Production Progress, and Last Week’s Parade

Posted on Jul 9, 2015

If you are a regular reader of the Thursday Heartland blog you'll know that occasionally I love to give information on how the production season is progressing. That's what I am doing today, along with some photos which were taken last Friday, when Amber Marshall (Amy Fleming on Heartland) was a street host for the CBC coverage of the Calgary Stampede Parade. That's what all the accompanying photos are on this page and I'll go into detail later, but first a report on how filming is going.

In a word - Great!

As many of you know, it takes 15 days of filming to produce 2 episodes of Heartland, but there is much work that is done both before and after each block of 15 days to ensure the episodes are of the quality you are used to watching when you tune in to television's favourite family drama.

So allow me to take a snapshot - using today - to explain what is going on, production wise.

If you follow us on Twitter you will know that today is Day 3 (of 15) of Block 3 and that director Chris Potter is working with cast in the interior ranch house set, located in the Calgary studio. Today he will direct 5 scenes; 3 from episode 906 and 2 from episode 905. The screen time of these scenes is slightly over seven minutes, and it will take close to eleven hours to film. Note: Allowing for roughly 15 minutes of commercials, a television 'hour' is 45 minutes long; so 2 episodes x 45 minutes = 90 minutes divided by 15 days = 6 minutes of screen time per day that is filmed on average. Today production is filming slightly more than that.

While all that is going on there are days in the future which may need special stunts, animal action or set decorations and the wranglers and art department are getting those prepared. On a day of filming everything that needs to be used in a scene will have been prepped and will be ready so filming can proceed as smoothly as possible.

So that's what's happening with Block 3. Meanwhile, the footage from Block 2 (episodes 903 & 904) has been assembled by editor Kathy Weinkauf into a rough cut. Now director Dean Bennett will work with her to fine tune the two episodes and get them to a stage that they can then be shown to the producers and the CBC who will all discuss the episodes and will send back notes so the episodes can be tweaked further to a point where they are locked. This means there is still lots of work that has to be done (colour correction, additional dialogue recording, music and titles/credits added) but the footage will not change once the episode has been locked.

As for Block 1 (episodes 901 & 902), director Bruce McDonald has worked with editor Ken Filewych, getting the season premiere and its follow up episode ready for its finishing touches. Block 1 is three weeks ahead of Block 2, so much of the editing process has been completed and the episodes are now in the fine tuning stages.

While this is all going on, director Dawn Wilkinson is working with her First and Second Assistant directors, getting the schedule set up for her Block 4 (907 & 908) so it is ready to begin shooting as soon as Block 3 has finished its fifteen days of filming. This morning Dawn will meet with around two dozen people; the producer, writers and various department heads in what is called a concept meeting. Here they go through the script and identify and solve any issues that the scripts may present. Immediately after the concept meeting there will be a stunts and animal meeting where head wrangler Ray Breckenridge and stunt coordinator Tom Eirikson will address the stunts and animal requirements of Block 4.

As for upcoming blocks 5 (909 & 910) and 6 (911 & 912) the Heartland writers have been getting the first drafts ready for producer Jamie Paul Rock and the executive producers, including showrunner Heather Conkie, who along with executives at the CBC will send back notes and critiques that will result in the scripts being tweaked (sometimes slightly, sometimes a lot), getting them ready to go into prep.

So I hope that gives you a better understanding of what it takes to physically produce Heartland. It is much more than just what is happening on set on any given day and at any given time.


Now, as I mentioned earlier, the photographs accompanying today's blog were taken last Friday at the Calgary Stampede Parade. The parade kicks off the annual Calgary Stampede, which has long been billed as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth." CBC Television covered the parade and they asked Amber Marshall to be a street reporter on horseback, going up and down the two blocks of the parade route where CBC's cameras were set up, to interview people who were in the parade.

As she always does, Amber did a great job and I hope you were able to catch her if you watched the broadcast. Amber's husband Shawn was beside her on horseback as well. This allowed their two horses to feel more comfortable doubling back against the direction that the parade was heading. If it had just been Amber alone her horse would have balked against going against the grain (or more accurately the flow of the parade) but doubling back with a second horse was much easier.

The photo at the top of this page is Amber just as she was getting ready to start "work." The iconic Calgary Tower, which used to be the tallest structure in Calgary but now ranks sixth in the city, is seen in the background to Amber's right. The bright sun and her cowboy hat combine to shade a good portion of Amber's face, but there's no hiding that smile of hers.

This next photo shows Amber riding alongside the 2015 Parade Marshal - Kaillie Humphries - who is the reigning Olympic champion and gold medallist in the two woman bobsleigh at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Kaillie also was awarded the 2014 Lou Marsh Award as Canada's top athlete.

The next three photographs show Amber riding alongside some of the people she interviewed.

Here's a shot of the parade. It was estimated that over 300,000 people lined the downtown streets of Calgary to take the parade in.

Here's a shot of some of the crowd of spectators. I'm not sure if this young girl recognized Amber...

...but it appears that this guy did!

Lastly, here's a close up shot of Amber - looking great as always - reporting through her wireless microphone.

Well that was a lot of info and photos, no? But I thought you'd all enjoy it. This is what I do - come up with a blog for you each Thursday, and I'll be doing it again in one week's time.

Until then I remain,as always, obediently yours.