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Meta, Meme, Beta and Emo: A chat with Guy Bee

This past week I traveled down to Vancouver to meet up with Guy Bee.  He’s in town directing the third episode of Season 7 of “Supernatural”.  Taking time out of his week of prep before beginning shooting, Guy was gracious enough to agree to answer some of my questions.

I’d never met a director before – and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Guy is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met in a very long time.  He’s a story-teller – which might be why he became a director in the first place.

This is the first in a short series of articles about Guy and his views on directing, TV, the future of film and yes, Supernatural.

AM:  What’s prep – when you say you’re doing prep for “Supernatural” – what are you doing?

Guy Bee, Vancouver, BC. ©C.Kinzie

Guy: It’s casting, I’ll go to locations, we’ll roll around.  Jerry sometimes is like a day ahead of me or any director checking out the location people will get either a breakdown or a first draft or script and will go “okay we need a school, we need a…” and then you kind of breakdown the budget he’s given and work out what are we gonna find on location and what are we gonna do onstage.  Like all those motel rooms.

So, they take me around and we kind of scout.  And there’s some basic meetings, go through the script with Chris Cooper for props, Diane (Widas – Costume Design) comes in for all the wardrobe.  She’ll have things in mind and she’ll show me pictures, I’ll have some crazy idea.  Like “it’ll be great to have this character in this and here’s why” – or lighter material because we know later he’s gonna get shot and we wanna see the blood.  That kind of stuff – we just all know that by now.

Tomorrow I have a lot of “show and tells” which is based on those meetings last week – now Diane’s got her shoppers and they have stuff to show me so I’ll walk through the wardrobe room with her for instance scenes 44 to 46 this is what these guys are gonna wear.

Chris (Cooper – property master) will show me some of the props because a lot of times for the props you have to make and it becomes a cross departmental ‘cause here’s the real prop but we also need the prop for the special effects guys to break and if we do it three times we’re gonna need three so you’d better make us four.  And so it’s a lot we do stunts, special effects and visual effects all in one meeting because a lot of those are all tied together.   Because a lot of times it’s something to be thrown through glass and then, okay, how much of that is going to be Andy’s (Thornton – location construction foreman) team who put in the glass, how much is Ivan’s (Hayden – Visual Effects Supervisor) team.  So you combine some teams.

AM:  Props are pretty significant on “Supernatural”…

Yeah, Chris has a full time job.  Yeah, every little thing.  All that stuff has to be made, sometimes from scratch and Chris has been on the show since day one.

AM: do you actually have the final say on auditions or is it a group decision?

Well, anyone who is coming up from LA – like we knew for “frontierland” we knew Finch and Cole were coming up from LA and we thought Rachel too because she was gonna recur.  But we also hold simultaneous auditions up here (Vancouver).  We knew we were gonna get the judge and the other sheriff and the deputy here and, the guy that turns around and say “nice blanket” – professional Vancouver based actor.  And April! (April Telek – played Darla in “Frontierland”)

But then they put five Finches on tape that I go to online and put in my passcode and I can see the auditions.  And based on that I can call Sera or email Bob and say “you know I really feel strongly about this guy.”  I knew Sam Hennings (Samuel Colt) for years and he was great.  He just falls right into that character, it’s effortless.

Sam actually called me.  I didn’t know they were bringing him in.  He called me and left me a voice mail and say “Hey man, if it’s all the same if you want me to do this just tell them.  They’re telling me to come in on a Saturday to audition.”  I said I’m not gonna be there!  Just go in and kill it and I’ll do everything I can.  He was clearly the best one.

AM: Why do you think “Frontierland” was so popular?

Guy: You know, I had no idea. I walked into – I had no clue that there was this whole push for a western from the fans, from the boys.   I had no idea Sera had always sort of felt like the show was written like a western.  And we were lucky because the script right out of the box was really well written.  There was very little that got re-written and very little that was improvised.
Just a couple of things where we did variations.

Some of them are in there.  One was the very last one of the scene.  Jensen says “it means we’ll bring the fight to her” and he puts the hat on.  Well, the hat wasn’t ever scripted.

Also, an early draft said “looks like we got a date with a MILF” and I loved that one! I said to Sera, “is there any way we could do that line as well?”  She said “yeah, you can shoot it.  But we kinda gotta end on a serious note”  which was funny.  I thought Gallow’s Poll was a better title and Frontierland was goofy because it’s like Disney land.  But you know – it was a Led Zepplin song title.

So there were a few little variations and then we cut a few little things out that I hope show up on the DVD.  It wasn’t much but it would have made some things look clearer.  But that’s what happens.  Most shows will run long.

BTS still from “Asylum”, ©WB

“Asylum” was fun because it was earlier. Nobody knew what the show was gonna be like.  When I got the job my agent said this new show is “supernatural” put your name in there.  And it’s sort of classic re-tellings of urban myths like the prom queen hitch hiking and the kid brings her home and goes to check on her the next day and the mom goes she died a year ago.  So was she a ghost?
So nobody kinda knew and just, I hadn’t done much horror so it was fun to just play with the camera. You realize horror works or it doesn’t work based on where the director puts the camera.  It’s a very powerful part of it.

Back then, you know, I mean, I used to say I’m not a big horror fan but my top ten movies – “Exorcist” is in there, “Jaws” is in there, “Alien”…I mean, I like a lot of horror movies that are well made.  I just don’t like the slasher films.

“Insidious” had great images – there was this scene with the monster with the hands… and there was a thing on YouTube of Tiny Tim singing “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” and someone was walking through the house.

We’re (“Supernatural”) a TV show – we’re not gonna be able to CGI a bunch of scary stuff so I gotta do as much as I can with the camera.  But now, all these years later, now, I like it because I’ve done more of it.  It’s just always pushing to see how I can make it scarier.

AM: so at comic con they revealed the title of your episode…

Guy:You know I was about to take a picture of the technical package … so it’s “Meet The New Boss”,  “Hello Cruel World”,  “Girl Next

Filming Pushed Back, ©Guy Bee

Door” and I know what four is.  Bob singer is coming up Thursday for that.

AM: Supernatural casting….

Guy: I don’t know if you noticed but Jared and Jensen are both handsome, handsome guys.  I’m always impressed with what Heike (Brandstatter – Casting, Canada) does and what Robert Ulrich (Series Casting) does – because they get very handsome people but they also get really great quirky characters.

Richard Speight (Jr – “Gabriel”) and I have been friends for years.  In “Jericho” he played the cop – and his partner Bob Stephenson who was Jimmy – is another one like Gary  (Gary Kraus – who plays Don Swainer in “Raisin’ Junior”) who I think is brilliant.  Richard’s such a great quirky odd character, immensely talented.

AM: what do you think of female characters never surviving…?

Guy: Yeah, but you know that someone’s coming back.

AM:  yeah, I’m very happy about that. (At San Diego Comic Con, Sera Announced that Alona Tal would be returning to “Supernatural”)

Guy: She’s doing “Powers”. That’s one that I’m praying for that to go

AM: her character seems to be really liked by the fans.

Guy: Well, She’s great.  Yeah, I mean, I don’t know how they’re gonna swing it.  Anytime they say “this is the last time we’re going to this location” everyone says “yeah, right it only takes one flashback.”

AM: What about Gag reels – how do they happen?

Guy:  You’re the one who says cut.  Generally for me, while we’re rehearsing something funny will happen so you carry on – you shoot – and then I’ll say “go one more time, do that thing you did in the rehearsal”.  Or a lot of times at the end and someone’s supposed to be shot and you don’t say cut fast enough the actor will go *mimes opening eyes and looking around*

What’s interesting is that I know that people love the gag reel but by the time I come in and edit the assistant editor has already trimmed the fat.  They take all the stuff we want to see and then they take the other stuff and put it into a bin and just assemble the gag reel throughout the course of the season.

Colt and Winchester Meet in “Frontierland”, ©WB

I just hope on the DVD they put the additional minutes here and there from “Frontierland”.  There’s a thing where once Colt gives Sam the gun and Sam goes “you gonna be okay unarmed”  and he (Colt) opens the drawer and pulls out the famous demon knife and goes “I’m not unarmed” and there’s a big smile between them whereas we just ended it before that.

AM: how does a decision like that get made?

Guy: Something’s gotta go. At a certain point for me – I’ve put in what I think it should be and it’s usually four or five minutes over. Then it’s up to Phil (Sgriccia), Sera (Gamble) and Bob (Singer) – they know what can go without affecting a future story line.

There was another part in “Frontierland” after they say “go down and see Elkins down at the saloon he’s been here longer than dirt” or something like that – we shot this whole scene where the guys come walking down the main stretch with horses and carriages and the first thing Dean does is he puts dirt on himself ‘cause he’s just realized he looks real clean.  And then they look at each other and go “Elkins”. And I had no idea there was this history with this guy Elkins. Then they stop and look up and look at the saloon and we got this great shot between them and Sam could care less and Dean is like “you know sometimes, Sam, our job is awesome.” And they walk past the camera.  Now, what’s in the show is we push in on him (Dean) and he goes “this is not awesome.”

We did something like that in family matters when he’s saying to Samuel “whatever you wanna do I trust you” and we cut right to the door slam and he comes out and he goes “I don’t trust him.” It’s written that way but you wanna make sure, as a director, you don’t miss that joke.

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More to come in the next installment!

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After spending 12 years as a camera operator Guy made the jump to director in 1999.

His directing projects have included:
ER, Third Watch, Las Vegas, Veronica Mars, Supernatural,
Jericho, Criminal Minds, Kyle XY, Knight Rider,
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and many more.

{originally posted at affairsmagazine.com}

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