Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flashing back to the Flash Forward set


ROBERT J. SAWYER, a bald, bespectacled novelist, and CAROLYN CLINK, his beautiful poet wife, survey the dozens of trucks, the hundreds of people milling about, and all the general chaos.

    Just think -- all of this
    because of you.

    And it isn't even a crime

As I said back on Thursday night, I was too tired then to blog about our first day on the set of Flash Forward, so let me play catch-up here.

We arrived at the Flash Forward base camp (where all the trailers were parked: director's trailer, actor's trailers, make-up trailers, etc. etc. etc.) at 8:00 a.m. and were met by executive producer Jessika Borsiczky Goyer's terrific assistant Katie Greisiger, and then a little later by Jessika.

(Jessika, by the way, is from Montreal: although this is literally as big as a Hollywood TV project can get in terms of scope and budget, we have a Canadian executive producer, a source novel by a Canadian, and four UK actors in leading roles).

We took a shuttle over to the actual shooting location (which was really quite close; I never took the shuttle again, and instead just walked back and forth). As soon as we got to the location, we were warmly greeted by David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga; David is directing and David and Brannon co-wrote the pilot script.

Brannon had to leave mid-morning to get over to the offices of 24, the other show he works on. But we had a great chat before he left; he is such a nice guy.

It was an incredible day to be on set: we had 152 extras and background players, making the chaos even more elaborate than usual. (I chatted with a bunch of the extras during the day; it was fascinating that most of them had no idea what project they were part of, or that "David" the director was, in fact, David S. Goyer of Batman Begins fame.)

We were shooting in an existing building, and David (and Rebecca Poulos, his incredible script supervisor) actually didn't watch from the room the filming was happening in, but from another nearby room, where monitors were set up to show what the cameras were getting. Carolyn and I were given headsets so we could listen in to what the microphones were actually recording, and we bopped between sitting in director's-style chairs behind David and standing discreetly out of shot watching the actual filming.

Everything was ramped up to the highest level: long dolly shots, Steadicam shots, etc. etc. The look is amazing.

It's said that a director sets the tone for the entire production off-camera as well as on. David is so approachable, and he has such a great smile, and he was funny and warm with the actors and crew; despite the incredibly long hours and the endless takes (our first day on the set was the ninth day of shooting), everyone seemed loose and relaxed and upbeat because David himself was all those thing.

Lunch was wonderful; David said he's used the same caterers (Mario's Catering) on other projects, and we could see why -- it was a banquet ... that had to be consumed in just 30 minutes, including time getting between the catering tents and the set! We sat with David and the person who is developing the official web site for the series.

After lunch, I was interviewed for the "Making of Flash Forward" featurette -- cool!

We met Jack Davenport, who plays Lloyd Simcoe; I'm a huge fan of the BBC sitcom Coupling, which starred Jack. He is much taller than I would have guessed, and very, very funny (not all people who play in comedies are actually witty without a script, but Jack really is). Today Jack had only 13 words of dialog -- which caused him to quip that at least for one day, he was the highest-paid-per-word actor in Hollywood. :)

I also had a nice chat with Sonya Walger (who had read and enjoyed my novel Flash Forward) and her agent, and I spent a lot of time with actor Zachary Knighton, who is a great guy (and I don't say that just because he's huge fan of my novel).

Near the end of the day, I was introduced to the charming and brilliant Nne Ebong, the vice-president of dramatic programming development for ABC Studios, and she immediately suggested putting me into one of the scenes, and so I got a little cameo as a man on a cell phone (and the super-nice Jennifer Dunn, who was Sonya Walger's stand-in and also a background player, coached me to hold the phone in my other hand, because I was covering my face with it in rehearsal).

Filming the scene I was part of delayed my departure from the set, so we ended up having a later dinner than planned with my terrific Hollywood agent Vince Gerardis and his associate Eli Kirschner; we ate at Luna Park, and I had a great steak. Of course, we're all thrilled with how Flash Forward is going, but we also spent time talking about various other projects ... ;)

All in all, it was a terrific first day on the set, and I am so glad I decided to come down to Los Angeles. I'm way busy with other things, and had been vacillating about whether I should really clear the days to take this trip but -- man! -- it totally, totally has been worth it. :)

Joseph Fiennes, one of the stars of Flash Forward, and Robert J. Sawyer, author of the novel upon which it is based.


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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At March 08, 2009 1:49 PM , OpenID rvitelli said...

Is it possible to flash back when you're flashing forward? Seems contrary somehow.

At March 08, 2009 9:27 PM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

I hope your cameo makes the final cut. It would be great to see you in your own novel fleshed out. At least you be in the "Making of Flash Forward" featurette, but if they ever use it for the Flash Forward DVD, make sure you get paid. Harlan Ellison is very vocal about such things:

At March 08, 2009 9:39 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Harlan was talking about RE-PURPOSING a piece done for another use. :) Not quite the same thing (this interview was specifically for the DVD).

Also, it's true, as he says, that not many BABYLON 5 watchers are going to be moved to buy a book by someone who was a creative consultant on that show, but I actually have a lot to gain by people being reminded that FLASH FORWARD is based on my book -- Tor and I are banking on lots of people seeking out the source novel.

Also I don't think Harlan owns a piece of BABYLON 5; I *do* own a piece of FLASH FORWARD -- which means I get a share of the DVDs and other merchandising. (That's why JMS and the actors doubtless did the B5 DVD interviews for free -- they DO get a piece of its sales.)

At March 08, 2009 10:27 PM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

Ah… my mistake. I thought the featurette would initially only be for ABC’s promotion and publicity department. They often found of show "Making of” featurettes on Sunday nights to promote their new shows. But it is nice to know that they are planning well ahead for the Blu-Ray and DVD release and that you will be compensated.

As for Tor re-releasing your book *FlashForward*, will the format for the chapter order remain the same? I seem to remember you took a small issue with the order of some of the chapters (or blocks) near the end of the book.

At March 09, 2009 4:11 AM , Blogger TheHade said...

Thank you very much for your continued updates, Mr. Sawyer!
This all sounds so awesome ... I feel humbled to experience the creation of this TV series almost in realtime. Thank you very much for making yourself available for doing that!
It's great you got to have a cameo (Did you even have a line?)! I'm looking forward to seeing that!
I'm also intrigued by the fact that you'll be writing a script for one of the first season episodes and would love to hear more about that in the future, please!
Do you happen to be allowed and wiling to publish this script after that particular episode will have aired or after the first season DVD set will have been released?
By the way, what issue does brian_l_raney refer to concerning the "order of some of the chapters (or blocks) near the end of the book" "Flashforward"?

At March 09, 2009 1:59 PM , OpenID jillsmyth said...

This whole process sounds great. I am definitely looking forward to watching the show next fall!

At March 09, 2009 2:05 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

It's unlikely that my script will ever be published; that's just the way these things work.

Brian's referring to the fact that the last little scene at the end of Chapter 32 originally appeared at the end of Chapter 33 (that is, as the last scene in the book). I thought at the time that it was stronger at the very end of the book (more than a few people have missed the significance of what Lloyd is saying in those last two lines of dialogue), but David Hartwell, my editor, asked me to move it to where it is now, and I agreed. I *might* move it back to where I originally had it in new editions -- including the one coming from Orion UK; haven't made up my mind yet.

At March 09, 2009 7:54 PM , Blogger Us in SA said...

It sounds like you had a great time Rob! I'm looking forward to the featurette - is there any chance they'll call on you to do commentary on one of the episodes? That would be terrific!

Judy in SATX

At March 10, 2009 4:07 PM , Blogger TheHade said...

Thanks a lot for your reply, Mr. Sawyer!
I love TV screenplays and do hope there'll eventually be a "Flash Foward series guide and script library" (The ones they did for TNG & DS9 are just awesome!)!
What you wrote about the end of chapter 32 is very interesting for me because when I'd read it I actually thought: "Wow, that would have been a great ending!" (I even remember the subway station I was at then!)
Why did David Hartwell want to move it and how could he convince you?

At March 12, 2009 5:20 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, TheHade. Yeah, I agree with you: it *would* have made a great ending.

David suggested the move -- I can't remember why at this late date -- and I went along with it without raising a fuss. Maybe I should have. :)


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