Guy Norman Bee spoke not once but twice at the Salute to Supernatural convention on Oct. 20 and 22 in Rosemont. He filled in at the last minute for Alona Tal, who cancelled her appearance after getting a TV spot. Bee must have come fresh from the airport. He wheeled his suitcase back behind the curtain before going out on the stage minutes later. True of any veteran director, he wasn't flustered by the sudden and unexpected change in plans. He seemed as cool and unruffled as though that was part of his schedule.
Bee offered an interesting and little-seen side of Supernatural, the production, nuts-and-bolts perspective that is as important as any performance given by the actors. It's the way the director lays out the scene that makes Supernatural look like a movie rather than a TV show. What also struck me is what a down-to-earth person Bee is. After the Q&A, I also saw Bee getting pictures with the fans in front of the Impala poster or just chatting with them.
Fan: Did you plan on getting into horror directing?
BEE: I originally thought I'd be a comedy director. I love comedy movies, such as The Hangover. I thought comedy was my calling, but as I started to work as a director I found horror cool too.
Fan: How did you get into directing?
BEE: At my school there wasn't a directing program. They basically had a camera sitting in a corner and said "Hey, if you can get it to work, feel free to use it." I learned a lot of what I do on the job, just working hard and learning from other directors.
Fan: My daughter wants to be a director? Any advice?
BEE: If she's willing to work hard and she wants it bad enough, the world is her oyster.
Fan: How much time do you have to direct an episode?
BEE: About seven days, sometimes less than that if it's a pilot, which is understandable. The script gets rewritten. They want to make it the best they can, but that gives you less time once it's final and you're ready to shoot. You just do what you can in the time you have. I try to have too much shot than too little when I give it to the editor. Once it gets to the editing room I don't want the editor to say, "That's it? That's all you got?" I try to have at least four cameras for coverage.
Fan: Do you prefer working with film or digital?
BEE: I like digital. It gives you more latitude. What you see is what you get. Back with film you had a viewer that showed you what was going on the film. It was very faint and blurry, like trying to see an image through a glass of milk.
Fan: Do you have any filming tricks you use?
BEE: It's important to mix it up and not use the same ones all the time. Sometimes it's worth laying down 20 feet of track or using steadicam. Sometimes using steadicam saves you time, sometimes it doesn't. You learn the tricks as you go along. One trick I use is called the French Reverse, not to be confused with "The French Mistake" (laughs). Basically you turn the camera 20 degrees and the actors change positions at 20 degrees and it makes it look like a different shot even though you didn't change location.
Fan: Is there an episode on Supernatural you wish you directed?
BEE: "The French Mistake."
BEE: It was interesting because that day I really didn't know how I was going to shoot that scene. I didn't know what to do for 60% of the scene. When I started shooting then it came to me. It's that improvisation on the job that you have to do.
When I shot the warehouse scene it was in the morning so we had to put black fabric over the windows to block out the light as the scene was supposed to take place near sunset. By the time we shot the scene of Dean arriving in the Impala it was just the right time (sunset) so we lucked out on that.
Sometimes the writers have to change the scene. In Vancouver, we have long summer days and long nights in the winter. Usually it's not a problem. Sometimes we have to film from Friday night into Saturday. We call them "Fraturdays." That's always hard when you see people driving home from work on Friday night smiling and you're going to work.
Fan: What was the goo coming out of the Leviathans?
BEE: That was watered down chocolate icing. My daughter wanted to taste it. If it's sugar she's all for it. (laughs) I drank it first before she tried it. It tasted pretty good. (laughs)
Fan: What's the secret to being a reoccurring director on a show?
BEE: I try to shoot the coverage I need. If I get a day and a half's worth of work for every day with less overtime they'll be more likely to invite you back.
BEE: It was a lot of fun. You don't get to shoot that sort of episode (a Western). I don't do a lot of storyboards. I usually draw stick figures and a bird's eye view just to map out the blocking and camera movement.
Fan: If you're interested in directing, what would you recommend for study?
BEE: I'm a big fan of studying artwork. Also take acting classes even if you don't plan to act. It helps you communicate with your actors if you're using their language.
Fan: Do you prefer filming two actors (like on Supernatural) or a lot of actors?
BEE: Definitely two actors (like "Breakfast at Tiffany's") instead of a room full of actors. It's much more of a pain as you need coverage on the other actors, getting their reactions and you have to remember where they're at in the room. Also dinner scenes are problematic. You have to remember how much liquid was drunk, how much was eaten and keep that continuity.
Fan: Is there a chance you'll be directing a miniseries?
BEE: The problem is there are so few episodes and they usually have the directors lined up in advance, so each director is doing three episodes a piece.
Fan: Did you give Jensen direction in regards to folding Castiel's coat?
BEE: That was Jensen's idea, folding it up like for a fallen soldier. It was awkward because otherwise he (Dean) would just be standing there holding the coat. We had to do different takes and wring the coat out because it weighed a ton with the water.
Fan: What was it like filming mannequins?
BEE: Difficult. You set it up and you think it'll look cool but mannequins don't fall like people do. (Does epic mannequin fall)
BEE: When I started the Twitter account it was crazy because overnight I had all these followers. I usually post non-spoiler pictures, pictures of monitors, the boys in a car. With Jared he just came out of the gym van, which comes with us everywhere. Jared looked at the rafter and said, "I'm going to climb that." Now if you've worked with Jared you know if you tell him not do something he'll do it anyway. I took some "art" shots of him silhouetted against the sky, but knew the fans would say "That could be anybody," so I took that picture.