It happens every time I write a script.  About halfway through the process, I get bogged down.  I become convinced that what I’ve got isn’t working, that whatever writing ability I once possessed has deserted me and that, very soon, I’ll be called out as a fraud , forced to hand off my script to a more capable writer, and have to take a job as a chimney sweep.  Invariably, I push ahead, complete the script, and end up very happy with the finished product.  Except this time is different.  I’m bogged down.  What I’ve got isn’t working and it’s clear that whatever writing ability I once possessed has deserted me.  And it’s only a matter of time before my fellow producers find out!

On the bright side, I can always look back fondly on past glories – like last night’s episode of SGU, Awakening.  I’ve got more than a few things to say about this episode, but I’m going to wait until it airs in Canada before weighing in with the behind-the-scenes tidbits.  But since you’re here, why not check out some of the pics and vids from the day we shot the shuttle crash sequence from Aftermath…


The blue screen crew gathers.



The model shuttle. I don't recall it being so orange in the episode.


Ready to fly.



Measuring out the crash site.



Prepping the crash site.


Compare to the finished sequence –

I’m mired in this script, have to head into post tomorrow for some all day editing and, to top it off, I just discovered I missed the Die Antwoord concert at the Commodore the other night.  And I was going to ask Yo-Landi Vi$$er out for crispy duck.  Damn!

46 thoughts on “October 13, 2010: Anatomy of a Shuttle Crash

  1. Keep hanging in there. Sometimes it just takes a look from a friend or a look at some outside source to help me out when I’m having problems with my script. A fresh look.

    Very nice episode last night, by the way. I was very impressed and already have this long theory about biological warfare and nanites that play into the next episode, though all my work writing up the theory got deleted before I could finish. But it’s a good theory, I assure you.

    Aside from the typical ‘do your best, kid’ segment, what advice could you give a student looking at getting into screenwriting?

    Again, keep up the good work. You must be doing something right.

  2. Wow, thanks so much for the behind the scenes clips, Joe! I had no idea that models were used for that scene, I just assumed the whole thing was CGI. I really like models though! (Like the pyramid explosion in season 6 of SG1!) So I’m glad it was filmed that way! And am I the only one who thinks the orange shuttle slashing through the trees looks really cool?

  3. That is one of the more epic scenes I can recall in years 🙂 Love it.

    Also – loved this week’s episode! Pins and needles, I tell ya.

  4. I did not know who or what Die Antwoord is. I googled. Ugh. Horrible. Please don’t tell me you listen to Lady GagGag, too.


  5. Joe, I live in San diego and I can watch 3 live showings because my HD cable lets me, 6ct 8mt and 9pt and love the show. so I’m doing my part. SGU just keeps getting better every week!!!! Thanks to all.

  6. Loved the videos. I guess if you watch the last one first and then the first one with the shuttle model you can kinda picture the shuttles journey in your mind.

    I really liked Awakenings Joe. Keep up the good work everyone.

    Come on Season 3!

  7. Yes, I assumed that all those shots were CGI as well. It’s fascinating to me to see how humble those shots look before they were enhanced after. It’s a real art.

    I’m sure your writing muse will return soon enough. And if not, you’ll be the most entertaining chimney sweep out there!

    Also, thanks for not spoiling us folks in Canada re: Awakening!

  8. Perhaps if you’re no longer employed as a writer Iron Chef America might finally get around to having you on as a judge? That would be a cozy spot for you. Chimney sweep is far too messy a job. I’d suggest going to the local aqarium and seeing if they have an opening there. At least scooping whale poop out of the tank isn’t as dirty as the chmney thing. thanks for another fun post, and patiently awaiting the end of your latest literary birthing pains.

  9. Yeesh, I never feel like a fraud in my godawful day job where I shuffle papers and ignore my ringing phone, but when it comes to the thing I love which is writing its so easy for me to fall prey to negativity.

    The cure always seems to be that lightning bolt that hits you when you are at your most relaxed (for me it’s washing the dishes or getting ready for bed).

    Then I jump out of bed, fumble for the laptop and start banging the keys.

  10. Are you pulling my leg? An orange play-doh looking thing becomes the scene of the shuttle crashing? The magic of Hollywood! Did you ever think you would have this kind of job when you were that little kid at camp? What were you thinking back then?

  11. Pretty sweet how they do that stuff.

    Awakening has my seal of approval!

    For the next mailbag: Will we find out the origins of the Brown-Short Aliens (perhaps, B.S. aliens? haha) in the future?

  12. Awakening wasn’t too bad; it was finally nice to see a seeder ship, though I would have liked to see a gate getting constructed, heh. I liked seeing Telford in action here, trying to knock sense into Young and trying to step up and help. Rush’s torment is particularly well done; Carlyle is doing a good job portraying the man’s complexities.

    Only a couple of nitpicks, though. Another set of air-breathing, bipedal, humanoid aliens? Unless they do have some connection to the Ancients, it seems a bit unlikely, but I’ll be willing to let this one pass.

    The other thing that is kinda beginning to annoy me is the music montages. There is just so many of them, and the music is really jarring me out of the mood the episodes create. It’s just so different from the regular music, that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Like watching a symphony perform Handel’s Messiah, and at the end, a clown rides a unicycle across the stage while circus music plays. Strange juxtaposition, ya know?

    I know you don’t have to listen to us and you can do your own thing, but it would be a bit appreciated if you guys could use less of those montages, thanks! Some were okay, like the ending of Air, and even Life was fairly decent. But it’s been more miss than hit, lately. =(

    Anywho, keep up the good work on the rest!

  13. Great episodes!!, I have had company so have been remiss at telling you. I very much enjoyed the last two weeks worth.

    sorry about Riley, I liked the guy and Telford, hmm, have we seen the last of him, never say never. I was a little scared.
    Thanks for sharing the orangey moldy space ship, awesome magic you all do there.Cool results. Wonderful fun. talented and imaginative people working there.
    How many days til the Japan adventure? Are you packed yet? Baby sitter in place? Thanks for sharing the family photos (glad to see momma M.)and postcard writing as a kid, I guess it wasn't only my handwriting that looked similiar. Must be a young person thing.
    Hope you are unbogged on the script writing, get some rest. Have a great day!!

  14. I loved the back and forwards between Eli and Mat in Aftermath, reminded me a little of Jackson and O’Neill. The shuttle crash was just amazing. The special effects where some of the best I’ve seen in a while, and OMG at awakening. Absolutely loved it! Keep up the great work.

  15. oh I wanna give a thought on the crash sequence, as trollish as it is for me to point it out bluntly,

    yeah, I know a lot of work went into that sequence and I am sure I am not the only person who has the same thought.

    I removed the thought because it was too rude to point out.

    well I wonder, if it was an offense to trash on the troll yesterday.

  16. about the items that over the 100 ml restriction for carry-on articles you mentioned in the previous entry, couldn’t you have those shipped to you?

  17. I am so in awe of all the things that have to happen in order for us to see the final product. Love the orange model crashing through the trees. So much love and effort goes into each episode.

    As far as the writing block, I have my best ideas in the shower. Perhaps the scrubbing of the head stimulates the creative powers. If not, call Martin Gero for some feedback.

  18. Joe:

    You killed trees!! And you did it for real! Those poor trees. Canada may have lots and lots of rocks and trees and water, but you keep picking on the trees! Personally, I think you should be using the Destiny Shuttle to plow down all the powers that be that we keep hearing about. Knock off a few of their branches. Who are the powers that be anyway? 🙂

    So, how about bringing Ba’al to the Destiny? He’d really create an atmosphere of chaos!!! Ba’al vs. Rush – that would bee awesome!!!!


  19. I must say that honestly I was glad to see the shuttle destroyed. Although some people found them great and cool looking I couldn’t stand them. Maybe now we get to see more gate travel 🙂 unless we find another mode of transportation, which remimds me, when are the team going to stumble upon a ring platform? We know the ancients made those too and the transporter tech came around the time of the updated pegasus gate model, so will we see some? Oh and loved the forward facing engines on destiny that were revealed last night.

    another thing that has been bugging me is the issue of what happened to Dr. Franklin. We see him for a split second as one of rush’s visions but are not sure because he quickly returns to being claudia. Is it rush’s hallucination or could it actually be franklin acting as the ships brain so to speak and communicating with rush in a form he knows will be influential on his decisions. That may be reading waayyy into it but I really do want to know what happened to franklin.


  20. The SFX Team, Mark Savela and company, are the most talented group of Special Effects professionals in Hollywood North! Your show keeps getting better with each episode. Thank you so much for making quality TV worth every second of viewing. I am enjoying this season and look forward to more!

    Keep on, keeping on!


  21. Epic crash indeed.

    The beating of the drums right before the final hit against the bottom edge of the cliff…

    …more crazy driving drum beats like that in SGU and it’ll definitely help add to the intensity. {evil grin} 🙂

  22. Ratings for ”Awakening”:

    Stargate Universe (9pm)
    – 1.222 million viewers
    – 0.8/1 HH
    – 0.5/1 A18-49

  23. Hey, I need a chimney sweep just now. I haven’t had my chimney swept for a couple years now.

    Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean my real chimney, you perverts.

    I like the music montages as a wrap up. At first I did find them jarring, but the modern music feels like the last tenuous link to the real world which is falling further and further behind the crew.

    Troll on Trash? Is that the new entree from food services?

  24. I know I don’t have the credentials give you writing advice (yet), but I can’t watch you struggle and not share this little tip – amphetamines.

    Sure, there’s a learning curve. You’ll get overconfident and think you can get so much more done because you don’t HAVE to sleep. After you crash, sleep for three days, and recover from dehydration, you’ll pick up all those scripts you wrote in your week-long writing marathon and notice a steady decline in quality. That’s the learning curve where you learn what sleep deprivation does and it’s perfectly normal.

    The upside, Gauntlet will be stellar.

  25. So, I watched Awakenings today and I have to say, that it was the best episode you have written for SGU and one of the best episodes of SGU I’ve seen to date. Because you’re the one who wrote it, I hope you could answer this question:

    Do you know exactly, what did the alien say when TJ tried to check him? And if yes, will we ever know?

  26. I believe in a dvd commentary for an episode of a previous incarnation of Stargate they talked about a similar shuttle crash. (Was it Childhood’s End from SGA?)

    They talked about using a model, so I assumed this used one as well. Especially since some aspects of that crash were similar to this one. (Camera looking up as the shuttle crashes through trees, for example.)

    Anyway, I too thought the most interesting part was how the orange thing and the slow bouncing in the dirt was turned into that awesome crash. I wondered how much was still that model shot and how much was CGI. (Dirt being plowed up in front of the shuttle, for instance.)

  27. Aaah. So that’s why the crash scene looked so good…models. Thanks.

    Yeah, about the montages…not a big fan. I think they are being over done. Once every 3rd or 4th episode perhaps and that way they would be more meaningful, imo.

  28. En français, ce phénomène qui vous guette au milieu d’un script s’appelle le “syndrome de l’imposteur”

    It hit me at least once a week during an important meeting or at the middle of a project of by-law.

    Many thanks for the videos of how to shoot a crashing shuttle . Very instructive.

  29. Hang in there Mr. M. I’m sure the writer’s block will be gone by the time you read this (or at least I hope it is).

    Loved the show! I am looking forward to seeing Telford’s fate in later episodes.

  30. Hi Mr M

    Wondering what treats have arrived/are in store for the 15th??

    Let me be the first to say it:


    Best from the Emerald Isle.


  31. Ah, the life of an author. Wait ’til you start writing novels for that OMG-I’m-a-terrible-writer-and-everyone’s-going-to-find-out-about-it feeling. You get to stretch it out over a much longer period of time.

    Don’t you wonder sometimes why you ever decided this was the right job for you? I’ve been known to wonder that about myself on a fairly regular basis.

  32. Hey Joe,

    Have you guys determined at what time the year changes to 2010?

  33. @Dodoalda: I think the alien said, “Mama?” After all, it did look like it just hatched.

  34. So I really liked that scene between TJ and Simeon in the infirmary in Awakening, and was wondering if we’re going to see that sort of ass kicking/military side of her again?

  35. @Arctic Goddess

    Not sure if its my imagination but it looks like the Shuttle pulls the trees out of the ground at time index 0:47/48. I thought the same thing. Poor trees. They went to a better place im sure. If trees have an afterlife that is.

    Really does seem like the trees seperate from the ground everytime I watch that exact moment. Also at the end lol ouch. Love the expression Matt(BJS) made before the shuttle crashed, more an omg this is gonna hurt face.

  36. Hey Joseph,

    I just want to let you know that I think that you guys are doing a great job with SGU…Awakening was a great episode with some terrific writing on your part.

    Quick question….some of us over at gateworld are latching on to this little theory about these brown fellas having been former residents of the Milky Way…should we continue to hold out hope for this or forget about it right now?

    Thanks for everything you do!

  37. Hmm. Almost 12:30 am here. There sure as hell better be a mailbag coming up…



  38. Joe, thank you for the behind the scenes looks at the effects. As a student learning visual effects (as a hobby), it’s really interesting to see how it all comes together. It was an awesome sequence.

    In terms of writing, I find that script ideas come to me when I least expect them: on the bus, trying to fall asleep, in the shower, etc. When I try to force myself to write, the product isn’t as polished. Maybe it’s just me.

    I do have to say that whatever your writing process is, it works. SGU is very well written. Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the crew of Destiny this season.

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