DB Sweeney............Mike Pinocchio
Scott Bairstow............Lt Thomas Hobbes
Max Martini............Mel Waters
Terry O' Quinn............Omar Santiago
Sarah-Jane Redmond............A Civilian Woman
Lance Henriksen............Army General (Pilot episode)
Gillian Anderson............Training video voice-over (Pilot episode)
Synopsis Chris Carter, the award-winning creator of The X-Files and Millennium, steps into a new arena with another innovative, ground-breaking television event -- Harsh Realm. Based on the comic-book series, Harsh Realm explores a highly advanced virtual reality world -- where anything is possible.
After seeing the horrors of war in Sarajevo, Lt. Thomas Hobbes (played by Scott Bairstow) is finally ready to settle down with his fiancé Sophie (played by Samantha Mathis). But the military has one more assignment for Hobbes: test out the newest in military combat training -- a top-secret computer simulation known as "Harsh Realm."
Inside Harsh Realm, Hobbes immediately finds himself fighting for his life, forming an uneasy alliance with a virtual character, Mike Pinnochio (played by D.B. Sweeney). But as he pursues his "mission" -- beating the highest-scoring player, Omar Santiago (played by Terry O' Quinn) -- Hobbes begins to realize that Harsh Realm is more than just a game. And what's worse: he's trapped inside this world, which is without rules and without mercy.
Fall Review - Mr Showbiz - "Harsh Realm More Blade Runner than Matrix?"
Harsh Realm, the new virtual reality series by conspiracy-minded X-Files creator Chris Carter is already drawing comparisons to the monster box office VR flick The Matrix. Carter admits he did have existing films in mind when he created his new show, but not the ones you think.
In an interview with Eon Magazine, Carter says, "What I wanted to do was to do a TV show that had elements of some of my favorite movies: Paths of Glory, Platoon, Blade Runner, and a lot of really good early war movies. And this was my way of doing that, using a contemporary element, which was the virtual reality element. This I think has a tremendous romantic story and has a great mythology potential as well." Like The X-Files, Harsh Realm will deal with conspiracies and mind-altering realities. However, unlike its cult predecessor, the new series isn't about little green men and vast UFO domination plans, but a military training simulator that's more than meets the eye.
Harsh Realm stars Scott Bairstow as a soldier who's tapped to test the newest in military combat training, a top-secret computer simulation known as "Harsh Realm." D.B. Sweeney (once the star of Strange Luck, a brief X-Files lead-in), Samantha Mathis, and Rachel Hayward co-star. Of course, Carter isn't playing up that Matrix reference, although he realizes his new show's similarities to the Keanu Reeves action flick.
"I didn't know about The Matrix until our show was shot," he admits to Eon. "I saw it and there were elements that I think you're going to find in any kind of parallel world idea. So I think there were some similarities." Carter admits to being "super impressed by the special effects" in The Matrix, effects he presumably won't be able to afford in a weekly series. However, the constraint of a weekly series is also what will differentiate Harsh Realm from the Wachowski Brothers' sci-fi trilogy.
"Even though it is a virtual reality idea, it's different than The Matrix. We've set the stage for many episodes of this show, where a [television show based on] The Matrix might have to change its concept a little bit in order to do the same thing," says Carter.
Carter says he became interested in doing a virtual reality-themed series after X-Files producer-director Dan Sackheim showed him the Harsh Realm comic. "There were elements in it that I really liked a lot and I thought it was a great vehicle for telling a series of stories," Carter recalls. "No one had ever tackled virtual reality in a satisfactory way on network television. (Apparently, Carter's not the only one to have forgotten the virtual reality series VR5, one of many short-lived X-Files lead-ins.)
And, of course, neither Carter nor the Eon interviewer brought up Tron, that trapped-in-a-computer-game dud from 1982.
While making the point that Harsh Realm is a show that is "of its time," Carter is quick to point out X-Files was ahead of its time, "for cell phones alone, it was important!"
Fall Review - Entertainment Weekly
In the midst of a new fall season populated with freshly scrubbed 20 year olds jabbering to each other and the cameras about their amusingly mundanelittle lives, there's another place to visit - a grungy, dangerous place filled with people who are either desperate to escape or eager to keep anyone from leaving. Thank heaven - or is that hell? - for Chris Carter. Harsh Realm is the new Carter whatchamacallit. Like his X Files, like his Millennium, it is an assiduously unclassifiable show: not exactly a sci-fi story, not merely a suspense series, not quite a futuristic saga. It's a show about, in the words of its creator, "a world that's a duplicate of ours, set inside a computer game, in which real people are sent into the game to play, sometimes at the peril of their lives."
Carter has taken little more than the title from an obscure early-'90s comic book and turned it into his latest foray into speculative fiction. "Of the three shows I've done," he says, "this has the most potential as a varied storytelling vehicle." Concurs star Scott Bairstow (last seen being abusive to Neve Campbell on Party of Five), "What's cool about the show is...it's almost in the vein of a Star Trek, 'cause you can go anywhere and do anything within the parameters that Chris has set." And as the show's admirably-blunt costar D.B. Sweeney says, "Carter's hungry again. He's got a lot of money now, but I think he wants to prove that The X Files was no fluke."
Realm plops Bairstow's decorated Army vet into Harsh Realm, a computer game that was designed by the Cold War-era military-industrial complex to play out possible combat scenarios. When the Cold War ended, Harsh Realm was intended to be dismantled, but by that time, the game had evolved to such a sophisticated degree that it took on a life of its own. "Some of the guys who played the game entered the computer world completely and decided to stay," explains Carter. Chief among them is Santiago (Millennium's Terry O'Quinn), a rebel soldier with visions of despotic grandeur who disobeys Army orders to leave Harsh Realm. Instead, he builds a kingdom of his own inside the game, where he acts as a benevolent but hyper-controlling dictator. "I wanted to do something about totalitarian states - how they form,and who's attracted to them," says Carter, who'll be writing most of the season's stories and hopes to direct a few. The show is being shot in The X Files' old stomping grounds, Vancouver, Canada, where, Sweeney says, "they've built some government buildings that are really beautifully designed. It's sort of a neoclassical-meets-fascist view of the world." Sweeney plays Pinocchio, a fellow soldier who, with Bairstow's Tom Hobbes, wants to first bring down Santiago and then get the heck out of the game and back into the real world. In the pilot, Hobbes and Pinocchio don't really trust each other -they're not sure who's a good guy or a bad guy in Harsh Realm - but they're also united in rescuing Hobbes' one true love, played by Samantha Mathis. This makes for an unusual pair of TV heroes. "It's all coming from Chris, and he doesn't really tell you everything," says Sweeney. "But I sense that what he has in mind for Hobbes and Pinocchio is an uneasy alliance of necessity. I don't think you'd ever call it a friendship. But we're definitely allies." Bairstow has a more mythic interpretation of the duo's partnership:"It's like sort of a Luke Skywalker-Han Solo relationship. We're buddies, we both believe in each other, but it's a sort of a strange [alliance] as well, sort of an odd couple. D.B.'s character's much more of a veteran; I'm a little naive.But he kind of shows me the bricks." Little-known fact: Bairstow has actually worked for Carter before. "Scott was in X-Files' first year," says Carter, "[as a healer] in an episode called Miracle Man, and we kept running into each other and saying, 'We should work together again.' After he finished Party of Five last year, he had a development deal with ABC, but once I got Harsh Realm rolling, the network was gracious enough to let him leave that deal and come with us." And where will that journey ultimately lead? "The world of Harsh Realm offers us the opportunity to tell a much wider range of stories than in either X-Files or Millennium," asserts Carter. "Some of these will even be comic; we can digress into different areas of the realm and zoom in on new, different characters from week to week." In other words, sums up Carter, "it's going to be a good, bumpy ride."
Comics2Film website 4th July 1999
Artist Andrew Paquette dropped us a line this week to share his impressions of Chris (X-Files) Carter's Harsh Realm TV Pilot. The pilot is based on the comic that Paquette and writer James Hudnall co-created. Last week Hudnall made some favorable public remarks about the pilot and Paquette echoes those sentiments.
"This is just to second Jim Hudnall's thumbs up on the HR pilot," Paquette told C2F, "It is an appealing appetizer for a mystery that has the legs to fascinate for many years to come. I particularly enjoyed Terry O'Quinn's Omar Santiago character and look forward to the development of the two main protagonists in the series, played by D.B. Sweeney and Scott Bairstow."
As reported last week, Carter regulars Lance Henriksen (Millennium) and Gillian Anderson (X-Files) make appearances in the pilot. Paquette commented, "When Jim told me about the Gillian Anderson appearance I made some effort trying to figure out how they'd managed to disguise her so completely that she was unrecognizable, but then I found her; in an uncredited voice over. A very virtual appearance, appropriate for the show." Paquette went on to comment about the appealing aspects of Carter's interpretation of the material, "It reminds me of Saving Private Ryan, the [Harsh Realm] comic, and The Matrix. Probably the scariest thing about it is the difference between a typical war simulation which is understood to be a simulation and limited in scope, and what Carter delivers to us here and is something else entirely."
The TV show airs Fridays at 9pm this fall on Fox.
Cinescape Online 29th June 1999
'Harsh Realm' clarification
Yesterday, the Insider mentioned that Lance Henriksen and Gillian Anderson make cameo appearances in the pilot episode of Chris Carter's new series, Harsh Realm. While that info is accurate, a little birdy dropped by chirped the following correction in my ear. "Just a clarification for your news regarding Harsh Realm of yesterday. Yes, a much, much beefier Lance Henriksen does appear as a high ranking army officer in the pilot. He is the man who sends Hobbes on his mission. Gillian Anderson, however, is only heard via narrative voice-overs. She is not seen."
Cinescape Online 28th June 1999
Hudnall Talks ‘Harsh Realm’
Confirming previous rumors, James Hudnall, co-creator of Harsh Realm with Andrew Paquette, is happy about the pilot episode of Chris Carter's new television series based on his comic book. While talking to the Detroit News Comic Book Continuum, Hudnall revealed his opinion saying, "It is excellent. One of the best TV pilots I have ever seen. However, he (Carter) changed the characters and the setting to modern times. It's now sort of like a cross between The Matrix and Apocalypse Now."
Hudnall also has kudos for select cast members saying, "D.B. Sweeney is great. He is like a hard-edged Han Solo, and Scott Bairstow is also really cool. Terry O'Quinn makes for a great villain." Hudnall also revealed that the pilot features appearances by Lance Henriksen (Millennium) and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).
Glen Schaefer, Staff Reporter The Province
It's no big surprise to the people who made the pilot for Chris Carter's new TV series that Harsh Realm was picked up by the Fox network for an initial 13 episodes.
"We sort of knew when we were filming it that it had a very good likelihood of being picked up," said art director Greg Loewen, among the Vancouver crew hired to work on the show's pilot. "Chris Carter, new series, yeah.".
The Penticton-raised Loewen won an Emmy for his work on The X-Files. He teamed up again with former X-Files production designer Graeme Murray for Harsh Realm's pilot last spring. The new series will star Winnipeg-raised Scott Bairstow, Vancouver's Max Martini and Rachel Hayward alongside Americans Samantha Mathis, D.B. Sweeney and Terry O'Quinn. .
Production on the series starts in July with up to 300 crew members working on each $2 mil US episode. Frank Spotnitz, the show's Los Angles-based executive producer, said they'll bring back many of the same Vancouver actors and crew who worked on The X-Files. .
"We were very happy with the pool of talent we found in Vancouver," Spotnitz said yesterday. "There was a whole extended family of actors we returned to again and again on the X-Files. Their faces popped up in different roles over the years." Harsh Realm, based loosely on a short-lived comic book series, is about a computer-generated world that parallels ours. Carter kept little of the comic book but the title and has spun a story about a virtual world designed as a training ground for soldiers. That setting had Murray and Loewen conjuring up a Pennsylvania military base in the Lower Mainland. It's yet another place Vancouver can pretend to be, a point in the city's favour. .
"People know where it's being shot and you get the buzz down in L.A. and on an international basis," Loewen said. But Murray and Loewen won't be there when Harsh Realm starts production. The pair have been lured away by Steven Spielberg for his new Vancouver show, Taken.
By Steve James
NEW YORK (Reuters) - One month after the Columbine High School massacre shocked America, the Fox network said Thursday it was cutting back on its often-violent "reality-based" shows even as two of its new dramas feature bullets and blood.
Announcing its programming lineup for the upcoming fall season, the TV network said it has dropped "World's Wildest Police Videos," which showed actual police footage that often featured violent confrontations with criminals. Also dropped from Saturday nights are two more "reality-based" shows -- "Guinness World Records: Prime Time," about people doing wacky things, and "World's Funniest," featuring home videos of ordinary people.
However, "Cops" -- another show that follows police around with a camera -- and "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," in which crimes are re-enacted with actors, will remain an integral part of the Saturday night Fox lineup.
"Last year we made a lot of ground with men, mostly on the reality-based shows, but we promised ourselves and promised our viewers to back away from reality shows a little," said Doug Herzog, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co. "We have made good on our promise, although that stuff still has a place at Fox."
Asked at a news conference if the April 20 shooting rampage that left 15 people dead in Littleton, Colo., would result in a toning down of on-screen violence, Herzog said:
"There's concern overall from our point of view. We've seen some dramatic changes in the country's attitudes toward violence over the last couple of weeks, and it's something we are very focused on at the network.
"We're about to embark on a PSA (public service announcement) campaign against violence with some of our stars."
On Wednesday, rival network CBS said it had dropped plans to premiere the Mafia drama "Falcone" out of concerns about TV violence following the Columbine shooting.
Herzog's pledge to monitor violence at Fox came after he unveiled a new season lineup featuring two Friday night dramas, which appeared violent from the trailers showed to reporters.
"Harsh Realm," created by Chris Carter, the man behind the Fox hit "The X-files," is about a soldier ordered to test a top-secret military combat training game. But he gets caught up in a world of sometimes violent virtual reality in a test of whether he can stay alive and eliminate his rival. The trailer showed plenty of shootings and bombings.
"Chris Carter's not about guns and explosions, he's about great characters and great stories, and that's why people come to 'The X-files' and why hopefully they will come to 'Harsh Realm,"' Herzog said.
"It's a sensitive issue and we will be keeping our eye on it, no doubt about it. This ('Harsh Realm') will be a little more action-oriented than 'X-files,' but it will be responsible."
The other new drama, "Ryan Caulfield," is about a rookie policeman who on his first day on the job is at the scene of a multiple homicide. The trailer showed him walking among the blood-splattered bodies and later shooting at suspects.
Pressed by reporters, Herzog said: "The 'cops' shows, again we'll have to watch closely.
"We need to have a balance ... We need to do it in a responsible manner and do it in context. The thing is to react to it and be responsible but not to overreact to it. But there's no question it's a real hot button (issue) out there."
As for the rest of its fall lineup, Fox is following the brodcast maxim that viewers can never have too much of a good thing.
So next season, there will be two segments of "Ally McBeal" a week. In addition to the one-hour show on Monday nights, the network will air a half-hour "Ally" on Tuesdays. The new segment will focus on one of the story lines from the full-length show and could contain new or previously unseen footage, Herzog said.
Monday night, in which Herzog said Fox is aiming at women viewers, will also see the debut of "Time of Your Life," a drama starring "Party of Five" star Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Returning Fox staples are "The X-files," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "The Simpsons."
Twenty-six TV series were filmed in B.C. last year and this year has started out even better. So what's the big deal about one more show? Numbers such as last year's $800 million in film production don't tell the whole story, says B.C. film commissioner Peter Mitchell. "There's profile and cachet," he says of the prospect that producer Chris Carter's Vancouver-made Harsh Realm could become a critical and audience success."The publicity around X-Files, the fact that everybody knew that it was a Vancouver crew doing that -- it was a great opportunity to showcase the talent and the area."Carter's got an automatic following, people will watch that show simply because it's a Chris Carter show, right off the bat. It means more publicity for B.C., the kind you can't buy."Mitchell said Carter's shows have always been well-organized so that ambitious location shoots have generally gone off with minimal disruptions to neighbours.And Carter has showcased home-grown talent in front of the camera as well, by choosing Canadian actors as three of six Harsh Realm regulars."That's part of a trend," Mitchell says. "Producers who come here regularly figure out that talent is here at all levels."Mitchell, himself an X-Files fan, is curious about the highly-secret new show as well. "I look forward to seeing Harsh Realm. His shows are generally more intelligent than the average fare."
Role heats up Martini's career
Max Martini looks under the outdoor table at a downtown cafe, after he's asked the name of his character in Harsh Realm. "Is this thing bugged?"He's only half-joking. The 29-year-old Martini is one of the regulars on Chris Carter's new Vancouver-shot series."I just got off the phone with Chris," says Martini as we sit down. "He said, 'Don't say anything about the show.'" Oh all right, he plays a soldier named Waters. But you didn't hear it from me.Martini, back in uniform for Harsh Realm after playing one of the soldiers in last summer's Saving Private Ryan, first met Carter at an audition earlier this year in Los Angeles, where he got a taste of the legendary Carter secrecy."The audition scripts were printed in red, so that if you try to photocopy them they come out black," says Martini. "And each page I got was stamped 'Max Martini,' so if they got out, they'd know where they came from. This is like the top-secret show in America."
The cast -- including Martini, D.B. Sweeney, Scott Bairstow and Terry O'Quinn -- were in Vancouver last month and did three days of military training in the Coquitlam woods prior to filming."We were eating these MREs (military rations) that were packed in 1993.They're supposed to have a shelf life of 75 years," complains Martini."Everybody told me not to eat the peanut butter, 'cause it's made to constipate you. Now I haven't had a decent bowel movement in ages."The people doing the training were the same ex-U.S. military consultantswho worked on Private Ryan for director Steven Spielberg.Martini, who grew up in and around Saltspring Island with his mom Pat and actor-director stepfather Stuart Margolin, has had his share of breaks in 12 years of acting. Aside from Private Ryan, he played a scruffy space-watcher opposite Jodie Foster in Contact and scored a choice role closer to home as a wayward cop last year on CBC's hit series Da Vinci's Inquest.His wife, fellow actor Kymberley Restell, had a recurring role on Poltergeist: The Legacy. But the new Carter series is a whole other level."This was the show in L.A. for actors to get," Martini says. "When my agent got the news she was screaming on the phone but nothing was coming out."News that he was signed to do Harsh Realm is already heating up his career outside the show. Suddenly, movie scripts are coming in -- one with Robert De Niro already attached, another with John Travolta and one from Gus Van Sant.Says Martini: "You can't pay for that kind of publicity." Carter is known for playing off his actors' own personalities in devising his plotlines and Martini -- good-looking in a guy-next-door, red-haired kind of way -- is looking forward to seeing how that develops."It's amazing -- as I talk to the producers there's so much flexibility to the storylines," he says. "Every day I learn something more about my character and its twistedness."Not that he's learned anything he can reveal, you understand. The Harsh Realm role also means they'll have to figure out a way to write his recurring character out of the Vancouver-set Da Vinci's Inquest.Meanwhile, the Harsh Realm cast have all been signed to seven-year contracts, in anticipation of a long series run. This kind of security has to mean something financially to a young actor, doesn't it?"It's decent," Martini admits. "I know Kym and I spent all last night on the Internet, checking out ranches for sale in Montana." Not such a Harsh Realm to be in, actually.
Glen Schaefer, Movie Reporter The Province
Chris Carter has news for anyone who thought he left Vancouver when The X-Files did. "It's not like you've seen any less of me this year,"says the writer-producer, who's had his hands full this month with Harsh Realm, his big-ticket pilot for a new TV series. The 43-year-old Carter, who keeps a place in Vancouver's West End, gets to sounding positively home-grown when he starts talking about working in B.C.
"Shooting up here in the intense way that I have -- I've filmed almost 200 hours of television up here -- you get familiar with a lot of the crew, the locations, the town and the pool of acting talent." Carter notes that aside from a couple of lead roles, Millennium and the Vancouver-filmed episodes of The X-Files were acted entirely by Canadians. For Harsh Realm, he's dipping even deeper into the Canadian talent pool, with three Canadians among the six series regulars.Winnipeg-raised Scott Bairstow stars, and fellow Canadians Max Martini and Rachel Hayward play alongside Americans Samantha Mathis, D.B.Sweeney and Terry O'Quinn.Behind the cameras, Carter has pulled in several Vancouver creative types from his X-Files days, including production designer Graeme Murray, cinematographer Joel Ransom and art director Greg Loewen.
Carter made his TV fortune in Vancouver six years ago with The X-Files,a moody cops-and-aliens long shot. Then he mined a darker vein with Millennium. The X-Files took off for Los Angeles last year, at the request of the show's stars, and low ratings have kept Millennium's future dicey at the end of each season. With Harsh Realm, Carter's looking for another mainstream smash."We had no anticipation with The X-Files pilot, we only tried to make it good and we got very lucky," says Carter. Harsh Realm raises the stakes."I'd like to make this new TV series a big hit," says Carter. "It's really fun to tell stories with actors and characters that you like.I'm looking forward to this being another way to explore the things I'm interested in." With a budget of $6.5 million, a longer-than-usual 16-day shooting schedule and enough effects work to simulate a war,Harsh Realm has a scale beyond that of most series pilots. "A pilot is the origin of life for a TV series," says Carter."The episodes that will spring from it -- and you hope you'll have 100-plus -- have to live up to its production standards, story-telling standards and performance standards. "There are a million ways to fail and you try to always step boldy but cautiously forward." If the Fox network approves Harsh Realm as a series -- and no one thinks they won't -- the show would start production in July, with Carter up here every week to watch over it and do most of the writing."For the record, I love the rain," says Carter, laughing."As little as it rains here, I love it."Carter says the show would be on a scale with The X-Files, which had as many as 300 crew members working on each episode by the fifth year of production. Budgets would be as much as $2 million US an episode.
Carter juggles his producing duties with his first love -- the writing.He's banging out The X-Files season finale as we speak, and is also working on a deal to write a novel. Down the road, there's the next X-Files movie, which would come some time after the show's next -- and likely final -- season. And who knows, Carter might end up filming that movie in Vancouver as well."We're too far away from any kind of solid decisions on when and where,"says Carter, adding he doesn't have a script for the movie yet. "It's in the thinking stages right now but, in spite of what many people believe, I know David Duchovny would love to come back here and shoot an X-Files movie."Harsh Realm plot details? No way!The more you ask Chris Carter about the plot of his new TV show Harsh Realm, the more cagey he gets. "I'm being a bit cryptic, because already I've got spoilers on the Internet, who are trying to spoil our secrets," says Carter during a break in filming.The pilot episode concerns a small group of soldiers who spend sometime in Sarajevo, circa 1994, and encounter a computer-generated world that parallels our own. After that, the details get sketchy."It's a virtual-reality idea that takes place in two worlds," says Carter. "This world and another, virtual world." Harsh Realm is Carter's adaptation of a comic book about a private eye, who searches a virtual reality world for a missing teenager. The comic series surfaced only briefly in the early '90s but it struck a chord with Carter. "I've taken off from the comic book," says Carter. "We took the name and the idea of a virtual world. We just turned it into a TV series and changed some elements."Carter's downbeat Millennium never really caught fire with the mainstream TV audience the way The X-Files did but he figures Harsh Realm will press more viewer buttons. "There'll be something for everyone, it's a very romantic show," he says. "It's got old-fashioned heroes in it, good dramatic situations, against a backdrop of the military and war." The series stars Scott Bairstow, D.B. Sweeney and Max Martini, along with Samantha Mathis and Rachel Hayward. "There are two very strong female characters," says Carter."Samantha's role is one that spans both the worlds that I was talking about -- I can't say much more. Rachel plays what I would call a very strong healer."What about bad guys? Carter won't say, but Terry O'Quinn, who played the blowed-up FBI bomb expert in the big-screen X-Files movie, is in Harsh Realm as an officer gone all Heart of Darkness.Carter's fascination with helicopters is brought over from The X-Files-- Harsh Realm's cast and crew spent a couple of days playing with guns and military-style choppers in Surrey -- but there are no black oil or bees to be seen. And why does Carter keep coming back to science fiction?"The X-Files and Millennium are both big-canvas shows," he says."They deal with questions of religion, existence and philosophy. You have the potential to tell stories that are allegorical to our own existence."Science fiction -- what I would prefer to call speculative science --is a fertile ground in which to tell those stories." Harsh Realm's military setting also gives an outlet to talk about world politics,Carter says. "I'll be able to comment on just how screwed up every thing is.
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Sun SATURDAY, MARCH 208:17 a.m.
Burly, bearded assistant director Vladimir (Val) Stefoffs quints into the early morning sun, takes one look at a mockup of a bombed-out church near Cordova and Abbott streets and yells, Robin Williams-style: "Good mooorning, Vancooouver!"
9:03 a.m. A lighting technician asks cinematographer Joel Ransom if one of his colleagues is qualified to pull off a tricky camera move. Ransom: "If he knows the difference between four feet and five feet, then he can do the job."
10:17 a.m. A studious-looking extra, dressed in a tattered, torn grey longcoat in his role as a Sarajevo refugee, is reading The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis while waiting for his scene to be shot. I later mention this to Harsh Realm writer-producer Chris Carter. "One of the things you learn quickly in this business," he says, with a wry smile,"is that extras will do anything to get noticed."
10:23 a.m. "I hate the sunshine," key grip Al Campbell says, casting asour look at the uncharacteristically clear sky. The crew anticipated rain; now they will have to fake a cloudy sky in case it rains the next day.
2:10 p.m. Props assistant Ina Brooks wanders around the set with a plastic bag filled with earplugs while armourer Rob Fournier unpacks a crate of M16s. "For my protection and your protection," Brooks intones loudly while handing out the plugs. Most of the crew take her up on her offer.
2:12 p.m. How can people communicate with each other if they have plugsstuck in their ears? Ransom: "We just kind of make it up as we go along."
2:41 p.m. I pick up a prop M16 and feel the cheap, plastic workmanship where one would expect metal. I imagine real M16s are much heavier, Itell Fournier. "That is a real one," he replies.
3:41 p.m. Joanne Service, Carter's assistant in Vancouver for five years before leaving with the departure of The X-Files, blocks her ears for an upcoming shot. "Has it happened yet?" she asks plaintively, and uncovers her ears. The quiet is instantly shattered by a hail of gunfire.
4:10 p.m. Gaffer Richard (Bucky) Buckmaster proudly shows off his three-month-old son to an admiring crew."Good thing it looks like him," Campbell says. "I wonder when he had the time to do that?" "Too many hour lunches," Carter replies.
5:03 p.m. A woman's voice, seemingly disconnected, heard above the noise: "I'm getting a headache from all this gunfire."
5:17 p.m. A props assistant spills a bag of Cheezies all over the streetand sheepishly scoops them up, one by one. "Yeah, spill Cheesy Poofs all over a Sarajevo street, why don't you?" another technician says,witnessing the scene. "That'll look real good in continuity."
5:46 p.m. "We're losing the light," co-executive producer Tony To announces. By now, everybody is too tired -- and too cold -- to block their ears against the gunfire.
7:10 p.m. "I lose the kids at 7:30," To tells director Daniel Sackheim,referring to an industry rule that says young actors can work no later than that hour. "We wrap at 7:30."8:45 p.m. Shooting wraps.
SUNDAY, MARCH 217: 08 a.m. The day dawns pissing with rain, a biting wind blowing hard from the east. Production manager George Grieve folds his arms and regards the sky unhappily. "It could be worse," he says.
8:19 a.m. Sackheim calls for a gunfire test. Muzzle flashes and gun shots erupt from the Downtown Parking Centre parkade on Cordova, echoing off the surrounding buildings. Ungurait looks up from her notes happily."Good mooorning, Vancooouver!" she yells.
8:26 a.m. Sackheim wants to make the Sarajevo street set look more realistic. "How about a dead dog with flies buzzing around it?" he says."How about a two-legged dog with flies?" Ungurait adds."How about one dead American director?" To says.
8:35 a.m. "How do you take your coffee?" a production assistant asks Sackheim."With cyanide," To interjects.
10:41 a.m. Between setups, To tells anybody who will listen an old show-business joke. "There's this movie package being put together in heaven that's going to be the greatest movie ever made, see?" he says."The pitch from the top goes something like this: Will Shakespeare is going to write the script. Michelangelo is our designer. We've got Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the music. Perfect. So far, the best movie ever. There's just one other thing, by the way: God has a girlfriend who can sing."
11:17 a.m. Sackheim calls a crew meeting. "Group hug!" Stefoff shouts."Group hug!"
8:03 p.m. As the Oscars drone on, Harsh Realm cast-member Max Martini,who appeared in Saving Private Ryan as Matt Damon's squad commander, is engaged in a spirited contest of wills with Ungurait, who is rooting for her own favourite, Shakespeare in Love.Martini is suffering the barbs of the crew over being trapped in the basement of the old Woodward's building in a pool of cold, brackish water and mud while his Private Ryan compadres are dolled up in tuxes and tails for the evening, with a night of serious Oscar partying to look forward to.Ungurait has managed to tune a weak, snow-impaired signal from CTV on her video monitor and the crew is giving Martini a running commentary of the evening's events. Martini breaks up the crew with his sarcastic rendition of a typical Gwyneth Paltrow acceptance speech -- plenty of sobbing and clutching the chest -- but Ungurait gets the last laugh when Paltrow cops the Oscar for best actress.Martini briefly gets his own back when Spielberg wins the best director award, but Ungurait is appropriately thrilled when Shakespeare in Love does the unthinkable and tops Ryan for best picture.
9:41 p.m. Shooting wraps to a round of applause and spontaneous hugging.Sackheim: "Thanks for a great week, everybody."
The Vancouver Sun
Alex Strachan, Sun Television Critic Vancouver Sun
Ten Thirteen Productions / SARAJEVO IN VANCOUVER:
In Harsh Realm, a block of Cordovaby the Woodward's building is turned into a bullet-ridden,battle-scarred street in Sarajevo.Shaken, stirred and satisfied. That's how X-Files creator Chris Carter felt after seeing the cast and crew of his new TV series Harsh Realm reproduce the battle-scarred streets of Sarajevo down to the last bullet-scarred detail last weekend on a block-long stretch of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. "Believe me, I don't consider myself to be a philosopher," Carter said,taking in the scene in his characteristic even-tempered, California surfer-dude voice. "This is the amazing thing: I'm telling stories thatI want to tell and people seem to like them. It's really as simple as that. It's all been a dream for me."The weekend was an emotional roller-coaster for the 43-year-old writer and television producer, recently named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the entertainment industry -- thanks toThe X-Files, which has tapped into a worldwide nerve of paranoia and mistrust of government institutions.Understandably, Carter has little time for those who dismiss the television medium as the ruination of society. "Television is an easy target," he said. "It's an easy target for lazy people. Television is the most powerful cultural tool we've ever known and possibly ever will know."
Carter's firstborn, The X-Files, now based in Los Angeles, is guaranteed a seventh season. Fox has indicated it wants an eighth, but Carter says none of the principals, including actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, are committed beyond next season. Carter has said recently his vision for The X-Files is as a series for seven seasons, followed by two or three theatrical films spread out over 10 years or so.For now, though, Carter's attention is focused on Harsh Realm, set to air this fall. For 14 straight hours last Saturday and 15 hours the following day, Carter felt a surge of satisfaction go through him as his crew reproduced a war-torn Sarajevo street from photographs taken during actual street fighting in 1994.Throughout the filming on Cordova Street behind the old Woodward's building, props masters dressed the street with bullet-riddled pages from actual Bosnian newspapers, burned tires and the charred remains of several cars flipped end over end by mortar fire. Carter took calls from Los Angeles on his cell phone throughout the day and chatted quietly with crew members while sporadic bursts of gunfire punctuated his thoughts.While other crew members flinched and blocked their ears against the gunfire -- genuine M16 assault rifles firing blank ammunition and so-called "squibs" -- Carter ruminated at length about his time in Vancouver, the looming millennium, the state of television today, the tolerance and grace of Canadian society and the moral decay of American society."We live in a world where too many people won't go far enough, won't do what they know is right, what they believe," Carter said, echoing a line from his script for the Millennium pilot, squinting into a heavy,windswept rain while across the street, director Daniel Sackheim quietly directed four local children playing Sarajevo refugees caught in a hail of sniper fire.- - -"Shooting in Vancouver has just been a dream, which is why I am back here again," Carter said. But he points out that working here does have a personal cost."The most difficult thing about making The X-Files had to do with keeping the actors away from home for 10 months a year, for five years running. I think that is what was most under-appreciated by those Vancouverites who saw our leaving as some kind of betrayal or treachery.David and Gillian were working away from home, their friends and their family, for five years, and I think that was a huge sacrifice on their part."I fly back and forth all the time, and that has been a sacrifice for me. I've given up a huge amount of my life. But that's been by choice."Carter, who maintains a home away from home in downtown Vancouver, says he never seriously considered pulling out of the city entirely."Vancouver feels like a foreign place to me. And when you stage things in a place that feels foreign, it adds a new element that fiction often needs to be believable. It makes the stories feel as though they are happening in a believable place, but not a familiar place."There are so many different languages spoken here. It feels much more multicultural in a European sense than any of the American cities I've been in. People here seem much more tolerant. The politics here seem to be a little bit more the way I wish they were in the States."There's a much more common-sense approach to political correctness. In America, political correctness has gotten to the point where it is absolutely ridiculous. Really, it's a ridiculous place right now. Here,people seem to have their heads screwed on a little straighter. And thank God, too. Otherwise I probably wouldn't be working here."There are other benefits to working in Vancouver.
Carter said the on-set atmosphere on Harsh Realm is relaxed, unlike in Los Angeles, where sets on TV pilots can vary from anxious confusion to outright chaos.For Carter, the weekend-long staging of an intense gun battle between United Nations peacekeepers and snipers was part bittersweet reunion,part fresh beginning.Carter, who has kept Millennium in Vancouver for the past year, was again working with key members of his Vancouver X-Files crew for five seasons, including two-time Emmy Award-winning production designer Graeme Murray, American Society of Cinematographers nominee Joel Ransom,Steadicam operator Marty McInally, assistant directors Vladimir (Val)Stefoff and Mark Currie, gaffer Richard (Bucky) Buckmaster, continuity supervisor Helga Ungurait and Emmy-winning art director Greg Loewen."One always get excited about doing something new," Carter said."Millennium came at just the right time. Three years into The X-Files we did the pilot for Millennium and now three years into Millennium, we're doing the pilot for Harsh Realm. I think that's the way to do it. All of us working at Ten Thirteen [Carter's production company] hate failure,so you don't see us doing 10 pilots a year and hoping that one hits. We try to put all our energy into something that we believe in and try to make it a hit."Carter is aware of the daunting task facing any new TV series looking to make an impression with viewers disillusioned by chaotic scheduling, a surfeit of mediocrity and executive decisions based on commerce, not art."A new show has to tap into some human concern and tell the stories that need to be told at that moment. Shows succeed for many different reasons, but a show that really comes into its own has to crystallize something. Look at what David Kelley has done with Ally McBeal -- it singlehandedly prompted a Time cover story on the new feminism. This is a person who is striking a chord. It's not just what's entertaining but what's relevant."Carter hasn't made any personal plans for the looming millennium. He will probably be home in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve with Dori, his wife of 12 years. No matter what happens in the real world with Y2K,Carter plans to ring in the new millennium quietly."It's an important date, because even if we can't agree on when Christ was born, we're all moving through history at the same time. We all sort of agree on this date. If anything happens, I believe it will be brought on by man and not by the gods. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: The cultists and militias who could cause problems will do so because they're looking for attention at that time. It really has nothing to do with the date itself -- it has to do with people's perception of that date."
Taken from Cinescape Online (19/03/99)
'Harsh Realm' Character Details
Since Chris Carter's next television venture, the virtual reality series Harsh Realm, is based on a pre-existing comic book, we all have a general idea of what the show will be about. Or do we?
Variety and regular Cinescape contributor 'TomBli' both have information today regarding the series which reveals some definite changes from the original Harsh Realm tale. Perhaps most intriguing, 'TomBli' alleges that the lead character of the comic, Dexter Green, is not in the television series at all. Furthermore, none of the characters from the comic are likely to make the transition from the printed page to the small screen. 'TomBli' writes that Harsh Realm story will now revolve around a military virtual reality simulation gone awry. Initially planned as a training facility for the military, my source alleges that "at some point the virtual beings in the program developed self awareness. They're now dangerous and can even pose a threat to the outside world." The previously mentioned D.B. Sweeney will play the lead character, a soldier now living underground in the VR world, who was sent there five years before the show starts, according to my source. 'TomBli' calls Sweeney's character Thomas Hobbes, which would suggest a cynical nature to those of you familiar with history's great philosophers, though the trade calls him Mike. Scott Bairstow will apparently not play Dexter Green, as previously reported, and seems to be a co-star to Sweeney, not the lead actor as suggested in the past. 'TomBli' writes that the Party of Five thesp will star as a fresh-faced soldier named Waters, who, early buzz suggests, is dispatched into the virtual world to assassinate Terry O'Quinn's Colonel Kurtz-like character, the ruler of the harsh realm. Max Martini will allegedly play a friendly VR character who aides Sweeney and Bairstow in their adventures.
Variety is reporting that Rachel Hayward and Sarah Jane Redmond, both from Millennium, will appear in the show, in addition to repeating the cast members you read about in this space only a few days ago. In closing, TomBli adds that "[t]he remaining possible similarity to the work of James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette will be restricted to its visuals. And that can't be known till the producers release either designs or examples of CGI and model work. Although the sweeping vistas of the comic book would be difficult to 'simulate' Ten Thirteen is known for pulling off the impossible." The Insider attempted to contact Fox for confirmation, but did notreceive word back by press time. (Thanks to 'TomBli' for the always intriguing info.)
Taken from the Harsh Realm official website:
Carter has apparently changed the story completely and dropped the characters from the comic. The TV version has to do with a military experiment gone bad. A Virtual Reality world called Harsh Realm was created for training exercises. But the enemies in the world became too real and can now threaten our world. The ruler of Harsh Realm is played by Terry O'Quinn. The object of the world is to defeat him, but now he's taking the war to us. It's up to the main characters to stop him.
A Hollywood casting sheet sent out from Ten Thirteen Productions to various talent agencies had this to say about the characters:
LT. THOMAS HOBBES (Sweeney), "Clear-eyed, determined, blessed with the quiet, simple intensity of the best soldiers. His quiet heroism and his love for his girl define the essence of his nature. He is a southern, salt of the earth type guy."
MIKE PINNOCHIO (Martini): He is a handsome, conflicted protagonist who appears to look somewhat crazed when we first see him, as life for him is a constant struggle to survive.He is cynical and should havegood comedic timing. SERIES REGULAR (sounds like a Nick Lea role to me)
LT. MEL WATERS (Bairstow): "He once was Hobbes' good friend. Now though, he is working for a potential enemy. He and Hobbes are on opposite sides.
SOPHIE (Mathis?): She is Hobbes fiance. She is beautiful, intelligent with a quiet strength about her. She is a woman whom Hobbes can't wait to come home to. She is physically fit and a survivor.
FLORENCE: She is extremely tall, strong, somewhat masculine. She can handle herself in dangerous situations with grace and ease. She is also mute.
Thursday March 18 3:30 AM ET
Fox, WB add to cast of new TV shows
By Jenny Hontz
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Chris Carter, creator of "The X-Files," has set the cast for his new Fox series "Harsh Realm," an action-adventure drama about a virtual reality computer program used by the military. Scott Bairstow ("Party of Five") plays Hobbes, a soldier sent into the war simulation game program to assassinate a supposedly evil man who created a utopian society. D.B. Sweeney ("Spawn") plays Mike, a soldier sent five years earlier to do the same thing, who now lives underground in the virtual reality world. Terry O'Quinn ("The X-Files" movie) plays the supposedly evil bad guy. Also starring in the pilot, if not necessarily the series, are Samantha Mathis ("Broken Arrow"), Max Martini ("Saving Private Ryan"), Rachel Hayward ("Millennium") and Sarah Jane Redmond ("Millennium"). The series has a 13-episode commitment at Fox.