Sunday, July 24, 2011

FALLING SKIES - "SANCTUARY: PART 2"

(note: Here's a link to TNT's official website for FALLING SKIES):

IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE -  THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN!YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!


The story of the story:

Pardon the lack of objectivity, but last night’s episode is one of my personal favorites so far.

As I’ve said before – most of the stories were pitched to myself and the other producers early on.  But, because this story had less aliens, explosions and action than many of the earlier ones, I, truthfully, was less focused on it early on.

I know that everyone out there has different opinions about what works or doesn’t work for them about this series.  I love blowing up skitters and directing action – But, in the end, for me, the human story, that asks, “Could I maintain my morality under all conditions?” is what most intrigues me.  This episode’s story – even though there are no aliens in it at all – asks that with great specificity.  When Mike is asked to betray everyone he knows and everything he’s stood for, in order to keep his son and himself safe – the stakes of this world are clearly drawn.


Mike's final stand, played stoically by Toronto actor Martin Roach, shows the choice that he makes.  He will sacrifiice himself rather than betray humanity.  

When we first got the script for this one, I was very impressed.  It just felt to me like a great, kind of old-fashioned, tale.  The dramatic through-line is clear, the tension is clear, the bad guys have made evil choices, but these choices are grounded in a situational reality.  And the stakes are very, very high.   I also think it was a very bold choice to create a story that centered on the kids and, specifically, Hal and Ben.  Many times what happens within a story ends up being paralleled with what’s happening behind the scenes.  In this case Drew Roy and Connor Jessup had to step up and drive the “A” story – in the same way that their characters have to figure out how to save themselves and keep the group alive without their father’s help.

I also loved the way Pope escapes and then returns into the story.  His character is obviously more complex, with a thread of integrity that hasn’t been previously seen.

It was also, for me, a bold choice to have Noah's character, Tom, be essentially, peripheral for most of the episode.  It was interesting to me, as a film maker that even though he is in (what we call) the "B" story for most of the episode...  His entrance into the show in (what we call) the 4th act still creates a very strong presence in the episode.  Tom (and Noah) is still strongly felt as the hero when he comesand saves the day.

Finding the locations:

There were two key locations to find for this one.  The first was “The sanctuary” where Terry Clayton and his 7th Massachusetts survivors have found refuge.  The other was the upscale neighborhood where our kids take over a house to rest, and where the showdown takes place.

The first was tough to find creatively and the latter was tough to find technically.

Our needs were specific for “sanctuary.”  It needed to be a large building or series of buildings where we could believe a few dozen people were living.  It had to feel isolated in the countryside with woods adjacent.  It had to have a flat grassy area for our soccer game.  And it had to feel beautiful and serene. 

It also had to be within 50 miles of downtown Toronto, as to go further than that would make production endure excessive travel costs, as negotiated by the local trade unions that work in the film business.

These are a lot of specs to fit together.  We saw three or four places – one was an old spa/retreat which had beautiful grounds, but which was too modern with rooms that were too small.  The second was, to me perfect, it was a big sprawling farmhouse out in the country with a large open-floor-plan main house and a big barn, with horses and animals surrounded by gorgeous mountains.  The problem with this place was that it was outside of the just-mentioned 50-mile- “zone.”  I ran numbers on the costs with our line producer but they were prohibitive.

The place we chose was a compromise.  It had the most geographic requirements, but to me it looked too much like a sportsman’s lodge with its log walls and so on.  Our production designer, Rob Gray assured me that he could re-dress it to look less like a hunter’s cabin and more homey.  I’d grown to trust him greatly by now, and was sure he could do it.  It also didn’t have the barn where Pope was being housed and where Mike discovers the folded children’s clothes.  So we found a second location that had the barn we needed.  Splitting this one space into two locations created scheduling challenges, because on top of everything else, all of the children in the episode can only work limited number of hours.  Children under 16 can only work 9 hours a day and can only work until midnight on non-school nights – but at the time we were shooting in Toronto it didn’t get dark until 9pm.  9 hours of night a night was not enough.  

All of these technical/scheduling challenges were a bit of a Rubik’s cube for us – we had to find photo doubles for the kids and we set a few kids who were over 18 and looked younger.  Mark Verheiden and the other writer’s had to make some compromises too, such as writing more scenes for day and writing the kids out of some scenes.  (For instance, in the first draft ALL of the action at the neighborhood house was set at night.)  


Many times in this business, I’ve learned I have to compromise and often the compromises work out for the better.  The huntsman’s lodge, I think, has a very good feeling in the end.  And staging the neighborhood action as day, created a great scenario in which the children had walked all night – which, I think, helped the story. (I also loved the way Sergio staged that moment in a big wide shot with the sleepy kids walking through the desolate street covered by leaves and trash.)

The neighborhood was a challenge to find, only because we had to completely own it.  Also, creatively, we wanted to set the action scenes in a high-end neighborhood.  It felt ironic for the kids to occupy these big formerly expensive mansions in this post-alien-invasion world.

Rob Gray had the idea that the main house Hal and gang take over, was having of a child’s birthday party, when, for whatever reason, everyone fled.  The cake, now moldy, the party favors, and everything else is still there – six months later.  I love that detail.  We didn’t really see it on camera – but there was even a deflated jumpy-pit out the window.

Direction:

I know that direction in series TV is sometimes hard to discern.  With the same cast and crew and writers every week it feels like the directors should be pretty interchangeable.  But, take it from me, their influence is very important and varied.  True, it may be subtle, but I always feel that the director’s personality ends up on the film.

As I mentioned in the last blog, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan was Steven Spielberg’s long-time assistant director.  We hired him to block-shoot last week and this week’s episode.  (Which means we scheduled and shot scenes from both at the same time – which is unusual.) 

I’m not sure if Sergio was trying to step it up for his old boss.  He had also just finished a year-long project directing "The Pillars of the Earth"But, in either case, his vision was strong and he was very in-command both on and off the set.  Overall, I think his work is exceptional in this episode.  Truly it is mistake free.  The camera is in the right place at the right time throughout, to maximize the storytelling and the emotion.

A couple of examples from my (directorial) point of view:
First of all – if you’ve been reading this blog – you know that I love “oner’s” and consider them an important part of the show’s style.  (A one’r is a scene done in one long unbroken take with no “coverage” or additional shots.)  This idea originally came from Mr. Spielberg who referenced the movie CHILDREN OF MEN as a touchstone for this series.  Besides the comparable dystopia, Children of Men is notable for it’s long, long takes.  Anyway in this episode, Sergio did two that are really nice. 

The first is a scene in the Sanctuary’s kitchen between a numbers of characters, as vegetables are washed and food is prepped.  It has a beautiful flow to it and moves seamlessly from character to character.  The shot’s design, for me, creates a feeling of camaraderie and comfort, of casual busy-ness and of hominess.  I don’t think, at first viewing, one would even notice that there are no edits.  

The second one’r takes place in the house that our kids have occupied, about halfway through the episode.  It follows Hal as he walks around the house, taking in the dust and the birthday cake.  What I like about this very-well-designed shot is, in contrast to the earlier one which established a feeling of “group” – this shot is very much from Hal’s POV.  Everyone else in the house is occupied with other activities, playing “battleship” and so on.  Hal is watching, thinking and planning.  We sense his growing leadership, and the design of the shot enhances this.  Even when he’s in conversation with Lourdes, we are still feeling the environment as he sees it.

OK that’s enough for now – we have one more installment in the Todd Masters narrated “How to build a skitter” and then photos from behind the scenes.




HOW TO BUILD A SKITTER: PART 4





DIRECTOR SERGIO GAZZEN DISCUSSES SCENE WITH D.P. CHRIS FALOONA



Click here for: 
Henry Czerny 's impressive resume




MR. WYLE





SNEAKING UP ON MS. BLOODGOOD 




MARTIN ROACH, AS MIKE, GAVE IT HIS ALL FOR THE 2nd MASS. ONE LAST TIME THIS WEEK (YOU SHALL BE MISSED!)




COLLIN CUNNINGHAM AS POPE 
(little known fact: writer Graham Yost named "Pope" after, famously-intelligent, friend-to-the-writer, former NBC President, now producer Katherine Pope)




SARAH, MOON BLOODGOOD & MELISSA KRAMER (another interesting note: we hired a real pregnant lady to stand in for Melissa for a few "across-the-belly" shots)


ME AND MY SKITTER



MOON AND OUR POPULAR ON-SET MEDIC LINDSEY SOMERS (she took care of boo-boos)


THIS IS RAJ.  SHE WAS ONE OF OUR ASSISTANT DIRECTORS.  SHE SAVED OUR A**  EVERY DAY.  IF YOU'RE SHOOTING A SHOW IN TORONTO - TRY TO HIRE HER!!!!




SERGIO WATCHES A TAKE ON SET



DANIYAH AND SEYCHELLE (THEY COULD HAVE A CONTEST FOR WHOSE NAME IS HARDER TO SPELL)


A SKITTER'S GOTTA EAT! 
(Dare I say it? -- "Tastes like chicken!")


Sunday, July 17, 2011

HOUR 6 - "SANCTUARY: PART ONE"

(note: Here's a link to TNT's official website for FALLING SKIES):

IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE -  THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN!YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!
FALLING SKIES – WEEK 5 – “SANCTUARY: PART 1"

Hey - for all you going to the San Diego Comic-Con, FALLING SKIES will be there with a panel.  Sadly, I won't be there as I'm working on a project out of town right now.

The following is a rundown of TNT’s Falling Skies activities at Comic-Con:

Falling Skies Panel: Friday, July 22, 3:15-4:15 p.m. in Room 6BCF – Series stars Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Colin Cunningham and Sarah Sanguin Carter will join executive producers Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank and co-executive producer and writer Mark Verheiden for a Q&A panel session to be moderated by TV Guide Magazine editor-in-chief Debra Birnbaum. The panel discussion will include never-before-seen clips from upcoming episodes.

Falling Skies Autograph Session: Friday, July 22, 5-6 p.m. at the Dark Horse Comics booth – All six Falling Skies cast members and co-executive pro
ducer and writer Mark Verheiden will be on-hand to sign autographs following the panel session.





The story so far



Tonight’s episode is interesting because it was always conceived my Graham Yost, Mark Verheiden and the writers as a two-part story.  The first aired last night.  The second comes next week.  Sergio Gazzen, the director directed both parts.
It was one of the first episodes that the writer’s conceived of – and I heard the basic story at my very first meeting with the writers.  But the story got pushed back in the series, because a lot of other things had to be established first.

It examines a very interesting idea – what would you do if – in a situation like the one the second Mass. faces where your children were in constant danger – someone came along and said that they could keep your children safe if you just turned them over to them.
This is, obviously, something hard to conceive of doing.  And when Noah Wyle, who is a father, got the script – he wanted to really address this issue and worked with the writers to build up that story, and the discussion until it felt to him that he, as a father, was at the point where he felt he could give his kids up.

Of course, the idea was that the skitter attack, which almost kills Jimmy was the selling point (by the way, did you like the moment where the skitter picked up the globe of the earth and crushed it?  I did.  It was in the very first outline for the script and it just seemed… cool.)

Of course, the story Terry Clayton of the 7th Mass tells doesn’t unveil as he says. The ending on the page is chilling to me.  On a "How could anyone do that level?"  Well - more will be revealed next week.

Two things I loved in the script, that just seemed smart to me – (1) is how we reprise Eli the kid from the beginning of the episode.  And (2) How Pope re-appears at the end in a very unexpected way.  I think most of us thought he was gone from the story when he rode off that motorcycle a few weeks ago - it's fun to have him back.

I discussed at length with the director that the audience had to recognize Eli.  I made sure we open with a big close-up of him – and we decided to put him in a strong red coat to catch the eye (we don’t use red a lot in the series and I thought it would make him stand out.
The second to last scene were the creepy skitter girl, Meagan, takes Eli away was eerie on the page and I think Sergio, the director, did an excellent job of presenting it.

One of the keys was casting Megan.  This was a new concept for us that the skitters can communicate through harnessed kids.  Rick had done it a little, but now this was with authority and command.  Needless to say, we auditioned a lot of young girls for this part and worked hard, experimenting with what speech inflections and cadence and tone of voice worked.  The skitters seem pretty unemotional, and after some trial and error it seemed that Megan should be played casually, not-robotic, but still basically with and even cadence and a calm tone of voice. It seemed appropriate for a little annoyance and authority to come out when Clayton second-guesses her.

But beyond all the mechanics we had to have a girl who naturally had an ethereal, other-worldly quality to her.  That came when Niamh Wilson walked in.  She’s a young lady, I think thirteen-years-old, from Toronto who has a little acting experience.  But for me, starting with her cool Gaelic name – she just embodied this part.
Anyway – if you liked tonight’s episode stay tuned because I think next week’s conclusion is one of our very best.


Tonight’s director:

For last night’s  “SANCTUARY: PART 1” and next week’s “SANCTUARY: PART 2” we brought in Sergio Mimica-Gezzan as director.

Sergio had directed two episodes of HEROES for me (although one, only half-completed during the writer’s strike, never aired.)  Besides being a great director, there is an especially interesting aspect to him, as regards FALLING SKIES – because for many years he was Steven Spielberg’s first assistant director.

If you don’t know what a first A.D. does, they are the director’s right hand man (or woman)- they take the written script and break it down, organize it, schedule and plan how to shoot it and in general help actualize the director’s vision. 

He was the assistant director on eight Spielberg movies beginning with Schindler's List, including Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park and many others.





Here is his resume: 











Steven Spielberg gave Sergio his first break as a director on the TV series TAKEN.  But between then and now, he had never worked for his old boss. 






Now, when working with him before, during HEROES, if found that  Sergio is a very intense and focused guy – and he stays extremely on point on his script.  I, on the other hand, am a goofy and always cracking joke.  For me, Sergio always represented a special challenge – because not only could I never get him to laugh… I could never get him to do anything besides think about and talk about whatever episode he was prepping or shooting.
But finally, on this series, I got him to open up a bit about his experiences on all of those movies and I gained a little insight into Mr. Spielberg’s thought process and approach to film making.
According to Sergio, when Steven Spielberg was about to do “Schindler’s List,” he made the decision to hire an all-European crew.  He interviewed Sergio (I think in Croatia or Czechoslovakia) and hired him because he had done a European movie involving Nazi concentration camps in World War II.  Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski was hired in this same process, and both went on to be long-time collaborators with Mr. Spielberg after that.

This gave Sergio a unique opportunity.  He worked side-by-side with Mr. Spielberg for many years and got to learn from him first hand.
One of the key instructions Mr. Spielberg gave me upon being hired was “No TV close-ups.” 

This was a bit new to me because, first of all, I like big close-ups (If you know my previous shows SMALLVILLE and HEROES – both were known for their big low-angle close-ups, which filled the frame from just above the actor’s eyebrows to just below the frame.)  In fact, before this show my mantra, which I impressed upon other directors, was “See the faces.  See the spaces.”  I always preferred a mix of big cinematic wide-shots with big fill-the-frame close-ups.  (Both those series were also notable for being shot almost exclusively in very low-angles!)  My other mantra has always been “Move the camera!”  Now as a producer/director I’ve had to accept that some directors can follow my instructions better than others – its just part of the game… But I digress.

I was excited to try a new approach on this series and have tries to implement both long takes, and looser shots and less traditional, more documentary-style coverage.  But with Sergio I tried to get a sense of why Mr. Spielberg feels this way.
He said that, Mr. Spielberg believes that believes that the audiences need to become partners in the filmmaking process.  That he wants them to have to choose and decide where they want to be look and what they want to look at.

This, of course, goes against all television convention.  Most shows out there use the occasional wide r medium shot and then a relentless series of close-ups to control and direct the script and make you look only wherever the creators choose.  Frankly, to direct this way is quite dull.

I’ll tell you, though, it is very tough to do it the other way.  When you’re doing long takes and shots with multiple people in the frame at the same time – it means everything has to be working in the shot all at the same time.  Every actor has to ‘on” as do all of the technicians behind the scenes.

Ben and Rick:

We had an interesting problem with both Daniyah Ysrayl and Connor Jessup who, respectively, play, the strange de-harnessed, Rick and Tom’s middle son.

Normally, when it comes time to cast an actor we producer/directors bring them in and they read the scenes from the script we’re about to make. But both of these actors appeared in very early episodes, but only in a harnessed, zombie-like state.  Because the writer’s had outlined the season for us early on, we knew that, eventually, they would both be playing important roles with lots of dialogue and acting required.

So, knowing this, I asked the writer’s in L.A. to mock up a scene – one that would have varied emotion in it.  The writer’s wrote a very interesting scene between Anne and Ben, where he displayed conflicting emotions about being back and missing his skitter family.  It’s interesting in retrospect because this exact scene never ended up in any script, but certain “Rick” lines and certain “Ben” lines did end up scattered throughout the season in various places.Any way – by this episode, both of them are doing a lot more and, I think both are doing well.  Both are really nice kids, by the way – with very nice parents.


And Now - Part 3 of "How to Make A Skitter" (narrated by skitter-maker Todd Masters)




SERGIO GEZZAN and COLLIN CUNNINGHAM


NIAMH WILSON PLAYED THE SPOOKY SKITTER GIRL AT THE END OF THE EPISODE


SEYCHELLE GABRIELLE AND CINEMATOGRAPHER CHRIS FALOONA


DREW ROY 


TRES AMIGOS




THE SKITTER-LAD DANIYAH YSRAEL


WOUNDS ARE APPLIED TO MR. WYLE



THE NAME'S POPE - JOHN POPE


GOOD PALS MOON AND SEYCHELLE


THE ACTION IS ABOUT TO BEGIN!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HOUR 5 - "SILENT KILL"
















IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE - THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!


Look faithful readers – my friends at TNT have helped give the Beeman Blog a visual upgrade.  Thanks to them for that!

If you haven’t heard yet – FALLING SKIES has been officially picked up for a second season.  There had been reports for weeks now – even before we aired, that we’d been picked up.  But that wasn’t exactly right.  TNT really believed in the show – so several weeks ago they hired a writing staff to begin conceiving/writing the second season.  In and of itself, that’s a positive sign – but the official pickup didn’t happen until mid-week of last week.  Myself and the other cast and crew had been on pins and needles until we heard (even if they were short and kinda dull pins and needles.)

The show seems to be a hit.  I hope you guys out there are enjoying it.  I loved making it for you…

Also – sorry for the super short post last week – but 4th of July made it impossible to log in the hours necessary to write a decent post.

Okay so here we go… Episode 5 – “Silent Kill”

STORIES ARE TOLD:

Way back in May of 2010 Graham Yost and the writer’s room were just getting started.  The Dreamwork's team (Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Lindsey Springer) and I went over to the writer’s room – and Graham pitched out the first four episodes that they were breaking. (Note: "Breaking" is when the writers first conceive of the stories and write down the beats on a big dry-erase board.  "Pitching" is when the stories are formally presented, orally, to producers or studio execs.)
When he got to (what eventually became) “Silent Kill” – there were two moments that were chilling to me: 

One was the moment where the skitter looked Hal in the eye, reached out it’s spiky claw and then… patted Hal on the head gently.  That, to me, was cool.

The other was when Anne killed the skitter, and then went to the memory board and slapped her bloody handprint on the wall.  She had no other memorabilia from her family.  I thought that was chilling.

There was a lot of debate amongst the writers and producers about how the 2nd Mass. should deal with their prisoner of war.  Some felt that the skitter should be tortured, or brutalized.   Others thought the humans should show it compassion.  

Mr. Spielberg weighed in with the final verdict – his point was that the most important thing we could do is to try to communicate with it. 

The other interesting idea from the writer’s room – was that the skitter’s seem to communicate via very simplistic radio frequencies.  This concept will become important in the upcoming weeks.







SKITTER KILL:

I was excited about this episode, because of the way Anne gets to kill the skitter.  She’s been so compassionate and understanding, but when the chips are down WHAM! – She just jabs it in the mouth with a knife and does it in. 

Moon was very chill about doing this scene.  She’s done lots of action and shooting and knife fighting and parachuting into scenes in her career – so she doesn’t get as excited about this stuff as others on the cast who have never fired automatic weapons before. 

Nevertheless – I thinks the way director, Fred Toye, staged the scene and the actor’s play it is very good.  There are really just two simple key shots.  One behind Tom and Hal – facing the skitter cage - where the camera moves back and forth with Anne.  And one is pulling with Anne where we see her face and expression. There is also an angle behind the skitter and a Close-up of the skitters face - but all of the acting plays in the other wider shots.

The way Moon played the scene was very placid – you know she’s up to something but you’re not sure what.  Tom and Hal are, like WTF’s going on.  And then she just does it.

Of course the strongest moment is just after when she marches into the hall and slaps a piece of paper with a bloody handprint.  This was a well written scene – but tough to play.  And it plays almost in one shot with Moon in the foreground and Tom, stunned, in the background.  For the actor there's a lot of adrenaline pumping to get to the necessary emotional state but also a lot of words to say.  We rehearsed the scene a lot and talked about it on set – but believe it or not this is take 2 that’s in the episode.  Moon just nailed the moment quickly.  The director did one or two more takes – but in the cutting room we felt that the early take had the most power and emotion.

It's tough for me when I'm emotionally attached to a scene from the "pitch" stage.  Because then you feel like you need to nurture it through script, and shooting and post.  But, on set I knew Moon had nailed the key moment - and so I sighed a sigh of relief.

So… Good on ‘ya Moon!

SAVING THE KIDS:

My personal favorite sequence in this episode is the extended sequence at the hospital, from the time Tom and Hal and the gang arrive – to the time the kids have been saved.


For once, we got lucky with locations.  There was an abandoned hospital in Toronto that suited our requirements very well.  

It was an all-night shoot and it was pretty cold.  All night long shots are pretty grueling.  We do them a lot in the film business, but they take a lot out of you, and usually by 4 or 5AM the cast and crew are getting fried.  But Noah and Drew the other actors were in a very intense mood – and they kept their intensity up all night.
During the parts of the scene where the actors had to react to the mech walking by, obviously, there was no mech there – so a crewmember walked through the space with a large pole with a light on it.  This gives the actors the basic size and speed to track to.  Then we did a take without the crewmember.  Whenever the mech was meant to contact the shrubbery, the effects crew attacked fishing-ines to the bushes, which were shaken in sync with when the interaction was meant to happen.

I really like the moments between Drew and Noah, when hugs his son.  There’s a moment that feels very parentally real as they hug, and also when Noah touches the harness. It’s subtle but strong.

When Drew enters the hospital there is a very nice long take that director Fred Toye designed.  If you watch the episode again, notice how long the continuous shot is as Hal moves through the hallway, sees a skitter, avoids it, then sees the harnessed kids walking behind a skitter, he joins them.  If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know how important the long masters are to me.  I feel they are a signature piece of the show.  And in this case, the patient movement, without editing, in my opinion, enhances the anxiety of the sequence.
There were two other cool beats that Mark Verheiden and the writers had conceived, which we had to drop for scheduling reasons.  First, in every draft, up until a day or two before we shot, when Hal’s character sees the skitter and the kids – there was a weird moment when Hal was walking with the kids and they all stopped at a big metal trough in the hall, filled with water.  The kids all kneeled in unison and bent their heads into the water and began drinking.  Hal hesitated only a second and then he had to do it to.  It didn’t drive the story at all, but it was weird and creepy.  The thing was that the days were so complex and the hours we were shooting were so long, that we had to drop that beat for time.  I remain disappointed about it – but it’s the kind of choice you have to make in TV.
There was also a weird creepy scene where Hal found a room with a blood soaked floor…  Our brilliant production designer, Rob Gray had the idea that this scene would take place in the maternity ward.  You can still see the lead-up to this never-shot scene as Hal passes cartoony paintings of storks carrying babies.  Anyway Hal ducked into a side room to hide into the maternity wards incubator room to hide from a passing skitter, then he slipped on something and he looked down and saw it was blood.  Then he looked up and saw… Well, I can’t reveal more, in case this concept comes back in season 2 – but suffice it to say. It revealed more about the nature of the harnesses and why the skitters chose a hospital to house the kids in. 
This set was built and we were ready to shoot it.  But the crew fell behind that night and we dropped the scene.  We rebuilt it a month later on another day in another venue, and again the scene never got shot.  Maybe it was never meant to be.

The scene where Hal lays down in the pile of kids was another weird creepy moment I love!  It’s just such a bizarre concept that the skitters and kids just sleep in a pile on the floor.  It also makes you think about the skitters - are they really attached to these kidnapped kids?  


This scene was interesting because as we cut it together there were some moments we felt were missing and we went back and re-shot a few key shots to enhance and clarify the sequence.  

As Hal walks into the room which is being guarded by the skitter, Fred got an excellent reaction from Hal where he looks off-stage to the skitter, looks scared, worried he’s been found out and then keeps going.  But there was no shot of the skitter reacting to Hal, just a wide shot.  So we went back in and got a closeup of the skitter turning his head towards Hal.  This made the moment much stronger.  Also as Hal was fighting with the skitter, when we cut it together, we felt there were no reactions from the kids.  How did they feel about their beloved skitter being attacked?   So we got some of the extra kids together again and picked up a few shots of them reacting and tugging on Hal.  These are cut into the sequence quite quickly – but I think they help the overall vibe.

REMOVING THE HARNESSES:

The harness removal sequence, where Moon Bloodgood oversees the removal of 5 harnesses from 5 kids is the other signature scene of the episode. 
I had done a similar sequence in “Prisoner of War” which aired two weeks ago.  But in that scene only one harness was removed.  That was a difficult and time-consuming sequence for me to do then and I many less kids, actors, extras and speaking parts.  I knew Fred Toye’s work was cut out for him.  We scheduled the episode focusing on this sequence – and tried to give Fred as much time as possible (I think 8 hours) .

The Director of Photography, Chrs Faloona, had three cameras that day. And they just started banging away getting shots to tell the story.  
Fred took a long time to rehearse the scene – I think an hour and a half, which is an eternity in TV – but it was the kind of scene where every actor and every extra and every prop had to be highly choreographed.  The actors had many questions along the “Where do I go and what do I say and when?” variety.  This is natural.  The director tends to think of the sequence in the way that it will eventually be put together on film – i.e. there’s the moment when you focus on Anne cutting, then the moment where the girl spasms, etc….  But the actors are all there during the whole scene – and just because they’re off camera or not being focused on, they still need to understand what they’re meant to be doing in every moment.  Since there were ten or twelve actors or extras in this scene it meant Fred had to coordinate all those performances for the duration of the scene.  

To make things more complex – the scene was always meant to be played with time cuts.  We would edit the scene together to compress the time and add energy – but Fred decided it would be more comprehensible to direct it in “long form” so that once the camera rolled he could film the scene continuously and then cut it up later.  I think this was a very good decision.

It’s interesting to me because the scene I did in “Prisoner of War” and this scene are similar in many ways – yet from an energetic and emotional perspective – they are opposite.  In my scene (where Rick was being de-harnessed) I started with a long slow shot to build the tension up, and then designed the scene to have increasingly faster edits and movement.  The idea for me was to start slow and build the tension.

Fred’s scene was almost diametrically opposed to this.  He comes in fast and hard with many fast cuts and camera “whip pans” and lots of movement – The idea in this sequence is to create a sense of coming in in the middle of a tense action/adrenaline filled moment.  But then, towards the end, when the 5th kids dies…  Everything suddenly stops…  Fred then went to a long take with a slow push in as Moon moves to the foreground wracked with guilt and self doubt…. So his scene starts fast and then slows.

By the way, I love the way Moon plays this moment.  It’s quiet and understated, when many actors would have gone to histrionics.  She stands there in deep pain and we feel it. 

HOW TO BUILD  A SKITTER:

Finally I thought it would be fun to show you the “making of the skitter” videos that were created for the producers by Todd Masters who built the skitter.  Todd is a veteran, and knows that nervous producers need progress reports.  So he created these very amusing videos and narrated them.  They’re quite informative.
If any of you need a radio-controlled animatronic creature, I recommend Todd Masters in Vancouver Canada.  He’s the best.
Todd Masters




HOW TO BUILD A SKITTER - PART ONE








HOW TO BUILD A SKITTER - PART TWO




AND NOW -  MORE PICTURES:



DIRECTOR FRED TOYE DISCUSSES A SHOT WITH D.P. CHRIS FALOONA



CONNOR JESSUP - A SWEET YOUNG MAN, ALIEN HARNESS OR NOT


LUNCHTIME ON SET



DE-HARNESSING - IT AIN'T PRETTY


OLD FRIENDS NOAH WYLE AND Steven Weber


THE CAST AT REST BETWEEN TAKES


THE SKITTER GETS AIR BETWEEN TAKES


A PILE OF GUNS ON SET