Spoiler Alert!  Brad's diagram explains the science behind an upcoming episode!  Oh, and Carl.
Spoiler Alert! Brad’s diagram explains the science behind an upcoming episode! Oh, and Carl.
Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok loves to drop by the offices and just hang out - much to Paul's delight.
Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok loves to drop by the offices and just hang out – much to Paul’s delight.
Ivon shows off his People's Choice Award for Best DVD Extras.  Coincidentally, MY People's Choice Award went missing today.
Ivon shows off his People’s Choice Award for Best DVD Extras. Coincidentally, MY People’s Choice Award went missing today.
Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Savela presides over Space's green screen mayhem.  Now with 50% more dinosaurs!
Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Savela presides over Space’s green screen mayhem. Now with 50% more dinosaurs!
1st AD Alex Pappas and actor Patrick Gilmore (Volker) strike.  Later, the visual effects depatment will magically transform the green screen backdrop into a scene from The Hogan Family reunion movie.  Because they can.
1st AD Alex Pappas and actor Patrick Gilmore (Volker) strike a pose. Later, the visual effects depatment will magically transform the green screen backdrop into a scene from The Hogan Family reunion movie. Because they can.
Actress Jennifer Spence (Lisa Park) and fan who was later escorted off the lot.
Actress Jennifer Spence (Lisa Park) and fan who was later escorted off the lot.
Director Andy Mikita calls the shots on Space, episode #11.
Director Andy Mikita calls the shots on Space, episode #11.
Andy is shocked by Carl's improvised shower scene.  Save that one for the director's cut.
Andy is shocked by Carl’s improvised shower scene. Save that one for the director’s cut.
Ashleigh blocks my path with this pose for five full minutes until I finally relented and snapped her picture.
Ashleigh blocks my path with this pose for five full minutes until I finally relented and snapped her picture.
Today’s lunch room conversation centered on the frustrating, lonely, arduous, dispiriting, painful, occasionally lucrative job of the professional scriptwriter. How to best describe the scripting process? Well, have you ever spent a night in a feverish haze, tossing and turning, falling in and out of sleep, endlessly repeating variations of the same weird, maddening dream? It’s like that except that you’re not confined to your bedroom. No, so long as that script sits unfinished, it’ll weigh on your 24/7 – at the office, in the shower, while you’re having that long distance conversation with your mother about that celebrity dance show. We compared and contrasted our various writing processes. My writing partner Paul, for instance, has to work an entire scene out in his head before sitting down to write it. Brad and Robert, on the other hand, write at their laptops. I’m a pacer, generally running dialogue anywhere but in my office, nailing down a run before getting it down. And, like Carl, when I sit down at the my laptop, I review and rewrite what I’ve got before moving on, advancing a few pages and retiring for the day, then repeating the process the following day. By the time the script is complete, I can recite that first scene line for line. Yes, it can be extremely demanding and incredibly taxing but, at the end of the day, it’s the constructive fan criticism that make it all worthwhile.


I headed down to Stage 4 today where Director Andy Mikita was overseeing one of the big green screen sequences in Space, episode #11. On the observation deck this afternoon: Patrick Gilmore (Volker), Julia Anderson (James), Jennifer Spence (Park), and various others taking in the pyrotechnic display. During a break in the action, Patrick regaled us with the tale of his first memorable Chris Judge experience way back on a little SG-1 episode called Morpheus in which he played the role of the sleepily ill-fated Bernie Ackerman. In addition to being a terrific actor (yet another instant of someone whose small initial role continues to grow as a result of some impressive performances), he’s a really good guy. And funny. You can check out his twitter here: http://twitter.com/PatrickGilmore

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to Das and her hubby who are mourning the loss of Cowboy. Also, belated condolences to Maggiemayday on the loss of her buddy Cricket.

48 thoughts on “June 16, 2009: The Joys of Scriptwriting, Production Update, and Oodles of Pics.

  1. While not a scriptwriter, I do find my thoughts plagued with trying to work out the solutions to software issues. I thought of having a whiteboard put in the shower, but just decided to keep my BlackBerry nearby instead. They’re amazingly resistant to water.

  2. Mmm. Those drawings look like @ symbols.

    Is Carl proposing that SG:U crew members are accidently zapped, Tron-style, into the ship’s email system and transported back to Earth where they reach the mailbox of Frank Piddleton, Jr. who has the remainder of the episode to figure out how to get them out of attachment hell.

    If so, does that episode guest star Clippy from Microsoft as the villian of the piece? Oh, they eventually resolve the problem by forwarding the crew to a Nigerian 419er who, in a fit of panic having a living mailbox, uses a local shamen to send them back to the ship, ready for another adventure.

    As for green screen, you might as well as call it a cheaper version of Disneyland. But without the characters, takes several weeks for anything to happen afterwards, and costs about the same as an average week pass to Disney.

    Heck, maybe that’s what Disneyland could come up with next: Imagination Land. An entire park covered with green screen material. Punters play on imaginery rides and then pay a fortune for the Imagineer VFX team to fill in the blanks for the holiday video.

    Just my 5 euro cent.

  3. @ Das: *hugs tight* Sorry to hear about Cowboy 🙁

    Pass on my love to Mr Das and keep your chin up, huh?

  4. I have often spent nights ‘falling in and out of sleep endlessly repeating variations of the same weird, maddening dream’ – albeit not in a feverish haze… but then I often rewrite my dreams over and over and over until I’m satisfied with them: satisfaction is hard to come by, so I wake grumpy most mornings.

    While I don’t fully get how Mr M. feels, I know what it’s like to replay the same scene whilst going throughout my day; and while I’m not a scriptwriter, maybe it has something to do with being a perfectionist. Good writers would need to be perfectionistic in order to give us good stories that we swallow as soon as we can get our teeth into them; so I reckon.

    And now that Mr M. has kindly mentioned his writing process, I thank him for showing me that I was not crazy (as some of my friends believed me to be) where “I review and rewrite what I’ve got before moving on, advancing a few pages and retiring for the day, then repeating the process the following day”. Only I’ve been working for years on the same thing and can’t get it to feel right!

  5. Will I be able to purchase your Comic book in the U.S. Or will you and Paul be doing Mail order from your Garage???

  6. “Brad’s diagram explains the science behind an upcoming episode!”

    A ship moving between galaxies?

  7. Alright, I know why you can’t fight back against Ashleigh.

    How can anyone…any male, anyway, say “no” to that smile? And that attitude? My God. I don’t suppose she can be convinced to cameo in a SGU episode? All your 18-34 male demos will be satisfied, I promise you.

    Oh crap. Ashleigh has gotten you with her feminine charms! No, Joe! Fight back! Fight back before her control over you is comple…ah who cares. She’s Awesome. So nice, so pretty. I’d do anything she’d say, and suffer any tricks she may play on me. Yep, yep, yep.

    Hmmm, I think I’ll become a vegetarian too. It seems like the right thing to-NO!! NO!! MUST FIGHT BACK!! MUST FIGHT THE-you know, I think I’ll pick up some carrots and lettuce tomorrow; for dinner, I will make a big sala-NOOOOO!!!! GET AWAY!! I WON’T FALL FOR THIS!! YOU CAN NEVER TAKE MY FREEDO-mmmmm, salad; I can’t wait. Then, I think I’ll join PETA. Yep, yep, yep.


    1. So far we’ve heard a lot about the characters angsting about their situation onboard the Destiny and missing their loved ones, but are there any characters who are somewhat happy to be there? Someone who doesn’t have anyone back home, and is absolutely thrilled that he/she gets to explore the other side of the Universe?

    2. Don’t get me wrong, the human drama looks fascinating, but Stargate always had exploration too; and not just “oh look, something new”; it’s that sense of wonder, that sense of “holy crap…this is incredible…” sort stunned reaction; meaning of life stuff, you know? Stuff that are so much bigger than us? The Torment of Tantalus, The Fifth Race – are there SGU episodes that tap into that kind profoundness in humanity and exploration?

  8. I had a good time going through all the fun pics and funny caps. Unless you were being serious, in which case I’m duly impressed. For instance, it’s good to know that security is doing its job in keeping weirdos off the lot, even the ones the cast doesn’t seem to mind. Also, if Ashleigh can hold a pose like that for five minutes, she missed her calling as either a prima ballerina or a ninja. Otherwise, she seems to be putting her ability to good use.

    A good way to break your tension for a while is to make sure there’s a Japanese speaker present, then get all agitated while looking out a window, and yell “DAIKAIJU!!!” as loud as you possibly can. That’s far and away the most therapeutic of all six Japanese words I know.

  9. Hi again Mr M!

    Thanks for the great pics!! Andy Mikita is such a cool dude. Also, is it compulsory for directors to wear shorts/t-shirt/baseball cap? or did Martin Wood just set a trend??

    Any sign of the Ashleigh Q and A? or indeed Joel Goldsmith? or indeed John Lenic?

    Re: Script Writing : I can only imagine the endless turn-overs (creatively) to get a story straight. I have the utmost admiration for those who can write any fiction, but particularly science fiction. I know that you\’ve mentioned you are a pacer… Is there any other stress-busting tip for aspiring writers?

    And finally….great to hear Marty G back in Vancouver!! His brother Shane had a great piece in the (english) Daily Telegraph the other day…must find the link.

    Best to all


  10. @Das. my condolences on the loss of your cat. He sounded like a sabertooth born in the wrong time.
    As always, thanks for the pics and updates Mr. M.

  11. Hi again Mr M!

    Got the link for Marty G\’s brother\’s article : http://tinyurl.com/ldwlo3 Two gifted guys in one family!!!

    Also, I was reading Time Magazine this week. There was an article about a guy with a premium seat for the New York Yankees. Now, I will openly admit that what I know about baseball you could comfortably fit on the back of a postage stamp. That said, I enjoyed the writer\’s take on the food aspect. (He seems un-enamoured with the Yankees from what I can only assume is a well known national story…over my head I\’m afraid) Anyway, thought you might enjoy his take on \”MAX.-ing out\” on the premium ticket!!


    Best to all


  12. Hey,

    I have been trying to get ahold of the 100th episode Atlantis T-Shirt.


    Im a huge Stargate Atlantis fan and really like this T-Shirt design and what it represents. I understand it might be a crew only T-shirt but it didn\’t stop me from emailing MGM Store and Stargate Atlantis website asking if I could (They didn\’t reply by the way after months of waiting) get ahold of one.

    If I cannot buy one of the T-Shirts is there anyway I could get ahold of the design so I can have a company print one for me to wear?


    Luke Murray
    Awesome fan
    Stargate Behind the Scenes photo (Images mostly posted by you) collection has reached around 750MB.

  13. I’m a shower thinker too, I do my best writing in there. Somehow, it all evaporates as I towel off. I have played with the whiteboard idea as well, but until we get one of those continuous, instant hot water heaters, I’ll just need to keep a notepad handy & scribble furiously as I stand dripping.


  14. ((hugs)) for Das and Mr Das. Keeping you in my thoughts, Maggiemayday too. Deepest condolences:(

  15. thanks for the great/funny pics. Fan escorted off the lot? Is there an interesting story behind that?

    +10 points to Ashleigh 😀

  16. Dear Joe,

    So sorry to hear about the losses of Cowboy and Cricket. All of us with animal companions know how difficult it is to lose members of our most intimate family. My heart goes out to Das and her husband and to Maggiemayday.

    On a lighter note – great pics today. Ashleigh is so photogenic. When are you going to put her into SGU? And that fan who was accosting Actress Jennifer Spence, and was later escorted off the lot, he also had some film presence. You should hire him as an extra!

    I do love sacrasm, don’t you?

    Thanks for another entertaining post!


  17. Thanks very much, Joe… I’d give you a cyberhug, but you’d probably think it’s creepy. 🙂

    @ for the love of Beckett – Thank you. I’ve been looking through pictures – they just don’t come out that well when I scan them. Have lots in the camera (but too lazy to download them into the computer right now), so here’s one I found from soon after we got the big fella. Cowboy’s with Shoobie (black kitty, she passed away back in 2002 🙁 ), and Marbles…and Mr. Das, The Enabler 🙄 …


    No wonder he got fat. 😛


  18. “No, no, no! Get Scott away from that wheel!”

    “What, Wallace?”

    “Here, Colonel, let me draw you a handy picture. Dwarf galaxy 1 on the left, dwarf galaxy 2 on the right, us jumping in between the two. When we come in for landing, Scott slams on the brakes so hard that we leapfrog home in a series of painful skips. Please, Colonel, please can somebody else drive the Ancient Stargate Seedship for a while.”

  19. AW, Das. So sorry to hear about Cowboy. My thoughts are with you and especially with your husband.

    And Maggiemayday, somehow I missed the news about Cricket. My thoughts are with you too.

  20. I have a question: what do you think will happen if the Doctor (Doctor Who) come to Atlantis and meet Rodney? Are they going to bite each other’s neck off or what?

    p/s: just another weird question~

  21. Hooray for pictures!!! 😀
    And hooray for more SGU actors to stalk on Twitter!!! 😉
    I have found myself becoming an avid fan of anything any of the actors did before coming to SGU. Yesterday I saw Eragon for the first time, and Robert Carlyle was deliciously evil in it! I hadn’t seen Ugly Betty before, but now I’m going back to watch David Blue’s episodes!!! And I loved David Blue in Moonlight and Lou Diamond Phillips in NUMB3RS!!! Anything else I ought to check out?

  22. Thank you. I gave away the bucket of dog food, but haven’t had the heart to move her little sleep cushion.

    Last night, well, this morning, I woke up with an idea for a painting and for a collage. I had to get up and make them right then … of course it doesn’t help that the Utah Burn (Element 11) begins tomorrow. I’m in the “I don’t have enough art to give away” panic phase. And we have to figure out how to shelter the gallery (Anti M’s Home for Wayward Art) because we’ve had THREE WEEKS of rain. That is no way to run a desert!

  23. Coucou =) ça va ?

    Moi super! il à fait une chaleur aujourd’hui. En plus un nouveau centre culturel c’est ouvert prés de chez moi, avec pleins de livres Yahouuuu!!!!!

    Merci pour ces photos!!! Ahhh y’en a une de vous……je veux prendre une photo avec vous! Il est joli le PCA de Ivon, mais il ne faudrais mieux ne pas le cassé^^!!

    Aller bisou, je vous adore!

  24. AP definitely looks like a Pappas. He even has that hair that you can’t cut too short or … never mind.

    Jobs other than scriptwriting can weigh on you in other places. At least with writing, you might be working out useful details or realizing there’s a plot hole during that time. When other jobs weigh on you, it’s just wasted time and blood pressure – the downside of having a vivid imagination.

  25. So, when you sit down at your laptop to write, do you already have the beginning-to-end story outline in your mind or written down somewhere, or do you create as you go? Did you find differences between writing the Stargate Atlantis movie -vs- writing an episode for tv?

  26. I’ll chime in on writing process, too.

    #1: Structure and outline.

    #2a: Expand the outline over and over, not necessarily from the beginning to the end, until the script is done.

    If I catch myself over-polishing (to the point I’m not generating new content at a satisfactory rate), I switch to step #2b.

    #2b: Race to the First Draft. I write from the beginning to the end, suppressing any notion to polish by making a note and moving on. Even if my dead alien count ticker isn’t adding up in a way that makes sense, I make a note and move on.

    Dialogue sucks? So what? First drafts (especially ones produced this way) suck. That’s what rewriting’s for. Keep moving.

    If I’m still not moving fast enough, I shrink the scriptwriting software down so I can only see one or two lines of what I’m writing. The outline stays open in another window and I keep moving.

    Ok, I’m not always that disciplined, but that’s the plan that inspires me to get the outline detailed enough that I won’t need to move past the much more enjoyable #2a step.

    If I’ve been visiting the writing often enough, those moments away from the laptop when the brain keeps churning are much more productive. If I stay away too long, there’s only so much inspiration to be found in churning over the same stuff and that’s a waste of time.

  27. Interesting take on the different writing processes. Do you work from an outline though? Just wondering. I can see why you’d know the dialogue from your method of writing a particular scene.

    Ashleigh is hilarious.

  28. I’ve never done any scriptwriting, but I’d guess that if I ever do I’d be like Paul – running the whole scene in my head before I sit down to write. That’s kind of how I write feature stories and essays. I have to “see” where the story is going, and have a general map of how I’ll weave one thought into another, one section to another. Then, it’s a race to get it all down onto the computer screen while I can still see it. My family has learned to stay away when I’m in that stage because I don’t respond well to interruptions. (Then again, I think my daughter may have learned to exploit that. I think I said “yes” when she asked for a new Ipod, just to get her to stop talking so I could finish writing.)

    I’m sure scriptwriting is different than non-fiction writing, though – for one thing you have all of that dialogue. That’s probably why I turned more toward non-fiction then fiction…I never liked the dialogue I wrote and never got around to learning how to get better at it.

  29. Hey Joe, Did you see where Captain America rises from the dead, or at least thats what the article read, maybe he was cloned(beckett) and thats how he came back from being killed off 2 years ago, you all thought of it first, in case they ask.
    Loved to see all the smiling faces in your photos. and Mark has a cool hat on, We are Steeler fans also. Bring on the dinosaurs!!
    Have a great day! 😉

  30. Hmmm… lately my writting consists mostly of grocery lists. Mine are quite facinating lists, though. Gripping, you might even say.

    Carl can do a whole space-vehicle scene using only his hands and Brad draws diagrams explaining the science behind sci-fi. I think they should go on the road! I’ll come along with my grocery lists. We’ll make a FORTUNE!

    You know, Ms. Spence might wanna look into a restraining order against that crazed fan. That’s the SECOND photo I’ve seen with that guy hanging around her. 😯 And I’m thinking the guy might be dangerous. He may look harmless but THOSE are the ones you need to watch out for.

    But seriously, thanks for the pics! It’s great to see Mark Savela. I’ve been following him on Twitter. It’s good to put a face with the funny tweets. I follow Ivan and Carl, too, who are equally funny on Twitter. Um, and your dogs. Obviously I follow the pups. Now I’m thinking I forgot someone. I apologize if I did!


  31. @ Das & Mr. Das

    Deirdre, thanks for sending us the great pix of Cowboy kitty, and Daddy Das feeding the kitties from his dinnerplate. How is he doing? How are you doing? I don’t know what feels worse, your empty arms, or the hollow heartache. In time, the funny stories will help heal, but don’t worry if that day is not today.

    @ Maggiemayday

    Maggie, I’m so sorry about Cricket. Have been away from the blog for a while and missed hearing the story. Giving away their things (like the dogfood) is a real wrench. Keep the things that mean the most to you. Treasue the favorite pictures. In them, and in your heart, your doggie grrrl’s spirit and image live on.

    Understanding hugs for the both of you,


  32. @das & maggie, condolences on your losses. Thoughts for you and your families.

  33. Das: Loved the picture. Anyone that comfortable with cats is a keeper! My husband had to audition with my cat before I married him. I’m guliable but my cat isn’t 😀 .
    A hint for Mr. Das, feed the cats first!

    pg15: You are too funny!

    Mr. M, thank you for the pictures! Those pictures of the dogs yesterday were great, too. Have you thought about posting them on http://ihasahotdog.com/ ? They have some great captions.


  34. Thank you so much everyone – for the hugs and warm thoughts. It’s much appreciated! We were reading through them this morning, and David asked me to print them out so he could read them again. He’s doing much better – until he saw the Cowboy pictures I was looking at. 🙁 But still…much better than yesterday – ugh…yesterday was horrible, for both of us. Better today…just by a little.

    Thanks again… {{{huggles}}}


    PS: I think pg15 has a crush on Ashleigh. 😀

  35. Oh poo…forgot to say…

    @ Tammy – Oh, don’t worry! Mr. Das always feeds the cats first (cats fat, Mr. Das thin).

    I must be a cat. 😀

    Anyway…a little story. Shoobie (the black cat in pic with David) was a pistol. She was our ‘Lulu’. 🙂 David always hand feeds the cats – hey, they’re our babies! Anyway, he’s eating this big chicken breast – had the whole thing on his fork. He sticks it under Shoobie’s nose (she was sitting on the chair next to the table). I told him not to tease her like that. He ignored me. Typical. Anyway…he puts his fork with the chicken back on his plate, and turns away from the table to get something to drink. That fast Shoobie jumps up, grabs the big chicken breast – fork and all – and scampers away with it under the table. David just snatches it back from her, and EATS IT. 😯

    I had a fit (as pg15 can well imagine), but David just shrugged and said cats have less germs than us. Yeah…uh…but what about the FLOOR???! 🙄


  36. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the pics and the updates. Just got into seattle. I will be in Vancover in a few days. I will be driving by the bridge…. so close yet so far… lol

    Oh and a few questions.

    1. I started to respond to spam like you said and my mom got kinda ticked when she found out(I forgot she told me not to when I did it the first time). So what did you say was so good at responding to spam. Like doesn’t it just make you get spam in the long run?

    2. If SGU gets a second Season, will it air in the fall, summer, or winter of 2010?

    3. What exactly are VFX temps. Are they the “first draft” of the VFX for the whole episode?

    4. Since I will be in Vancover, would it be possible just to meat you at the gate of the bridge, shake hands, say hi, meat each other in person, and leave?

    5. Will there be any reacurring/ regular character deaths in season 1 of SGU(or should I rather say, has it been considered).

    Please bear with me if I asked this before. I either did and you didn’t answer, or I never posted the question. Either way, I would really appreaciate it if you would answer it.(You know, A much more simple idea compared to what I was suggesting earlier).

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  37. My deepest sympathies to Das and her family and Maggiemay. When our pets die, it is such a difficult ordeal to go through. Wish there was something I could do to ease that pain, but alas, there isn’t other than to send big hugs to all of you.

  38. Big hugs to maggiemayday and das & mr das – so sorry to hear about your losses. There’s nothing I can think of to make it any easier for you. Just we’re here and thinking of you – that goes for everyone who has had a loss this year.


  39. Thanks very very much for the pics Joe, nice! You know you had me going for a minute that Ivon had won an award. Sucked in! I think I still owe him one.

    What’s the deal with directors and shorts?

    My creative process when designing websites is a bit old school. I like to draw it out freehand to visualise it before doing anything on the computer. Of course that might change if I bought myself a WACOM tablet.

    Cheers, Chev

  40. Trish (aka whovian) said:

    But seriously, thanks for the pics! It’s great to see Mark Savela. I’ve been following him on Twitter. It’s good to put a face with the funny tweets. I follow Ivan and Carl, too, who are equally funny on Twitter. Um, and your dogs. Obviously I follow the pups. Now I’m thinking I forgot someone. I apologize if I did!


    I’m so glad I found you on Twitter. You’re heaps of fun.

    Cheers, Chev (who mysteriously doesn’t go by chev on twitter)

  41. Um spoiler alert – are you reversing something? Hey not reversing the polarity?

    Looks like something natural like something orbitting that you’re gonna spin the other way. Why? Hmmm…..

    Cheers, Chev

  42. Spoiler alert diagram explanation:

    One ship travels toward another at a significant proportion of the speed of light. Occupants of both ships are linked by KINO, which automatically compensates for the time distortion. What happens to their perceptions of their surroundings when the moving ship stops?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.