a place where we are going to get to explore that. It's good that they get along too - because when they were shooting the scene in the back of the car, when they're hiding from mechs... They had to stay crunched up, with Sarah on top of Drew in the back of a teeny (I think it was a...) Ford Fiesta and a camera team smashed into the front seat over them - for about three hours in sub-zero weather.
I don’t think I’ve done enough in this blog to talk about Drew Roy and what an all-around tremendous actor and great young man he is. I might overlook him a bit because all he every does is show up ready for action having done his homework. He gets it right the first time all the time, and it’s really a pleasure to work with him. He also is, probably, our best actor when it comes to doing stunts and driving the motorcycles. In the elaborate sequence where he and his crew are getting shot at by mechs, and where he goes back to save Maggie – Drew did all his own driving past all the explosions we’d set up.
He also is the only man I know who both appeared on HANNAH MONTANA and kissed Miranda Coscrove on iCARLY. That is a record that will probably last for the ages.
This weeks episode also marks the return of Daniyah Ysrayl
as Rick. I love Daniyah and got to know both he an his close-knit family in Toronto last year. He is a funny, fun-loving kid with great respect for his parents, who sings and plays music with his brother...
He also got very close with Connor last year. And he also loves to goof around and flirt with Moon. Like any sane man, he has a huge crush on her, and she is very sweet back to him. All-in-all Daniyah is very fun to have around.. We were all sad his character wasn’t immediately returning for season 2, but Remi felt there was no further way to develop Rick on an ongoing basis. But then he came up with the amazing twist from this episode….
Oh yeah, one last thing I wanted to mention regarding last week’s episode, “Young Guns.” Someone had commented on the use of the the guitar version of “Claire De Lune” which was used at the end of the episode. It made me think of the sometimes small but impactful ways Steven Spielberg is involved in our storytelling. The music piece was originally put in by our editor Don Aron. He is brilliant, visually of course, but also in terms of guiding the episodes with sound effects and musically. When Mr. Spielberg saw the cut – he loved the piece of music and suggested that we add the element of seeing the guitarist in the 2nd Mass. So, much later, we added the shot of Laci Mailey (Weaver’s daughter) walking away from Weaver’s tent and past the guitarist. This was challenging for her because it meant she had to get into the heightened emotional state she’s been in weeks before. Still, it all turned out quite well… I meant to include this tidbit last week but time and circumstance got away from me…
And so, on to pictures:
|THE RETURN OF DANIYAH|
|MOON AND DANIYAH|
|NOAH ON SET - AT THE READY|
|DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN LINES UP A SHOT|
|CONNOR AND I ON THE ROOF|
|THIS 2ND UNIT GAVE ME THE CHANCE TO HIRE MY OLD SMALLVILL PAL - DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY GLEN WINTER|
|FAR BELOW US THE MAIN UNIT WAS SHOOTING|
|CONNOR ON THE ROOF|
|SARAH CARTER AND DREW ROY|
|DREW ON HIS BIKE PREPARES FOR BATTLE|
|NOAH LEADS THE MISSION|
|JOHN DAHL DIRECTS CONNOR|
|IT'S COLD AS SHIZZNAZZ IN CANADA|
|OUR PRODUCTION DESIGNER ROB GRAY (HE DESIGNS AND BUILDS EVERYTHING AND EVERYWHERE WE FILM)|
|SKITTERS AND BITS|