Season 8 filming starts on May 12

Posted on Apr 24, 2014

After seeing what you're about to read most of you will nod your heads knowingly, thinking “Oh that Heartland Blog Whisperer sure knows us fans.”

Here we are, less than two weeks from the end of Season 7’s broadcast and although it may be sad that there won't be any new episodes until Season 8 premieres this fall (at a still-to-be-determined date) the good news is that there's going to be an 18-episode Season 8 and right up to the day it premieres there will be all sorts of news, interesting tidbits and photos - on this blog every Thursday, on Heartland on CBC’s Facebook page and on Heartland on CBC’s Twitter page.

The Heartland production office opened this past Monday for three weeks of preparation before filming commences on May 12, and if you've been following on Twitter you'll know that my spies have picked up some very interesting news, specifically:

1) The working title for Episode 801, written by Heather Conkie, is “Growing Pains.” (It’s a working title because Episode 306 was titled “Growing Pains.” The new title will be posted here as soon as I know it)

2) The title for Episode 802, written by David Preston, is “The Big Red Wall.”

3) We will - once again - see a species of animal on Heartland in Season 8 that we have never seen before.

That’s not bad for four days into the office opening, huh?

So although I don't have any more news, I wish to answer a question that's been asked a few times through our social media site, namely: “What goes on in PRE-production?” So I am going to answer that, because the Blog Whisperer’s mandate is to “inform, entertain and educate” the fans of the series.

Pre-production:

You can’t expect the crew and cast to just show up on the first day of filming and jump right into it; many things have to be set in place and that is why there is a pre-production period. Officially for Heartland this year it is three weeks long (April 21 - May 9), although many department heads were busy from the moment they received the call that there was going to be a Season 8.

Many things have to be done prior to the first of filming. For example:

The scripts to the first two episodes have to be written, and then broken down by the Assistant Director team (in this case 1st AD Pierre Tremblay and 2nd AD Brad Moerke), who come up with the 15 day shooting schedule that will start on May 12.

All of the things you see in Heartland that the production company does not own outright has to be secured (as in bought, leased or rented) for the upcoming season. This can and does include vehicles seen in the series, animals, locations, and specific props and equipment needed.

Each department head, for areas like the art department, the camera department, construction, costumes, greens, editing, accounting, locations, the production office, props, security, set decoration, stunts, publicity, transportation and wranglers, has to ensure that his or her team is in place for the upcoming season. There is a turnover of staff each year, and everyone has to be knowledgeable and ready for when filming begins.

Accommodations have to be found for all out-of-town cast and crew and guest stars.

Flights have to be booked. Sometimes an actor will be working on two productions at once; coordination has to take place to ensure everyone is where they need to be at the right time.

Production meetings have to take place. It is essential that everyone be on the same page, so no one sees something in the script and thinks, "I wonder what they want?” So there are constant meetings; art department, casting, props, hair and budget, to name a few.

There are location scouts, where the Locations Manager (Brian Dunne) takes the Producer (Jamie Paul Rock), the episode's director (Stefan Scaini), the Production Designer (Rick Roberts), the ADs and the Director of Photography (Craig Wrobleski) to the various locations where Heartland will be filming in the first block, to make sure everyone is on board with the locations.

Heartland’s Amy - Amber Marshall - has been attending the meetings this week and shadowing director Scaini, to learn more about what production entails. Once filming begins she will of course be on set and will be unable to attend pre-production meetings for the subsequent blocks of filming.

For those of you new to this blog, I should mention that it takes 15 days of filming to shoot two episodes, so 18 episodes = 9 blocks. There are tons (literally!) of equipment that has to be transported from location to location, so by filming two episodes at once time and money are saved by greatly reducing the number of moves.

So that - in a nutshell - is what pre-production, or “prep,” as the cool kids call it, is all about. I hope you found it interesting, and I will be explaining more about the whole process of producing television’s favourite family series.

Until next week I remain, as always, obediently yours.

BW