On home, the new season and killing Mr. Potato Head

This week’s blog is from Martha De Laurentiis, one of Hannibal’s Executive Producers.

My production shingle, the De Laurentiis Company, is located perfectly in the middle of the NBCUniversal lot, in the Alfred Hitchcock Bungalow on James Stewart Drive. From these offices, Hitchcock planned some of film’s greatest thrillers, including Psycho and The Birds, as well as his television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which filmed on the lot 1955 1965.

Executive producer Bryan Fuller and the Hannibal writers room joined us in these hallowed halls as the show started ramping up two years ago, and out of respect, Bryan brought in his art quality collection of framed Hitchcock posters.

Of all the Hollywood studios and television lots, only the NBCUniversal lot is open to the public, via a tram-based tour that starts from the theme park. The Universal Tour Tram memorializes the master of suspense by playing the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme music as it passes, and we often hear tour guides talking about the bungalow and its history as we’re going to or coming from our cars.

Thinking that tourists might also appreciate the fact that a groundbreaking new suspenseful television series was being hatched in the same offices that housed Hitchcock, I set out to discover how we might get Hannibal included on the Universal Studios Tour.

I paid a visit to my good friend, Ron Meyer, who’s now Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal. As a boy hoping to get into the entertainment business, Ron worked as a Universal tour guide for then studio head Lew Wasserman. Ron’s eyes lit up with a simple solution - “Easy, invite the tour guides down to the bungalow for a beer!”

The Director of the Studio Tour department, Mike Sington, put the kibosh on the beer - too many ironclad rules and regulations around studio liability - but he was completely on board with the idea of hosting the guides in the bungalow. On the tours, the guides describe the projects currently shooting on the lot, but apparently no one had thought to bring them into their offices or sets before. The Universal tour guides tend to be major classic film buffs, and once inside, their enthusiasm was contagious. None of Hitchcock’s original furniture or effects remain, but I invited them into his office, opened Dino’s award case and passed around some Oscars for selfies.

 

Mike agreed to host a short video clip on the trams as they passed by the bungalow as well as a blurb about the show. We chose the “Ring Ring" clip, which teases the show’s tone. To the accompaniment of the Goldberg Variations (synonymous to all things HANNIBAL), the camera pans over FBI trainee Miriam Lass’s severed arm holding a ringing Blackberry (rewatch episode 106 Entree if you don’t remember!), as Jack Crawford and Will Graham enter frame with a WTF expression. Cut. It’s the perfect length for the approach to the bungalow, giving the guides enough time for a short shout-out for the show.

Mike mentioned that props often help the guides keep things interesting. When I asked for a sense of the parameters, he said, “The gorier the better.”

My neighbors next door are the production arm of the game company Hasbro, behind films like Transformers and Battleship. In front of their bungalow, a giant Mr. Potato Head stands with his arms splayed, holding up the Hasbro sign. Tourists snap snap snap their cameras all day long grabbing pics of Mr. Potato Head. I had an outré idea… and I was excited when my friends at Hasbro liked it.

 

With the help of my friend Mike Filonczuk, we made a duplicate of Mr. Potato Head’s arm to scale and mounted it on a prop box. Then, we took a can of epoxy red paint and went to town, making it look like it had been brutally severed and was still dripping fresh blood. Echoing the iconic Miriam Lass image, we placed a Blackberry in the hand, as if in his last moments, Mr. Potato Head had been desperately calling out for help (#HelpMrPotatoHead). Then, suggesting a killer had been making mayhem on the lot, we displayed it in front of our bungalow, under the new Hannibal banner.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of tourists have gone by. It was an especially big hit during the entire month of October when Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates Halloween Nights, staying open late into the wee hours. Also for October, we decorated the bungalow with a backlit life-size transparency of the Hannibal Wendigo out of the corner office. To simulate mysterious doings going on inside, we projected a short clip of the Wendigo emerging from the river, from upcoming episode 202. The guides loved this because we were the only interactive bungalow on the tour - at least besides what they stage on the backlot!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet again with the guides and give them insight into Season 2 and the progress of the writers’ room. We screened the first two episodes we’d just finished for them so they have the inside scoop on the series and can drop hints about it on their tours.

After almost a year, we’ve updated the teaser and supplied a new shout-out script. It’s a bit of a relief inside the bungalow to no longer hear the “ring ring” every five minutes, but we do miss the audio cue that the trams are approaching. I am incredibly grateful for my friendship with Mike Sington and his wonderful and supportive guides’ role in sharing the excitement we all have for Hannibal. Now that the guides know me, they’ll often say hello when I’m out. On the loudspeaker, in front of the entire tram of tourists. It makes the lot seem friendlier and serves as a humbling reminder of all the love we’ve had from the fans.

The new season began last Friday at 10/9c. Thirteen new spellbinding episodes are coming your way! We hope the master would think we’re making good use of his bungalow. 

Enjoy the season as we’ve all enjoyed bringing them to you!

MDL

@neoprod

@DeLaurentiisCo

www.delaurentiisco.com

P.S. I saw a certain famous woodpecker outside the NBCUniversal offices. You’re next, Woody!

Back in Hannibal’s World

This week’s blog is from Martha De Laurentiis, one of Hannibal’s Executive Producers.

Production on Season 2 of Hannibal is starting. Welcome to the beginning of filming, and thanks for virtually joining our cast and crew.

We’re back in Hannibal’s world, terrifying in the unfathomable menace lurking behind the urbane exterior. We’re also back in Will Graham’s world, now one in which he decidedly does not belong. The stage has been set. Will the tables turn?

By now, Hannibal’s first season has aired or is currently airing in every major international market. The Blu-Ray box set is out and the entire season is available for streaming; now you can revisit, catch up on missed episodes or binge on our series from the beginning.

We’re grateful for the show’s success so far, especially for the incredible passion of our fans all over the world. Join us through our continuing tweets, posts and photos, and stoke your anticipation for Season 2, airing in 2014 on NBC, Sony AXN, Sky Living HD, et al!

A Savory Dessert

This week’s blog is from Bryan Fuller, Hannibal’s series creator and Executive Producer.

Production wrapped on the first season of Hannibal and our final days of shooting were a veritable smorgasbord of completing the last episode, brought home by visionary director David Slade, as well as picking up several connective tissue scenes and shots required for many episodes scattered throughout the season. I was reminded of an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” in which a chronokinetic surge from a spatial rift caused a blast of temporal energy to fracture the ship into multiple time frames. As I crossed from one set to the next, passing through episodes 3, 7, 11 and 13 without breaking stride, I was all too aware of the sprawling, morphing monster that is television production and immensely grateful for the team of actors, writers, directors, producers, designers, builders and doers surrounding me that tamed the beast.

We are airing the final episode of Hannibal Season 1 tonight in the United States and I still find myself grateful. I am grateful not only for the beast-tamers as we return for Hannibal Season 2, but for the passionate and enthusiastic audience that has taken a seat at Dr. Lecter’s dinner table and tucked in their napkins for our first meal together. We have one last dish to serve. It’s a dessert and a particularly savory one, which is why we called it “Savoureux.” On behalf of the actors, writers, directors, producers, designers, builders and doers, we hope you’ve enjoyed the meal. My last wish is that our savory dessert leaves you hungry for more of what Hannibal has been cooking. Bon Appetit.

v.best,

Bryan Fuller

Favorite Food

This week’s blog is from Martha De Laurentiis, one of Hannibal’s executive producers.

Two cannibals are having dinner. “I hate my father-in-law,” says one. The other replies, “So just eat the noodles.”

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Some of my favorite scenes in the series involve Hannibal throwing little dinner parties. No matter how twisted his drives or brutal his crimes, Hannibal is a man who chooses his friends and associates carefully, is eager to share his taste and passion for food with them and prepares his meals meticulously and lovingly. And of course, the scenes have an extra charge because you’re never entirely sure what the guests are being served…

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My husband Dino’s passions were family, film, food and football (i.e. soccer), not always in that order. Sharing food was an important way he expressed his appreciation and affection for friends and family. When Dino came to America in the late 1960s, opening his home, and especially his kitchen, to people he respected was a big way he ingratiated himself with the American film community and crossed any cultural divide. 

 Back then, coffee was something that came pre-ground out of a can and was boiled in a percolator. Italian food meant spaghetti with red sauce and meatballs. Soon, people realized that if they were having a meeting at Dino’s, they’d be offered, even badgered into, a cup of espresso or cappuccino hand prepared on an exotic machine from freshly ground coffee beans flown in from some distant location. A business lunch or dinner at his house was “the best Italian restaurant in town.”

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(Dino & Martha with a cup of coffee)

(Martha and Baz Luhrmann sharing a cup of coffee)

Now, good coffee is everywhere, and tasty, authentic Italian food is widely available in America, but I’m still lucky to have THE best Italian chef with me at home. Luigi Ferraioli, known as Gigi to friends and guests, is a gifted Neapolitan chef who came to work for Dino in 1983 to open DDL Foodshow in Beverly Hills. Dino’s dream was to share what he ate at home with everyone else. He opened lavish food emporiums in both New York and Los Angeles, bringing talented chefs, bakers and pizzaioli from Italy and importing food from all over the world that was beloved by Italians but not then widely available in America.

(Dino & Arnold at DDL Foodshow opening, Beverly Hills, 1983)

Good producers have to adopt the attitude from “Field of Dreams”: build it and they will come. The films and television we most cherish are often unlike anything that came before. A filmmaker has to believe that if they feel really passionate about something and put a lot of love, sweat and tears into executing it, audiences probably will appreciate it too. 

In this case, people came to DDL Foodshow in droves, to look at and sample the glorious food, all presented with a bit of Hollywood showmanship. But as beautiful and tasty as it was, the idea of a really expensive little bottle of extra virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar, or fresh mozzarella that cost many times what a block of cheese at the grocery store did just didn’t make sense to enough people to keep it in business. Dino literally lost a fortune on those two stores. Yet, by helping expose a bunch of American food-lovers to authentic Italian cuisine, he gained credit from numerous food critics as helping change the culinary landscape in this country. And, most importantly, Gigi has stayed on with us.

(Gigi with Easter breads)

(Gigi teaching Kingsley, Thomas Harris’ cook, the art of pasta and meats Italian style)

The most challenging and satisfying part of producing entertainment is bringing together a group of people of diverse talents to share a common vision. Everyone involved in a project needs to put forth skill, enthusiasm, collaboration and hard work for a significant stretch of very long days. A unified team, even a surrogate family. I’ve continued Dino’s tradition, using meals to establish relationships, explore our varying tastes, connect and express my friendship and gratitude. On almost every project, I can look back to a meal - usually one cooked by myself personally or Gigi - as a point at which I felt that a meeting of the minds had been achieved.

(Neapolitan potato salad)

(Eggplant Parmigiana)

For me, the turning point Hannibal meal occurred soon after Bryan Fuller joined the project. Bryan and Katie O’Connell from Gaumont came to my home in L.A. Apropos of Hannibal, we shared a lovely bottle of chianti. We started with our signature Neapolitan pizza Margherita. On to linguini with white truffle butter sauce and 2” thick veal chops. I learned later that Bryan was steering clear of both gluten and meat, but he ate both out of politeness. I hope it was tasty enough to be worth the lapse! We ate outside under the lemon trees and talked creative ideas and personal stories well into the night. I went to bed that night well-sated and feeling optimistic we were at the beginning of something great.  

(Linguine w/ butter sauce and white truffles)

As you might imagine from the show and the naming of the episodes, Bryan is also a big foodie, so the development and production of Hannibal has involved a number of truly memorable meals. Our daily responsibilities are most importantly focused on getting things done to a high creative standard and making sure we’re on budget and on schedule. But all the principal producers stayed involved in craft service, varying the food trucks and arranging for special treats for break times to show the crew we appreciate their hard work.

(Janice Poon, our Food Stylist, had us all hungry)

(MDL breakfast)

Our first week of shooting was nights, so a special coffee truck was much needed and appreciated. Also, the chip truck was a crew favorite, especially their poutine, a French Canadian delicacy (which, for me, never quite seemed more special than its component parts of French fries, cheese curd and gravy). Needed Liquid-Plumr on those days!  

I went to Toronto frequently during the seven-month shooting schedule, and it was my joy to cook for cast and crew members for little thank-you parties, even on the set out of the craft service truck. Filmmaking is Murphy’s Law in action. There are so many moving parts, no matter how organized and vigilant you are, nothing is ever quite as it should be. With the heroic efforts of all involved, every little hiccup along the way can be overcome, but it requires a crew that is loyal and happy to go the extra mile. Cooking and serving connects you to everyone. And I hope, helps demonstrate that we’re all in it together. 

(Hannibal invites to cast dinner)

Many thanks to Joey Craft Service (Joe McGurik), who was always positive, always cooking and always feeding. Joey tolerated our meddling, embraced our recipes and was an awesome cooking partner when I decided to make pizza for a crew of 75.

Pizza is always a real winner, and if I do say so myself, I have a fantastic crust recipe. My sauce is easy, but tasty, and fresh basil and lots of shredded mozzarella complete a simple, but surprisingly lovely flatbread-style pizza. The trick is to first put the pizza pans directly on the floor of the oven or depending on the oven, the rack directly above the exposed heat coils. You have to watch it carefully: the first 10 minutes or so will crust the bottom of the pizza, but once that happens, move it up to a middle or top rack to prevent the crust from burning but allow the topping to finish cooking, until the cheese is bubbly and well-cooked. 

(Notice I rolled the dough USING a nice bottle of Chianti!)

Near the end of the seven months, we were all breathlessly awaiting Bryan’s rewrite of the final episode. I took the lull in the action as an opportunity to teach my new friend, associate producer Loretta Ramos, some home recipes. We made a double batch of fried mozzarella and paccheri with sauce cooked from fresh tomatoes and sent a care package to Bryan, who was holed up in front of his computer.

Shooting the season’s final episode, number 113, we were back to nights around the stages in Mississauga. The crew was diligently slogging through a blizzard, when NBC sent their special thanks, a fish and chips truck. Greasy burgers and greasier and yummier fish and chips significantly brightened that night. All hail!

(NBC food truck arrived)

Now that we’ve been picked up by NBC for another season, I’m excited at the prospect of more memorable meals with our incredibly gifted cast and crew and numerous new creative challenges. In Italian, the same word - “ospite” - is used to mean both “host” and “guest.” As someone who grew up in Ohio learning the language, that struck me as odd, but the duality seems especially appropriate to the job of producer. You bring together people you respect, trust and love who share your passion for a story, but at a certain point, you become as much of a guest as anyone else, the work becomes bigger than anyone involved. 

(Gnocchi with tomato sauce)

And to extend the metaphor, we’ve been working as hosts sharing our love for Hannibal, and now we’ve become guests in your living rooms. I’m especially grateful for the enthusiasm, and hospitality, the fans have given back to us. I hope you’re looking forward to the next episodes and next season as much as I am. Buon appetito!

The Attraction of Opposites

This week’s blog is from Patti Podesta, “Hannibal’s” production designer.

With the news this week that “Hannibal” has been renewed by NBC and that Season 2 will get deeper into the madness between Lecter and Will Graham, I thought this might be a good moment to describe how we developed the look of the series and the stylistic differences between its two main characters.

 Bryan Fuller and David Slade are major talents, so coming into the project I was immediately aware that this was a chance to do something complex and haunting. In our first conversation, Bryan invoked the painter Francis Bacon as a reference for Lecter, and from David came a very striking image, the Blood-Stag; this is how it started. I assembled an array of paintings and photographs through which the three of us discussed realism and expressionism, architecture, qualities of light and palette. In addition to Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Todd Hido, Gregory Crewdson and the French painter Caillebotte. I included Wyeth for his anxious rendering of the Midwest and certain paintings by Edward Hopper. David’s photographic images were key in defining the look of the series.

What emerged from our discussions was a quartet of themes:

1. Hannibal Lecter’s world: He is a sadist, albeit an incredibly elegant one with a highly refined aesthetic. He creates for himself in an interior limbo, a “re-naturalized nature.”

2. Will Graham’s world: He needs a sanctuary from the intensity of his “gifts” and so surrounds himself in actual nature. He lives in the farmlands outside Quantico.

3.  The FBI: Envisioned as ’80s Brutalist architecture. Such buildings can be found on the FBI campus in Quantio, VA, where there is also a new state-of-the-art forensics lab, which we would interpret in our own way. On a preliminary scouting trip to Toronto we found Scarborough University and David gave us treated photographs of the buildings with a cool, steely look.

4. The Midwest: classic American, horizontal with a kind of butterscotch light. Poignant landscapes. These qualities would disappear later in the series, as the cases move to the East Coast and deeper into Lecter’s world. 

 Bryan’s script cited Sir John Soane’s library in describing Lecter’s office. Soane was an English architect known for his neo-classical buildings and marvelous library, which redefined the idea of the categorical, displaying art and artifacts that he collected during his lifetime. I thought we could rework these qualities through Americana, using the style as Lecter’s pretense for “passing.” From a stack of images, Bryan singled out a photo of the old library room in the North Carolina State Building and Lecter’s office is based on this room. image

We spun a backstory that he had purchased an historic building and updated the surfaces, leaving the architecture intact. It has to pass as a place of business, but is also his showplace, impressive and intimidating. Creating this set in the time we had was a daunting task. Our construction coordinator Dwight Doerksen, lead painter Jack McCullough and their crews were just amazing. Virtually everything on both of Lecter’s sets is custom… custom millwork, custom cabinetry, custom mixed stains. Set decorator Jaro Dick has great taste and knows where to look for special things, like Hannibal’s desk, an original Leif Jacobsen. Shopping for “the mix” that describes Lecter’s curatorial vision occupied Jaro’s team every day for 2 months. Dressing the set… the books alone took days and days. Of course they had to be organized by subject. I spent an entire day with an assistant creating a complex system of colored dots on the spine of 700+ sketch books that I decided Lecter would use for his patient notes… the dots identifying the patients and their conditions.

Lavish textures define all of Lecter’s spaces, creating the “hyper-nature” mentioned earlier. His home is an enclave; his kitchen is his performance space and reflects his orderly, highly visceral taste. It is a chef’s kitchen that conceals its transgressive activities. It envelops him (and his “guests”) in corporal surfaces while remaining strict. There is barn wood and zebrawood, top-of-the-line stainless appliances and travertine counters and backsplash. The center island is stainless with pale grey leather panels on the front and sides. Another custom-made stainless table evokes cook’s prep table/autopsy table. image

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Lecter’s dining room evolved into his most theatrical chamber. The walls are made from stacked wood moldings, a bit of genius that came from Bryan Fuller… he had seen such a wall at a restaurant… for ours, I chose moldings that had voluptuous curves or simple geometry. We stained the wood indigo blue, surrounding Lecter and his “audience” in the color of the night sky. Bryan also suggested a “living wall” for Lecter’s dining room, and I thought to use a huge landscape as a backdrop. I found an etching by Oscar Grosch and loved its gothic tone, but also that it would fall into abstraction for close ups, almost like an early Jackson Pollock painting. It was reproduced as wallpaper, with box shelves that house live herbs in containers. My art department had many conversations debating whether the olfactory effect was properly epicurean; we decided in the end that the intensity was pure Lecter.

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Will Graham, by comparison, dwells in a world described by association, meaning that similar colors and shapes create a continuous flow through his space, with many windows connecting to a natural setting. It’s a sensual fish tank in which everything is held in a kind of ether. I found a farmhouse outside Toronto, untouched, habited by the original owners. This became our backstory for Will: he purchased the house and land and just moved in. He lives in the downstairs, so he can be aware of anyone showing up outside. We repainted it all: a deep, dull blue/green. Some of the furniture, paintings and books belong to the owners of the house (who are the most fabulous couple - he was a motocross champion in the ’60s, she paints). The rest of the furniture was accumulated by Jaro and is a conscious hodgepodge, unmatched, not theatrical in any way. Will lives there with his dogs, his motorboat parts and his fishing tackle. He does not have a computer and does not bring work home.

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Lecter and Will compose a duality, and their settings illustrate two concepts of sanctuary. Theirs is not a symmetrical opposition, but a pair of complementary colors whose qualities smear onto one another. “This is my design.” Will utters this in every episode. Is he channeling Lecter? Or Bryan? Is he asking us to reflect on design and its many meanings? It’s a multifaceted statement that makes me laugh AND tense up whenever I hear it. 

I had been designing a Stanley Kubrick exhibition that was to open at the Los Angeles County Museum on November 1, 2012. It was a project I had worked on for nearly a year, so I had an out point for “Hannibal.” During preproduction it became clear I would only be able to get the series started before I had to return to Los Angeles to oversee the exhibition. I would have liked to design more of the series, it was so provocative… although Stanley Kubrick is no slouch and designing his exhibition was a highlight of my career. “Hannibal” is a rare project in which one gets to work within a collaborative circle of highly intelligent and wildly creative people. I left the series in the capable hands of production designer Matthew Davies and the fabulous crew I encountered in Toronto. I watch the show every week and am left in its spell for days afterwards. 

Dissecting an Episode

This week’s blog is from Carol Trussell, Hannibal’s line producer.

Hannibal is a wonderful show to produce. Every eight days we are challenged to turn out a feature-quality episode of television. This would not be possible without talented directors and an amazing professional crew. 

While each episode shoots for eight days, we only have seven days to prep. On day one Bryan Fuller takes the incoming director and all of the department heads through a concept meeting on the upcoming show. Bryan’s scripts are always very rich in detail and every episode has new and exciting set pieces. We all sit around a big conference table and discuss ideas. Great television episodes are born in these meetings. Department heads love doing new things and are inspired by challenges. The goal of these meetings is to develop a plan of action that can be implemented in seven days. The second the meeting is over, departments go into overdrive. Set plans are drawn up, prosthetics start molding, special props are being designed, stunt people begin staging fight sequences. Even Will’s dogs are being trained.

As soon as the concept meeting is over, the incoming director and I are loaded into a van to look at possible locations. I am from Los Angeles, but I have come to know Toronto better than many locals, as I have scouted every part of the city. The director needs to see locations and choose what works best for the action in his script. By the end of the first day a lot has been accomplished.

Over the next few days, the director and I will meet with each department to discuss sets, stunts, props, wardrobe, food styling, visual effects and, importantly, schedule. By day two, the assistant director will have a schedule that lays out all the scenes in the episode. It is a complex task, but it becomes the plan of how to shoot the episode. There can be all sorts of challenges in scheduling. A certain guest-starring actor may have availability issues. Even predictions for weather are factored into the schedule. When will the new sets be ready? Are the prosthetics so complicated that they can’t be ready until the end of the shooting schedule? Once the director approves the schedule, it goes wide and everyone in every department knows when things must be camera-ready.

Directors take on a lot of responsibility in television. We have very highly regarded directors on Hannibal, and I try to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. The prep days are packed with meetings, location visits, walking sets and much more, but I always try to provide them with time alone with the script to shot list and prepare for shooting. Most of our directors do multiple episodes, and they really understand the show and what Bryan wants to achieve.

One the last day of prep, the director and I meet with Bryan Fuller for several hours to tone the script. This is where Bryan goes over each scene to discuss character and nuance. These are wonderful and creative sessions. The director is now officially ready to shoot.

I always love the first day of shooting on a new episode. In seven days, the script has transformed from the written word into a bustling and vibrant production. Every person on the crew of Hannibal has been a part of making the episode a success. The next day, the process starts again.

Creating the World of Hannibal

This week’s blog is from Matthew Davies, Hannibal’s Production Designer.

Hannibal has standing sets that were designed at the very beginning of the show, when we only had script outlines, and they are the core sets for each of our characters. They include the world of Hannibal, which incorporates his house interior and his office, both of which were designed by my predecessor Patti Podesta. They also include the world of the FBI, which I designed, showcasing Jack Crawford’s office, the interior corridors of the FBI Quantico campus, Will’s lecture hall, and the labs and other forensic setups.

On an episodic basis, we have additional sets and locations that we have to build or find. And they have to conform to the aesthetic of the show, which has always been that of an elegant horror film.

We work very closely with the show runner, as the story is told by his own particular aesthetic, and also with individual directors to find out how they want to shoot the scenes and what tools they need in order to tell the story. For the sets we don’t build, the locations team searches for places that fit or conform to the overall look of the show.

There is a very fast turnaround in terms of getting the script, breaking it down, getting the information we need from the various departments, and then harnessing all of our resources to make sure that we’re ready for camera each day. Each episode has its own identity and independent story lines and characters that are specific to it. We have to create the context or the environment for each of those characters, and, episodically, that is a lot of work, especially in contrast to our standing studio sets - they are already part of a predefined vocabulary within the show and have been well established beforehand, requiring less input on an episodic basis. We also have to generate a lot of graphics and other key props, prosthetics, and special effects elements because every episode includes at least one or two death tableau pieces, which are carefully orchestrated beforehand.

I think the episode that Tim Hunter directed, “Fromage,” is a great example, from an art department perspective, of a lot of really fun elements. We got to film in the Roy Thomson Hall, which is Toronto’s premier performance space, and set up one of our death tableaus, which was a beautiful prosthetic in and of itself. We had to do research into the production of gut strings, using animal gut. Then we built a basement in the studio, which included a pretty painstakingly accurate rendition of how someone might butcher and prepare gut strings in their own home. We created a full music store on location in an old house interior that seemed to fit with the architectural resonance that we wanted for the basement. That was all at a very short notice, so it was a real scramble to ready the locations, get everything painted, build all the set pieces and get them to location, and find hundreds of musical instruments to fill the place. And it was a pleasure working with Tim, as he’s such a visually articulate director.

 

Hannibal’s Blood

This week’s blog is from Shane Million, Hannibal’s special effects coordinator.

The Special Effects Department basically has to work with every department on the show. A lot of Set Decoration and Art Department cooperation is involved, to establish what gags we have to do and how we have to make them work. On Hannibal, we do a lot of blood spray, blood spatter, blood leaking and atmospherics, so we have to work with those other departments to make sure that the sets we’re spraying onto, whether on location or at the studio, are useable for clean up and multiple takes of a particular shot. We have to ensure we aren’t messing up any other department’s decorations.

It’s always a challenge trying to come up with the best way to incorporate our effects into the shot. Often, the filmmakers depend on camera angles to hide our rigs and stunt equipment. And since we were shooting in Toronto through the winter, the weather was constantly changing, so it’s a bit of a challenge to keep up with for any exteriors. For example, for continuity, making sure we have snow, or fixing or making new snow after it rains.

My favorite thing about my job is that it always changes. You’re always doing something slightly different, you’re never doing exactly the same thing. It’s always a challenge to come up with a new way to do a similar thing, in a different location, with a different aspect of doing it.

Fun fact: We’ve gone through about 15 gallons of blood on the show thus far.

Police Tactics

This week’s blog is from Jim Bremner, “Hannibal’s” Law Enforcement Tactical Consultant.

I assist the production by advising the cast and crew in regard to the tactical application of the law enforcement process. More often than not, I’m working with the director and talent in an attempt to make the action as true to life as possible.

My favorite thing about this job is watching the actors interpret what it is that cops do. It is exciting to meet them and try and instill a sense of what it’s like to be human and be a cop - how it is not so easy to shake off the brutality of human behavior and the courage it takes to go out day after day in an attempt to do the right thing. Essentially bringing to life on camera what is routine to any member of law enforcement. I also enjoy teaching any skill sets the actors request in order for their performance to become believable.

On “Hannibal,” the most significant challenge is that Will Graham predominantly works alone; in terms of strategy and tactic this proves to be significantly different than those used on typical SWAT teams.

What most people will not know from watching this series is the great depths the cast and crew go to in order to make the show what it is. It really is a herculean effort on everyone’s part.

Diabolically Delicious

This week’s blog is from Janice Poon, Hannibal’s Food Stylist.

Each week I read the script, and I try to get an idea of what would be the most appropriate, the most beautiful, and yet the most grizzly food I can think of. And of course we have to remember that Hannibal is always eating people - even if he tells you it’s lamb tongues, it’s people’s tongues.

The sky is the limit, creatively speaking. Hannibal is such an intriguing character. The dinners are like the worst nightmare mystery dinners of your life because you could be eating your best friend or your wife for all you know. He is so diabolical. The most challenging is to make food that the actors are going to be able to eat, that is palatable to them - I don’t want them freaking out! - and that isn’t going to be like spinach and get stuck to their teeth or isn’t going to be something they’ll have to chew in the middle of their line. For example, sometimes an actor is vegan and the script calls for them to eat raw hamburger, so I have to make some fetching kind of concoction that is not meat but is good for them and that they’re comfortable with.

And with on-set cooking you never know what’s going to happen. You think you know every single permutation of every possible thing that can happen with a recipe, and wouldn’t you know, the one thing you never anticipated happens and then you have to replicate it forty times, that thing you’re not ready for.

The best part of this job is dreaming up the recipes, but I love all of it. I love cooking. I love doing the displays. Creating a monstrous, diabolically hideous look, that somehow is curiously delicious.