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Archive for the ‘Film and Television’ Category

Today, I completed a first draft of episode #12 in which the various arcs we develop over the course of the show’s first season converge in a story about identity, loyalty, and friendship, culminating in a shocking conclusion that sets the stage for an even more shocking finale.  It joins my first draft of episode #9, on a virtual shelf, until the intervening bunch of scripts get done.  Paul is halfway thought #5 while Rob and Trevor have started work on scripts for episodes #7 and #8 respectively.  Ideally, I’ll have a bunch of first drafts to review by the time I come back from Japan on September 21st.

Yes, I’m off to Japan next week for 10 glorious days of cultural enlightenment and eating my face off.  Before then, however, there’s plenty to do.  Tomorrow, a conversation with our VFX guys, Mark Savela and Lawren Bancroft-Wilson, to discuss the first four episodes.  Next week, Tuesday, another conference call with our Line Producer and Production Designer – also about episodes #1-4, and ship and space station designs.  And I’m hoping we’ll have our first three directors slotted before I leave.

When I get back from Japan, I’ll have roughly two weeks to do my passes on episodes #5-8 before I head to Toronto for our first official week of prep: more meetings in which we’ll discuss key crew members and casting.

At present, the plan is to head to Toronto for that week of meetings during which I’ll stock our new Toronto place with everything we’ll need: dog mats, dog beds, kitchen gadgets, pillows, toiletries, and a big-ass winter coat.  Then, I go back to Vancouver to pick up my dogs – and girlfriend – and make the final move.  Since we’ll no longer have access to a handy backyard, I’m going to also have to buy a doggy stroller to make life a lot easier for Jelly – and Akemi.  On top of all that, I’m going to have to find an animal clinic where Jelly can continue her accupuncture treatments:

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Is it helping her?  Well, tough to say.  Between the accupuncture, Metacam, painkillers, pulsed electro-magnetic dog bed, and joint pills, SOMETHING is working.

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Holy crap!  I’ve have less than a month to prepare for my move to Toronto!  I’ve got all next week, then about a week or so after I get back from Japan to get all my affairs in order.  To quote comic strip heroine Cathy actor David Blue: “Ack!”. The production will probably take me into June of 2015 and, unless I can convince my buddy Ivon to swing by the house to root through all of my old files and compile my 2014 bank statements, I’d probably better off amassing everything now and dropping it off with my accountant before I leave town.  And I still need to find somewhere to live over there!

And find someone to live over here!

Also, the dogs need to go on a crash diet!

And I’ve got a script to finish before I head to Tokyo.  Fortunately, I’m well on pace. Today, I completed what will probably be the most challenging scene of episode 12 and am sitting comfortably at the P.26 mark.  We segue from this to the ship then back to the facility and…END ACT II!  The big visual effects sequence we have planned for this episode is going to be CRAZY cool.

By the way, the Skype three-way went splendidly.  We nailed down the space station (a.k.a. the tiered mushroom) and refined the ship design (more retrofitted weaponry, gak, airlocks, and the shuttle dock).   Ian, our Production Designer, said our scripts have the best cold opens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_open) and tags (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheTag) he’s ever read.  Very kind of him to say and, hopefully, when the show airs, you’ll all have the same reaction: “This is great!  I can’t wait to find out what happens this episode!” and “This is terrible!  I have to wait ’til next week to find out what happens next episode!”

So, what’s happening on your end?  Wrapping up any projects?  Starting any new ones?  Reading/watching anything interesting?

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I say “My Top 10″ because “Your Top 10″ will no doubt vary.  Having read the Ice & Fire series before sitting down to watch Game of Thrones, I was prepared for moments like Ned Stark’s execution, The Red Wedding, and the duel between The Mountain and The Red Viper.  Similarly, behind-the-scenes developments on other shows prepared me for the “writing off” of certain characters.  And then there are those shows whose entanglements keeps you in a constant state of wariness, waiting for the other shoe to drop so that when it does and a character like The Sopranos’ Adriana gets bumped off, you’re left surprised…but not all that shocked.

No, the following 10 television deaths are moments that took me by surprise; moments I didn’t see coming.  In some cases, I really should have.  But at the time I watched them – spoiler free – these deaths left me completely and utterly shocked.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

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#10. Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

Look, I know it’s a soap opera and that characters die all the time in soap operas but…Lady Sybil?  Young, earnest, idealistic Lady Sybil dying during childbirth?  And her death partly attributable to her own father’s ignorance?  Shocking!

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#9. Dale (The Walking Dead)

I’ve been reading the comic book series for years, so the deaths of Shane and Lori weren’t all that shocking as the characters had far outlived their comic book counterparts.  But Dale?  Dale?!  Now THAT was a shocker!

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#8. Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

The death of Jimmy Darmody at the hands of Nucky Thompson was shocking in most part because it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nucky executes Jimmy for turning against him, yet lets Eli walk free.  Yes, I know, Eli is Nucky’s brother, but Jimmy was like a son to him.  Strange.

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#7. Lem (The Shield)

For seasons, the members of Mackey’s strike team were inseparable: Vic, Shane, Lem, and the guy who got his face seared on the stove top.  And then, the team was blown apart by suspicion, betrayal, and the grenades Shane drops into Lem’s lap at the end of the show’s fifth season.

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#6. Lizzie and Mika (The Walking Dead)

A two for one here.  First, psychotic little Lizzie offs her own sister and then Carol caps Lizzie to end her threat.  Critics were livid, but I thought it brave and shockingly perfect.  The best episode of the series to date.

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#5. Zoe Barnes (House of Cards)

Zoe was a pivotal character throughout the show’s first season, so to kill her off so early in the second – well I, for one, did NOT see that coming.

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#4. Edith Bunker (Archie Bunker’s Place)

It’s hard to lose a loveable character, especially when said character is a television icon – even more so when she’s a television comedy icon.  And for Edith to pass away in her sleep off-screen.  Agh, the anguish!

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#3. Omar Little (The Wire)

Yeah, I know.  He was living on borrowed time and, sooner or later, his renegade disregard for all sides of the law would catch up with him – but for Omar to go out the way he did, gunned down at a convenience store by a young boy.  That was a shocker.

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#2. Terry Crowley (The Shield)

The pilot of The Shield still ranks as my very favorite for the sudden and unexpected twist at episode’s end, the death of undercover detective Terry Crowley at the hands of the show protagonist (???) Vic Mackey.

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#1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake (M*A*S*H*)

This oen gets the #1 spot because it left such an indelible mark on my young and naive t.v. viewing self.   M*A*S*H* started off as a goofy comedy that, in time, morphed into a smart, provocative dramedy – and a television classic.  And the death of the clownish Henry Blake at the end of the show’s third season marked a pivotal shift for the show – and the television landscape as a whole.

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Production has a way of sneaking up on you.  One second you’re spinning stories for your first season and, the next, you’re boarding a plane for Toronto to oversee construction of those spaceship and space station sets.

I recently received a copy of our prep schedule and it looks like we’re officially underway roughly a month earlier than I had imagined, meaning I’ll probably be making the east coast move sometime in October.  Suddenly, I’ve got to find a place in Toronto, find someone to move into my place here, finalize those ship and space station designs, get the ball rolling on our visual effects.  I’m also going to have to abandon my randomized method of selecting books from my to-read pile and just cut to those titles I HAVE to read before I go.

I’m thinking the plan will be to travel to Toronto in early October for those preliminary meetings and then start the moving process.  I’m going to travel light – a couple of suits, the bare essentials, and then buy everything else in Toronto: socks, underwear, a deep freeze parka, dog beds, kitchen utensils, and a my kindle.  Once Akemi and I have settled in, we’ll go back to Vancouver, pick up the dogs, and travel back with them – and only them.  We’ll each bring a dog (meaning we’re going to have to purchase a round trip ticket for a friend because the airline allows only one carry-on dog per person) but ONLY dogs.  No checked baggage.  That way, our cranky pack will be in and out of that airport as quickly as possible.  Yes, I’ll be going into production on the first season of an SF series that will be shooting in Toronto in the dead of winter and I’m scrambling to get all 13 scripts done before we go to camera – BUT the thing that’s stressing me out most is the prospect of flying my dogs across the country.

I’d like to say I took the weekend off, but that wouldn’t be true.  I took a chunk of Sunday off, but then stayed up late Sunday night doing a pass on episode #3.  It’s in excellent shape but I wanted to tweak some of the dialogue, clarify a few things, and make a slight adjustment to one of the final scenes, changing the location from her quarters to the training room.  I also revised the outlines for episodes #5-8 and sent them Rob and Trevor’s way so they can start thinking about their respective scripts.  Paul sent me his pass on episode #4 (which I’ll review tomorrow) and I’ll send him my pass on episode #3 (which he’ll review tomorrow) and, barring any unforeseen complications, we should have our first four drafts out there before week’s end – as planned.

We’re maybe six weeks or so away from casting but I’ve already started making a few requests for some individuals I’d like to bring in.  As I said in a previous entry, we have seven diverse roles to fill and I would LOVE to make sure a couple of them are filled by some individuals I’ve already had the pleasure of working with.  A few familiar faces would be awesome (1, 3, 5, 6?).

In addition to the pilot, I got three scripts done (episodes 2, 4, and 9) in August and I think that, if I apply myself, I could get one more done (episode 12) before I head off to Japan on September 10th.  That way, I’d only have the co-write of the big season finale (episode 13) on my plate when I get back – and have to start dealing with all of the other aspects of prep.

On top of all this, I’ve got a Fantasy Football League draft to prepare for!  My Snow Monkeys draft Monday, September 2nd and I haven’t even started doing my research!  Who’s going to be good this year?  Do the Packers have a running game?  Is Dan Marino back at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins?

The calm before the regular season storm.

The calm before the regular season storm.

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We released our official writer’s drafts of episodes 1 and 2 today.  Paul and I co-wrote #1 (the pilot), but I did the solo honours on #2.  After some discussion, we’ve decided to start writing separately.  In truth, we’ve been writing separately for years now, but this is the first time we won’t be sharing the onscreen writing credit.  Or Exec Producer credits as we’ll be both be prepping the show through the start of principal photography, but only I will travel to Toronto to oversee production.  That’s the plan for season one anyway.  Who knows how things will shake out if and when we get that season 2 pick-up.

Delivered notes on episode #3 and hope to have a revised draft by Monday.  I’ll jump on it and then send it Paul’s way.  He’s going to do a pass on my first draft of episode #4 tomorrow and Friday and then, by end of next week, we should (hopefully) be able to release official writer’s drafts of both of those scripts as well.

Paul has a busy September ahead of him writing episodes #5 and #6.  I’ve already sent Robert Cooper the first two scripts as well as a link to the series overview.  I’ll be sending him outlines – including the outline to his story, episode #7 – by this weekend.  Trevor has already started thinking about episode #8.

I’ve almost 40 pages into the script for episode 9 and I hope to have that done by this weekend as well.  A real character-driven story this one, quite dark at times but darkly humorous too.

We’re deep into discussion on directors.  There are a few I’ve worked with in the past that I’d REALLY like to work with again.  The fact that we’ll be shooting the show in Toronto somewhat complicates matters in that respect – and as far as casting goes as well – but I’m sure we’ll see some familiar faces both in front of and behind the cameras all the same.

Speaking of which – I offered my thoughts on the casting breakdown for our seven roles.  We are wide open in terms of age, ethnicity and, in the case of one character, gender.

Next week, we’re going to get on a Skype conference with our production designer in an attempt to hammer out the ship and space station designs.  As I mentioned in a previous post, details like the locations of the airlock and the shuttle shell needed to be decided.  As far as the look of the space station goes, we’ve seen some incredibly inventive concepts, but we still need to address issues of scale and those all important docking procedures.

I spoke to Vanessa today about the official announcement.  Apparently, we’re almost there.  Hopefully sometime in September – before I leave for Japan.

Finally, in addition to working on the new show, I took the time to reading a truly awesome book, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonahthan Tropper – highly recommended, and watching a truly awesome series, Fargo created by Noah Hawley who wrote all ten episodes of the show’s self-contained first season – also highly recommended.  Hannibal is up next!

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Gratuitous French Bulldog Pic #1

Gratuitous French Bulldog Pic #1

Well, I’m exhausted.  Although I only wrote seven pages today, I also ended up rewriting another twenty.  By the time the dust settled on my laptop this evening, I’d hit the 50 page mark.  All I have to do now is finish off this conversation, completing Act V, then write the tag which will include not one, not two, but THREE surprises.  So when the series finally airs, make sure to wait for those final credits – otherwise, you’ll miss something VERY important.  And then you’ll definitely feel like odd person out at the water cooler Monday morning.

Anyway, I hope to get my writing producing partner, Paul, a first draft by Friday so that I can take a break…from episode #2 by starting the script for 3 episode #4.

We’ve also started talking about potential first season directors – and who will helm our big two-part opener.  Quite a few incredibly talented candidates – some of whom you are no doubt familiar with…

Speaking of chocolate…What?  We weren’t talking about chocolate?  Well, NOW that we’re on the subject: http://www.answers.com/article/1184282/7-scientifically-supported-reasons-to-eat-chocolate-every-day?param4=fb-ca-de-health&param1=null&param2=null&param5=5&param6=6

Uh oh: http://www.businessinsider.com/gluten-sensitivity-and-study-replication-2014-5  Apparently only 1% of Americans suffer from celiac allergy.  And I apparently know ALL of them.

And I needn’t remind you that like red meat animals fats coconut oil eggs coffee gluten (?), sugar is bad for you: http://dailyburn.com/life/health/sugar-bad-for-you-health-effects/?fb_action_ids=10204200568245260&fb_action_types=og.comments&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

My favorite part of this article: “…people who consumed more than a quarter of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die than those who restricted their intake to less than 10 percent of total calories, regardless of age, sex, level of activity and body-mass index.”

To which I reply: “Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggests that people who were born face a whopping 100% mortality rate (!) irrespective of age, sex, level of activity and body-mass index.”

Gratuitous French Bulldog Pic #2

Gratuitous French Bulldog Pic #2

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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?

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