Thursday, March 01, 2007

The House Between, Episode 2 ("Settled") Director Notes

Tomorrow, The House Between episode # 2, "Settled" goes online, here on the blog, on the web page (http://www.thehousebetween.com/), and on the Veoh service. So look for it! The response from "Arrived" has been very positive. The audience has proven remarkably enthusiastic, and "hooked" is the buzz-word I'm hearing the most frequently.

In honor of the broadcast tomorrow, I'm going to present now some of my memories from the writing and making of "Settled," which represented day two of our week-long shooting marathon back in June. We shot this episode on June 5th, 2006, and our first usable take was recorded at 10:53 am.

The story for "Settled", as you will see tomorrow , involves some diverse thematic elements, (all of which come up in the trailer, so I'm not giving away any spoilers here...). The first is the "arrival" of a new character, Theresa, played by Alicia A. Wood. I noted during my interview on Destinies that she is my resident alien...even though she's not an alien. When I created this character, a confident, assertive psychic, I had in mind such characters as Sapphire on Sapphire & Steel, and also Varian in The Fantastic Journey. On a more universal, well-known scale, I was thinking of Spock and Maya. Basically, Theresa is very different from the other characters on the show. But you'll see that for yourself soon enough...

In "Settled" Bill (Tony Mercer) discovers a diary, one that has grave repercussions for him personally. This plot point was inspired by my favorite episode of Land of the Lost, "Follow That Dinosaur," in which the Marshalls unearth an old, musty diary and proceed to read each entry (and follow clues...) because they believe the writer escaped from the closed prehistoric universe. They ultimately learn that the author of the diary came to a bad end. Now, the diary is utilized quite differently in The House Between (no Sleestak, alas...that's season two!), but I always admired this episode of Land of the Lost above the rest and felt that the discovery of a diary is a tantalizing story hook. It's irresistible: the notion of a voice from the past influencing the present. Of reading someone else's secrets; of falling into (or getting a peek at...) another life.

Secondly, Astrid (Kim Breeding) in "Settled" gets vexed over a discovery of her own, that of a haunting piece of music; a song she once wrote with personal meaning. In real life, Kim Breeding (Astrid) composed this piece and sings it (beautifully...) for the show. Again, this plot point was inspired by one of my favorite retro sci-fi series: The Twilight Zone. In particular, one of the creepiest and most memorable episodes was titled "Come Wander with Me." This was a fifth season story (which aired in May of 1964...) about a rock-a-billy singer looking for "inspiration" in the back woods of Appalachia. He found that inspiration, but also some homespun revenge from the locals. In particular, there was a song, titled "Come Wander with Me," which kept mysteriously acquiring new verses every time it was sung...all of them potentially fatal to the singer.

Again, the song in "Settled" is utilized quite differently than in The Twilight Zone episode, but I've always dug the notion of a person being haunted by a song that just won't go away. If you listened to Destinies, you're now aware of The House Between's thesis of "two" Astrids. That song is part and parcel of that theme (which is expanded in this episode). What could be more frightening than hearing your own voice sing a song you'd rather forget?

Some other notes about the episode:

This was our longest day of shooting. We were still working on the last scene at the cusp of 2:00 am, and all of us were going kind of bonkers by then. Of course, we'd saved for last a complicated special effects/make-up sequence that required a unique set-up. Kim and Alicia were the only two performers in the scene...and all the other actors went to bed while we shot. Phyllis Floyd, our script assistant, read some offscreen lines for Kim to respond to, and Rob Floyd - our make-up guru - was there right to the bitter end too, applying make-up. We all had to be up at 6:00 the next morning, so this was quite a rough day.

"Settled" was also the last day of the shoot that dp Rick Coulter and I had a prepared shot list for. I don't think we looked at it hardly at all. I have it in front of me now, and what we ended up with is pretty close to what we envisioned, I'd say.

As I've already noted, this was Alicia's introduction to the series, and she started around noon, if memory serves. She had scads of dialogue to deliver in what I quickly termed "the court room" or "trial" sequence, a moment when she goes before the other denizens of the house and recounts her unusual story. I still remember the awe I felt when Alicia came in, hit her mark and spewed out - literally word for word - pages of complex dialogue. Wow!

"Settled" is the series' longest episode by far. My first cut was 38 minutes ("Arrived" was 29 minutes...), then I trimmed it down to 35. Then 34. Now it's 33 minutes and 7 seconds. We've had to lose a lot of stuff I really like, but here's my axiom as an editor: the faster these shows move, the better they play. That's true of most movies and TV shows, I think. '

On an entirely personal note, "Settled" is an episode I truly love. "Arrived" is first and will always hold a special place in my heart because it's the beginning of the journey, but "Settled" is - for me, anyway - iconic. All the characters are established and operating on all thrusters, and some of the core, iconographic concepts of the series are introduced and developed in this episode. It's almost really like the second "half" of "Arrived," a critical part of the introduction to The House Between. I think you if you were to talk to the cast, they probably wouldn't single out "Settled." There are snappier episodes; scarier episodes, funnier episodes, and so forth. But for me, "Settled" is very much the sort of story I imagined telling when I first conceived the series. I'll be curious to hear (or read...) audience feedback.

Finally, "Settled" is also the first episode of the series to feature the opening montage.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:44 AM

    cannot wait to see it in all it's awesomeness!

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  2. Astrid9:28 AM

    I think if people were 'hooked' by "Arrived" then "Settled" will be that sweet, second, fatally addicting hit off the crack pipe. MUAHAHAH! ;-)

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  3. joey_bishop_jr5:33 PM

    Yay! ROCKABILLY GETS A MENTION!

    As far as the editing, I've heard the old axiom that a director has to always be ready to cut the one scene that he truly loves from a project...has that ahppened yet, or hav eall of "those" scenes survived so far?

    can't wait til tomorrow...I've been seeing part one since FantaSci!

    Love ya, mean it...

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  4. glad this thing is getting out there for viral eligability...about to spin episode 2, looking forward to it.

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