Back to Basics - Part 2

Posted on Jun 15, 2017

Even though Heartland has been around over a decade it is still gaining fans on a daily basis. Last week my Thursday blog was a back to basics list of common questions many seasoned fans of the series would know by heart, but for a newcomer, it would be invaluable at getting them up to speed. I am continuing that theme with part 2 this week. However, I am also going to divulge some very important things about season 11 that will be of great interest to all Heartland fans. Have I your attention yet?

So then...

Q: How many seasons of Heartland will there be?

A: No one knows. The way the television business operates is that each season is judged on its own success. Season 11 - which is filming now - will begin broadcasting in Canada on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, at 7:00 pm beginning on Sundays in late September or early October (as soon as I have a confirmed date I will let everyone know). Then the number of viewers will be tracked and if they are consistently strong then next year there should be a season 12.

Now there are other factors which determine a series continuation. The owners of the series and the CBC also have to want to keep the series going. On these points, there is no concern for everyone is proud of Heartland and wishes to see it have additional seasons. Also, the creative talent has to be committed to the continuation of the series. This is not the 1940s when studios controlled the lives of their stars. Sometimes cast members wish to move on to other projects.

When the NBC series Law & Order reached its 11th season there was not a single cast member remaining from the first season. Heartland has managed to keep almost all of its key cast from the first season - Amber Marshall (Amy), Shaun Johnston (Jack), Michelle Morgan (Lou), Graham Wardle (Ty), Nathaniel Arcand (Scott), and Chris Potter (Tim) are all back for season 11. Of the main cast from season 1 only Jessica Amlee (Mallory) has left the series. Ms. Amlee moved to California to pursue her education and her career. Of course, if you saw Heartland's last season you'll know that she returned for two episodes.

So it is rather amazing how the core of the cast has pretty much remained intact, no? But as Law & Order and other series have proven, it’s the storylines which are the most important things in determining the success of a series. As long as there are entertaining, engaging Heartland stories to tell for families to enjoy this television series – already the longest running one-hour drama in Canadian television history, has a great chance to be around for a while yet.

Q: Who directs the episodes?

A: There have been an assortment of talented directors from across Canada who have directed the 193 episodes (by season 11's end) of the series. After 10 seasons the one who has directed more episodes than anyone else - Dean Bennett - has taken over as the producer on season 11. Dean is the third producer of Heartland, following Jamie Paul Rock, who was the producer for seasons 7 through 10, and Tina Grewal, who was the original producer for the first six seasons.

Heartland is committed to having 50% of its episodes directed by women. That happened in seasons 9 and 10 and it will happen again this season. Also Chris Potter, in addition to his work as Tim Fleming, will again direct two episodes this season. Chris has directed fifteen episodes over the past seasons and they are often fan favourites.

This year as well will see the return of three people who directed their first episodes of Heartland last season. Pierre Tremblay, who has been with the series since season 1 as the 1st Assistant Director will again direct the 6th episode of this season. Ken Filewych, who is the Supervising Picture Editor, will again direct the 5th episode this season, as he did in season 10. And Alison Reid, who directed episode 1017, will also return this season.

Here are some photos of Dean Bennett, when he was directing on the set of Heartland.

 

Q: Who writes the episodes?

A: There have been over 20 writers on the series. Back in 2006, when Executive Producer Michael Weinberg pitched the idea of Heartland to the CBC after acquiring the rights to the series, of books by Lauren Brooke, he hired Leila Basen and David Preston to write the very first, or pilot episode. Once the CBC liked what they saw and greenlit an additional twelve episodes for the first season Heather Conkie was brought in as the head writer or Showrunner. Heather had extensive experience writing for television, including "Road to Avonlea," and under her stewardship, Heartland has become the successful series it now is.

The writing team from last season has all returned. In addition to Heather, episodes are being written by Mark Haroun, Ken Craw, Pamela Pinch and Bonnie Fairweather. There will be a new writer as well – Alex Clarke - who will write an upcoming episode this season.

Q: How are the episodes numbered?

A: The first digit(s) represent the season and the last two digits are the episode. So episode 811 is the eleventh episode of the eighth season, while episode 1108 is the eighth episode of the eleventh season. Simple, huh?

Q: Where is Heartland filmed?

A: Heartland is filmed in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ranch set and many of the scenic locations are in the Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) of Millarville, which is a half-hour's drive southwest of Calgary. All scenes in Hudson, including Maggie's Diner, are filmed in the Town of High River, which is again about half an hour south of Calgary. The interior sets of the house, barn, barn office and vet clinic are filmed in a studio in Calgary. The Dude Ranch set is near the ranch set. So is the Game Reserve, which is a set; it is not a real animal reserve. The land where Ty/Caleb's trailer stood is no longer being used in the series. As most of you know, both characters have moved on from their bachelor ways.

Q: If I were to visit the area could I see these locations and perhaps watch filming?

A: Heartland is a television series and although the beauty of Alberta seen in it has acted as somewhat of a siren, inviting thousands each year to visit the area, visitors are not allowed on the sets. The only set that the public can actually walk up to and take photographs of is Maggie's Diner in downtown High River. The other sets where Heartland films sit on private land and are not open to the public.

If you go to High River to see the exterior of Maggie's you should also visit the nearby Museum of the Highwood (1 block away), which has a growing Heartland exhibit fans will enjoy. And although it is never announced in advance when production will be filming at Maggie's, if you happen to be in High River and see the crew at work there you can stand outside the perimeter and quietly watch filming.

Each year a select number of set visits for a group of four are donated to not-for-profit groups who raffle or auction the visits off to raise money for their charities. Those visitors, plus children sponsored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, whose wish is to meet the cast and watch filming, are the only non-crew members welcome on set during filming.

Q: When do the season DVDs go on sale in Canada for last season?

A: Traditionally the previous season’s DVD set is made available to the public around the same time the new season airs. So that means that when season 11 hits the television screens across Canada in late September or early October the season 10 DVDs will be on sale around the same time.

Q: How many countries is Heartland licensed in?

A: 119. Not bad, huh? And that’s not counting countries that carry Heartland on Netflix.

Q: Are these Thursday blogs up every Thursday?

A: Every Thursday of the year. During the broadcast season, I will prepare everyone for upcoming episodes. During the production season, I will report what is happening on set. And at times I’ll just ramble on, which is what a Blog Whisperer is given the license to do. So that’s what I do… do!

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So that takes care of the big item questions for this week. Later in the summer I will do another “Ask the Blog Whisperer Anything” (ABWA) session and I will answer to the best of my ability any questions you fans can come up with.

Now I wrote back in the first paragraph that I would divulge some important season 11 stuff and true to my word, here is an updated list of episodes plus the writers and the directors –

Episode 1101: Baby on Board.
                        Writer: Heather Conkie. Director: Grant Harvey.
Episode 1102: Highs and Lows.
                        Writer: Mark Haroun. Director: Grant Harvey.
Episode 1103: Decision Time.
                        Writer: Ken Craw. Director: Eleanore Lindo.
Episode 1104: How to Say Goodbye.
                        Writer: Heather Conkie. Director: Eleanore Lindo.
Episode 1105: Measuring Up.
                        Writer: Bonnie Fairweather. Director: Ken Filewych.
Episode 1106: Strange Bedfellows.
                        Writer: Pamela Pinch. Director: Pierre Tremblay.
Episode 1107: Our Sons and Daughters.
                        Writer: Mark Haroun. Dir: Chris Potter.
Episode 1108: Truth Be Told.
                        Writer: Ken Craw. Director: Chris Potter.

And all of the above titles are confirmed with the exception of episode 1107, but production is hoping to have that cleared soon.

So there you have it. Old news which is new news for new fans, and new news for everyone. What more could you ask for?

Well, I guess you could ask for another blog next Thursday, so yes – I will be back with that. Until then I remain, as always – obediently yours.

And remember to remember your father on Sunday; wish him a happy father's day from the Blog Whisperer!