McNeill On Helming 'The Breach'By Caillan
April 23, 2003 - 6:16 AM
See Also: 'The Breach' Episode Guide
When UPN airs "The Breach" tonight, one person who will be especially interested in seeing how the latest Enterprise episode turned out is director Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris).
"I'm curious to see the final cut of the episode," McNeill told his official web site. Since the episode came in eight minutes shorter than the usual running time, McNeill had to rush back and shoot some extra footage. "It was so close to the air date — it was only a couple of weeks ago — that there was no time for me to look at the dailies or edit a director's cut. So I just shot the film and gave it to them. I haven't seen the final cut of the episode."
"The Breach" features an ambitious stunt sequence, in which Connor Trinneer (Charles 'Trip' Tucker), Dominic Keating (Malcolm Reed) and Anthony Montgomery (Travis Mayweather) rappel down into the centre of an alien planet to rescue stranded Denobulan geologists. Although McNeill had a massive rock wall set to work with, he had to film the scene in such a way that it really looked like the Enterprise crew were descending into a planet.
"So we used every inch of that set, every angle we could find to shoot the sequence. Any place I could put the actors on the wall — I put them there. To maintain the illusion that they were travelling miles and miles, I could never shoot the whole set. We'd move the actors over ten or fifteen feet to the side and change the camera angle, and it would look like they were coming down another hundred feet below where they just had been. When the stunt sequence was finished, everyone who saw it, just looked at it and said wow, it plays beautifully. It's something out of Vertical Limit or Cliffhanger, one of those big mountain climbing movies."
In counterpoint to the action sequences, "The Breach" also features a more character-centric storyline for Doctor Phlox. "The Phlox story, the doctor's story, reveals a part of Phlox's life back home for the first time, that I think is really interesting," McNeill said. "There is a wonderful, very simple little scene in the mess hall with Phlox and T'Pol that really played beautifully. The shot design came out very elegant, and it turned out to be one of those very simple scenes that only required two camera setups for the whole scene. Sometimes these simple, quiet scenes are the strongest ones in a show."
McNeill is scheduled to return to the Paramount lot in August to shoot an episode of Enterprise's third season, and is currently preparing to direct an instalment of Dead Like Me, from former Voyager scribe Bryan Fuller. But to make sure his acting skills are kept in good shape while he's calling the shots behind the scenes, McNeill is developing a new theatrical enterprise with Connor Trinneer.
"Connor Trinneer and myself have talked about doing a stage production of Sam Sheperd's True West. I like him a lot, and we get along very well and have similar sensibilities, and I think we could play brothers very easily. I think it'll be a lot of fun to do a play like that as an actor's exercise. So Connor and I are going to get together over hiatus and read through the play and think about how we can put this together in a way that doesn't put too much pressure on us. I don't want to pursue a Broadway run or anything like that. I haven't been acting for so long, though, it'll be fun for me to sit down and work hard on a character."
McNeill's official web site is currently auctioning off two autographed items to benefit his charities, including Pediatric AIDS and The Wildwood School. To bid on a Hallmark Delta Flyer ornament or an Infested DVD, head over to this page.
The full interview, in which McNeill talks more about directing for Enterprise, Dead Like Me and The Dead Zone, can be found here at RobertDuncanMcNeill.net.