Director’s Cut: Robert Singer Supernatural executive producer and director Robert Singer on Monster Movie, featuring in issue #9 of The Official Supernatural Magazine.
The Official Supernatural Magazine: Despite the introduction of angels this season, and all the cool storylines that’s led to, the episode that stands out the most in many ways is Monster Movie. Were you excited to be the one directing this unique episode?
I was thrilled to have gotten this one!
While we’d assume you were already a fan of the classic 30s horror films, did you re-watch them before shooting this episode?
I did. Some of them I found really helpful, and others were just kind of crappy… I tried to certainly pay homage to the best of them. I think James Whale (the director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein) was probably the best. The original Dracula had some cool things in it, too. I tried to recreate lenses and the way they were shot and the moves they made and all that, but at the same time I tried to keep it modern. I like to think of Monster Movie as an homage, rather than just a shot-by-shot thing.
Did you have to change your directing style to suit this episode?
Somewhat. We shot it with more traditional wider angle lenses, and the moves were a little more studied, the way they used to film them. Like when the Wolfman attacks the people in the car, I really wanted to make that feel like an old Wolfman movie. I made a conscious effort to shoot that on our soundstage rather than go out to a practical location. You got that backdrop with the moon and the ground fog and all that, which has a certain unreal quality to it, but I thought it was appropriate for that particular scene.
Likewise, as it was black and white, did you have to approach the lighting of the episode differently?
Serge Ladouceur [Supernatural’s Director of Photography] and I talked about this quite a bit. It was a harder light; there wasn’t as much soft light as we normally use. The shadows were deeper and we weren’t afraid of letting the blacks go really black and putting a harder front light on some of the scenes. Serge likes those movies as well, so it was an easy transition for him. We just had a great time doing it. We’d look at the monitors and giggle about how cool it looked!
Do you think Supernatural’s viewers are familiar with those old monster movies?
I think some probably are, but I think most aren’t. Our feeling was that for those who hadn’t seen them, it would be a little bit of an education, and maybe they would then go look at these movies, and for those who had seen them, it would be a fun ride. It worked out well.
Were you concerned about having too many of the myth arc-heavy episodes in a row at the beginning of the season?
That was a discussion we had. We brought up with them that we normally like to spread these things out a little bit, but they felt pretty strongly that it would help launch the season. They weren’t afraid of having that much mythology, which seemed to have worked out well for us. We’re doing great this year!
We’d say you’re doing even better than “great!”
Yeah, it’s pretty remarkable. In the 18–34 [demographic], we’re up 33 per cent, 18–49 we’re up 42 per cent. It’s enormous. It’s a bigger jump than any other show. After three years, I think people have just sort of found us, and I imagine the upward trend will keep going. We’re all happy about that.
It’s great that Supernatural is picking up so many new viewers, but what do the diehard viewers think of season four so far?
The response has overwhelmingly been very positive. The audience seems to love Castiel and that whole mystery. You do these things and you don’t know how they’re going to be received, and we just sort of make these decisions and say, “Well, what would we like to see? What do we think would be interesting?” And we hope the audience agrees. Sometimes they have and sometimes they haven’t… but this year they seem to be really onboard with the story we’re telling.
More specifically, what was the fan response like for Monster Movie?
The show did well and got a good response. On the blogs and all that it was pretty much universally liked… and they don’t spare us when they don’t like something!
How did you feel about the guest cast on Monster Movie?
Our guest cast was great, especially Todd Stashwick, who played the shapeshifter. We found out when he got up to Vancouver that he was really a devotee of these movies. He brought a wonderful quality to the character, especially Dracula. He found all the comedy beats, and then when he did pathos at the end, he really delivered. Everybody really got into it – they went back 50 years, or however long it’s been, and just placed themselves in that acting style. The crew enjoyed doing it, too. It was just a fun time.
You’ve mentioned before that directing Bad Day At Black Rock was the most fun you’ve had directing Supernatural. Would you say directing Monster Movie has surpassed that experience?
I think so. For Bad Day At Black Rock, to be able to go out and test my comedy chops and see if I could do it was a lot of fun. But this one was probably more special, just because it’s so different. I grew up on those movies. I watched them on television and I always thought they were great fun. I think the first director I ever really noticed, where I said, “Wow, look at the direction!” was James Whale. Being able to do the big crane shot like James Whale did, and those close-ups that he used to do, and that lighting was great fun for me.
Would you say Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are well-suited for taking on whatever acting challenges the writers throw at them?
Jared feels more in his comfort zone if he’s doing heavily dramatic stuff, but I think he underrates himself on the comedy. His physical comedy was great in Bad Day At Black Rock. And in Monster Movie, when he goes to rip the ear off the guy who was playing the keyboard and he realizes it’s not the shapeshifter, he does a really funny facial take. Jensen loves to go for the comedy. He’s got great comedy chops and terrific timing, so that stuff doesn’t scare him at all. I think if the script’s got comedy moments in it, he really digs it.
What’s your favorite thing about season four so far?
I have to say, where we’ve taken the mythology. The addition of the angels has been a really good shot in the arm for us. It came to us last year as something to try, and I think we were all a little wary of it. We’d committed to doing it, but we weren’t sure what it was. Once we cast Misha Collins [as Castiel] and saw him on film, we said, “Oh, this is really going to be great stuff.” I think the best thing about this year is that the mythology is the strongest it’s been since year one.
Looking ahead, what can you tell us about what’s to come?
There’s a couple of really big surprises we have up our sleeve that I don’t think anyone’s going to see coming. I wouldn’t even want to hint beyond that! But I think people are going to go, “Whoa, wow, that’s really cool!” I can promise people if they keep watching they’ll definitely be surprised!
Read the full interview in issue 9 of The Official Supernatural Magazine on newsstands now.
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