Here we go with part two of my (sans DVD) DVD commentary for my episode Pass/Fail. If I can stay on track, I'll do part 3 (Hiro) next week and then follow up after that by answering some questions. Comments are now working, so leave you can leave your questions there. Let's dive in:
GENERAL • The introduction of a love interest was an interesting story to tell for our villain. We'd seen him do some pretty heinous stuff already but wanted to do two things at this point in the season a) give him a little depth -- see another side to the character and b) really send him over the edge so that we really feared what he could do to the world and what our heroes were up against. And I think Robert Knepper (as Samuel) did an amazing job, deepening this character. Structurally it's very similar to what we did with Sylar in season one, meeting his mother, seeing him treated as "Gabriel" and how drastically that changed him when she rejected him. In both cases you think for a moment there's a real hope for redemption for this character -- if only the person they love would accept them as they are then things might be okay. Alas, they are rejected and the world itself is threatened as a result. And so it goes.
• Unfortunately I don't have any photos from these scenes, but I've got a few from the Hiro storyline that I'll share next week.
VANESSA WAKES UP • I had a long conversation with Robert Knepper about this storyline. He's another actor who wants to come in 110% prepared for his scenes and it really pays off. One thing we talked about was the shaving. In the script I wrote "Samuel is clean shaven" meaning that he'd cleaned up and wanted to look presentable for Vanessa but Robert thought I meant that Samuel had shaved off his little soul patch. Robert didn't want to do this as he thought it was integral to the character, I told him not to worry it wasn't what I had intended but the conversation led to this nice little moment where he has the razor and you can see him consider shaving it off.
• Getting Kate Vernon for the role of Vanessa was a dream come true for this Battlestar Galactica fan. She was brilliant and had great chemistry with Robert.
• If you look closely at the shots inside the trailer you can actually see the drawing of the house that Samuel takes out later (it's on the right side of the frame when Vanessa is standing on the left, just after she wakes up. And again when she puts on her jacket). It's sort of a goof and I'll explain why a few scenes later.
• Given that she'd more or less been kidnapped in the previous episode, this was a tricky scene to get right. We approached their relationship as an on-again-off-again romance. Vanessa knew Samuel was bad for her, but enjoyed that bad boy quality and escaping from her normal life from time to time. Her line about "this is how it always starts" is telling -- she knows that if she gives in to his first simple/innocent request she'll easily find herself agreeing to more. She knows Samuel for the silver tongued devil he is... but just can't help herself.
THE MILKSHAKE • This was originally a much longer scene and it was beautifully shot and wonderfully acted and there was a lot of brilliant dialog ;) but at the end of the day it slowed down the pace of the episode too much. A shame, but it happens.
• I love Robert's little move here where he gets up to sit next to her, and gets nervous about how close he should sit to her.
• A lot of innuendo in Vanessa's gesture for "a little". Love it. Great choice by Kate.
• This was filmed in Studio City at a place called the Gelato Bar.
REMEMBERING THE COTTAGE • Two things happened by trimming down the length of the previous Samuel/Vanessa scene. One was that we were a bit short on time for the whole episode, the other was that it felt a bit sudden to next see them running through the field together. What we felt we wanted was to see their first kiss. Well, the stars aligned and there were a few extra hours available one day that would allow us to film an extra scene. I wrote the scene late on a Friday night and we filmed it first thing Monday morning. All part of the magic of movie making.
• At the top of the scene Samuel is "looking" for the drawing of the cottage. Of course, if you look closely you can see the drawing when Vanessa first wakes up. That was one little goof that arose from filming this scene much later (I forgot we had included it in the first scene) but certainly not a big deal.
THE FIELD & THE COTTAGE • This looked so beautiful. We filmed it out at Disney Ranch. Behind us was the country bears jamboree house and a little shack where Walt Disney used to write. Nate Goodman (the director of photography) and his team did a wonderful job lighting this scene -- when it looks like light is glistening off the water and reflecting in their faces, that's actually a guy with a little pool of water and a mirror bouncing light onto the actors faces.
• The performances in this scene are incredible and most of it actually came on the first take. I can't tell you how rare that is and it's a credit to Robert and Kate as well as the whole crew. Getting a first take exactly right is pretty damn tricky.
DESTROYING THE TOWN • Shevaun Kastl who plays the waitress in this scene was great. It's only a small role, but getting those roles right (and being a good screamer) is no easy task. She also looks a little like Vanessa (Kate Vernon) which was a deliberate choice.
• The shaking effect inside the ice cream parlor was done by shaking the camera and by our special effects guys having a bunch of things on invisible wire and rigging the shelves to shake/fall etc.
• Similarly at the carnival they rigged the tent to fall over and things to drop and spark etc.
• The Carnival on the hill is put in digitally as is the town -- there's usually a freeway there. This was also filmed at Disney Ranch. If you were to look to your left (from Lydia's POV), you'd actually see Samuel's cottage.
That's it for now. I'm sure I don't need to mention that the season finale of Heroes is on tonight. Follow me on twitter and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Being a Gretchen fanboy as I am, and seeing that you plan on answering questions we put into comment, I decided to show up here.
So, yeah, is there a future for her in the Brave New World? Let's assume for a second that a new season is confirmed, can we hope to see her again? I know, I know, it's not decided yet, and I'm not asking for a 100% confirmation, just wondering if there is hopes to see her again, if it's part of the plans you might have in head right now!
I think she should, anyway. With all the discrimination Claire might face again, next season, she'll need someone supportive that she can rely too, aka Gretchen. Plus, their relationship still lack a proper conclusion, we have no idea if they'll live (in Hiro's words) [i]happily ever after[/i], or if they'll suffer a hard break up (hoping for the first one, obviously). Plus, she still have to bring back her car! :p
Anyway, again, good job on the Pass/Fail episode, you did a great job pleasing us Claitchen fan! :D The Hiro trial was also wonderful, and I'm looking forward to read it's ''behind the scene''
About the Samuel/Vanessa stuff... I have to say I didn't really like those scenes. They took away from the really fun Hiro and Claire storylines. But also they were odd and it wasn't your writing but just the fact that Samuel suddenly had a love interest and we were supposed to care and believe it was a little odd to me. I didn't like that part of the story. I'm sorry, I'm just being honest. That being said there were a few good moments here and there. But did Samuel do ALL of that with Ian (the guy with the landscaping power) and the cottage all for Vanessa? the guys at the 10th Wonder Heroes podcast weren't sure and I wasn't either. Or was it intentionally confusing/vague? LOL. I do think the ends of the scenes were usually the best parts and in general they were just kinda slow for some reason. I think it's also because Samuel is too confusing of a character and we had no reason to love Vanessa since we hadn't had a chance to get to know her character, so you really had to care about Samuel in order to appreciate those scenes. You compared it to season 1 episode 21 "The Hardest Part" when Sylar is with his mom... but in those scenes you believe Sylar and feel bad for him and care about him, kinda the way Hiro feels bad for Sylar as he looks through the window and says "he's so sad"... and it breaks your heart a little. I've felt this way for Lex on Smallville and other villians... you care about them, wish there was a chance that they could end up good instead of evil, think if only the right person loved them it would change everything... etc. But with Samuel and Vanessa I really didn't feel that. I could kinda tell by the very end that we were supposed to feel that. So I got the point. But I didn't feel it.
Still, the other parts of the episode more than made up for it, they were SO fantastic. :D All the Hiro courtroom stuff, the references to season 1 which I 100% got being a total vidder and podcast listening fan... James Kyson Lee actually getting a chance to act a bit, and Gretchen/Claire romance FTW of course!! ;) I was just trying to give my honest opinion on the Samuel/Vanessa stuff. In case you were curious.