The Countdown Starts; Fan Days and Director Bruce McDonald

Posted on Aug 3, 2017

As you are probably aware, and of course you are if you follow our production tweets on Twitter, the season 11 Gallery shoot took place today in one part of the studio while filming of episodes 1107 and 1108 took place in another area of the building.

A wonderful assortment of photographs of the cast was captured, and you'll be seeing them very shortly as the new art for the upcoming season appears on this website and on Heartland on CBC's social media pages.

Some of you want me to say exactly when that is going to happen. I'm afraid I can't, but what I can tell you is when season 11 is going to premiere on CBC television.

That's right Heartlanders, we now have a firm date when the premiere of Heartland's 11th season will be broadcast across Canada.

Episode 1101 will premiere on Sunday, September 24, at 7:00pm (7:30pm in Newfoundland) on CBC.

Now you know.

And now you also know that our countdown can officially start, for from today it is 52 days until Sunday, September 24.

Yes, 52: the same number as there are weeks in a year, or cards in a standard deck of cards.

So mark your calendar, and join me each week right here as we count down to a new season of Heartland.

The second cool announcement I have is that once again Heartland will need fans to serve as background extras in at least one upcoming episode. The next block, which will cover episodes 1109 and 1110, will start filming on Thursday of next week and later in the block a few hundred fans will be called upon to appear in a crowd scene as fans. I am sorry that I do not know the exact date yet, but as soon as I do I will put a call out on Heartland on CBC's Facebook page, and on its Twitter page and on Instagram as well. And no, it will not be at the same venue it was held at the last three years.

Now in the last paragraph, I wrote, "in at least one." There is a very good chance that later in the year a second need for a crowd of fans may surface. Sometimes bigger IS better, no? Again, as soon as I know you will know.

Now at the top of the page is a photo of Bruce McDonald, who directed episodes 1001 and 1002 last year and he is back for the pivotal mid-season episodes, 1109 and 1110.

I was able to catch up with him and ask him 10 questions. Here is what he had to say...

Q: What attracted you to directing Heartland?

Bruce: Playing Cowboy in the most beautiful land on Earth. The love stories of the characters. The excellent cast. The female point of view.

Q: What is the main differences between directing television and directing feature films? 

Bruce: In TV, the Writer is the boss. In movies, the Director is the boss. TV is dialogue driven. Movies are sequence driven (ie: less talk, more action). TV is about the face. Movies are about the place. Both are challenging and satisfying mediums to work in.

Q: You were in Calgary for the Calgary International Film Festival Gala honouring Heartland's first 10 years. What were your impressions of the event?

I got to meet Jenn Grant (!), who sings the oh-so-beautiful title track. I was astonished at the full-throttle Heartland fever from true blue fans. Fans that came in from ALL AROUND THE WORLD. There was a fun and charming Q & A with the cast. It was a classy, splashy event.

Q: What can Heartland fans expect from the kickoff to Season 11?

Bruce: Jack converts to Islam. Ty clones a baby dinosaur. Amy is revealed to be a cyborg. Georgie becomes hooked on a virtual reality game and refuses to leave her room. Lou is arrested in New York for defacing Trump Tower, and Tim forms a Pink Floyd cover band. Kidding! Stay tuned Heartland people – the best is yet to come.

Q: (After a long pause) Oh...Kay... so... How difficult are horses?

Bruce: Not to tell tales out of school, but Spartan is a bit of a diva. Demands her oats be flown in from Denver. Only wears horseshoes handmade in Sicily. Is often late to set. BUT – one hell of a talent, and always ready to give rides to visitors.

Q: Do you enjoy shooting in different locations? What is special about Alberta?

Bruce: I have shot in every Province and Territory of Canada – except New Brunswick. Also – Berlin, Torino, New Orleans, LA, New York, Washington and Memphis. I love shooting in Alberta a lot because the crews are very inventive and original thinkers. The landscapes are epic. The women are so pretty and the fellas are cool customers. There is a deep connection to history here, I find refreshing and alert. On the off-hours – there is a killer music scene, and a very funky, take-no-prisoners art scene. I love it here.

Q: Do you feel any pressure concerning the legacy of the show? Do you get nervous?

Bruce: I can never sleep the night before shooting starts – I get so nervous I’m, going to mess up this beautiful, well-oiled, well-loved Heartland dream machine. I want to honour what’s come before and add a little push or zing or beauty mark to what’s coming. I want to be as good as the other Directors – match them – and aspire to further the language and emotion of the show. But by lunch on the first day, I am again reminded – the team is smokin’ hot – and we’re making this show together. My nerves vanish, and I get to work.

Q: What do you bring in the way of directorial style?

Bruce: I hope I bring great support and encouragement to the actors. I hope to help them discover even more layers / touches to already emotional or funny scenes. I like to remind the urban viewer (like myself) how unique this world is – in landscapes and details around the ranch.

Q: Can you touch upon the actors?

Bruce: I love them ALL. Not only are they talented, dedicated artists – but they are charming, lovely humans!

Q: What new ideas is Jarrett Craig bringing as the Director Of Photography?

Bruce: Jarrett is further refining the interior lighting – pushing the richness and contrast. He’s finding new views on horse riding with fancy gizmos and inventions that he and his team invent. And he continually pushes for a widescreen format – which now happens in the opening of the teaser – and someday will last throughout. Widescreen is epic.

Q: How did you get into the film biz?

Bruce: My Uncle Jim gave me a Super 8 home movie camera when I was 14. My friends and I made a zombie movie inspired by Night of the Living Dead. And I have not stopped. And I still love zombies.

Q: Is there a story behind the hat (see photo at top of page)?

Bruce: My niece Madeliene – when she was 10, decided I need a hat before going off to shoot in Berlin. She picked me out a cowboy hat. I put it on me and I have not taken it off since.

Q: Where would you like to see Heartland go forward?

Just keep following these beautiful characters. I’d like to see Tim’s ranch. I’d like to see Jack’s bedroom. I’d like to see Bob Granger dancing a jig in the kitchen, with Ty and Amy – Jack on the fiddle, Tim on the bongos, Katie chewing on a steak, Georgie snapping pictures as Lou, Peter and Mitch arrive with the Christmas turkey. I’d like to see another Heartland Christmas movie with yours truly directing.

So thanks to Bruce for taking time out of his busy prep schedule to answer my questions. I think you can tell when he was kidding.

So there you have it - the date of the premiere, a promise of an upcoming 'fans as extras' day and an interview with the director of Heartland's next two episodes.

Don't say you favourite Blog Whisperer does not deliver.

And I will do so again in one week's time. Until then I shall remain, as always, obediently yours.