Results tagged “karim zreik” from TWoP Guest Blogs
It's hard to believe that the story of our beloved 13 episode Harper's Island is complete. To all of you who watched, supported, and shared your enthusiasm for the show with us... THANK YOU. Huge thanks. It means a lot. We've been pitching, developing, prepping, casting, shooting, editing, fixing, promoting, etc for over a year, and to hear so many of you express your gratitude has been fulfilling. Since this is my final blog, I decided to randomly list some thoughts and answer some of the viewer questions, not only from the final two episodes, but also from the whole season. I hope this helps. And again, THANK YOU for watching....
One of the highlights of a very action packed Episode 11 was the emotional Cal/Chloe death scene. The location, the stunt, the editing, the music, (Civil Twilight's "Letters From The Sky") the performances, and the writing....all extraordinary. The episode was written by my producing partner, and best friend, Dan Shotz. Dan was on set for the seven day shoot, so what better point of view than from the man who wrote the episode and lived through the chaos of shooting that scene. Ladies and gentlemen...I give you... Mr. Dan Shotz.
It's the start of Episode 9, and this crew is exhausted. I don't blame them. We've been working crazy hours, dealing with bad weather, and to make matters worst, in order to meet our budgetary requirements, we've started shooting the last few episodes in seven days, as opposed to the standard eight days. The cast has been extraordinary. Those that are still around are thrilled to be here, and their energy and excitement is helping to motivate the crew. As you can see in the last two episodes, we're going through a stretch of night shooting. You can't shoot a horror show without night work, and it helps that it starts getting dark in Vancouver by 4 PM.
Episode 8 was one our toughest yet. This was the episode in which the Vancouver weather started turning ugly on us. The local crew warned me that around mid to late October things would start getting dark, cold, and wet. And sure enough, it did (watch the last ten minutes of Episode 8). I recall there being a period of ten straight days in which I didn't see the sun. Not good for an assassin raised and trained in sunny Southern California. To make matters worst, the Los Angeles based actors and I were not prepared for such a drastic turn in the climate, and our lack of winter wardrobe became the joke on set. Thankfully, our Costume Designer, Jenni Gullet, was there to save the day. Gloves, hand warmers to put in the gloves, down jackets, rain jacket to put over the down jacket, scarves, hats, hats that cover your ears, boots, socks, thicker socks that go over those socks, etc. What used to take five minutes to dress every morning now turned into a 45-minute event. But I'm an assassin. It's what I do. And nothing was going to stop me from getting the job done, even with 80 pounds of clothing on my back.
Before this blog turns into an "I Hate Vancouver Weather" essay, let me just say that Episode 8 rocked!! Murder in the jail cell, folks trying to leave the island, girls running around with guns, the Sheriff almost getting his leg hacked off, poor Richard being brought back as a dead corpse harpooned to a tree, cabin fire, the discovery of Wakefield's journal, JD bludgeoned to death, and Henry Dunn draped in his brother's blood. AWE-SOME. Our assignment for this week was to write off JD Dunn, played by Dean Chekvala. Not a very easy assignment, because this kid, Dean, was absolutely adored by the cast and crew. He would show up to set with random gifts for people (i.e. flying monkeys, pins, books, etc) and would greet everyone with hugs and a smile. Are you kidding me? Hasn't he read the Hollywood Actor's Handbook? You're not supposed to do that kind of stuff. And now his behavior was infecting the rest of the cast. They were all filled with love and support for one another. I needed to put a stop to this ASAP. I had my talk with Dean. He hugged me. Of course he did. Then he told me that he saw his death coming, so he had a gift for me. Great. The cast decided to throw Dean a "going away party." No one talked to me that night, except for Dean. The city of Vancouver was planning a parade in Dean's honor, but it rained that day (shocking), so they postponed it. Ironically, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to fly Dean back to Vancouver on two other occasions for re-shoots, pick up scenes, and publicity junkets after his death. On each of Dean's last nights, the cast would throw him yet another "going away party." To date, Dean has attended three going away parties in his honor, a Harper's Island record. But that's only a small taste of the kind of man Dean Chekvala represents.
Here's the thing about flashback episodes. They're awesome to write, but horrible to produce. So you can imagine the look on the faces of our department heads when they read the first few pages of Episode 7. Pure terror. Their terror quickly turned into panic. Panic then quickly transformed itself into 1,000 questions. What are we going to do with everyone's hair to make them look younger? Wardrobe? What kind of cars will we need? What did the island look like seven years ago? Lots of issues to resolve, but first things first, I had to find Chris Gauthier (who plays Malcolm) and explain to him that we were going to have to chop him up and throw his body parts into a furnace. As you guys know, the Assassin Rule has always been to speak with the actors about their demise before the script comes out for that particular episode. However, Chris Gauthier's shooting schedule was not cooperating with me, which meant that I wasn't going to be able to see him before the scripts were handed out. So, for the first time all season, I had to do something I had not done before. I had to kill someone over the phone. Not my area of expertise. Awkward. I tried to make it as painless as possible. "Hey Chris, it's Karim. How are you? [Pause] Great, umm, are you sitting down?" Worst line in Assassin history. ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?? I told you this wasn't my area of expertise. He laughed. I explained to him how we were planning on killing off Malcolm. He loved it. Until I told him that we'd have to make a cast of his head, like we did for Cousin Ben, the Reverend and Uncle Marty. The laughing stopped.
As promised in last week's blog, Episode 5 was going to be big. The characters have witnessed their first murder, the body of one our victims, Reverend Fain, was discovered, and the possibility of Wakefield still being alive is beginning to resonate amongst some of the locals and wedding guests. The remaining episodes have a definite shift in both pace and tone, and as the killing spree becomes deadlier and gorier, our characters now find themselves in survival mode.
I know what you're thinking. Being an assassin has to be the greatest job ever. Sit on set all day (in a chair with your name on it), eat anything and everything from the craft service table (that's always stocked), hang out in your own trailer (with heat)... all while watching other people lift heavy equipment in the snow and rain. Easy living, right? Not always.
Two days ago I was walking into Modern Video in Burbank to do some last minute fixes on Episodes 12 & 13. The friendly female receptionist at the front desk stopped me, and we proceeded to have the following conversation:
Receptionist: I just want to tell you that I'm a big fan of your show. I'm hooked.
Me: Oh, great. Thank you. That's very sweet. Keep watching, these episodes only get better.
Receptionist: I loved last week's episode, chopping off the Reverend's head like that. Very cool.
Me: Thank you. (getting in self promotion mode) You know, I write a blog every week discussing how we kill off each character. Have you read it?
Me: (hating self promotion) Oh.... well... you should.
Receptionist: I hope you guys don't kill off Hunter. He's my favorite character on the show. He's so hot. I've been following Victor Webster's career since he was on Mutant X. He's a big reason why I watch your show. I just love him. Please tell me he's in all 13 episodes. Please don't kill him off. I'd be so bummed.
Me: [awkward silence] So......let me tell you some more about my blog...
Episode 2 is in the books. Heads are going to start rolling. Sorry. Couldn't resist. Three characters met their fate in this episode written by our showrunner, Jeff Bell, and directed by our good friend, Sandy Bookstaver. This was also the first episode in which "the assassin" had to perform his "assassin" duties. The cast now realizes that anyone can go at any time. Lucy's death was a shock. She was in the wedding party, a member of the inner circle. You can't kill a member of the wedding party in episode 2. Oh yeah, talk to Uncle Marty. Needless to say, the cast is on good behavior.
And we're off. Two killings down... dozens more to go. That sounds like something an assassin would say.
Poor Cousin Ben. Our first victim. The poor guy never stood a chance. When we first pitched this concept to CBS, we pitched them the first five minutes of the pilot episode, ending with Cousin Ben's demise. It was a perfect way to give them an idea of the tone that we wanted to dictate for the show. And to kill someone off in the first five minutes of your pilot... pretty awesome.
Fun facts about Cousin Ben. He was named after Jon Turteltaub's cousin, a great-fun-loving guy who we refer to as "Cousin Ben." Yes folks, that's how it works in Television. Cousin Ben was played by a Vancouver based stuntman, Clint Carlton. We were presented with three choices for the role. Hmmm. How do you cast a stuntman who'll be wearing scuba gear, have his face covered, and spend his whole scene underwater? The answer is... hair & eyes. Clint had good hair, and he delivered "scared eyes." Perfect. Cast him. And the rest is history... Speaking of cast, how about that head cast of good ole Cousin Ben that appears later in the episode. Does it get any creepier than that?
So, poor Clint got to spend a whole day in a swimming pool, tied to a propeller, donning scuba gear, and told to act as if he were about to be chopped up into a thousand pieces. Yes, that underwater sequence took a whole day to shoot. Yes, Clint was underwater the whole time. Yes, he was hooked up to a giant propeller (fake propeller, fake propeller, fake propeller). Yes, he had on a wetsuit underneath his costume. Yes, his eyes really turned red from all the chlorine. No, cell phones don't really work underwater. Yes, that was fake sound when the propeller hit his mask. Yes, we used fake blood in the pool. And yes, we drained the pool once we were done. Everything you wanted to know about killing Cousin Ben but were afraid to ask.
Uncle Marty. First off, to even get Harry Hamlin to say YES to this project was huge for us. I'm sure he read the script, called his agent and asked, "So they want me to cut short my family vacation, fly to Vancouver for four days, dance with a mariachi band, and then kill me off in the first episode of a new series by chopping off my legs?" Thank you, Harry Hamlin. There isn't a more pleasant, kind, patient, funny, and professional actor in this business. But I know what you're thinking. Why kill off your biggest name in the first episode. Are we crazy? Yes. And no. We knew early on that we were going to have to kill off our biggest name in the show, in this case, Uncle Marty, in order to help set up the all important rule of: anybody can die at any time. No one's safe.
God, I hope this works.
We shot Uncle Marty's death scene back in early August, 2008. It was already a long day, and we were running a little behind schedule. No wait, we were running A LOT behind schedule. We had three company moves that day, meaning we were filming in three different locations, meaning we had to move all the trucks, equipment, etc three different times that day, meaning no one was happy. We arrived at the location at 10 pm to start lighting. Then we had to make sure all the equipment on the bridge was up and running. Then we had to rehearse with both Harry and the stunt man. Then we had to have Harry shoot into the bridge. Then had to fit Harry into his prosthetic/half body. Cut to, 2 am. Ouch. Oh wait, then it started raining. Yes, raining. Dumping rain. In August. Welcome to Vancouver. Harry was truly amazing. For me, it doesn't get any better than that wide shot of Uncle Marty's half body dangling from the bridge, guts exposed, with the sound of blood dripping out of him into the water below.
Friends... welcome to Harper's Island.
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.
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