My name is Karim Zreik, co-executive producer of the TV series Harper's Island, premiering Thursday, April 9, at 10 PM ET/PT on CBS. For those who haven't heard of the show, I'll give you a quick synopsis: Harper's Island is a 13-week murder mystery event in which every week at least one or more of our characters are killed off... say it with me..."one by one." Twenty-five suspects, but only one killer among them. It's scary, gory, funny, soapy, dramatic, character-driven and action-packed.
One of the difficult things about developing a show like this was being able to keep a level of secrecy. Only a handful of us actually knew who the killer was. In order to keep the secrecy surrounding the show, we figured that we needed to establish some ground rules for our seven months of production. First thing on the list: get everyone involved with the show (writers, directors, studio and network executives, cast, crew, editors, mixers, Foley artists, agents, assistants, drivers, etc) to sign confidentiality agreements. If anyone broke their agreement, they would owe us their firstborn, and would be obligated to return their per diem. Kidding. They can keep their per diem. Our cast had no idea who the killer was. As far as they were concerned, they were signing up for a new 13-episode-CBS-murder-mystery we'd be shooting in Vancouver, and they could be killed off any day. No guarantees. I know, I know. Imagine our conversations with their agents: "Yes, Mr. William Morris Agency, we're flying your client to Vancouver on August 5, but we can't tell you when they'll be back in Los Angeles...(awkward silence) ... No, you can't read the script... (yelling)... Yes, we understand this is unconventional... (more yelling)... No, I can't tell you who the killer is... (more yelling)... Oh, and one more thing, would you mind signing a confidentiality agreement...(click)."
The Producers agreed that we would tell each actor when their character was being killed off the day before the new script was released. We didn't want them to find out they were leaving the show as they were reading the episode. Not cool. We wanted to be respectful. Our writer's room was based out of LA, while production was taking place in Vancouver. Since I spent most of my time prepping our directors and running production in Vancouver, I was given the responsibility of having to break the bad news to each actor. Good times. I quickly became known as "the assassin." I was the guy quietly pulling aside actors each week with the infamous phrase, "We gotta talk." Which leads us to this blog. Each week I'll write about my experience from that particular episode on what it was like killing off that specific character, how we broke the news, reaction from cast, how we shot the scene, etc. Some good "behind the scenes" stuff here.
But for now, enjoy the first episode. Jon Turteltaub, our executive producer and Episode 1 director, did a phenomenal job with a brilliant script by our creator, Ari Schlossberg. I'll be back next week to discuss who died and how they took the news. Enjoy the show...
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