Sunday, June 30, 2013

SEASON 3 - EPISODE 5 - "SEARCH AND RECOVERY"

SEASON 3 - EPISODE 5:   "SEARCH AND RECOVERY"

WARNING:  THIS BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS - IF SPOILERS MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN CHASED BY SKITTERS AND THROWN OVER A WATERFALL - STOP READING NOW!!!


Tonight's episode was written by: Jordan Rosenberg

And was directed by: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan  



It rained every day on this episode.  And not just a little.  Hard core pounding rain.  It’s the main thing I remember about it.  And to make matters worse, there were only about two days shooting indoors.  The cast and crew were wet to the bone – the horses were wet to the bone – the sets were waterlogged – all day – every day.

The Vancouver crews however, are experts at shooting in the rain.  And the weird thing about rain, which I only learned by working in Vancouver a lot is, if you don’t want to see the rain – you don’t.  To see rain you have to back-light it.  (To see snow, oddly enough, you must front-light it.)  (Oh yeah, also the ocean – if you want to see it – front light!)

On almost every scene in this episode, the crew hung tarps from trees and on huge poles which they extended and they kept the rain off the set.  Most of the time you don’t sense it.

I think, in fact, Noah was a little disappointed when he realized how little we saw of the sleeting rain.  For he and for Collin Cunningham – this was a physically arduous episode.  They were not only wet, but they were running and jumping and fighting and moving around in heavy water-soaked clothes for twelve hours a day, all-day, for days on end.

Even if the rain doesn’t show up that much, I do think that the pain the cast went through does subtly translate to the film.

The inspiration for the film, from Remi Aubuchon and the writer’s room, was an old 1958 movie called: THE DEFIANT ONES in which and  , play two prisoners chained together after a prison break.  Remi thought it would be fun to see perennial adversaries, Tom and Pope, forced to be together and to survive together.
Noah was excited about this idea from the first time he heard of it, early on.  He and Remi talked together a lot about how the two characters would interact and evolve.  To both Remi and Noah it was important to learn more about the characters than we had known before - and to see both dark sides in Tom and light sides in Pope that we hadn't seen before.
The two most memorable of these moments (for me) were the story Tom tells, in bits and pieces, about how his father was a drunk and ran a hardware store.  This presents a very different history of Tom Mason than we may have suspected.  I also love the way Noah played the scene.  It was scripted that Tom was buildng a fire, but the director, Noah and Collin evolved it just a little differently.
The script said this:
"Tom starts searching for dry dead wood. Pope shakes his head, but can’t think of anything else to do but get up and help."
But what occured during the rehearsal, was that Noah began to build a fire in a focused and intense way.  Pope sits in the background egging him on.  As Tom talks, and as painful small details of his life story come out, he stays focused on the fire.  I think that Noah's intensity around the fire building adds intensity to the story that would have been too direct and maybe even saachrine, if he'd been looking directly at Pope and engaging with him.  I think the fact that Tom was turned away from Pope, also gave Collin Cunningham a chance to do a great reaction of surprise when he hears this story, without giving away any empathy to Tom.

Now, I don't mention this to put the script or screenwriter's down in any way.  The screenplay is the roadmap that directors and actor's follow.  Without a script we would be lost at sea.  But our job is also to use the script as a jumping off point, and we strive to maximize the effect both visually and in terms of performance, and enhance it if we can.
On Pope's side of the aisle is the very lengthy and intense story that Pope tells of how he lost his family and ended up in jail.  Collin was a bit anxious about this scene going in, because it is a very long story, unbroken by anything other than a few small interjections by Tom.  It also had the potential to get saachrine or self-pitying. The trick in a scene like this, again, is to not be too direct or too "connected" to the emotions of the scene, but instead to get lost in the telling and remembering of it.  To sublimate the painful emotions and to tell it in a detached way is better.  And Collin, working with Sergio, picked his way down this path.  When I started to study the film in the editing room, I saw that Collin had done a number of variations in his performance - some were bigger and some were smaller.  In one version he got almost angry as he told the story.   It was great that he gave us so many colors and choices - and we used pieces of many takes to put together  the vesrion we have in here.  
Also, Noah, for his part - just listened - intently.  I feel when I watch Noah's very focused reaction to Pope's story, that there is both incredulity at what he's hearing and some empathy as well.
In the end of course, although they may know each other better - Pope and Tom will always be on the opposite sides of things.  The line that sums this up best (that I think John Wirth wrote) is the line from Pope in the final scene - "Next basket wins."
The other half of this episode is, of course, the search for Anne - lead by Weaver of horseback.
What's interesting is, that coming out of his first reading of the script, Sergio always saw this story as Matt's story.  Matt is the one who strayed from his fathers side, and had had words with Anne in episode 2 of this season.  Matt is the one who is coming of age in this harsh world, and who is wanting to fight.  But here he is the observer - the one taking in the harshness and the determination.  He is the one who insists on burying the woman they find, and on eulogizing her.
If you watch the episode again, notice how in many scenes there are group shots of the cast, and maybe the occasional medium close-up - but the close close-ups are reserved for Matt, watching and taking things in.
Finally I'll talk about some of the complexities that go into what end up just being a few seconds of film.  When Tom and Pope are chased to the edge of the cliff by skitters - Remi, really wanted Tom and Pope to leap off the edge into the water (taking a page out of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID) - we searched for cliffs over rivers - but nothing was available in range of our production.  The nearest decent sized waterfall was 100 miles away.  Sergio came up with the idea to do the jump virtually - his plan was to film Tom and Pope in the woods on the edge of a small cliff - to make their POV (the "down" angle) a backplate of a distant river with Tom and Pope on blue screen.  And the jump would be done with stunt men.
This was a good plan but it didn't quite work.  We couldn't find the appropriate sized cliff's edge in the vicinity where we were shooting.  So the art department built an eight feet tall twelve feet wide "cliff edge."  It was made from plywood and covered in scenic dirt and grass and weeds.  Noah and Collin ran up to the edge of this and stopped abruptly - then they backed up and jumped off-stage into an air bag.
The waterfall was harder though.  We found the right one, but the Canadian Conservation Corp. wouldn't let people jump into the water (the river  became a source of drinking water downstream.)  So we sent Visual Effects Producer Curt Miller, up to the river to film a backplate which we would later add a CGI Tom and Pope into.  But the complexities continued.  Curt needed two splashes in the water - so something heavy had two be thrown in.  Well if Canada wasn't going to let two humans jump in - they certainly wouldn't let two blocks of metal either.  After much thought - Curt came up with a plan...  The special effects team built two catapults side by side and loaded them each with 100 pound blocks of ice.  The ice was catapulted into the water... Splash!  Splash!  We were happy!  And Canada was happy!

And finally, finally...  Matt Frewer meets his demise in this episode.  I've talked over the years in this blog (in regards to this show and others) that I've had the repeated and unfortunate task of telling actors they're being killed off.  Most recently it was Crazy Lee.  And now I had to tell Matt.
But - unlike most, who take it with grim acceptance - Matt took it with rather well...    "I was wonedring when you guys were gonna kill me off!" He told me, with a big smile.  "I'm surprised I lasted this long!"  Anyway - I haven't talked about Matt enough - but he was a great and very fun guy to have around.  And I will miss him!
Thanks for reading....

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
SARAH CARTER IS AN EXPERIENCED HORSEWOMAN. IN REAL LIFE,  SHE VOLUNTEERED TO TAKE CARE OF MAXIM ON SET.  THE WRITERS LIKED THAT AND PUT IT IN THE SCRIPT FOR MAGGIE.
IT WAS COLD AND WET IN THEM THAR' CANADIAN WOODS
TOM GETS A DROP ON A SKITTER
DIRECTOR SERGIO GEZZAN
DID YOU KNOW THAT IF YOU DON'T BACKLIGHT RAIN - YOU DON'T SEE IT?  (IT WAS RAINING HERE TOO!)
MAXIM AND CONNOR PREPARE FOR WHAT IS TO BE A VERY MOVING AND EMOTIONAL SCENE
WARRIOR WOMAN
SHE RIDES HORSES, SHE SHOOTS GUNS AND SHE DRIVES HUMVEES!
BETWEEN TAKES
BRAD KELLY AND I
THIS IS THE KIND OF DETAIL THE ART DEPARTMENT PACKS INTO EVERY FRAME OF OUR SHOW...
AND THIS...

ROB GREY - HEAD OF ALL THINGS ART DEPARTMENT-ISH FROM THE BIGGEST TO THE SMALLEST
LACI
THE MATCH GOES ON
COLLIN BETWEEN TAKES
POPE AND TOM MAKE IT HOME 



Sunday, June 23, 2013

SEASON 3 - EPISODE 4 - "AT ALL COSTS"

SEASON 3 - EPISODE 4:   "AT ALL COSTS"

WARNING!:  THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS BLOG!  IF READING SPOILERS MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN SHOT DOWN OVER ENEMEY TERRITORY - THEN TURN AROUND AND GO BACK!!! 



HEATHER REGNIR  wrote this episode, and I, GREG BEEMAN directed it!


EPISODE 304 “AT ALL COSTS”

Tonight’s episode is the second one I’ve directed this season – the first being the first hour of the season opener.

Directing episodes of FALLING SKIES is a particularly exhausting thing to do.  It is a fast moving train with high expectations, and the only way to succeed is to constantly be going at a bullet-like pace.  SAMLLVILLE and HEROES, two of my other shows, were, I believe, comparable in scope and complexity – but both of those shot for at least two more days per episode than FALLING SKIES.

Partially because of this, and also because I find it hard to stay on top of the other ongoing complexities of the series (i.e. my producing responsibilities) if I direct too frequently – I normally don’t direct two episodes this close together.  Yes, in both season 1 and 2 I directed two episodes back-to-back, but those were conceived, written, prepped and shot as a block.

But this episode had special circumstance.  You see, last summer, a few months before we began photography, we learned that Moon Bloodgood was pregnant, and that her due date was late December.  Just a few weeks before shooting began, we further learned that Moon’s doctor had recommended that she not fly past late October.  Since she would be delivering in Los Angeles and we shoot in Vancouver, Canada – that meant that she would be leaving the show for the year in the middle of episode 4!

Within a day of hearing this news, head writer Remi Aubuchon and I sat down and began to form a plan.  The writers would effectively have to write Anne out of the season before we were even halfway in.  Furthermore (and I can’t spoil too much here) if there were to be any scenes with her that occurred in later episodes, they would have to be written and shot during the production of episode 4… well in advance of when they would normally be written.  A conundrum by anyone's standards.


These factors, obviously, posed enormous creative and production challenges, and for this reason – and because I really love working with Moon and feel that we have a great collaboration, and because I wanted to make her exit from the season comfortable – I chose to direct this episode.

Now in episode 1, when Anne Glass was supposed to be pregnant, we had the rare luxury of having Moon be conveniently pregnant.  The only problem was, Anne also gives birth in the first episode...

(By the way – a worthy sidebar – is that during filming of the birth scene, Moon’s real-life husband came by to watch Moon huffing and puffing and screaming in imaginary labor, and then, a bit later to watch her cuddle a goo covered newborn.  I could tell while watching that this was an oddly wonderful moment for the couple, as they got a very unusual opportunity to practice what would soon be happening to them in real life.)

In episodes 2 through 4 we had to go through the complex (but relatively frequent problem that occurs in TV and movies) of having to hide our leading ladies pregnancy.  If you look carefully in these episodes, you’ll find that Anne is frequently standing behind tall counters or that there’s a stack of files, or piece of laboratory equipment placed in front of her mid-section.  Sometimes, luckily, she could carry an actual baby in front of her to hide her belly.

One of the more fun scenes to direct in this one, was the final scene where Anne is running away from Charleston, to who-knows-where, with her baby.  Her maternal instincts have kicked in and she knows that, without Tom, she will have no one to help her protect baby Alexis once the baby’s hybrid status becomes known.  Smart or not, she decides to flee taking her chances in the wild.  As she’s fleeing she, her path in intercepted by a skitter and a harnessed girl – as she turns to run away Hal blocks her path.  

This kind of stuff is just a fun for me in general, rubble and aliens and creepy, harnessed girls are the kind of stuff I enjoy.  But on this night there was another odd thing I noticed…  Between takes Moon was holding one of the twins who plays baby Alexis.  Kieth Arbuthnot, who plays the skitter was in full makeup, a few feet away, bobbing back and forth and making weird skitter gestures.  And then I notice the baby, who is no more than 3 months old, is just staring and staring at the skitter.  For a second I was freaked out, like “Oh no, the skitter puppet is going to scare the baby.”  But then I realized that she wasn’t scared at all.  She was just staring and staring at it, very intently.  Now, to us, the skitter is a really frightening looking thing.  But, I realized, to a three month old it must be no odder than seeing a dog or a deer or elephant for the first time.  I don’t know, it may have just been me, and nobody else seemed to notice this at all – but I found it both interesting and amusing.

The idea of the real President of the United States being alive, was an idea  that was very important to Noah Wyle, and which he promoted and protected during the evolution of this script.



I think, for Noah, he felt that the idea of the real President still being alive was something that would give, both his character, and all the survivors a sense of hope and continuity about the world.  I think he also felt that Tom shouldn’t get bogged down in the politics of Charleston.  Both Noah and his alter ego Tom are very aware that the position, while important, has a limited importance as long as the Espheni still control the planet.  To make this position clear. Noah ad-libbed a wonderful line in the first episode…  When Anne talks to him about the workload of being President, Tom shoots back “President of ten square blocks.”  It was a nice touch.



When the script was written and it was time to cast the president, after some debate and a number of different names bandied about…  It was easy to get a group consensus on Stephen Collins who, as I’m sure you all know  was the lead on the hit series "7th Heaven" for 11 years.  Stephen was a true gentleman and after meeting him at his wardrobe fitting, Noah and I pulled each other aside and said, “Yeah.  He seems truly “Presidential.”  So we were happy.



I’d like to talk a bit about Doug Jones, who plays Cochise.  Doug spends 3 hours every day getting into his special effects makeup, and one and a half hours getting out of it.  Once he’s in, he’s in for the day – which can be 12 to 14 hours.  The makeup is heavy, hot and oppressive.  The Masters FX team has made whatever considerations they can – there’s a port that comes out of Cochise’s facemask so that he can eat, for instance.  But to just wear the suit, forget about acting, is a challenge.  Doug likens it to being an athlete.  He has to manage his energy all day. 





But then Doug acts.  I’ve done a fair bit, not a lot, of creature fx makeup work over the years – but I’ve never seen anyone be able to transform 40 pounds of rubber into a character and a performance like Doug does.  It’s truly remarkable.



At the script stage, the studio and we producers raised concerns about the long monologue that Cochise has in the middle of the episode (the one about the Catarious flower on the Volm’s home planet.)  It’s not that we doubted Doug, but it was a lot of critical emotion and exposition to hang on a man in a mask.  Remi Aubachaun hung firm in his belief in the importance of the speech, and we pressed on. 



On the day we filmed the scene, on the first “take” – I was blown away.  Doug (with his character’s hands tied behind his back no less!) imbued Cochise with so much emotion and history that I was truly touched.  It’s fascinating for me to watch and I’m glad that I get to keep continue learning after all these years of doing what I do.  But everything Doug does to make the character come alive is done vocally with tone, cadence and inflection – and with the smallest movement of the head and shoulders.  What he does is really an art form that he is quite uniquely skilled at!



I also want to mention Drew Roy’s performance as Hal and as Evil Hal.  This was another thing that created quite a bit of discussion in prep.  Again, we all believed in Drew, and I felt that the moment he did at the end of last season when the eye bug crawled into his ear, was fantastic…  But here was a whole new persona, that, frankly, done wrong could be a bit cheesy.  We talked a lot about how to portray “Evil Hal,” and how not to not overdo him.  I had a couple of brief conversations with Drew about it, but not much.



But on the day of filming, just as Doug had, Drew stepped up and slayed both of his roles.  He was clearly in a “zone.”  Normally Drew is happy-go-lucky and loves to talk and joke around on set.  But the day we filmed the scene at the mirror he was quiet and focused and intense.  His performance, I thought, was great – and I really directed him almost not at all.  (One of the keys to doing my job well is to know how much or how little to work with an actor.  I have to be prepared at all times to get in there and give an actor everything from intentions, history, technique and even line readings if they’re really struggling.  Or if an actor is right where they need to be, I have to have the discipline to back of and let them do their thing.)



Watch carefully the scene where Drew speaks to himself in the mirror and see if you can figure out how we did it.  Notice also one of the later shots in the scene where the camera pushes in further than it should be able to into the mirror.  It’s an old school technique that Production Designer, Rob Gray suggested.  A picture below gives more clues.



Finally, lets talk about the dogfight that ends the episode.   The model of plane used in the episode was a LockheedElectra.  For some reason, this specific model was very important to Remi (who is an avid pilot).  Grace Gilroy, our whiz line producer, actually found two of these planes.  One was lovingly preserved and could actually fly.  The other was in an airplane museum and couldn’t fly, but the interior was stripped out of it.



Rob Grey really wanted to build the plane interior.  He advocated quite strenuously that we needed to have a proper mockup with walls that could pop out and so on.  Anything else, he said, wouldn’t be practical for filming.  The problem is the interior of this plane is tiny – with low head room and with barely enough room to move around in.  (It’s hard to believe this was used for cross-continental passenger flights in the old days.)



But, guess what, we didn’t have the money to build the plane interior – and so we just rolled the shell of the museum plane into a hanger and draped blue screen around it.  The effects guys hooked a forklift to the tail so that they coukd jostle it a bit  but not much.  We were SQUEEZED in there big time.  Noah and Matt Frewer were elbow to elbow and the camera operator and focus puller could barely fit in the back, especially with Collin running around.



In the end if any of the action works at all, if there’s any sense of pitch and yaw – it’s because of the actors – mostly Noah, and camera operator Mike Wrinch slamming them selves around and Mike tilting the camera at critical moments.  Also, the VFX guys from Zoic did a great job with the backgrounds and the CGI planes.



That’s it for today!  On to pictures!!!!...




SARAH CARTER AWAITS BATTLE


  

MOON AND ROBERT REHEARSE WHILE THE CREW WATCHES

 
OKAY - NOW LET'S SHOOT


DALE DYE PLAYS COLONEL PORTER

STEPHEN COLLINS PLAYS PRESIDENT HATHAWAY
MATT FREWER PLAYS GENERAL BRESSLER
 
LUVIA PETERSON PLAYS CATHERINE FISHER, CAPTURED SNIPER



KEITH ARBUTHNOT PLAYS "MR. SKITTER"


ALI SOKOVBYE PLAYS "THE HARNESSED GIRL


SEYCHELL AND PLAY AROUND ON SET

COLLIN CUNNIGHAM AND DOUG JONES REST IN A CAST TENT BETWEEN TAKES

NOAH AND WILL PREPARE TO SHOOT A LONG TAKE

COLLIN ON THE TARMAC

OUR AIRPLANE ON STAGE

I WATCH THE SCENE AS IT'S SHOT

WILL WATCHES... HE ALWAYS WATCHES

I DIRECT THE ARRIVAL OF TOM AND CO.
REHEARSING TOM'S TAKEDOWN
COLLIN CUNNINGHAM AT NIGHT

MOON - SO SWEET!

MOON - SO PRETTY!
CONNER JESSUP SITS ON THE ROOF
CONNER AND THE VOLM DE-HARNESSING MACHINE

HAL AND HIS EVIL DOUBLE ON SET

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN AND SCRIPT SUPERVISOR NANCY MCDONALD - OUR MASTERS & JOHNSON


WE HAD TO TRUCK THAT BIG 'OL PLANE ALL OVER THE PLACE
OUR NUTTY CAMERA OPERATOR MIKE WRINCH!









Sunday, June 16, 2013

SEASON THREE - EPISODE THREE - "BADLANDS"



EPISODE 303:  "BADLANDS"


WARNING - THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS BLOG - IF SPOILERS FEEL LIKE A SPIKE THROUGH YOUR HEAD - THEN ABANDON THIS BLOG NOW!!!!



Head writer, Remi Aubachon told me  weeks before the season was started that episode 3 of the season was going to be a “bottle show."  I’ve talked in this blog before about what a bottle show is – basically it’s an episode designed to be under budget in order to make up for the excesses of the over budget ones (like the season 3 premiere and second episode.) 

To be under budget on this show, ideally we would shoot in 7 days and not 8 (which is our norm) and we would have no, or at least limited, action and visual effects.  Some of our bottle shows have been our best episodes, IMHO, because without the effects and action to lean on the writing has to step up… And I certainly think that’s the case with “BADLANDS."

Director David Solomon was someone I’d never worked with before, but the folks at DreamWorks had, and they had nothing but the highest praise for him.  He is a former editor, who became a director long ago…  Among his many credits he was the producer director on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER  - which made my assistant, the impossible-to-replace Ashley Shields Muir quite happy as she is quite the Buffy fan.  He has also done a number of ONCE UPON A TIME episodes - which I directed one of as well – and the guys over there are big fans of his.  So, while it’s always unnerving for me to work with people I have never worked with before, I had a degree of comfort going into it.

The writer is  John Wirth.  John is an old friend of mine.  We worked together in the mid 1990’s on the CBS series NASH BRIDGES, starring Don Johnson.  That was my first-ever producer/director job – and it was a wild and wooly ride.  


A number of people from that series went on to do quite well – Carlton Cuse was the creator and showrunner, and he famously teamed up with another young writer from NASH BRIDGES  Damon Lindelof  to run LOST.   Shawn Ryan  who created THE SHIELD and LAST RESORT was also a novice writer on NASH.  And John Wirth, went on to executive-produce and run shows like, THE CAPE,  TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICHLES , and THE DISTRICT  as well as many others.  I'm not sure why NASH was such a breeding ground for success - Maybe because Carlton was such a good mentor, maybe because the show was so crazy challenging that it raised everybody's game - probably a bit of both.


Our NASH BRIDGES bond has kept John and I in touch over the years – and during the shooting of this episode John, Carlton Cuse and I actually got together for a rare NASH BRIDGES reunion dinner one night – as Carlton was up in Vancouver filming on his latest series BATES MOTEL   Much laughter and reminiscing ensued…

 

But enough prelude.  Let’s talk about the episode.

 

As I described last week, FALLING SKIES took over the Ajitan studios in Vancouver.  Ajitan has a small sound stage, where, this year we built the “Pope’s Nest” bar set.  It also has a small (about 1 ½ city blocks long) urban-street-exterior set.  We made arrangements with the studio the largely reorganize and, in some cases even level, portions of their street set in order to create the above-ground portion of Charleston.  I think, when John and the other writers conceived the story of this episode, they were trying to be responsible, setting the entire tale in Charleston.  The only problem was that much of it was written in the perimeter, called, in the screenplay, “The Badlands.”  Well, the badlands, as described  didn’t exist in what we’d built.  They were supposedly an series of outposts that the 2nd Mass stood watch in, in the leveled, scorched-earth, outside the city walls.  They needed to be surrounded on all sides by rubble and collapse – not by buildings we’d just established in the first two episodes.

 

So, Production Designer Rob Gray and the art department – who had only just finished completion of the main city set, in a grueling 6 week time frame – now had to create a new series of small sets which we built on the blacktop parking lot where we usually parked the shooting crew.  This was about 100 yards from the main set.  The sets were mostly rubble and beams and twisted metal – which sounds easy to make, but which is really an engineering nightmare.  The goal was, that as you face into the sets, the rubble behind would block the view of the Charleston exterior, and as you faced away – we would add big blue screens (sometimes 100 feet wide and 30 feet tall), where we would add matte paintings of distant destruction. 

 

It was quite a project and Rob and his team – after much of the usual debate about how to proceed, which happens in pre-production, they ended up with only a few days to build the whole thing.  They gathered scrap steel and wood and brought in truckloads of broken-up concrete.  Rob even found the shell of a burned up helicopter - I'm not sure from where.  Meanwhile, Grace Gilroy and the production team had to figure out where to relocate the parking for our 120-man shooting and prepping crew.  (Some of the behind-the-scenes work is quite mundane, but it drives us nonetheless!)


The things that I loved upon first reading of this script was the way the characters moved forward despite a simple and contained setup.  I think John brilliantly put every character under a lot of strain and pressure – the pressure of boredom and long hours waiting and the pressure of an impending battle.  

There were a number of things explored in this script that we hadn’t explored before.  Pope and his relationship to his  team of “Berserkers,” hadn’t really been delved into.  Matt Mason’s story evolved, as he moves away from the moral-center of the Mason family.  And the politics of Charleston are explored – both in terms of Gloria Rueben’s character, Marina, evolving and Tom’s role as President changing dramatically when the idea that the real President of the USA may still be alive.

There are three actors who play Pope’s “Berserkers.”  Ryan Robbins, whose character, “Tector,” was flushed out quite well in last year’s episode DEATH MARCH.  “Lyle” is played by former stuntman, now actor, the irrepressible Brad Kelly  who I’ve talked about in these pages quite a bit.  And the last member of the gang is “Crazy Lee” played by Luciana Carro.  It’s worth clicking on her link to see that in real life, Luciana is a beautiful young woman who usually plays much more glamorous parts. 

 

When the part of “Crazy Lee” was written in season two we had a hard time casting it.  The part, although small, was very colorful.  She was meant to be a rough, tough, snarling, but somehow sexy (or at least horny) biker chick.  We read a number of rough, tough, women and actual biker girls for the role – some of whom were quite colorful.  But no one was right.  I was really committed to the idea that this small character would be realistically rough around the edges and not glamorous.  When Remi proposed Luciana, who he'd worked with on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA -  I resisted.  She read on tape in Los Angeles, and her reading was quite good.  But she was so damn pretty – and I really wanted to avoid the stereotype of a hot sexy biker chickI wanted what I thought would be a more realistic post-apocalyptic character.  In my mind, if she was going to run with Pope and his gang she would have to be pretty gnarly.  But as the audition process waned on and time became short, it became obvious that Luciana was the best choice…  So, “Okay,” I thought to myself, “We’ll just have to mess her up.” 

 

My first encounter with Luciana was over the phone, just after she’d landed the role.  She was very excited to have just gotten the part - and, although I wasn't there to burst her bubble, I think I did.  I couldn’t see her, but I could feel her shocked expression as I described to her how we were going to portray her character – dirty, rough and gnarly.  I could tell by the timber of her voice that she was in shock.  But she went along, cheerfully,  with what I was saying.

 

On her first day on set, in the makeup trailer, I think that sense of shock remained.  We were covering her with dirt, ratting up her hair, staining her teeth, and putting her in less-than-form-fitting biker clothes.  As she sat in the makeup chair that day, she was being a good sport – but I think she was still in shock.

 

But – as soon as Luciana hit the set on her first day – I saw a transformation overcome her.  First off, it was probably comforting that EVERY person on set was smeared with dirt and has makeup bruises and scratches.  But soon enough, she really got into this character.  Her body language and the way she carried herself changed, becoming rogher and less feminine.  She began to explore a raspy, grating voice.  In general, she threw herself into it, and I’m quite sure that “Crazy Lee” is like no role she’s done before.

Well, tonight was the night that for Crazy Lee, like many before her on our show, it was game over.  The real genesis of why we killed her, came from Steven Spielberg.  He has nothing against Crazy Lee, but he wanted us to show Pope’s vulnerable side – he wanted to show an emotional side to Pope that the audience hadn’t seen and that he (and we) knew Collin Cunningham could deliver.

 

As I’ve talked about it before, that one of my unhappy jobs on this show is to be the angel of death.  Actors fear when I ask them to come privately into my office.  And here, once again, it was my task to pull Luciana into my office and let her know that the end was near.  She took it well, but later I heard, she got really sad.  FALLING SKIES is a close-knit family and it’s a lot of fun on set.  So leaving is hard.

 

Luckily for Luciana, John Wirth’s poignant script gave her a lot to play.  The whole story of the pipe through the head (which I guess is based on some real-life story of a construction worker in Brazil – who SURVIVED!) was very interesting and unique.  And the fact that Crazy Lee knew she was going to die for many hours before she did, gave her a lot to play with.  My favorite of John’s dialogue is the stuff about Disneyland – and how Pope can’t go because he got into a fight with Goofy.  Of course, in our world, Disneyland is no more – and I think both of the characters know it.  It is a dialogue of farewell and friendship between two friends who can't speak more directly, because of the nature of their characters, who must maintain an exterior of strength.  Very nice!

Another aspect of this script that I enjoyed, and that I’m enjoying this season is how Matt Mason’s character is evolving. 

 

(By the way... Did any of you ever have a MAJOR MATT MASON, MAN ON THE MOON toy as a kid - like me?  Check it out:  http://www.dialbforblog.com/archives/167/.   Matt Mason's name on our show has always bugged me because of this - but I'm not sure if anyone else knows about this toy.)  

 

Remi's point of view was that, while Hal and Ben have been given much of Tom Mason's attention, even if it's in the form of conflict or worry - Matt has been largely ignored by Tom of late.  Not for any malicious reasons, but because of Tom's overwhelming workload as both President and Alien Fighter. Because of this, Remi presumes that Matt would have a tendency to drift away from the moral center of all that is Mason-ness.  And who better to enjoy taking in this wayward boy and lead him to the dark side, than Pope? I find this story quite interesting and, frankly, necessary because Maxim Knight is getting older and we, as filmmakers, have to address that he's no longer the wide-eyed little boy who's close-up is the first live action image in the whole of the Falling Skies Universe:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S09-gl3z2o

 


The question, going forward is - how much trouble will Matt get into?  Or will Tom be able to pull him back?

 

Another aspect of this story, originally, was Tom Mason's ongoing political life. John Wirth and Remi really wanted to show the machinations of how the tedious and time consuming aspects of Presidency were wearing on Tom. The nature of re-building the United States and the world into a government that can oversee the people, very much interests many of us behind-the-scenes.  There was a more elaborate storyline in early drafts of the script, that showed Tom's trevails around vetting a vice-presidential candidate.  There were a number of scenes between Tom and Marina, and there were several small scenes with potential vice-presidents.  I'm sad that some of this went away, because it developed the Tom/Marina relationship well.  But, frankly, and despite John's strong dialogue and writing, those of us behind the scenes deemed that the storyline was a little tedious, when compared to spikes through-the-head and imminent alien invasions.  The story was truncated down to it's bare bones before we ever shot any of it.

 

It was fun to watch Noah Wyle and Gloria Rueben work together.  As you may or may not know, they acted together on the long-running series "ER".  Gloria fell into step with our group quite instantly.  She is professional and prepared.  My quickly formed impression is that she was a true lady, in the classic sense of that word.  And when it came time to do the long "oner" shots in our show (like the one in the first few minutes when they discuss politics and end beside Jeannie at the "Liberty Tree") she and Noah fell right into step.  The long oner was a staple of early "ER" - and quite groundbreaking at it's time.

Finally I'd like to discuss the song  sung at the Liberty Tree service at the end of the episode. Writer  Robert Rodat who created FALLING SKIES, was literally obsessed with the song ONE VOICE, originally sung by the group "The Wailin' Jenny's".  He felt it was very thematic to the vision he had for FALLING SKIES - the idea of many pulling together as one to survive.
In the first season there was an episode that ended with the 2nd Mass breaking bread and saying Grace.  Originally, Robert pushed hard for that to be a scene in with Loudres, followed by Anne and then followed by others spontaneously sang this song.  At that time, and being a new and very over-budget series, we couldn't afford the licensing rights and/or get it together.  But in season 3 we had the chance.  I think Remi and gang wrote the song into the episode without even telling Mr. Rodat about it - so he must've been quite happily surprised when he saw the episode.

Grace Gilroy, our producer in Vancouver organized the mechanics of getting it done - she had worked with the "Vancouver Children's Choir" before and she got the head of that splendid organization on the phone.  We got him the music and a recording of the Wailing Jenny's version.  It turns out to be a very complex piece with lots of difficult harmonies and key changes.  

Just a few days later John Wirth and I sat in the studio as the young women of this choir group recorded an acapella version of the song.  It took a lot of takes and overlays and re-do's - but several hours later we had a great version.

A few nights after that, the young ladies of the Vancouver's Children's Choir gathered on a chilly night to film the scene. Their music was blasted out on playback and they lip-synced to their recording (That's the usual way we do music in the film and TV business).

Okay that's it - next the behind the scenes pix I know you like so much.

Next week and episode I directed...  Which included Moon Bloodgood's final days on set for the season!!!

Until then...  




 WILL AND NOAH REST BETWEEN ACTION AND CUT


LUCIANA CONTEMPLATES LIFE AND (ON-SCREEN) DEATH BETWEEN TAKES



RYAN ROBBINS AS TECTOR THE SHARPSHOOTER



THE BESERKERS WITH THE YOUNGEST MASON




MAXIM KNIGHT 


THIS IS THE BADLANDS THAT  WE BUILT IN JUST A FEW DAYS



NOAH OVERSEES



WRITER JOHN WIRTH 



ON SET DURING CRAZY LEE'S DEATH SCENE - MAXIM WAS VERY FOCUSED




FOR EVERY EPISODE, BEFORE SHOOTING -  THE CAST, PRODUCERS, WRITER AND DIRECTOR GATHER FOR A "TABLE READ" WHERE WE READ THE SCRIPT OUT LOUD - LUVIA PETERSON WHO PLAYS "THE SNIPER" WAS HERE FOR THE EXCITMENT 



YASNA AND ANDRE WERE BACKGROUND PLAYERS IN TORONTO IN SEASON 1  - THEY CONTACTED ME AND ASKED IF THEY COULD COME OUT TO VANCOUVER (A CROSS CANADA MOVE!) FOR SEASON 3 - WITH LOYALTY LIKE THAT WHO WOULD SAY "NO"



DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN



COLLIN ON SET



NATE AND DIRECTOR DAVID SOLOMON


LUCIANA PREPARES TO SLIP THIS MORTAL COIL


MEGAN DANSO IN A CRASHED 'COPTER


CONNOR JESSUP ON GUARD DUTY



NEW GIRL GLORIA RUEBEN


MATT FREWER - WAR IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS


ME 'N LUCIANA


 THE VANCOUVER CHILDREN'S CHOIR - FIRST THEY RECORDED THE SONG AND THEN THEY SANG TO PLAYBACK ON SONG ON SET THREE DAYS LATER



 THE FINAL SCENE AT THE LIBERTY TREE



 DREW AND SARAH AT THE LIBERTY TREE - THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS GOING THROUGH SOME (ON-SCREEN) CHANGES




LUCIANA GETTING HER TEETH GRITTY ON SET TO PLAY "CRAZY LEE"


PRODUCTION DESIGNER ROB GRAY & EXEC PRODUCER REMI AUBACHON ON THE SET AT POPE'S "NEST" (BESIDES THE SET ITSELF - ROB CREATED THE HUGE PAINTING BEHIND THE BAR )



COLLIN ON SET - EXTERIOR BLUE SCREENS WERE USED IN MULTIPLE PLACES TO EXTEND THE BADLANDS