Ariane DeVere (arianedevere) wrote,
Ariane DeVere

“Good Omens” Episode 2 – ‘The Book’ DVD commentary

“Good Omens” Episode 2 – ‘The Book’ DVD commentary

This is not a word-for-word transcript, nor have I written up every single comment made. I hope, however, that – particularly because there are no subtitles – this may be helpful to people whose first language is not English or who struggle with audio-only dialogue.
Further extracts may be added in due course.
Please remember that some of the comments made by people may look serious in plain print but were frequently meant sarcastically or humorously.

PLEASE NOTE: If you post a comment on this commentary and you’re not registered with Dreamwidth/Livejournal, your comment will be screened automatically until I unlock it, so please be patient for it to appear on screen.

If you quote extracts from this, a link back to this page would be appreciated.

Direct links: Episode 1 / Episode 2 / Episode 3 / Episode 4 / Episode 5 / Episode 6

Commentary by David Arnold (Composer) and Francesco (Cesco) Reidy (First Assistant Director)

[Transcriber’s note: In this and the following commentary transcripts, I mostly won’t repeat things that were already said in earlier commentaries.]

The airfield where the Soho street was built is in Bovingdon, in Hertfordshire, England.

David and Francesco complain that they can’t just sit and watch the episode!

The solo violin music which plays when Gabriel and Sandalphon walk to the bookshop was accidentally put in. It was meant to be a different sound. David did a different version for a later cue and he put it in as a placeholder.

DAVID: Part of the thinking with this whole ‘good and bad’ thing is that, for every nice-sounding instrument, there is an appropriate opposite unpleasant or slightly off-sounding one. Whenever there’s a nice acoustic beautiful violin, it’s doubled underneath with an electric one which is messed about with a bit so it’s a little bit Crowley, and the other bit’s a little bit Aziraphale.
[Transcriber’s note: There was much teeth-grinding from me during this episode, because both David and Cesco kept pronouncing Tennant’s character’s name to rhyme with ‘growly.’ Even more annoyingly, at one point one of them actually got it right!]

FRANCESCO: The moment you get a glimpse of the street outside [the bookshop set], you have to populate the background. We had 350 pedestrians and 50 cars circling the shop.
DAVID: That’s a lot of probably unemployed people a lot of the time, or employed but sitting around waiting for you to say, ‘Go’!

The set for Crowley’s flat is in Cape Town.

FRANCESCO: Normally when David [Tennant]’s talking to somebody offscreen, it’s actually me that does the off-lines, like a telephone call, but on this occasion [when Crowley is talking to Hastur and Ligur who are on the TV screen] Ned and Ariyon were actually sitting on the side of the studio and they could see him and talk to him.

Francesco says that David could only keep the contact lenses in for a while before they would start to irritate him.
DAVID: What, they’re not his real eyes?! Don’t destroy the magic!

The village which the delivery man drives to is in Milkbrook Strand in Cape Town. The entire village was built by the design team, built from scratch.
FRANCESCO: It was built for the purpose of blowing it up later on.
DAVID: That’s my kind of village.

David wanted to give the delivery man something musically to indicate that he was significant. Many people come into the story who don’t play a central part, but David wanted something heroic about the delivery man. The themes he gave to the Four Horsemen were all “like Hell; it was heavy rock.”
Cesco loves the brief musical sting when the camera homes in on a smiling War. David says that he designed a lot of the Good Omens sounds specifically for the show. He appropriated what would be considered clichés in terms of representing Heaven and Hell – lots of organs, bells, harps and a choir; “and a lot of people think that heavy metal music is the Devil’s work, so it wasn’t that big a stretch.”

Cesco asks whether David chose the time signature of the opening titles before planning the music.
DAVID: There was never gonna be an original music title sequence. In the script that I got originally it was all Every Day by Buddy Holly. The show was going to open and close with (singing) ‘Every day, it’s a-getting closer ...’ and at the end of each episode there were instructions as to what sort of version we were gonna get, so there was a death metal version, there was a children’s school orchestra version, there was a Shakespearean period version. But the first thing I did for Douglas and Neil – aside from doing a brass band arrangement of Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon, the Queen song – was to do six different versions of Every Day – which still exist. There’s a death metal version where I had to do the vocal; there was a Shakespeare one; there was a Carmina Burana one. When they came to see me I said, “One thing I love about writing for a show is a theme tune, because it feels like the shop window; it’s a thing that makes you want to go in and find out what it’s about; and also it should tell you what the world is that you’re about to enter.” So I asked them if they’d let me have a go at writing a theme tune for it and if they didn’t like it, it would be fine, we could use Buddy Holly, but luckily they liked it and that became the backbone of the entire score.
He goes on to explain that three-four time drives the theme on more quickly than four-four. “You don’t have to wait long for the next downbeat.”

Agnes Nutter’s village was at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex, England. When David was planning the music for this part, he went online and ordered – on Amazon! (“I didn’t get paid for that”) – some recorders for the period music. They wouldn’t be needed for much music apart from here and later in the Shakespeare scene, and he didn’t want to pay musicians to come in and play a few seconds of music, so he bought two very expensive recorders and played the music himself.

The scene was filmed on 31 October.

FRANCESCO: It’s not often you get to blow up and burn a witch actually on Halloween!
They were only there for a day. The explosion was filmed on site and then enhanced by vis effects afterwards. The camera was on a tall crane.

As the camera pans across the Malibu scenery, Cesco explains that the trees were all put in digitally afterwards because the house we see is actually surrounded by many other houses. Cesco was standing in shot just to the right of the massive rock beside the house but was painted out afterwards.
David put a Queen sting into the music that plays during that scene. He bought a Brian May guitar specially for the show; he and Toby Pitman played guitar throughout.
“We became Brian Maybe.”

David loves the gag of the camera bumping into the window of young Newt’s bedroom. It was Douglas’ idea and everyone loves it. “He had a few good ideas, as I recall,” says David.

Newt’s and Anathema’s themes were both acoustic guitar-based, almost a folk sound because a lot of their scenes happened in the countryside. The themes are quite naïve and simple-sounding and feel very human. Once the two characters get together the themes become more orchestral.

When Shadwell states his intent outside the Houses of Parliament, David gave him musical support to make it feel like, for the first time, someone had actually heard him.

FRANCESCO: We had so many actors who had led series, and so many big stars on it, that instead of calling it “the cast list” we started to refer to it as “the leader board,” ’cause they were all leading actors really. The cast list on this was bigger than Ben Hur!

David was challenged writing themes for so many characters and had to be careful that the music didn’t start turning into a Greatest Hits record, or ‘Now That’s What I Call Cinematic Theme Music.’ He therefore based as much as he could around the central theme.

David wanted Anathema’s theme to sound – despite her not being British – that she was coming into a British world rather than bringing her Americanism into it. Cesco loves how the music becomes so much more ominous when we see the picture of the Antichrist on the kitchen wall.

Anathema’s cottage is in Hambledon, Oxfordshire [the same location as Tadfield village].

Cesco loves the scene with Crowley and the plants.

FRANCESCO: The genius of Neil Gaiman, here, and Terry of course, to demonstrate the sinister side of Crowley, but not by killing people or blowing up cities, but focussing his anger on the plant.
DAVID: Yeah, well you couldn’t have done it with anything actually living, ’cause that would have completely turned you off him.
FRANCESCO (giggling at the trembling plants): Lots of prop men shaking trees!
He loves the musical sting when Crowley holds up the empty plant pot. David says that that was a note from Douglas requesting emphasis on that moment.

The exterior of the building where Tracy and Shadwell live is in Hornsey High Road, London. One of Cesco’s favourite lines is when Tracy says,
“My knees aren’t what they were.”
DAVID: I always think, when you get really great actors and there’s a line on paper that has a certain kind of tone and quality, and then an actor gets hold of it and somehow they make it so much more than that. I’m like that with music: if you put a part in front of someone, you can play it and know what it was like, but if you put it in front of someone who knows what they’re doing, good Lord, the amount of extra weight and dimension that goes into those things.
FRANCESCO: I guess that’s why you’ll never get a robot that can play in a way that a human being can.

DAVID: I didn’t give [Shadwell and Tracy] a theme each partly because it would be too chaotic to give everyone their own theme, but there is a theme for them getting together at the end. Their ‘getting together’ theme at the end is, in a way, the most beautiful and optimistic coupling music that there was.
FRANCESCO: Watching them together reminds me of a Woody Allen joke where he says, “I know that what you feel for me is nothing but hatred and contempt, but I think I can build on that.”

Cesco talks about how much went into the scenes with the Bentley: the real Bentley, the built Bentley, travelling plates in the background, dialogue being shot in the built Bentley in a studio, back projections, CGI v-effects. When they’re filming in a static car with previously-filmed projected footage, the lighting is interactive so that if they go past a red light, there’s red light on their faces, or if the car seems to go into shadow, the light inside darkens. Gavin Finney the Director of Photography did the lighting. Gavin is known to refer to problems as “solution opportunities.”

The people of Hambledon are used to camera crews because the village is used a lot for filming.

The theme for The Them is based around a string quartet
“for obvious reasons.”

David talks about the Thomas Tallis music playing on the Bentley’s music system when Crowley and Aziraphale are approaching Tadfield.
DAVID: This is the weirdest that I had to do. Neil told me that Terry Pratchett’s favourite classical piece of music was Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis but the Fantasia was still in copyright or there was an issue with using it; but could we somehow have that in the show, but it would have to somehow segue or morph into We Will Rock You. Now this is one of the most beautiful pieces ever, so I had to go and find the original Thomas Tallis piece which I think was from the 1400s, and it was a choral piece. Anyway, I found the one that the Variations was based on and we did it for strings and choir and then we had to turn it into [‘stomp stomp clap’]. It’s such a tiny little thing but this show is full of moments where people have pored over it and cared about it and made sure that it’s the best that it can be. I think that’s why it’s so rich and satisfying to watch, because there’s a lot of care. That’s the sort of thing that you could say, “It can’t be done” or you do it a little bit pony, but we had a forty-piece choir singing that for that fifteen seconds of background stuff.
Cesco was at that recording session; Douglas asked the choir to sing Happy Birthday to his daughter. The choir was the Crouch End Festival Chorus. They feature in every episode – sometimes they had to sing as beautifully as possible, sometimes they were shouting and screaming and squawking and thumping.

David asks whether, when Crowley and Aziraphale arrive at Tadfield Manor, David T was directed to walk across the grass while Michael kept to the path. Cesco can’t remember but suspects that Douglas instructed them to do that.

The interior was filmed in Bulstrode Park mansion in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England. Michael Ralph, the designer, had to transform it from St Beryl’s to the Manor overnight. It was filmed during the first couple of days of shooting.

Cesco loves the moment when Andy de la Tour’s character Norman gets shot; when it goes into slow motion, his whole lower jaw wobbles and quivers. David gave him a ‘President’s speech’ style of music when he was ranting before he was shot.

[Transcriber’s note: I love how the two of them respectfully stop talking during the classic wall-slam scene so that we can pay proper attention!]

To make it clear that the nunnery and the Manor were the same place, David used some of the stings from the nunnery scene in the Manor scene.

David T and Michael didn’t have much time together before shooting started, so had to jump in at the deep end without having time to talk about and develop their characters’ relationship with each other in advance.

David explains that the music for Aziraphale’s dance in Episode 4 was originally a Gilbert and Sullivan piece which he was asked to turn into a gavotte. It wasn’t really working but then he realised how to change it. Unfortunately he interrupts his own explanation by getting excited at the music which plays when Anathema is cycling towards the road just before she’s hit by the Bentley. He loved writing it and hoped he might be able to use it again later but the story didn’t allow it.

The bike crash scene was filmed during daytime because they couldn’t get the gear in to shoot it at night. David remembers watching the daylight rushes while he was scoring the scene.

The elderly lady who lives in the cottage was always in the back room with the TV on quietly, and the crew would bring her a cup of tea occasionally. She coped very well with hundreds of people traipsing through her house. Cesco explains that the sink units in the kitchen were already there but pretty much everything else was brought in.

Cesco thinks that the café which the boys stop at on the way home was in Battersea. [Neil later tweeted a photo of them at the café, which is actually in Penge.]

Cesco tells David how much he loved the music during the crucifixion scene in Episode 3. David thought to himself that he had to take the scene really seriously.

DAVID: That’s probably the one cue in the entire series that I felt like, if I was writing a film about the life of Christ, that this was what I would do. So it wasn’t in the context of Good Omens; I just felt like I wanted to respond to that as totally honestly as I could.

FRANCESCO: This moment here, Adam’s bedroom with the lovely Sian Brooke looking in on her son and then she goes back to join Daniel Mays – the distance between the bedroom with the boy and the bedroom with Mum and Dad, I worked out today was exactly eight thousand, four hundred and forty-three miles.
DAVID: Wow, she must walk fast!
The parents’ bedroom was filmed in the same location as the nunnery, and Adam’s bedroom was in Salt River in Cape Town. They couldn’t manage to schedule Adam’s bedroom scenes into the UK shoot.
[Transcriber’s note: Finally an explanation for the end credit in Episode 6 saying that there was a second dog playing Dog in South Africa! I always wondered why they needed Dog out there.]
Cesco loves the ominous music as the camera pans across items in the room.

FRANCESCO: I think you called that on your [play]list “Adam’s Bedroom,” which I thought was a very good title!
DAVID: Well, sometimes you think like, “How much time have I got to think of these? I’ve actually got eighty things to think of.” You know what? Sometimes it’s fine to call a spoon a spoon!

When Crowley and Aziraphale arrive back at the shop, again the scene was filmed in daytime, which David saw in the rushes. Even though he’s done lots of films where that happens, he still finds it extraordinary.

Cesco’s favourite music in this episode is the piece which plays while time passes as Aziraphale reads Agnes’ book. Douglas and Neil styled that scene on the movie
The Time Machine. Cesco asks David to talk him through the various tunes which play during the scene in the bookshop.
DAVID: Before I do, it’s an odd thing doing this [commentary] because you can talk about certain things; I can’t say, “That scene was brilliantly First AD’d”! You can say nice things about music, which is obviously lovely but it’s much more difficult for me to say ... ’cause I know what you do, and a lot of people maybe don’t know. Maybe it’d be a good idea to say what you do have to do.
Cesco says that he will do but wants to be sure that he doesn’t talk over his favourite bits of music.
FRANCESCO: When I join the production I’ll take the scripts and strip out all of the information so that each scene has its own list of information, and we call those ‘strips’ and we put them into the computer software called Movie Magic and then group them into locations and sets and then start working out how we can schedule them. And this was six hundred strips over six or seven months of filming in two continents, 120 shooting days or thereabouts. Oh, look, I’ve just gotta pause here. [The time passing sequence starts.]
DAVID: If you are a Queen fan, there’s a little harpsichord part in this which is from The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke. It’s not actionable by law but it was a nod towards that. It was on the very first Queen album.
Cesco points out that the music changes once Aziraphale reads the prophecy about ‘Taddesfield’ and the Number of the Beast. He calls that music “Hell’s Requiem.” David says that it’s now changing to consequence rather than forward-motion energy.

During the time-passing sequence, JC [Jean-Claude Deguara, Visual Effects Supervisor] and Noel [Noel Corbally, Second Second
[sic] Assistant Director] filmed it – on Douglas’ instructions – using a time-lapse Black Magic camera with the extras walking back and forth for 45 minutes. They said to them, “You can stop if you want,” but nobody did. They took one picture every four seconds and they filmed as the sun was setting, then reversed it to show dawn arriving. The footage was then placed into the window in front of Aziraphale. David had always wondered whether Michael had to stay incredibly still for the whole time, but it was filmed separately.

David calls this version of the end theme “an angry quartet.”

DAVID: This was one of the most joyous experiences I’ve ever had.

David has been in the industry for 25 years and didn’t think there was much more he could learn, but he was 100% trusted on this.
DAVID: Neil and Douglas were basically saying, ‘Do what you want, what you feel is right, and trust your instinct,’ and at no point did anyone say, ‘Do it like this’ or ‘Make it like this’ or ‘Can you stand like that?’ and (a) it brought out the best in me, but it also made me think, ‘In the future, that’s kind of how I want to work.’

On to Episode 3

PLEASE NOTE: If you post a comment on this commentary and you’re not registered with Dreamwidth/Livejournal, your comment will be screened automatically until I unlock it, so please be patient for it to appear on screen.

A full list of the episode commentary transcripts can be found here.

Tags: commentaries, dvd extra, good omens, good omens dvd commentaries

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