Joe Flanigan can be heard on barely a handful of the 100 episodes commentaries, and Rising is one of the few. This is the transcript of the DVD commentary with Joe and Martin Wood, the director of Rising (the pilot, a double episode), which was first aired on July 16th, 2004. The DVD set has no subtitles for this commentary.
Since both Joe and Martin make a lot of references to the actual scenes in the pilot, we’ve added screencaps or short references for a better understanding. There’s also a rough time code matching the video, for easy navigation through the text and the DVD (however, it appears that there’s a very slight delay between the BluRay and DVD. Note that this transcript was done from the DVD).
While the whole commentary is very insightful and revealing for the birth of the Atlantis series, you’ll notice Joe’s particular focus on the filmmaking craft (acting, camera, directing, script development, lights, production issues) and on giving credit to other members of the cast and crew.
On a side note: we’ve tried (hard!) to put in the transcript all the onomatopoeic vrooms, whooshes and wows that Joe is so frequently using in order to interpret (and re-live?) the scenes, but we couldn’t keep up with him. You really need to listen for yourselves.
MW: Hi, I’m Martin Wood.
JF: And I am Joe Flanigan.
MW: And we’re here to talk to you about Atlantis. This is the first one. This is the first “two”. And this…
JF: …is several million years ago.
MW: We went through this about a billion times to get this effect right. On the left is Ona Grauer, you may recognize her from Frozen, and on the right, that’s her husband, her actual husband, Aaron, and Ona was the girl we found in the ice, in Stargate’s Frozen, and I really wanted to bring her back for this […] She would be the one that was left on Earth as this takes off. When you watch these things, you don’t realize how much R&D actually went into them, and Joe you saw some of these things in their infancy, the animatics, and you know how far they’ve come, like with that snow particles and stuff like that.
JF: Oh, that’s incredible. I think my entire salary went to special effects.
MW: I’m really glad you actually gave us that, thanks so much for that. That shot outside, we’ve took that on the day we were up in the helicopter, I took some stills that day, we’ll talk about it when we get to it. This is the set that we’ve used in the Lost City […] It wasn’t intended to be a 360 set like this, we weren’t intending to shoot all around the whole thing. You could tell how cold it is.
JF: Yes, it was freezing, absolutely freezing. The whole method you guys used to actually freezing us is effective.
MW: Just by putting fog on the ground. Joe has just reminded me, this was our first day in high-definition television, we’ve actually changed from 35 mm film to HD, and it was a big thing for everybody to change, although it’s an amazing thing, I love working in HD.
Joe: A big thing, and frightening, there’re a lot of challenges due to HD which I think most people don’t realize. You can see the sharpness, is something that you battle a lot with camera, you have to filter the hell out of this stuff, to soften it up. That was kind of challenging.
MW: We keep trying to get it looking like film, but I think it’s its own beast and it’s never going to look like film. We use longer lenses, we do a whole bunch of stuff trying to make it look like film to crush that depth of field, to put those guys in the background out of focus.
JF: What I don’t understand is that sometimes everything is in focus, like that, for example…
MW: Wide lens would do that. This we would shot a couple of times, this scene, mostly because of the fluorescent lights, we hated how it looked the first time, and also, these two actors, right here, Torri and David, are terrible.
JF: It’s amazing they’ve survived.
MW: We had to do it so many times. Finally Joe and I were actually feeding them lines off camera.
JF: And what’s even better now is they’re paying us now to be in the show, which helps a lot.
MW: Interestingly enough this was a big moment for me and I don’t think I’ve ever captured it the way I wanted to. The dialogue gives us a lot of leeway in the way that we normally shoot things. This one doesn’t; you HAVE to figure out that we’re trying to get to another galaxy, and that’s the whole premise of the show.
JF: You know something important; Michael Shanks’ glasses are slightly crooked.
MW: This is Joe Flanigan actually flying…
JF: This was one of my favorite days of shooting actually in my entire ten or eleven years as an actor.
MW: We had a lot of fun on this day.
JF: Should have brought my skis.
MW: Richard Dean Anderson, Joe Flanigan and a very small crew flew up in this helicopter. Actually we had four helicopters up here; one just bringing equipment up. That’s actually Rick in that helicopter and a Joe look-alike. At this point, when we were shooting this stuff, Joe is climbing up one of the hills behind us, trying to get the best view and to ski down.
JF: That’s right, I’d grabbed the guy’s skis. That’s a Joe look-alike, but that is in fact Joe.
MW: This is fake.
JF: That’s interior. That’s amazing. I remember we shot this, what, six weeks later? It threw me off completely. I forgot my character’s name and all sorts of things.
MW: We were inside a studio with this, and to make it look like it’s in a helicopter, you shake the camera and you mix it with the stuff from outside. Nobody ever believes you you’re actually sitting inside and we’re blowing wind against the windshield to keep the little orange thing flying.
JF: It’s indistinguishable, I’d have to say. While you’re shooting this, as an actor, you feel like it’s the fakest thing in the world, it can’t possibly ever fit in… And then you see the results and you’re like: oh, I should have acted better…
MW: Notice the difference between the chair now and the chair when Torri was standing besides it earlier? It was broken on the first day.
JF: Who did that?
MW: Special effects guys.
JF: I thought I’d broken it.
MW: You may have, actually, sitting in the first day and pushing it back.
JF: One of the many props I’ve broken.
MW: But now it’s fixed and sitting upward.
MW: That was a cool prop. This is good, we’re blowing up the whole set. That’s Rainbow, the first time you see him.
JF: What is that effect of the bubble-like wave quality? What’s the post-production effect?
MW: Just a computer vis-effect. Here we’ve got Rick sitting… The trick is to keep one of the actors in there, show him, and then on the fake stuff, when we’re in the studio, like this, we’re moving the camera. The whole is storyboarded from the beginning. See the little orange thing that indicates the wind speed, flapping around? We’re blowing snow at the front of it. Remember the time we were trying to crash land the helicopter?
JF: …and we basically did?
MW: There’s a shot coming up, where this helicopter has to crash land, with Rick sitting in it.
JF: What’s remarkable is that essentially it was a crash landing. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s a hell of a landing if you’re in the chopper. The tail touches first.
MW: And it dug a big hole. That was a difficult part of the shot, with Nathaniel Massey sitting in the back.
JF: Nathaniel Massey is our steady cam.
MW: This is the crash land right here. It doesn’t look like it’s coming down very hard. We couldn’t actually use the landing part of it because it blew the snow up all over the place. Now, this is actually Joe and Rick on the mountain. This is hilarious, I love doing this it with you.
JF: This is about my fourteenth jump.
MW: That was a fluke.
JF: That was a well placed drone, placed by none other than Martin Wood.
MW: How many times did I throw it? Like ten times…
JF: I was of course freezing my ass.
MW: I’m throwing that drone from like 10 feet. The original storyboard didn’t have that. It was supposed to stop 20 feet away from him.
JF: But that’s the improvisational nature of being on an isolated set.
MW: That was a great way to start.
JF: It was a great to start shooting the pilot, it was a lot of fun.
MW: That was the first stuff that we shot, and we went up the glacier and start shooting.
This was originally one shot.
JF: And then you would follow me into all the other places.
MW: And we followed him from here in this big long shot discovery for Joe, but this scene was actually flipped around in several different ways.
MW: It didn’t originally start like this.
JF: We were kind of trying to balance the idea of following the story from the point of view of my character, versus slowly introducing him as a central character.
MW: And introducing Pegasus, the galaxy, and figuring out how to get there.
[O’Neill: Why did they leave?]
[Daniel: Yes it's a galaxy…]
MW: “Pegasus”, “Yes it’s a galaxy…”, those were the first two lines of the scene, and when Brad wrote them, he took them and shifted them around all over the place…
JF: Because Brad Wright is a deconstructionist, and a very good one. He’s made a lot of lemonade [laughs]
MW: A lot of this movie is… and I can’t take credit for it…
JF: I can, thank you!
MW: …it’s Brad’s and Robert’s creation, from start to finish.
JF: I have to say it’s remarkable, from my perspective, I’m an actor who had never done science fiction, you and I talked at length about this, the size of the frame, for example, and the “level” of everything in science fiction is very different. It was hard for me to believe how things were going to turn out. And this is when I first start to realize that you, Brad and Robert were clued in into something that I didn’t understand at all, which is how to create science fiction and what it turns out well and what doesn’t turn out well. It’s a far cry from the tight court room dramas and the other things that I had done.
MW: There is a scene, I’ll comment when we will get to it, in the helicopter when you’re about to leave, a pivotal scene for you and I to discuss the character. It gave to me the best look at who Sheppard was going to be, and it was just the way you were playing it. And this is another one, this scene, right here… My feeling on the read that you had was like it was a little bit off… but then, when I saw how the character evolved, especially over the first season, I looked back and I think now that you had a way better handle of it than I thought, at the beginning, than either of us did.
JF: I thought I had a good handle, for a while, until we started discussing it. I think a lot of people when watching a movie or a TV don’t understand that your performance is very different when you look at the frame. You look now at the frame of Torri and then you look at Rick and those are fairly tight frames, so you keep things fairly tight. But, with science fiction, as you were saying, and the sets that we have, for example this shot is so much larger that you can’t keep things on a super-tight performance level, sometimes, and they do get lost. And so, understanding what you’re going to use is what’s critical. It was a big learning curve for me.
MW: And this, the whole scene plays out in a single shot, so whatever is happening has to happen on a scale that we can see on this frame. This is a good point.
JF: That chair was too short for me, so my legs are hanging over… [laughs] It was made for tiny people.
MW: Yeah, the Ancients were small…
MW: Quaint little people.
JF: This is the first scene when we’re all together
MW: That black thing behind you? You know what it is? All the stuff from the wraith hive. […] Here Rick looks at this coffin, in which he ended up in the end of… There was nothing in the script, but I felt he had to acknowledge he spent time frozen in it.
JF: I guess he did. I like how Rick always seems to have a spring in his step.
MW: He’s got a bad arch.
JF: He’s like: I’m trying to get out of here. Are we done with this scene?
MW: Here there’s some backstory for Sheppard, which, over the course of the season, we’re going to learn a little more about. But we really don’t examine it enough in the first season. The second season is about you and Vietnam.
MW: Afganistan. I was thinking about your vacation in Vietnam.
JF: That’s right. My holiday in Cambodia?
MW: This elevator makes so much noise when it goes up.
JF: What I like here is that I actually do know how to fly a helicopter, but they wouldn’t let me.
MW: That’s right, because we’re in a studio! Even if you were…
JF: [laughts] But then they took the rotor out.
MW: Here’s the definitive scene for me, as a director.
JF: It was after we had shot the pilot.
MW: I hadn’t a handle on Sheppard, all the way through the pilot, but every time we did a scene, we talked about it. We were trying to figure it out, and I’m giving him stuff that I think Sheppard is doing, and he’s been giving me stuff in the performance, but right here, this line:
[Sheppard: Right now, at this very second, whether I decide to go on this mission or not seems to be about me.]
MW: Remember we went through this line four or five times, and you said I’m going to play it like this, and I said you have to amp it up, amp it up, and you wouldn’t do it, and I’m glad you didn’t.
JF: I remember that, because that was the most frustrating day of shooting for me. It came after the pilot, because although we had shot the pilot, were still talking about the character, and I genuinely didn’t understand what you were talking about. I just did what I thought was going to be consistent with the character.
MW: You know what? You were absolutely right, and that’s the scene that taught me what Sheppard was going to be. I didn’t have a handle on where you were going with the character, I thought…
JF: Maybe I didn’t have a handle [laughs]
MW: I know you did, because we talked so much about it, but it wasn’t the way I wanted to go with it.
JF: That’s also interesting, for people who watch a show, they don’t realize that when you are given a script, each person who reads that script has an entirely different vision of they are going to see, and they have a visual image, particularly the director and particularly an actor, they have a particular visual image of how things are going to look and feel. And when you are going to shoot, and you try to fill the gap between expectation and reality, communication is the essential bridge. If you can’t communicate between what you thought the scene was like and what the director thinks the scene is going to be like, it becomes a complicated mess. It’s a lot easier with you guys, in Stargate, because after 6-7 years of shooting the show, everything runs accordingly, everything has a life of itself, you don’t have to create… In pilots… This was like the eleventh pilot in a row that I shot, so I had like a “pilot disease” at this point.
MW: But you did a great job, and you did a good job teaching me about it. This is a one-shot, this took us an entire morning to shot. Nathaniel Massey going through with his steady cam.
JF: We need more of Nathaniel Massey’s beautiful steady cam, because it’s an incredible quality. Here is none other that Robert Patrick, whom, by the way, I just ran into, a couple of days ago in LA, and he wanted me to say hi to everybody, and how much he loved working on the show. He wants to come back, do you know how to do that?
MW: He was so much fun, a lot of people thought we should have kept him as a series regular. We would have, if we could, but he had to die, otherwise your character…
JF: Yes, that would have been tough, I would have had to kill him later on.
MW: Going back into this, we were here for this scene, for the whole day. It was funny that there were only 5 of us who knew anything about this, everybody else was new.
JF: Yes, that’s true. Except for David, who had done Stargate.
MW: Yes, we brought him back and forth, but David actually didn’t show up. This scene was shot much later.
JF: We can talk about David later on, but the character that was written for him was to be entirely different. This is another shot.
MW: You don’t like this.
JF: I thought the shot was about to start from around the corner. But it didn’t. You talk about learning something from the other person you’re working with, what I learned from you, here, was… I was under the impression, perhaps egocentrically, that we were going to follow my point of view, from this pilot.
MW: It was originally written like that.
JF: It was, and I expected that, but the way you’ve done it is… you had the character creep up, which I think it’s a good choice, because you’re not sure who’s going to emerge.
MW: That’s the thing. It’s all about the discovery about who the characters are going to be, who’s going to be the main character. To keep you in the middle of this is a much cooler way than having the big wide lens following you.
JF: Specifically back to that scene, when you’re in the hallway, that hallway was really a hero-shot: bum, around the corner, music, ta-da-da, you know something’s going to happen to this character. This way is done here, I think it’s a much subtler approach, and creates more dramatic tension. You wonder what’s going to happen to this character, maybe he’ll become a critical character.
MW: We saw a montage of characters. This unfortunately gave away who the main characters in our show were.
MW: It wasn’t supposed to be there, it was asked for it afterwards, I didn’t even shoot most of it.
I love that line delivery “That would be Dr Weir, right?” And I love that shot, too. That’s the relationship, right here.
JF: He likes me, you know he does, c’mon.
MW: What happens is that we already know, unfortunately, who the main characters are supposed to be, and I didn’t want that to happen.
JF: I agree with you. You want these disparate things to come together. But I still don’t think watching would give away too much.
JF: This is my first time I think in the Stargate room, the fabled Stargate room, which people actually try jumping the fences of the Studio to get into.
MW: This is the first time you ever went through a gate.
JF: Yeas, and I didn’t realize that this was kind of the Mecca for scifi fans. This little room right there. To be in it and be shooting and launching a new Stargate with the old Stargate characters… That was a very interesting day. The not-so-quiet MALP.
MW: Here again, there’s another set up…
JF: …more of Nathaniel Massey steady cam shot…
MW: …boom, right into a tight hero shot.
MW: The thing I liked about this day for me was being able to say good bye to the SG1 set, because it was literally leaving one and going into the other. I storyboarded this whole thing too, just so I can figure how to get from one to the other. Interestingly enough, the scene that David is playing here is a different scene than the one that was scripted, because we had it changed for Hewlett.
JF: I think people would be interested; the character of David, McKay, was a very different character. I had read in Los Angeles, with a number of people that they were looked into, to be cast for McKay, and they were entirely different. When Robert Cooper suggested David Hewlett, from Stargate, there was a complete reconfiguration, about… hmmm, that’s a good character, maybe we should make that character… We started shooting the pilot before David was even hired.
MW: When I read this, originally, I was picturing McKay in there, and I asked the question the first day and both Robert and Brad said: we’ve thought of that, it’s interesting, we might do that.
JF: I think it’s proved to be one of the single best decisions of the entire series, because David’s McKay is… he’s an absolutely brilliant actor, and having that addition to the show… his humor and his acting skills are just, you know, they bring up the whole level of show, significantly.
MW: This was not how it was intended to be shot.
MW: Brad had come to me and said what are you thinking, why would you shoot it like this? I needed you guys to have a moment there, by yourselves, without people passing by you. I didn’t want that many people in there, and so everybody says why are they standing there.
JF: I’m glad you didn’t because otherwise we’d be looping the whole thing.[Laughs]
MW: It’s a better character moment for you to be standing there by yourself. Splash!
JF: Now, this is going to be interesting, because I have an interesting comment about this. One mistake we did make: it’s my first time through a wormhole. Right here!
JF: Okay. What I was picturing was like wow, I just got out of a wormhole, but in fact, we end up in such a bizarre new environment, that I had to go into this military mode, of security and securing the environment. I really wanted a separate moment, just like you said before going into the stargate, a separate moment after the stargate, because, remember: I was just flying helicopters a few days ago. This is entirely new.
MW: This for me was about showing off the set, getting into this massive set. [...] We show off this place three times. The second time is of course when we get out of the water, but this time is very important to see… These are wide lenses, very wide lenses, almost to the point of distorting, and being able to show this progression through into the second level.
JF: This was our first day figuring out the lighting on this set, so it was really difficult. Poor Bruno, he was like: number 47! and the downstairs lights would go up… And that of course is our new stargate.
MW: The new stargate needs a whole commentary in itself. [...]
Creating that new stargate was a huge deal, and the special effects guys had been putting it together for months beforehand, and the way it dials up and things like that. It’s all new.
JF: That is one hardy mountain girl, with the backpack that weights one hundred…
MW: She’s got how many costumes changes?
JF: It’s remarkable, she actually has three seasons worth of wardrobe.[Laughs]
MW: This is amazing.
JF: Another lucky shot.
MW: I end up paying a hundred dollars to the prop person, she’s actually sitting right there, you can’t see her, she’s painted out, but her name is Ocean, and I said Ocean, if you can hit the camera with that…
JF: But how come we don’t have that? Because it did land…
MW: She did, it landed, but it was the way they wanted to cut in.
JF: We put an enormous amount of pressure on our props people. Have the bullet hit the shoulder right in the middle of the word “and”.
MW: Through the season this room changes about 20 times, just like the table changes.
JF: It’s one of the cooler rooms of the entire set.
MW: It is, and those 9 doors that open…
JF: And this is downstairs. For everybody who’s thinking My god, this is a huge set, well actually it is a huge set, it is an absolutely huge set. This is an entirely different sound stage, which is one of the world’s largest sound stages where they built part of the Goldengate Bridge, that’s why they call it Bridge Studios.
JF: Yes, I love that read, it’s just pure…
MW: It’s what you would do if you walked into this room. Bridget McGuire did such an amazing job of production design. This is my favorite shot in the first part of the show.
JF: Is it?
MW: It’s so weird, I don’t know why I like it so much. It just shows off the set exactly how I wanted it to. It gets you, and David and Torri and Craig all into the control room.
JF: By the way, this is good to explain these “oners” as we call them, are a very complicated thing to get. As you see, everybody has to hit the mark precisely right, and the camera guy has to hit his mark and do his thing precisely right. And the camera guy, remember, can’t see where he’s walking. He’s got two guys holding his waist, so that he hits his marks, but he’s looking through the lens.
MW: This is interesting.
MW: This is where I actually got you to change your performance. And you fought this.
JF: I know, and you’re much happier with…
MW: The reason I had to do this is, to make you change it, is that line, right there.
[Sheppard: We're under water!]
MW: Because in the rehearsal, no, no, in the audition, you had that read. I thought: that’s what we need to feel! We have to feel that, we’re under water! That amazement that you would feel there. We’re shooting through a tank right here, that’s where the bubbles would go up here. That’s the tank I used in SG1 Watergate for the first time.
I just love the way of showing our set.
JF: By the way, of all the actors, who did a good job, this hologram girl would read this speech…
JF: …Melia, from beginning to end, without a single mistake, while we were all goofing off and making small mistakes.
JF: I have to say, this was a difficult day for me, because, once again, this was one of the first days with a lot of this scifi stuff I’d been taking about, which is: okay, you’re looking at a projected map of the universe. But I’m not! I’m looking at a bunch of … you know … lights! I had not done… I had done a fair amount of green screen and things like that, it was hard for me to understand how this thing was going to materialize. So, it was just challenging. Can’t you see the challenge in my eyes?
MW: I was gonna say, if nothing else, there’s challenge.
JF: It was pure challenge. Torture!
MW: Angst, mixed with challenge.
JF: And then, a little bit world’s crafty![Laughs]
MW: A little hungry…
We’re in the same room that has the nine doors opening, I’m trying to make it look differently by having only one door open.
JF: People probably just don’t realize it’s the same room.
MW: The VR (virtual reality) room, it evolves over the season. We change the lights…
This was a difficult day.
We spent so long in that room.
JF: But we had a lighting problem, remember? It was the lighting, the hologram lighting.
MW: So here we are, back at another oner, rolling around with the steady cam again. Trying to get this many actors serviced in a scene, is very difficult. Let’s talk about David for a second here.
MW: David was searching for his character. He shouldn’t be as angry as he is. I let him get this angry, and it’s a mistake I made.
JF: I’m sitting down here, and that was a clear character choice, because I was actually tired.
MW: I put you in the background like that because I didn’t want to come up until there’s this decision at the end, with you throwing the line that actually gives us the solution. Until this point we really haven’t seen much from McKay. This is McKay coming up to the forefront, right here, and I let him get too big. David fought me on this.
JF: It’s interesting because Robert Patrick, along with what you’ll see of Robert Davi in the future were also at a loss with how to react, because one of the conundrums here is that’s a civilian mission, but you got the military. They’re used to clear military hierarchy, so to be spoken to the way McKay speaks to people, with that level of irreverence, is not military at all. So their character choices had to change with David’s. And it’s tricky, it’s tricky! He’s a brilliant antagonist, that’s what he is.
MW: And that’s what McKay was in Stargate. I was trying to hold that McKay. But he needed to evolve. He actually said to me: remember, at the end of Stargate I spent a couple of years in Russia, I was sent to Russia, so I’ve learnt something from that, I shouldn’t be like that.
JF: Which is how to drink lots of vodka and smoke Marlboro cigarettes (in Russian accent)
MW: This is our dialing sequence. I really like these lights flares.
JF: This is definitely a great Stargate. Although the purists… I have to say, this was an overarching theme through this entire pilot: a lot of Stargate fans watching a new Stargate show being launched and comparing: oh my god, this is not the same Stargate as the other Stargate. We were doing in this time a lot of press, lots of interviews, for all over the world, and they would always ask us questions like that: how does this compare with the other Stargate, even physically. How is the other Stargate different? They would ask all the time: how is your character different from Rick’s. It’s amazing that after we did the pilot, I’ve never been asked anymore any of these questions.
MW: True, because once people start watching it they realized it’s not the same show but it has the same mythology. It’s that mythology we needed to keep intact.
JF: I actually like getting through, by the way.
MW: Yes, it’s very cool.
This was fun.
JF: This was just an absolute… What’s remarkable is…
MW: The Stargate doesn’t actually exist there.
JF: …the eerie similarity between the landscape of British Columbia and the planet of Athos. And particularly a gravel pit, forty minutes north of Vancouver.
This was a cold wet day, everybody was cold and wet. And we could not see. As beautiful as these props are, you can’t see anything, so we were all bumping into each other. I wish we could’ve used some of the blueprint scenes. Ah! This is the introduction of the ever charming little boy named Jinto, who goes on to be the fabled Jinto.
MW: That’s Casey and Reese. And Halling, Christopher Heyerdahl.
JF: All three great actors, especially Christopher, he’s a phenomenal actor.
MW: There’s a great moment coming up here, when he stands up, and it was a joke, but I actually kept it in. Right here, Robert got his gun here, and Christopher stands up, and Robert purposely brings it up.
JF: I love that! I love that! That’s what a guy like Robert Patrick… he’s a lot of fun to have. A great actor is somebody who fills in all these blank spaces with small choices and sometimes are just physical choices or intonations and they create so many new levels.
MW: I loved having Robert in a situation where… It’s him in command but… you remember there was a whole piece to this scene that’s not in the show, when you have a conversation with him.
JF: And I love that scene too! The scene we’re talking about is a scene that the producers decided to pull, and it’s right about here, I’ll tell you in a minute.
MW: That’s the end of the scene right here.
JF: I say I think they want us to follow them, and he says: Good thinking, Sheppard. It was a very funny thing, and it would have shown more of the relationship between us, but Brad thought that it might insinuate that I’m not that smart. I didn’t think that it insinuated that, I thought it just showed that Robert was a smartass and had his own level of sarcasm.
MW: It played out very nicely but I’m glad they pulled it out, because this scene makes more sense now, with the whole walking, with you behind them. Remember, you said I can hear them, and I said, yeah, react to it! That’s why we come to you with the camera. This is just one shot.
JF: You know, it takes out a good chunk out of our relationship and it would have been nice to have it left in. The relationship is ultimately established, with or without it, but it was a nice little added flavor.
MW: That’s a huge shot with the steady cam that steps up to the crane and goes up in the air. This is the introduction of Rachel. This is actually shot in daytime.
JF: And this is the r-a-v-i-s-h-i-n-g RACHEL LUTTRELL! This was actually one of the first days of shooting, I believe.
MW: It was. And it’s daylight out there, we had to shoot it during daylight and make it look like night time. This whole tent is tented with blacks.
JF: I love this scene because we’re all stuck into a situation with Robert.
MW:… who’s supposed to command everybody and it’s a very weird power struggle between you guys.
[Sumner: Col Marshal Sumner, Mj Sheppard and Lt Ford]
MW: and Lt Ford… we were supposed to introduce his first name, but we were arguing about what his first name is going to be Aidan or not, because he was like: I’m not an Aidan, I shouldn’t be Aidan. So we didn’t use it, we just used the rank.
[Sheppard: Me, I like Ferris wheels and college football…]
JF: I didn’t even think twice about this line and for some reason people really like it.
MW: It’s a character line.
JF: I guess it does define certain things. See this scene? There’s so much more going on in this scene than meets the eye. It really establishes when Sumner decides alright, will let Sheppard do his MO, I’ll do my MO, and whatever’s more effective, will accept. Because until then, it was: don’t even mess with me, I’m in charge, I know how to handle the situation.
MW: Which gives him…
JF: Because when you cut here, right here…
MW: He’s a smarter leader than you’d expected
JF: Yes, it shows flexibility that allows to get through a few situations.
MW: That was actually looking back at our trucks and we end up putting a vis effect in front of it.
JF: I think that’s one of the best-looking shots in the show.
MW: When he comes out like this?
FJ: I just think it’s great looking the village in the background, the mist, it gives it an epic quality. It’s also the first real exterior shot of the pilot, with the exception of the helicopters, and so you get the scope of things.
MW: It opens it up quite a bit, you’re right. This was bigger, too. This whole day, it started with a big crane shot.
JF: Oh, the crane shot, the famous Martin Wood crane shot.
MW:… going across the water. And we couldn’t do it, because we had to have time. So this scene starts actually half way through the original scene that we shot.
It was good, there was a lot of stuff going on, it’s the first time Sheppard killed anybody, it was at the beginning of this scene, remember how you killed that, … umm…
JF: Yeah, all of them! And then we decided to rewrite the entire pilot. Because I thought it was a solo show…[Laughs]
MW: We’ve had this conversion, Joe, you can’t kill them all.
JF: Who are these people?[Laughs]
JF: Rachel is such a great actress, and I think she has one of the most difficult roles on the show: it’s very to play an alien-type character. Chris Judge plays one. It’s hard because you’re tightening the parameters of your expression and you’re trying to develop a complex character underneath. It takes a very good actor to succeed.
MW: It doesn’t have our sense of humor.
JF: Right, exactly! I think she’s got one of the most challenging roles in the show.
MW: See those guys in the background? They’re looking at a Swiss army knife. That knife was the beginning of the scene. It was handed off and they were supposed to be looked at it in the end of the scene. He grabs it and says give me my knife back.
MW: Back to Rachel. The relationship that you guys had, everybody ask you about it, right?
MW: Because nobody knows. Which is the best thing!
JF: It’s still out.
MW: It has to be enigmatic. It has to be an enigma, because you can’t instantly start with a relationship like that.
JF: It would also be natural… for two… you know… a man and a woman… in a desolate forest…[Laughs]
MW: This is all Joe! We had some set up here, and Joe just fell down and we decided to keep that.
JF: That was a choice. It was funny because I just thought, I don’t know, maybe they’ll use, maybe they won’t. Brad loved that! It was so funny that he liked it so much, that I was like oh, okay, I’ll give you some more of that.
MW: That was a huge scene, remember? It was all about the power bar…
JF: And we cut the whole thing!
MW: We cut everything out and went back to you falling down and to how far is this thing. I love that! It’s a good way to get there.
[Weir: You're saying we have to abandon the City?]
MW: The only thing you can actually see here is the special effects guy shaking the windows. I did a terrible job of showing the City falling apart and that’s one of the things I really regret.
JF: How long did it take to light this thing?
MW: About 14 seconds.
JF: We couldn’t light this thing for the life of us. See, here’s the light!
[Teyla: We mastered the fire long ago ]
JF: We mastered the fire long ago. Actually, on the 25th take we’ve mastered fire.
MW: That’s right, because it wouldn’t light up.
JF: So I made fun of “her people”
MW: I thought you were speaking of the lighting of the scene…
JF: The lighting of the scene is great!
MW: …which is lit by one light, a flashlight.
MW: In scenes like this, when we use flashlights to light the characters, the DOP (Director Of Photography) is forever asking guys like Joe: flash the camera like that and shine the light in her face.
JF: Yeah, and that can prove challenging to people who haven’t been on a set a lot, like an actor who hasn’t done a lot of work, sitting there and trying to do all these things, and the DOP comes along and says: oh, when you’re halfway through that sentence, shine that flashlight on her face. It’s a lot to do!
MW: People asked me about this [the necklace], if we knew it was going to be a show later on about it
MW: We can’t tell you about that show is about, but there’s a lot about that necklace.
JF: But it was a double issue, which was establishing a potentially romantic situation as well.
MW: This set was originally supposed to be a bigger set, it was supposed to be a huge long cavern, and it was supposed to be a vis effect, but we end up putting the money somewhere else, and we end up with a very small area.
JF: This was the audition scene for this character, and in Los Angeles I read with all these characters and this is where they decided to cast Rachel. She was able to strike that balance between speaking normally, without sounding too “out-of-wordly”.
MW: She’s giving us the backstory to Atlantis.
JF: And it’s critical!
MW: It’s all about what happens for the rest of it, for the time we’re in Atlantis.
JF: It’s true.
MW: About the wraith moving, and sleeping, and moving out and culling. I love that scene. It’s a very intimate two persons scene.
JF: There’s also another part to that scene: I have to be kind of a smartass again, but…
MW: You’re talking about the 6 hours day alien planet?
MW: Remember that gate doesn’t actually exist there. It’s the first time we get to see the wraith darts. These are pretty cool. The first time we actually see a ship like this flying through. We haven’t seen them before.
JF: That actually is what marks our show from Stargate, we’re dealing now with “gate-ready technology”.
MW: That’s right, that’s a good point.
JF: The puddlejumpers, which you’ve seen slightly, they’re designed to fit perfectly through the stargate. Looks like a winnebago, of course…
MW: This was fun to shot, this whole night of running around and blowing up things. This is when the special effects guys go crazy, because I said these darts have to be more powerful than anything we’ve seen before. They have to be scary. So they need to start blowing stuff up, and blowing them up in a big way.
JF: The first time that I saw that I was pretty impressed!
MW: That ray plays very heavily in a bunch of other stuff that we do.
JF: I have to say that one of my favorite parts of Stargate and Stargate Atlantis is that there is this kind of very basic technological quality to humans, and we’re still like just Commando guys, with basic guns, dealing with alien type people. This grounds us, this gives a such an earnest scifi show, while there is so much technology where everything is outwordly. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who start to watching scifi after seeing Atlantis, and they say the same thing, they feel like they could be watching a conventional military type drama, but it’s placed in space.
MW: You took that line away, do you remember? There was a line that said you walked right through it.
JF: No, I didn’t, I’ve said it, I don’t know where it is. Where is it?
MW: Seriously? I thought it was you who decided that…
JF: No, I can’t make executive decisions like that.
MW: Action in Atlantis is an important thing, and it’s important to you.
JF: It’s my favorite part of the show. As far as I’m concerned, there can never be too much action. It’s a budgetary issue.
MW: This is interesting: on the turn around in here, we’re no longer outside. I didn’t have time to shoot. This shot, right here, that’s inside.
JF: So it’s in the studio. I didn’t know that. I’ll be damned.
MW: That’s actually sitting on the same spot that…
JF: That was late at night.
MW: We were out of time every night we had to shoot there. This is the end of the first night.
JF: You know what’s funny? We were shooting in this area and it was the first time we were really running around, doing stuff and jumping. It was funny because you kept asking: are you ok? is it ok? are you ok with that? And that’s the part I love! It was the only exercise I was getting.[Laughs]
MW: It’s so nice to have an actor who wants to do all that kind of stuff on their own.
JF: Well, sometimes a lot of actors want to do it for super macho purposes, while I just wanted to make sure I got a lot of exercising.[Laughs]
MW: This is cool.
JF: This was cool!
MW: I love shooting this kind of things because we don’t get much of a chance to be outside with these super long lenses. This wraith hand: that’s inside the studio, it was the same day we were shooting the helicopter shot. It’s an actual hand inside there and there’s a slot that it fits through and his hand is sort of bent and is moving, while the rest of the arm is hanging in the back.
JF: It’s a great apocalyptic quality to this whole shot.
MW: First chance we get to see the wraith.
JF: And the power of the wraith.
MW: This kind of long-lens shot: you don’t often get in television, unless you’re outside. You have to go to super long-lens to compress the background like that and to make it look cool.
MW: This is more important than we realized, because I think I failed, I didn’t show the City destroying itself enough. Inside, in here, you don’t get the sense of it falling apart, until you come back. It just doesn’t feel it’s enough…
JF: … structural process…
MW: …chaotic going on. The jeopardy isn’t there! We don’t feel the jeopardy. The people are surprised oh, it’s falling apart?
JF: I think you and I see something, and other people see differently. I never heard that complain. I think as a director, you obviously are going to be a lot more critical of your work. Because I felt like, you know, the explanation early-on of the structural issues was sufficient.
MW: Because the audience doesn’t know the City, and *we* don’t know what it looks like, it was for me… We’re on the top of the tower here, and I should have played a little more of that top of the tower stuff.
JF: Would you like us to go back and shoot again?
MW: Yeah, I’d like to! For way more money! On this shot, we’re seeing the floor of the studio, in behind the window.
MW: And it’s something that we’ve addressed much later on, but didn’t until that point. This is the first chance I get to see my daughter on television. That’s her, on the right.
JF: These are very expensive shots, anytime somebody walks through water.
MW: Here, we have the vibrating… Remember the shakers? How the whole equipment vibrated?
JF: Yes, yes, those were great.
MW: So you guys were all yelling…
JF: Yeah, this is all loop. You know, one of my pet peeves is that I’m not crazy about looping. So I’ve become very sensitive when I hear background noise, I try to nail the dialogue with that noise in the background. This is my favorite line: I’m Jinto.
MW: She’s glad to meet you.
MW: This is amazing!
JF: Here’s where the money goes!
MW: And this is innovation, too. This is Rainmaker making stuff that has never been done before.
JF: John Gajdecki. He’s kind of a special effects genius.
MW: All those luggages were on shakers and started to fall.
JF: Yeah, and that helped quite a bit.
MW: This is the first chance anybody gets to see this City. This is a nice reveal, a beautiful reveal.
JF: This is a great shot. I think that, visually, this was by far the pinnacle of the pilot.
MW: I agree.
JF: Everybody I’ve talked to. My friends and family weren’t scifi aficionados, but when they’ve watched this, they really liked it, and particularly this shot. That’s the best shot, right there!
MW: This is the combination of John Gadejcki, Brad Wright and Robert Cooper.
JF: How many Emmi’s have Gadejcki and the Rainmaker guys? They’re so good at this stuff.
MW: And finding the angles, to show the water shedding off this thing and yet to get the sense of the size of this City, all in about 14 – 15 shots. It has to feel like it’s actually coming out of the water, and just to do that is so expensive.
JF: It’s enormously expensive, but we also knew it was money well spent, because we use it so many times.
MW: Yes, it’s title sequence stuff.
JF: Definitely title sequence.
MW: This is an interesting read of the major characters of the show.
JF: I think I had Jinto coming into this scene.
MW: Yes, you actually asked him to come in, and it worked very well to have him there. I find that that part of Atlantis, coming up, and sitting up and being there, that’s really where the pilot was aiming toward.
MW: Now we’ve got the next half of the show, when we start dealing with the wraith and the rest of it. I love that change that happens in the middle of the script, where you think ok, uh, we’re at the end of the show, but we’re not. We’re now into the second part of it, which is going to be sort of setting up what’s going to happen in the next few shows, because the show ended right here, so would the series.
JF: This is an important scene between our two characters.
[Sheppard: When can you tell me where the Wraith took Colonel Sumner and the others?]
MW: It is. I wanted to play it with you guys in confrontation like that, facing each other. A character beat for you to show that you’re no idiot.
JF: Actually we had two different takes on this, and the direction you gave us was the right one, because my initial reaction was to do military and to kind of physically intimidate him a little, when you said step back and just don’t be physically intimidating.
MW: Play your brain.
JF: And I think it’s good, because it established a more neutral environment for us to become friends.
MW: Everybody asked me why don’t we see what they’re looking at? The only one reason: too expensive.
JF: Very expensive. If the shot is shot from behind, like that, those are expensive shots.
MW: In a movie version of this, we would have seen you guys out there, from behind, seeing the whole thing.
MW: And it really is missing, I know it’s missing, Brad knows it’s missing. We saved it for the end, when she walks away, and it does work. This is looped completely, because we’ve got those fans going on.
MW: And your hair is so plastered, so that we can’t move it.[Laughs]
JF: It helps if you do not wash your hair for a couple of weeks.
MW: And then use bear fat.
JF: Of which is plentiful up here, in British Columbia.
MW: I really like the scene.
JF: I still think it’s one of the best scenes, particularly for our characters. I, personally, I have a hard time with the look of this particular scene, because it’s the first time that we’re seeing the outside of Atlantis, and everything is, again, so crystal clear. Some people like that. It was very hard for me to get used to it. The clarity of this was very hard for me to get used to.
MW: Another point you made is shouldn’t we talk about this, since this is the first time we’ve been outside, and the conversation isn’t about what’s out there, it’s about the situation. It’s distracting.
JF: It is distracting, but it’s also very tough. We have, you know, two hours, or less than two hours, we have roughly 88 minutes, to introduce an entire new mythology. So you can’t address everything and that’s why there’s a series of compromises you make to get a pilot shot and introduce the pivotal moments of the characters and then send it off, so it self-sustains. It’s always the challenge of a pilot. It’s not the challenge of further episodes. See, now there is a shot that might have been the start of the scene, what we were talking about earlier.
MW: That’s true. The option was there, but just expensive, and there are so many places to spend money in here.
JF: This is a big money pit.
MW: This is the wraith hive, which is organic and completely different. We tweaked the color in this, because the whole thing is much bluer than we expected. Those dots in the background were originally yellow.
MW: There’s the wraith. Everything looked cartoonish and we didn’t want that to happen. This is James.
JF: This is Jimmy the wraith. He is the most patient person on the set, because he is covered in one of the most uncomfortable outfits, with the skin and everything else. The teeth, contact lenses, you name it, it’s a really uncomfortable situation to be in. And so are all these guys.
MW: The wraith, for me, were the biggest challenge. They were the hardest thing because introducing a new character, a new enemy that was going to be our enemy, was a very difficult thing for me.
JF: It’s a source of so many conversations; goa’uld vs the wraith, the wraith are over the top, bla bla bla. I think we struck it right now with the wraith, because I think they’re very menacing.
MW: The thing I hear most of the time is that they are too scary. People don’t want them to be that frightening.
JF: A lot of people have been scared, a lot of kids I’ve talked to, have said I’m really scared of the wraith. But weren’t you scared of the wicked witch of the East when it was revised?
MW: I was, especially when I realized that she was wraith with makeup on. For me, the Goa’uld were never frightening. All through Stargate SG1, there’s an evolution of them, until we get to Anubis, but when you are just dealing with the wraith themselves, my whole focus was to make them a menacing-menacing character, that scare you instantly! When you’d got back there you’d say: you weren’t there, you didn’t see what we saw. They’re scary, they’re not like these beautiful people, who are humanoid.
JF: I think the wraith are great and I think they make for a fantastic enemy. I think they’re scarier that the Goa’uld but I don’t to get into that… competing bad guys.[Laughs]
MW: Again we show something scary and gross, this wraith arm here.
JF: And this is played by Paul McGillion. And Paul is a very good actor. Now here’s a guy who took not so much and turned it into a lot, and he’s become an invaluable part of our show.
MW: I love that prop.
JF: One of the coolest props.
MW: That was created by the same guys who do our prosthetics, and when they first came to me with this waggling it back and forth, I said that’s exactly what we need, goo it up! And they put all this goo all over it, to make it even more disgusting. But again, a really important scene, to introduce what the wraith are, they’re unkillable.
JF: What has been left in the pilot is absolutely indispensable in terms of information. That’s the challenge of editing, having it down to the essentials, and every one of these scenes is very important information that carries on for further episodes.
[Weir: What is that noise?
McKay: He was right here. Major!]
JF: This scene was one of the single most frustrating scenes for me in the whole pilot. I was the first time in the puddle jumper, which I don’t like to be in, and I didn’t know if I was on speakerphone or I wasn’t on speakerphone, I didn’t know how far away I was from Torri and David, and, I don’t know, it was very frustrating.
MW: All of these things are my fault, for not being able to…
JF: Aaah, you’re right, it was *your* fault! [laughs]
MW: No, it is, it was up to me to paint that picture for you. When it’s a vis effect, I can say: this is what is happening here
JF: But you had nothing to show, we had nothing to show! The storyboards don’t do justice.
MW: We didn’t know, on that case, what it was going to be until we actually built it.
JF: By the way, we reshot this.
MW: Yes, we did. We reshot pieces of the whole thing, because, at the end of the pilot, both of you knew what you were going to do: Rainbow figured out his character…
JF: I don’t know if you can see the discrepancy, I’m not going to point it out!
MW: That’s the retake.
JF: We shot the whole thing, and remember, you and I talked about it, and after talking to pilots… Well, that’s a little further down the road, so I’ll wait to talk about that.
MW: About how your body was affected?
JF: Well, it’s a lot about that stuff, about how pilots behave inside their ships.
MW: This is a new part of our set, a lot of people reacted: oh, okay, so we’re getting the geography of this place. Which is important.
MW: I love this shot.
JF: This is a very great shot.
MW: We minimized it. A lot of time, my feeling is minimize the effect, so it doesn’t seem like the technology of the gate is that great, but let things evolve, like okay, holly crap!, you know?
JF: This is when we’re discovering that Ancient genes can really help.[Laughs]
JF: That, of course, was an altered gameboy that I kept trying to play with. We’re working on so many kinks in the pilot, the wardrobe, in the chair, that was very… That is another great shot.
MW: I took a little bit of the speed off the camera shot, that is slightly faster when you play it at the normal 24 frames, so his hair moves a little bit slower. All the stuff on the wraith side we shot slightly overcranked, so that you get a little bit of sense of weight to them.
I liked playing this in the back of his head. He looks back at Bates, I’m scared, now look how long it stays right here. Instead of being on his face for that, I showed the back of his head and let us see what they see.
JF: Oh, yeah, it’s interesting
MW: Rather than playing it on his face. So much of what’s about to happen is going to happen on Robert’s face, that I didn’t want to take his character and show any kind of fear. I didn’t to show anything at this point, because I wanted to let the next scene to give his feelings. He had to put a brave face for everybody else.
Look at your face in this scene! As you’re landing, and you’ve never landed this thing before, that for me was an important part of how to do this.
MW: We’ve colorized all this to give an alien feel, and put the big wind machines.
JF: Huge machines!
MW: Which, unfortunately, are not big enough to move the big trees! Just the small ones.
JF: These were tough shots, once again with many actors.
JF: This guy just stayed to the party a little too long!
MW: This beast here was in the Stargate movie, the Stargate SG1 pilot and now it’s in our pilot.
JF: Interesting piece of trivia.
MW: I found it in the model shop, and I said we got to put it in this pilot. It was never addressed, where it comes from.
So here we now get to see Sumner’s reaction to this weirdness. And look on this face.
MW: And Andee…
JF: Here we have the Uberwraith!
MW: Played by Andee Frizzell
JF: Played by Andee who’s, what, 6 ft 1 or something?
MW: Yeah. Was cast because she was a yoga instructor and had a sense of body movement that we needed to get that feeling all the way through it.
Some of the other shots we shot at the end of the pilot.
JF: Oh, yes, we did!
MW: This is my cameo right here.
JF: [laughs] We’ll show that in a minute.
MW: If you actually see Joe’s hands, and my hands… Because my hands double Joe’s all the way through the pilot.
Here, these are my fingers
JF: Ha, chubby little fingers!
MW: I kept the fingernails dirty, just like Joe Flanigan would.
JF: Oh, yeah.
MW: Whenever you see Joe looking at the life signs detector…
JF: Because Joe’s like: I like to get home and don’t want another hour for the insert of my thumb, and Martin, happily, filled in for me. Made the wrong choices with the thumb, though![Laughs]
MW: How about indicating with a gun?
JF: I have to say, I’m an outsider to science fiction, so, I’m sitting in these sets and I’m thinking to myself: my god, this thing is plastic, and we have this fake arm hanging around, this is ridiculous, this can’t possibly work, right? And then it works.
MW: And then you look at your paycheck and say Maybe it’s not so ridiculous! You keep comparing the two. But yeah, you get immersed in it after a while.
That scene that we just left, was much longer. There’s a whole explanation about where you were going and testing Ford’s loyalty.
JF: It was supposed to be a relationship point between Ford and Sheppard.
MW: Remember when we were playing on the back of his head? Here we were doing the same of his face. This is all about his feelings. Camera pivots on his face.
Both Andee and James were wearing contact lenses.
JF: You can’t see ANYTHING in those.
MW: I had to walk to her and say: Andee, it’s Martin, in case somebody else was giving her directions. She would sit in the middle of the set with this wild look on her face, and you’d think: she’s freaking me out. But it was because she couldn’t see anything, she was just standing there, watching shapes moving in front of her.
There’s another thing that I should have done: I should have put Toran in something different, because once we colorized this you lose the colors of his clothing, so people weren’t really sure it was Toran.
JF: You love action, and I love action, and so we were always trying to find as much action as possible.
That was an insert that we did later on, and you’d say: look left, look right, look forward. And they add to the physical, the velocity of the show.
MW: She can’t close her mouth, and when you actually hear her talk…
JF: The talkth liketh thith the whole timeth!
MW: So Robert was concentrating on not laughing. If you could see the outtakes for this thing… It’s so funny, because she sounds so funny, and Robert is standing there and finally he looses it. I’m going to kill you, with thith voith of mine!
JF: I created this little stance, I had to know how was I to hold it and press the little buttons? This costly prop… it’s a very complicated thing to hold onto these props, and you want to be in stealth mode, too.
She’s a very sexy wraith!
JF: We need more female wraith!
MW: The red hair is something I’ve added much later, she originally had white hair, the same as the guards. I wanted her to stand out, more than the other wraith that we see, and make her feel like she was the one in charge of this hive.
JF: People don’t realize how physically demanding this scene is for Robert.
[Wraith queen: Earth first!]
MW: This is when we see how the wraith are scary, beyond how they look like. Look at what is happening, just by having a hand on you! Originally we were supposed to show all the details of the hand sucker. I kept asking: how are we going to do that? Her hand is against his chest, you can’t show that stuff happening. We hold on to it for a long, long time, to see that vis effect of that thing coming out from her hand. And then we figured, why? All you had to see was his chest.
What’s interesting here is, when you came in, you’re actually looking at somebody who’s not Robert. This whole scene had to played without Robert there, with the whole thing between the two of you.
That’s Robert, but by the time you came into the scene, he was gone.
That’s Robert’s mold.
JF: It was the first time we were actually shooting a wraith.
MW: That’s not Robert.
When you put another actor in prosthetics and he’s supposed to be… your face, and his face, back and forth…
JF: That’s a pivotal moment which I’m sure everybody knows. I’d like to have played more that, the clear signal, please kill me.
MW: I agree.
JF: Because it becomes an issue later on, are you sure you had to kill him?
MW: The whole thing about that moment, I don’t think it played as well as it was scripted. It was scripted much better than I shot it.
JF: That’s a great rack.
MW: In this scene we had to do this fight and a bunch of different things, and the set is so much smaller than it was supposed to be. People say why didn’t Ford shoot her? He shot the guard that was holding you. But why isn’t he shooting her now? is the question. He still hasn’t shot her, the one who’s making all the noise. Because you needed to…
JF: That was a cool effect.
MW: She actually started with this thing stuck to her on her back, and Joe runs in with one that doesn’t have the big beak in front of it…
JF: And then the frame comes in.
MW: …and jabs her, and then we pull back on it, and that’s when you see the thing, and it looks exactly like the one he jabbed her with.
JF: More movie magic!
MW: And then, when you pulled it out, it was actually the one beneath her arm, and you pull out the one with the beak on it.
JF: It was not that easy to do. This, to me, it’s one of the best parts of the pilot, because this is when Sheppard realizes he has just created so much trouble for himself, which is an ongoing theme of how we’ve really made some critical mistakes.
JF: I love this part. And I get a handgun, of course, that’s really going to help up.
MW: We had to address Col Sumner, because both of you wanted to take him with you and not leave a guy behind. We couldn’t do it.
JF: But they didn’t show that we took his dog tags!
MW: You see Sheppard go down to get them, but…
JF: I do, and a lot of people don’t realize that I still have his dog tags.
MW: *I* knew that, because the props guys put them in
JF: Even a lot of directors that came don’t realize, and they ask why I don’t get rid of those, and I say these are Sumner’s dog tags that I keep in my room. As a reminder of the choice I had to make.
MW: I think that’s a point, over the course of the season this was not addressed as much as we could have addressed it.
This is the first time that you get the sense of scale, with the darts running like that.
This was a huge scene, between Rainbow and Rachel.
JF: You can’t tell, but we’re painted almost yellow, all of us, because they’re going to saturate. You can see that Rachel looks very different. They were supposed to be saturated with a blue saturation, but then we’ve toned it down, so the makeup is very strange.
MW: We called it jellybean faces.[Laughs]
MW: You were going to shoot them with your little handgun.
JF: That’s right, my handgun. And there’s the saw!
MW: That was my favorite shot.
JF: These shots… It’s getting really tricky, as you have steady cam stuff, you got to hit everything. And you got pyrotechnics. Surprisingly, we had a whole another shot to that, remember? that Nathaniel just nailed, but we couldn’t use it.
MW: We ran out of light. Ford loosed his hat right there, nobody saw it. If you actually look, you can see it fly off. I was going to have to shoot it again, but I couldn’t, because we didn’t have time.
MW: I love that. That shows what the puddle jumper’s all about!
JF: This is an important scene. To the audience this would be interesting; pilots, in their own ships, behave in that eerily calm fashion which is: we got our target locked on. This is true, and as this scene builds, we made the choice of having him a seasoned pilot. But after we looked at it, and we looked at the entire pilot together, we realized we were going to have to play it differently. So we went back and reshot that. This was done in, what, the fourth episode?
MW: You can tell what’s reshot, because there’s an Atlantis case up on the wall behind you, and they’ve forgotten to take that down.
JF: There’s a number of shots that we couldn’t use. Right there!
MW: That case should not be there. So that’s a reshot. You’ll see when you actually see the other ones, you’ll see that it’s not there. And now you know which is reshot. And again, I would amp up your action.
JF: Yes, I was to amp up the action, which in end helped up quite a bit on the overall pilot, because it’s actually, emotionally, the climatic point. For him to be calm was counterproductive toward what we were trying to get.
I didn’t even see any of this stuff until months later, and you ought to have it in your head. So when I saw it, I was…
MW: I’m getting you to fire back at these, with flashlights in front of you.
JF: There’s lights flashing and Martin is like: oh, three o’clock, no, two o’clock, there’s another one going for three o’clock
MW: This is the scene we were talking all the way through. See, there’s no case behind you, that’s the original. And this is wild! There’s the whole thing about how you didn’t get crushed by the G-forces.
JF: I love Torri’s look.
MW: This is something we don’t normally play on SG1. The fact that of course you can fire through these things.
JF: This is why they have a lock on the gate.
MW: This is great! Zoot! I love that, and there’re pieces of debris of the ship.
[Weir: Reactivate the shield!]
JF: Just in time!
MW: I like the action that happens. It’s just shot, shot, shot, motion, motion, motion. Again, in television we don’t the time to do that a lot.
JF: I know. There’s not a lot of action shows left on television.
MW: Because it’s too expensive.
JF: I think we’re still of the few action shows, which I love. I love action shows.
MW: Especially when you do an action-adventure, it’s good to have that action part [laughs], not just adventure all the time.
JF: That was another veeery funny scene.
MW: Here we are. With all the Athosians…
JF: We’re having that inter-mingling…
MW: This set, you might recognize, if you’ve seen Blade: Trinity.
JF: Which we now own.
MW: Which we now own, which is Atlantis.
JF: It’s massive, four storey of a skyscraper. It’s interesting that we had to strike the right tone at the end of the show. It’s supposed to be a fairly joyous occasion. We talked at length about this you, and me, and Michael Greenberg, and Brad, about what is the right tone to strike. We just killed Sumner and, yet, everybody seems to be celebrating the fact that they’re alive, more than Atlantis. So, essentially, I think we did it right.
MW: I do too.
JF: Torri balances it properly by saying let’s keep things in perspective, you did what you had to do. We were afraid that our… that we were too solemn. Remember that? And we thought no, it’s not good to have a too solemn tone to strike.
JF: This was the hardest part for me, as an actor. I’ve actually never formed heads with another actor.[Laughs]
MW: It’s alright. It looked practiced. He wouldn’t rehearse it either. Okay, on the day we’ll touch heads, he said.
JF: I can’t keep forming heads in rehearsals.
MW: Mostly because your bear fat from your hair would transfer to hers. It’s important for me when I watch your character, and this is so cool about Sheppard, this is what I really like about Sheppard, that he’s not O’Neill. Your reaction is, this lower key reaction to things, where there’s still humor underlying it. There, look at you eyebrows there, that your humor is underlying certain things, but you take it a little more seriously, which I really like.
JF: This character is distinctly different. Brad and I would tell you both that Sheppard is more of an optimist, and he believes in the basic goodness of people. It’s skepticism, and not cynicism, and it gets tough sometimes.
MW: I like that, because it gives more direction, more room to grow. There’s a childish interest in things that you’ve got.
JF: That’s a great shot.
MW: I like that.
JF: It’s play time.
MW: And that’s Atlantis. That’s the pilot, thanks for watching.