Friday, 30 September 2011

Episode 5 approximate Release Date

According to a recent Facebook post, episode 5 should be released by VODO on the 4th or 5th of October. I'll update as I get any more info.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Spoiler Free Review of Episode 5

What can I say about episode 5 without spoiling it? I'm going to offer some disjointed thoughts:

I think it's no exaggeration to say it's probably the best yet, both in terms of the presentation, pacing and plot. As the trailer suggests, there are more variations in shots, more action and so on. I once read that nobody ever walks away from watching a film thinking "That was well edited." If you've noticed the editing, it's not well edited, if it is well edited you don't think notice it. This applies here (in a positive way); over the course of the series the technical aspects and the performances have strengthened with each episode and with this one I had to force myself to remember it was made on a tiny budget, which I suppose isn't really the point.

"All it takes is a little imagination"

Some major character arcs are resolved and a number of outstanding plot points are resolved. Subtle background character motivations have come to fruition and there's a possible new romantic triangle.

"They never tell me anything".

As a proud beard-wearer I'm more than happy to report that the bearded Russian character doesn't disappoint, in fact he's my new favourite character and I certainly hope we see him again. There are some pretty major reveals in this episode... or are there? It seems that investigations are going in two directions, and not everyone can be right... or can they? I thoroughly get the sense that the next episode finale will be very different in scope and style.

Some sprinklings of comedy are especially welcome.

If you're quick and in the NY area you can get down and see it tonight.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Exclusive Interview with Jack Haley aka Zachary Walzer

I'm very pleased to be able to bring to you an interview with Jack Haley, who plays Zachary Walzer. I'd recommend you take the time to read it:

P1: The first actor who played Zachary Walzer of course had to bow out for union reasons. How did you come to take over the role?

JH: That actor was Matthew Foster, who I thought did a great job in the original version. In fact, he's the one who deserves the credit for that inspired water fountain moment in that hallway scene with Taylor, so I was lucky to inherit that little bit.

I had actually read for Walzer with Josh and Bracey back when they were first casting the show. Thinking back, I originally had a different take on the character, I had him as more of a gum-chewing wiseass. A few months later when I'd pretty much forgotten about the audition, they called me in to read for another character, Dr. Avery Frank -- Walzer's colleague that outs him on national TV in Episode 4. They offered me that part, and we even shot the scene, but the next day they told me they'd lost Matthew, said they really liked what I'd done with Avery Frank, wanted to know if I'd like to read again as a replacement for Walzer. (They reshot the Avery Frank scene with an actor terrific actor named Steve Rimpici.)

I had really taken a liking to the Walzer character so I was excited to have another shot at it. I came in and read a little with Jim Rich, and we clicked. They offered it to me on the spot. Not having seen the full scripts, I didn't realize at that point how large a role Walzer was. We only had a few days before we started shooting, and I have to admit I was a little overwhelmed when I saw how much Walzer likes to talk! I crammed the lines into my brain as fast as I could, and headed up to Binghamton, where most of the series was shot, and we jumped in.
I remember feeling a little nervous about being the new guy in what I could see was already a very solid ensemble, but everyone was very welcoming, cast and crew. These guys love to have a good time on the set which kept things calm and fun even when the pressure was on. I loved what we were doing.

P1: I'd love to see the deleted scene of you as Avery Frank! I hope that goes onto the DVD. Given the funding format of the show (shooting full length episodes on a budget of donations) what would you say are the good things and what are the difficulties you encountered as an actor, compared with other things you've been involved with?

JH: Well, you know, we'd all love to have twenty million dollars to spend on the thing. The advantages of money are obvious: you can get a very slick look, make every location look perfect, do a lot more with different kinds of shots, all that good stuff. Plus, yeah, I wouldn't mind some slice of that twenty million dollar budget being my fee! But I do think there are some good things that come out of doing it on a low budget.
For one thing, you know that everyone working on the project is doing it because they love what they do. Really, everyone on the project -- sound people, make-up people, production people -- they all were incredibly committed and enthusiastic. The hours people would go without sleep! (Especially Bracey, the guy's a machine.) I love acting and do as much of it as I can, but working with all these people giving so much, it really gets that fire burning even hotter.
I guess the other thing that's nice about the low budget feel, when I compare it to some bigger budget things I've done, is the feeling that it's the art that comes first, not the money. I've done small parts in a couple of national televisions shows and some commercials, and there's a very strong feeling that you are there to do a very specific job. If you're not asking where to stand or which hat to wear, you should probably keep your mouth shut. You can really feel that money meter running, it's an interesting feeling of pressure. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of fun, but there's not a lot of freedom.
On Pioneer One, if an idea popped into my head for something to add to a shot, some business or just a general approach to a scene, I'd pipe right up, and Bracey and Josh were always very ready to listen. Made it all very collaborative and gave me (and I hope everyone) a chance to flex some creative muscles in a way that you don't get to in those big pricey projects.

P1: I think those things shine through in the final product too. I'd like to talk a bit about Walzer himself now. Can you give us some insight into how you see him? Do you base him on anyone or any aspect of someone, or his he you in essence? (Though I'm assuming you're not a Mars expert in your free time).

JH: As part of my research, I read up on the work of Dr. Robert Zubrin, who's an actual Mars expert. I read his book, "The Case for Mars" and watched video of some of his old testimony before Congress. I don't know if I'd go so far to say that my portrayal of Walzer is based on him as a person; I don't think you'll see Zubrin's gestures or way of speaking or anything. But the ideas about going to Mars and how to go about it are certainly Zubrin's. He's got some fascinating ideas about that -- he definitely sold me on the feasibility of a mission. Personally, I think it's something we should do (go to Mars). It's exactly the kind of thing this country needs now, something we could rally around, something that the world would see as admirable. We desperately need something like that. It's a shame that we stopped at the moon, decades ago. Our society should move forward with space exploration, the sooner the better.
As an actor, though, I generally use parts of myself that I have in common with the character, focus on them, sometimes heighten them. I was drawn to Walzer's commitment to his life's work. We both have taken on causes that are outlandishly difficult to achieve. Going to Mars, making a career out of acting -- long shots, both! But they're the kinds of things that a person simply must keep pursuing because they're much more than just jobs, they're passions, reasons to get out of bed in the morning.

And, like Walzer, I'm a big nerd at my core. I was the kid in junior high school playing Dungeons and Dragons with his geeky friends in the computer lab. Walzer's an outsider, especially once he starts working with Taylor and the Homeland Security folks. Despite his credentials and distinction among his colleagues, I think he kind of finds himself back in the school locker room trying to hold his own with the meathead jocks. Brains versus brawn, now that's something I know about.

Walzer thinks in black and white, probably to a fault. To him, if it's not something you can back up with the scientific method, it's not worth discussing. His wife called him "obsessive." I'm not generally quite so absolute in my thinking as he is, but get me arguing about politics, and I'm right there.

My favorite part of Walzer, though, is the very tender compassion that starts to come out as the series progresses (possibly to his own surprise and consternation). It starts with Yuri, the lost, helpless young man that represents everything Walzer's ever dreamed about. But once that compassion starts to emerge, and once he starts to see the convictions and passions of the people he's been thrown in with, that compassion starts to extend even to his rival, Tom Taylor. I loved working with that conflict, fighting against the guy he sees as utterly clueless, but involuntarily beginning to understand him as the series progresses. Josh did a great job writing that, it was fun to play.

So, as you can probably tell, I love this character!

P1: Dungeon's and Dragons! Yes I also enjoy the chemistry between Tom and Walzer; it's a bit of an 'odd couple' relationship. Can you tell us anything about the future direction of your character? Any spoilers? I'm guessing you won't be able to tell us who the person was on the other end of the phone...

JH: Don't want to give anything away, but yes, you will find out who that was on the phone, and you'll get to see Walzer in something of a new light. Some twists and turns on their way, get ready for the unexpected. Without getting into detail, I can tell you that you'll see Walzer start to struggle with some more human problems, that his black-and-white, scientific-method approach to life will start to let him down a bit. Episodes 5 and 6 are my favorites, not just in terms of the Walzer story, but all the characters, their story lines, the whole show. Looking forward to the upcoming release.

And as far as where we head after season 2? Well, that's all brewing in the mind of one Josh Bernhard. I've heard an idea or two from him that I wouldn't dare even hint at, but I'm hopeful we'll get a chance to see more of the lives of these characters and, of course, the ongoing repercussions of that mysterious fallen capsule.