Written by: Carol Hansson

Horse Canada’s celebrity insider, Carol Hansson, shares her behind-the-scenes experience at Heartland.

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I’ve had the opportunity to visit the set of Heartland in Calgary four times over the years, and it never gets old. This time was different, though – not only was I encouraged to take pictures, I was on set for two days straight. It was any Heartland fan’s dream come true. Here is my collection of exclusive, behind-the-scenes coverage of some of the people and the set items that aid in the filming of this hit show, now in its 11th season on CBC.

HEARTLAND SCRIPT SUPERVISION

“In a nutshell, I’m the editor’s eyes and ears on set,” said script supervisor Wayne Pells. “I make sure we cover all of the parts of the script on camera in a way that the editors can cut it together smoothly. A large part of that is continuity. I work with hair, makeup, wardrobe, props. For instance, if we shoot inside today in the studio, and Michelle walks in with a purse on her right shoulder, two weeks from now, when we shoot her exit of the house, I make sure all of that matches.

“I work with the actors to make sure they know all of their dialogue, or if we want to change it, we’ll work together to rewrite the script. I will create a master script for the editors and for post production, so if they are doing ADR [automated dialogue replacement] they have the right dialogue to go by. I’ll work with the directors to make sure the tone is in tune with what we do on Heartland. I will also time the script. When I first get the script I’ll do a rough estimate timing, so we know if it’s too long and we need to cut out a few scenes, or if it’s too short we’ll have to add a few scenes. I will work with the writers and the director.”

ANIMAL WRANGLERS

“I’m a captain in the wrangling department,” said Jerri Duce, “which means we look after the animals; primarily the horse end of it, but occasionally we bring in a llama [or other kind of creature]. I guideline what we need for the next day of shooting. [In this role] you work days ahead to know in your head what’s going to happen. You have to bring the right horse, the right tack, and some times cattle … it’s a myriad of things that you do.

“The film industry is very hurry up and wait – patience is everything. The animals we choose have to be very quiet and will just go to sleep on set. The actors, they have a big job to do. They can’t worry about what’s underneath them or beside them. We try to make sure that the actors have appropriate lessons, and when they’re on an animal, that they have no worries.”

WHAT’S ADR?

  • Stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement
  • Used to replace dialogue when original sound cannot be used.
  • Microphones are extremely sensitive, and can pick up everything from a car backfiring to a plane flying
    overhead.

“ADR is a necessary evil,” said Michelle Morgan, who plays Lou. “It’s way better to get the sound on location while we’re filming – that’s always the first choice. We will always use the sound that we did on the day if we can. When you’re acting, your voice is an important instrument. It’s part of your performance. When you’re doing ADR, you’re just trying to recreate what you found in that moment, but you’re in a studio all alone wearing headphones in the dark. Sometimes it’s a really emotional scene, you’re supposed to be crying, and you get choked up – we don’t notice the little nuances, the weird things that we do with our voice in everyday life. Trying to recreate those nuances can be very challenging.”

COSTUMES

“I’m one of two set costumers,” said Jill Fry. “I coordinate all the costumes for the actors on a daily basis. I steam them, iron them, and keep it all washed. I put costumes in and out of their dressing rooms that are required for the different scenes. When they go to set, I make sure that all the bits and pieces they need are ready for that scene.”

MAKEUP

Each actor takes at the most 30 minutes to make up,” said Donna Fuller. “Shaun and Amber take about 30 minutes, but some of the guys are about 10 minutes. One thing people don’t think about is the maintenance – all day it’s constantly touching up. It’s also a challenge to do that on horseback, and the weather – especially snow – is challenging too.”

FILMING TERMS

Blocking – refers to when stand-ins (people who substitute for the actors) are placed in the scene to adjust for lighting and camera set-up.

Call sheets – these sheets are completed every day and are the blueprint for the following day of filming.

Going into turnaround – essentially, when the cameras “turn around.” Imagine a dining room scene, where the camera is over Amy’s (Amber Marshall) shoulder, showing Lou (Michelle Morgan); a turnaround would be showing Amber’s face, rather than her shoulder.

Clapper – the board that is “clapped” to make a noise, and includes episode, scene and take information.

Circus – the area where actors’ trailers are parked. In the U.S. it’s called base camp, in England it’s called the caravan.

That’s a wrap – used when one filming of a scene is finished.

ON SET OF HEARTLAND WITH BABY(IES) FUN FACTS

  • Amy and Ty’s baby Lyndy is in fact two babies – twins Emmanuella and Ruby Spencer.
  • When working on set, it’s important not to wear bright colours, as that can distract a baby.
  • Normally during filming, bells are used to denote when filming starts (one bell) and when it ends (two bells); these aren’t used when Emma and Ruby are on set, as the sound can upset them.
  • This isn’t the first time twins have been used on Heartland – sisters Jordan and Kiera played Katie, Lou’s daughter.

“When I first got involved in television, I was warned to stay away from shows with animals or kids. ‘They only cost time and money’ veterans in the industry would snicker. I can now say from experience that working with animals and kids is the most rewarding thing you can do as an actor,” said Amber Marshall.

“Since they are always living in the moment, there is no acting involved. You just feed off the natural energy and enjoy the real life situations they present to every scene. Emmanuella and Ruby are extraordinary girls. They make the job of portraying their mother such a joy. We have so much fun together on set, and I miss them when we are not filming. Luckily their real mom brings them out to my farm to see the animals often.”

“Ruby and Emma are great kids to work with,” said Graham Wardle. “The first trick is to get them comfortable with their surroundings before we start the shooting. Then it’s all about balancing their natural behaviour within the context of the scene. Fun fact: An empty plastic water bottle being squeezed works like magic to get their attention.”

HORSES ARE THE HEART

“I have come to my own understanding, being around horses, that each of them has their own personality,” said Chris Potter. “They are very patient, very intelligent, they pick up on cues. I think overall there is something in the spirit – the soul – of horses in particular that resonates and permeates the people around them. They can change the energy and people’s demeanor. They can be very therapeutic.”

“Working with horses has now made me realize how much actually is going on inside other beings and other horses,” said Graham Wardle. “I like their presence, I like to be around them. They’re very majestic and very peaceful animals. It has an effect on your own psychology, watching these animals. It’s really hard to put into words, actually.”

“I have loved horses since a very young age, and being able to work with them on set doesn’t feel like work at all,” said Amber Marshall.