Interview With Greg Beeman
Conducted by Craig Byrne (PlanetKrypton@aol.com) - Summer
the summer hiatus, KryptonSite's Craig Byrne was lucky enough
to have a chance to talk to Smallville's Director and
Executive Producer up in Vancouver, Mr. Greg Beeman.
Beeman, a favorite of fans ever since they first saw him at
the Paley Festival and heard him on the Season 2 DVD, was an
incredibly fun subject who hopefully shared some insight on
the world of Smallville. Beeman also holds the honor
of winning the KryptonSite Award for Best Director twice (so
the interview was conducted before filming began for Season
Four, some things about the production are spoken of as happening
in the future.
again to Mr. Beeman for doing this interview!
What is your role as an executive producer and director
I think to answer the question of what is my role, you sort
of have to go back to how I got the job in the first place.
At the very beginning of Season 1, there was this stupendous
pilot that had been directed by David Nutter and written by
Miles and Al, and I came and directed Episode Three, which was
moment in time, there was really - while there was a great clear
vision, certainly in Miles and Al's mind and hearts, of how
they wanted the show to be, and what they wanted the final result
-- nobody knew how to make this series on a week to week basis.
Basically, there was a lot of conflict and a lot of differences
of opinions, both financially in terms of how do we financially
make this show? How much can we do? How much can we not do?
And I think also aesthetically, you know.
that was in place at that time, and the directors that had been
hired at that time, and just the way that the beast had been
built at that time, it wasn't really conducive to making the
show that we now make every week. I think I was sort of just
the right guy at the right time. The minute I got there to direct
Hothead, I just, like, loved it.
And I remember
there was a specific moment for me, which was a rather innocuous
scene in terms of Smallville, but there was a scene in Hothead
where the principal is unconscious in the car, and the car is
on fire, and Clark runs out and grabs the door, and rips it
off its handles, and throws it like 50 feet. And it was sort
of the first super power thing that I had directed, and I just
remember when we did that, it was, like, really cool.
I grew up loving comic books. I was mostly a Marvel fan, frankly,
but, you know, I had collected Spider-Mans. I've got Fantastic
Fours. I have the first 30 of all the New X-Men, I have two
of the first issues, it was actually Giant Size X-Men I think
when it first came out, and I have a complete collection of
Conan. I have Hulk #2. I have Fantastic Four #4. So, you know,
I was a big fan of comic books. And I actually had a lot of
the DC Comics, too. Like, I had a lot of the Neal Adams stuff,
that he'd done with Batman, and the Green Arrow/Green Lantern,
and some of the Justice League stuff that Neal Adams had done
in the 70's, and so I always had that love in my heart.
I had gotten
diverted into filmmaking really by the movie Star Wars when
I was a teenager. When I saw Star Wars, I knew I wanted to make
films. But I love the medium, and I love that - so, it was funny.
After all these years of making films and directing, I suddenly
landed in the job that was perfect for me. I knew that I was
sort of the only guy who knew how to produce the show on a week
to week basis. You know. How it was meant to look, how Miles
and Al want it to look, what the tone of it should be, how much
action we could do, how we should do the lighting, how we should
do the color. You know, how we should implement [the vision]
-- Miles always had a real strong vision of what he wanted the
show to be, but I think nobody knew how to implement it. So,
I think I knew how to interpret what he wanted, to expand upon
what he wanted, and to implement what he wanted. So, basically
I got the job of producing.
So my job
(which eventually became Executive Producer -- in the beginning
I was co-Executive Producer but I did the same stuff), basically
my job - on a day to day, week to week - on an episode to episode
basis, is to maintain quality control of the show. To make sure
it looks like how it's supposed to look, and to make sure that
we can also financially produce it at a level that Warner Brothers
is at least comfortable with.
else, I think I'm the guy who's up there thinking of cool stuff.
You know, like my job is to sit there and go, like, What
if ?. What if we do this, or what if we do that? A lot
of people go what if. And all the writers always go what if.
But I'm sort of the guy who, because I'm really sort of the
only one of the producers who is in the field, you know, I'm
the one who's always, like, going, Hey, you know, why
don't we try this? What if we blew up a house? What if we -
actually, I didn't think of what if we blew up a house, but
I did think of, like, what if Clark hit the guy in the face
with a tree? You know, stuff like that. And I, also
know what I think I do more than anything else is, I try and
inspire all the other people around me. Slowly, we've built
the right team.
what? -- everybody who was hired at the beginning was a talented
person. There was nobody who wasn't talented. But it wasn't
really the right fit for this material. A lot of people who
were on the show from the beginning didn't necessarily embrace
what the show was, which is sort of a show which has its roots
in comic books, you know, has that sort of aesthetic, but at
the same time is meant to be all the things that Smallville
is. You know, physically beautiful teenage drama with superhero
powers. You know, that's what it is. And until we had the team
of people that all really embraced that, and really believed
that it could happen, it didn't happen.
Did that background interest in comics make it more surreal
when directing Christopher Reeve? Were you a fan of the movie?
Yes, of course, I was a fan of the movie. But it wasn't
surreal; it just - - I actually think I talk about this a little
bit on the Season 2 DVD commentary. I was just nervous. It wasn't
my episode; James Marshall was directing that episode, but I
knew just how great the script was. I felt this enormous obligation
to make it a great scene. I knew it was, like, one of the most
significant scenes that Tom had to do. I knew that Tom's performance
was going to be really critical. And frankly, I was also just
worried about Christopher. I was worried about his physical
limitations, and I didn't want to overwork him. I didn't want
him to get tired. I'd been told that he could only work a few
hours. And so frankly, for me, it was a completely unpleasant
experience. Because I felt a lot of pressure on a lot of levels.
Until it was all over, and when I saw the show finally cut together,
then I really was able to kick back and enjoy it.
Tom really blew people away with that scene, too.
Well, Tom and I worked very hard on that performance. I
mean, Christopher, frankly, came in and did the scene Tom and
I had prepared. There was this really amazing moment I know
for Tom Welling and myself, where we were there.
The nature of the way we'd set it up is, I shot a few shots
of him entering the room, and looking around. Christopher came
a little bit later, and we went in and met him, and I just -
I saw this sort of passing of the torch. I saw how Tom was.
Tom was amazed. I was a little bit more stepped back, but I
do remember watching Tom meeting Christopher Reeve and feeling
like wow. This is an amazing moment. And I was the only person
sort of witnessing it. You know, like, the passing of the torch.
I really felt it, and I felt Tom feel that it was an important
moment for him, and Tom and I worked really hard on his performance.
We talked about it in between set up, we talked about - I really
wanted him to get to a place of that sort of sadness and loss
and anger, but I wanted him to feel the pain of the concept
that the planet he came from blew up. And that meant that the
chance of ever meeting his parents, ever finding anyone else
like him was very remote. So, I mean, Tom and I over the years
have worked very hard on his acting.
going back to your other question of what do I do, I sort of
oversee the quality of everything, and make sure that everything
is as good as it could possibly be. I sort of oversee all the
creative aspects of the show. I'm the guy pushing for the sets
to be better, for the lighting to be better, for the camera
work to be more interesting, and I'm also always working with
the ongoing cast. I don't work with all the actors that are
there just for an episode, although frequently when a new character's
going to come in, like Emmanuelle Vaugier, or when Sarah Carter
came in, and numerous time if a important guest star comes in,
I'll come in and sit down with them and try and talk about their
character in the series.
frankly, my work especially with Tom Welling, there's been very
much of an ongoing relationship about his performance, about
his acting, about acting, about how to deepen it. He, as I'm
sure he wouldn't mind me saying it, came to the show with very
little experience. Nervous. Wanted to do really well, didn't
want to mess up, and he wanted to get better. He knew he wanted
to be a better actor, and he and I have worked on his acting
together from the very beginning, and he has taken leaps and
bounds. It's not always with me that he works, but he goes away,
and he comes back every hiatus and he's deeper. He's taking
this job very seriously.
How much prep time goes into an episode?
Seven days. Which isn't very much, if you think about it.
As an example, what went into Covenant?
We have, basically about a 50 page script. We usually get
the script on the first of the seven days. If we're really lucky,
we'll get the script maybe a day before. Typically though, another
aspect of my job is that I will be getting the scripts as soon
as they are ready, but I'm always constantly also feeding Miles
and Al notes. My take both on the aesthetics of the material,
and on, you know, the production issues. Like hey, we really
can't accomplish this, or this just - we can't have an all night
battle. This should have to become day. Or whatever, but mostly
I really concentrate my notes on the aesthetics, like ongoing
character stuff, and story stuff. Luckily, and gratefully, I
feel that Miles and Al have come to very much trust me. They
trust my notes.
Okay. I'll tell you how Covenant came on.
Covenant goes back in that Miles told me the basic idea months
before. The basic idea that Tom would get sucked into the cave,
and Lionel - they had the idea that Lionel would hit everybody,
and there would be a big finale, and then one day, when Miles
was up directing Memoria, we were talking with John Glover,
and John Glover said, you know, if I'm going to go to jail,
I want to shave my head. And we said what? And then we go, you
would be willing to do that? He goes, willing to do that? I
WANT to do that! And then when he said that, I know Miles and
I just clicked on, like, oh my God, the scene which is now the
final three or four minutes of the show, which it seems like
everyone really likes, it was in my head the minute he said
that. The minute he said that, I saw basically, like, the end
of the Godfather. I saw how I ended up directing it very clearly.
I would move the camera around John. What I ended up doing is
I moved the camera around John counter-clockwise, and I moved
the camera around everybody else clockwise, and I saw that it
would all be in slow motion, there would be a song. It just
clicked in my head like that. I think it similarly clicked into
Miles's head. You know, and then we started to make different
things, sort of an ongoing basis about, like, well, would Martha
- - I actually had wanted for the FBI agent to go into the farm
and be sort of pressuring Martha, and then guys would show up
and shoot the place up. 'Cause it just seemed so classic. I
think ultimately Miles and Al thought that was cheesy. (laughs)
I just love the idea of the frickin' whole entire farm gettin'
shot up and Martha diving, and the FBI guy would get killed
You might not get any sugar cookies that way.
Nah, that'll be fine. We'd build them a better farm. And
they had wanted to blow up a house, and so anyway. It all sort
of came together. And then when I got the script, which is probably
seven days before we started shooting, I probably gave them
notes. The hiring of Kara was very important. Michael Rosenbaum
had actually met her up in Vancouver, because she was doing
the pilot of Lost in Space, and he actually recommended her,
and then she read. There was another girl in Toronto who was
really good. We had a lot of debate. We saw them on tape. I
called her and talked to her on the phone. She re-read, we debated
about who would be the right person, and then we finally really
went with her, and Al really made the decision about Kara, because
she just seemed sort of beautiful, but she's really tall. She's
five foot eleven. And she had the sort of quality of she looked
Kryptonian. She looked a sort of bizarrely, you know, unrealistically
beautiful, as Tom does. So, she seemed very Kryptonian.
And so what
else? You know, we had to find the woods. We had to find the
house to blow up. And then there was Lionel's cell. Now, Lionel's
cell was this empty building that belonged to a place that built
platform trains. This building was really cool. And David Wilson,
the production designer, had found this building and had wanted
to shoot it a lot, and actually we ended up shooting the building
a lot. We used that building for all of Asylum. It was the high
tech insane asylum. It was also the tank where they lowered
Clark in Memoria. And the room that we turned into Lionel's
cell was a room that I'd loved, and I kept trying to use it.
I kept trying to find an excuse to use that room. What it is,
is the place where they paint train cars. So it's this gigantic
room that was all white with the light panels in it, and I just
loved that room.
of any given episode is all about finding locations. Which means
as soon as we have any clue about what's coming up in an upcoming
episode -- and frequently there's outlines, or if nothing else,
I call up Al -- and I'll be like what's coming up? And when
there's a key location, then I'll start feeding it to the location
managers, and to the production designer, and they're always
working and trying to think ahead, like, hey, what about this?
What about that?
though, the scripts change so much as we write them, that a
lot of times we sort of chase wild geese. But the first few
days of prep are spent by getting in the van, driving around,
going to these locations, looking at a bunch of different choices,
usually not liking a bunch of them. Usually, like, finally finding
one. It very much has to work together with the script, and
sometimes if the scripts are tight and they're in really good
shape early on, it just makes the preparation so much easier.
the scripts are loose, and they're not right. Many times we
get a script that the idea is great, or there's something there.
We know it's gonna eventually get good. But until it really
gets good, it just gets really hard to lock down to the locations,
'cause locations are all about real specifics. And also, because
we shoot 2-4 scenes in a day, much of the Rubik's Cube puzzle
that we have solve is what locations go with what? Like, I had
to shoot Lionel's cell, that was lucky 'cause it was all one
day. But sometimes we have to do two scenes at the farm, and
then we have to go down the road and shoot another scene.
Or in Covenant,
for instance, I had to shoot the airport and the courthouse
in the same day, just because those were the only things that
would possibly go together. Now, those are two different locations.
The obligation was there. I had to find an airport and a courthouse
within basically walking distance of each other. That was the
hardest task on that episode, because out of any given script,
a bunch of scenes are written on purpose to be for our standing
sets. Like, the Talon, the Torch, the Kent farm, the barn, Lex's
mansion. Those are sets on a sound stage. And usually, ideally,
three quarters, half to three quarters of the episode will take
place in those sets, and the writers write to that. But, on
that one, to find a court house and an airport right near each
other was really hard, so we eventually found what I originally
considered two compromises, but I think they worked together
really well. It was sort of like there were other combinations
of beautiful airports with no court houses or fantastic court
houses with no airport. So, the airport was a hotel, and the
court house was a train station. They were really a block from
each other, and then David Wilson and Rob Maier, the guys in
the production design department, just did a fantastic job.
It's very convincing as an airport. That's not an airport at
all; that's a hotel. And the other place is not a court house
at all! But it had a great ceiling, and a great space, you know."
Is it true that you guys dress Kristin Kreuk in pink just to
At this point in time, I am amused by the anger of the fans,
but no, not really. Originally, you know, all the characters
had a color palette that was sort of theirs. Some of them have
stayed the same from the very beginning. Lex's was always designed,
really by Miles, to be in silvers and blues and grays and purples.
Clark only wears red, white, and blue, and red, yellow, and
blue. It's funny, but the specifics of that is like where my
job is. Like, I wanted a red coat for him [Clark], and we worked
really hard on finding a great red coat. And finally, in the
middle of the season two, I finally found a coat that I liked
in a catalog, and then she had to build and dye it, that coat
is constructed. And the right shade of blue, and the right shade
of red. It took a season and a half to get those perfect. And
then we wanted a winter red coat, all those crazy kinds of things.
because I think she was always designed to be the princess,
you know, the object of desire, I think the idea was to put
her in very innocent colors, and she would be the innocent one.
So really, sky blue and pink were always her colors from the
beginning. And frankly, she looks great in pink. I know people
get sick of it, but I think she looks really good in those colors,
so, and she also looks good in black. She looks very good in
black, but Miles really does not want to dress her in black.
He thinks black is a dark color for bad guys, and typically
we really reserve the color black for bad guys.
a very strong color pallette working, both in terms of the sets,
and in terms of the wardrobe, and in terms of how they interact.
Like, I actually really very much think about, like, this set
is this color, so the actors have to wear these colors in that
scene. And I'm doing that on every scene in every location.
At this point in time I don't do that, becuase now everyone
really knows the rules, and the crew just sort of does it most
of the time. But, you know, there was one episode where we -
- Kristin doesn't really like pink, and she hates being dressed
in pink. I don't know whether Kristin goes online or not, but
if she does, she probably really doesn't like the comments about
her being the pink princess and everything. You know, she's
very sensitive, actually, and I think she really objects to
pink. So, I gave her a chance to pick her own colors on one
episode, which was Crisis. And she picked this terrible color
of green, and this terrible color of orange, and that was the
end of that. And I think if you see the episode you'll agree,
that the orange she chose, and the green she chose, were not
a success. So, we were right back to pink.
So there's no chance she'll return with a new look?
As a matter of fact, she will be returning with a new look.
Her character is going to evolve. I think of all of the characters
coming back in Season 4, I think the fans will be the most satisfied
and be the most intrigued, and the most surprised by what's
going to happen to Lana. And so, she is going to have a new
But it will still be pink?
No, it will not be pink, actually, no. It's gonna change. I
feel like I know how it's going to change. I think Miles knows
how he wants it to change. We haven't completely had that conversation.
But yeah. I think Kristin's character will be the most surprising
in Season 4.
Are there days when only special effects work is being done?
Absolutely. Yes. For instance, when we do green screen.
There's two different kinds of special effects. The word special
effects is used in two ways. There's visual effects, which is
like for instance, when Jonathan and Clark, you know, crash
through the window and fall in Exile, green screen is very slow.
We have a huge green screen stage that we finally built in Season
Three. It's about a hundred feet long and about 60 feet wide
with a green floor. We took about ten hours to shoot four or
five green screen shots of Jonathan and Clark tumbling together.
'Cause they had to be hung, and suspended, and to get them fighting
in mid-air hanging on wires was very slow work. So we spent
eight or ten hours just doing five green screen shots.
also special effects which is also blowing stuff up. The day
that we blew up the house in Hereafter, we probably did three
or four shots, and then we waited for six hours while they rigged
the house to blow, and then we blew up the house and that was
What happened with James Marshall sharing the directing
chores on "Hereafter?"
My job is very exhausting, especially because I fly back
and forth between L.A. and Vancouver, partly to see my family,
and partly to work with the writers down here. Miles was originally
going to direct Hereafter, not Memoria. And sort of at the last
second, just because of all the work he's doing on our show
and others, he had to bow out. So I took over. I just finished
directing Asylum. In fact, I wasn't done with Asylum, because
Michael Rosenbaum got sick on Asylum. So I still had three or
four days owed on Asylum, and I started getting sick. But I
couldn't stop. I was working six days weeks, 'cause we were
doing Saturdays to finish Asylum. And I started Hereafter, and
I was sick, and I got walking pneumonia. So, James Marshall
had gone off to do Tarzan, which he was producing and the show
thankfully failed, came back, he came to set to visit, just
to say hi to everybody, 'cause he'd been gone for a month, when
the doctor called me on the cell phone and said that I had to
go home right now, that someone else would have to finish. And
I looked at Marshall, and said "Marshall, you're finishing
my episode." What?
had like two weeks off before his next episode. So it took about
two hours to describe what I was going to do the rest of that
day, and then I went home, and I went to bed, and I didn't get
out of bed for a week. But every night, James would come over
to my apartment, and we'd go through the next day's work and
go, like, "Okay, what were you going to go here?"
He didn't even read the script until like two days after he
The meteor freaks in Asylum, is that just who happened to
Well, no, not exactly. Miles and Al really wanted to bring
back three of the freaks, and they did research it. There weren't
that many. It had to be a guy, and they had to be alive. So
there was really just those three guys, and the guy from Cool.
I think those were the only living men. And there was also some
debate whether the guy from Metamorphosis had lived or not.
He'd been smashed and turned into a thousand cockroaches. So,
the problem with that was that Shawn Ashmore was already shooting
a movie, luckily in Vancouver, that he was the star of. So we
kept working it out with his manager, and he was basically available
one day. Imagine, like he was available one day, on the 19th,
and for half a day on the 16th. Now, Jesse Metcalfe was in a
soap opera at the time, and was only available for two days,
but they weren't the same days as Shawn Ashmore. And luckily,
Jonathan Taylor Thomas was available the whole time. Once we
knew that, they wrote more for Jonathan. Originally, it was
pretty divided between the three and Jesse lived to the end,
and they bulked up Jonathan's role and they diminished the other
two roles. I originally was prepared to direct with only doubles.
Like, I would never have Shawn Ashmore or Jesse Metcalfe in
the same shot at the same time. So I would have to direct half
a scene over one guy's shoulder and then half a scene over another
luckily in a weird way, Michael got sick and went down and there
was nothing to do, and then Shawn Ashmore's show got rain delayed.
Suddenly Shawn Ashmore and Jesse were available at the same
time, so I got to do one scene with all three guys. The scene
at the end of the show when Shawn Ashmore is picking Clark up
and throwing him around and beats the crap out of him, well,
that scene was done on two different days about two weeks apart.
One day I have to go through the whole scene and shoot every
shot with Shawn Ashmore. And another day, I went back with a
double, and shot every scene that was not Shawn Ashmore. Seriously.
That's what I did.
What was up with all the ribbing of James Marshall on the DVD
When I first met James, I didn't know I had already worked
with him when he used to be an assistant director. I watched
some of his film, I watched a show that he did called The Sentinel
and I really thought it was cool. It was actually a show Bob
Hargrove had produced, and I really liked the way it looked.
So I hired James originally to come aboard as a second unit
director. The nature of the law of Canada was such that our
second units had to be done by Canadian directors. We were allowed
to hire American units to do the main units, and if the American
directors were able to do their second units, fine, but if they
weren't, and in the first season they never were because it
was so chaotic. So I had to hire a Canadian, and I hired James.
what happened is, because of the chaotic schedule, and because
we got snowed out, and because of all of these things, James
ended up directing, uncredited, about more than a third of one
of the Season 1 episodes. And when I saw the episode, I was
like holy moley. Like, James's stuff is substantially better
than the prestigious American director that we brought up. So,
then we gave James Nicodemus, which I gotta say, Miles and Al
were really great. The studio resisted it because they didn't
know him, and they put together a tape of all the scenes that
he directed. Some of the best scenes in episodes that were credited
to other directors. And so we gave him Nicodemus which, of course,
is a fan favorite, and then later he did Crush, and he just
started batting 'em out of the park, basically.
thing about Marshall, and why they teased him, is he is passionate.
And he's never satisfied. See, I'm different. I'm more mellow,
and funny, and I joke around. I've been doing it a long, long
time, so I sort of know when it's right, and I don't fuss with
it, and I just move on. But he just toils over everything. He
toils over every performance, every shot. He wants it as good
as it could be. He wants it better. So, that's why the actors
gave him crap. They've learned to love him, because they know
his episodes turn out great, but they give him crap because,
like they said, he never saw a take that he didn't want to do
another take of. James wants another take, then he wants another
take, then he wants another take, then he wants another shot,
and then he wants another shot of the same action, and then
he wants another version of the shot. You know, he just wants
more and more. He pushes for more all the time. It does get
a good result, but, everyone likes to tease him.
What was the genesis of John Schneider directing an episode?
John really wanted to do an episode, and made a case for
it right from the beginning. Right from Season 1, he was like
I can do this, I want to do it, and so it was sort of different
from James's situation because we sort of committed to the idea
that he would direct one, and then give him practice. Whenever
an opportunity came up to do second units, I let him do that,
and it was to get the feel of the show and the crew, and so
John had already done four to six days of second unit directing
for different other episodes. In fact, on Lineage which I had
directed, it came to pass that I really wanted to be involved
in the prep of the next upcoming episode, which was Dichotic,
so I said "John, I'm going to give you this day for my
episode." I was very trusting, I thought. So John did a
day, about two or three scenes of Lineage, that I thought he
did a great job on.
What can you tell us about the Smallville Season 3 DVD?
There's commentary with Miles, and Al, and myself, and Ken Horton,
and Michael Rosenbaum on Exile, and on Memoria. So, pretty insightful.
I think that's going to be fun for everybody, but I think the
best thing is the gag reel, which again has some really good
stuff. Some really cute stuff with Kristin Kreuk, and the usual
Michael Rosenbaum antics, and I will say from what I hear, there
is an Easter egg that should be searched for. There's also a
really cool behind the scenes documentary which really introduces
a lot of the crew, and we talk about, you know, all the players
including myself and Michael and Miles and Al, sort of introduce
a lot of the crew people. The DP's, and the costumers, and the
set constructor, and the production designers, and you really
get to meet the people behind the scenes and see how we do a
typical day on Smallville. And I was happy with it, in that
I think it showed what tight knit group we are, and how the
collaboration on a day to day basis goes, so I think that's
some really good stuff for the fans that'll tell them stuff
they don't know already.
Did you guys really have to get up so early for those Season
2 DVD commentaries?
Yes. And, we weren't in the same place. They were shooting
that day, and they had an eight o'clock call, so we figured
that the commentaries would take 45 minutes, times two. So,
yeah. We did the commentaries at like 6:30 in the morning, and
Kristin and Tom were both going to work in Vancouver. Now, at
that time I happened to be here in Los Angeles, and so did Michael
Rosenbaum. So Michael Rosenbaum and I were here in Los Angeles,
and Kristin, Tom, and James Marshall were in Vancouver, and
we were sort of hooked up by sattelite. So, we actually weren't
even in the same room at the same time, as we were taunting
each other the whole time.
You had mentioned that you wanted to explain the misconceptions
people have about what a director actually does?
I just don't think people know what a director does at all.
I don't think they even have any concept of it. You know, I
go online, on KryptonSite, and I think people are very clear
on what the writers do, but I don't think they understand what
the director does. So I just thought it was important to clarify
the director is responsible for choosing how they're going to
shoot the episode. We sort of have general rules of how we shoot
the episode, which again, took about a season and a half, until
it was really clear to me how to shoot the show, and then I
was able to teach other people about it. So there's sort of
a palette or a template, like, this is how we'd like the show
to look. Which is, you know, there's a lot of long, moving cameras.
There's these really big closeups. Everything's a low angle.
The characters don't quite fit in the frame, you know, they're
meant to be too big for the frame, and these type of things.
the director specifically decides, I'm gonna shoot these shots
for this scene. I'm gonna put the camera here. They decide how
to visually tell the story on a episode by episode basis. It's
really the director who says to the director of photography,
"Okay, here's how I want this scene to be." The director
deals with the specifics of the scene. The actors are gonna
come in the door here. The camera's going to record it in this
way. I'm going to dedicate this many shots to this part. I'm
gonna do this part in one shot, etc. And they also are really
the main person thinking about the transition between this scene
and that scene. Transitions are very important.
directors are also responsible for the performance of any given
episode. The actors do not self-direct. You know, our cast is
very great about this. They love performance direction, and
certain directors get in there and work with the cast, and certain
directors don't. There are directors who just work on the details
of the techical stuff, and they get the shots. They sort of
let the cast self-direct. Those episodes are never as good.
The directors who get in there and work Tom, work Michael -
John Glover loves direction, and Annette O'Toole loves direction.
Allison Mack loves direction. She loves being directed. And
she gets really frustrated if she's not directed. The directors
direct the actors, and the directors decide how we're going
to shoot any given episode.
a very hard show to direct. I've directed a lot of different
television. I've directed movies. I have had the hardest time
getting directors for this show, and I'll tell you why: Because
it requires three or four different skills that are difficult
to find in one person. It needs performance direction. Especially
in the beginning, because the actors were young, and they were
sort of inexperienced, and you needed someone who had the ability
to bring out these performances. Two, you need to be comfortable
with visual effects, and not everyone's done visual effects.
Not everyone's said okay, and then Tina turns into Lana, you
know. A lot of people don't know. And you have to be comfortable
with action. In the morning, we might have a dramatic scene
which is meant to induce tears, and then in the afternoon, we're
gonna have a battle in the back alley with people getting thrown
40 feet in the air. So, a director has to know how you make
that exciting and dramatic. How do you make the shoot the shots
that make it dramatic and exciting, and how do you accomplish
that on a television pace? You know, we've had people who knew
how to do it but couldn't do it as fast as we need to do it.
And fourth, we shoot a television show. So, we shoot a lot of
pages every day, and just to be able to get through the day
and maintain the high aesthetic standards that we have, simultaneously,
it's not easy.
At the end
of the day, the director is the only person on Smallville who's
only focusing on that one episode. Miles and Al are always writing
eight episodes at a time. They're always working on two or three
ideas that are just ideas. They're always overseeing two or
three scripts that are in the first draft stage. They're always
overseeing the episode that's prepping. And then they're also
keeping track of the episodes that are in post-production. So
they're always - in the middle of the season, they're always
thinking about, like, eight episodes. I'm always thinking of
at least four. The crew is always thinking of at least two.
The actors are thinking about two or three at the same time.
They're not always working in continuity. So, the director's
the only person on all of Smallville who's only thinking about
that one episode. And that's important.
Is there anything you could tell us about the cast that we might
The truth of the matter is that I've worked on a lot of different
shows, and normally, there's at least one bad egg, and usually
the bad egg has a lot of power. Usually the bad egg would be
the lead. Usually the person who's the lead of the show will
come to realize they have a lot of power, that no one can make
the show without them, and that person will become a jerk. There
is not one single jerk on this show. Every single one of them
cares about the show, cares about their individual performance.
Tom is unique. Tom doesn't just care that he gives a good performance.
He really cares about the whole show. He wants to make sure
everyone else is getting the best chance to do their best, too.
Every one of them really tries. John Glover, John Schneider,
and Annette O'Toole are vets, and each of those three is grateful
to be there. They know, unlike the kids, they know that a quality
television show that's a success is not easy to come by, and
they appreciate the chance. And they appreciate the writing
and the chances that the characters get to take.
all of them really like their characters. One example, I was
witness to another amazing moment. John Schneider and I were
at the airport, and we were up to episode eight or nine filming,
but the show had just premiered, and maybe two episodes had
aired, and the guy who was taking tickets at the gate said "Hey,
you're Jonathan Kent!" And John Schneider said "Yes,
I am!" We were walking down the runway to the plane, and
he went "Yes! I'm finally another guy! I'm not Bo Duke
anymore!" And he was seriously touched by that.
all professional. But that's rare. You know, it's rare to say
that I have a cast of actors who are professional, who genuinely
like each other. I think that's why I'm really happy about the
DVD commentary. You really see that we like each other. We like
each other, we like to hang out with each other, and everybody's
friends. And everyone shows up to do their best every day. That
was really a part of the reason I wanted to take the job too.
I saw what a bunch of good eggs they were, and it's no fun spending
three or four years with jerks.