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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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Our first night in Toronto was, in a word, “horrible”.  The bed is too small, it’s too hard, and the curtains are insufficient and, in parts, non-existent so that the street lights (and, at approximately 2:30 a.m., the flashing police lights) streaming in to our bedroom made sleep almost impossible.  ALMOST impossible because I was so exhausted I could have fallen asleep – if it wasn’t for Jelly’s crying keeping me up. Eventually, I had to set her down behind the bed to shield from the light so that she eventually dozen off – at just after 3:00 a.m. – only to wake up with the sun.  Of course.

Today, we were off in search of tape and black material so that we could create our own blackout curtains.  And also some winter coats.  And boots.  It’s cold!  4 degrees celsius/39 fahrenheit.  WTF?  Toronto was actually warmer than Vancouver – until yesterday when the temperature suddenly dropped to near freezing – coincidentally, on the day of our arrival!  The fates continue to conspire against me.

C-c-c-c-c-cold!

C-c-c-c-c-cold!

Thanks to everyone that offered advice on dealing with Bubba’s separation anxiety.  The problem has sort of sorted itself out for the time being.  The poor little guy has howled himself hoarse and now just squawks -

On the bright side, a full day in and the eating has been good.  For lunch, pork belly buns at Banh Mi Boys -

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And then back to Buca for a thank-you dine with Jeff -

Hand-cut blood pasta.  I was honestly leery, but it was delicious.

Hand-cut blood pasta. I was honestly leery, but it was delicious.

Sweet corn gelato topped with finishing salt.

Sweet corn gelato topped with finishing salt.

And the house tiramisu

And the house tiramisu

Speaking of Jeff who is flying out tomorrow, he dropped by to say goodbye to his flying companion and new best friend -

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Heading into the office tomorrow.

Wonder what we’re having for lunch…

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It’s a feeling akin to oversleeping on exam day or realizing, halfway through your work day, that you forgot to turn off the oven.  I opened my briefcase to get my passport and…it wasn’t there.  At first you think “No, it can’t be.” as you check and re-check and re-check again, and then desperation sets in and you think “No!  It can’t be!” as though you can set things right, make the passport magically appear, through sheer force of will.  But no.  No passport!  I raced won to level one and jumped in a cab, leaving Akemi – and the three dogs, each in their tiny sherpa bags, Bubba howling in protest.  My stress levels had just gone to 11.

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I felt like that week my fantasy football Snow Monkeys lost on one of the final plays of the one of the final games when Vincent Jackson scored that touchdown.  Why do the fates conspire against me?!!

I made it back to my place and back in a little over twenty minutes.  Then, there was no time to dilly-dally or walkie-walkie.  It was straight through security and on to the gate where our flight boarded early – but left late.  I had bought six seats of the six of us – the dogs got the middle seat while the humans got the aisle.  And, after weeks of worry and an anxiety-filled morning, the dogs were…great!  Bubba was a little noisy at first but quickly settled down for the duration of the flight. Jelly cried, only occasionally.  And Lulu was even quieter than her travel companion, Jeff (and his noisy laptop tapping!).

Jeff, wheeling and dealing at the baggage claim.

Jeff, wheeling and dealing at the baggage claim.

Of course, by the time we hit the baggage claim, Bubba was in full wail and Akemi had to retreat to a quiet section of the arrival area to calm him down.   We got our bags, caught a lift and, finally, got to our new home in Toronto.  Until next week when we move to a nicer place.

In the meantime, an unexpected problem has arisen and I could use your invaluable input.  What do I do about separation anxiety?  No, I’m not talking about me missing Vancouver.  I’m talking about Bubba missing us – the second we leave the place.  He howls up a storm that carries down the hall and, no doubt, through the wall and into the neighboring suite.  Akemi and I went out to dinner tonight with our friends, John and Nancy (who, sadly, are moving OUT of Toronto on Monday) and came back, a couple of hours later, to the sounds of Bubba’s cries.

Anybody dealt with something similar?  Have any advice for dealing with a lonely and vocal dog?  We tried leaving the t.v. on and littering the place with kibble to distract him, but even that didn’t work.  What can I do, short of getting him a job on the Dark Matter production?

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There you have it!  It’s finally official!  Worth the wait, hunh?  Hunh?!

Hang on.  What do you mean “There was no grand announcement”?  WTF?!

I’m sure you’re all sitting back in your homes or at your respective desks, quietly shaking your heads thinking: “Poor guy.  He has lost it.”  Like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind or Jacob Singer in Jacob’s Ladder or the main character in that story you wrote for Mrs. Haversham in second grade, I’ve become full-blown delusional.  A new show you say?  A scifi series no less?  Suuuure.  If I was writing this story, the twist would have me wake up to discover it’s 2010, and I’m still in Toronto!

Or…

The official announcement comes out in a press release tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.  By the time many of you read this entry, you’ll probably already have heard – and come here armed with questions.

Or carefully worded inquiries about my sanity.

A busy. Today, we discussed visual effects and designs: stasis pods, shuttle exterior and interior.  We also received the first round of Toronto auditions.  I spent two hours, after dinner today, going over them.  Some very promising candidates.  Can’t wait to see what Vancouver and L.A. bring.

Damn.  This hallucination grows increasingly elaborate.

Oh, to all those wondering – and I’m sure there are A LOT of you – my Snow Monkeys won this weekend, evening their Fantasy Football League record at 3-3 and moving into fifth place in our twelve team league.  I smell playoffs!

Hang on tight.  My Snow Monkeys are poised for a deep post-season run!

Hang on tight. My Snow Monkeys are poised for a deep post-season run!

 

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1. As flexible as nylon, more robust than steel, an artificial spider silk called QMONOS (kumo-no-su being Japanese for spider web) is apparently poised for mass production in everything from super lightweight bulletproof vests to automobiles.

http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2013/05/28/spiber_n_3350116.html

According to the article, this unique silk is so strong that it could snag a jumbo jet in mid-flight.

“Spiber claims its spiderweb is not only seven times tougher than aramid fibres, which are used for bullet-proof vests, but weighs just one-sixth that of steel and 40 per cent less than carbon-fibre. The company says its product will “go close” to reproducing those qualities.” (http://www.motoring.com.au/news/2014/cars-from-cobwebs-46595)

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I, for one, would love a spider silk suit – but don’t see one on the company website.  I do, however, see this fetching blue cocktail dress.  Maybe perfect for Akemi when her birthday rolls around next April – by which point I’m sure the price will have come down considerably.

http://www.spiber.jp/en/about/

2. According to Akemi, sumo wrestlers consume one enormous meal a day.  This starve-binge schedule accounts for their enormous weight.

In retrospect, however, Akemi isn’t sure this is true and suspects it may just be a story she heard from her grandmother.

3. Scientists in Japan are creating noodles out of wood!  Well, close.  They’re using cellulose – which is not all that new.  We’ve been enjoying its high-fibre, low-cal benefits for years now:

http://nowiknow.com/pulp-fact/

What’s interesting about the Japanese noodles is that they’re composed entirely of cellulose, making them calorie (and flavor) free!

4. According to Akemi, if you dream about Mount Fuji, two eagles, and three eggplants on New Year’s Eve, you’ll have a great year.  Apparently, those details are set in stone so you can’t be dreaming about Mount Kilimanjaro or  three kumquats or even two eggplants and still expect to have a great year.  When I questioned her about this, she insisted: “It’s common sense.”  I tried to explain to her that “common sense” assumes the application of simple logic – in this case, to a causal relationship.  i.e. – If you set fire to a book, it will burn.  But she remained adamant.  “If you ask ninety percent of Japanese people, ninety-nine point nine percent will know this.  It’s common sense!”

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We’re barreling through Fall and heading straight toward Winter.  What happened to 2014?!

P.S. Tomorrow IS the day.  Finally.  An official announcement on my new series will be made.

I’m hoping.

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Well, the tradition continues insofar as this makes two years in a row Akemi and I have roasted up a turducken and made a piecaken to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.

I ordered the turducken last week, electing to go with a different butcher and different franken-bird: turkey-chicken-duck but with bacon-wrapped sausage-stuffing.  And, to hedge our bets, a side of regular bread-based stuffing as well.

On Friday, we got to work on the pie portion of our piecaken, baking up a Chuck Hughes version of the southern favorite -

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Then, on Saturday, Akemi baked the pie inside a giant brownie cake.

I woke up at 5:45 a.m. this morning to start the turducken – four hours covered; one hour uncovered…

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Cha-daaa!  I was worried we might not have enough but, as usual, I was wrong.  The 10 lb bird went a long way for eight.  Our guests had seconds and thirds and even took home leftovers.

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It was very good although I’d have to agree with Akemi that last year’s turducken was better.

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Everyone liked the stuffing as well – although, like the turducken, I preferred last year’s version.

So near...

So near…

And yet, so far.

And yet, so far.

Served with cranberry sauce, Rob’s signature salad, Ivon’s signature brussel sprouts, gravy, and a little taste of the south -

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These compliments of two (transplanted) southerners who happened to be in town -

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Jeff and Barb came bearing desserts – a pumpkin pie and -

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This awesome bourbon-laced pecan pie with paper shell pecans.  Delicious!

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They also came bearing gifts: a mug and apron for me, and this pug-themed book that had Akemi positively giddy with joy.

Joining the dessert line-up…

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This year’s version of the piecaken was richer and denser (owing to the fact that we actually followed a recipe this year instead of winging it) and lacked the clear, paleontological-like layering (cake, pie shell, gooey substrate, pecans, shale, etc) of 2013’s piecaken.  Still, damn tasty though.

A good time was had by all.  Jeff and Barb’s Baltimore Ravens crushed the Bucs, while a last second interception return for a touchdown by the Cardinals D put my Snow Monkeys within striking distance of an unlikely win.  All I need is for 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree to put up a perfectly average 9 points (a TD + 30 receiving yards should do it).

STILL too far!

STILL too far!

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1. I’m back in Vancouver.  And exhausted.  I’ve got seven days to get my crap together, including: banking, car servicing, making arrangements for the house, and making a turducken AND piecaken for this Sunday!

2. The official announcement on my new series is coming.  No, really!  Apparently, Tuesday is the day.

3. Ever wanted to own a figurine of yourself?  Or a figurine of your favorite Executive Producer?  Well check out this place, located right here in Vancouver, where you can pop in, get scanned, and have your very own mini me delivered to you in 72 hours: http://mini-me.ca

4. Comcast goes above and beyond the call of shitty customer service: http://gawker.com/comcast-half-apologizes-to-the-customer-it-allegedly-go-1644252018 

5. 10 t.v. shows that are really creepy if you think about them: http://io9.com/10-tv-shows-that-are-really-creepy-if-you-think-about-t-1644845434

6. Oh, I noticed: http://www.cracked.com/article_21574_5-movie-plans-that-you-didnt-notice-rely-entirely-luck.html

7. “They taste like burning.”  http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/28-simpsons-quotes-every-fan-must-know.html

8. Uh.  Oh.  Okay: http://defamer.gawker.com/nielsen-weve-been-getting-tv-ratings-wrong-since-march-1644853977

9. Pecan pie at the bottom of the list?!  Creamed horns lower than apple fritters?!  Plain croissants at number #1?!  Nonsense!  http://rankings.gawker.com/pastries-ranked-1635451466

10. Pursuant to my recent post about the new Twin Peaks series, here are 10 Things Showtime’s New Twin Peaks Series Needs To Do: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2014/10/post_10.php

11.  Oh.  And THIS re: Golden Boy Marin Gero: http://deadline.com/2014/10/l-a-complex-martin-gero-phoenix-project-cw-849644/

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