TV Technology 9/14/02: Adam Haight
Adam Haight: Mutant X Maestro
Sarah Stanfield 09.14.2002 5:09PM
According to Merriam-Webster, a "producer" is "one that produces; especially one that grows agricultural products or manufacturers crude materials into articles of use.' This would make sense, as the word has its origins in Middle English, a language spoken largely by peasant farmers. And it still makes sense today, especially in television and film. Producers "farm' and "grow" certain projects (i.e. shows) into full-blown maturity. This is true in Adam Haight's case. He's the executive producer, along with Jay Firestone, Avi Arad, and Rick Ungar, of the syndicated hit show MUTANT X. Haight's job is to create successful "products'÷top-rated television shows. He's done this before, most notably with another entry to the sci-fi genre, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, for which he was one of the executive producers. With MUTANT X, it looks like he's working his magic once again.
Haight is the president and COO of Fireworks Entertainment, which he runs with company Chairman Jay Firestone. Their job: to identify television and film projects they want to finance, produce, and distribute. MUTANT X is part of this collaboration, produced by Fireworks Entertainment in association with Tribune Entertainment and Marvel Studios. Previous to MUTANT X, Haight produced La Femme Nikita, Relic Hunter, and the miniseries Blonde, based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates, among other movies and TV programs.
"There's people that are very dedicated, that eat, breathe, sleep this thing 24/7,' said Haight, describing his daily activities as a producer. "My role is more sort of, get in, get it right, and look for new business.' To that end, when he and Firestone start working on a new project, they will typically spend the first season working hard to get the show together, then set up the second season through a postmortem at the end of the first. By that point, as has happened on MUTANT X, Haight and Firestone have hired the production personnel they feel will best continue their vision for the show, and will start on another project. On MUTANT X, they've left most of the day-to-day activities up to Producer Jonathan Hackett. Hackett, with Haight's approval, is responsible for the hiring of directors, DPs, and most other production staff.
The Story So Far....
MUTANT X is going into its second season, with that premiere airing around the last week of September (its first season was 22 episodes, as will be the second season). Its plot centers around a group of mutant humans with special powers, such as telepathy and the ability to alter body density, whose mission is to protect "new mutants,' i.e. the unwitting subjects of a secret genetics program gone awry, from being hunted down and exploited for their powers. MUTANT X, as the group calls itself, has a leader named Adam, and a headquarters÷a place called Sanctuary, located in a mountain.
"Sanctuary' is really in Downsview, a town near Toronto, and home of a defunct air force base. "We chose that location because it's just a massive, huge complex,' said Haight. "It allowed us to build bigger sets and, in some senses, just to spread out the production.' Also, the imposing austerity and physical desolation of the 1940s-era military structure helped add to the futuristic look the show was trying to capture. "It's a little bit of a left turn into the future, so you can play some of the bareness and the architecture as a bit of the future,' said Haight. He has his offices in Toronto, close to the show's production location.
Another advantage of Downsview is its size, which allowed Haight and his team to build wirework training facilities for the cast. Wirework, said Haight, "played perfectly into some of the mutant powers. We weren't sure that we could pull it off, put we've been successful.'
Most of the stunt work is done by the cast members themselves, and the show employs little motion control software. "I don't think we use hardly any motion control software,' said Haight. "It's still a bit of a cumbersome thing. There may be exceptions to that, but it's just not a tool we can pull out anytime we want. We'd probably use that more for a specifically planned shot.'
MUTANT X also takes advantage of more traditional CGI-created visual effects. This is the case with one of the characters, Brennan Mulwray, who can electrically charge his body at will. In regards to editing, the show is posted offline with an Avid editor in the studio, and online at Magnetic North, a post house in Toronto.
There's one other way MUTANT X creates visual effects: fancy camerawork. Haight and his team got creative with the camera in order to address a particularly difficult challenge÷how to visually depict the mental manipulation and empathy powers of one character, Emma DeLauro. "Emma's character was the hardest one to nail down a visual style for her powers. So we created a type of situation where we just ramped into her, it's kind of like a camera move, with a change of speed÷the film÷so that you are ramping in. The ramping in indicates to the audience that [she is about to employ her powers], and then she turns away, to where she is transporting her subject. So we created a visual language to it, and then we'd quick cut through the imagery she was projecting.'
MUTANT X is shot in 35mm. Haight has considered shooting in 24p, but says there still isn't a big enough market for that format internationally (the show is distributed throughout the world). "One of our biggest problems [in considering 24p] is a lot of international territories are not really caught up to that yet,' he said. "You look at some markets in the world, and they just won't accept delivery of stuff shot in 24p.'
As a producer striving to create a specific television "look,' Haight also has his own concerns about 24p. "My problem with 24p is focal length,' he said. "Episodic television is a medium for characters. You tune into it because you love the characters. You want to get into their world. You want to spend time with them. The majority of what you shoot are really close-ups, and it's not flattering for that, whereas film softens everything.'
For the second season, Haight and his crew want to slowly bring the MUTANT X team out of its hideout and into the light of day. "I think quite honestly,' he said, "in the first season, we got ourselves a little bit too internalized, a little bit too turned in on ourselves, if you will.' Bringing the characters and plots literally outside more often also follows what Haight says is the natural progression of the show. During the first season, the MUTANT X team is largely in hiding. But gradually, says Haight, they will expose themselves and what has happened to the new mutants more and more to the general public.
Haight is now focusing most of his energy on new projects, especially a new action/ adventure show going to syndication this fall, aptly titled, Adventure, Inc. It would seem that the ability not to spread himself too thin is his special power.
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