- Banged out by Standler on February 7th, 2007 filed in TV, spider-man, LOST, heroinarrative, Heroes, NBC, spoiler
Cobbler and I sat in on a panel discussion Monday night with Heroes creators Tim Kring and Jeph Loeb, directors Greg Beeman and Allan Arkush, writer/co-executive producer Jesse Alexander, and actor Masi Oka.
The first season of this comic book heroinarrative is a bit more than halfway through, and unlike the first seasons of say, Alias, 24, or LOST - which catapulted us towards an anticipated Season 2 premiere - there have been occasional dud episodes. However, after hearing what these guys had to say, it became apparent that story-telling-wise, they have their heads in the right place. I’m on board for whatever they have in store.
Highlights from the panel are below, including what might be considered to be spoilers, so reader beware.
The Five Year Plan
Unlike other heroinarratives, like LOST, which have begun to meander, the Heroes gang has a five year plan. “We’ve thought about seasons 1-5 and how we might arc them,” said series creator Tim Kring. The creators explained that both specific and general story arcs have been considered far in advance. This week’s reveal of Nathan Petrelli being Claire’s father, for example, has been planned since day one.
The Heroes pitch
Tim Kring described his extremely rehearsed NBC pitch, in which he led execs through the entire story of the pilot, with full detail, up to the multiple cliffhanger ending, which left each character in peril. When the Peacock execs eagerly asked what happened next, Kring replied, “Well, you’ll just have to wait and find out.”
Heroes likened to 24, rather than LOST
The creators compared Heroes more to 24 than to LOST, and said that each season will conclude in a way. “The first season will come to a conclusion,” Co-executive producer and comic book guru Jeph Loeb told the audience. “Next season will be a brand new adventure.”
Tim Kring also weighed in here, noting that the main questions raised in the first season would be answered by the season finale. Loeb advised fans to think about the show like a graphic novel, telling new stories each book (or season), while retaining information from past stories. “We wanted an opportunity where we could tell stories about people,” Loeb said. “New people will come in, old ones will come back.”
Eternal Sunshine + The Incredibles = Heroes?
“I saw Eternal Sunshine and The Incredibles back to back - and they were my two favorite movies of that year… There was something about the Charlie Kaufman characters, these hyper-ordinary characters that I really responded to… people you felt like you knew, or maybe went to school with.. people who were unexpected and ordinary…. The Incredibles took the idea of people trying to live an ordinary life… and all of the stress and strain that being different imposed on these very ordinary lives.” - Tim Kring, series creator
Jeph Loeb on the Comic art form:
“I grew up reading comics, I actually still write comics… and when I’m not doing the show, I’m writing Wolverine at the moment. So, as to why comics are an enduring form, for me its a combination of the wish fulfilling aspect of it - that the most ordinary people can rise up and become heroes, and secondly it’s a truly American art form, Jazz and Comics. There were comics all over the world, but Superman was the first comic book super hero… It’s an art form that anyone can understand and anyone can enjoy… it’s become part of our culture. What’s unique is that Tim never read comics or had seen any of the movies- the Incredibles was as close as he had came…The thing that makes comics work is that the people are only as much as their alter egos are. Spider-man is cool, but ultimately he’s just some guy in his pajamas going around shooting web out of his hand, but once you know Peter Parker…”
The Writing Process
Unlike a majority of heroinarratives, Heroes is written collaboratively. “On Heroes where we have maybe five characters per episode and each episode has four beats, its very easy to [run out of time],” explained Jesse Alexander. “On a serialized show, time is your ultimate enemy in the creative process, because you want to think about where you’re taking the characters, but you also have to get episodes completed.”
Tim Kring explained this idea was born out of necessity. “The show was picked up in mid-May and we were in production by July and on the air by September, and we wanted to take advantage of cross-boarding the first few episodes because there were so many episodes that took place in different locations. Instead of shooting three scenes in one place, you could shoot, say, nine scenes. In order to do that we had to have not just three scripts, but four scrips, because one had to be prepping for the next go around - so we had to have four scripts in the next five weeks. And we realized there was really only one way to do this: if we all worked together.”
Kring also hinted that in many cases, certain writers write certain characters. This offers possible explanation (other than Ali Larter’s terrible acting) for why the Niki Sanders storyline is so mediocre.
Thoughts on LOST:
Both Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb worked on the first season of LOST before stepping down. Alexander as an executive consultant, and Loeb as a supervising producer. Alexander praised the collaborative story telling process on Heroes: “I worked on two other shows before this, (LOST and ALIAS) and we had the structure of an old writers room and it hurt us creatively.”
Loeb commented on the necessity of “plant and payoff,” the process of setting up information in previous episodes so that reveals make sense, rather than surprise the viewer. “On LOST,” joked Loeb, “someone new would just walk up and say ‘Hi, I’ve been here the whole time.’”
Tim Kring on realism, and making promises with the audience:
“The power to go back in time - which Hiro’s character has - is almost too powerful of a power for the writer’s room to deal with, because it means you can write yourselves out of corners. It became very important to us to tell a story (ep. 10) where someone needed to be saved. It was very important to see Hiro try to go back in time to save someone and be unable to–to make a pact with the audience that this was not going to be easy, and that this was not going to be a simple thing–to go back in time.”
Choosing the Powers
Tim Kring: “We chose the characters first and then I backed into the super powers based on the characters and what they seemed to want or need. Take Masi’s character for instance. I wanted a character that embraced this new found thing in his life with zeal–I wanted kind of a comic book geek, but we wanted a character that was trapped in a life that was kind of not of his making, so he’s an office worker. When we did the opening scene to introduce his character we did a CGI shot of all the cubicles to show how isolated he was.” [A shot strikingly similar to one of Bob Parr at work in The Incredibles.]
Kring also described that Niki’s split-personality ‘power’ was originally written as ability to be in two places at once, highly fitting for a single mother.