Entries in Episodes (10)
The season finale is here! Jack travels to a mysterious launch facility on the planet Mercury to investigate how the invaders arrived on Earth. It's great to finally see Jack in his natural element: exploring dangerous places in the universe.
You'll notice that this episode feels a bit different than the others. That's because episode nine was originally episode ten. While editing we found that two of the earlier episodes were a bit too short, so they were combined into what is now the first episode. That left us with only nine episodes. So over a year after principal photography, we filmed episode ten as an epilogue or bridge into 'season' 2.
Episode ten was filmed over 3 days in a decommisioned plastic chair factory in the middle of January. The only reason you can't see the actors foggy breath is because they're wearing masks. Though it was cold and unbelievably dirty (plastic dust covered EVERYTHING), I can't tell you how nice it was to film somewhere other than an office building!
This episode is a setup for the 2nd season, and although a new batch of episodes hasn't been "greenlit" yet, we have developed the story. Not only does it take on another fun and classic 1950's sci-fi genre, but you'll get to meet some characters only mentioned in the first season. So if you enjoyed volume one and you'd like to see more episodes, make sure to let Syfy know it on Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you so much for taking this adventure with us and for sharing the series with others. And remember, the episodes aren't being taken down so you can always watch on Syfy, on Hulu, or on TV in HD on ON DEMAND.
Here's the newest entries in Jack Yaeger's Journal. (Click to view image larger)
Can Edward defeat the Mercury invaders? Can Jack reverse the Gravity Engine before the moon falls?
Episode 9 is absolutely EPIC. As close to a summer adventure movie as a web series can get. Once again, Curt and Mark knock it out of the park as Jack and Edward. They are FINALLY working together as a team. I love how Edward grows increasingly frantic and desperate as things get worse for them. And it's such a nice moment towards the end when Jack thanks Edward, not only as an equal, but as a friend. A far different relationship then episode 2.
One of the things I'm most proud about in this episode is how we keep ramping up the stakes while simultaneously removing all of our heroes safety nets. Edward loses his metal pole barrier...then Jack...then the ray gun...and then finds himself in a figurative and literal dead end. There is a genuine moment of "how in the world is this guy gonna get out of this?"
And although the end shot is a bit silly and incredibly unrealistic, I loved the idea too much to pass up. After saving the world, he is instantly tossed back into the mundane with his achievements going completely unnoticed.
Special thanks go to Damon Claus and Julian Evans of Market St. Sound for their incredible sound design, not only throughout the entire series, but this episode in particular. From the Gravity Engine to the moon, they brought cinema quality sound to the Mercury Men world.
Fun behind-the-scenes facts:
Very little of the budget was left by the time we filmed the arrival of the League. Ever resourceful, costumer Ricky Lyle outfitted the "men of tomorrow" in pieces from other costumes and $35 worth of jackets from Goodwill.
The metal poles Edward hides behind are actually PVC pipe painted metallic silver. Metal sound effects were used to further the illusion.
Jack and Edward's goodbye was originally filmed in the parking garage. After watching the rough cut, we didn't like that Jack was wearing the Mercury engineer disguise in his final scene with Edward so we chose to reshoot the scene in the building's lobby.
Here's the latest entry in Jack Yaeger's Journal. (Click to view image larger)
After facing several episodes worth of setbacks, Jack and Edward finally take the fight TO the Mercury Men. They must sneak among the invaders and attempt to reverse the Gravity Engine before the moon falls.
This episode has it all: suspense, action, and great humor. Mark Tierno (Edward Borman) truly knocks it out of the park in episodes 8 and 9. Edward is in way over his head, but desperately trying to help. And I think Edward's "run" is hysterical. He constantly seems just about to lose his balance and is always changing direction like he can never quite figure out which way to go.
I also love the moment Jack first walks out in disguise. He's so much shorter and clearly not as stick thin. It has that great "this is never going to work" feel to the plan.
This episode also sees the return of Grace! I have to admit my biggest regret in The Mercury Men is not writing Grace into the entire series. As soon as I saw the great back-and-forth chemistry between her and Edward in this episode, I instantly knew she would have been a great addition to the entire story. There's always season 2 :)
Episodes 8 and 9 were filmed at night in a parking garage in downtown Pittsburgh. We'd film from 6:00 PM until roughly 5:00 AM, which was the only time the garage was empty of cars. Filming at night meant that we'd eat lunch at midnight. I can't tell you how surreal it was to eat lunch in the middle of the night on the roof of a parking garage in the heart of downtown. Very cool and eerie.
Invaders from Mercury? A brain-in-a-jar? And now a ZOMBIE?!? Well, not a zombie in the technical sense, but the walking dead for sure. Makes a great and atmospheric opening shot, in large part thanks to make-up by Lisa Tedde and cinematography by PJ Gaynard. And if you hadn't figured it out, the dead construction worker is the very same one that Jack and Edward spied taking a lightning bolt to the back in episode 2.
I have to make a confession though. If episode six is my favorite episode, I'm sorry to admit that this episode is my least. (If I'm going to be honest about what I love about The Mercury Men, I figure I ought to be honest about my own shortcomings as well.) I'm afraid my writing/directing just wasn't up to snuff in this episode. Not the dialogue necessarily, but the character actions and plotting. My intent was to get Jack captured and in turn force Edward to choose between fleeing or helping. Unfortunately, Edward's actions to free Jack, as I scripted and directed them, are pretty anticlimactic. He just sneaks up and cuts a rope. I wish I had given Edward a bit more of a challenge. Curt Wooton (Jack Yaeger) however, really poured himself into that torture scene and shows quite a bit of the ol' Harrison Ford type charm.
I do enjoy the second half of the episode though. It's the first time we see Jack and Edward have a straight forward conversation. Having seen Edward display some small amount of courage, Jack seems to now view Edward as a partner rather than a liability. This will pay off in episodes 8 and 9 when we finally see the two of them work together. The closing of this episode is also the first time we see Edward make a vital contribution to the mission, the suggestion of using the dead Mercury Engineer's containment suit as a disguise.
My favorite moment of the episode is hands down the shot of Edward sneaking past the glowing invader. It's a silly visual gag, but Mark Tierno (Edward) is a master of expressive humor and his little shuffle through the shot brings laughter every time.
Fun facts about this episode:
The torture scene was filmed on the construction site of a kids Sunday school room. There are now slides and ball pits everywhere :)
The torture scene was filmed entirely in one day, from 12:00 PM until 6:00 AM.
The actor that plays the zombie construction worker (James Fitzgerald) is none other than Dr. Tomorrow himself.
Here's the latest (really cool) entries in Jack Yaeger's Journal (click to view larger).
Alone and afraid, Edward is contacted by the mysterious commander of the League: Dr. Tomorrow.
Episode six is hands down my favorite episode of the entire series. Through every step of filmmaking, I constantly imagine each scene and episode in my head. It's a mental picture of what I hope the scene will eventually feel like. Much of my work as a director is to communicate the "movie in my head" to the entire cast and crew, through the script, storyboards, etc. That vision serves both as a compass throughout production, but also as the standard I hope to reach. Most of the time, the imagined movie is WAY too high a bar to reach. While I think that forces us to be better than our time, talents, or resources would typically allow, it also means that we fall short of our goal a lot. Episode six however, comes incredibly close to feeling just as I had imagined. It never fails to give me goosebumps when I watch and it always makes me incredibly proud to have worked through the three years of this series.
The theme of this episode is that you are both more important and more capable than you think. It's summarized in Dr. Tomorrow's line "Great things are asked of you every day, whether you recognize them or not." Edward believes he is "nothing," but he holds a government job which asks him to help people every day. To Edward, filling out paperwork or answering questions may be mindnumbing, but to the customers, who may be struggling with things he's unaware of, that simple little form could be life changing. Dr. Tomorrow shares the story of the League as an illustration of how capable man, woman, and Edward Borman, truly are. And as the mysterious commander says, we share those same abilities. Like Edward, we are so often focused on our own goals, to-do lists, or just getting through the work of the day, that we may miss those small moments where we could help another, an act which is often disguised as the mundane but could be life changing. Can you think of a better task than to have helped the life of another human being? Truly, great things are asked of YOU every day, whether you recognize them or not.
Dr. Tomorrow was a sketch I made in while not paying attention in a college class. Over 10 years later I was finally able to turn him into a real character. The exact sketch appears below in Jack's Journal.
The television Dr. Tomorrow appears on actually had no tube, it's an empty plastic shell. The screen was added digitally.
The old-timey song featured in this episode "Turn Off Your Light Mr. Moon Man" is 100 years old.
While Edward is trying to use the walkie talkie to call for help, his shadow on the wall appears as if he is praying.
Here's the latest entries in Jack's Journal (click to view larger).
Mere moments after deciding to create a retro black and white cliffhanger serial, one of the my very first thoughts was "it MUST have a brain-in-a-jar." It just wouldn't have that 1950's vibe without it. The key to a good brain is the VOICE, and actor Nathan Hollabaugh's cold and monotone delivery is spot on.
Indiana Jones fans may notice that Jack's slow approach to the brain sitting on the desk draws great inspiration from Indy approaching the fertility idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark. As a HUGE Indy fan, Curt Wootton was thrilled to pay homage to the character. (Click to view image on left larger.)
This episode also features the first mention of the Chief Designer, the villain behind the villain. The brain, known as 'The Battery,' has been sent to orchestrate the Chief Designer's plans. Much like Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin's brief mention of the Emperor in the first Star Wars, this secret villain will have a great impact on the future world of The Mercury Men.
Here's the new entry in Jack Yaeger's Journal (Click to view larger)
Separated from Jack, Edward is trapped in a descending elevator with a ruthless Mercury Engineer.
The elevator attack was inspired by a scene in the James Bond film, From Russia With Love. Towards the end of the film, Bond fights Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in a tiny train compartment. The fight is sloppy and desperate as opposed to the usual artful fight choreography we're accustomed to seeing in movies. I always loved the idea of trapping my hero in a tiny space with a dangerous enemy. It's compounded further by the fact that unlike James Bond, Edward has absolutely no fight skills or training. He simply has to do his best to survive.
This episode is another example of how the story's point-of-view sticks with Edward. Instead of showing Jack running down flights of stairs I decided to keep us in that elevator with Edward. Like Edward, we have no idea if Jack is going to be able to help.
The location of this episode was the 2nd floor of an office building we used throughout the shoot. For some reason that entire floor 1) was 30 degrees hotter than the rest of the building and 2) SMELLED AWFUL! No matter what time of day, it ALWAYS smelled of body odor. Any time it was announced that we'd be filming on that floor you'd hear a groan from the entire cast & crew. We jokingly called the Mercury Engineer a "baked potato" since he was wrapped in silver aluminum on an extremely hot set.
Behind-the-scenes trivia: the Mercury Engineers, or "containment suit invaders" as they were described in the script, were first created because I wanted to have at least one classic fight scene between the heroes and their enemies. That would have been impossible for me to do with the normal glowing invaders which are added in post-production. Once we knew there would be a special class of Mercury invader, I had to create a reason for their containment suits: to protect the Gravity Engine from their destructive energy. A small example of how ideas can generate in different ways from very practical reasons.
A special thanks to our costumer Ricky Lyle who created the great Mercury Engineer containment suits, modeled of course after the classic NASA Mercury and Gemini spacesuits. Ricky dreams of one day seeing a fan walking Comic Con in one of his creations :)
Here's the latest entries in Jack Yaeger's Journal (click to view larger).