DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Frakes
WRITTEN BY: Melissa Glenn
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. IF SPOILERS MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE CRAWLING INTO A SLIMY ALIEN COCOON AND TRANSMUTATING INTO SOMETHING EVIL - THEN STOP READING NOW!!!!
Our sixth episode was a fun one for us here at FALLING SKIES.
First off, veteran director Jonathan Frakes, who is good friends with Noah Wyle, was back. And newcomer (to us), writer Melissa Glenn was up in Canada for most of the shoot. Both of them are a lot of fun. So, while on the one hand this was an episode shot during the drudge of Vancouver’s November rainy season - this was also an episode, where, behind-the-scenes we laughed a lot and had a good time.
It’s also the season when we have to do a couple of bottle show to make up for the financial sins of the earlier part of the year. In this case, Melissa had designed an episode that all took place within the confines of the Chinatown mall, where Lexi’s contingent has made camp all season.
There has been an inevitable pull as the 2nd Mass. slowly comes back together – and this week, all parties are reunited again after their separation in the opening minutes of the opening episode.
We also had to do this episode in one less shooting day than our norm. We’ve done that in the past, and, as I said the script was compressed to be in only one major location… But still it is a big story with many characters who have many, many points of view. The actors also have many points of view about their character’s point of view. And there were numerous scenes, more than usual, with a large number of cast members in each scene – as the two factions grow within the 2nd Mass – The Pro-Lexi faction and the anti-Lexi faction. So, all in all, Mr. Frake’s task – to keep these varied balls in the air – was far from easy.
The scene where our heroes come together was an extended sequence that slowly revealed more and more characters as it went… This was a very important scene to get right – and as such was one that Director Frakes, and alternating Director of Photography Barry Donlevy and I discussed quite a bit. It all had to be staged in a long, but rather narrow pathway that leads into the Chinatown – dubbed, by us, as “The Kill Zone.” (To know why it has that name you’ll have to watch next week’s episode).
The trick was to stage the scene in such a way so that each new character or group of characters would be revealed in a realistic way, but with impact… So we walked the location ahead of time a number of times and discussed “Hal’s team will start here” “They’ll be stopped here.” “Tom and his group will be revealed here.” Etc. It was also emphasized, quite a bit, that we had to take our moments with each reunion… Tom and Hal had seen each other recently but Hal and Tom and Mat had not seen Ben for months – so the emotion of the Mason boys getting back together had to be given it’s time. I especially liked the performance that Moon Bloodgood gave – as Anne sees Tom – it’s complex and sweet – but not gushy.
Anyway – knowing the importance of the scene, Mr. Frakes took his time shooting it and got us many angles and cuts. He shot it from the wide shots we like so much, he shot the Close-Ups we need, and he and Barry also decided to shoot a number of almost voyeuristic, sniper-like angles – which were interesting in that they added tension.
In the final cut, that’s in the episode you watched tonight, we really concentrate on Tom/Noah and move with him as he goes from character to character. Other than a quick cut of Hal hugging Ben, and Weaver clasping hands with some other 2nd Mass’ers – we stick with Tom. But, you should know, that Mr. Frakes staged a number of other scenes, giving everybody their time. These were all in the first cut of the episode – but it was just too long. As we often have to in the editing room, we have to make our choices about what we think really matters – who are we really following.
I’m happy with the sequence and, as he so often does, composer Noah Sorota put the cherry on top of the cake with the score that plays under the images – it’s sweeping and grand, but with bittersweet notes and not too sappy. I really love the work he does for us.
A big project on this episode was the creation of Lexi’s cocoon. Production Designer Rob Gray had to build something quickly and affordably that looked like it was of Espheni organic design, which could be self-supporting, could support Scarlett’s weight, which could glow and pulse in this episode, and which in the next episode – well, I can’t spoil too far ahead – but, let’s just say, which would “evolve” in episode 7.
A big task.
Luckily we had rough story outlines well in advance – and so we knew this project was coming. Rob actually built a wall in Lexi’s domicile, with a big circular doorway opening that allowed him to build the cocoon into it – using supports between the walls to do so – knowing that the cocoon was coming six episodes down the road.
It’s worth noting, also, that when we chose the Chinatown location – we did so knowing well certain very restrictive limitations. The location we used is the Sun Yat SenGardens in downtown Vancouver (You can go there if you’re ever in the city).
It was a brilliant and unique idea on Rob and line producer Grace Gilroy’s part. As I’ve discussed in an earlier blog, the writer’s original conception was for Lexi’s world to be inside an abandoned shopping mall, or Costco. These type of places aren’t readily available for shooting, the numerous products needed, in volume, are hard to obtain and harder to license. (TNT won’t allow us to advertise within the show except for in very limited and pre-approved ways.) The idea of making Lexi’s world in a mall in Chinatown was unique, realistic (many cities have such malls in their Chinatowns… Los Angeles certainly does as does Vancouver.)
We in production never quite agreed on whether this mall, in our story, was in Philadelphia or in Georgia – both were close enough to North Carolina to be credible – and, in the end, we fudged, and different internal factions held onto their opinions of where we were.
Sun Yut Sen had an outer garden which we made look like the exterior courtyard of a mall – there was a nearby true mall, which we used in the opening episode when Ben woke up (which had very restrictive middle-of-the-night shooting hours) and the inner garden with this amazing bonsai garden and tea house – which we turned into Lexi’s inner temple.
The problem from Rob’s construction point-of-view is that the inner temple is a 18th century Chinese structure that was imported to Vancouver in the early 1900’s. It is a work of art made with no nails. The aforementioned restrictions are that we could not nail into it or attach anything to it. Rob’s set pieces (and all of our production lighting and grip equipment) had to be freestanding. A challenge!
For Mr. Frakes another challenge appeared – in that these locations I just mentioned are not directly connected. Neither is the exterior bombed out Chinatown street that the characters move through. Rob built transitional pieces… A bombed out entrance on the street set matched a bombed out entrance in the outer garden. A circular portal in the inner garden matched a circular portal in the inner garden – but none of those three venues actually connect. So it was Mr. Frake’s and Mr. Donlevy’s job to give the illusion of connection by double shooting the entrances and the scenes that take place at the entrances (a lot of them in this episode!)
The design of the cocoon also had to accommodate Scarlett Byrne. She was supposed to be asleep in one frozen position, supposedly in the nude, for almost the duration of the episode. So, one of our first tasks was to get her into a wireframe version of the cocoon and figure out a position that she could lay in, supported by the infrastructure of Rob’s cocoon and by some hidden padding – for long lengths of time.
But, no matter how long she was able to stay still in there, we had three full 12 hour days scheduled in the cocoon room – and there was no way Scarlett, or anybody, would be able to stay still that long. So, Todd Masters makeup effects group, also took a mold of Scarlett’s face and made a very excellent replica “Lexi face” which then attached to a pre-existing dummy. Both Scarlett and the dummy were dressed in full body nude-colored suits, and we switched back and forth between them as needed when we shot. (All of this is documented in photos below.)
In the end though, Scarlett spent a lot of time in this episode, holding perfectly still inside of that cocoon.
That’s it for this week… Next week is full of action and surprises… So don’t miss it!
|. SCARLETT BYRNE: BEHIND THE MUCUS .|
|. SCARLETT'S FIRST FITTING FOR THE COCOON" .|
|. THE FINAL FITTING .|
|. CLOSER... CLOSER... .|
|. IT'S ALL DONE! .|
|. THE FINAL PRODUCT ... A SLEEPING BEAUTY .|
|. DIRECTOR JONATHAN FRAKES REACTS WHEN I TELL HIM @ THE BUDGET AND SCHEDULE |
ON THIS ONE .
|. FRAKES AND HIS OLD PAL NOAH WYLE .|
|. FRAKES AND LINE PRODUCER, GRACE GILROY .|
|. ME - HOLDING A DOG .|
|. NOAH AND WILL .|
|. WILL PATTON - DON'T CROSS HIM .|
|. SOME UNRULY FELLOWS .|
|. THE CHAMBER WHERE BAD SH*T GOES DOWN .|
|. MOON LOVES HER SOME BABIES .|
|. MORE LOVE OF BABIES .|
|. JESSY SCHRAM FILMING .|
|. SCARLETT IN REPOSE BETWEEN TAKES .|
|. THE PRE-PLANNED OPENING IN LEXI'S QUARTERS WITH A PAINTING IN THE BACK .|