I first optioned the character of Harry Bosch to Hollywood in 1994. Efforts were made to make a movie but those efforts always fell short and Harry was eventually put on a shelf. Now, almost twenty years later, production finally began today on a TV pilot called “Bosch.” It was a long day but a great day. We filmed scenes with Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector), Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick), Harvey Pounds (Jamie McShane) and Money Chandler (Amy Price-Francis) among others. I have to say I was thrilled by what I saw. The last shot of the day was of Bosch and Edgar walking down a courthouse hallway on their urgent way out to work a case. My heart skipped a beat. It was better than I had ever anticipated. Something about the shorthand between these two partners seems so real and so much what I have hoped and waited for. This is the start of a pilot journal I’ll be keeping. I’ll send updates and photos with each day of shooting. If they are all like today, it will be one happy journal. But I really can’t say enough about the cast we have pulled together, the insightful direction of Jim McKay, the script by Eric Overmyer, and the production led by Henrik Bastin, Pieter Jan Brugge, Tara Duncan and Todd Amateau. I keep saying this but mean it more than ever now that I have watched the first day’s shoot: Harry Bosch could be in no better hands. Stay tuned!
We have finished another day of filming and the good vibes continue. Today we filmed exclusively in a courtroom where Harry Bosch is on trial. It has been an amazing ride so far. These characters have been with me for years and years and it is wonderful and scary to see them brought to life by real people. All I can say at this point is so far so great! These actors are amazing! Today mostly circled around Amy Price-Francis as Money Chandler and Abraham Benrubi as Rodney Belk. They were great, even bringing me to a moment of awe as they captured the characters I put on the page long ago. After today and the momentum we’ve created, I can’t wait until tomorrow!
Today we shot inside LAPD’s Hollywood Station, the first television show to be allowed such rare access. Shooting scenes while real police officers carried out real police work was fun and unusual and will bring some real accuracy to the “Bosch” pilot. We certainly thank the department for such access. The goal of our show is the same goal of the books — to show it like it is, to reveal what real homicide work is like in both procedure and personality. Through Harry Bosch we will investigate what it costs to carry out this mission.
We filmed Harry and Jerry Edgar working among real detectives and police officers. Even real suspects on occasion were brought in to be booked. We hope we weren’t too intrusive. In addition to the location it was an exciting day because we worked with more characters from the books, including Lt. Grace Billets (Amy Aquino), Sgt. John Mankiewicz (Scott Klace), and Crate and Barrel (Greg Cummins and Troy Evans) — what a team! No doubt this show, like the books, is about Harry but nevertheless we’ve got a great supporting cast. Three shooting days down, ten to go. I can’t wait till tomorrow!
Day 4 is in the books and I really think the production of “Bosch” has an unalterable momentum toward something good. We are out of the courthouse and the police station and into the city, which is as much a character in the books as Harry Bosch. We saw it all from on high today with a crime scene set on the spine of the Santa Monica mountains with a view that stretched from downtown to the Pacific. It’s one thing to try to create these locations with words and its something else to put the places on film. That’s the process I’m going through. As a writer and an executive producer on the project, I am seeing everyday that we film this mystical, exciting and scary transition from word to screen. And oddly enough it certainly starts with the actors bringing flesh and blood to characters from the books but it also extends to the locations in the books as well. It’s weird and exhilarating at the same time. Luckily, I have placed my trust in very worthy people. The showrunner, the director and the producers, as well as the cast and crew, are all fabulous and have one goal in mind: staying loyal to the books. I can’t say enough about this and how it allows me to sleep easy at night.
And speaking of cast and crew, day 4 saw the start of Annie Wersching as officer Julia Brasher. Very cool and very great! She is just what I pictured when I wrote that character and that book.
I pride myself on the accuracy and detail in my books. But I have to say that “Bosch” the TV show is shaping up to be more accurate and detailed than the books. Nothing is being left to fiction. When we show Harry or any other law enforcement professional at work we are taking great pains to do it right. We have a battery of experts on set so far, including three real homicide detectives, a trial lawyer and even a forensic anthropologist from the L.A. County coroner’s office. They go over every detail and procedure with director Jim McKay and show runner Eric Overmyer. Today I saw two of the police officers teaching Annie Wersching (Officer Julia Brasher) how a patrol officer, burdened by equipment belt and bulletproof vest, can jump into a patrol car and use her foot to pop the door closed from the inside. It’s the little details like that that will add up to the whole and I think the whole is going to be great.
Today we shifted to night shooting and the starting point of the City of Bones case. It looked and felt great to me. We are five days into a 13 day shoot and each day I get more excited as I see what we are getting on film. Harry Bosch as a man on a mission in a city of angles and lost light.
Today we shot a scene that took a purely forensic moment and turned it into something very emotional and personal to Harry Bosch. It is a scene that served as the emotional center of the book City of Bones in which Dr. Golliher, the forensic anthropologist, outlines the many injuries that are evident on the bones of the unknown victim. I think it will serve the same purpose in our pilot. We see Harry connect with this young victim, whoever he is, and the resolve and relentlessness take root in him. Alan Rosenberg plays Dr. Golliher in the scene with Harry and Jerry. His performance was wonderful — fully professional as a specialist who has seen it all, but deeply touched by the suffering that this small victim went through. A guy who understands that everybody counts or nobody counts. Six days down and seven to go; I think we are working on something really good here…
We are halfway through the shoot and all is going well. Today we were in the mountains shooting the primary City of Bones scenes and I learned a great lesson about the differences between writing a scene and filming it. In the book and in the subsequent script it is written that the coroner’s office bone team excavates the skeleton found by Harry Bosch. Easy enough to write. It only took a few seconds and I was on to the next thing. But shooting that scene on film is another matter. Our whole movie crew had to be trucked up a mountain in all-terrain vehicles, bones had to be buried and then uncovered and the whole scene required an attention to detail and accuracy that could never occur to me as a book writer. It was an amazing day and thankfully we had real-life experts helping us do it right.
I have loved every moment of film we have shot but I have to say there was something very special about seeing the “City of Bones” sequence come alive and look so real. We mixed actors in with real excavators and I think it all will bring an accuracy to the portrayal that is easy to pull off on the page but very very difficult to do on film. I can’t wait to see all of this pieced together into the whole. I think its going to be great.
On Day 8, I saw a lot of things coming together. We were still shooting on the mountain and carefully creating the bone excavation from City of Bones. But we also threw in some new things, even a couple of stunts. What impressed me the most was the shorthand/wordless communication that looks so valid and real between Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) and Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector). I found myself smiling many times today when I saw them perform in scenes. I kept saying to myself, That’s the book, those are the characters. This was happening in both serious moments and even a few light moments as well. Two really good actors pulling off an intricate relationship. We finished the day (actually the night) with one of the coolest scenes in the script. It involves Harry returning to a crime scene to make a promise to the victim and encountering his symbolic counterpart, the coyote. It was a somber but really great moment. I think it will bring the viewer closer to understanding Harry and wanting to ride with him through this story.
I have to say though, that I often drop coyotes into scenes in my books. I like the metaphor and connection to Harry. Both he and the coyote are gritty urban dwellers that survive by their wits. Anyway, it sure is easy to put a coyote into a scene in a book. In a television show? Well, that’s another matter. We brought in two coyotes hoping to get one of them to give us the shot we needed — a stare down with Harry Bosch. The animals were named Axl and Rose. Rose was the first to try and she knew her marks and did what we needed her to do just long enough for the director to say cut and we had our shot. Poor Axl never got out of his crate. But that was okay. We wrapped the day very happy that Harry got a chance to stare into the eyes of his counterpart.
Today we filmed a collision of Harry Bosch’s private and professional lives as he called on an old flame, Medical Examiner Teresa Corazon (Valerie Cruz), for help with a case. The sexual tension was high and the scene played great.
It’s been a fun week so far as we turn toward the finish line. What is standing out to me is how important the casting process is. We considered our choices for weeks over the summer, probably auditioned and discussed more than two hundred actors and actresses for about 20 key roles and it seems to me we remarkably got the right people in every spot. The proof of this will be in the final product of course. But the team on both sides of the camera is right on the mark – in this author’s opinion.
There is probably no location more iconic and visited more often in the 18 Harry Bosch books than Harry’s home in the hills above the city. It is Harry’s refuge, the place where he contemplates the city and his place in it. Tonight we shot several scenes in his house, the lights of the city extending in infinity behind every angle. Shot by director of photography, Eric Edwards, and his camera and lights team, the city was stunningly beautiful. I think this is where character and place become one.
And speaking of character, the house itself, with its spare furnishings and small touches – jazz records, police records, bullets in a jar, Flat Tire in the fridge – is so Harry. Beautiful work by production designer Charisse Cardenas, set decorator Teresa Visinare, and prop master Mike Sexton and their teams.
The main scene we shot involved Harry (Titus Welliver) and his boss, Lt. Billets (Amy Aquino). Great understanding of these characters exhibited by these two fine actors.
(Trivia note: Harry’s house was used in the 1995 movie Heat, which is pretty cool. Also in common we have Pieter Jan Brugge who was a producer on Heat and now is a producer on Bosch. That’s pretty cool, too.)
On Set Interviews From Week 2
Today we filmed a number of scenes without a word of dialogue. It was all about Bosch and Edgar following a suspect through downtown. We hit two of my favorite things in downtown L.A. — the 2nd Street tunnel and Angels Flight. The tunnel is found in numerous films and television shows, noted for the halo reflections car lights put up on its tiles as they pass through. And Angels Flight is iconic L.A., a short funicular railway that’s connected Bunker Hill and the lower flats of downtown. More to the point, it connects Los Angeles with the past — its over a hundred years old — and that’s why I like it and why it has an important place in the Harry Bosch stories. Harry is all about the past and how it forms his present and future.
Thanks to the hospitality of John Welborne, who heads the foundation that operates the little railroad, we got to include Angels Flight in our pilot shoot. This is very cool. The pilot may be primarily based on City of Bones but there are little pieces of many of the books in it. If you like the books you’ll like this, I’m sure.
We worked all night in an alley in East L.A., a scary, forbidding alley that curved blindly into a tunnel of darkness. Harry Bosch went into that tunnel, the eeriness accented all the more by the pouring rain. Was it coincidence that we had rain? Hardly. We made our own rain with a crane, an elaborate pipe system and two tanker trucks full of water.
Raymond Chandler wrote the magnificent line: Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. Tonight that man was Harry. He knew that waiting ahead was a killer in the rain. And he went in … alone.
Day 13 – Final Day
It’s a wrap. Lucky day 13 ended in rain of the natural kind. We took it as a good omen. We were worried about the transition to the rainy alley sequence where we manufactured rain. But Mother Nature rewarded us at Mariachi Plaza with a perfect L.A. drizzle. We made the best use of it and then moved on to Union Station where we commandeered a Gold Line Metro train for filming.
I write this as we set up the last camera shots of the Bosch pilot. We’ll finish at dawn. It’s certainly a bittersweet feeling. It’s been an exhausting 13 days but I have to say I’m going to miss it. We’ve had a great cast and crew. A lot of fun and a lot of friendships forged. I can’t say enough about Titus Welliver and Jamie Hector as Bosch and Edgar. They are beyond my expectations. I also need to finally mention our director Jim McKay whose vision and ideas brought these characters and this script to life. He more than rose to the occasion. I can’t wait to see it all put together into an hour-long story. I can’t wait for all Harry Bosch fans to get a look at it in early 2014 on Amazon. I’ll post more details when I know them.