What it’s like doing a job shadow on Heartland

Posted on Aug 15, 2019

Good day Heartland fans! Today we have a special treat for you -- as Christopher Redmond is sharing his story about what it was like for him recently to work as a "shadow" on set! Take it away Christopher!

Shadowing on Heartland's Season 13 Finale


A lot of Heartland secrets were revealed to me this past month.

I’m not allowed to tell you the latest in Georgie’s love life, whether Lou’s big gamble for Mitch paid off, or what business ventures are in store for the Heartland ranch. However, I can share a little bit about what I learned about life behind-the-scenes, since I had the privilege of shadowing on the series.

In the film industry, getting to “shadow” a director is something between being an intern and an understudy. The idea is to learn the process behind one particular show. I’ve primarily directed for preschool television (most notably Sesame Street), but jumping onto a show like Heartland is a different animal.

Seeing how the directors work with horse wranglers, stunt riders, and the main cast is unlike any other series in North America. That means you better know the difference between lopes, canters, and gallops, on top of keeping your Dutch and Western camera angles straight.

Dean Bennett, who has directed over 40 episodes of Heartland (including the pilot), was the person I came to shadow. He’s a full-time producer on the series now as well, meaning when he was not prepping or shooting his own episode, he was overseeing nearly all other aspects of the show (episodes are shot in “blocks”, sometimes out of order).

I also had the chance to shadow series star and regular director Chris Potter, as well as first-time to Heartland director Kristin Lehman (Motive fans will certainly recognize her!). This three-for-one deal ended up being an invaluable experience. As a director, I rarely get to see other directors work. But spending weeks in the Heartland stables gave me unique insight into how each director’s approach is shaped by their personal background.

Chris, who plays Tim on Heartland, knows exactly what the cast needs to hear to reign in their performances. Whether he was directing two actors sharing their first kiss, or corralling 800 fan extras at a rodeo (with the help of the ever-impressive Amber “Stampede” Marshall herself), he’s able to straddle life on both sides of the camera with impressive comfort.

Kristin also has fantastic experience behind the camera, which made her extra attentive to lighting close-ups differently than wide shots, and ensuring she brought new energy to her scenes (watch for an unscripted water fight!). She also does an admirable job of making every single member of the crew feel appreciated.

And of course Dean’s ability to wear so many hats is all the more impressive when you see how carefully he maps out the physics and emotional logic of each scene. Since he started in the camera department, working as a cinematographer before directing, he chooses to watch dramatic scenes in-person rather ran through the monitor to make sure he’s focusing on the performance and not the picture.

This certainly came in handy for the last scene I got to see, which will no doubt go down as the most dramatic moment in Heartland history since Amy’s mother died in episode one. Get ready!

I’m back in Ottawa now, anxious to put my new skills to work, and looking forward to watching the season when it airs. One way or another, Heartland always seems to bring me back to my homeland of Alberta.

Director Kristin Lehman blocking her water fight scene with Amber Marshall, Graham Wardle, Lucian-River Mirage Chauhan and one of the Spencer twins.

Christopher Redmond’s watermarked script during the production meeting for episode 1310.