Director Guy Ferland shares the secret to orchestrating walker mayhem and weighs the pros and cons of living in either a post-apocalyptic prison or Woodbury.
Q: You’ve directed episodes in all three seasons. How does this season compare to the first?
A: There’s a little bit of first season peeking through this season. In the first season it seemed like everything we were doing was new and there was a lot of discussion about who was going to live and who was going to die and what kind of tone the show was going to take. This year the same thing was introducing Woodbury. We were always asking the same questions: How self-sufficient do we make it? What are the citizens like? What kind of power does the town have?
Q: What’s the secret to directing big groups of walkers?
A: There were a lot of instances this season where the zombie action was relentless but it wasn’t spelled out in the script specifically. It would be written [that] Rick and the others… dispatch the remaining walkers, so it’s my job to figure out what I wanted. Where is Daryl stabbing people once he’s shot his bow? I’m always looking for new ways to execute the zombie action and I think we’ve done a lot of shooting in heads, so I was trying to bring something different.
Q: What are some twists have you’ve been bringing to the action?
A: Well, I really like to reveal everything — reveal the zombies’ geography and reveal the choice of how to kill the zombie — all from the hero’s point of view. So if you follow Rick when he has to deal with a zombie, you’ll see I reveal it when Rick sees it. You want it to feel like a funhouse with lots of surprises.
Q: You’ve said that Alfred Hitchcock was one of your big influences. Any particularly Hitchcock-esque moments that you’ve worked into this season?
A: I think I channel more De Palma, who channels Hitchock, so it’s kind of the same thing. In Episode 4, we take the time to show Rick’s plan and how he’s executing, which I think is Hitchcockian. Just when the episode is about to get boring all of a sudden, wham, it gets relentless. There’s got to be a build — that’s a Hitchcockian structure.
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Q: Who’s the biggest clown on set?
A: The biggest joker, who always lightens everything up and gets everybody to laugh no matter how big the scene, is Norman [Reedus]. Norman will always do something that is kind of jokey or comedic just to get people to laugh because he likes people smiling. One day they thought he might have injured his arm but he still had to do some motorcycle riding in the next episode. A doctor came to the set and was doing check-up on him. I noticed that while he was getting his blood pressure checked he was still smoking a cigarette. The show is full of moments like that.
Q: We’ve heard a lot about Woodbury and the prison. Having spent time on both sets, which one would you choose in the event of an apocalypse?
A: Even though Woodbury is surrounded by gates, there’s many places to hide and plot and get up on top of things and look around. When I left Woodbury after the episodes I worked on, what I left behind was basically a paradise. Unless the prison becomes more self-sufficient with crops and the like, it would be too confining. I would probably choose Woodbury — without the governor of course.Read More