Ivan Hayden -- former VFX Supervisor for Supernatural; Creator of Divine: The Series
Tell us about Divine: The Series.
Divine: The Series is a dark action thriller told in a graphic novel style for the modern on-line audience. It’s a non-linear storyline. People can discover things on-line and they don’t necessarily find them in show order. We didn’t want a series where spoilers would be possible. We came up with a storyline that you could watch in any order; you just have a different set of information as you’re watching.
It’s a story about a young priest who is having a crisis of faith; he is provided with the proof of his God’s divine power, but it doesn’t provide any answers. Yes, it’s there, but there’s no information to understand what that does to him and to his belief system, and what it does to his world order.
How did the idea for The Divine come about?
In my younger years I had dreams of being a comic book artist and I came up with the story for more of a graphic novel than a comic book. Back when I was about 13 years old, I was going through confirmation at the church with my parents. In science class, you have books that are telling you one set of fantastic rules and another book tell you another set of fantastic rules. I was struggling with those concepts; it’s a philosophic debate at its core about the free will versus determinism, meaning that if there is a God and God is all powerful, all knowing and all good, how come there’s evil. That has been the philosophic debate as people tried to logically explain whether or not there is a God or not. Either he’s all powerful, all knowing and all good, or there shouldn’t be evil. If he’s all powerful, and all knowing, then maybe he’s not all good. Or maybe he’s all good and all powerful, but not all knowing.
I understand there’s a new project you’re working on?
We are shooting a microformat short; there’s a grant in B.C., a $10,000 grant based on how many votes you can get for people to think your project is worthwhile doing. It’s a microformat web series, designed specifically for mobile – 30 seconds or less, but ours will be closer to 15. It’s going to be shot portrait, as opposed to landscape. It will be short, shareable and consumable … we’re going to shoot six episodes, of the show, and it’s called Scales of Justice. It’s a psychological thriller about a demi-God – Lady Justice – who goes around and judges wrongdoers and her muscle, Scales, who punishes the evildoers that they find. It’s a dark comic book, but it’s very much a comic book style show.
How did Misha get involved with Divine: The Series?
Misha and I are friends; because of being on Supernatural. At the time, we were out having a libation – or two – as the case may be, I’m not going to lie – we were lamenting on how often, as creative people in an episodic series, or a network series, you don’t necessarily get to stretch your wings … we’re creating a product for other people. Sometimes you would like to do things that just don’t fit the mold; so we talked about this web series I was going to shoot and he looked at me in that Misha kind of way and was like, “Well, I’d like to read it.”
I let him read the first one, he asked if there were any more, so I gave him the rest of the six we were going to shoot. “I like this, I’d like to be involved. I’d like to play that guy.” I said, “Oh, okay.” That takes it to a whole new level … I gave him the scripts, he gave me his notes and we sort of did the story a little bit more so it was fun for him to play the role of Father Christopher.
What was it like working with Misha the actor and with him on Supernatural?
Misha is a consummate professional, and honestly a wonderful human being. It was just fun. This was a passion project, not a job, as it was. There are some behind the scenes outtakes – he was just a laugh. Now, when we shoot Supernatural, he’s a laugh on Supernatural as well. He’s just a fun guy. Maybe it was because it was my web series that we were working on that I had rose coloured glasses … he just seemed like he was having so much fun. He just really got behind us and really helped us … His skill as an actor – because a lot of the other actors on the show were green. Allen Sawkins, this was his first acting role ever, and Misha treated him as if he was a veteran. There was no impatience if someone flubbed a line, it was support, it was fun … it was great.
What exactly does a VFX supervisor do?
It depends on the person. I’m very creative and hands on … some times that’s worked to my benefit, some times it’s worked against me because some times they just want a technician, someone to come and go, “That’s how you shoot that,” specifically. The way I visual effects supervise, I would be involved from concept to delivered – a script comes through, even outlines – that’s where it got to at the end of Supernatural, when I was there, the endings were written – it’ll end in some core visual effects way. They would ask, “What do you want to do with that?” and I would come up with an idea.
I would get a script, break it down – everything that could possibly be a visual effect. That’s as simple as something that says, “Exterior New York street – night.” That could be a visual effect – how are you going to establish that’s New York – is that a key story point. Down to a fight scene – someone goes flying through the air. That could be a visual effect. I’d go through the whole script with a highlighter and and note everything that could be a visual effect. Then we’d go through with all the other department heads, in what’s called a concept meeting. I’d note things that are not obviously visual effects – what if we did a demon eye shot here – maybe claws will grow, give some ideas to the script that maybe hadn’t been thought of.
After the concept meeting, you’d draw up a budget – this is how much money you have, and you whittle down into what you can afford. At the production meeting, you sit down with all the other department heads – hey, special effects, can you do this – hey stunts, can you do that … other departments may need some help, like costumes may go I can’t make this coat rip for wings to come out. Once it’s locked and it’s pitched, I’d go on set as VFX supervisor and help – depending on the director, depending on the talent, depending on the show, I would get out and help direct the talent.
For example, if it says in the script, Sam and Dean are standing on a rooftop, a dragon flies by, breathes fire – the rooftop collapses and our heroes walk away safely. Sam and Dean standing on a rooftop – that could be a visual effect. There certainly isn’t a dragon in that scene, so I’d have to do the dragon. Everybody is supposed to be looking at a dragon as it flies by, and Sam is looking in one way and Dean is looking the other, it doesn’t matter how good my dragon is, if the people aren’t looking at the dragon, acting – or reacting – to the dragon, then it doesn’t matter. So I’m there to direct the talent, to make sure they’re doing everything they need to do to support the effect. Once you’ve got all of the elements, you’ve directed the talent, directed the camera guys … you’ve got the stunts, you’ve got the costumes, you’ve got any elements that we need. Then I would fine tune with the editors and get it locked, all the footage would be pulled and I would sit with my crew, talk to them about what we’re going to do, what the created visual is going to be, do our own VFX concept meeting and come up with a plan of attack. We’d get the VFX done and completed, make sure it meets QC and send it back to the company on budget.
With the new show – Scales of Justice – I understand you have a special announcement to make?
With Misha for Divine: The Series, even if we got money to shoot the web series again, it isn’t a lot of money but it’s still a lot more money than I have … at that point in time he was still only in like three episodes, not really a locked-in dude on Supernatural. He was the character, he was big, he was growing, but he wasn’t Castiel yet. But then Castiel became the third character on the show – even then we knew that Misha was going to be able to turn down real work to come do this again.
We shot his storyline out. We’ve filmed all of his stuff already. We’re going to release a scene of that, if we get the certain number of votes we need to get in for the B.C. grant.
The scene will be more in Father Christopher's storyline; we will release another scene from Divine. It's a bit of a spoiler for more of the story, because it is a story beat. When we originally put out Divine there was a couple of people -- I thought they were going to make T-shirts that said, "What happened to Father Christopher." This is one of those storylines -- it's just a little more info on Father Christopher.
The link to vote is here: https://www.storyhive.com/project/show/id/3575?twt=share
"Thanks, good interview! Looking forward to more Divine. Ivan is still my favorite Ivan of all time." ~ @PatriciaMullis
"I just saw The Divine this week and I was wondering where Father Christopher ended up. He was being a bit of a snitch but I hope they didn't kill him, lol. Either way, this was a great interview and now I'm even more aware of how much thought and preparation goes into every shot. Kudos to all the people working behind the scenes." ~ @perplexed2death