BackTalk: Tim Kring & Jesse Alexander of Heroes
What makes the release of Heroes: Season 2 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc worth our time, attention, and dollars?
TIM KRING (creator/executive producer of Heroes): The value of bonus material like Generations: Alternate Ending, Inside the Alternate Ending of Generations, and Untold Stories can't be undersold. For a show that only got to do 11 episodes last season because of the writers' strike, it became an advantage for us to take that already-shot material and use it on the DVD and Blu-ray Discs to let people see where the show could have gone. Those are tremendous extras for fans, to be able to get footage that would never be seen in any other way.
I felt I got some real insight while watching some of the other extras, like Exploding Man and The Loft. In The Loft, [director] Allan Arkush talks about how he didn't have enough time to get the last shot he wanted, and then he walks us through exactly what it would have looked like had he got it. The more of that kind of material you can provide, the better DVD or Blu-ray releases you'll have.
KRING: I totally agree. We live in a world where you can find these episodes in other ways, formats, and media. To make it worth your hard-earned money, there should be an open access to the stories of how things were made, the decisions as to why they were made that way, and other things like that. For our particular fans, who are both obsessed and intrigued by what the real storyline is, they get to learn one more piece of the puzzle.
Have you talked about doing an "in the writer's room" kind of extra, following script development from beginning to end?
JESSE ALEXANDER (co-executive producer/writer of Heroes): We've talked about doing that, absolutely. We've done that on other shows I've worked on, and that has a lot of value. It's certainly something to look at moving forward with Season 3 . . .
KRING: That's a great idea for Season 3.
Lost DVD releases have some breaking-the-story things like that, The Shield does it on some of their box sets, and Mad Men does it to some degree too. You get to see things like the big board that's mapped out with all the characters and their storylines and relationships. It sounds like a winner of an idea for Season 3 extras.
ALEXANDER: I agree.
KRING: The difficult part is not having people feel self-conscious while the camera is on them in that room. Nobody wants to come across as being stupid or a jerk. The idea is to put the camera in the corner or ceiling, like a security camera.
I also liked how you guys sat around and discussed and dissected the alternate ending to the season on camera for almost a half hour. Considering the depth of so many of the other extras here, anything less than that wouldn't have felt right at all.
ALEXANDER: Exactly. I'm obsessed with DVDs, and commentaries in particular - I even rip commentaries with HandBrake and listen to them on my iPod. Since I get so much out of them, it's become part of my approach to the Heroes supplemental material: making sure the stuff has additive educational value so that people can really get something out of it. Tim's approach to Heroes has always been one of openness, whereas other shows are very tight about how they expose their process and how things work internally. I'm optimistic that the documentaries we did for this release take that kind of vision of what's going on behind the scenes to a different level.
What elements do you need for a good commentary?
ALEXANDER: I go back to Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, where [director] Robert Rodriguez set the benchmark for commentary tracks. I found it very inspiring how he talked about his process. He really gets the power of the medium. So do the guys who did Hot Fuzz, the British police spoof. They're clearly people who love movies, and they took it to the next level in terms of supplemental content. We need more releases done that way.
One thing that Masi [Oka, who plays Hiro Nakamura] mentioned during our cover shoot was that he'd like to see more interactive features. Jesse, you've mentioned this elsewhere in terms of dealing with the web vs. physical formats.
ALEXANDER: This is one of the reasons why we're excited by the potential of the interactivity in that format. One of the things we had generated for our dot.com was the video commentaries, and those were things that lent themselves perfectly to the Blu-ray Disc format.
I have to say here that I think the Blu-ray menus are great.
ALEXANDER: Thanks. Having worked on the Lost: Season 1 DVD, which I'm really proud of, I think that NBC and Universal really stepped it up to let us do something comparable to that in terms of the aesthetic. We also go to do something that has great functionality and usability, and we're looking forward to enhancing some of the features you mentioned earlier - the downloads - with this foray into Blu-ray.
Tim, how did Jesse's previous gig help you when you started planning the Heroes DVD and Blu-ray releases?
KRING: Clearly, Jesse had more experience in putting together a high-end DVD release than I did. Thinking about that kind of thing as an inevitability for a start-up show is always a difficult thing. All you want to do is stay on the air for 13 episodes, and then try to make it for a full year. So to start putting the cart before the horse and being presumptuous that you'll sell a bunch of DVDs at the end of it is a hard stance to take at the beginning of a show. That said, Jesse pushed very hard for us to think boldly about content that could live on and be an additive for the fans.
ALEXANDER: Tim really had a vision for this show. While he'll say he didn't know if he had a hit on his hands, he really had a mandate to make this show a hit. So in our DNA, the DNA of the show, we have what we call a transmedia approach to our storytelling. We've done so well on the web already, and to take that to the DVD format, and then incorporate the download and storage capabilities of Blu-ray, is something that we're all very excited about.