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Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

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Check out the cool slot box label outside my office door.  “Executive Producer” would have been fine, but they went ahead and included “Showrunner” – which is nice, but I would’ve preferred “The Commodore”.  In fact, that’s how I’d like to be referred to moving forward.

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It wasn’t my first choice, but Natalie Cooper already snagged that.

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Hey, check it out!  Revised versions of episodes #1 and #2, just in time for the Art Department meeting…which also included props, costumes, and construction.

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2:00 p.m.  I arrived promptly, eager to get started.

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2:10 p.m.  Who called this meeting?  Beginning to suspect I’m the victim of some elaborate practical joke.

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2:27 p.m.  I’m overcome with concern for the other attendees.  Have they been kidnapped?  Accidentally locked themselves in the linen closet?  Worry gives way to panic and, ultimately, sleepiness.

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2:43 p.m.  I doze off but eventually wake up feeling refreshed.  Only to discover it’s the next day.  And someone took my wallet.

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Random point of discussion.  We’re going projectiles over lasers and blasters.  For the most part.

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Our awesome Supervising Art Director, the amazing Kimberly Zaharko, generating these handy preliminary set lists for episodes 1-3.  Color-coded to boot!  Dark blue for VFX, light brown for Construction and Paint, dark green for Playback, light green for Graphics, grey for Props, white for Special Effects, and invisible ink for the Subliminal Message Department.

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I came in this morning to discover that Alison and Trevor had redecorated, turning their desks around to face out toward the windows and daylight (and freedom) instead of facing the walls and dreary grey bulletin board.  Not sure how I feel about this.  I thought the scattering of lone thumbtacks was a nice touch, holding the promise of something more – an Art Department schematic, a colorful print, a Tiger Beat centrefold of Robby Benson – while simultaneously crushing their spirits. Also, this makes it much harder for me to sneak up on them whenever the mood strikes. :(

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The enigmatic Kim

She’s like a shadow in the night – dark, mysterious, silent and stealthy.  One second she’s there, the next she’s gone.  Then, she’s sitting behind you, sipping her coffee!  I’ve never seen her come or go and yet, somehow, whenever I turn a corner, she’a there – appearing as if by magic.  Her name is Kim Morrison and her title is Executive Producer’s Assistant, that much I know – but little more.  She remains enticingly enigmatic, her past and predilections as elusive as a ninja panther in ballet slippers.

After almost two weeks, let’s review what I know about Kim: 1. She enjoys flavored coffees.  2. Her eyes are like two Infinity Mind Gems set in Silmarils.  3. She’s a writer!

Intriguing, no?

This begs further research.

Meanwhile, construction continues on our standing sets and I’m pleased to report that the bridge of our ship, The Raza, is taking shape.  Work has also started on the lower decks and the main section of our recurring space station set.  The latter will serve as a port of call for wary travellers, offering food, comfort, and occasional trouble.

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Plans, plans, plans!

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I plan to amass a library of EVERYTHING, from amazing Art Department designs to photos and video tours of the finished sets.   By the time we’re done, you’ll all have the know-how to design your own home spaceships!

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The bridge taking shape.

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Alison having a hard time deciding where she wants to put her Captain’s Assistant’s chair.

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The space station concourse – presently exposed to the vacuum of space.

They’re moving quickly.  And noisily!

A final batch of auditions to review.  Tomorrow, we make our second round selects!

Oh, and I’ve got to finish up my pass on episodes #1 and #2.  I’ll be sitting down with the Art Department to discuss our two-part opener next week.

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After a seemingly endless wait for the show to get green the light, we’re now charging full speed ahead toward our January production dates.  This week, construction began on our standing sets.  First up, our ship, The Raza, which will include the bridge, corridors, an infirmary, mess hall, training room, various corridors and airlocks.  The design work looks pretty awesome, and I fully intend to share the specs and pics with you in the coming days and weeks.  Also, our Set Designer Doug Slater has put together a terrific 3D walk-thru of our soon-to-bridge – which you’ll also get a chance to check out very soon.

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Craig, our Head Carpenter, oversees the action

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And so it begins!

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Our set is raised to allow for stashing of loot and offer hiding places for the director. 

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The layout for this stage

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It’s all happening in the Hello Kitty Pavilion

Meanwhile, our first round of auditions is finally complete and, all told, we’ll have seen A LOT of very talented people.  Still a few redirects to come in (“re-do’s” that incorporate suggested adjustments) and then, by Friday, we’ll finally have our short list.  Well, shortER list.  The sides (scenes) for the second round have been chosen and are ready to go.

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My wardrobe assistants

So last week, I helped myself to some carpets from the recently wrapped Lost Girl set (I had my heart set on a staff of righteousness or a twig of Zamora, but somebody – I suspect Nat Cooper – beat me to ‘em).  This week, I came to work to discover four shirts hanging in my office.  Apparently, Jay and Vanessa picked them out for me.  It was avery nice gesture and, when you think about it, unbelievably kind of them to take the time to go to wardrobe, peruse the selection, and pick out some shirts they thought would suit me.

Last night, had drinks with the Exec Producers of SyFy’s other new production, The Expanse.  Very nice group and their show sounds like it’s going to be awesome.

Lots of terrific SF to look forward to in 2015!

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“So what does Caitlin do?”I asked as part of my first day bid to know absolutely everything about absolutely everyone.

“She’s Head of Business Affairs,”I was told.

“No, really.”

“Really.”

Really?  Caitlin Brown was one of the very first people I’d met.  She’d come into my office and chatted about film, television, and books (she’s going to recommend some of her Scandinavian favorites).  I’d found her super pleasant, incredibly engaging, instantly likeable – and. thus, thoroughly atypical of most of the Business Affairs Execs I’d dealt with over the years.  I almost didn’t believe it at first but, upon closer scrutiny, the tell-tale signs were there: the closed office door, the authoritative phone voice, the occasional no nonsense attitude.  She meant business.  Business Affairs business!  And further internal research revealed that she, in fact, holds sway over two departments as Executive in Charge of Business Affairs AND Development.  A most unlikely combination.  But then, Caitlin is full of surprises.

Yes, she’s a delightfully grounded, perfectly sociable Executive in Charge of Business Affairs.

Who also DJ’s under the name DJ Mizz Brown.

Plays competitive basketball in two leagues.

And, by all accounts, is a bit of a music aficionado with one hell of an impressive collection of Jazz records.

These head-spinning revelations were almost too incredible to process when they were delivered this morning – but Caitlin kindly brought me back down to Earth by delivering yet another surprise -

Writer's contract, producer's contract, kidney relinquishment contract - wait.  What?

Writer’s contract, producer’s contract, kidney relinquishment contract – wait. What?

In the form of a stack of contracts that required my signature.  Can’t get more Business Affairs than that!

I spent much of the day working my way through all of the L.A. auditions.   A LOT of familiar faces.  Also got in touch with some old online friends about promoting the show as we gear up prep.  Discussed some tweaks to the first four scripts.  Oh, and Nat Cooper stopped by the office to discuss Harry Potter and helpfully put together a To Do list on my whiteboard.  I’ve got my work cut out for me in the next few days:

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Which reminds me – the Dark Matter Facebook page is up: https://www.facebook.com/darkmatterseries.  Spread the word!

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Getting those llamas through customs

Remember the character of Radar O’Reilly in M*A*S*H*?  Not the later naive Iowa farm boy he turned into, but the astute and wily operator we’re initially introduced to – the clever contriver who could always manage to get his hands on the most elusive of items: chocolates, meds, a jeep.  If you needed something, Radar was the guy to call on.  Well, I’ve got a feeling that Elliot Sokolsky is our Radar O’Reilly. Sure, his official title is Development and Business Affairs Coordinator, but I suspect that’s just a cover designation.  “When you want to know the secret way home, come see me,”he told me on my first day in the office, dangling that speedy backstreet shortcut like a black market ham.  Whenever I walk by his office, he’s either on the phone or deeply engrossed in some unseen online task (ie. ensuring that shipment of llamas gets through customs).  And, curiously, no matter where he’s looking, or how far outside his office I may be loitering, he always seems to sense my presence, like a clairvoyant detecting the energy of dawdling spirits.  I suspect I may have cause to call on his unique skill set at several points during my stay here.  Especially come episode 9 when I’ll need to get my hands on those rare albino meerkats.

It's the little things.

It’s the little things.

Our two-day L.A. auditions kicked off today while, back here on the home front, construction commenced on our ship, The Raza.  Super secret behind the scenes sneak peeks to come!

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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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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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