I almost passed out today – and I‘m not exactly sure why. It may have been my lengthy exposure to the on-set particulates that had most of the crew sporting breathing filters all morning. Or it could have been the mind-numbing reverb and thud-thud-thud of the big guns going off. Or it might have been the turkey burger I had for lunch. Then again, the fact that I‘ve been averaging about 5 hours sleep a night since the dogs joined me up on the bed may have been a contributing factor. Whatever. All I know is that one second I’m pacing, trying to work out this final scene, and the next the ceiling’s spinning, my world is reeling, and the only thing I’m thinking is “Who’s going to pick up the dogs from daycare if I end up in the hospital?” Thankfully, I did not lose consciousness and, after a minute or two, was back on my feet and back into that last scene which, at this moment, remains unwritten. As most of you no doubt know, the only thing tougher than writing a tag is writing the opening scene, followed closely by the middle scene of Act III, the first two scenes of Act II, and all of Act I. To be perfectly honest, the ends of Act II and III aint exactly a cake walk either. Also, coming up with the episode title is a bitch. As is doing the rewrite.
And, sometimes, spinning the story.
On the positive side, Act’s IV and V practically write themselves.
I took time off from the script yesterday to sit through some wraith auditions, enjoying a wide variety of nuanced performances covering everything from underwhelmingly somniferous to theatrically alarming. One enterprising young man even brought along his own cape for added effect. I sat back, relatively impassive, nodding occasionally throughout, piping up only at the end of each audition to offer a congratulatory “Great!” before redirecting my attention to the comment sheet the casting director had helpfully provided. “Controlled and confident,”I wrote next to one candidate – adding “Slight lisp?”. I’m thinking something like this might undermine a life-sucking alien’s terrifying onscreen persona: “Yeth, foolith human, your very life ith…What’s tho funny? Thtop that. Thtop it! I’m going to thuck your life! Theriously, knock it off!”
I’m often fascinated by some of the bolder decisions actors make when auditioning. Like the guy who came in a couple of years ago and read for the part of an alien…and did it with a French accent. Or the guy who came in yesterday and delivered an interpretation so spot on, so captivating in its unbridled audacity, that I vowed right then and there I would hire him – the second we write a part for a crackhead wraith.
Casting wraith is tough. Too arch and over the top and you risk being cheesy. Too subdued and you risk putting everyone to sleep. Still, there were some very talented actors who came in yesterday and, I’m happy to report, one who caught our eye as having the potential to really suck this year (and by “suck”, I mean “suck the life force from his helpless victims” because that’s what successful wraiths do).
Well, I’m pleased to see many of you weighing in with your thoughts on Smoke and Mirrors –
Rebecca – I agree with you. One of the great things about this anthology is that Gaiman offers up a variety of tales and demonstrates a deft touch with each genre. Horror, humor, fantasy, scifi, straight fiction – he does it all, and does it well. Given that so many of you have listed “The Price” as a favorite, I’ll have to go back and give it another read. While I saw the story as a twist on the superstitions surrounding black cats, a lot of you came at it from the perspective of a pet owner, responding to the cat’s loyalty and self-sacrifice. Interesting.
Thornyrose – You wrote “To watch how a perfectly good story was mutilated , with the author’s reluctant aid, hurt.” If you think it hurts you to read about, imagine how much it hurts the author. I remember the very first trip Paul and I took to L.A. when we were both struggling writers with no credits to our name. My enthusiasm at getting the opportunity to pitch our feature was somewhat tempered by the earthquake warnings that had me on edge through most of our stay. I remember running potential earthquake scenarios through my head as we took the taxi to the Holiday Inn (stand in a doorway, steer clear of windows and heavy furniture). Sure enough, on the first night there, I was awakened by a slow-building rumble that set the floor shaking and had me out of bed and scrambling for my clothes…until I realized it was just the air conditioner starting up. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of our stay. The meetings our then agent had set up were unproductive, with the exception of our chat with that nice young woman at Lightstorm (James Cameron’s company) and only because she provided us with a great restaurant recommendation. We returned home and put the script in a drawer until – our agent phoned to inform us our script was being optioned (a producer was going to pay us a nominal fee for the right to shop our script around and try to set it up)! Great! The producer loved the script! Who could we go after? Several names were bandied about. Will Smith! Bruce Campbell! Awesome! After a couple of months, it was – Christian Slater! Wesley Snipes! Yeah, okay! Then, eventually – Lee Horsley! That guy who takes his shirt off in the Pepsi commercial! Our unflagging optimism kept us committed, determined, and suitably ignorant to the process. Finally, a network was interested in producing the script! But they had notes. Not a problem. First note: They thought we did a great job with the villain. So good, in fact, that they found his eventual demise a real downer. “How about, instead of having the hero bury him under an avalanche of t.v. monitors, the hero befriends him?” Yeah, that was about when the shine started to come off the whole “movie business” thing. Eventually, after so many compromises and rewrites that we were sick of our script wishe we’d never started the process, the network executives were happy with it. We got THE CALL from the producer: The script was finally moving into production! Hurray! Then, two days later we got THE OTHER CALL from the producer: the network had cleaned house and fired those executives. Better luck next time.
AMZ – Yeah, you bring up another aspect of “Chivalry” that I really enjoyed – Mrs. Whitaker’s unexpressed delight at having Galaad spend time with her. She kind of reminded me of my auntie Jeanette minus the gruesome stories about a friend of a friend’s husband’s horrible luging accident or a neighbor’s co-worker’s cousin twice removed who gave birth to a baby covered in fur.
Iamza – I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the wedding tale.
Penny – It’s interesting you think the protagonist of “The Troll Bridge” surrenders to the troll because he believes he deserves his fate. Is it a form of self-punishment, or is it more a case of resignation to despair? Could you argue both?
Today = behind-the-scenes pics AND video. You guys are spoiled. Stargate today and the dogs tomorrow as Fondy has been missing them terribly and requested I put up some snaps.
Today’s blog is dedicated to Alipeep’s sister and Lucy. Wishing them a quick recovery.
Talking through the next shot, The MALP ready to roll, Setting up a puddle pass-thru, The control room poised for action, Ivon Bartok at work, Marty G. cogitates and protects his sensitive ears from shouting fans, Birthday Boy BamBam.
Today’s video: Wraith tech. Click on the link –
Jason writes: “Just wondering how many episodes Paul will be writing this season? It seems like his writing contribution has decreased some though I am sure he is busy with production matters or running the Oakland A’s and I continue to swear that he is a dead ringer for their General Manager Billy Beane.”
Answer: Paul is in the process of prepping his script, The Seed, which will be episode #2. Paul writes less originals because he handles all of the major rewrites. Between those, his general production duties, and running the Oakland A’s, he is incredibly busy.
Annie from Freemantle: “When do we have to have “Children of the Night” read by??”
Answer: Discussion on Children of the Night begins Monday, March 3rd. Plenty of time for you to finish up.
Michael Hervey writes: “As a writer, especially one who has to deal with such a limited time format as TV, you use shorthand to create situations. If a door closes with two people smiling at each other in a certain way, they’ve had sex. […] If a couple kiss or nearly kiss, they are now in a TV relationship.”
Answer: Uh, no they aren’t. There is a big difference between the first example (in which something is strongly hinted at) and the second (in which the moment is ruined, the kiss scuttled at the last minute). In fact, if you’re looking to read into the scene, the awkwardness with which the two part clearly suggests the opposite of what you are assuming. You can suppose that there is a mutual attraction there, but nothing more.