Directed by: Greg Beeman
WARNING: SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN. IF HEARING SPOILERS MAKES YOU WANT TO RUN OUT OF YOUR HOUSE AND SCREAM "WHY LORD WHY!!!?!?!?!?" INTO THE SKIES (FALLING OR NOT) THEN DO NOT READ THIS BLOG!!!!
Whew! The finale has aired. Ten short episodes which spooled out in just a few short weeks... And yet it was months and months of my life, often very intense, tension-filled, exciting and often sleep-depived months.
As a matter of fact - this week I begin shooting the next season of FALLING SKIES - with an equally daunting mind-blowing task in front of me.... But I digress.
It was great that Remi Aubuchon wrote this script (along with Thompson and Weddle.) He had been doing amazing work behind the scenes and had re-written large parts of many episodes. So it was fitting that the finale was his. He was around for all of prep and all of the shoot and that was a lot of fun.
It was a beast to bring in though.
I've done my fair share of Season Openers and Season Finales over the years. And they differ significantly. Usually with season openers, you get the script nice and early and have plenty of time to prep it. The downside is that openers are heavily scrutinized from the writing of the first outline, shooting and right through post. The scrutiny and second guessing can make openers painful. Finales happen much faster and are not as scrutinized because you are already in the machine of getting a show out week after week doesn't leave time for that. But usually the scripts come in late and there's not enough time to react and so the budget crisis happens bigger and faster.
Anyway - this one was like that. Painful. And I was TIRED. And so was the whole crew. And we'd been doing hard nights in the cold Canadian winter for a long time. For me, personally, this one was definitely like stumbling through the finish line, exhausted.
What was exciting creatively was the culmination of a few exciting storylines that had been developing all season. Red-Eye and the skitter rebels appear and make their plans known. Ben returns, matured and stronger. Anne is pregnant. And we got another tasty taste of Jessy Schram as the evil Karen.
Before I begin in earnest, though, I must acknowledge another fallen comrade... Peter Shinkoda, who has been on FALLING SKIES since the pilot as Dai. Peter is a great guy, and when word of his demise in the script came out, the cast and crew took it very hard. He is a fun person, a hard worker, and we will all really miss him a lot.
As a director, the most exciting and challenging scene to design was the skitter battle, where a swarm of rebel skitters pour into the room and fight the skitters loyal to the invading overlords. The battle between red-eye and the overlord and read eye's death are also a part of that. In the early concept meetings, when we had only an outline - the crew asked me - what's that going to be like. I smirked, as I do, and said "Did you ever see Peter Jackson's KING KONG, when Kong battled the T-Rex in the swinging vines. It's gonna be like that!" I was joking, because that, of course is ridiculously out of our budget range. But it got me thinking, and I started to imagine a battle that was done in very few shots, very chaotic, and that the Overlord/Red-Eye fight would be done with both a lot of character and camera movement, but mostly in one shot.
As I conceived of this sequence, I tried to imagine it in as few shots as possible. I also referenced, for the crew, BRAVEHEART -- when Mel Gibson's character comes out of his tent in the middle of an ongoing battle. That's how I saw Tom coming into the fight.
Some of this was pragmatic - because I knew we didn't have the money for unlimited VFX shots, and so skipping over the entrance of the skitters into the room was important. Also VFX shots are bid out on a shot-by-shot basis - so one very long shot, even if it's super complex is cheaper than a series of many shots.
We were filming in February in Canada in the middle of a gigantic metal grain silo. It was freezing outside, but the metal silo was unheated and it was actually colder inside than out. We were in that place for two hard nights filming until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was SO brutal, and I was SO tired... as was everyone else too!
But, because the script had come in very late, and because of the huge budget battles we had approaching production - I hadn't had time to storyboard the sequence as we normally would. Everyone knew more-or-less what I wanted to do, but no one knew for sure. And as we finally got to the action-packed part of the scene, I started describing it, and Curt Miller, our visual effects supervisor came up to me and said - "How is ZOIC going to know what you want, if we have no storyboards, and all we are going to film is a pass with the camera waving around across empty walls and then panning to Noah. How will they know where to put all the skitters?"
I was blank-faced and said, "What do you suggest?"
He said, "Well maybe we need to get the crew to act it out and film that as a reference."
Something about that idea, at three in the morning in a G*dd#mn, cold-ass silo cheered me up... Because I could already imagine how ridiculous it would look - and ridiculous things make me happy. So we grabbed every P.A. (production assistant), and assistant director and any willing crew member and I started running around an assigning them roles. "You're a rebel skitter, you come from here..." "You you're a loyal skitter you come from here. You two run together leap in the air and clash in mid-air." Then I ran to the next guy and the next guy giving them all assignments. To make it better everyone was wearing dorky-looking safety vests and hardhats. I chose to play the overlord. Curt played red-eye and Noah Wyle continued to play Tom.
Everyone got super into it and, just as I hoped, when the whole thing came together, it was super ridiculous. PA's were leaping around and flailing there arms like claws, and falling on the ground dead and so on. I remember, Remi was very amused and delighted by the whole thing, as were all the cast on the sidelines.
After we filmed it and ZOIC said it was actually very helpful, if not vital that we did that. There are some rouge videos out there of the "Battle of the P.A.'s" as I ended up calling it. God I hope one of them makes it to YouTube someday.
There is another moment in the episode that I am very proud of... Right towards the end, when Drew Roy, as Hal, wakes up and goes to the mirror.... And an eye bug, much like the one in Tom early in the season appears and crawls into his ear. I love this short scene and am very proud of it.
As I've been saying, the prep was very short and incomplete - and we were all tired and running on fumes... I had a strong impression of what I wanted to do in this scene, but must confess that it was just an impression and I hadn't really discussed much with anyone. I had the room, I had Drew and I knew the eye-bug was CGI... I didn't discuss much else.
As we got into the scene (I think it was the third scene we'd shot that day, and there would be two more after we finished it) I started directing Drew on how I though he should sit up and walk and act - and suddenly he, and cinematographer Nate Goodman started asking a lot of questions. I then realized I hadn't ever discussed my plans much.
I blurted out - I want this scene eerie. Like a Stanley Kubrick scene in THE SHINING or 2001: A SPACE ODDESY. I want it methodical and slow. But I had, out of habit, been setting up the scene in our usual hand-held style. Nate said - "If that's what you want - why don't we just go for it? Let's put the camera on the dolly, and make the composition very centered and symmetrical and then push in with the dolly very slowly. Nate lit it in a very Kubrick-like way, and then, also, put a very greenish lightbulb in the mirror that Hal looked into, so that when the light came on he would look green and creepy.
We scrambled to throw all of this together and as it came together in the director's monitor I got very excited. And, even though I directed Drew very specfically as to how to sit up and how slowly to walk... His performance in close-up in the mirror was unexpected and surprising and great! Suddenly sweet Drew turned into "Evil Hal" and it was awesome! The take in the show is take one. I did one more take - but Drew nailed it on take one.
And to top it off ZOIC's eye/ear bug was amazing. Again the first draft of their visual effect was close to perfect... So it was all quite exciting to me!!!
Okay - see you next year.
I'll probably do a question and answer session like I did last year... I'll think about that and post the opportunity in the next week or so...
Until then... Well, you know - pictures!!!!!!
|ME (TWO SKITTER-MEN LURK IN THE DISTANCE|
|NOAH AND MOON BEHIND - NOAH MENTALLY IS SINGING PAUL ANKA'S "HAVING MY BABY"|
|TNT CONTEST WINNER SHANNON RAHE- SHE WAS SWEET AND EXCITED TO BE THERE - SO WE THREW HER IN A 2ND MASS. UNIFORM AND WORKED HER HARD!|
|ME - COMPOSING A SHOT|
|BEHIND THE SKITTER SCENES|
|BEEMAN - ME - WORKING A SKITTER!|
|A FOGGY NIGHT|
|THE VERY VERY VERY LAST DAY OF SHOOTING - MOON LOOKS GREAT - I AM FRICKIN' EXHAUSTED|
|NATE GOODMAN - OUR CINEMATOGRAPHER|
|MOON - BALANCES AMONGST THE ALIEN WIRES (SHE IS A DANCER SO SHE WAS THE ONLY CAST MEMBER WHO COULD BALANCE ON THE WOBBLE BOARDS WE MADE THEM STAND ON)|
|DREW AND SARAH|
|MS. CARTER - ALL TIED UP|
|DREW ROY CONTEMPLATES THE ALL|
|I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING TO POOR CONNOR JESSUP, PULLING SOME EAR WAX OUT OF HIS EAR PROBABLY|
|LATE AT NIGHT - LIKE REAL LATE AT NIGHT - OH, AND HAVE I MENTIONED, IT'S COLD AS SHIZNAZZ IN CANADA|
|TODD MASTERS - HE DESIGNED AND BUILT THE SKITTERS|
|PETER SHINKODA - WE LOVE HIM AND SHALL MISS HIM|