Michelle Morgan on her Heartland Directorial debut
The Heartland regular directed Sunday's new episode of Canada's longest-running family drama.
Happy Thursday, Heartland fans!
Did you know that Michelle Morgan directed this Sunday's new episode of Heartland? She's been working on the series in front of the camera since the beginning and knows the show inside and out. We recently asked Michelle to jump in and talk about her experience with acting and directing on Heartland for the blog this week and she was happy to do it!
Keep reading until the end, there's an update about the recent giveaway and also a little peek at the new episode (and Michelle's amazing directing work!) coming this Sunday at 7 to CBC and CBC Gem.
Without further ado, here's Michelle:
Which episode of Heartland did you direct?
Episode 1409, "Find Me in the Dark" written by Mark Haroun. It will be premiering this coming Sunday, March 14.
What was your journey to directing on Heartland?
It was no secret that I have been working my way toward directing for some time now. I started out shadowing directors like Bruce McDonald, David Straiton, and Eleanore Lindo, plus I always picked Director/Producer Dean Bennett's brain about his process. Shadowing is exactly what it sounds like, you watch and learn, you observe closely, you ask questions about the director's process and rationale for making certain decisions. I directed three episodes of the Heartland digital series spin-off, Hudson, which I really enjoyed. I suggest viewers check it out on the CBC Gem streaming app. I also made short films and took part in a training program called Women in the Director's Chair. But when it comes to actually directing for television, you can only prepare so much, at a certain point you need to dive in and actually do it.
What was it like Directing on the show for the first time?
It was a dream come true. Originally I was a bit concerned about how the core cast like Amber, Shaun, Chris and Jessica would react to me as a director. It can be hard to switch hats with people you have worked closely with for so many years. To my immense relief, they were very supportive. The energy on set was collaborative and uplifting. Likewise, the crew was so professional and supportive. I enjoyed working closely with our Director of Photography Jarrett Craig, he has a great eye and was always willing to bounce ideas with me. I could not have asked for a better first experience directing.
Was it challenging to act and direct in the same episode?
Yes. I don't care who says it's not challenging, it is. But the benefit is that as a director you are prepping the script so intensely, you are familiar with every word, every moment and every turn in the story. And all of that directing prep helps you as an actor once you hit the floor. As a Director, I liked to be on set early to be in the space and maybe chat with Jarrett about the day ahead. But as an actor, I had to be in the Hair and Makeup trailer getting ready. That part drove me crazy. On days where I was directing and also acting intensely, I was lucky enough to have Dean Bennett there with me. He would watch behind the monitor and we would confer to make sure the scene was working.
Was there a favourite moment from your experience directing this episode?
There were a lot of beautiful moments. We were shooting at the Dude Ranch one day and we were lucky enough to get a big snowfall the night before. The sun came out and the whole place became this ethereal winter wonderland. Another favourite moment was a scene between Amber and Shaun. We needed to get the scene at dusk, which is a very short window of time. The scene involved them skating, then stopping and having a brief but important exchange. We decided to get the scene in one continuous shot and the best way to do that was to have two of our incredibly talented grips, Clint Silzer and Rick Schmidt, throw on their skates and carry the camera. Only in Canada can you count on having a crew who can skate like that! The shot was beautiful and the scene had even more impact because it all flowed as one continuous moment.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Well, being on set during the time of COVID-19 presents certain challenges. The biggest challenge for me was that the safety guidelines did not allow for me to travel home to visit my family as much as I normally would. It was tough being away from my kids for so long.
What were some highlights from season 14 for Lou?
It has been an absolute riot getting to work with Aidan Moreno as Lou's assistant Rick. Aidan has a brilliant sense of comedy but is also able to ground his character with heart. And isn't it refreshing to finally have a visibly queer character on the show? Lou and Amy also share some very beautiful moments. Amy was grieving so that presented a great opportunity for Lou to step up as a sister. I was so happy that both Gabe Hogan (Peter) and Kevin McGarry (Mitch) were able to be part of Lou's story this season. COVID-19 has made travel and working different shows very complicated, so it was wonderful that they were able to join us. Ziya Matheson (Katie) has grown into a talented young actress and it made me proud to see how she has grown and matured. Of course Lou is dealing with watching Georgie (Alisha Newton) grow into a woman. It's funny because I am struggling with the same thing in real life in some ways. I have always felt protective of Alisha, but now she has grown into this strong, intelligent, independent young woman. I feel like a mama bird watching her baby take flight!
Any last words?
This season was special because the cast and crew came back to the show with a renewed appreciation for our work. It was a great feeling to reunite with my second family and to know that the work we do is important to so many people.
I really am so excited to share my Heartland Directorial debut with everyone on March 14. Here's hoping it will be the first of many!
Here's a peek Heartland episode 1409, "Find Me in the Dark", directed by Michelle Morgan. It's coming this Sunday to CBC and CBC Gem!
Giveaway update: Thanks to all of the amazing Heartland fans who posted photos, videos and stories for the #heartlandsbiggestfan giveaway. You are all the biggest fans in my book! That said, I only have a limited number of signed poster packs to give away and, as of this morning, those who have been randomly selected to receive them have been contacted. Congratulations to the giveaway winners!