FALLING SKIES: SEASON4 EPISODE 2 "THE EYE"
Written by: Carol Barbee
Directed by; Sergio Mimica Gezzan
warning there are spoilers within.
"The Eye" is the second part of a trilogy that encompasses the first 3 episodes of our season.
Second acts are tricky because they neither begin the drama nor end the drama. But they have the obligation to carry the drama that's been established and raise it to the next level.
I was very happy to have Sergio Gezzan in the second episode of the season. As I'm sure I've mentioned before the second episode of a season is the trickiest for me. I am directing while the prep is happening - and new seasons always bring new tonal and structural and dramatic changes. I am less able to oversee the 2nd episode of a season than any other episode of the year. That's why Sergio's presence brings me comfort. Not only is he relentlessly responsible, but he cares deeply about the crafting of character and the drama of storytelling. Sergio is the only director, besides myself, who has directed episodes of "Falling Skies" in all 4 seasons.
David Eick and writer Carol Barbee (who I worked with on the first season of "Touch" were telling a story of surveillance
and totalitarian oppression. Carol really wanted a creepy mood, and a feeling of always being watched. The concept of the eye that twisted and turned on the front of the air ship was important.
The mysterious zeppelin that has been circling the ghetto were Tom is imprisoned, is examined in depth this episode. What was very important to David Eick was to establish how the zeppelin is powered. As the second act, this episode is largely about Tom and co. learning and plotting their unlikely escape attempt.
As you can tell. Many new ideas and new rules have been brought in this season, and we were working hard to feather them in with the things that have already been established. The tethered zeppelin, of course, was a new concept and a new design, and while we had some time to design the exterior of the zeppelin - the interior was done pretty quickly.
Rob Gray, the production designer (which means he designs and builds the sets and finds the locations we shoot in and overall designs the "look" of the series) and I felt that we should stick with what we've established as far as Espheni interior design. Between with the interior spaceship in season 2, and the re-vamped power station in season 3 and Karen's lair in Season 3 and the big power station that we blew up at the end of season 2 - we had built a lot of spare parts for Espheni interiors. They were literally laying around in a warehouse and we had used and re-used them many times.(Believe it or not the Falling Skies budget is really quite spare and recycling is a key part of our game-plan.)
Rob did have to design a new set - which meant having artisans carve (literally) styrofoam walls covered with Espheni veining. With the lights on the set, when it was up was quite spare and incomplete looking, a mess of walls propped together with tubes and wires run everywhere. Rob covered the floor with rubber pebbles. As I say, it wasn't much to look at when well lit. But when we turned the lights off and Director of Photography, Barry Donlevy added the signature orange Espheni cross-light, it came alive. We also added ceilings and some depth with computer generated backgrounds.
One of the cool things in the episode, which I'm kind of proud of, was the way that Tom was transported up to the zeppelin. The script just described an elevator that descended from the ship - with no further elaboration. But, in our Visual Effects meetings - we spend a lot of time talking about things like "What would an Espheni elevator look like." I was shooting, but my fearless former assistant, now associate producer, Ashley Shields-Muir came to me with reports from the VFX meeting - which had generally been successful, but which had stalled in this one area. The idea of what the elevator should look like, just came to me in a flash - it should be a snaking series of tentacles that seem separate and alive. The whole thing should descend like a mass of snakes from the ship and then let loose of the passenger as it lands. To the harnessed human who comes down, this would be no big deal... But Tom's ride up would be pretty creepy for him.
Sergio was very interested in the idea of the rebellion - and I have to credit him for both conceiving, designing and implementing the attack that the citizens of the ghetto. It was a big scene that didn't really fit into schedule - but Sergio found ways to twist and turn the schedule and add a small splinter unit to make sure that it happened.
It was also clear this season that the Espheni overlords were going to play a bigger and more specific role this year. We meet the one who oversees the ghetto, and at the end of the episode we get a glimpse of a second overlord, who is mysteriously working with Lexi - to what end, good or bad, at this point we know not... But practically, to us in production that meant more overlords. Now, overlords have been our most expensive commodity. They have been full done using CGI motion-capture , and they have cost many thousand of dollars per shot. So as you look at past seasons the overlords have actually been used quite sparingly, and many magician's tricks have been used to limit how often we actually see them.
But David made it clear that this year would be different. We would need to see them much more. So, with Todd Master's we began to devise a plan to create a practical, on-set, overlord. Todd's practical creation of Cochise, applied on top of actor Doug Jones, had saved the day last year. Had Cochise been full CGI last season, he would have been prohibitively expensive. But Todd's suit with minimal CGI for Cochise's eyes and brow was a massive dollar savings. So, we decided we needed to try it again. Of course the overlords are 10 feel tall with strangely thin bodies, tiny feet and super long arms. This was all no big deal when they were all CGI... But practically this means we were not going to be able to replicate what we did with Doug - i.e. have an actor in a suit. This project was going to involve a stunt, performer, who was going to have to walk around on short stilts with a robotic, radio controlled mask propped on top of his head. It was a big project that Todd estimated would take 10 weeks. Through no fault on TNT's part (we can't get financial approval of things until we are actually in production and have a budget.) we weren't able to start fabricating this creature until just a couple of weeks before we started shooting - and Sergio's episode came up only 4 weeks after that.
Long and short is that, for this episode, which was filmed 6 weeks after we sent Todd off to build the creature - we didn't make it! Rushing as fast as he could, Tom did finish the rough exoskeleton of the overlord, and we did film this on set as a template on which to overlay the CGI character. But what you saw in tonight's episode was 90% CGI.
More next week....
|Director of Photography, Barry Donlevy and Director Sergio Gezzan|
|Days go by on set for Drew Roy|
|Noah gets to know his fellow cast members|
|Will Patton - Weaver's just hanging on to his sanity|
|On set at night on a crane|
|Me in the mirror in the producer's trailer|
|What do you call many Volm? A gaggle? A pride? A posse?...|
|Production Designer Rob Gray with Seychelle Gabriel|
|Scarlett Byrne and Sarah Carter between takes|
|Robert Sean Leonard and Connor Jessup between takes|
|"You looking at me?!"|
|Noah enters the belly of the beast (much of the set was CGI set extensions)|
|Collin rests between set-ups|
|Getting ready to rumble|
|Techtor's joining the party!|