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Posts Tagged ‘SF television’

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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 -

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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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I can’t believe September is almost done and, in a few weeks, I’ll be making the BIG move to Toronto – just in time for what’s predicted to be (and I quote) “the T-Rex of winters” (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/t-rex-of-winters-in-store-for-canada-old-farmer-s-almanac-1.2012804#).  Of course, I’ll be spending most of it on a nice, cozy spaceship set.  Or, in a nice, cozy car on my way to a nice, cozy spaceship set.  On the one hand, the highway driving may be icy and treacherous; on the other hand, all of the lane shutdowns happening in Toronto will ensure that nobody will be going fast enough to suffer any real damage.

The plan is for Paul and I to fly over to Toronto the week of October 6th for some meetings covering everything from casting and scheduling to DOP’s and editors. I’m going to try to pack everything I’ll need for my 7 month Toronto stay into two suitcases I’ll be bringing with me on that initial trip.   Just the bare essentials: shirts, suits, ties, cufflinks, laptop.  I’ll try to buy everything else I’ll need – towels, toiletries, dog beds, workout wear – while I’m there that first week.  Between approving ship designs and interviewing Directors of Photography, I’ll be hitting the Eaton Center for dress socks and warm underwear!

We fly back to Vancouver at the end of that week and then I’ll have all of the following week to get my local affairs in order, hand off the house keys to my former dog sitter who will become a house sitter until May of next year, and then make the final trip eastward (for 2014 anyway), dogs in tow the weekend of October 18th.  Our friend Jeff has kindly offered to help transport the pooches so, once we firm up a date, I’ll get on the phone with the airline and book the flight with the roomiest under-seats.  I believe the rules allow for only one dog (as carry-on) per person, and limit pets to a mere two in business class and two in coach.  If that’s the case, Jeff (and Lulu) will be flying in style while Akemi, Bubba, Jelly and I squeeze into economy.  I’m considering purchasing extra seats, just in case.  I have to admit, getting my dogs cross-country is the most stressful aspect of this whole Toronto production.

I’m aiming to have 9 of our 13 first season scripts completed by the time we land in Toronto, October 6th.  Paul did a brilliant job on the delightfully creepy episode #5 that went out today and is presently revising episode #6.  Rob is working on his first draft of episode #7 while I do a pass on Trevor’s draft of episode #8.  And, of course, I already completed episode #9 which sits, patiently waiting to be read.

We’ve approached the first season like a book, the thirteen episodes the equivalent to chapters in an extended story.  We set up a big mystery in the opener, one we’ll develop over the course of the first year and, eventually, pay off BIG in the finale. The great thing about having all 13 episodes in advance (besides the obvious production advantages) is that we’ll be able to read the entire first season from beginning to end, tweaking where necessary to ensure a gripping, well-developed narrative layered with intriguing set-ups and surprising/satisfying pay-offs.   It also allows our Visual Effects team (lead by former Stargate VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and this show’s VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson) and Playback department to get a jump start on those visual effects and awesome onscreen images.  And having those nine episodes in the bank for early October also allows us to choose the perfect sides for each character audition – and there will be plenty: six crew members plus that, uh, non-human character.

We’ve got half our directors in place and you’ll, no doubt, recognize a few familiar names.  Very much looking forward to working with them again.  It’s been WAY too long.

My biggest point of focus from now until mid-December will be those sets. Construction begins on the ship, shuttle, and space station in late October and I need them to look truly awesome.  Also, I’ll need to make sure the shuttle is heated, with a  roll-out bed and working bathroom because chances are, if the shoots run late, that’s where I’ll be spending most of my nights.

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Another day down, another story done.  That makes 8 out of our 13 first season episodes broken in less than three weeks.  I feared today’s episode would prove tricky, but I got in early this morning and hashed out a rough outline.  My writing partner, Paul (aka Captain Logic) had surprisingly few problems in the early going and we positively breezed through the first three acts.  “Wow,”he marveled.  “We’re moving quickly!”  “Sure,”I said, “but I’m sure that we’ll eventually come to that sticking point.”  And we eventually did, sometime after lunch and somewhere in the fourth act – but, thankfully, it wasn’t one of those “Let’s sleep on it” bumps.  We talked it through, came up with some great scenes, and completed our beat sheet in record time.  Sadly, not quite fast enough for us to roll right into episode 9, but still.

Today, we also received some early concept designs.  I love this part of my job: weighing in on space ships.  We had a choice of five sketched variations and then three color models.   They were all terrific, but Paul and I preferred #2.  I’m not a big fan of winged ships in general, but I do love armaments: gun turrets, plasma cannons, etc.  This ship should be bad-ass, retrofitted with all sorts of illegal weaponry, and Bart’s first pass is a huge step in that direction.  Very exciting.

While considering the different looks, I hopped online to do a little research and came across this interesting rundown of The Top 75 Spaceships in Movies and TV. A pretty solid list – but Stargate: Universe’s Destiny is conspicuously absent. Given the fact that this list was published back in July of 2009, however, I’m willing to cut the gang at Den of Geek some slack:

http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/286589/top_75_spaceships_in_movies_and_tv.html#indexmain

SFX came up with their own list, this of The top 51 Sci-Fi Spaceships where Stargate is well-represented:

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/12/02/top-51-sci-fi-spaceships/

And if you’re wondering how they all compare, check out this chart by Dirk Loechel comparing vessels from various SF worlds.  Damn impressive!

1

http://dirkloechel.deviantart.com/art/Size-Comparison-Science-Fiction-Spaceships-398790051

So many terrific designs.  Which are YOUR favorites?

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1Well, this takes me back.  On Monday, we kicked off the writers’ room for my new scifi series.  Even though the show will be produced in Toronto, most (if not all) of the pitching, spinning, breaking, outlining, writing, and rewriting will be done here in Vancouver.  And I couldn’t think of a better place for us to convene – or in this case, reconvene – than our old Stargate stomping grounds at The Bridge Studios. Alas, our former offices are now occupied by a production called Monster Trucks (sic?), but that’s okay because all we really need is the boardroom – once the scene of all of our Stargate prep meetings, now,  for the month of July, the place where we’ll be coming up with 12 (only 12 because the pilot has already been written) thrilling SF ship-based stories!  Ah, just like old times.

Some photos from our first two days…

1Janet’s dog is still coming into work with her at the downstairs Administration Offices.  Stylin’ in in those red booties.  Dogs love ‘em!

1Well, if it isn’t Stargate ace editor Mike Banas P.I., working on his own super-secret project, just a couple of doors down.

1As is customary whenever one of my writers’ room assembles, I brought chocolate.

1Akemi included a few nougats with a very special message for us hardworking writer-producers.

1I returned to discover the office had been holding a bunch of boxes for me…for three years!  All free books from publishers and all….

1From the same book series which, I believe, is based on a game?  Anyone?

1Also awaiting us: a box of office supplies.  But, at the end of the day, all we really needed was a whiteboard, markers (blue is always a favorite!), a dry eraser, and board spray (which wasn’t included so Paul will have to pick some up on his way in tomorrow).

We spent Monday discussing “the big picture”: our world, first season arc, character backstories and arcs, spaceships, transfer stations, faster than light travel,  weaponry, and technology.  Today, we finally started breaking and, by afternoon’s end, had our first (actually second) story.  1 down, 11 to go!

Would love to tell you all about the show (specifically, what it’s about) but I’ll have to defer to our broadcast partners for the official announcement that, if I’m right, will be made to coincide with Comic Con in a couple of weeks.

As we left the offices for the day, one of my fellow writers summed up the experience thusly: “It’s nice to be arguing about robots with you guys again.”

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charlie-evans-charlie-x-star-trekLet’s continue our Star Trek (Not Stargate!  I keep making that mistake!): The Original Series re-watch.  Today, Cookie Monster and I discuss Charlie X…

Me: A very strong episode this one, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s equally creepy “It’s A Good Life”, based on the short story by Jerome Bixby.  It stands the test of time and stands out as an incredibly suspenseful ride.  Sure, there are a few unintentionally hilarious moments, and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s a powerful, seminal episode.

Cookie Monster: If monster said it once, me said it a hundred times: Kids Be Creepy! And monster have very bad feeling about dis one when he start making funny faces behind Kirk’s back…

charlie_X-e1346677255202Me: Yeah, I was like WTF?  The Captain of that other ship couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.  It was like: “Here you go, Kirk.  Enjoy your new passenger!”  And then, as he’s preparing to get transported back to his ship: “Sucker.”

Cookie Monster: More disturbing den creepy kid be Spock rocking out on Vulcan lute while Uhura belt out tune.  And everyone else in room pretend like dey enjoying demselves and not wanting to get back to private conversation.

charliexhd162

Me: Yeah, she reminds me of an ex-girlfriend who used to do that – break into song at parties.  “Food glorious fooooood!  Hot sausage and mustard!  While we’re in the mooood – !”

Cookie Monster: Shut de fuck up!  Me trying to enjoy a cocktail weenie over here!

Me: Exactly.

Cookie Monster: But scene effektively convey first rumblings of trouble with Charlie (ie. Uhura losing her voice).  Then, later it eskalate when sore loser Charlie melt chess pieces.

Me: Coincidentally, reminiscent of another ex-girlfriend.  She didn’t go quite so far, but would quit a game anytime it looked like she was about to lose.

Cookie Monster: You dated some crazies.

Me: I’d rather not discuss my personal life.

Cookie Monster: Hey, monster not de one dat brought it up!

Me: Anyway, back to the episode.  I feel obligated to point out that act breaks have come a long way in fifty years.  We learn that the Antares has been destroyed. You’d think that would be the act break.  Instead, it’s someone discovering real turkeys in the oven.  Dum dum daaaaaa!

Cookie Monster: Me feel more effektive akt break would have been first shot of Kirk in his tight red tumbling pants.  Dum dum daaaaaa!

charlie_x_kirk_roll

Me: Yep, that was quite a sight.

Cookie Monster: Speaking of sight, what wit de weird lighting?  Most of de scene take place in a brightly lit gym, den when we cut to close-ups, suddenly it be all dark and moody.

Me: Well, it certainly reflected the tone of the scene, especially after Charlie makes Sam disappear.  Although I had to wonder why Kirk didn’t request Sam’s return.  I mean, it couldn’t have hurt to ask, right?

Cookie Monster: Me tink he not want to antagonize Charlie further.  Kid have short fuse, as demonstrated later when he make Spock stroke out on de bridge.

Me: And, later, removes that woman’s face.  I remember being horrified by that scene when I was a kid.  Upon further review, maybe not quite as scary.  A lifetime of horror movies has inured me to faceless people.

Cookie Monster: Monster tink she look cute.  Like muppet.

Me: Until you realize that, without a mouth and a nose, she wasn’t able to breathe and presumably suffocated to death.

Faceless_woman_charlie_x

Cookie Monster: But dat okay becuz, in de end, benevolent super aliens come to de reskue and undo everyting.

Me: Ah, don’t get me started.  Yes, Kirk and co. have the problem solved for them. By episode’s end, everything is as it was before.

Cookie Monster: Even de chess pieces?

Me: Especially the chess pieces.

Cookie Monster: Lucky for de props department!

Me: Uh, yes.  So, all in all, a pretty damn good episode.  If it wasn’t for the Deus Ex Machina ending, I’d rate it in my top ten.

Cookie Monster: Monster like it too.  But, like most shows, it lose points for singing component.

So, what did everyone else think of this episode?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

And, tomorrow, let’s reconvene to discuss: Where No Man Has Gone Before!

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The-Man-Trap-star-trek-the-original-series-19286718-694-530

Hello and welcome to our Star Trek: The Original Series re-watch.  Cookie Monster and I will be your co-hosts.  We’ll open the casual discussion on the show’s first five episodes, then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

THE MAN TRAP

Me: A rocky start for the Enterprise and its crew in an episode that is at turns silly and confounding, yet enjoyable for the many classic elements established.  It’s an interesting premise with a nice emotional hook involving Dr. McCoy and his former love, but there are logic bumps throughout that make this one a little tough to watch.  For instance, the salt monster seems highly intelligent, yet can’t resist snacking on the unwary members of the away team, opening itself up to all sorts of trouble.  Presumably it wasn’t starving since the scientist shows Kirk his salt stores have yet to be depleted, yet it simply can’t help itself.

Cookie Monster: Me empathize.  If Enterprise crew bodies contain traces of cookie element, dey be VERY hard to resist.

Me: Still….

Cooke Monster:  Mebbe salt monster tink Kirk not bother to stick around since he have emergency pepper shipment to deliver to other planet!

Me:  Doubtful.  But you bring up a great point.  Throughout this episode Kirk demonstrates a wide variety of impressive abilities, from carefully hand picking peppers for delivery to some interesting evasive maneuvers -

But what I found most surprising about the episode was that a secondary character, McCoy, drives the heart of the story.

Cookie Monster: Who?

Me: Dr. McCoy.  Bones.

Cookie Monster: You mean Plum?

Me: Yes, Plum.

Cookie Monster: Plum on receiving end of best line in episode: “Stop tinking wit your glands!”

Me: Yeah, that horn dog!

Cookie Monster: And what about scientist on planet?  What kind of “arrangement” he have wit salt creature?  It be his planet wife?

M_113_Creature

Me: Possibly.  He did seem unusually attached and at one point all but says the creature requires salt…and love!  On the one hand, it’s a hideous alien creature that killed his wife.  On the other hand, it’s probably a great spooner.

Cookie Monster: Speaking of killing, it interesting to note dat original red shirt aktually wear blue shirt.

Me: Yes, the costume choices in the first few episodes are interesting.  It’s almost disconcerting to see Spock walking around in that beige turtleneck uniform instead of his science blues.

spock-3d-chess

Cookie Monster: And dat guy in beekeeper uniform.  What de deal wit dat? Enterprise have its own bee colony?  Me bet Kirk gather his own honey too!  Dere be nothing dis guy can’t do!

Me: Except use common sense to contact a fellow crew member.  Kirk and McCoy discover the second body, then walk around shouting for Green.  Is there any particular reason they couldn’t just use their communicators to contact him?

Cookie Monster: Could be Green not on Friends and Ship and Family plan.

Me: Can I just say that one of the high points of this episode is the introduction of Sulu.  George Takei is terrific and his character is an interesting and integral member of the crew from the get-go.

Cookie Monster: Gertrude, not so much.

Me: Gertrude being the alien plant.

Janice_Rand_and_BeauregardCookie Monster: Alien planet?  Sure.  But more likely just Chekov hiding under table wearing big pink glove.  He notorious practikal joker!  Anyway, it be very weird.

Me: Sure, but not as weird as Kirk on the bridge snacking on crudités before heading down to the planet’s surface.  I mean, really?  Couldn’t he have just swung by the mess hall?

Cookie Monster: Mebbe he be hypoglycemik!  Or he really need to carb up before big showdown wit salt creature!

Me: Actually, if anyone needed to carb up before the showdown, it would’ve been Spock.  Look at him deliver those two-fisted wallops!

“If she were Nancy, could she take THIS?!”  The ancient Vulcan alien-identification test?

Cookie Monster: And big twist come at de end when it revealed Nancy really…

image5 …De Abominable Snowman from de Land of Misfit Toys!!!

Me: Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.

Cookie Monster: Also, while we on de subjekt of toys…dose shots of de Enterprise in space!  Hooboy.

Me: Okay, yes, scifi television has certainly come a long way, but I nevertheless find those less-polished visual effects somehow endearing.  Which is how I feel about this episode in general.  A little rough around the edges -

Cookie Monster: And center!

Me: But nevertheless entertaining for its nostalgic elements.

So, what did you all think of The Man Trap?

We continue our Stargate TOS re-watch tomorrow when we’ll reconvene to discuss Charlie X!

Also, one week from today, we’ll begin discussion on the next five episodes on our viewing schedule: Mudd’s Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind, and The Corbomite Maneuver.

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