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Archive for the ‘Dark Matter’ Category

Executive Producer Jay Firestone sits on my garish orange office couch in this undated photograph (Okay, it was this morning).

Executive Producer Jay Firestone sits on my garish orange office couch in this undated photograph (Okay, it was this morning).

As we head into prep on the first season of Dark Matter, I thought it might be nice to introduce you to some of the people who work behind the scenes to bring you (what will no doubt become) your new favorite new scifi series.  Now people have often asked me: “Joe, what does a producer do?”.  My answer: “It depends.” Nothing and everything, and a whole lot in between.  At the worst of times, a “producer” is someone who receives a vanity credit by virtue of being at the right at place at the right time (ie. He lent someone a pen that allowed them to sign the contract that closed the deal).  At the best of times, it’s someone who plays a crucial role in bringing the production to life, either by assembling the elusive pieces of the financial puzzle or coordinating the technical aspects of a production or helping to shape the creative.  In Jay’s case, it’s all three.  The only reason we’re moving forward on Dark Matter is because he was able to hustle his ass off and close the deals that got us the money we needed to make the show.  We’re moving smoothly into prep because of the infrastructure he’s already put in place (talented personnel and valuable resources), the result of the many years of television he’s produced here in Toronto – most recently the series Lost Girl whose stages we’ll be moving into in the coming weeks.  And, finally, Jay is involved in the creative, from scripts through prep to editing.  Now, normally, this would be a cause for concern for me.  While I’m not precious with my ideas and am open to ideas that will make a script better, experience has taught me that, a lot of the time, notes can actually make a script worse.

Actual notes/suggestions/requests we received on Stargate:

“Can we do a final shot where he wiggles his ears so that we know he’s an alien?” (On the character of Martin Lloyd in Stargate: SG-1‘s Point of No Return).

“Don’t know if he’s right for the show.” (On making the character of Dr. Rodney McKay a member of the Atlantis expedition, Stargate: Atlantis).

“I’d love for them to have a mascot.  Maybe a golden retriever!” (On Stargate: Atlantis‘s second season).

I’m a “worst case” scenario type of guy, so when someone tells me they have notes on my script, my response is akin to cresting the top of a roller coaster and starting the plummeting descent.  In a nutshell: “Nononono!  Aaaaaaah, SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!”. Sure, it might be considered an overreaction.  Much of the time, the notes aren’t THAT bad.  But they can be.  I always go in, prepared for the worst, and spend much of these sessions thinking “I can’t address these notes.  I’m dooooomed!” This in contrast to my writing partner, Paul, who is super positive and accommodating during notes sessions (“You want to make his love interest a platypus.  Sure, we can do that.”) only to discover, when he sits down to incorporate the changes, that he’s dooooooomed!

Anyway, we started working with Jay about a year and a half ago when he hired us to develop one of his ideas for television.  We wrote a pilot script and, when we sat down with him for that first note session, I was, of course, expecting the worst. And ended up shocked.  For a number of reasons.  First of all, his approach was collaborative rather than confrontational.  Secondly, he was perfectly reasonable, happy to discuss his notes and, on occasion, willing to reconsider.  Thirdly, and most importantly, his notes were actually good.  Smart and well thought-out.  Paul and I may have disagreed with some, but there was never a moment when I wondered: “What was this guy smoking?!”.  And, believe it or not, that happens a lot more than you’d think.

Anyway, Jay dropped by my office today to offer his thoughts on the first six scripts.  He had a couple of suggestions regarding the character voices (We agreed that we would make adjustments once we had our cast and the first 12 scripts) and a couple of bumps (that, after some thought, I realized could be addressed easily enough).  All good.

Speaking of casting, I just got off the phone with Paul who is finally making his way through all the Toronto auditions.  About two hours in, he’s sounding a little punch drunk.  I’ll check in with him in an hour.

Meanwhile, our casting director, Lisa Parasyn, has her work cut out for her this week as she heads west to take in some more auditions.  Her Vancouver schedule has her starting at 9:00 a.m. and, with five minutes allotted to each audition, and an hour off for lunch, she’ll be done a little after 4:00 p.m.  Her second Vancouver session is, thankfully, only half as long.  And then she’s off to L.A. to do it all over again.

Anyway, I’m hoping we’ll have our decisions for round #2 by early next week.  This weekend, I’ll choose another set of sides (scenes they’ll use in their auditions) for each of the seven characters.  And, hopefully by the week after, we’ll be down to our round #3 finalists.  It’s sort of like American Idol, but with less singing and more Androids.

After another D.O.P. interview, I moved on to the most important part of my day – picking out some dog carpets for the new place:

It's like carpet heaven!

It’s like carpet heaven!

With Lost Girl wrapped, their inventory awaits a discerning purveyor of fine carpets – such as myself.  With the help of Exec Producer’s Assistant Alison Hepburn (who, in addition to picking out carpets, making sure I don’t get lost, and chewing my food like a mother bird for me because I’m now a busy Show Runner and don’t have time to do it myself), I picked up a wonderful selection that will ensure the hardwood floors remain scratch-free, and Jelly upright and mobile.

Jackpot!

Jackpot!

It was an awesome day.  Until Jay informed me that, because of snafu in my writer’s contract, I would actually be getting paid in carpets.

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Okay.  I may not love where I’m presently living and I may hate the weather and the Toronto traffic but, boy, am I looking forward to production on Dark Matter‘s first season.  Yes, of course I’m thrilled that I’m about to start prep on my very own show, but experience has taught me that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the people you work with.  And I’ve got a very good feeling about the people I’ll be working with in the months ahead.  They’re relaxed, friendly, supportive, upbeat, and incredibly talented.  It’s a great vibe and highly reminiscent of the positive tone I experienced on Stargate.  Can’t wait to introduce you to the gang in the coming weeks.

This morning, I settled into my new office, had my green smoothie, and talked t.v. and books with Alison and Caitlin (who promised to recommend me some Scandinavian reads) before getting on the phone with our Casting Director, Lisa Parasyn, who has done a phenomenal job of bringing in an incredible array of acting talent for these auditions.  To be honest, with seven varied roles to cast, I was a little nervous going in but about a week into the process, I’m positively excited by some of the talent.  We have 2-3 solid candidates for each part – and still have more people to see!  With Vancouver and L.A. sessions upcoming, Lisa and I reviewed exactly what we need from each of these characters.  One of the key aspects I emphasized was humor.  I’ve always felt that a sense of humor goes a long way toward humanizing a character and facilitating a viewer connection.  I’m not necessarily talking about laugh-out-loud funny but even a subtle humor is great.  When I think back to Stargate, characters like McKay and O’Neill are the obvious examples, but I’d argue that Daniel, Teal’c, Woolsey, Ronon (and many more) were also funny in their own way.  And the viewers loved them for it.  Well, that’s what I’m looking for in these auditions.  Humor – in addition to depth, range, and an utterly brilliant performance.  And, so far, a surprising number have delivered.

This afternoon, I walked the stages that will soon hold our sets…

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This is where we’ll be building the ship’s infirmary and isolation chamber.

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Future home of The Raza’s bridge.

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Potential home of our shuttle, the Phantom Class Marauder.

I know it doesn’t look like much now but just you wait.

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That’s it.  We’re out of time.  Ready or not, we are on a plane and Toronto-bound tomorrow morning.  I’m super anxious about flying with the dogs – but have done my best to prepare them for the four and half hour in-cabin flight.  I spent an hour on the phone with Air Canada, making the arrangements.  Jelly, Bubba, and Lulu will be flying in-cabin with us.  Each dog must be accompanied by a passenger but, sadly, must remain under the seats at all time.  I did my research and learned that the middle seats in economy actually have the most under-seat room so I booked three in a row – and also booked the aisle seats so that Akemi, Jeff, and I wouldn’t be too cramped.  I know, I know.  It’s an added expense – that required a whole separate call and next day confirmation – but this is a (hopefully) rare occasion. Lulu’s recent stomach issues had me concerned enough to take her to the vet today but I’m pleased to report that her case of (what Carl Binder used to refer to as) “the skitters” has abated and she is back to her old self.  And, as an added bonus, actually shaved off half a pound!

We fly out at 9:00 a.m., but we’ll be meeting at the airport at 7:30 so that we can check in together.  The dogs will be skipping breakfast, just to be on the safe side, and I’ll be administering Rescue Remedy and maybe a little bit of gravel before they head into their sherpa bags.  I may even wake up extra early to take them for some early, EARLY morning walks and ensure they’re nice and tired for the duration of the trip.

I’m hoping for a lot of this:

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And, once we’re in Toronto, it’ll be smoooooooth sailing!

Mailbag:

Bailey writes: “Will the series follow closely with the comic? If I have read the Dark Matter will I be spoiled for the series?”

Answer: The first two episodes will cover the events of the Dark Matter graphic novel (comprised of all four issues of the comic book) although some changes will be made.  Yes, there are spoilers in the graphic novel but the revelations contained therein are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the twists, turns, and surprises to be doled out over the course of the show’s first season.

glisterghost writes: “Casting must be an exciting experience for any writer – do you have any say in the process?”

Answer: Yes, as show runner I will have a say in everything from who is cast to the color of the onscreen display on the bridge.  I’m mad with power.

gforce writes: “Poor Lulu! Hopefully, that will clear up really soon. Who will she be riding with anyway? Jeff? :)”

Answer: Yep.  Jeff has the honor.  She’s feeling much better now.  Hopefully, she won’t be too gassy.

Dallas Marshall writes: ” is Dark Matter going to be aired in the United States, or just Canada? “

Answer: SyFy is our U.S. broadcaster: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/syfy-stargate-producers-take-graphic-740985.  Just like old times!

dasndanger writes: “Dude…DUDE…the toughest character to cast will most certainly be Ryo Tetsuda”

Answer: I thought so too – until I started reviewing the auditions.  Some terrific candidates.

JimFromJersey writes: “Since this is going to be “our” show, let me know when would be a good time for a set visit. Preferably after it’s built, of course.”

Answer: Damn.  I was going to put you to work on the bridge.

livingforcreativity writes: “You seemed to have many, many shows in development at one time. I’m thrilled Dark Matter is happening. It seems like getting a show to air is a miracle under any circumstances. But, are any of the other shows still a possibility? If one of them “happens” what do you do? (Add people to the team, while you still executive produce?)”

Answer: I should be so lucky.  Right now, Paul and I are wholly focused on Dark Matter‘s first season –  and will be through June of 2015.  One of our other prospective shows, A.K.A., is still in play out there, while another script I co-wrote with our friend Tara Yelland was recently optioned.  I’ve always said that, in this business, you either have to have near infinite patience, or a near infinite amount of projects out there.  You just never know.  Even when you think you do – you don’t.  A while ago, I thought Dark Matter was dead and would have bet money we’d be producing A.K.A. in Vancouver – but, clearly, things worked out differently.

Joan001 writes: ” I know that there are people I’d like to see being cast again. “

Answer: So would I and I’ve recommended certain individuals I’ve worked with in the past for certain roles.  But, in the end, it all comes down to the auditions.  We’ve seen a lot of very talented people so far, and will be seeing a lot more in the coming week, and, in the end, it all comes down to who is right for the role.

Jarvis writes: ” Are you guys casting only in Canada or in L.A. too? “

Answer: The L.A. sessions start next week.

JeffW writes: “So it premiers next fall? In September?”

Answer: They haven’t announced an official premiere date yet.  Could be as early as June or late as September I imagine.  What works best for you?

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Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 3.55.16 PM

So now that it’s official, I can finally talk about my new show, Dark Matter, and my plans for the series and this blog in the lead-up to season premiere (sometime in 2015).  As most of you know, while I was working on Stargate this blog offered fans a peak at the inner workings of the production, with posts of everything from concept art to behind the scene videos and, of course, Q&A’s with the many talented individuals who helped produce it.  Well, I’d like to offer fans and prospective viewers the same opportunity with Dark Matter - with the added bonus that we’ll all be on this journey together.  From prep through production to finished episode,  this blog will offer you spoiler-free insights into the evolution of the production, something usually reserved for after-the-fact special features.  I want you all invested in the series from the very beginning and involved in its progression and completion so that, ultimately, hopefully, you’ll consider it YOUR show as much as I consider it mine.

Saturday, I leave rainy Vancouver for the frosty environs of Toronto where I’ll spend the next seven months – at least.  Next week, I’ll be talking to Jay Firestone (http://www.jayfirestone.com) and his team, lead by Vanessa Piazza (https://twitter.com/Vanessa_Piazza_), about coordinating these behind-the-scenes entries.  In the meantime…

Delivered scripts for episodes #7 and #8.  The script for episode #9 will come out next week.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, my writing partner, Paul, and I are approaching this first year as a maxi-series, each episode a chapter in our season-long story.  By the time we go to camera in January, we should have all 13 scripts done.

As for now, we’ve got six crew members and an android to cast and are deep into it.  We’ve cast a fairly wide net, opening the roles to all ethnicities and, in a couple of cases, both genders.  In the end, I think two of our linchpin female crew members, defacto leader TWO and the mysterious kid FIVE are going to be the toughest to cast.  Having that, however, we’ve got A LOT of very interesting candidates.

Well, seven if you include the Android.

Well, seven if you include the Android.

Thanks for all the birthday well-wishes.  I celebrated today by getting my haircut and doing a pass on the aforementioned scripts.  We went out for sushi dinner and, tonight, I cap off my birthday festivities by taking in another 30 auditions.

One final full day in Vancouver and then we’re Toronto-bound.  And, just when I was beginning to feel a little more comfortable about flying with the dogs, Lulu, my french bulldog has come down with diarrhea.  Let’s hope it clears up before we board our Saturday morning flight.  :(

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Big news!  I’m not crazy after all -

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.22.25 PM

http://tvline.com/2014/10/15/syfy-acquires-dark-matter-graphic-novel-adaptation/

http://www.gateworld.net/news/2014/10/stargate-producers-bring-dark-matter-to-syfy/

So I DIDN’T imagine the whole thing.  Unless, of course, this is also part of my elaborate, ongoing hallucination and those url’s actually link to the live cam of a cat hotel in Cornwall.

But, just in case, I’d like to thank a few of the people who got us where we are today: poised to go into production on a glorious 13-episode SF series…

First and foremost, Jay Firestone of Prodigy Pictures who worked tirelessly for months (and months and months!) relentlessly pursuing (I suspect he’s really a T-1000) and piecing together the various deals that made Dark Matter, the t.v. series, a reality.  If not for all of Jay’s determined hard work, none of this would have been possible and I would have had to find something else to blog about today.

Next, Keith Goldberg at Dark Horse Comics who green lit the original four issue Dark Matter comic book series (available as a graphic novel here: https://digital.darkhorse.com/browse/brand/52/.  As I suspected, the graphic novel proved an invaluable visual tool in conveying a proper sense of the prospective show’s tone and plotting – and ensuring people didn’t automatically imagine “the worst version”.

Speaking of the comic book, a big thanks to artist extraordinaire Garry Brown who illustrated all four issues (http://www.garrybrownart.com), colorist Ryan Hill (https://twitter.com/josephryanhill), letters Richard Starkings and Comicraft (http://www.comicbookfonts.com/default.asp), and my awesome editor Patrick Thorpe (http://www.comicbookdaily.com/columns/wham-bang-pow/got-job-series-patrick-thorpe/).

I’m sure I’ll have at least another hundred people to thank when all is said and done but for now, a final thanks to Vanessa Piazza who has been overseeing early prep (everything from The Raza and space station designs to casting) and will be joining me on set for all the space-faring fun in the coming months.

Spread the word.  And check back here for plenty of behind-the-scenes insights, tidbits, and sneak peaks.

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Happy Thanksgiving to our American viewers!  How are your turduckens and piecakens coming along?  Let’s see the pics!

Hey!  When’s the last time we did a mailbag?

Maggiemayday writes: “I’m looking at planning my 2015 spring vacation and Vancouver is an option. So, is April or May a decent time to visit? We visited Vermont one spring and it was closed. Whole darn state.”

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Answer: Unlike baseball, and presumably Vermont, Vancouver is never rained out. Having said that, April-May is the tail-end of the rainy season – that usually begins in September.

glowyzoey writes: ” The regular actors and guest stars didn’t always pronounce Jaffa and Go’al’ud (and I forget how to spell the latter!) the same way. Did anyone care or did it become a thing with the cast and crew and done deliberately wrong,”

Elliott Goa'uld

Elliott Goa’uld

Answer: Yeah, the varied pronunciations of “goa’uld” became a running joke behind-the-scenes.  Some were sticklers for correctly enunciation “go-a-uld” while others, ie. Rick, liked to have fun with the word.  As seasons passed, most of our human characters went with “goold” less out of laziness than a suggested disrespect for the l alien symbiotes.  As opposed to the amazing Beau Bridges who stuck to “go-a-uld” because he was good friends with actor Elliott Gould.  No, really.

gforce writes: ” In the first episode of SGU, as people came through the gate, they were thrown forcefully out on arrival. I remember you saying at one time there was a reason for it and it would be revealed as the show went on. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen of course, and I always wondered what the explanation was. It didn’t happen when they gated from more nearby gates, so I always wondered if it was strictly a matter of distance or whether there was some other explanation.”

Heads up!

Heads up!

Answer: No, it was a matter of the great distance traveled.  The more panicked the entry, the more forceful the exit.  This is confirmed in Incursion I when the Lucian Alliance members have to evacuate their base of operations, some rushing through the gate – and exiting in violent fashion.

gloeyzoey writes: “On SG-1 there seemed to be a lot of characters over the years (okay, several characters) named Jona/Jonah or Jonas or some variation. Probably not done on purpose, I’m guessing, but is there a reason for the similarities? lot of writers liked the name? A favourite uncle of someone’s? A fondness for guys who get swallowed by whales? ;-)

Answer: Jonah was O’Neill’s alternate identity in SG’1 Beneath the Surface, then a bad Jonas (Hansen) in SG-1’s First Commandment, and finally a good Jonas (Quinn) in SG-1’s Meridian and beyond.  We’ve also had Six Peters, six Davids, five Johns, five Franks, three LIndsays, three Marks, but, curiously, only one Olaf.

Olaf.  He's one of a kind!

Olaf. He’s one of a kind!

Tam Dixon writes: “Is you back feeling better?”

Answer: Much better, thanks.  Back to my regular workout routine:

1Tam Dixon writes: “How did your Sis like her Vacouver vacation?” and Ponytail writes: “Do you have any pictures of Andria with the dogs while she was babysitting?”

Answer: Andria had a great time in Vancouver, with the dogs and checking out the local restaurants.  Fable was by far her favorite.  She posted the follows pics while she was here:

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dasndanger writes: “Television series – what do you prefer (to watch, or to write): one-and-done episodic shows, or serialized shows?”

Answer: With the exception of a few comedies, pretty much all of my favorite shows are serialized: The Sopranos, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Rome, Game of Thrones. Almost all the shows on my weekly rotation are serialized as well: Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, and, to a certain extent, Survivor and Top Chef.  Episodic television, on the other hand, isn’t much-watch viewing.  You can miss an episode or two without consequence and perhaps catch up at a later date.  Or not.

dasndanger also writes: “One of the things driving me away from television is the grittier, more explicit content of shows, even those on network television.”

Answer: Serialized shows tend to be cable shows and cable shows tend to allow for more creative freedom, which is why it’s where you’ll find more varied and, frankly, more realistic programming.  Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of taste.  I honestly can’t remember the last scripted network show I really enjoyed.

keith writes: “Will you be starting the Superhero Movie of the Week Club up again soon?”

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Answer: Yep.  Cookie Monster will be back reviewing super-themed movies in the new year – provided he comes out of hiding.

stygianlnq writes: “1) In any of the Stargate series, did you ever have one-shot enemies/civilizations of the week that you would have wanted to have revisited at a later time (like what was done with the Rand Protectorate and the Langarans) or otherwise explore further?”

Answer: Oh, there were plenty of civilizations I wanted to revisit, not so much for story’s sake, but simply to check in on them to see how their people have been doing since we left them.  Special Features producer Ivon Bartok was always requesting we revisit the Nox.

“2) Has there been any word yet on whether Brad Wright will publicly announce his intended ending for SGU?”

Answer: No, still no word.  Ultimately, it’s up to Brad to reveal that ending.

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“3) What do you think of this article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/merrillbarr/2013/11/18/the-final-season-of-nikita-isnt-about-fan-service-its-about-netflix/) as someone who works in television?”

Answer: The gist of the article is that the emergence of Netflix and its unique deal structure has spurred productions to offer satisfactory conclusions to their shows. Netflix viewers binge-watch and the thinking is that they won’t waste their time sitting down to a show they know will not end in satisfactory fashion.  It’s a very interesting shift in thinking given that, years ago, the emphasis was on producing episodic shows with no conclusive endings for syndication because it was believed viewers would be less likely to invest in a show if the story actually concluded.  For my part – surprise surprise – I prefer this new model.  Every story should have a beginning, middle, and end.

“Do you think that the Netflix/Digital Distribution model will make networks more reluctant to cancel a series without giving it a chance to wrap up?”

Answer: That’s entirely dependent on the type of deal that is in place.  Without a second window like Netflix to aim for, it’s unlikely an under performing show would be given the luxury of extra episodes to wrap things up.

“Do you think that it will make writers and producers of shows more likely to want to have cliffhangers at the end of seasons to try and squeeze those last few wrap-up episodes out of the network? What are your overall thoughts?”

Answer:  Oh, I suppose it depends on the producer.  Keep in mind, shows are not written in a creative vacuum.  The network will have a say on what kind of season-ender is produced.

“4) What ever happened to Transporter: The Series? I remember watching the first three episodes and then it went on break or something and I never saw it again. Is it still on?”

Answer: No clue.  Amber alert?

Ponytail writes: “Which trip to Tokyo has been your favorite so far?”

Answer: I think my 2009 trip is my favorite, the one on which I ate at a record number of Michelin-starred restaurants, made a bunch of new friends, and met Akemi.  My trip to Tokyo with my buddy Ivon is, of course, a close second.

“So why haven’t you, Paul, Rob, Brad, Carl, Martin, Ivon formed a company and made your own TV shows, productions and/or movies? Is everyone doing their own thing?”

Answer: We all are working on our own things, but our own company is a great idea. All we need is $$$ and partners with sales and business savvy.

“How is your Mom?”

Answer: Mom is great.  Thanks for asking.

Lewis writes: “Have you seen any episodes of “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Richard Curtis (of Black Adder, Mr. Bean, & Vicar fame)? Idris Elba is in it.. along with David Oyelowo (MI-5/Spooks).”

Answer: I haven’t.  I was pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series.

JeffW writes: “1. Is Akemi making any special outfits for the furry kids this Christmas? (Barb thought Bubba’s last Santa outfit was cute).”

Answer: Not yet.

Brent writes: “1) When filming Stargate scenes that arent done at the studios, i know you did some filming at locations, but did you ever go to other TV or Film studios sets and use them to save money since they were already in place? Did any other shows or films use Stargates sets? If this happened any interesting stories?”

Answer: We did, on occasion, take over sets.  For instance, the White House set we used in the latter seasons of SG-1 was leftover from a disaster movie that had shot in Vancouver.  Some of the internal structure of Atlantis was formerly the set of one of the Blade movies.  Often, a production will save on the costs of striking and dumping a set by selling it to another production for a nominal fee.

“2) Who wrote the scene between Tealc and Tomin in the mess hall of the ship in Ark of Truth? I thought it was one of the best scenes in Stargate history. It isnt particularly uplifting or a bonding moment. But it is so powerful and also reminds the fans that Tealc is responsible for extreme atrocities that one shouldn’t forget. Great scene. I watch it twice every time i play the movie.”

Answer: Ark of Truth was written by the uber-talented Robert C. Cooper – writer, director, producer, chef.

Robert C. Cooper.  And creepy friend.

Robert C. Cooper. And creepy friend.

“3) In SGU we learned that the ship has some interesting secrets like being able to manipulate the mind of Young. Where there any more secrets the Destiny was going to reveal in its future?”

Sure.  We wanted to add depth to the Destiny over the course of the show’s run, introducing undiscovered sections of the ship as budget allowed (ie. the bridge was the big addition for the show’s second season.

“4) Of all the people you worked with on Stargate, who do you think walked off with the best prop from the show(s) and what was it?”

Hmmm.  Hard to say.  I really like my pain stick.  On the other hand, Rob Cooper has some mighty cool stuff including a kino.

“5) Not a question, but a comment. I thought Mitchell and Vala were a fantastic boost to SG1. I especially enjoyed Mitchell. He brought a nice feeling of grit and intensity when needed. Sad they didnt have a longer run in Stargate.”

Answer: Yeah, it is sad.  I really enjoyed Ben and Claudia’s work on Farscape and, when it came time to make an addition to the team, I automatically thought of Ben.  And, later, after Claudia’s guest stint, we thought she’d make a great addition as well – but the network was resistant as they felt it would be a little too Farscape…until they saw the episodes and change their minds.  Of course, at that point, it was too late for season 9 but we did make Vala a regular for the show’s tenth and final season.

“6) I loved SGU! We were robbed of so many interesting stories that could have been… Sigh.”

Answer: So true.

arcticgoddess writes: “1) Many actors that I know are going the “Independent Film” route, doing You Tube short films and looking for funding through Kickstarter. Have you and Paul ever considered doing an indy?”

Answer: Sure, we’ve considered it.

“2)If you ever decided to go the independent route, would you use crowd funding, or are there better ways to fund a project?”

Answer: Crowd funding is an iffy proposition.  Maybe it would work for smaller projects, but movies and especially a t.v. series requires you go the old fashioned route.

“3) Now that you’ve been a writer, a producer and a show runner, which job was the toughest and why?”

Answer: Apples and oranges.  They’re all equally challenging in different ways.

“4)If a studio picks up your show, how much control over it do you retain?”

Answer: That depends on the studio and your deal.  More often than not, the studio has a major say in the creative and can turf dissenters.  In better case scenarios, they have enough respect for the creative to exercise restraint in the process.

“5)How did you find your agent?”

Answer: In the case of my Canadian agent, I had dealt with him – and his clients – on other shows.  When I thought it was time, I simply dropped him an email.  In the case of my American agent, I had our Canadian agent set up a bunch of meetings, then Paul and I did the rounds in L.A. and decided which representative would be a best fit for us.

“6) When you were given the reigns to Star Gate Atlantis, were you also given the final say on the actors chosen for the various parts?”

Answer: As far back as SG-1, the writer-producer of a given episode was given a pretty strong voice with regarding to casting.  Like Brad and Robert before us, we always screened auditions with our fellow producers to get their respective takes.

Fagate One writes: “Tout le travail de développement d’idées et de scénarios que vous faites pour des projets comme ceux mentionnés est-il fait à vos frais ou êtes-vous engagés à contrat?”

Answer: It depends on the project.  Paul and I are paid to develop certain projects while our personal pilots are written on spec.

“Pouvez-vous nous informer un peu sur les modes de rémunérations des multiples essais que vous faites pour des séries ou des fims quand ceux-ci n’aboutissent pas? En d’autres mots, êtes-vous payés uniquement si la série ou le film reçoit le OK de production?”

Answer: Yes, you are definitely paid more if a script you’ve written is eventually produced.  In fact, that’s where the real money is.  Development work pays “okay”, but it’s not going to buy you that jet!

Lewis writes: “Any chance of more DARK MATTER stories in comic form?”

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Answer: Alas, unlikely.  The opening four issue arc was a lot of fun to work on but the intent was always to use it as a springboard to a live-action series instead of the opening story of an ongoing comic book series.   Ultimately, if I was given the opportunity, I would love to create another original story in comic book form.  Either that, or write an original Stargate story in comic book form, maybe one of the stories we didn’t wanted to tell but didn’t get the chance.  For instance, it would be incredibly cool to do a comic book version of Stargate: Extinction, that unproduced Stargate: Atlantis script.

stargateatlantisseasonsix writes: “First: Were there ever actually plans to go more in depth into the Athosian culture or the Void where the Ascended go? I’m just curious since my current story on my blog for Atlantis’ Season Six is currently going into these subject matters.”

Answer: No concrete plans but I’m sure that if a story called for it, we would have certainly explored them.  Or, in the case of ascension, Rob Cooper certainly would have explored it.

“Second: Was there ever a plan to delve into the people behind the scenes of Atlantis i.e. not the major or minor characters but the truly background people that help make everything happen too, like the “Below Decks” episode of Star Trek TNG or like the series The West Wing? I’d think that’d be interesting considering that one of the purposed episodes you writers came up with for the Sixth Season (a story that I’m going to post as Episode Six of my Atlantis Season Six) was based on one of those unfortunate ‘Red Shirt’ marines of the series.”

Answer: Yes, we tossed the idea around and Carl Binder even came up with The Red Shirt Diaries.  The biggest challenge to writing one of these scripts is figuring out a way to include our main characters in the story.  Yes, I know, wouldn’t it be cool if the entire episode only focused on these unknown characters?  Well, yes and no. From the standpoint of unique storytelling, it would – but from the standpoint of good television, maybe not.  Viewers tune in for those familiar characters and having them take a backseat to complete strangers could be disappointing for many fans.  SG-1’s The Other Guys is a great example of an episode that struck the right balance.

BoltBait writes: “Are you allergic to anything? If so, how do you handle it at restaurants?”

Answer: Whenever I eat out, I always ask if there’s penicillin in any of the dishes.

“Do you get paid for all of these projects you’re working on?”

Answer: It depends on the project.  For instance, any development work we’re hired to do is paid work.  At present, three of the projects I mentioned in a previous blog entry are paying jobs.  The others – pilots, pitches, etc. – are speculative and will only pay off if they sell…or go into development.

Randomness writes: “1. What were some highs and lows from your Japan trip?”

Answer: Highs = The wedding, Robot Restaurant, dinners at Esquisse and Sawada.  Low = getting sick.

“2. Most interesting location(To you) that you visited?”

Answer: Robot Restaurant.

“3. What was the most enjoyable thing you did in Japan?”

Answer: Ate (as usual).

“4. As an anime fan, how did you find the whole experience?”

Answer: Overwhelming.  Akihabara is anime heaven.

“5. Were there any places you wanted to visit but couldn’t due to time?”

Answer: Gyoza stadium, Ueno, Odaiba.

“6. Looking back at the wedding stuff, did you feel nervous before you arrived? And how was the whole thing to you?”

Answer: No nerves.  It was a lot of fun.

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First things first!  My french bulldog, Lulu, eating kale chips.  Please raise volume to maximum before viewing:

Picture 1

One of the worst kept secrets on this blog has been the identity of that scifi series Paul and I have been trying to set up.  As many of you know, back when we were working on Stargate, we started developing our own SF series in the hopes of rolling right into production with the same crew if and when Stargate ever ended.  The only problem at the time was that there was no end in sight.  Every time we thought Stargate would close up shop, the show would get picked up for another season.  It was a classy problem that allowed us to really flesh out the concept and characters of this prospective new show.

Unfortunately, when Stargate did end, the timing proved difficult. Instead of taking advantage of our terrific Stargate crew, we ended up having to put our project on hold while we took a job in Toronto.  But rather than relegate it to the back burner, we thought of an interesting way to go – and a great way to help sell the show.  We hooked up with Dark Horse Comics and launched the series idea as a comic book.

DARKMTR #1 CVRThe first four issues of Dark Matter garnered great reviews and, when the trade paperback came out in October, we used it as a calling card. Having worked in development, I was aware of, and wanted to draw on, the added appeal of an established property.  Also, half the battle of pitching is to help a potential buyer imagine the project you have created – and I could think of no better pitch document than that trade paperback.

DM4We went out with a story backed by some fantastic visuals compliments of artist Garry Brown and colorist Ryan Hill.  The response was incredibly positive.  Even more so after Paul and I delivered the pilot script.  Still, my concern was the budget, making sure we had enough money to do it properly (visual effects don’t come cheap after all!), so I was heartened by word from our producing partner today that the response in Europe has been equally great.

Now all that remains is for that final piece of the puzzle to fall into place.  Yes, we’ve been waiting a while but all indications are we’ll be receiving word soon.  If it’s positive, then things are going to get very busy very quickly.  If it’s not, then we’ll have to go elsewhere for that final piece – which will, of course, delay things.

But hopefully it all comes together as expected.  And, once it does, dare I say it…

No, better not.

Mailbag:

shinyhula writes: “And why no zombies on this list? Night of the Living Dead, 28 Weeks Later, Zombieland; what have the unliving done to deserve your scorn?”

Answer: I was listing Scariest Endings and, off the top of my head, none of the zombie entries came to mind.  Well, now that I think of it, maybe the original Night of the Living Dead would have been a good candidate.

ancuetas writes: “Is that you know what music is there at the beginning of the video.”

Answer: This piece of music, from SG-1’s Demons, was before my time (I joined the show in its fourth season), but it’s safe to assume that it was composed by the late, great Joel Goldsmith.

dasndanger writes: “Also, this whole thing with the shutting down of cell towers in cases like this? That’s why I still have a corded old timey landline tele-o-phone.”

Answer: Hmmm.  Good point.  I haven’t had a landline in four years.

RLAVILLA writes: “Recently there have been two new Stargate games for Android and iPhone, and I think that will be the new product line, which has been selected by MGM for Stargate franchise. How about converting “Stargate Extinction” in a game for these new platforms?”

Answer: Not my call.  That would be for the studio to decide.

Jen writes: “A tad random, but I went in on my birthday to have this done but the artist was booked up so I had it done yesterday.”

Answer: Great.  But I insist you draw the line at one of those Jaffa forehead tattoos.

baterista9 writes: “Just saw Cookie on Saturday at Sea World of Texas.”

Answer: Yes, he was there for his cousin Esmerelda’s wedding.

fsmn36 writes: “But the entire movie plays off the alcoholic!Tony arc from the comics and the Rhodey scene makes 20x more sense when you consider Tony is basically planning on suicide/knows he’s going to die. What seems a tacky action scene becomes a heart breaking fight between friends while Tony desperately gives everything he loves away to the few people that matter to him.”

Answer: Sounds terrific.  Unfortunately, none of that came across onscreen.

gforce writes: “Did you ever take Akemi up to Whistler yet? You should take her out to a nice dinner or even a weekend up there!”

Answer: I retired my krazy karpet years ago.

Seth writes: “How hard would it be to get the cast on board for a Kickstarter for the series or movies? Looks as if Veronica Mars just got 5.5 million in Kickstarter funds from fans!”

Answer: 5.5 million may seem like a lot, but consider that the previous SG-1 movies cost 7+ million each to produce – and those productions made use of existing sets and production personnel.

Tam Dixon writes: “Did you try one of the dog cookies for quality control? You did, didn’t you?”

Answer: I didn’t, but someone I know (hint: she’s Japanese) DOES taste test for quality control.

Tam Dixon also writes: “Anyways, what about another trip? New York, L.A. or maybe even go down South. I wouldn’t recommend Memphis, unless you bring a gun but what about New Orleans or Savannah, GA?”

Answer: Akemi definitely wants to go to New York and, after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to check out Savannah.  That said, both L.A. and Vegas are closer and more likely short trip destinations.  This, of course, is entirely dependent on our finding a dog sitter.

astrumporta writes: “I think you should bring Akemi to San Francisco for her b-day!”

Answer: It’s also on the list.  Good eatin’!  How goes, Michelle?

pennlynn writes: “You’re brave man Joe! I like having a nice drink but other than the whiskey I’m not sure I would try that haul of liquor!”

Answer: I tried the Nikka whiskey with Lawren last night when he came over for the American Horror Story marathon.  It was damn good, and much better straight up than on the rocks.  How went the t.v. interview?

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