Thursday, June 22, 2006

Production Diary # 6: The House Between: The Crew!

As I edit The House Between (and yes, I am now officially editing the first episode, "Arrived,") I get the chance to see all my wonderful cast members and the fantastic special effects again. I also get to stand back with shock and awe as I gaze at the remarkable accomplishments of my behind-the-scenes team. I've blogged about the "stars" of the show this week, but today I have to offer my kudos to the "tech" folks who were also so crucial in providing me all the useful (and even artful...) footage.

I begin today's round of gratitude with my DP Rick Coulter. How do I put this? Rick is like...the calm amidst the storm. He's a serious but mild-mannered and generous fellow...who never gets worked up. And yet, through his viewfinder, he silently and without much direction composes beautiful, meaningful shots. Every shot reflects his intellect and sense of visual storytelling. Of course, if you want to get Rick riled, just start talking about the social constructs of a capitalist society. Go ahead, it's fun, but that's another story. By early in the production week, I was trusting Rick to find his own shots, call action and cut when I was otherwise occupied, and do just about everything else too. Rick is a great guy, and on the last day when I spontaneously lost my shit and had a nervous laughter attack over a certain scene (which still cracks me up...) he stepped in and with smooth authority finished the scene.

Next up are the two brilliant lighting directors who - perhaps more than anyone else - are responsible for the unique palette of The House Between (which I like to describe as a fusion of 1940s film noir and 1920s German Expressionism.) I'm talking about Kevin Flanagan and Bobby Schweizer, who - without complaint and with precious little guidance - masterminded the lighting scheme for the entire series. Their lighting reflects character mind-states (sometimes psychotic), "pulses" with evil life (in the episode "Visited") and basically makes the series look respectable...and like nothing else being produced today. Since we shot in empty house with literally no furniture and only a paucity of props, shadows became "the backdrop" for many a scene...and with precious few resources, Bobby and Kevin made my crazy vision a reality; and what's more - improved on what I had casually conceived. When I said I wanted the shadows to be "furniture," I had no idea how to accomplish that; but they did. Kevin and Bobby also helped in ways too numerous to count (keeping the house shrouded in darkness, for instance), and I can't imagine how much slower we would have gone if we didn't have them contributing. Kevin also gave me some really good script advice for episode # 7; advice I gladly took.

Also, there would likely only be maybe four or five episodes of The House Between (instead of seven) without the efforts of my producer, Joseph Maddrey. Joe served as the producer on the Discovery Channel Series A Haunting, so he absolutely knows his stuff. On the set, he was always following the script, always following the team with an open notebook, crafting new ways to keep us on task and on time. Joe had the unenviable job of being the "bad cop," at times, telling me when I only had ten minutes or five minutes left to finish a scene that was taking too long. When I did fall behind, he was understanding, but also cleverly finding ways to make up the lost time...either adjusting the scripts or thinking of clever stagings. There were many heroes and champions on The House Between but I found Joe's contributions and steady presence absolutely essential. Every director needs a good but tough producer, and Joe fit the bill splendidly. He was fair-minded and always coming up with great ideas. We couldn't have succeeded without him, and I should also note that Joe dramatically improved the scripts before we shot. He spent the last several weeks of pre-production giving me notes on how to improve everything from dialogue and characterization to narrative flow. His advice was sound too. I remember on set, a clever actor (Mercer) precisely mirrored Joe's feedback and notes on one particular episode ("Positioned") and on how the audience would view that particular character, Bill. Joe was right he was so many other times.

Finally, I can't write this post without thanking my beautiful (and very pregnant) wife, Kathryn. She is a producer on the show too, and she not only offered some critical input at the beginning of each day, she kept the entire cast & crew well fed and cared for over the long shoot (with the help of Rob Floyd's wonderful and adorable wife, Phyllis). There would be no show to post about here if Kathryn had not permitted us to open up our home to fourteen people for seven days, and utilize our family resources to realize the project. Kathryn is one-in-a-million. I've known that since forever (our seventeenth dating anniversary is September 8th, this year...), but I'm truly grateful for her level of support and encouragement throughout this process...especially considering that she's working on a Muir production of her own..our baby. And also - Phyllis - what can I say about this classy lady? She applied make-up, corralled actors, prepared meals, read dialogue off-camera, stayed up till 2:00 am for the infamous bath tub scene, and did about a million other things. Without Kathryn and Phyllis, we would have ground to a halt.

The truly amazing thing about The House Between is that over the long, sixteen hour days, no ego or selfishness ever showed up at the location; neither among the cast nor the crew. Everybody chipped in, did their part with enthusiasm...and it was an incredible experience.

Now, Rick and I move into editing...and so far, so good!


  1. Much deserved kudos to the lighting duo! They prevailed over the haunted parlour and countless blown bulbs. They crouched in uncomfortable positions in filthy corners for hours while we played around with blocking, blew our lines multiple times, and re-did each scene for however many different camera angles and close-ups John wanted. You guys were awesome!

    (Pay no attention to that burnt spot in the carpet...)

  2. You forgot to mention that I would never have met my lovely Astrid if it weren't for Rick thinking of me somewhere along the timeline... ah... hubcaps- ahem, ahem!

    Everybody in the crew was so amazing and dedicated. They definitley deserved this credit and more!

  3. Anonymous5:45 PM

    more! MORE!
    keep working John. ChopChop!

  4. John, you are too kind. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I had a blast working on the show. I'd also like to say that I was always impressed by Rick's natural ability to find stunning compositions. Whenever I'd look in his viewfinder to check the lighting I would think to myself, "damn, that's a perfect shot." Kudos to the DP.

  5. The Crew: A wealth of talent, perseverance, intelligence and seemingly inexhaustible patience when we were working, and excellent company during those fleeting hours when we weren’t.

  6. What a sweetie you are! Thank you so much for inviting us. I have the greatest stories and memories to share of our experiences. Can't wait for season 2!