Asked how he keeps the crew of Tru Calling on target for the right
visual style, show creator Jon Harmon Feldman alludes to the show’s
balance between fantasy elements and character studies. “You want an
urgency and pace to the storytelling, a moving camera, and always to
have that ticking clock that is beating just underneath the surface- or
above the surface- but also to play real emotional and character beats
as the character goes through the day,” he explains. “It’s a dichotomy,
but that’s what makes it exciting. We’re telling stories of characters.
Fast-paced editing and fluid camera movement should be in service of
that pace, but shouldn’t get in the way.”
Feldman, a veteran of both Dawson’s Creek and The Wonder Years, knows a
thing or two about making TV appeal to a young demographic. His new
show is an up-to-the-minute combination of CSI, Groundhog Day and Run,
Lola, Run, featuring TV "It" girl Eliza Dushku ( Buffy the Vampire
Slayer) as a morgue attendant who hears pleas for help from the newly
dead- and then wakes up again to relive the same day, armed with the
knowledge that may help her prevent an unnecessary death.
The series is filmed in Vancouver, which makes communication with key
personnel an even more pressing issue than it is on a show that shoots
in town. "I spend a fair amount of time in Vancouver," Feldman says
from his Los Angeles production office. "But at the same time, we make
use of video teleconferencing and digital file exchanges [between
Vancouver and Los Angeles ] to really stay on the same page. We don’t
have the luxury of driving over to the set, but I’m able to keep in
incredibly close contact with Vancouver."
To ensure that his crew could take instruction and execute it
long-distance, Feldman sought to hire a group of people with very
specific talents. To that end, he convinced director Phillip Noyce (
Clear and Present Danger, Rabbit-Proof Fence) to take the helm of the
pilot. " Phillip really responded to the material, and also to the idea
of working with younger actors, which he said he doesn’t get a lot of
opportunities to do," Feldman recalls. "What a lot of people didn’t
know about Phillip until recently was how masterful he is when it comes
to character. He had been sort of a suspense and action guy, but
recently his features have veered toward characters, and he was excited
about exploring characters in this piece."
Owing in part to Noyce’s presence, the pilot has a decidedly
feature-film look. Although he was given the opportunity, Feldman says
he never seriously considered making Tru Calling his first HD series,
opting instead to shoot the pilot in 35mm and the series on 16mm. "I
was very impressed with camera tests for 24p," he says. "The camera
test afforded me an opportunity to see some of the new video
technology, and I was encouraged by where it is right now. There have
been shows shot on 24p to great effect, and they look really beautiful.
But I always prefer shooting on film."
At the end of the day, Feldman faces one daunting creative challenge.
Tru Calling has been scheduled on Thursday nights, when it goes up
against the reigning Monsters of Prime Time: NBC’s Friends and CBS’s
Survivor. That’s why Feldman stresses to the show’s crew that the
show’s style can’t be allowed to marginalize the story of protagonist
Tru Davies ( Dushku). "The network wants to gain a toehold with viewers
that don’t have strong loyalties at that time- which is probably that
younger teen audience that didn’t grow up watching Friends," he says.
And if there is a mandate to appeal to a teen audience, Feldman just
takes it as further inspiration. "Look, I worked extensively onÃ¢Â€Â˜teen
shows,’" he says. "I think teens are a real smart audience, and they
don’t want to be pandered to. They want to be told the best stories."
- Producer: Original Television and Twentieth Century Fox Television
Jon Feldman, Marty Adelstein, Neal Moritz, Dawn Parouse, Bob Goodwin, and Phillip Noyce
Lisa Lassek, Regis Kimble and Jim Gross