Sunday, August 17, 2014

SEASON 4: EPISODE 9 - "TIL DEATH DO US PART"



WRITTEN BY: CAROL BARBEE
DIRECTED BY: GREG BEEMAN

WARNING!  SPOILERS!  IF SPOILERS MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE MASKED NAZI PUNKS ARE SHOOTING YOU DOWN -- THEN LEAVE NOW!!!!



ME AND MY PALS (HUMAN AND OTHERWISE) - LIVIN' THE DREAM ON THE SET OF TNT'S " FALLING SKIES"

Here's the truth.  Episode 9 was hard.  I directed it, and I should have known what was coming.  This was that episode which always falls in the (un)sweet spot right before the christmas break, when we'd been working hard for 4 months, the days are cold and short  (on December 21 in Vancouver it gets pitch dark by 4:30 in the afternoon and it doesn't get light until about 9:30 in the morning.)  In general, everyone's nerves are frayed and we were dragging ass to the mid-season finish line.  Of course as soon as we finished shooting episode 9, we got a 2 week Christmas/New Year's break and we came back to finish the final 3 episodes, refreshed.  In the back of our minds we knew all this - but we couldn't remember it at this time.

My memories of the production are just pushing through the exhaustion, putting one foot in front of the other.  

I remember that I kept calling my editor (the brilliant one-of-a-kind Donn Aron) and I kept asking him "Is it okay?"  "How does it look?"  He told me, on a couple of occasions, "It's going together really well, it's going to be a good episode."  But, while I was shooting it, I couldn't feel it.


Donn Aron

Because of the Christmas break - I didn't see the first editor's cut until early January...  And, guess what - I thought it was good!  It really flowed together, I had done some complex shotmaking and interesting scene staging that I was proud of.  I thought the emotional arc between Tom and Anne was strong and I felt emotional when they got married at the end. I loved the story of Ben guiding Maggie with her spike-enhanced abilities and I like what happened between Hal and Ben.   In fact, I think this is my favorite of the three episodes I directed this season - even though it was, by far, the lowest budgeted one.  I like the stories that were told and am happy with the performances that I was able to collaborate on with the actors (Ben-Hal) (Ben-Maggie) (Tom-Anne) etc.

It makes me remember what I already knew, but which is easy to forget - you can not tell when you are in the middle of filming (probably any artistic project).  Never get too comfortable or too nervous - just do your best every day and it'll work itself out.  (Truthfully, in the end, it's all about script - all I can do is enhance the visual aspect of the storytelling, and I can enhance and focus the scene-by-scene performances and the arc of the performance from the actors.)

So, back to the episode -- As I said - The prep had been hard, but I had a good plan.  There was a lot of action to film at night - specifically (in the episode) from the time the Espheni drone bombs the sight where Tom and co. are grabbing the Volm cache, to the end of the firefight with the Espeheni (cum Nazi) Youth Brigade - there was a lot of planning to do. Between the explosion, the fire and all of the shooting and running around - it was a lot of work to organize.  

Falling Skies looks great when we film at night - but it means that the crew and the cast and I are filming at night - all night (until 4 or 5 AM - once until 6:30AM) in the sub-sub-zero weather.  I'm not complaining - it's just part of the job - but it takes a certain degree of physical and emotional preperation (a lot more than filming in 75 degree sunny Los Angeles, for instance.)

As a director, a scene like that has a lot of moving parts.  The way to approach it is to mentally break it down into bite sized bits until it's broken up into it's smallest parts (for a director thats "shots")  - so in this case here's all the parts  (I'm not even counting the daytime work.):

. the Espheni ship arrives and bombs the group

. Tom and the the others re-group, Matt is gone, Kent and the other Team-Leaders arrive and shoot at them

.Tom and Anne break off and shoot two Team-Leaders following them

. Tom and Ann get shot at by Kent, They run for cover, Anne is shot but manages to slide to safety, Tom takes cover in a cargo container, Tom and Kent exchange dialogue, Kent kicks over  gas and fires at it the cargo container catches on fire, Anne runs to save Tom and Tom shoots Kent, Tom stands over Kent as he dies (btw - that's a lot of beats in one sequence)

.Matt chases Mira and gets shot with a dart in the neck, other Team Leaders appear

. Weaver shoots at the Team leaders. Matt runs Team Weaver and Cochise stun blast the Team Leaders.  Weaver and Cochise save Matt.  Mira escapes.

. Matt and Tom escape.

So here's the process I have to go through directorially:

First I have to find a location that I like and that suits all the work we have to do (in this case this meant it had to include the scenes approaching and leaving the Volm cache sight as well.)  This takes a day or two on it's own.  

Our location manager and production designer have thought about it and present me, usually, with photographs from a number of places that might work.  I'll narrow that down to two or three from the photos.  In this case, though, the two or three I selected happened to be pretty far from each other - so it took a couple of days just to find them.  At each place, Bryan Knight, the assistant director; Rob Grey, the production designer;  Nate Goodman, the director of photography; Grace Gilroy, the line producer and I walk all the choices discussing the pros and cons and feasibility of each place.  This includes, not only, how does it look, but mundane things like - can we get the big night lights where we need them to be?  Is there enough road access that we can work fast enough?  And so on.

At each place that has potential, I have to walk around and, at least, rough in how I would stage the scenes.  I have to work quickly, shooting from the hip (but knowing in the back of my mind that I can change my mind a little later - as long as the location has enough flexibility to do so.)  We go back to the production office and discuss exactly how we'll shoot the scenes - being as specific a possible.  After we've done that (which will take a few hours twice or so over a day or two)  we then try to figure out how many hours, realistically, it will take to shoot the scenes.  One of the best ways to be efficient is to shoot out lighting directions - i.e. shoot all the shots facing (for instance) west/southwest and then later shoot all the shots facing (for instance) east/northeast...  This is logical but may cause me to have to shoot way out of story order - which can be hard on the actor (and my) brains.  But night lighting is one of the biggest time consuming factors.  The other is transportation time - i.e., how long does it take to physically get equipment from base camp to set?  How long will it take to get the actors from hair & makeup to the set? etc.  TV is a game of inches - we have 12 budgeted shooting hours per day - but even if I went over that (which I can't do consistently and keep my job) - the sun will come up at some point and I will have to stop.

After all that, we add it up, and, inevitably, the first couple of times through - Guess what?  To shoot what's written and what I think are all the shots needed to tell the story will take 18 hours more than we have over the three 12-hour days we have to shoot."

At that point I have to (a) go back to the writers and tell them we have to reduce the script.  For some reason, they are never happy with this.  I try to bring specific ideas to the table that can cut beats without dissembling the key story points. (b) I also have to compromise what I want to shoot.  I have to, literally, play a version of "Name That Tune" in my mind... Like "OK, I can tell that story in 4 shots, not the 12 I originally wanted."  For some reason at first this always seems impossible - although even after I've cut it down to what I feel is the absolute minimum number of shots in prep, on the day of shooting I usually have to drop a few more.

All this is pretty normal, but tedious.  And we, frequently, have to do this on several story areas.  The shootout I've been describing...  Maggie's gunplay spike-practice scene... And the final wedding all had to get smaller than what was in the original script.

After the first night of filming the above-described action it snowed.  And not a little, a lot.  Vancouver rarely gets snow, but this year they sure did.  So while I filmed the day scene where Tom and co. walk back to the camp, a crew of special effects guys ran around all day with heated air blowers and blow torches melting the snow around the set where I'd already filmed the night before  (We couldn't have snow appear halfway through the scene without a horrible discontinuity.)


I also just had to accept that, inexplicably, in the middle of the episode, our heroes are returning to camp across a vast snow covered field.  (I was comforted by the fact that, at least it was really, really beautiful.)  I'm also happy with a super nice moment that happens in that scene when Tom looks at Anne walking ahead of them, and Anne looks back with affection.  It is, for me a nice congruity between performance (including a very natural moment from Moon) and design and editing.  I love when a moment works like that!

I thought I'd take a moment to talk about two of our guest cast and how they came to be in the show this year.

First, thirteen-year-old,  Desiree Ross who plays Matt's somewhat-love-interest, Mira.  Maxim was nervous and excited that he was going to have his (I think) first on-screen kiss and asked me frequently how the casting was going.  We read a lot of young ladies in Vancouver...  A few where close..  But there was always some missing quality.  I kept trying to talk myself into one or the other, but I knew in my heart it wasn't right.  Meanwhile the casting directors in Los Angeles were reading a few young ladies.  I really didn't want to cast this role out of Los Angeles.  That would mean additional monies for flights, hotel rooms and per diems, which (because a minor would also need an adult supervisor to accompany them) adds up to a lot of money, which could otherwise be allocated to other areas of the series.

But then our casting director called and said, "There's a girl out of South Carolina that you really should see."  Well, if I didn't want to cast out of L.A. I really didn't want to cast out of the East Coast...  that's a way more expensive pair of plane tickets.

But then I saw Desiree's tape.

She just stole it.  That's what happens when the right person reads.  They are just right and you just have to forget all the other stuff.

I love working with young people and have done it a lot... (My resume includes a large number of Disney Channel movies in the 1990's).  I find them to be, generally, eager and spontaneous and open.  Desiree was certainly that, she brought a great naturalness to the role, and was willing to push and take chances whenever I directed her.




13-year-old Desiree Ross - what she really looks like

The other actor is Dakota Daulby, who plays Kent.  He is from Vancouver (whew)...  He had read last year for role of the harnessed kid who shows up with the skitter at Charleston to tell Tom the state of the skitter rebellion.  He had been my first choice for that role, because I thought he had an eerie other-worldiness - but I was overruled by a group vote.

This year, he read for Kent and was excellent.  David Eick particularly responded to his audition.  He had long flowing hair when I first met him, and immediately after his audition I asked if he'd be willing to cut it if he got the part.  You'd be suprised how many actors balk at this.  But Dakota was game for a Nazi haircut.  He said he'd never played a bad guy before...  Which is hard for me to believe.  I'm sure he'll play more.   

I think he died very well in, what I feel, is a creepy and chilling final moment.



19-year-old Vancouver actor Dakota Daulby - what he really looks like


UP...
...UP..

One last thing which may be of interest...  When the show was first edited together it was about two minutes short (I'm sure all of you wise TV viewers know that TV episodes  - at least on commercial stations - have to be of a specific length.)  because this episode was an under-pattern budget episode we  cut it too close to the bone and we ended up with less cut film than we needed.)  

That meant we had to shoot an additional scene.

Whenever this happens (It's happened before - in Season 1 a lot )  - it's always tricky because the next episodes are shooting and specific cast members aren't available.  Also whatever we shoot has to be clean and simple no VFX or FX and not too many characters.  I suggested that maybe there was a  scene to shoot that could involve Ben and Maggie - either before or after the jump -  going into more depth about the powers...  

Well, Carol Barbee took this idea and ran with it.  She wrote a scene that, I think, is one of the best in the episode.  Sarah Carter and Connor loved the words and the emotion and where it took their characters.   I put it on it's feet (i.e. staged it) as a long walk and talk that could be shot in just two angles (with two sizes).  We shot the whole thing in less than two hours...   I love it when stuff like that happens.


AFTER THE JUMP... WOO-HOO JUMPING OFF OF 3 STORY BUILDINGS IS FUN


DANGER = GAS MASKS

MY MOST ADORED MOON

KENT AND COMPANY


THE GANG'S ALL HERE!



CONNOR CONTEMPLATES MAGGIE'S SHOOTING ABILITIES

ME - GEARING UP FOR A LONG NIGHT OF SHOOTING

TWO BRO'S - ROB GRAY AND NATE GOODMAN

MAXIM AND Desiree Ross 
NOAH AND WILL - LIKE I KEEP SAYING - DON'T MESS WITH THEM!

Monday, August 11, 2014

SEASON 4, EPISODE 8: "A THING WITH FEATHERS"


DIRECTED BY:  David Solomon
WRITTEN BY:  Ryan Mottesheard


Sorry, faithful fans...  I can't get a proper blog up today.  I have several deadlines pressing on different things, and the time just wasn't there.

David Solomon directed and did his usual great job for us.  I'm sure you all agree the scene where Ben's spikes were implanted into Maggie was weird and cool.  I was on set while that shot that and Connor and Sarah Carter were in the zone...  No-one was counting down or anything...  They just were in synch with all their jumping and writhing.  Of course, as you know, their were no digital spikes - so Moon had to act all that, where she fought their squirming as she carried them.  All good.

Also, Maxim Knight, I think did a great job acting today - as he fights to know his Dad is alive.  And, as always, Will Patton was a great scene partner.

Here's some pix, and next week I'll try to make up for it with some in depth stuff on an episode I directed.

Thanks for understanding,

Greg


SARAH CARTER ON SET

DAVID SOLOMON DIRECTS THE CAST

DREW AND MEGEAN GETTING READY TO ROLL

MATT LEADS THE MASON BROTHERS

MOON BLOODGOOD - GETTING IT DONE

OUR TWO D.P.'S NATE AND BARRY

TREVA - BURIED ALIVE!

MOON AND NOAH JOKE BETWEEN TAKES

SARAH - "WHEW" GLAD SHE'S NOT DEAD

INTER-PLANETARY BONDING

MY INTREBID FORMER ASSISTANT NOW PRODUCER - ASHLEY WITH SCARLETT

CHRIS AND STEVE - OPERATE CAMERAS

PRODUCTION DESIGNER ROB GRAY - WHOO-HOOO - AND THEY PAY US TO DO THIS STUFF!!!

ME: I WANT IN ON THAT ACTION!

OUR FX SUPERVISOR, DAN KEELER,  SHOWS US HOW FLAME-THROWIN' IS REALLY DONE


Monday, August 04, 2014

FALLING SKIES: SEASON 4, EPISODE 7 "SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE"


Directed by: Olatunde Osuname

Straight up:  THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. 

Straight up:  THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. 


We killed a few of our characters last night.

Who exactly died?  And who could still survive?

Seychelle Gabriell who plays Lourdes is the actress and character who has been here the longest... Since the pilot. And Seychelle is a team favorite behind-the-scenes, sweet and funny and an all-around positive influence.  Moon Bloodgood and she were particularly close.  It was very sad for us to see her go - and, when I tell actors that they're dying, sometimes I have only the cold comfort of telling them that "At least you're going in a really cool way."  I don't know how it felt for you, watching at home - but as I read the first outline for this episode, I was certainly surprised by the suddenness of the way Lourdes goes and the blood running out of her eyes - melting from the inside - was, well - cool.

Ryan Robbins was next.  Ryan and I first worked together on a SMALLVILLE epsiode entitled "Exile".  It was, I think the Season 3 premiere, and Ryan played a character that Lex encountered on a desert island, who ultimately turned out to be a figment of Lex's imagination.  Ryan is one of the hardest working, most talented and most-frequently employed actors based in Vancouver Canada. 

He's been great as Tector, a part originally intended to be a very small side-character, part of Pope's gang.  But Ryan made the character his own and his part grew and expanded as the writer's saw what he could do.

As for Robert Sean Leonard - he was originally recommended by Noah when the part of Dr. Kadar first appeared.  He and Noah are friends and had worked together long ago on a movie called SWING KIDS.

Besides his immense craft, Robert brought with him a playful cynicism and all-around good humor, which was quite welcome on the long cold Vancouver nights.  Besides Noah, he became good friends with Connor Jessup (Probably because they both share a near-genius intelligence.)  

Tonight's writer's Brad and David invented Kadar, so I guess it's fitting that they, now, do away with him.

And finally - Sarah Carter...  Well, the question is - is she dead?  I don't think we know yet - but there were a lot of casualties tonight... So the more the merrier.  As I've well documented, Sarah Carter and I go way back and I have a special fondness for her. We have worked well together, again since SMALLVILLE, where she played Alicia Baker.  I was the one who originally recommended her to Dreamworks and TNT in the very second episode of this series - I just had this feeling that, even though she had never exactly played a badass character like "Maggie" before - that she could do the job. In tonight's episode, Maggie disappears during the mad scramble after the explosion,  and we find her buried under a collapsed building in the final montage.  If it's for real, then...  Her death makes me very, very sad

Finally a few words about tonight's director Olatunde Osuname.  Olatunde was recommended to me by Will Patton. (Notice the pattern - almost everyone ends up having been recommended by someone.)  They had worked together on a small movie called THE FOURTH KIND.  Olatunde wrote directed and produced that movie, and when I watched it - although I was strongly taking into consideration that he had directed exactly zero hours of TV - I saw immense promise and cleverness in that film - both conceptually and directorially.

I had a SKYPE interview with Olatunde, and he was a charming and very enthusiastic young man.  He won many bonus points for being a legit fan of Falling Skies, which he proved by being able to talk about the whole series.  (Many pretend to be fans when applying for a job here, but it doesn't take much investigation to find out if they've really just watched a couple of episodes and read the Wikipedia page.)   I think Olatunde was actually a bit shocked he was even being considered.  He has a small resume and he had just started trying to get into TV via his agency.  But, Will Patton doesn't recommend people lightly.  And, truthfully, I had a good gut feeling about him.  We needed fresh blood, and it's always great to discover someone new.  I've done it once or twice in the past - and I've found that, if I'm right, it pays dividends in two ways (a) it takes a while for the rest of the industry to learn about the your discovery - so I can "hang onto them" for awhile and (b) loyalty.  People tend to stay loyal when you've given them a big break.

Olatunde came up to Vancouver early to observe, which both he and I wanted him to do.  It was good because he was there during the prep of episode 4 and the shooting of episode 3 and some of episode 2.   I emphasized to him from the beginning that Falling Skies is like the NFL linebacker of TV shows.  "It's big, it's fast moving and if you don't keep a close eye on it's every move it'll knock you on your ass."   Luckily my words were quickly proven to Mr. Osuname as he observed the scale and scope of the work we were doing.

But...  You know what, Olatunde came through with flying colors.  The cast, especially Noah, were very impressed with him constant enthusiasm and his depth of good ideas.

He is, what I call, a "real" director.  Which means that he wants to be involved in and make decisions on every aspect of the show.  He also sees beyond the script, and wants to add to and enhance the story beyond what is, merely, on the page.  A good example of this is the final montage that takes place in the episode - where the camera floats over all of the fallen... Lourdes... Kadar... Tector... Maggie... and the same look and style brings us to the final moment of the show with Tom.   These moments did not appear in the script - it was Olatunde's idea to create this montage, which he felt, with music would be very emotionally powerful.  He was right - and that kind of instinct resulted in him being invited back right away.  (More on that in a future blog.)  

As he went to the floor (i.e. shooting) I impressed upon him my Joe Montana philosophy.  (An old NFL reference I know - but one that has always motivated me.)  The job of a TV director, like an NFL quarterback is to win the game - in regulation time.  By which I mean - it's not enough to just shoot great film - the job requirements is that you do it in the allotted time (12 shooting hours per day!).  The Joe Montana part comes in if you can also do it with flair, while inspiring the team, and pull out a few last second victories.

That's it.  More another day.




Seychelle prepares for her final curtain 


Olatunde Osuname our director - a welcome addition to the team


Will stares me down - guys, just don't mess with Will Patton


It's been a bad night for Tom Mason 

Team Byrne and Carter

A pile of bodies prepare for the day ahead
Pope - when you're right you're right - he never trusted Lexi and - now look!

Ms. Sarah Carter - will death come sweet or painfully to ye'?

Ryan Robbins -- Even his own Wikipedia page could not prevent his heroic death

Robert Sean Leanard was a favorite as soon as he appeared on our set


video

Watch the first look we ever had at the full overlord

In which I heckle Curt Miller, Our VFX Producer to "Get over there and get some sh*t done!"

Then I show him, by example, exactly what I mean

Later, Curt stands riveted by my every word and action!

Ah, Pope - what is your fate?  Will you be next?
The above moment is, literally, one of my favorite moments I've ever directed - the first time I directed Ms. Carter...  I really hope she's not dead

And you, sweet Mira - you just got here - it would be inconcievable to kill you off so soon - and yet, fate is a cruel dance partner?!


Olatunde at his first meeting, contemplating all that is in store for him

Sunday, July 27, 2014

SEASON 4, EPSIODE 6: "DOOR NUMBER 3"



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!


Beeman




.  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  .