Thursday, May 10, 2007

The House Between Episode # 7 ("Departed?") Director's Notes

"Departed?" the cliffhanger/season finale of The House Between bows tomorrow. I love the episode, and hope you will too. I think it's a fitting finale to the first series sortie. Today I'll be presenting my memories of the creation and shooting of the episode.

Firstly, I look back at the script and I see that unlike the other scripts, it has a series title on it that was ultimately rejected: "The Dwelling." I don't know if that was a good title or not. At the time I liked it because it not only described the house, but the mind state of the denizens. Some of the other rejected titles: "The House," "After Midnight," Permanent Midnight" and "Crazy People Stuck in a House." Okay, the last one wasn't a proposed title. Lee Hansen suggested titling the series "Fuck Lost!"

The origins for this script go back to some of my genre favorites, including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Space:1999 episode "Ring Around the Moon" and their ilk; particularly in that one character in the play interfaces with another life form, returning to the others as a sort of intelligent "probe."

Other than that nod to genre history, I don't think there are a lot of familiar genre touches here (at least none that I can reveal.). We were too busy trying to bring a sense of closure to many of the season one mysteries and story arcs to pay homage to much of anything.. Yep, that's right - I said the magic word: closure. I'm not one of those people (like the writers of Lost or Battlestar Galactica), who believe you can just endlessly pile on mysteries, one-after-the-other until a distant cancellation. I'm much more in the Veronica Mars mode: I like to present several mysteries and bring them to a sense of closure after a season of episodes. Now that doesn't mean there aren't more show mysteries to come in the season ahead. I devised a three season story arc at the beginning of this project (to be culminated with a feature film...), and we're sticking to it. But each season has a different leitmotif and movement. We'll see how it all plays out.

What's "Departed?" about? In very simple terms, a door. If you saw the preview last week, you saw the door opening. However, I didn't want that to be the end point of the episode, but rather somewhere around the midpoint. We have five characters who regard that door differently, and that's part of what the episode is about. Who would want to walk through the open door? Who wouldn't? And if they didn't...what would be the reasons? Part of the reason I enjoy The House Between so much is the simplicity of the best stories: they're about people reacting to a mirror, a diary, a song, an open door, entrapment, that sort of thing.

As far as how the script climaxes, suffice it to say that you won't see the ending I wrote. The script was 32 pages, I think. And we closed down at page 27. Why? Well, let me just say that the "missing" end will play into the mystery of season two, and that several actors, crewmembers and friends told me that the original ending was so dark and disturbing that it would have sent viewers scurrying home in tears and anguish. The ending we have now is different, but I think quite beautiful. Mateo and Cesar have outdone themselves in terms of scoring the finale too. My favorite piece of music in the series arrives in the last few minutes of "Departed."

So far as shooting, "Departed" was a weird day. We were all acutely conscious that it was our last day together. And I think everyone was grappling with two contradictory feelings. One feeling was that this was the most fun ever and we never wanted it to end. The other feeling was that we were exhausted beyond imagination and couldn't wait for the experience to end. Just try holding those thoughts in your head simultaneously. I do know that I grew emotional (internally) as the day ended. When we were shooting the last shots, and I was filming, I got all choked up behind the camera as each character/actor finished the show and the day. I hated to see them go.

Another weird thing: several of us had minor nervous breakdowns that day. I broke into a fit of unstoppable laughter and giggles during a scene involving Tony Mercer, Lee Hansen and Jim Blanton on camera and Alicia A. Wood reacting off camera with Kim Breeding. I set up a simple, easy shot, but just something about the utter absurdity of the enterprise struck me as I peered through the viewfinder. Alicia was saying all this bizarre tech stuff, and there I was watching my buddies Tony, Lee and Jim reacting to it and it was weird. I had gotten used to them as their characters, but in that moment, I was suddenly conscious of their other identities too, and it just cracked me up: the notion that I had put my good friends through this crazy experience and here they were - exhausted - listening to weird techno-dialogue from a psychic from the future. I couldn't finish the scene. Every time we started, I broke down and cracked up. I finally had to go sit in the corner while my producer, Joe Maddrey filmed the scene.

The utterly fantastic thing about this is that about two hours later, I guess, Jim Blanton had a virtually identical breakdown. It was a scene involving everybody, at the front door of the house, and for whatever personal reason, something just struck Jim as unbearably funny, and he lost it. After his giggling fit, we were able to re-start.

Reflecting on the experience of "Departed?" I think I've suppressed most of my emotions and feelings about the day of the shoot. Truthfully, I don't remember that much of it. I think that's because I had just experienced one of the best weeks of my life, with people I had grown to not just admire but actively love, and here it was - ending. I could see the "end" on the horizon, and I hated it. I had fallen in love not just with Kim, Alicia, Tony, Jim, and Lee, but the characters they played. Each had officially become "voices in my head." There was a magical chemistry there that I'll never ever forget, and will always cherish. To hear my "BIG FIVE" as I call 'em, speaking my dialogue, acting their hearts was truly astonishing and touching thing. I must also note, I had fallen in love with my crew too: from the ever-dependable and supportive Joe, to the strong but silent Rick, my camera man, to my awesome make-up artist and fight arranger, Rob (and his fantastic wife and our outstanding script assistant, Phyllis), to my always-impressive lighting team, Bobby and Kevin

So I wish I had more to tell, but it was so hard to say goodbye to my stars and my characters, that I think I just closed down a few memory circuits for that day. I remember cracking up. I remember Jim cracking up. I remember Lee having a tough time with one dialogue scene. I recall scurrying about doing re-shoots, and going up on the roof as a thunderstorm rolled in. But not much else.

Well, these are the last directors notes for The House Between: Season One. The gang returns here Friday, May 25th to shoot the seven episodes of Season Two. I can't wait to see everybody again, and I have to admit, I'm terribly excited about seeing not just my real life friends, but Astrid, Bill, Theresa, Arlo and Travis too - back in action. I've missed 'em something awful.

New House Between episodes will begin airing in 2008, but in the meantime, I hope you decide to re-watch the series after learning some of the revelations in "Departed." I'll also be writing here about the DVD release. And if you want more THB, don't forget to check out our discussion board here.

1 comment:

  1. Lee Hansen11:02 AM

    If you remember, I was hoping we were going with the original ending. Because revealing a teaser for Series 2 would have blown everyone's mind. Of all the quotes you could have used "Fuck Lost!" was probably the best one. Hope to talk to you at some point.