SideReel joined in a Q&A with Jon Turtletaub, the director of upcoming murder mystery series Harper's Island and got the rundown on all sorts of juicy details on the Harper's Island! Check out this shortened verison of the Q&A and don't forget to catch the premiere Thursday, April 9th on CBS at 10/9c.
What's appealing about this kind of never-done-before TV series?
Well, that's part of the attraction, the not ever seen before part.... I don't think the climate and the business atmosphere was right for this kind of show until now.
For someone who doesn't know anything about the series, what would you say to them?
Surprises every week. You're not going to ever be bored. You will have something where you will get sucked into the characters and the drama but the horror/thriller format means that anything can happen at any time.
Where was the show filmed?
We used an island known as Bowen Island. And that's off the coast of Vancouver. And we would take a ferry to work. And usually on a TV series you're called five days in, three days out or six days in, two days out which is six days out on set and two days out on location. We were shooting basically one day in, seven days out. Almost all of the shooting took place on location and very little of it on sets in the studio.
There are some familiar TV faces in the cast - were these deliberate choices or was most of the casting done from auditions?
First it was almost all 100% through auditions with the exception of Harry Hamlin.... which was what was always the best thing for the people making the show cause you really want to see people read the part that they'll be doing not just see parts that they've done in the past.
How are murder mysteries different now with new technology?
The cell phone has totally changed movies and television. It's like a director, and also with writing it used to be someone could be stuck somewhere without a phone. Now that's really hard. We've had to address it in the scenery.... We used to have to shoot scenes where someone got a phone call and have to stand in one place. The big advantage was that you'd put that really, really long cord on the kitchen wall phone. And now you can go anywhere and get a phone call anywhere.
What were some of the challenges of making each episode stand alone yet keep interesting as a series?
With a 90 minute movie, you spend 20 minutes getting to know everybody, about an hour killing everybody but one person, the last 10 minutes trying to kill the last person. And there's a lot of running around. We tried to in some ways, divide the entire series up into that. Where the first few episodes have to be very heavy on getting to know everybody. The middle of the show is the reveal of what's going on and getting the pace to increase and increase the killings. And then at the end of the show you've got to both really amp up the action but also amp up the resolution and the character resolutions.
Were there some characters you got attached to and had a hard time killing off?
The more we did the show and the more you got to know the actors themselves, the harder it was to kill them because you like the people. That said, there was a little bit of a game in how we killed off- told the actors they weren't going to make it. None of them knew. And none of them knew who the killer was... with the exception of the killer. We didn't tell any of the actors and they all agreed at the beginning of the year that they didn't want to know who the killer was.
What films influenced the show?
Believe it or not, I thought a lot about Friday the 13th. The ones from my generation, not the one from this generation. In that, it was one of the first to really get into this format where you realize that you have to keep coming up with interesting ways of killing.