To let you know a little bit about "Arrived" (my director's notes, so to speak), the introductory tale went through four drafts, the last dated May 18, 2006. I incorporated the very clever notes given to me by my producer, Joe Maddrey, as well as the feedback of my exec producer, Kathryn, and on June 4th, 2006 we began shooting the 38 page script. This is also the only episode we did a cast reading for too. It was a valuable experience, and I wish we had continued the process. But...no time! No time!
Gazing back at the script, which introduces the characters and concepts of the series, I recall now that we didn't shoot one scene in "Arrived", numbered 9E (starting on page 34). It's a two-page sequence between Astrid (Kim Breeding) and Bill T. Clark (Tony Mercer), set in her bedroom, that we ultimately deemed expendable. Why? Well, that was our first day of shooting, we shot for sixteen hours to get the episode in the can (which runs at 29 minutes) and everybody agreed that the scene - though charming - was somewhat redundant and didn't add much to the story or the relationships. One of these days, I'm going to corral Kim and Tony to do an audio reading of it, for the DVD Extras. I still like the scene and wish we had it, if for no other reason than to further define the boundaries of the "friendship" between Bill and Astrid. Knowing where we "end" with this subplot, it would be interesting to have more stuff to define the "beginning"
What are my other memories about shooting "Arrived?" Well, the very first shot of the day - the first day of the show - one of our very hot lamps fell over and burned a spot in the carpet. That wasn't fun, but our lighting directors are both brilliant and inventive. Kevin and Bobby designed the "look" for the show, based on a one sentence description I gave them, that I wanted shadows to be "the furniture" in the house. These guys delivered, and delivered big time.
After that initial mishap, it felt like pretty smooth, if grueling - sailing. My fellow director of photography, Rick Coulter, and I both had scrupulously prepared shot lists for the entire day, the entire episode. I'd estimate we followed them till about 12:00 noon or so, until we realized that they were actually slowing things down, and pretty darn impractical in the face of reality. You know how generals say a war plan doesn't survive it's first encounter with the battleground? Well, in my experience, neither do storyboards and shot lists. I think it's fair to say we kept an eye on the lists when we got into a pickle that day, but mostly, we were gaining confidence and figuring out the logistics of how to shoot as we went. I had a shot list for day two, "Settled" and never looked at it.
From what I hear from the actors, our "Arrived" day was one of the toughest and most nerve wracking, especially for Tony Mercer, Lee Hansen and Alicia A. Wood, who basically had to wait long spells in the green room until we were ready for them. I don't think Tony and Lee went before the cameras until well into the afternoon. And Alicia was there for the last, late late shot of the day. Not that the others had it easy, either. Jim had a big dialogue scene early in the day, starting with a physical confrontation (beautifully choreographed by Rob Floyd), and Kim started out the day and the show...mostly nude. How's that for an intimidating debut?
My wife, Kathryn, the executive producer on this endeavor, never liked "Arrived" on paper as much as the later scripts, but even she has been bowled over by how well it flows, how well it cuts together, and what great performances the actors deliver. Yes, this is a super-low budget show, with seven half-hour episodes shot in seven days, but much is achieved in spite of limitations. Even if on later days we were more experienced, quicker, and better equipped to leap over hurdles. For me, there is just something magical about this first chapter.
So, in preparation for The House Between, Episode 1: "Arrived" on Friday, check out this selection of series clips again: