Sunday, August 19, 2012

SEASON 2 - FNALE EPISODE "A MORE PERFECT UNION"

Written by: Remi Aubuchon

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

REMI AUBUCHON

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



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Season 2 Episode 9 "The Price of Greatness"

Season 2 Episode 9 "The Price of Greatness"

Written by: Mark Verheiden

Directed by:   Adam Kane


WARNING:  SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN - EVEN IF THIS BLOG FEELS LIKE SOMETHING YOU'VE BEEN TRAVELLING MONTHS TO FIND, EXPECTING REFUGE, ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS, AND SPOILERS COULD APPEAR TO CAPTURE AND IMPRISON YOU AT ANY MOMENT

Okay faithful fans --  There will be a post on this episode, I promise - at this exact moment I am waiting for a car to take me to the airport to go to Vancouver to begin Season 3.  It's been WAAAAY to crazy to blog - but I'll write on on the plane and post tonight.

Here goes a little...

This penultimate episode was written by cast and crew favorite, Mark Verheiden.  Mark is greatly beloved by all who ever work with him, because of his sweet nature as well as his great writing.  His presence on set gives our actors a sense of relief.   I personally loved this script.  It was, certainly, a stylistic departure for us...  But I love the way it unfolded act by act.  At first we think Charleston is a safe haven, a paradise full of trustworthy  amigos.  But later, bit by bit, it unfolds to be less than it seems.  Man's arrogance and petty politics have, again, reared themselves up - and created hazard for Tom Mason and our heroes.  I love how this episode is a complete and self-contained story within itself.

Tonight's director was Adam Kane.  Adam began as the original cinematographer of the HEROES pilot.  His work, assisting that show to get off the ground encouraged Tim Kring to give him his first directing break.  If you look into the archives of this blog, you will see my posts about him.  I was introduced to Adam in 2007 as a "shadow" on one of the HEROES episodes I directed.  "Shadow" means that he followed me throughout the prep and shooting of an episode, and I, kind of mentored him through the process, explaining how and why I was doing what I was doing.   Adam was quite a good and thorough shadow  he was with me every step of the way, and then went on to direct his own excellent HEROES epiosde.  Since then his career as a director has skyrocketed, to the point where he, frequently, has the same job I do, producer/director, on shows like BEING HUMAN.  

His skill set and abilities have been honed in the years since 2007 and I think he brought his distinctive visual style to this episode.

This episode also brought in two new guest stars Terry O'Quinn (of LOST Fame) and Matt Frewer.  It's such a thrill for me when I get to meet and work with people who've been in projects that I love.  I was a huge fan of LOST and I've been a fan of Matt's comedic work since the 80's and letaely he's been doing such cool dramatic work.  Anyway, both of these guys were great, nice and proffessional - and it's always good to know that.

We had a special, and difficult to achieve project with this episode.  The story took place entirely in the underground areas below the ruins of Charleseton.  Well to find big, open interiors that we could take over for several weeks.  We caught a break - and found a mall that had been started and then, I believe, lost it's funding.  It had been sitting there, unused, for several years.  And that space - as well as the underground parking garage of a local Costco, became our Charleston.

The Costco was funny because, even though they allowed us to use a huge portion of their parking area during the day, the Costco above us was still doing business.  So every once and a while a shopper would appear in the elevator (on the wrong floor from where they were trying to go)  The elevator doors would open and they would see a couple of dozen 2nd Mass'ers, dressed in camo, standing by Humvees and packing heavy artillery.  A few shocked expressions were seen.

One of the concepts of the episode was that the military of Charleston had a lot of fresh, basically unused military gear including, vehicles, weapons and clothing.  This was cool, until Will Patton had to wear the ACU's.  Will has meticulously embodied the character Dan Weaver and has come to care a lot about what Weaver wears.  This benefited us in a way because both Weaver and Will were uncomfortable in the gear.   







More to come...





Noa Wyle at the podium



A crowd gathers


Writer Mark Verheiden with last week's writer, the young and talented, Heather Regnier
Terry O'Quinn as "The Prez"
Our director - Adam Kane
Matt Frewer

Dale Dye an Chris our camera first assistant
Glen Winter of SMALLVILLE fame was the director of photography on this one



Behind the scenes


Michael Soos our camera operator waits his turn

The homies

Mpho and Peter

Brad, Luciana and Collin

Me 'n my crew





Sunday, August 05, 2012

SEASON 2 - EPISODE 8 - "DEATH MARCH"


"DEATH MARCH"



Written by:Heather Regnier
Directed by: Seith Mann

A Crazy week prevents a proper post.  But I will not deny you pictures at least.

I will return next week with a full blog on our final two hours - including the finale episode, which I directed.

Until then...

WE'RE ON A ROAD TO NOWHERE


 

Seychelle Gabriell on set
Rob Gray our production designer on the road to nowhere

Will patton - it aint all fun and games being the chief

The boys discuss the techniques of acting between takes

Director Seith Mann with Noah and Will

Collin at night

Director of Photography Nate Goodman and Seith Mann

Seith poses with our crusty kid

Seith directs Sarah Carter

Sarah on set

Collin - intense as ever

Seith poses on the cold hard ground with our harnesses gal

Seith and the episodes writer Heather Regnier

Mpho and Peter - they drive the truck!