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One of the last things we did before packing it in for the holidays was go on a walk-thru of our standing sets.  Of course, not all of them are quite yet standing (ie. the shuttle, parts of the space station) and those that are still have a ways to go, but our Art Department did a phenomenal job making it presentable for the tour.  The bridge consoles were in, the corridors lit, and there was even some preliminary playback on the screens.  It all looked, in a word, superfantastic.  I snapped a bunch of pics – and have been doing so for weeks now, documenting the ship’s progress.  I’ll hold off on posting them until we’re officially in production  – but there are plenty of other behind-the-scene pics to show you in the meantime…

Alex Mallari Jr. in training with Stunt Coordinator John Stead

(photos c/o Alex Mallari Jr.)

Those of you familiar with the Dark Matter know that the character known as FOUR (aka Ryo Tetsuda, aka Ryo Ishida, aka Slashy McStabberson) isn’t the gunslinging type.  Oh, sure, he packs a sidearm, but his preferred weapon is the katana – sometimes two.  Despite having no formal sword training experience prior to landing the role, under the guidance of our incredible Stunt Coordinator John Stead (more on him in the coming weeks!), actor Alex Mallari Jr. has transformed himself into a twin-blade wielding natural.  Earlier this week, John showed us a video of Alex in training, running through the choreography for the first “training room discovery” scene – a jaw-dropping sequence that perfectly captured the moment as scripted:

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“He stands frozen, eyes fixed straight ahead.  Shuts his eyes.  Beat.  And suddenly launches into action: charging, turning, back-pedalling, leaping, ducking, as the blades whirl and sing around him, slicing through the air.  He makes his way across the room in a remarkable display of swordsmanship, lightning quick reflexes controlling the deadly katanas in a blur of movement…”

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It was unbelievable.

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Check him out on twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexMallariJr

Over the course of series, Alex will use two different “production katanas”.  The first is a super lightweight painted bamboo that, I’ve been told, is all the rage on Hong Kong action movie sets.

LBW testing the bamboo blade.

LBW testing the bamboo blade.

The second is the hero sword, forged of equally light aluminum -

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Here it is c/o of our Props Master, Victoria Klein.

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Our Production Designer, Ian Brock, designed the unique signature symbol that adorns the saya (scabbard) -

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And the blade itself.

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Paul checks the weight.

Anyway, we’re all done for the time being (except for the Art Department, Construction, the cast, and yours truly who will be doing another pass on all the scripts) and look ahead to our January 5th return.  Yesterday, it was one final stroll through the sets and then we locked up for the holidays.  Done and done.

Still, I can’t help but feel like I’ve forgotten something…

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In case you hadn’t heard, we finally have our cast: https://www.nbcumv.com/news/syfy-announces-casting-new-acquired-scripted-series-dark-matter?network=33143

“NEW YORK – December 18, 2014 – Syfy today announced casting of the new acquired scripted series Dark Matter, which will feature Melissa O’Neil (Broadway production of Les Miserables), Marc Bendavid (Bitten), Anthony Lemke (White House Down), Alex Mallari Jr. (Robocop) and Jodelle Ferland (Twilight) with Roger Cross (The Strain) and Zoie Palmer (Lost Girl).

The series begins production in Toronto on January 7.

Created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (executive producers and writers of the Stargate franchise), and developed with Prodigy Pictures (Lost Girl, XIII), the 13 one-hour episodes are based on the graphic novel Dark Matter by Mallozzi and Mullie, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Matter will premiere on Syfy in Summer 2015, joining Syfy’s stable of acquired international and domestic co-productions ranging from the hit series Z Nation to popular programs such as Lost Girl, Bitten and Continuum, and the upcoming series Olympus.

Executive producers are Jay Firestone, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie and Vanessa Piazza. The series will be distributed internationally by Endemol Worldwide Distribution.

In Dark Matter, the crew of a derelict spaceship is awakened from stasis with no memories of who they are or how they got on board. Facing threats at every turn, they have to work together to survive a voyage charged with vengeance, betrayal and hidden secrets.”

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Marc Bendavid as ONE (aka Jace Corso, aka Pretty Boy)

Charming but a bit of a goof, he is the crew’s moral center, a guy who always TRIES to do the right thing, despite the odds stacked against him and no matter how unpopular the course of action. He is a space cowboy, a bit of a daredevil, and the closest thing to a hero onboard the ship. Sure, he screws up – but he means well.

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Melissa O’Neil as TWO (aka Portia Lin, aka Boss Lady)

The group’s defacto leader, she is a master fighter and an unbelievably quick learner when it comes to weaponry. Determined, tough, and more than a little headstrong, she is not the type you want to mess with – or disappoint. She can be cool and inscrutable and yet, at the same time, can demonstrate surprising compassion – the mark of true leader.

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Anthony Lemke as THREE (aka Marcus Boone, aka Sunshine)

A true bad-ass, he is the flip side to ONE’s principled coin – which is why the two are often at odds, developing a (grudging) like-hate relationship over the course of their journey. He is mercenary through-and-through, a Hans Solo type, always looking out for himself. But he must come to accept the fact that, if he’s going to survive long enough to reach the outer colonies, he’s going to have to learn to get along.

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Alex Mallari Jr. as FOUR (aka Ryo Tetsuda, aka Ryo Ishida)

Ever-stoic and a master of the blade, his cool, calm demeanor belies a ruthlessness that gives even his fellow crew members pause. He’s a man of few words but, when he does speak – just like when he fights – it’s with precise efficiency. A fierce and relentless opponent, he is also an equally loyal and passionate friend.

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Jodelle Ferland as FIVE (aka Das, aka Kid)

The ship’s colorful mascot with a knack for mechanics, she’s also possessed of some mysterious abilities – like an inexplicable knowledge of past lives not her own.  She’s the kid with all the secrets. And a propensity for getting into trouble. Easily bored, quick to mouth off, she is nevertheless a relative innocent among less savory company.

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Roger Cross as SIX (aka Griffin Jones)

On the surface he’s a low-key bruiser, an imposing figure among a group of intimidating individuals. Despite the company he keeps, he is a man of integrity with little patience for bullshit. Cross him at your own risk. Beneath the rough and tumble exterior, however, is a heart of gold – 14k, the softest! A surprisingly simple guy, his quiet confidence belies a fierce intelligence and philosophical nature.

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Zoie Palmer as The Ship’s Android (aka The Android)

In personality, she is more butler-like than your typical robot – concise, staid, yet surprisingly possessed of a subtly wry sense of humor, she is an indispensible member of the crew since she can exercise control over all the ship’s systems. And she isn’t shy about reminding everyone of the fact. An outsider among the ship’s human passengers, she is almost child-like in her earnest desire to fit in.

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So much for the Christmas spirit.  Today, Akemi did something she rarely ever does.  She actually bought herself something.  The girl hardly ever spends on herself but, this afternoon, she made an exception when she came across a cup emblazoned with the letter A at a local shop.  Being a big tea drinker – and having a name that starts with the letter A – she thought it would be perfect, so she bought it.  About an hour later, she was getting off the subway, when some guy, in an obvious rush, bumped into her, knocking her purchase out of her hand.  The guy didn’t even slow down, jumping into the car and heading off, leaving Akemi to check on her cup – which was, of course, shattered.  Her disappointment was apparently so apparent that a subway employee consoled her with a shoulder pat and some words of encouragement.

Still, in good spirits.  And silly slippers.

Still, in good spirits. And silly slippers.

Well, two more days until we depart for the holidays – which means roughly a week’s worth of ground to cover before we go.  In addition to tomorrow’s early EARLY morning tech survey (which leaves the production offices at 7:00 a.m., meaning I’ll have to leave my place at 6:30 a.m., meaning I’ll probably have to wake up for 5:45 a.m.), I’ve still got to do another pass on scripts for episodes #103, #104, #105, and #106, incorporate Jay’s notes into #107, #108, and #109, and get notes from Paul on #112.  Oh, and then there’s the meetings.  And the camera tests!  Today, Lawren, our VFX Supervisor, showed us some preliminary FTL (fast than light) effects as well as some animatics of the ship – and the missile pursuit.  Very cool.  I’m making a note to keep everything on file so that I can share with you all in time.

Meanwhile, the production offices are embracing the Dark Matter theme…

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I need to place this on my dash, otherwise Vanessa will knock off my side mirror with a baseball bat.

I need to place this on my dash, otherwise Vanessa will knock off my side mirror with a baseball bat.

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Adorning the walls of the cafeteria

Adorning the walls of the cafeteria

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Please note our strict no Facebook, no twitter, no photo policy.

Bon Appetit!  Please note our strict no Facebook, no twitter, no photo policy.

One more day for our Dark Matter Holiday Toy Drive!

And one more day for our Dark Matter Holiday Toy Drive!

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I’ve only been working with her a couple of weeks and I already a huge, HUGE fan.

“Why?”you may ask.

Well, why don’t I just let her a few samples of her work answer that question…

Choices for the GA (Galactic  Authority) emblem

Choices for the GA (Galactic Authority) emblem

Choices for some of the multi planetary (corporate) logos

Choices for some of the multi planetary (corporate) logos

"Caution" sign in English and our version of intergalactic Esperanza

“Caution” signs in English and our version of intergalactic Esperanto

Personally, I always find red goes a long way toward implied danger.

Personally, I always find red goes a long way toward implied danger.

The galaxy is full of danger - often clearly marked.  We opted for the one on the right.

The galaxy is full of danger – often clearly marked. We opted for the one on the right.

She also designed our future currency – but those pictures are on my other laptop.  Do remind me to show you next time.

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We’re heavy into prep on episodes #101-102 and, with the commencement of principal photography about a month away, sets are coming together nicely.  Our ship, The Raza, has come a long way in the past couple of weeks.  The corridors have been textured with faux-grate flooring, pipes, vents, and grills, its walls painted in metallic hues, sliding doors installed; the quarters are coming to life, the sub-level cargo hold and walkways finished, and the bridge…the window are in, front AND top, and the consoles went in today.

Meanwhile, work is being completed on the shuttle (the Phantom Class Marauder) interior design.  We’ve gone back and forth on its various elements – width, depth, seating layout, windows, and location of the door – and are in the process of finalizing the look.  I wanted something similar to the puddle jumper in terms of layout with a little more of the depth of the SGU shuttle.  Ultimately, I think we’ll also incorporate an element of the SG-1 cargo ships with its sectioned cockpit and separate hold.

Anyway, I contacted Stargate Production Designer James Robbins, who has been doing some fabulous design work for us on Dark Matter (Can’t wait to show you his work on The Marauder, the space station, and the various cruiser, destroyer, and shuttle class versions of the Ferrous Corp, Mikkei Combine, and Galactic Authority ships!), and asked him about the dimensions of those smaller Stargate ship designs.  He sent me the following which I thought were too cool not to share with you -

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As James points out, the dimensions are from our VFX department and may not reflect what was actually built.  80 feet long for the SGU shuttle seems a bit much, but the 40 foot length of the Atlantis puddle jumper sounds about right.

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Takes you back, no?

Many thanks to James for digging these up from the archive!

Prep continues with non-stop meetings.  Today, it was the concept meeting followed by visual effects, playback, and impromptu hair meeting, stunts, and special effects.  Tomorrow, it’s an Art Department review, props, paints, another hair meeting, and not one but TWO gun meetings!

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Remember that guy back in the day?  The one with all the connections?  The one who could get you and your friends in anywhere, no matter how popular or exclusive the place?  Well, that guy now works on Dark Matter.  His name is Zachary Beckwith and he is our Locations Manager.  If you’re looking for somewhere to shoot that alley gun battle or forest sword fight or palace betrayal, he can get you in!

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We had our first official Dark Matter locations scout the other day, lead by Zach who scheduled a grand tour of not one, not two, but three locations (plus a fourth the following day) in addition to arranging transport and snacks!  Pictured above, Exec Producer’s Bodyguard Alison Hepburn and Assistant Production Manager Robbie David prepare for departure.

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One of the most important attributes of a successful writer-producer is flexibility.  Sometimes, that wild west town you scripted for your original comic book is unfeasible – or simply way too expensive for single, even double episode use – so you have to start considering alternate settings.  If you were shooting, say, in Vancouver, you could go with a tent village or quonset huts – but if you’re shooting in the Toronto area, it’s far smarter to take advantage of what the area has to offer.  In this case, a stones throw from T.O. (assuming Superman threw the stone) is Hamilton, home to a plethora of industrial settings.

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With the right builds and set dec, an area like this can be transformed into a part of a mining community or even a space station.

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Animal prints suggest a local wildlife that will add character to any futuristic set.  Space raccoons?

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These walk-thrus also offer much in the way of potential props.  I could see things thingamajig sitting in our cargo hold.

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Love the look of this place with its catwalks and ladders, offering great multi-level scope for shootouts.

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A bit of a fixer-upper.  Would take a while to clear.

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I quite like this look for the final battleground.

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Heading outside to check out the exteriors.

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It would look quite different once we were done with it, but this alleyway offers a great look for our crew’s encounter with Captain Salehi and co.

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A lot of these places offer tons of character in the way of unfathomable equipment.

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Another great look.

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Thinking ahead to the salvage op on the abandoned freighter in episode #105.  Looking for low ceilings, cramped corridors – and this place has it in spades.

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Again, loving the multi-level gun stations.  A possible reactor room?

Decisions, decisions…

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Our Visual Effects Supervisor arrived today – all the way from Vancouver, B.C.!  Some of you may recognize him as the manager of The Fighting Hyphens, a team my Snow Monkeys crushed back in Week 4 of fantasy football league play:

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Some of you may identify him as the guy who was offered $1000 to polish off four decadent chocolate desserts after eating a weeks worth of chocolates at my 2009 Chocolate Party, the guy who gave up with only one dessert to go because he was feeling ill – only to feel hungry an hour later and eat again:

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Still others will remember him as the voice of the original Quisp, the mascot of Quisp Cereal:

And, of course, still others recognize him as our former Stargate script coordinator:

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Now, he’s in charge of making sure that all those spectacular visual effect shots we’ve envisioned in the scripts end up on screen.  FTL jumps, shuttle flights, blast waves – it’s all in his hands now.

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