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It NEVER gets any easier.  Inevitably, the jubilation of convening with your fellow writers and hashing out a terrific story is extinguished by the prospect of having to actually write the damn script.  You sit down, type FADE IN and then…What?  Oh, you know what the scene is going to be (You just broke it the other week) and you can imagine the great version (Not the actual words, mind you, but the reactions of people who read it or watch the finished product.  Best Scene Ever!), but actually realizing it to its fullest potential…now that’s where things get sticky.

I once worked with a writer who would force out a first pass, no matter how half-assed, just to get something down before returning to it for countless rewrites, revisions that – in theory – would develop and improve on what he’d written. Sure. And I once worked with another writer who’d always tell me: “Shit don’t take a good buff.”  In other words, you can polish that half-assed pass all you want but, in the end, all you’ll end up with is a polished half-assed pass.  Which is why, when I sit down to write a script, those first few lines have to be tight.  I’ll work through a variety of false starts – a dozen, often more – before finding the right opening exchange, then develop the scene from that promising beginning.  I’ll pace (or drive or shower or eat or feign interest in the conversations going on around me) and run the scene in my head, over and over, building the beats, the dialogue, the set-ups, the pay-offs until, satisfied, I’ll finally sit down and actually, physically, start writing.  And, once I have it all down, I’ll re-read and reconsider and revise and rewrite and, once I’m satisfied, I’ll move on to the next scene and repeat the process.  Then, the next morning, I’ll start from the top: re-reading, reconsidering, revising and rewriting – all the while reflecting, with a certain wistfulness, on how nice it had been to sit in company and create something.

So, today I completed the Tease of episode #2 and I’m at the point where I’ve gone over it so many times I can almost recite it by heart.  I pushed ahead and wrote the first two scenes of Act I, hitting and surpassing my “5 pages a day” target.  It’s interesting how the characters seem to take on a life of their own on the page.  It’s early and, as much as I struggle to maintain quality equality, I already do have my favorites.  I think the key, as I progress through this first draft, is to find those unique instances of humor in each of the crew members because humor, I’ve always felt, goes such a long way toward humanizing characters, making them a little vulnerable and, thus, so much easier for the viewers at home to connect with them.  I think back to my time on Stargate and characters like Jack O’Neill, Vala Mal Doran, Rodney McKay, Eli Wallace – even Teal’c, Ronon Dex, General Hank Landry, Todd the Wraith, and Richard Woolsey.  All funny in their own distinct way.  It’s just a matter of finding, and drawing out, those distinct instances in each.

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What do you think?  What humorous instances endeared you to a particular Stargate character?

12  stories broken in 17 days.  I suspect we could have made even better time and done it in 14 days had one of our writers (“the mediator”) not been away that one week.  Still, a mighty impressive feat.  Now, all that remains to be done is to write the scripts, build the sets, cast the show, shoot it, edit it, make it t.v. ready, and deliver it to the broadcasters.  Piece of cake!

My writing partner, Paul, is doing a pass on my pass of the last pass of the pilot. I’ll start work on episode #2 tomorrow while “the mediator” continues writing episode #3.  Once I’m done, I’ll jump on #4 and, whenever the dust clears from his vacation, Paul will tackle #5 and #6.  Beyond that…who knows?!

We were halfway through today’s story breaking session when Paul looked over and said: “Hey, is that box for you?”

I followed his gaze to the Amazon.com delivery sitting at the end of the table. Intrigued, I wandered over to check the recipient’s address and – wouldn’t you know it! – it WAS for me!  I checked the sender and recognized the name. Shane.  Shane…  Sounds familiar.  Of course!  Shane, a.k.a. LineNoise, a blog regular!  I used my keys to tear through the tape binding the box, my mind racing through the possible contents: Books!  Chocolate!  $1.2 million dollars we could put toward set construction!

As it turned out, none of the above…

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Having taken pity on me and my dilapidated cutting board featured in that Philly Cheesesteak video I posted a couple of weeks back, Shane elected to forego the books and chocolate and cash in favor of this beautiful new cutting board.  Thanks, Shane.

P.S. Akemi tried it out today and loves it.  Apparently, it’s the perfect size!

Some interesting articles (Well, interesting to me!):

The Twin Peaks: Entire Mystery Blu-Ray collection: http://www.vulture.com/2014/07/twin-peaks-box-set-extras-guide.html?mid=facebook_vulture

Live action Attack on Titan casting news: http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2014/07/29/live-action-attack-on-titan-cast-announced

A review of Joe Abercrombie’s Half A King.  http://io9.com/joe-abercombies-half-a-king-is-a-coming-of-age-tale-soa-1612894023.  A book nearly impossible to put down once you start reading it!

And, to cap off Comic Con…

 

Another day, another story.  This episode, like episodes #7, 9, 10, and 11, was envisioned as a tough one that would take a couple of days to break.  But, like episodes #7, 9, 10, and 11, we ended up breaking it over the course of a single day.  And that leaves us with one final story remaining: episode 13, the big season finale.  As we were heading out to our cars this afternoon, one writer remarked that this one probably WOULD take us a couple of days due to its complex plot. Maybe.  But, then again, maybe not.  I have the tease, tag, all five act breaks, and the major moves in my head.  In fact, I’ve had them in my head for over a year now.  After writing the pilot, THIS was the episode my mind automatically went to whenever I imagined getting the green light on the series.  The big closer, the Holy Sh*t! season finale that will trigger the colossal fan forum meltdown after its eventual airing.  As my buddy would say: “It’s gonna be bananas!”

Alas, as you may have noticed, there was no official announcement at Comic Con. Apparently, they’re still crossing the last t’s, dotting the final i’s, and executing the finishing squiggly flourishes that accompany most official-looking signatures.  So…soon.  Soon.

In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead.  I’d like to see a revised pilot and first drafts of episodes #2, 3, and 4 by end of August, first drafts of episodes #5, 6, and 7 by end of September, and first drafts of #8, 9, and 10 by the time I touch down in Toronto in early November.  We’ve already generated a list of potential directors while, internally, we’ve started talking about casting.  We’ve got quite a few colorful roles to cast and finding the right people isn’t going to be easy – but we do have a few familiar faces we’d like to bring in for an audition.  Or two.  Ultimately, we’ll be looking for actors who are not only good, but good to work with.  And we know a few. :)

Damn, I’m going to miss going into the office to spin stories.  I’d like to say it’s been hard and rewarding work but, the truth is, it’s simply been a hell of a lot of fun.

We HAVE to do this again.  Next season!

Jelly is out like a Chicago White Sox designated hitter.

After an exhausting day of waiting for me to come home, Jelly is out like a Chicago White Sox designated hitter.

Hey, you know who has a GREAT attitude?  NOT me.  No, I’m easily offended, temperamental, and a notorious grudge-holder.  As one of my friends once put it: “Joe is the type of guy who, years later, will remember that pencil you stole from him in high school – and finally exact his revenge.”  While not exactly true (I’ve always been more of a pen man), the statement is certainly accurate in spirit.  Hey, don’t misunderstand.  I’m incredibly loyal and generous to my friends, but simply (and completely) unforgiving when I feel I’ve been wronged.  Yes, I have a bad attitude.  Admittedly.  On the other hand, my buddy (and former Stargate Special Features Producer), Ivon Bartok, has a GREAT attitude.  Even when life deals him a disappointment, he’ll let it roll right off him and always look on the positive side of things.  He has an ability to step back and consider the big picture, apply logic to a potentially emotional issue and say “Hey, that’s too bad.  But let’s not dwell. Moving on!”.  More often than not, I’m the one who ends up more affronted – on his behalf.  In hindsight, I suppose this is why he was such a great traveling companion on our trip to Japan a few years back.  Despite Air Canada misplacing his luggage and delivering it days later, his losing his subway pass only two days into our trip, our receiving word that our show (Stargate: Universe) had been canceled (Day #10), his spirits never flagged.

ivon

I admire him for it and, while it would be nice to say “I wish I could be more like him.”, the truth is I’m perfectly happy being my acerbic, disgruntled self.  Next to writing and my uncanny ability to instantly offer the numerical counterpart to any randomly-generated letter of the alphabet, complaining and plotting revenge are two things I’m really good at and it seems a shame to just give up on them like I did the clarinet or Mad Men after that “I ate a bad sandwich” episode.

Still, if I can’t have a good attitude, I can have the next best thing: a friend with a good attitude!

Next to clowns, furry spiders, and old timey pictures of twins, there’s nothing quite as creepy as a porcelain doll.  I discovered this several years ago, on my first trip to San Diego, when I stayed at a turn-of-the-century hotel that thoroughly freaked out my ex.  I attribute her response to a few things: the mysterious rattling in the walls that would awaken us in the dead of night, the “haunted ghost tour” that strolled through the lobby while we were checking in, and, of course, the management’s decision to adorn each floor with a deeply disturbing selection of antique dolls.  Yep, it was mighty eerie, so I can imagine how parents in Orange County may have felt waking up one morning to discover THIS on their doorstep:

Come and play with us.  Forever...and ever...and ever...

Come and play with us. Forever…and ever…and ever…

These night time deliveries were made even more unsettling by the fact that, in some instances, the dolls actually resembled the little girls living in the recipient households.

I mean…WTF?!  What kind of a warped mind is at work here?!  It’s like something out of a horror movie or the deepest recesses of an asylum for the criminally insane or…a kindly church member clearing out an old toy collection.

Sorry?  What?

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/07/california-police-solve-porcelain-doll-mystery-say-woman-responsible-meant-them-as-a-kind-gesture–1.html

“The woman – who police haven’t named – told them that she was only trying to give away toys her own family had outgrown and had tried to match the girls in the neighborhood with dolls that looked like them.
“She tried to pick dolls that resembled girls who lived there,” Hallock said. “In her mind, her motivation was purely kindness. It was meant as

a good-will gesture. In retrospect, I think she wishes she would have left a note.””

Yeah, in retrospect, maybe a heads up would have been a good idea.

A powerful lesson learned.  Always accompany your gift with a note.

Or, in the case of the following toys, avoid the gift altogether and just leave the note…

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pole-dancer-doll

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Wow!  We’re unstoppable!  Five stories in five days brings our grand total to eleven out of thirteen.  And, as one writer pointed out: They’re all great!   There’s not a single episode I’d happily pass on to someone else.  I want to write them all.
They’re a lot of fun, chock full of action, humor, shocking twists and turns, and, of course, terrific character moments for our entire crew.  You’re gonna love ‘em.

And, as we enter the stretch run, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

Okay, yes, the writing room has been great.  But, really, we’ve ONLY been great because we had the energy to blaze through these story breaking sessions.  And we’ve had the energy to blaze through these story breaking sessions thanks to our secret weapon:

1Yes, I replenished the chocolate storehouses this morning, thereby ensuring we’d have enough power to complete this week’s mission.

Tonight, I celebrated a week’s work well done by updating and distributing the series overviews detailing synopses, character lists, and production requirements for all eleven episodes.

Anyone in San Diego for Comic Con?  Sadly, I’m missing out this year, but I’m keeping updating on all the important happenings.  So far, there was this:

And this:

Anything else to report?

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to birthday boy Shirt’n’Tie!  Happy Birthday, Paul!

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Today, we finished breaking episode #10 of my new SF series.  It’s a little rougher than the preceding stories with a few TBD’s, but it’s great fun and ends with a jaw-dropping sequence that will no doubt have this blog buzzing when it eventually airs.

Can’t wait until next year?  Want a hint as to what to expect?  Well, okay.  Check out the above diagram, lovingly-rendered by one of our writers.  And – spoiler alert! – here are two more:

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Let the speculation begin!

I was informed yesterday that we have the conference room until the second week of August but, at this rate, I doubt we’ll even need it past this Wednesday.

Also, yesterday, we were treated to two surprises:

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Surprise #1: Former Stargate Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok who dropped by to experience our awesome spinning skills.  And eat our chocolate.

Surprise #2: A gift basket of fruit and chocolate from blog regular Gilder (Thanks, Gilder.  Very kind of you.).

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Tomorrow, we reconvene to discuss Episode #11.  Can’t wait to find out what other surprises you guys have in store for us.  Pizza?  Homemade cookies?  Matching macrame vests for the entire writing department?

We’ll see…!

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