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What do Reader and Heroes have in common?

11/19/2007 01:06:00 PM
Posted by Chris Wetherell, Software Engineer

Working at Google can be a pretty demanding job. But, as any member of the Google Reader team can attest, at least we're not subject to dangling from a harness that's strapped to one of our co-workers while lasers plot the path of massive cranes to swoop around us at high speeds while we're trying to do our job.

A few months ago, thanks to the graciousness of a group of artists, we saw that in person.

Google Reader is created and maintained by a small team of folks who all have a lot on their plates. Occasionally, we need a vacation. But planning a shared experience that's fun for everyone is tricky. Common points among people can be difficult to find -- unless you get lucky and work with a bunch of dorks who like superhero stories.

It turns out that nearly all of us got sucked into Heroes sometime during its first season, and a good friend of mine knows a director who was going to get to shoot an episode. So we asked if we could visit the set for our team's annual offsite. Despite this seeming like a longshot, a trip was arranged and we headed to the Heroes lot for a day of set gawking.

Be forewarned: nerd-level, in-depth pop-culture details to follow.

Our trip was amazing, and we owe a huge thanks to the director, Greg Yaitanes, and his crew, particularly Ben Grayson (whose attention and help made it a memorable day). Greg is a bit of a TV wunderkind -- he's directed many, many shows, including: Lost, Alias, Grey's Anatomy, House M.D., Prison Break, Nip/Tuck, CSI:NY, CSI:Miami, Women's Murder Club, Bones, Commander In Chief, Children of Dune, Las Vegas, V.I.P, and many more. Looking at his resume makes my eyes water, since he's only a few days older than me and he's done so much that it makes me wonder if I'm using my Saturdays really as effectively as I could.

Watching Greg work was enlightening. He let us sit behind him as he directed a few scenes of tonight's "Cautionary Tales" episode. This one was written by Joe Pokaski, who's been behind some of our more favorite recent moments such as Claire's toe-cutting experiment. The first scene we watched being filmed was an in-car scene featuring Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder) and Jack Coleman (Mr. Bennet, "H.R.G") both of whom we got to meet. We can't post spoilers, of course. But they both turned out to be zombie vampire aliens! (Kidding. Or are we...?)

There were surprises for us on set. First, we were treated to personal time with the creative staff, who graciously explained their work and even took us on tours. We walked within and around many of the common sets used on Heroes, including Isaac's loft, the Suresh apartment, the Company, the Dawsons' beautiful and meticulously created New Orleans home, the police department were Matt works -- and we all jockeyed for picture time in front of the ocular on the Deveaux rooftop.

Mid-day, we were surprised by a visit by Tim Kring, who created Heroes and was kind enough to walk us through the editing rooms and even let us sit in on a "spotting" meeting. Spotting, in this case, meant visually evaluating the progress of special effects of a battle scene involving 17th-century Japanese warriors. We also saw early editions of Kristin Bell (Elle) ruthlessly wielding her power.

Tim was forthcoming, honest, direct and a delight to talk shop with. We ended our day by staying out of Ray Liotta's way (he was on the lot for something unrelated to Heroes) and guessing how the season would end. (Asking us would be futile, we don't know -- really!)

No one needed to be that nice to a group of wandering dorks. From craft services to the heads of production, everyone was incredible and it was a team offsite that's going to be tough to top next year.