Episode 9: Change of Heart
From the Production Journal of Michael Landon Jr. and Brian Bird, Executive Producers and Creators of "When Calls the Heart"
As I report for duty to 'Coal Valley' and we roll cameras on Episode 9, I'm excited about the way in which this series is evolving. It's what I remember my father saying when he was shooting 'Little House on the Prairie.' The characters and the world you create when you're doing a series go through a metamorphosis and relationships begin to form among the cast and crew, and the whole thing takes on a life of its own. We are truly all gelling on this show, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Janette Oke came to our set for a production visit, and it was riveting to see how thoroughly she took the whole experience in. She investigated every inch of the Coal Valley and gave us a 'thumb's up.' My partner, Brian Bird, and I had a three-way conversation with Janette. We talked about the process of how novels are adapted and become films and TV shows, and we all came to a realization. The reason most readers of beloved books have a hard time enjoying adaptations is because the fictional world in the novel first comes alive in their own, individual imaginations. And for filmmakers, that very personal vision is not possible to recreate perfectly. It's very difficult to live up to everybody's specifications and expectations. Janette came to the conclusion that a movie or TV show adapted from a novel needs to be appreciated on its own merits as a "different recipe of the same creative baked good." Both are like Abigail Stanton's famous scones. They have the same basic ingredients, but are just baked differently. That revelation led us to talking about Janette's new WCTH book, "Where Courage Calls," which traces the story of Elizabeth Thatcher and Mountie Jack Thornton in Coal Valley. I can't tell you how cool that is for us. We adapted her original WCTH novel for the 2-hour pilot, and then she helped us brainstorm ways to expand the story-telling so that we would have a larger canvas to paint on (who knows, there could be several seasons of this series and need all the ideas we can get ?). And then, she loved our collective vision for the show so much that she decided to write a brand new novel inspired by the TV series. It's like life imitates art imitates life imitates art… or something like that.