Being a staff writer can be tough.  Being a freelance writer, on the other hand, can be much more than just tough.  It can be physically grueling, mentally challenging, spiritually taxing experience.  More often than not, the difficulties a freelancer encounters stem not from a lack of talent but from the simple fact that they are on the outside looking in.  And, if that “in” happens to be a scifi franchise with over a 300+ hours of television to its credit, falling into step creatively can be a daunting task at best.

Over on his ever-entertaining blog, writer Denis McGrath offers a rundown of his freelance experience on SGU’s first season.  About this time last year, Denis delivered some very intriguing story ideas over the course of a phone pitch, demonstrating a strong story sense and, most importantly, a clever SF mindset.

On the strength of that initial conversation, we flew him over to Vancouver where we spent the day spinning one of his ideas, a story that would eventually become episode 13, Faith.  As Denis explains in his blog entry, after two drafts Carl Binder ended up doing a pass on the script.  The result – one of the strongest episodes of the back half.

Check out Denis’ hair-raising account of the experience here:

No work on my script today but I did end up finishing that first act – last night.  Instead, I ended up putting out some green pages for Awakening which starts shooting tomorrow…sometime.  It’s almost 9:30 p.m. and I’ve yet to receive a call sheet.  Since it’s my episode, I’ll spend the day on set loitering around the craft service table and offering Andy unsolicited directing advice (“Hey, you know what would be cool here?!  A swish pan!”).  Of course the later the call, the later I get to sleep in – AND the later I stay at work.  Looks like I may have to cancel my hot date..with Ghost Whisperer.

I was out late tonight having Chinese noodles and scary crab with Remi, Cintia, and Carl.  Will deliver the full report in tomorrow’s blog entry – which I will undoubtedly write between set-ups.  In the meantime, here’s a couple of pics I took the other day of Jelly doing her Queen of the Mountain routine…

53 thoughts on “April 15, 2010: Freelancing aint easy!

  1. Hello.

    Awwww… Jelly looks so photogenic. I don’t think I have ever seen a bad photo of her. Speaking of the dogs, did I see one of your dogs in a quick walk on role during Eli’s introduction in Air?

    Best wishes.


  2. Hi Joe!!!

    I was wondering if you could give us a hint and tell us if SGU is going to have a darker tone in season 2 or if the crew is going to be more upbeat?


  3. Hi Joe,

    Apologies … re posted questions again… I figure you are gonna do the mailbag sometime soon since there is an apparent drought …. hehe: well anyways here there are

    1. Is it true that the destiny will travel a different galaxy in each season?

    2. When, meaning by which episode will we know some more details concerning the elusive FTL drive? You know some specific specs such as the difference between hyperspace and the speed.

    3. Can we consider subversion and season 2 aftermath as part of the two part incursion and season 2 intervention arc?

    4. You dont have to answer this one sir: Are you still married with Fondy?

    Thanks buddy and take care… keep in mind although I don’t post often I still check the blog every night… Have been doing so since 2007.. making me probably apart from PG15 one of your earliest customers

  4. A couple of misc questions:
    If Stargate Command is now at the Pentagon, where is the Earth Stargate? I don’t see how they would have it there, so is it still in Colorado or someplace like Area 51?

    Will you ever say how many people came to the Destiny and how many are military vs. civillian?

    Not a question, but you guys have done such a great job with the character of Eli. He is a genius, which most of us aren’t, but otherwise he is like the viewer. He is someone who was plucked from his normal life where starships and aliens were just fiction and now has to deal with them on a daily basis. His observations are our observations. He didn’t start out as a favorite character, but he has joined T.J. as my favorite.

    Bring on Faith!!!

  5. Jelly looks so regal in those pics!

    Freelancing can be a really difficult stepping stone in a career, but I think the experience is good grounding for writers or other creative types. After a couple of years freelancing in Australia I think my approach to things in Canada is definitely more mature and convincing than it would have been if I was straight out of uni. Good to hear there are people out there getting in’s from freelancing too 🙂

    I’m kind of hoping something like that will happen if I keep being persistent and proactive.



  6. Hi Joe

    A very interesting read from Denis McGrath.

    You sound so fluffy usually and yet when he met you in the writers room you are a scary bunch ! 🙂

    He mentions the pressure of writing for a series with such history, when you were seeking new writers for Universe did you deliberately go for people who did not know the franchise? Or does it help if they watch/know/are very familiar with it?

    When the scripts come in from freelancers do you expect to do major re-writes? it must be difficult for them not to make some mistakes with the canon.

  7. As a freelancer myself, I think I get enough satisfaction just sitting back and thinking about writing and, ostensibly, being paid for it. But if some people feel the need to do things in real life, I guess I can learn to live with it.

  8. Coucou Joseph!

    ça va bien? moi moyen, je doit prendre l’avion demain pour Paris et avec ce nuage de cendre qui est au dessus de nos têtes je pense que ça ne va pas être possible, trop dégouter, c’est vraiment pas de chance.

    Gros bisou!

  9. Hi, Joe.

    LOL! Love Jelly’s Queen of the Mountain photos.

    And thank you for the link to Denis’ blog. Very interesting…

  10. -Now what would be cute is watching Jelly climb to the mountain, she is adorable. thanks for sharing.
    -May you never run out of colored paper to do your scripts on.
    – Ah, craft service table, thats where I would visit if I were to come to Bridge..hear the desserts are awesome..
    -How is your wrist feeling? and the cold, did you get it? remember drink plenty of liquids, doesn’t say which ones…
    -Tonight, yes looking forward to the episode. thanks for the link to Denis.

  11. I like the look from the freelancer’s point of view. And the mini-spoilers in the blog have increased my interest in this episode.The trailer also confirms Greer as my favorite character, equally part loony tunes and super practical get-it-done guy.
    I’d almost feel sorry for how busy you were if it wasn’t for the fact that you sound like you’re having too much fun. No doubt you will reward yourself with another nice outing somewhere for dinner. Which rewards us when you post your report of the meal. Life is good. Have a great weekend.

  12. @tim

    Since (according to Enemy at the Gate) a Pegasus gate supersedes a milky way gate, I guess they are operating out of Atlantis in San Francisco.

    Best Wishes.


  13. Adorable Jelly! Yay!

    I watched five minutes of Ghost Whisperer accidentally. I was ill for a week. Ranks right up there with Touched by an Angel for inducing puking, daydreams of inappropriate vandalism, and general malaise.

  14. @Tim: Homeworld command is at the Pentagon. As far as we know, the SGC is still at Cheyenne Mountain. Although given the real-world shut-down of that facility… I think that the SGC should set up a moon base and get the darn gate off-world. We’ve seen too many things come through it that put the whole population at risk. Risk that could be mitigated if we put the gate somewhere else. We certainly have the tech now with our fancy, Aasgard enhanced, starships to have moon bases. Of course I still secretly hold out that they’ll discover a Mars-gate. I find it likely that our solar system would have other relics of the ancients… they did live here afterall.


    Faith! Can’t wait. Have no idea if it will touch on religious themes or not, but I know that’s something you guys are exploring a bit more in this series than in the previous ones. Which excites me.

    Ever since the SG1 episode, Demon, where our team finds what appears to be a Christian village on an alien world… and that the devil is actually a Goa’uld… (and that Teal’c has read the bible…)

    Well I’ve been curious. If you were someone who was god-fearing, and then got involved in the stargate program, and found out about alien snakes who masqueraded as human gods (and apparently devils), what would that do to your faith?

    Especially if you found out that certain elements of your own faith had been exploited to enslave humans (As was the case with Sokar). It might not turn you into a non-believer outright, but I think it would create what we call a crisis of faith.

    As you guys explore religious themes in SGU, I would love to see some exploration from that angle. I’m sure someone on Destiny was a firm-believer and had that shaken up when they got involved with the stargate.

  15. Great read, makes me want to see more of the freelancer’s work.
    Joe would still like to know how the writers are going to deal with all the damages to the ship, at some point soon they must reach diminishing returns where the ship will just not function anymore because of the strain needed to cover those holes and other defects.

  16. *huggles Jelly*

    Joe – how can you look at that face and not give her big smooches every time? Too adorable!

    Quick question[s]: How many eps are you writing for Season 2? And is it true that SGU will be moving to Tuesday nights?

    Thankies. Have a good day, sir!


  17. la la la la LA la la la LA LA LA la la la LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I almost have my voice back, ok definitely not a singing voice, maybe I could work with one of those 800 # companies call myself “Trixie” – but it’s coming back. Don’t have all my energy – guess it’s gonna be a few weeks before that ol’ work is part of my routine. Any cardio right now… I wouldn’t last a minute.

    Jelly – muh !! (kisses)

    So as a freelancer, when the story is rewritten to the point that’s it’s really not the original writer’s words or recognizable to the writer, does the writer still get full credit for it or do they share the by line with whoever rewrote it??

    As an artist I welcome constructive criticism and sometimes it’s hard. But if in the end I have learned something and someone else can appreciate it or be inspired by it then I feel I have accomplished something.
    Even if someone hates my art – well at least they looked at long enough to form a conclusion. It got them thinking.

  18. falling into step creatively can be a daunting task at best.

    How about having a few who don’t fall into step – might produce something not predictable? 😉

    …craft service table…

    Zach Levi over on “Chuck” was live streaming from their craft service table via his IPhone and

    Isn’t it time you aim for some new technical achievements? 🙂

  19. Curious, “Instead, I ended up putting out some green pages for Awakening which starts shooting tomorrow…sometime.” does green simply refer to the color of paper in your printer, or does it refer to something else? I am assuming that you aren’t still writing the episode if it starts shooting tomorrow….?

  20. *Waves*

    Hello. Anybody miss me? No? That’s okay, I can take it. 😉

    Never mix washing and spiders. I got bit and never managed to finish hanging out the washing and that was two weeks ago!
    Yes, it did get hung out and dried nicely, but not by me. I was sick in bed and getting sicker.

    Suffice it to say I am really, really glad that I have a good medical plan!

    So, I have now read up to date and boy, you have been busy Joe.

    Reading, writing and eating. Where do you find the time? 🙂

    BTW, Jelly is so cute. Is she a stubborn bitch? She looks like it.

    I bet you growl and call her “Madam” in an uncomplimentary tone every now and again.

  21. Whew! It’s hot here today, and I totally misheard the weather report. Thought they said it would be cool at the shore, so I wore a sweater to work. Ugh. It’s 83 degrees in the office, and I’m dying! (Yes, we have AC, no, it’s not on.)

    So, in honor of me sweating me arse off here, a few questions for the o so cool Joey Malloey! (Psst! That’s you, Joe. 😉 )

    1. Do you prefer hot or cold weather, or something in between?

    2. Hot summer day – open windows or air conditioning?

    3. Can you swim?

    4. Beach or pool?

    5. Speedo or trunks?

    6. Girls – show-all bikini or alluring one piece?

    7. Have you ever sunbathed in your birthday suit??
    If so, do you have any pictures? If so, where – backyard, foreign country, or somewhere else?

    Yeah…betcha don’t answer that last one. 😆


  22. Oh Joe. Luvenjack’s Mom died today after a long battle with cancer. Could you give her a hug? I’m sure it wood help 🙁

  23. Hiya Joe,

    Not posted here in a while. Just wanted to say that I have been enjoying SGU quite a bit now. Its quite different from the previous Stargates. Also, I wanted to ask, will the new aliens get a name on the show at some point in the future? I like their mystique but sometimes it sounds a bit strange to refer them as “the blue aliens” :p

  24. Hi, Joe.

    Just read this:

    At Space Ref:

    (Please follow the link for the complete article.)

    NASA STS-131 Status Report #23 12:30 a.m. CDT Friday, April 16, 2010

    … The crew was awakened at 12:21 a.m. with the “Theme from Stargate” played for Mission Specialist Rick Mastracchio who is wrapping up his third spaceflight…

  25. Speaking of writing, have any of the actors expressed an interest in writing a story for the series?

  26. I always find other people’s points of view in regards to working with you guys facinating. I guess freelancing would be like starting a new job every month or so. How terrifying would that be? Ugh! 🙁

    Anywho Joe, you have a fantastic day/evening/night and I’ll seeya next time the merry-go-round stops. 😀

  27. So I’ve been in bed for the last two and a half days, but unfortunately not in the good/fun way. Being sick SUCKS! I am feeling a bit better, so tomorrow I will catch up on everything. Just really looking forward to SGU tonight!!

    Have a good one!

  28. Ok, I believe I have the hang of grilling fish! I bought a fish cooking basket, used the sugar/lemon/pepper and cooked at a higher heat. So good….thanks for the cooking tips!
    Hubby misses fried fish but grilled is better for all of us.

  29. deeinsouthafrica: What kind of spider bite knocks you off your feet for two weeks?! Definitely one to avoid.

  30. Early thoughts…

    I really liked Scott at the beginning of this, and Greer is just great! Also…is someone…ya know…expecting a new crewmate??

    Back to the show!


  31. Watching tonight’s episode – how long have they been on destiny? I’m assuming TJ is two months along? (My morning sickness set it around that time)

  32. I ask the question on here and right out of TJ’s mouth comes 15 weeks. 😛 I should be more patient.

    So I’ll just use the comment to apologize for my hasty comment – and to say that I’m really enjoying this episode. I love the TJ/Young dynamic – and I’ll be honest, this is the first episode that I’ve really enjoyed Camille and I wouldn’t have thought it but her and Eli play off of each other really well.


  33. I enjoyed tonight’s episode. I saw the preview for next weeks episode and I am glad to see it is Daniel/Rush centred! 🙂

  34. Really liked this ep – didn’t mind the ‘people’ moments. I think I liked it because – even though there was no action – there were a few lighter moments, Greer actually made me lol, I love camping, Wray wasn’t totally obnoxious, Scott really shined, and there was a Star Trek reference. 🙂 The ONLY drawback? No poison dart-shooting plants while Chekov’s getting busy in the shrubbery. 🙁



  35. Nice dog reminds me of my 8th grade teacher’s dog “Tubby”
    By the way I really enjoyed Faith of SG-U

  36. Wow, great episode! I loved how you kept the mysteriously appearing planet a mystery and didn’t show how it was created and who created it. Was T.J.’s pregnancy planned from the beginning or was it written around Alaina’s real-life pregnancy, instead of hiding it?

  37. ’80s flashback! Lookie what I bought today!

    Loved that movie…can’t wait for Mr. Das to watch it with me! Should be fun! Also getting this one:


    I wish I could get Mother Lode with Charleton Heston on DVD…that was a goody, too!

    Joe, a few quick questions about tonight’s ep:

    1. Was the question of how the planet came into existence purposely not answered to allow characters (and audiences) to draw their own conclusions?

    2. Will the question ever be answered?

    3. Will we learn the purpose of the beam?



  38. Excellent episode! You’ve got a new fan 🙂 Whew, finally something to watch on Friday nights. Have a good night!

  39. so joe, did anyone end up staying behind? or did everyone return to the ship?

    i found the episode rather slow, kinda boring, but with that, i still found it to be a strong episode that explored the characters in more depth, along with the ship destiny.

    I kinda saw the pregnancy coming, but enjoyed the wray/eli bonding time.

    i am curious as to what they did with the senators body, but thats just me, and i know its in no way relevant.

    Looking forward to Michael Shanks in next weeks episode though!

  40. @ Jeff

    Yeah, the Wray/Eli bonding was awesome even though this was a “filler” episode

  41. Faith…Great Episode Joe…. Kudos to the freelance writer Denis I believe…. still that obelisk raises so many questions…. Furlings maybe?!?!

  42. Why didn’t Chloe stay? She spoke on behalf of those who stayed (based on how it was cut I assumed some did stay). Is it just because of TJ’s condition? I read her as someone trying to fiind herself, her place so she should grow in the next 7 episodes.
    Just 7 episodes left, bummer.

  43. Faith…Wow, you guys were saving the best episodes for the back half of the season. Three strong ones to start us off, great acting, especially by A. Huffman. The reprocussions of her “condition” will surely resonate throughout the rest of the season and beyond. It was an interesting conversation pairing with Eli and Wray, they haven’t really had a lot of interaction in the first 12 episodes. So…




    if there were 11 that were going to stay, and Scott, T.J. and Chloe returned, did we lose 8 people or did anyone else come back. And what was that “robot” that they found.
    Don’t know if next week looks as good as the first 3 in the back half. I am not as interested in Rush’s “past” as in the present for the ship and the characters.

Leave a Reply

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