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While we wait for the official press release on our recent casting coup (any day now!), how about a little hint in the from of a character breakdown for the latest addition to the Dark Matter family:

“Slick, silver-tongued, and more than a little seedy, Tabor Calchek is the crew’s “handler” and the ultimate agent. For the standard 10% commission, he uses his underworld connections as a broker to secure his clients their lucrative assignments. Tabor is sly, manipulative and opportunistic, and can always be counted on to look out for his client’s best interests…right after his own.”

So, guesses?  Who do you think would be perfect for the role?

Hey, it was Cat Shirt Thursday today on Shaofu 2!

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Well, well, well.  If it isn’t former Stargate script coordinator, fellow fantasy football enthusiast, and self-styled Thai food expert Lawren Bancroft-Wilson who joins us – all the way from comparatively warmer Vancouver, B.C. – to take on the role of Visual Effects Supervisor for Dark Matter‘s first season.

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Lawren will be acting as the on set middle man between the production and the gang at Atmosphere VFX  (among them, our former Stargate VFX Supervisor Mark Savela) who will be providing us with all of our spectacular visual effects shots and sequences: space battles, FTL jumps, pulse blasts and mass cellular decay (Oh, sorry.  Spoiler alert!)

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Silver balls!  Silver balls!  It’s space ship time the city!

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It’s always fun to work with familiar faces.  In the months ahead, in addition to Lawren, Mark, and Atmosphere VFX, I’ll be reuniting with Amanda Tapping (Stargate: SG-1‘s Samantha Carter), Torri Higginson (Stargate: Atlantis‘s Dr. Elizabeth Weir) and at least two more Stargate veterans.  And there are a couple of familiar faces I’d like to add to the mix as well.  Stay tuned!

Hey, I think it’s time for another mailbag.  Have some questions?  Post ‘em if you got ‘em!

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“You’re cheesing me,”said Akemi.

“Cheesing you?”I asked.

“Yes, cheesing me.”  She elaborated: “Making fun of me.”

“You mean teasing me,”I corrected her.  “Teasing.  With a t.”

She frowned, brow furrowed, genuinely perplexed by the revelation.  “But cheesing makes more sense.”

“It does?”

“Yes because cheese is like a food bully, kind of aggressive, always going around covering other things.  Also, cheese has a lot of other meanings like That’s so cheesy!

Good point.

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Akemi and I have our weekend routine.  We sleep in, visit the farmer’s market, drop by Loblaws, swing by my favorite comic book shop (The Comic Pile: http://www.thecomicpile.com where I pick up the few titles I’m still reading: The Walking Dead, Saga, and Alex + Ada), then stop at THE spot for Toronto’s tastiest rum cakes: Don’t Call Me Cupcake (https://www.facebook.com/DCMCbakery and http://dontcallmecupcake.com).  Owner Tova (pictured above) opened the shop a couple of years ago and has been baking up all sorts of delicious treats – cupcakes, cookies, cheesecakes, brownies and lemon squares – but my favorite are her bite-size rum cakes that are, apparently, a slightly tweaked version of her grandmother’s rum cake recipe. Today, my timing was near impeccable as I arrived while a fresh batch was cooling.  I waited patiently, killing time by chatting with Tova – and eating one of her sweet and crispy chocolate chip cookies – until the rum cakes were cool enough to ice.  And then…

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Moist, creamy, and slightly boozy.  It makes my list of Top 10 Things to Eat in Toronto!

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I’m pleased to report that while prep and production on Dark Matter continues to motor along, script work on our thirteen episode first season is almost complete. Yesterday, we sat down to a  note session with Executive Producer Jay Firestone and discussed episodes #110, #111, and #112.  Amazingly, the typical pre-note session angst I’d grown accustomed to over my many years as a television writer has disappeared.  It’s nice to sit down with someone and not have to fight for your vision of a script or argue over seemingly trifling expository additions that will weigh down or sink a scene.  Never, over the course of these 12 script meetings with Jay, have we been asked to dumb down explain or clarify or make so absolutely clear that even a trained chimpanzee could follow along.  With Jay, it’s all about the characters and their respective relationships – which is, ultimately, what this show is about.  The input has been really good, really positive, and I have yet to flip a desk, throw a script, or kick a script coordinator.  Yet.

Jay checking the set for design flaws.  From here, it's a short walk over to wardrobe to weigh in on the costumes.  You think I'm kidding?

Jay checking the set for design flaws. From here, it’s a short walk over to wardrobe to weigh in on the costumes. You think I’m kidding?

Monday, we start production on episode #103 with director Paolo Barzman.  I’ve only known the guy less than two weeks and I’m already a big fan.  I really appreciate his passion and positive energy.  Also, the great photos he took of Lulu the last time I brought her into the office:

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Also on Monday, prep begins on episode #104 with a certain fan favorite assuming the directing reins.  Who, pray tell, could I be talking about?  Well, let’s just say it’ll be a Stargate reunion of sorts.

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I received word today of the passing of longtime Stargate Special Effects Supervisor Wray Douglas.  It’s shocking and sad when someone so young leaves us, but doubly so when it’s someone as gentle and even-keeled as Wray.  Despite the occasional onset chaos or the rigorous demands of his job, he was always the calm in the eye of the storm – precise, professional, and infallibly pleasant.  I remember finding it ironic that, even though he specialized in pyrotechnic displays and visual spectacle, Wray was actually a very calm, quiet and fairly shy guy. Whenever I’d see him on set, I’d have to engage him in conversation first but, once we started talking about what he had planned for a certain scene or shot, his eyes would positively light up, that big smile of his would appear, and he’d happily chat until he was called away – usually to blow something up.  He loved what he did and it showed in his work and his attitude.   If you needed something from him, he would deliver in a big, big way, consistently surpassing expectations.  He was, without a doubt, the very best at what he did.

One of my favorite Wray stories came via former Stargate Co-Executive Producer Damian Kindler who was on set one day to oversee production on one of his episodes.  That particular afternoon called for a fairly intricate series of explosions – again, Wray’s specialty.  The director yelled “Action!”, the scene played out, and the SPFX team triggered the charges.  The series of explosions were nothing short of astounding and left everyone in attendance absolutely stunned.  And, as cast and crew stared, dumbfounded, Damian glanced over and spotted Wray and his long-time partner in onscreen mayhem, SPFX Master Scott Stofer, standing off by themselves, giggling in delight.

And that’s what I’ll always remember most about Wray Douglas: that almost childlike delight and palpable love he had for his craft.

The last time I saw Wray was back in September of 2010.  He was as relaxed and happy as ever, looking forward to a new, more relaxed, less explosive charge-laden chapter in his life.  And in that day’s blog entry, I’d written:

“Today, we said goodbye to Special Efffects Wiz Wray Douglas who rides off into the sunset after a dozen+ years spent sparking, flaming, dropping, ratcheting, and generally blowing all manner of shit up here on Stargate. You’ll be missed, buddy.”

And he will.  Big time.

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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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While we’re on the subject…

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SUPER DIMENSIONAL FORCE MACROSS

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ANDROMEDA ASCENDANT

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STARBUG

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SERENITY

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THE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

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SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO

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VORLON CRUISER

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MOYA

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STAR DESTROYER

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ASGARD SHIPS

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THE BEBOP

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ANCIENT AURORA CLASS BATTLESHIP

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THE ARCADIA

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THE USS SULACO

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THE MILLENNIUM FALCON

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THE DESTINY

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USS ENTERPRISE NCC-1701

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THE NOSTROMO

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KLINGON BIRD OF PREY

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ROMULAN WARBIRD

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Wait.  What trilogy?  Oh, THIS trilogy: http://www.gateworld.net/news/2014/05/stargates-return-mgm-announces-new-movie-trilogy/

Yep, I’d heard rumblings – and they’ve finally been confirmed.  20 years after the original movie, Devlin and Emmerich will be rebooting Stargate for the big screen.

I continue to be amazed by the franchise’s staying power and continuing evolution, from a Devlin-Emmerich feature film that grossed 200 million to a television juggernaut that, under the stewardship of Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, helped establish SyFy, built MGM’s television division, and generated close to a billion dollars in revenue for the studio, and now back to the big screen.

Last year, I wrote an entry about the future of Stargate, https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/september-12-2013-whither-stargate/, outlining my take on the various possible scenarios.

My conclusion?  At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: Pleasing the fans – new fans AND established fans alike.  [P.S. Wouldn’t a brief cameo by Samantha Carter or Rodney McKay or Dr. Nicholas Rush be truly awesome?].

Everything (not that old) is new again!  I look forward to seeing the gate in action once more.  Very exciting!

I notice fandom response has been mixed.  What do you all think?

Well, thanks to everyone who took the time to take yesterday’s lateral thinking quiz.  You all did very well.  In fact, much better than I did.  Check out all the answers, and more brainteasing questions, here: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/lateral.htm

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