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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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Thanks to all of you inquiring about Bubba and his separation anxiety issues.  He’s actually doing much better now as I suspect he’s grown a little more comfortable in the new place.  Unfortunately, we move to the even newer place tomorrow – so let’s hope it’s an easier adjustment.  I have noticed, however, an increasing dependency on Akemi.  When he’s out for a walk with her, he stubbornly refuses to head back home – but when he’s with me, he can’t wait to return to the condo and, presumably, be reunited with his one true love.

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No sooner is one doggy issue addressed than another crops up.  Before leaving for Toronto, I had a bump on Lulu’s hind paw tested.  The results came back “I got no idea” and it was suggested the growth be excised and tested.  The vet we saw here suggested that, before going that route, we try soaking Lulu’s paw in warm water and epson salts to see if that shrunk the growth.  Well, not only did it NOT shrink it but now, there’s another lump on her paw beside the first one!  Guess I’ll be bringing her in this week for another consult.

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This weekend, we finally hit the St. Lawrence Market where, in addition to picking up some local produce at the Saturday farmer’s market, I sampled some of the local culinary eats.  Like the bacon sandwich – you have a choice between sweet and savory – which was actually ham…but delicious nevertheless.

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And one of my very favorite sandwiches – veal and eggplant park with jalapeño and sautéed onions.

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And, oooh, custard tarts.

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We visited Silver Snail Comics at their new – farther :( – location where I perused the books, and tried their nutella latte.  Check out some of the hero and villain-theme concoctions.

 1Among the many things we miss about Vancouver is the workout room in our basement.  Back home, we could head down at any time of night and get in a workout.  Here in Toronto, if we want to use the hotel gym, we need to get there before 8:00 p.m. on weekends.  Otherwise, we’re out of luck.  Pictured above: a devastated Akemi.

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Did anyone watch football this weekend?  Did you see the Indianapolis Colts get trounced by that team made up of convicts on day release from the federal pen.

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Celebratory hug!  My Snow Monkeys are on their way to another impressive win in fantasy football league play, improving their record to 5-3 (following an 0-2 start; all three losses coming by 3 points or less).  I smell playoffs!  And wet fur!

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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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