Breaking a story can go either way. It can be a fast-paced and entertaining exchange of ideas in which all participants contribute to fashion a gripping, tightly plotted, detailed episode breakdown. Or, it can be a frustrating exercise in futility spent arguing story points and running into creative dead-ends resulting in little, if any, progress Usually, it falls somewhere in between.
Earlier in the week, we had an example of the former when we all got together (along with the visiting Martin Gero) to break episode 19. Inside of two and a half hours, we were done: The tease and all five acts . Well, with time ticking down toward the beginning of our summer hiatus, we all gathered again the other day to discuss episode 20. We took an hour to discuss the story, throw out some notions and then, with time running out, put the potential act breaks up on the whiteboard (You know, those tun-tun-TAAA moments right before you cut to commercial – ie. the villain gets the upper hand, our team is trapped, our hero loses his lucky sock.). The plan was for everyone to re-gather today and actually break the story – the tease and all five acts, 4-5 beats per act.
Well, that was the plan anyway but, unfortunately, Rob Cooper had some post-production issues to deal with. And he’d be unavailable next week which meant we had to proceed without him. Normally, the absence of a single individual wouldn’t be that big a deal but, in this case, it was. For a number of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that Rob is the master spinner, ever capable of coming up with a solution to any creative roadblock no matter how wild or wacky the idea. Secondly – and this applies to co-creator and series show runner Brad Wright as well – this is the season finale and if there’s an episode you DON”T want to break without him, it would be this one. At the end of the day, Brad and Rob have the final say and there’s nothing more dispiriting than spending a day outlining an episode, presenting it, and having one of them find fault or creatively disagree with a crucial story element. It happens, of course, but it could be avoided – and would save a whole lot of time and effort – if we were all on the same page from the get-go.
But that wasn’t going to happen today. Paul and Carl were kind enough to offer to spend the morning breaking the episode with me, but I elected to set aside an hour to review what I had and beat out the story myself. Given the choice, more often than not I prefer to work alone.
Sometimes, you can spend days stumped, staring at those varying narrative elements as if they were pieces to completely different puzzles – the corner of a building, a tuft of cloud, the rear hindquarters of a rhinoceros – willing them to magically come together to no avail. Other times, you’ll be struck by a moment of clarity in which the disparate pieces coalesce and crystallize to form a coherent creative vision. You never know how it’s going to go. But, this morning, I was fortunate. I broke down the story, jotting the beats up on the whiteboard, then invited Paul, Carl, and Brad into the room and pitched it to them. They had some great suggestions that I incorporated into the narrative and, half an hour later, I was done. Now all I have to do is put out the beat sheet, get some feedback (hopefully Rob will like what we‘ve got), and I’m done.
Well, practically done. There’s that whole “writing of the script” thing, but that’s the easy part.
It came down to a mad scramble today because we took yesterday off to watch the Day 1 Mix of Air I and II. Composer Joel Goldsmith did a wonderful job with the score (my favorite cue comes near the very end of the second part) and the show itself looks fantastic (and, once the color timing is complete, fantasticker(?)). Even with temp visual effects, you get a sense of the scope of the story and it’s truly awesome. Director Andy Mikita should be very proud. The performances were terrific and I can’t think of a better way to show our appreciation than to invite the entire cast and crew to a private screening of the premiere. The actors are dying to see some of the cuts, but I keep telling them to hold off and wait for the finished version. It’ll blow them away. At this point, I feel like I’ve chipped in and bought them all the most incredible gift and simply can’t wait to see their reactions when they open it.
Hey, speaking of actors, Brian J. Smith (Lt. Matthew Scott) popped by the production offices yesterday on his way to his cross-fit work-out. Whenever he comes by, he’s always a pleasure to talk to – bright, upbeat, and amazingly down to earth. In some ways, he reminds me of a young Ben Browder in that, like Ben, Brian quickly won the crew and his fellow castmates over with his down-home disposition and good-hearted outlook on all things. And, like Ben, he’s been known to stick around even after he’s wrapped, sitting by to watch the process and lend a hand whenever possible. We’re all excited about working with Brian because he’s young, extremely talented, and is no doubt has a very promising future ahead of him. And, oh yeah, we got him on our show first!
Since he was upstairs, I grabbed my laptop and went through all of the photos I’ve taken of him to date, hoping he could sign off on a few for the blog. Well, he signed off on all of them. Unfortunately, most of them have him on the Destiny set – and the studio wants to hold back on the ship reveal. So, for today, I give you (and especially Brian’s mom who follows this blog) two pics: Brian relaxing on the Icarus set, and Brian taking a break between set-ups.