As another week draws to a close we inch ever closer to our first day of principal photography. We had the costume fittings on Monday and then the super-secret closed-door invitation-only cast read thru on Tuesday. Yesterday was the stage tech survey for Air #1, #2, and #3 while the production meeting for all three episodes was held today. It was followed by the Safety Meeting which, I‘m disappointed to say, fellow writer/producer did NOT attend on our behalf. Given that we is the writing department’s appointed Safety Representative (in addition to Official Synopsis Writer, Food Taster, and Chairman of our Green Initiative), he really should have been there taking assiduous notes on things like the restriction on open-toe sandals and the indiscriminate use of helium cryogenic-system cooled super magnets on set. What the hell are we supposed to do now? Use our common sense?! The all important Hair and Make-Up Tests tomorrow will be followed by a second cast read thru and, if all goes as planned, the weekend.

So, we’ve got our first three episodes on deck – Air #1, #2, and #3 – and veteran director (and cyrogenic-system cooled super magnet collector) Andy Mikita will be doing the honors. Brad is working on Fire and, from what I hear, is very happy with the way it’s coming along. It’s a great story and, as I’ve already said, right up Brad’s alley. Looking forward to reading the first draft. This episode will see a certain fan favorite retake the director’s chair. Marty G. sent in his revised version of Earth weeks ago, but we have yet to sit down and discuss. Carl, meanwhile, completed his rewrite on Water and awaits word on whether he’ll be doing another pass or handing it off. At 57 pages and given the type of episode it is, Rob feels he’s going to need to trim it down. Rob has had his hands full, dealing with prep issues, but, in the interim, has been spinning episode #7 in his head. This one promises to be a lot of WTF?! fun. Carl also submitted an outline for episode #8, received notes, and is poised to do a rewrite – just as soon as he finishes work on a certain movie script. Paul has landed the polish of episode #9 and I’m presently tinkering with the my completed first draft of episode #10. Episode #11 is still in its initial outline stage, but freelance script and episode #12 is shaping up to be a very interesting dilemma story.

Next week, we welcome another potential freelancer who will be flying in, no doubt armed with ideas and ready to spin. And – we finally start shooting!

Still on track to complete a first draft of my short story by month’s end. I woke up early to work on it this morning but only ended up spinning my wheels. I’m hoping for a late night flash of inspiration that will allow me to strike that precarious balance between subtlety and significance. One of the critiques I tend to hear a lot of with regard to my writing is that it is, at times, cryptic and purposely ambiguous. I’ll admit as much and this stems from three things: a) a desire to challenge the audience, b) my hard-to-shake confidence in the intelligence of the average viewer/reader, c) my general distaste for on-the-nose storytelling that spells out exactly what the character is feeling or thinking in no uncertain terms. And so, I end up second-guessing myself. On the one hand, am I being so understated that the narrative comes off as glib and, ultimately, insubstantial? Or, on the other hand, am I being all too direct and conveying a sense of amateur desperation? Hopefully neither and my prose will elicit a positive reaction, falling somewhere between the two ends of the shifting spectrum: utterly baffling and downright cringeworthy. Although, at the end of the day, I suppose I’d rather err on the side of subtlety and, at the very least, try and fail rather than take the easy out. That said, it does work for some people. In fact, there are a number of popular authors whose prose is so earnest that I find them completely unreadable. And yet, they have an audience.

A terrific dinner with Ivon and Lawren tonight. Will file a proper report – with pics – in the coming days.


41 thoughts on “February 12, 2009: Pre-Production Update and Those Things Better Left Said or Unsaid?

  1. Subtlety can be a good thing…but sometimes a very bad thing.

    For as much as I like to speculate about what a certain look or word means, I also need definitive answers (as you can tell by my many questions about your vague episodes 😉 ). The speculation and mental exercises (nippleless Wraith, for instance 😀 ) are enjoyable on forums and the like, but not when I’m all alone and have no one to bounce ideas off of.

    For me, I like to know what the writer really means to convey. When I feel puzzled about what’s going on, or what the characters are feeling, etc…I become frustrated, and lose interest. I NEED to feel what the characters are feeling, experiencing. I need to make that connection to them, otherwise, they’re flat and uninteresting. And I certainly need to know their motivations, and desires, and goals.

    Just taking what I’ve read so far of the Elric saga, I have to say that Moorcock has a style that really works for me – he’s not vague in conveying what the characters are feeling or experiencing, but at the same time he doesn’t over-explain. It’s a nice balance and makes for a fluid read, where I’m not pausing every other page, trying to figure out what author is conveying.

    And that, for me, is key. If the author doesn’t reveal enough, it interferes with the flow of my reading, since I have to stop and re-read and try to figure out what the hell he’s trying to tell me. When that starts happening, I lose interest and stop reading.

    However, I LOVE when vague hints and things are given throughout a story, with full revelations to come later on. That works well, and gives me – the reader – the sense of discovery. But if subtle hints are given, and nothing is ever fully explained or revealed, then I feel cheated.

    Somewhere, there is a balance.

    Just my two pennies.


  2. I received the latest Stargate Magazine(#27) in the mail today. There is a great interview in there with everyone’s favorite Wraith. If you don’t have a subscription, you should pick it up at your local bookstore.

  3. Do you and Paul get a safety hat as the safety rep? Maybe he’s holding out until you both get hats.

    So when a writer is spinning an idea in his head, what does it look like he’s doing to the outside world – sleeping, playing the DS, doing a crossword puzzle?

    Hope you’re having a good day….er night. It’s a bit smoky here. I’m staying inside.

    Cheers, Chev

  4. Looking forward to the dinner review and especially the pictures. 🙂

    Cheers, Chev

    p.s. can you give us any initials for the names of the rest of main cast of SGU? Or maybe a very random word hint. That could be fun.

  5. Hi Joe! Hope you have a great dinner and I can’t wait for the pics! I was watching Iron Chef America as I am reading your post and was wondering if we are ever going to see you as a judge on the show?
    I can’t wait for SGU… it is looking veyr interesting so far.
    Oh, and I was wondering if you have ever tried the chocolates from Chuao Chocolate? They have some interesting combinations. I have ordered a selection and am waiting for it to arrive.
    Have a great weekend!

  6. Wow, lots of work on SGU (expected) and from what I can gather, a hint that the SG1 script is almost done.

    What about the SGA movie script? 🙂

  7. I can’t imagine you producing cringeworthy Joe unless you meant to produce cringeworthy. I’ve seen too many of your Stargate eps to know you don’t make me cringe.
    And I cringe easily.
    Put me in front of any musical episode of a show and I’m cringing for the full 42 minutes (except for the Scrubs one – laughter was the overwhelming feeling with just a tinge of cringe).

    At least with downright baffling you can leave the reader questioning their own intellect – speaking as someone with experience in that – rather than them automatically faulting the author.

    So while a balance would be great, if you’re finding that difficult, go the option that allows you to point the finger of blame at someone else **nods reassuringly**. Note to Joe, do not follow any of my advice. Although you probably already knew that.

    Honestly, if the storyline is moving along well and the character’s actions within the storyline are driving it, I don’t need to know the nitty gritties. Actions speak louder than words so they say, and I enjoy having a little bit of artistic license when reading a book rather than being dictated every detail.

    Hope the late night creative juices are flowing.

  8. So how was Wild Seed? Was it BOTM worthy? It sounds really good so I’m already planning on reading it. Finding time to read has been really difficult lately with the two jobs, but I’m getting through In the Cities of Coin and Spice pretty well. It’s a lot more graphic than In the Night Garden. I wasn’t quite ready for that but like the first, it’s a beautifully written story.

    It’s only the 12th and I’m already sick of Valentine’s Day. Do you and Fondy have any plans? I kind of hate the fact that I’m always depressed this time of year, but really would you blame me? I’m turning 27 in two weeks and have never, ever, ever even been on a date and the last time I was asked out, I was 15. I constantly have to apologize to people for hating this holiday. I’ll shut up now. Have fun on Saturday no matter what your plans may be.

  9. Is the current plan to shoot Universe through the late summer, then go on hiatus about the time the show premieres in the fall? That will make for a very long summer without any new Stargate material. And any word on the DVD release of season five?
    As far as the subtle/blatent argument, I can and do enjoy both. Certain authors are good at doing the ambigious, read-between-the-lines view of character views and motivations. This form of writing does tend to demand a bit more of the reader, but if handled with a modicum of competence makes for a better read. At other times, it’s sometimes nice to just have the author do all the work for me. It’s like any other kind of diet. You become tired of the same food all the time, and crave a change in taste and texture.
    Hope the “silent” partner who missed the Safety meeting is doing all right. In the meantime, you can always come up with some faux rules and regs to pass onto him. “Safety glasses are to be worn indoors at all times, but must be the tinted/sunshade variety. Also, all persons indoors must also put on a safety vest with flashing amber lights on the shoulders and around the waist. The wearer will be responsible for ensureing all the lights work, and that dead batteries are replaced promptly.” You might also see if Evil Kenny could come up with a suitably garish and weighty vest to back up the statements.
    Then again, you don’t need advise from someone like me when you channel Baron Destructo on your off days. Never mind.

  10. Narelle from Aus said:

    I can’t imagine you producing cringeworthy Joe unless you meant to produce cringeworthy. I’ve seen too many of your Stargate eps to know you don’t make me cringe.
    And I cringe easily.
    Put me in front of any musical episode of a show and I’m cringing for the full 42 minutes (except for the Scrubs one – laughter was the overwhelming feeling with just a tinge of cringe).

    Oh I don’t know about that (although you could be right that he knew exactly what he was doing) 😀

    Joe knows exactly how I feel about Moebius and the cringeworthy alt-timeline Sam and Daniel. **shudders** The rest of the ep was great, just difficult to get past those two.

    Cheers, Chev

  11. So, I know this is *technically* a comment on yesterday’s post but you’ll be happy to know that I have tracked down(but not yet procured) a copy of “The Big Over Easy” for April(though it may well be a bit early, but you never know with public libraries hold systems).

    Tried to track down a copy of “Poe” but alas no luck yet. I’m a fan of Poe’s original works so am curious to see the anthology and am hoping to find a copy of it in time.

  12. Hi

    Question – please tell me Joe that the new SG Gateroom has not changed beyond recognition?….as that is as much a part of the show as the characters….And I hope that it is explained why it has changed in the upcoming SG1 movie as well.

    Kriss 🙂

  13. It can be a pain to lower your bar without feeling like a complete d-bag.

    Everybody van dip below the standard, if it pleases. Just not too much with the “innocent blood on your hands…literally!”

    And keep in mind that writers don’t need subtlety as much if they implement gratuitous sex and copious swearing. So there’s always that.

  14. Joe, you would have been so proud of me today. It was my best friends birthday so I had to go to town. Went to a new restaurant that is now my new favorite. My best friend loves Sushi and I had only had it one time and hated it. But I tried it again and it was great! The Salmon and Tuna were so light and wonderful. I’ve already made plans to go back. Then we went and saw a movie (which I was freaking out about) but apparently at 4 in the afternoon on a Thursday you get the theater to your self.

  15. Hey Chev,

    Actually, there were many moments in that ep I did cringe with, but for me it was a good cringe. I have two types of cringe; a I’m cringing but borderline breaking into laughter cringe and the ‘Oh gad, please stop now before you become the top rated You Tube video’ cringe. The second is the one I don’t enjoy.

    Very smoky indeed. Seems to have reached most places now. I’m sitting outside typing this and I’ve got ash falling on me. Bizarre.

    Airelle – Your rain dance produced 2mm last time. Go crazy and let’s see what you can do. Thanks muchly.

  16. Joe, I have a fair bit of faith that whatever your short stroy ends up being, it will be great to read.

    When it comes to short stories (or any stories really) I’m reading, I tend to prefer narrative that has a considerable amount of subtext floating around. There are quite a few successful writers (and many less successful ones too) who, like you said, are very earnest in their prose. They are the kind of writers I may read once, but never again.

    Something complex on the other hand, like a King or a Gaiman or an anthology by Lou Anders I will keep coming back to, re-reading again and again because I’ll get something new out of the stories every time. If everything in fiction was straightforward and right in front of the readers eyes, then there’s no room left for the unexpected, or the personal interpretation. That’s one of the main things I love about reading, and if you take that away then you almost take out all of the pleasure in discussing a story after you’ve read it.

    When you think about speculative fiction (as a super-genre for scifi, fantasy, horror etc), it has to have a lot of things left up to the reader. It’s speculative in nature, so we have to come to at least a few conclusions on our own, at least more so than with general fiction.

    You’ve been writing scifi for years now, and I think that your style is inherently complimentary to any audience with an imagination and a desire to think as well as be entertained. As for going over peoples heads, well, even if there is that risk at least it will get the book clubs talking.


  17. Joe,

    Is it normal to start filming while the scripts for so many forthcoming episodes still remain uncompleted? I would have thought that with each episode being filmed in 5-7 days it doesn’t give the writers much time to write the later episodes before production catches up with them. Or is there a break in filming between each episode for rehearsals, set building, etc? Or does filming take longer at the start of a new show while the cast and crew get a feel for it?

    I, for one, am eagerly anticipating SGU. Even though I was enjoying SGA and was disappointed to see it go, a 5 year run on TV – particularly for a sci-fi show – is a fantastic achievement.

  18. Hi there Mr M!

    Wow, you guys are busy. And thank you for (inadvertently) answering my questions re: Mr Binder and Marty G.!

    Glad to hear all the crew are busy busy busy.

    Having been through two other Stargate Productions, do you still get that frisson of excitement as you embark on a new project like this, or is it a case of “been there, done that”?

    WRT: Writing : The MAIN reason I have stayed loyal to the Stargate Franchise over the years, is the fact that 99.99% of the time, the audience are treated with a fair dollop of common sense and intelligence (or as we say here in Ireland : “cop on”!). I would much prefer subtlety over “crayon indicators” in any tele-play. Writing has always struck me as quite a lonely business with a lot of self doubt/self belief in equal measure, and I for one couldn’t do it!

    And finally, “Sanctuary” aired on Sci-Fi (Europe) last night. It had aired on ITV4 some time back, but finally, I got to see it. GREAT SHOW! Ms Tapping and Mr Heyerdahl really puts in great performances…along with many familiar SG faces…and Dan Shea getting beaten up by a girl is always a pleasure to watch (sorry Dan!)

    Best to all


  19. I have not heard any news on what actresses are in Universe.. when will they be officially named..?

    I am actually looking forward to Universe… Its is sounding very interesting…

    I have heard Universe will be in full production soon, and after Universe has wrapped, Production on Atlantis and SG1 movies start is that true….?

    In the cast read through for The first Episode, Micheal Shanks wasn’t there by any chance?

    You guys on Stargate all ways do a superb job… good luck on the production run with Universe……

    A Massive Fan, Rob

  20. Joe, not sure if you can answer this but, here’s my Q:
    The last season of Atlantis had shorter introductory sequences – you know the music bit with the actor’s names and videoclips, right? Is Universe going to stick to this model as well? If yes, why, if no, why not?

  21. Exciting to hear things are going well.

    As for safety issues? I work in public health. Never underestimate the stupidity abilities of the common homo sapien.

  22. Thanks for the update on your production schedule and safety measures. You should thank whatever powers you believe in that you’re not shooting in Germany with its truly stunning bureaucracy and all-encompassing safety regulations. I don’t think it can be worse than here anywhere else.
    Thank you even more for sharing your thoughts about writing. I write mostly non-fiction myself, so I don’t have that dilemma very often (and whenever I had, it was in a different language and culture). But as a reader, I would like to tell you that I like your approach. Please do err on the side of subtlety. It is much more fun ro read a subtle (and even cryptic) story, as long as there’s a satisfactory conclusion to it. Personally, I read a lot of English books because of this subtlety and understatement, which I often miss in contemporary German literature. I like to use my brains and my imagination when I read. Platitudes make me feel insulted.
    But then, there are many authors whose earnest (or banal) prose I find unreadable, too, and who are very popular. No one can explain matters of taste.

  23. So, in terms of helium cryogenic-system cooled super magnets…can you use them if you promise to be really careful? Or do you have to be an expert with a slip of paper given you proper authorization. (I’m a notary…can I forge one?!)

    And there are a LOT of popular authors with large audiences & I just don’t get it.

    Go for subtle….with footnotes for the obtuse.

  24. Well, dang, now I’m getting all excited about SGU and stuff.

    I have a garish blaze orange reflective safety vest with snarky buttons, tons of plastic pony beads, and el-wire which can be set to solid or flashing. The military made us wear them while riding motorcycles in Japan, I made mine as obnoxious as possible. Black leather, yes, but safety vests on a Harley? I think not. If you need to borrow it for faux safety rule pranks, lemme know.

    Ambiguous works for me. Purple Monkey Dishwasher.

  25. Jo
    that is great to see that the Universium is slowely turning.
    Have you any Chocolate plans for Valentines day ?


  26. “I’m hoping for a late night flash of inspiration that will allow me to strike that precarious balance between subtlety and significance.”

    Try a couple shots of Jamesons, neat.

  27. You can always make your characters too obsessed with Paris Hilton to reveal too much or too little in their inner monologue.

    They could start to wonder why this stranger is asking these questions, but get distracted by a passerby’s poor taste in shoes.

    I’ve honestly considered purposely creating shallow characters (as in focused on the wrong things, not as in not developed properly) to avoid the temptation to reveal too MUCH in early inner monologues. Screenwriting is different because actors can pull off subtext and directors can frame an important clue with more subtlety than an inner monologue can.

  28. Coucou Joseph!

    Vous allez bien? moi super!..enfin asser stréssé car je n’ai pas de réponse de contact pour les stands et c’est dans 1 semaine !! O_o.

    Merci pour ces infos sur sgu.

    Bisou bisou

  29. Joe said: … This episode will see a certain fan favorite retake the director’s chair …

    Could that be the talented Peter DeLuise? He has done some very fine work for Stargate in the past …

  30. What a heck with women actress? Some deep dark s__t fly around in the… uh eh… air. “Gimme a f___ing answer!” (c) Mr. Christian Bale.

    🙂 Can’t wait for more info. Thanks.

  31. The new issue of Stargate magazine doesn’t hit stores untill Feb 24th, dang why so long!!!!

    WOW lots of work done on UNIVERSE. COOL!!!!

  32. Thought you might get a chuckle. I’m not sure where this started.

    NOTICE: To be posted VERY LOW on refrigerator door – nose height.

    Dear (insert pets’ names)

    The dishes with the paw print are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

    The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn’t help because I fall faster than you can run. ; )

    I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

    For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, and try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years — canine or feline attendance is not required.

    The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat’s butt. I cannot stress this enough!

    To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

    To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:

    1 They live here. You don’t.
    2. If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That’s why they call it ‘fur’nature.)
    3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
    4. To you, it’s an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn’t speak clearly.

    Remember: In many ways, dogs and cats are better than kids because they:

    1. Eat less
    2. Don’t ask for money all the time
    3. Are easier to train
    4. Normally come when called
    5. Never ask to drive the car
    6. Don’t hang out with drug-using friends
    7. Don’t smoke or drink
    8. Don’t have to buy the latest fashions
    9. Don’t want to wear your clothes
    10. Don’t need a ‘gazillion’ dollars for college.

    And finally,

    11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children

  33. Hey, it’s the end of “next week”, or darned close to it. When are we going to find out about the rest of the cast? Date is good, exact time is better. 😉

  34. Would you believe I’ve picked up two recycled rabbits? I think they used to be socks or possibly cryogenic chambers once but whatever they were they’re dwarf lop rabbits now.

    *examines last comment and realises total derangement is a definite factor*

  35. For Joe:

    Thank you for this generous forum. You are a prince to do this. I enjoy your “foodie-ness” just as much as all the Sci-fi elements. Yes, dogs do tell all about people.

    I started watching SG 1/SGA four years ago. I couldn’t believe how funny they were. The original SG1 cast remains my favotite. Bless RDA for setting the tone at the beginning and thanks to the whole cast, crew and especially the writing staff for making me laugh out loud more times than I can count.

    For Amanda:

    1. Aside from “Moebius”, is there an episode in SG1 that you can point to and say – “Thank God, Carter finally got to be funny!”?

    2. Congratulations on Sanctuary. It is great and I am so pleased you get to call the creative shots. Between the production responsibilities, on screen performances, and oh yeah, raising a family – how do you relax?

    3. How was it to work with Peter Wingfield and Jim Byrnes? I really enjoyed watching their scenes together on Highlander. Assuming that “no one really dies in Sci-fi”, I wondered if these two could be brought back together on the show somehow?

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