August 30, 2011: Transporter thank you’s!

http://www.deadline.com/2011/08/cinemaxs-transporter-showrunners-exit/

Well, hmmm.  Didn’t realize we’d be dropping an official press release this quickly.  I just assumed, one month from now, I’d start posting pics of Akemi and me back in Vancouver enjoying dinner at Refuel and have you connect the dots.  Guess this means I’m going to have to put that blog entry of dinner with Golden Boy Martin Gero on the backburner and dedicate today’s write-up to The Transporter…

After 11+ years working on the Stargate franchise, my plan was to take a year off – go to cooking school, work on a novel, and watch the entire run of Ralph Bakshi’s hallucinogenic Spiderman cartoon in one glorious sitting.  And then, in January, my agent informed me of an opportunity to work on The Transporter t.v. series based, of course, on the successful film franchise.  Being a big fan of the movies, I jumped at the chance and, before I knew it, my writing partner Paul and I were in Toronto, working on scripts, then prepping, then well into production. Like most first year shows, there were challenges.  But there was/is also enormous potential – in the form of an established brand and an incredibly dedicated cast, crew, and production team who will, no doubt, deliver a fantastic series when The Transporter premieres in early 2012.

As I prepare to sail off into the sunset (or, rather, fly back home with four small dogs, my girlfriend, and about a half dozen supervillain statues), I’d like to take a moment to thank a few people.

Thanks to Robert Cooper, one of the smartest, most creative guys in the biz, who helped us get the show off the ground and was always on hand to offer much-appreciated guidance along the way.

Thanks to Klaus Zimmerman and Fred Fuchs for their hard work and unflagging commitment to the production.

Thanks to Sue Murdoch for her tireless efforts on behalf of not only the show, but the people who make it happen.

Thanks to pilot director Stephen Williams, director Bruce McDonald for being such a great shooter and one helluva great guy, and my buddy, director Andy Mikita, for putting sleep on hold to guide this production.

Thanks to the cast and, especially, Chris Vance (our Frank Martin), one of the kindest, most down-to-earth actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Here’s hoping we do it again some day on another show – but, hopefully, not for at least another five years since he’ll be busy on this one.

Thanks to the dedicated crew (Derick, Angela, Simon and countless others) who made every day on set an experience so positive that I’d sadden at the prospect of returning to the production offices.

Thanks to the equally dedicated personnel working in the production offices (Mega, Trevor, Anna, Sonia, Patricia and countless others)who made every day at the office an experience so positive that I’d sadden at the prospect of returning to set.

Thanks to the gang in post and VFX (and a special hats off to the stellar Brendan Taylor).  Catch you on the next go-round!

Thanks to our amazing stunt teams led by Cyril Raffaeli and Michel Julienne who delivered action sequences like no other on television.

Thanks to my friend, Carl Binder, who dropped everything and came to Toronto to support us.

And, chiefest of all, an extra big thanks to the heart and soul of the series, the one guy I’ll miss most of all, Show Runner Alexander M. Ruemelin.  Keep fighting the good fight, buddy!

Finally, hats off to Steve Shill who now takes the reins of The Transporter.  The series is in very good hands and I have no doubt that, with all of the talent backing him up, he’ll deliver a show that will blow everyone away.

As for me?  Well, those 52 episodes of the 1967 Spiderman cartoon aren’t going to watch themselves!

August 15, 2011: Bento Breakfast Binder-Style! Co-workers! A Familiar Guest Star! The Maximus Update!

Akemi occasionally sends me off to work with some pretty amazing breakfasts – tasty and artistically elaborate bento creations that are, apparently, all the rage back in Japan.  I’ve posted pics of these edible masterpieces in recent months…

Well, not to be outdone, Carl’s wife, Karen, sent him off with his own bento box creation this morning.  It was truly a sight to behold.

Properly labeled lest someone else try to lay claim to it.
A trip to the local supermarket yields great deals in the remainder aisle.
Sausage and cereal. A meal fit for a king!
And the main course: Bagel. Lovingly toasted no less!
Carl delights in his Far East feast!

Back at it today with not one but TWO concept meetings, the first for episode #103 (Sharks) and the second for episode #106 (Payback).  We’ll be block shooting them in September (or perhaps earlier if we’re unable to locate corroborative visual evidence of graffiti in Marseilles) and I for one can’t wait.  Mainly because it’ll be a month from now.  Also, will get to work with the fabulous Bruce McDonald, Director par excellence.

Some more of the people I enjoy working with on Transporter…

VFX Supervisor Brendan Taylor. You may know him from Hanna, Resident Evil Afterlife/Extinction, Silent Hill, and previous pictures of him on this blog.
Michael and Sarah practice their steely staredowns. Them's some pretty good steely staredowns!

And, someone I’m soon to be working with (as a guest star in episode #105 – Harvest), for the fourth show in a row…

The incredible Mike Dopud. Check out the guns, ladies.

A bit of a rough day for Maximus.  Akemi reports he was very slow on his walk and seemed quite sore.  Now, when he sleeps, he seems to be more comfortable resting his chin on something.  Last night, it was a towel.  Today, it’s the new doggy bed I picked up for him.

Comfy!

Hey, Deni – best wishes to Elway!

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to Carl Binder who crossed great distances and made many sacrifices to ride to our rescue!

August 12, 2011: Work! A surprise guest! And more Maximus!

Despite the fact that I was only on set three days this week, I’m more exhausted today than I have been all year.  Yep, one of those weeks.  Expect to have a lot more of these between now and the end of November…

I thought it was something from props. Turns out it's an energy drink.
Apparently, we're not the only kids on this block.
Look at what I'm missing on set. Tara's houndstooth nails. That and the 11:00 p.m. wrap.
The Germans.
Carl having the time of his life.

Today, we were paid a visit by surprise guest…

Brad Wright was in town for all of one day. He's got some projects in the works and will be back in September.

A usually voracious eater, Maximus turned his nose up at breakfast this morning.  I believe it had to do with all of the supplements mixed into his meal (a little over a dozen).  We scaled down his meds to his pain medication and antibiotics and his appetite magically returned.

Maximus. And his eyeballs.

According to Akemi, he slowed down a couple of times during his walk today.  She had to pick him up and carry him part of the way – and only part of the way because she had a hard time lugging the little porker.

August 10, 2011: Back on set!

The ever-upbeat Alexander R. Ruemelin

Back on set today – even though my episode (#102 – 12 Hours) wrapped two days ago.  I’ve been standing in for Paul who has been busy prepping episodes #104-105 (The Switch and Harvest), overseeing the final two outstanding days on the pilot.  Yes, it’s true!  So much awesomeness it couldn’t be contained in one measly production schedule!

Director Bruce McDonald, back in action. He's a machine!
That's my Exec. Producer chair right there beside the garbage bin.
Simon runs a tight ship.
Waiting around for the next shot. And sandwiches.
A little rain fails to spoil Bruce's parade.
Patrick challenging strangers.
Tara takes flight. It was THAT windy!
On my way to the second location, had to stop for traffic.
The second location.
B Camera rides the friendly skies.
Nice day for a picnic

Big day for Maximus tomorrow.  Wish him luck!

August 9, 2011: Snow Monkeys Return! Back on Set!

Even though I’m on the other side of the country, my Snow Monkeys will be making another bid for Fantasy Football supremacy.  This season, they square off against the likes of The New Old Spice Guys, Van Isle Vultures, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and Ivon Bartok’s The Running Dead (among others).  The League, since renamed to RIP Stargate, gets underway with our live draft: September 4, 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Time to set aside the scriptwriting and producing in favor of far more pressing concerns: Chris Johnson or Arian Foster?  Andre Johnson or Roddy White?  The Packers defense or the Steelers D?

Like I wrote on message board: “This’ll be perfect timing. I’ll wrap season one of The Transporter in December, then be back in Vancouver in time to pick up my winnings.”

I was back on set today – the day AFTER my episode wrapped – sitting in for Paul who was in meetings today.

Ennis Esmer rolls out of bed and strolls right onto set.
Tara Yelland: Sassy Car Model
Joe Kicak - DMT and husky owner.
Visual Effects Supervisor Brendan Taylor on set to supervise coffee and chicken salad sandwiches.
I advised Chris that, before going in, he should remove all metal objects like watches, rings, and fillings.

 The other day, a guest star referring to Tara: “She’s got eyes like…”

“A lemur?”I asked helpfully.

“I was going to say Amanda Seyfried.”

“Oh.”

Ole lemur-eyes.

Tara read one of my scripts today.  I hovered around as inconspicuously as possible, strolling by every so often as she leafed through the pages, casting intermittent glances over in an attempt to gauge her reaction.  Glancing up and noticing me, she offered her feedback: “Lots of throat punches.”

“Yeah,”I said.  “It’s my signature move.”

Hoping to make effective use of it in the days to come!

August 3, 2011: Transporter – Episode #2 – 12 Hours – Day 5!

Although we started an hour later this morning, I had to add an hour to my travel time so it was a wash: no extra sleep for me.  5:20 a.m. wake-up, walk the dogs, wash up, then out the door at 6:30 a.m.  By the time I rolled into The Devil’s Punch Bowl at Stoney Creek, Director Bruce McDonald was already talking car stunts with our Car Stunt Coordinator Michel Julienne.  There was some initial concern the recent rainfall could complicate the game plan but, fortunately, it dried up fairly quickly and, eventually, even the sun came out.  And then left later that afternoon, making way for overcast skies and a fine mist for the vineyard scene.

Patrick, Bruce, and Michel discuss the car stunts.
The Lamborghini, in position.
A picnic by the cliff side.

Both of our shooting locations were situated a short walk from the Punch Bowl Market, purveyors of fine foods (pies in particular).  And so, after lunch, I sat down to some blueberry pie.  A la mode of course…

Derek = one piece.
Onno - 1 1/2 pieces.
Robert = 1 1/2 pieces.
Tara = 3 pieces. Probably more because she was still eating when I left to get back to work. Look! She's got something in her eye.
Tara destroys dessert!
Stephan stocks up.
We return to work after lunch. Well, Simon does anyway, wondering where the hell is everyone else?
Cruising the vineyard.
Uber-adorable Erin shows off HER NEW LAMBOGHINI, a reward for her 2+ months of hard work on the production.

Finally completed by rewrite of Payback.  Not the last time I’ll be revisiting the script, I’m sure.  Still, quite relieved it’s finally out of the way.  Now, I can take a break – and work on my rewrite of Sharks.

August 2, 2011: The Transporter – Episode #2 – 12 Hours – Day #4! Thanks from me and Maximus!

Back at it again today, this time in Stouffville for a visit to Geneva and a very unique home plus a healthy dose of action compliments of Fight Choreographer Cyril Raffaelli (pictured above, calling YOU out).

The day was a scorcher!

Flower child Tim Bider makes love not war.
Stephanie's salute to Switzerland.
All revved up and ready to go.
Brendan swings by set for the free coffee, then heads back to the production offices for the free lunch.
David Julienne, aka The Driver, aka 009.
Tara and Robert on an upscale picnic. And then, presumably (check out the hat below), The Kentucky Derby.

Need a lift?
What's in YOUR trunk.
Sweet ride!
The Maestro: Director Bruce McDonald

It was a hot, long day and, as a thank you to my terrific cast and crew, I arranged for a little treat…

Ice cream for everyone!

Tomorrow, I’m Hamilton-bound for a little cliff-side action and some vineyard intrigue.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to send their thoughts, links, and well-wishes for Maximus.  They are greatly appreciated.  My poor little (big) guy is more lethargic, obviously slower, but his appetite remains strong which I take as a good sign.  He also seems to be in relatively good spirits, still demonstrating his typical tail-wagging affection for the neighborhood kids who stop to pet him.

We have an appointment this Thursday to see a specialist at the University of Guelph.  I’ll be going armed with a bunch of the helpful info several of you have provided, along with a slew of questions.

July 28, 2011: The Transporter – Episode #2 – 12 Hours – Day Two!

Let’s kick off today’s entry with a (sort of) pic of Tara Yelland – actress, entertainer, stupendous stand-in, and princess (For real!)…

Tara insists she was defamed in yesterday's entry so I feel the need to post a retraction: While she did call me non-Paul, berated my t.v. viewing choices, listed America's Next Top Model as one of her favorite shows, AND didn't get me a ham sandwich, she wasn't exactly lazy. No, she didn't chop vegetables like Robert, but she did contribute to blocking the Frank and Carla driving scenes and the poolside sit - in the case of the latter, braving a dangerously rickety patio chair in the process.
Rob stocks up in anticipation of THE BIG ONE!
A toast. To the Executive Producer!

We started the morning with the reception area so that we could shoot out Francois Berleand who heads back to France today.  Another great Tarconi scene. Apparently, before leaving, Francois let it be known that he had a terrific time on set, in no small part due to his interaction with Director Bruce McDonald (who seems to be gaining a lot of fans amongst the cast and crew).

Of course you all recognize the Rousseau Electronics logo.
Director Bruce McDonald dreams big!
Robert Morse hits his mark.

Too busy today to get any work done on the Payback rewrite.  Just like yesterday.  So far, I’m 0-2 with ten days to go before I prep my next block.

You do the math.

Anna and Damion discuss...actually, don't recall what they were discussing. May have been red leotards and leather kilts. Really.
Tim tries to steal another sign.
The view out the window offers a taste of Nice.
Stephanie preps the playback. En francais, s'il vous plait.
Hmmm. Bruce considers his next shot.
Director Bruce McDonald and Director of Photography Derick Underschultz arrive at a consensus.
Tara, still refusing to put in a blog reappearance. Sassy, no?

We were about to shoot our first scene in Rousseau’s office when the dulcet strains of a street corner musician rose up to greet our first take.  We waited while someone went downstairs to talk to the guy (pay him to go away?).  It reminded Rob of an experience he had when he was shooting something downtown across from a condom shop. Apparently, the owner of the condom shop was playing some loud music.  The production asked him to turn it down.  He refused. They offered him $50.  He demanded $850.  They refused.  He turned up the music REALLY LOUD.  They caved.

We were shooting at the elevators so these guys had to wait a while before they could go down to the lobby. They were all: "This is an outrage!". And I was like: "Seriously. Where does that guy have to be?"
Another thumbs-up day from Bruce.

We actually finished early today.  Our first early day!  That’s the good news.

The bad news?

I think the production may be haunted.

More on that in the coming days…

July 26, 2011: The Maximus Update! A Chocolate Surprise! One Final Field Trip! Prep Ends and Production Begins on 12 Hours!

Thanks to those who sent their well-wishes and expressions of concern for Maximus.  He went in for his emergency dental surgery yesterday during which he had two teeth and a tumor(!) removed.  I’m happy to report he is on the mend, on meds, and back to his typical gluttonous, voracious, mud-eating, food-slurping self.

See?  Much better.

Look at what I received yesterday!  The package included chocolate-covered pretzels, ginger chocolate, salted caramels, peanut butter chocolate bacon, dark chocolate bacon and – my favorite – dark chocolate-dipped potato chips.  They were compliments of Steve and Jodi in Vancouver who are not only very good friends, but very good at reading between the lines.  Thanks, guys!

The final day of prep for 12 Hours saw us boarding the early morning bus for a trip to Hamilton and the second part of our tech survey…

Field trip! YEAAAAAH!
Back at the Devil's Punch Bowl. We're talking about using a crane and a descender. The latter worked beautifully in The Prodigal.
Director Bruce McDonald takes everyone through the vineyard scene.

Once we were done, Anna and I walked over to the big red barn by the side of the road and stocked up on butter tarts, pecan tarts, peanut butter squares, brownies, and chocolate-coconut squares…

We had our cast read-thru after lunch.  Everyone loved the script – fast-paced, funny, and very exciting.  Kudos to my buddy Carl Binder.  And a big welcome to some of the fantastic guest stars who’ll be appearing in this episode: J.P. Manoux, Ennis Esmer, and Greg Bryk.  If that table read was any indication, this one is going to be a lot of fun.

An early start to the day tomorrow as we kick off production on episode #102 (12 Hours).  That’s a 7:00 a.m. main unit call.  We’re on our standing sets, in and around Frank’s place, Carla’s office, and the Audi interior.  Green screen, plates, and lighting challenges will not doubt make for a long and involved afternoon. This will be my first full day on set with the dashing Chris Vance and the drop-dead-gorgeous Andrea Osvart, both of whom have been absolutely amazing in dailies.  I was in editing this afternoon checking out one of Andrea’s scenes.  Me: “Holy smokes!”.  Editor: “Yeah.”  Nothing more needed to be said.

Also tomorrow = Tarconi cooks!  Actor Francois Berleand was trying to decide what he wanted to prepare for the scene.  I suggested tete de veau.  He laughed then, suddenly dead serious, proceeded to run through its proper preparation.  I love this guy.

July 25, 2011: The Transporter Tech Suvey (Episode #102: 12 Hours)!

Can I just say how much I like the people I’m working with on this production.  All very nice, very creative, very hardworking individuals.

Today, we all went on a bit of a group field trip to take in some of the locations we’ll be visiting for episode #102, 12 Hours…

The alley where Frank meets Ogilvey and co.
Director Bruce McDonald fills everyone in on how he envisions the scene unfolding.
After pitching out an inspired step-by-step/blow-by-blow throwdown, Fight Choreographer Cyril Raffaelli films the location from all angle. He'll no doubt study the footage later as he perfects the sequence.
Cyril's right-hand man, Momo, takes note.
Director Bruce McDonald runs everyone through one of the security guard beats.
Simon stands in for Rousseau's secretary. Sadly, his imaginary typing skills leave much to be desired.
Our hero Frank (played by the dashing Bruce McDonald) confronts Rousseau's Secretary (played by the demure Simon).
I catch Tim trying to make off with the 4.
The site of our seedy nightclub.
I drove myself to the next location, the clean room, only to discover a production was already shooting there. We had to wait until they broke for lunch before doing our tour. No sign of Erika. 🙁

July 21, 2011: Oatmeal Teal’c! Again with the meetings! Surprise guest star – Martin Gero! Mailbag!

Hey, check it out!  Look at what was in my Happy Panda bento box the other day: oatmeal Teal’c!

And today's bento box surprise
Oatmeal and fruit in the top Rilakkuma container. Chocolates in the lower one with the message: "Don't touch please" and, in Japanese "This is Joe's".

Rolling along on production and prep.  Shooting at the airport today and apparently the footage looks amazing.  Meanwhile, meetings for me…

Director Bruce McDonald ponders his next move. Steadicam? Dolly? Nope. Let's call lunch.
Tim Bider still hasn't forgiven me for referring to him as Time Binder.
Stephanie and Patrick enjoy nothing more than a 5:30 p.m. Playback meeting.
Simon = A.D. and all-around Europe expert

Akemi and I were just about to head out to dinner tonight when I got a call from Marty G. who was looking to the same.  He’s been putting in some late hours on his new show but caught a break today when one of his staff writers came down with the flu (YES!).  And so, we met down in the lobby and braved the sweltering heat.  Our destination: Rodney’s Oyster House…

Oysters to start. Then steam lobster and hot smoked salmon. They took the oyster po'booys off the menu so we ordered fried oysters, got an extra bread basket, a side of mayo, and made our own.
Ready for business.
And, on the way back, we went to Soma for chocolates and ice cream.

Today’s entry is dedicated to long-time regular Kelly Hurt.

Mailbag:

Shiny writes: “So I’m guessing no comic-con for the TSPTR gang — maybe next year?”

Answer: Alas, we just started shooting and will be in production straight through the November.  No Comic Con presence this year.  I’ll hopefully be going next year to talk Dark Matter and pick up some Randy Bowen statues.

Randomness writes: “Those are the facts. SGUs lack of success forced MGM to end things, you dont need to be an ass to put that point across either, as actions speak louder than words, and with the shows and staff gone from the bridge, it tells me MGM lost faith in the former crew.”

Answer: First of all, MGM didn’t force any issue.  SyFy did when they canceled the show.  The prospect of direct to dvd movies have been an iffy prospect for quite some time and the alternative, simply producing a movie for broadcast, didn’t make financial sense.  Also, you bandy about facts like you actually know what you’re talking about with regard to the cancellation which, I’m sorry to say, you aren’t.  Sorry if that offends.  You can certainly feel free to make assumptions, but don’t kick ’em around as truths.

Randomness writes: “Had movies of been made its not like Syfy wouldnt want.”

Answer: Really?  Under what circumstances?  Are you privy to how much they would have been willing to pay to make this reality or is this sort of a “Hey, if you’re giving movies away, we’ll take one!” situation?  Hell, if there were some produced movies lying around for the taking, I’m sure they wouldn’t be the only one in line.

jojo writes: “Is your crazy idea to move the production to Vancouver?”

Answer: Nope.  My not-so-crazy idea is to move ME back to Vancouver.

jojo also writes: “I hear Bridge studios has some space available.”

Answer: Not sure they do.  From what I hear, Once Upon A Time (Robert Carlyle’s new show) has moved into our old production offices.  Also, heard from Michael Shanks and he is shooting a film in Stages 5 and 6, the former homes of Stargate Command and Atlantis.

Debra writes: “How are the other dogs doing? Didn’t you have a new stem cell treatment scheduled?”

Answer: I’m holding off on the next stem cell treatment.  Jelly is doing great, even pulling off a wobbly hallway run on occasion.  Maximus seems to be under the weather.  Treats no longer excite him and he takes forever to walk anywhere.  I’m bringing him to the vet Saturday to get checked out.  As for Bubba and Lulu – still troublemakers.

Thornyrose writes: “My comments on a second season and beyond is alas, not based on reading the fall patterns of my dog’s toenail clippings, or of visions provided after spending a few hours in the insane heat and humidity striking my part of the country. Rather, I am making a prediction based on the confidence I feel about the people working on the show, the nature of the show itself, and the interest my non-sci fi loving coworkers have expressed about the show. ”

Answer: I have no doubt The Transporter will be great and that the show will get that second season pick-up – and a third, fourth, and fifth.  There are a lot of very talented people on this production and I’m sure they’re in for a nice, long five-year run.

susan TTT writes: “If you didn’t know that the Ice Cream van was there how did you manage to take the photograph?”

Answer: I didn’t!  Alex had Trevor take the picture.  The jerks.

Dweeb writes: “You should get out and enjoy the 120ºF humidex now in Toronto. Miss the cold depressing Vancouver rain yet?”

Answer: Almost every day since my arrival.

lucas writes: “Joe – to maintain consistency in how a character spoke or what was siad, did only certain writers write or at least correct lines for only certain characters?”

Answer: Nope.  All of the writers gave input on every script, providing notes on everything from plotting to dialogue.

July 20, 2011: Voting Irregularities (Just sayin’)! Bubba’s Beach Bod! Transporter Production Update! Mailbag!

So today I found out that I was nominated for a Constellation Award in the category of “Outstanding Canadian Contribution to Science Fiction Film or Television in 2010”.  Also today, I found out that I ended up losing the award two weeks ago to these guys –

Teddy Wilson and Ajay Fry, hosts of the uber-awesome Innerspace on Canada’s Space channel.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love the show and think these guys do a great job.  I just feel the need to voice my concerns regarding some purported voting irregularities.  Specifically, the fact that a cross-reference of the registered voters revealed many of them apparently sat in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1911 and 1912.  The voting list also seemed to include all of last season’s contestants on Master Chef Australia, several Presidential pets (among them George Washington’s staghound Sweet Lips, Benjamin Harrison’s opossums Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, and William Howard Taft’s cow Mooly Wooly), and three of the four members of the Banana Splits (Snork was curiously absent).  In addition there were rumors of armed Teddy and Ajay supporters roaming the streets on election day, intimidating voters and, in the case of one unfortunate Robert J. Sawyer supporter, forcing him to eat his own peach-colored crocs.

Anyway, forget I mentioned it.

So, this is interesting.  My crazy work schedule, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise are taking a toll on me physically.  But the dogs, it would seem, have benefited from the move.  Check out the following Before and After pics of Bubba…

Portly Bubba in Vancouver then
Lean and Mean Bubba in Toronto now

Wow!  Those three-a-day walkies have paid off!  Bubba’s ready for swimsuit season!

Today = meetings, meetings, meetings!  And our weekly summit/conference call.  Gotta say, I’m usually fairly patient individual and it takes a lot to get me to go off, but I WILL lose it the next time “someone” asks me to deliver a script update and then continually cuts me off while I’m trying to deliver said update or while I’m trying to make others aware of the challenges we’re facing (ie. the fact that I’m juggling six simultaneous script rewrites or the fact that Alexander worked through the night, staying at the office until 7:30 this morning and only going home to shower before returning for an early morning meeting).  I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that if it happens again three weeks from now while I’m prepping those two monster episodes, there’s gonna be some fireworks!

After leaving my last meeting of the day, I noticed Alex and Trevor enjoying some soft serve.  WTF?  Apparently, the ice cream truck had stopped by.  And Alex hadn’t bothered to get me any.  WTF?!!! 

Look at him – so smug.

Spoke to the lovely Carl Binder today.  He is finishing work on my dream project and will soon be free to lend us some much-needed writing/producing support. But, alas, not until early August – well past the time I’ll have had to produce 12 Hours and rethink/rewrite/reconfigure Sharks and Payback.  And well past my nervous breakdown.

Finally – my crazy idea got nixed because – well, it was crazy.  And no.  It didn’t involve night shoots or amphetamines.  Think crazier!

Today’s blog is dedicated to Das and PBMom.

Also, Kymm.  My answer is black!

Mailbag:

archersangel writes: “stargate was probably twice as much work because of the special effects & stuff, but Mr. M wasn’t a show runner so he didn’t have to be involved with so much.”

Answer: Correction.  Mr. M WAS a show runner and Stargate was a comparatively smoother production mainly due to the fact that Paul and I joined the franchise in its fourth season after Brad and Robert had turned the production into a well-oiled machine.  Well-oiled machines don’t get built overnight!

Randomness writes: “Syfy had no choice but to cancel SGU…”

Answer: No choice?  Really?  Was someone holding their family members hostage?

Sarah writes: “Is it possible extinction will be in production next year?”

Answer: Sorry.  Most unlikely.

Debra writes: ” Is there any truth to the comments that a year after the cancellation of star gate the network regretted it, tried to revive but was too late?”

Answer: Nope.

Debra also writes: “Or that Shanks leaving allowed a “fresh” start on SyFy and probably was why it got renewed.”

Answer: Absolutely not.

Thornyrose writes: “It should be some consolation that once you have a season or two under your belts, things will get smoother and smoother.”

Answer: Season two?  Is the production moving to Vancouver?  What’ve you heard?!!

July 19, 2011: Another Transporter production update!

Whoa!  It’s a pretty crazy idea.  As far as crazy ideas go, it’s certainly not the craziest I’ve had – but it does rank up there with the very craziest.  But more on that in a second.

Okay, so I’m full into prep on episode #102 (Carl Binder’s 12 Hours). Today, I spent the early morning hours incorporating the french dialogue into episodes #104 and #105 (Thanks to the lovely Sarah for doing all the heavy lifting), then moved on to a tone meeting for 12 Hours.  We sat in a room and went through the script, scene by scene, line by line, discussing character motivations, subtexts, and deliveries. That took us to noon and…lunch time!  Of course just because it was time for lunch didn’t mean we had time to eat lunch.  We moved upstairs for a stunts meeting with Cyril Raffaelli in which we discussed the means by which we could make the most effective use of his incredible talent.  We went over the fight sequences in 12 Hours including the BIG ONE (I re-jigged the shooting schedule to give him an entire day on that one).  As Cyril and his right hand man, MoMo, headed off to check out the location (As I told Cyril, the scripted fight sequences should serve as a guide more than bible.  He’s great at improvising so he should feel free to be inspired by the room and its various potential props – fire extinguishers, vacuum hoses, detachable floor panels – in constructing his colorful fight sequences), I grabbed a sandwich, then returned to the office where I fielded a gaggle of emails and phone calls on everything from auditions to the ongoing script rewrites.  From there, it was off to the extras meeting where we discussed low-lifes, young techies, and Swiss border guards.

So, I was about to sit down to write that (new) closing scene of #104 when I was alerted to some production concerns related to my forthcoming shooting block – episodes #103 (Sharks) and #106 (Payback).  They’re both my scripts and, alas, don’t exactly marry well in the shooting schedule.  Unfortunately, they’re like geeks at the prom.  While they may not go well with each, they don’t exactly go well with any other episodes either.

A little aside here to elaborate on what I’m talking about.  At the script stage, most of the issues are creative and you do your best to address network concerns, notes, and requests.  Once you move into prep, the episode begins to take shape in the form of preliminary budgets, schedules, and timings.  And so, the trick is to make sure said episode isn’t over budget, doesn’t take too long to shoot, and doesn’t time short.  Often, attempts to adjust issues related to one category will result in a ripple effect over others.  For instance, if the episode is looking like it’s going to take too long to shoot (ie. an extra day), the obvious answer is to lose a couple of locations and tighten the script. Okay, but what if you’re timing short?  Losing those locations and tightening the script will help you make your days (and also bring down the episode budget) but it will make the episode even shorter.  So what do you do?

This is what producing is all about: sitting in a pub in Hamilton, eating lunch during a location scout, disassembling the preliminary shooting schedule and rearranging the various scenes, marrying nearby locations to avoid big costly moves, and reassembling the pieces to form a schedule that will allow for very makable days including one whole day dedicated to that BIG fight sequence.  But don’t get ahead of yourself, because once those departmental budgets come in, it’ll be time to revisit the script to take another, longer look at all of the many small elements that add up.  You have to ask yourself: Do I really need six gorillas or will two suffice?  Does the tank really have to crush two dozen SUV’s instead of, say, a dozen sedans?  Does the villain’s office chair have to be made out of real gold?

And, of course, all the while you’re making the changes to ensure the script is awesome, producable, and on budget, you’re still receiving broadcaster notes.

So, while Paul is on set producing episode 101 (Pilot), I figured I’d jump on the rewrites of the next two scripts he’ll be producing (104 and 105) between prep meetings.  A great idea – until I realized that while that’s all well and good for him, it’s not so good for me as I’ll still have to do my rewrite of Payback and final pass on Sharks while I’m on set producing 12 Hours!

As I was wrestling with that reality, I was informed of the Shark/Payback block-shooting issue.  To those of you who don’t know, block shooting involves shooting two (sometimes more) episodes simultaneously to take advantage of like locations.  For instance, if we’re in a parking garage in both episodes, we can shoot scenes for both episodes in the same place by altering the look of the location. It’s a quicker, more efficient way of  shooting these episodes which, in turn, allows us to shave time off our production schedule (and, in turn, dedicate it to other episodes in the form of extra days or savings that can be splurged on that big visual effects shot of Frank fighting atop the Eiffel Tower).  All this to say block-shooting is great if you have episodes with similar locations.  It’s not so great if you have two episodes (say, Sharks and Payback) that have very dissimilar locations.  When that happens, you’ve got to think out of the box…

Which brings me to that crazy idea I had.  Granted, it’s crazy and will, in all probability, kill me – but if it works…

Anyway, waiting to hear word back from Rob, Alex, and Paul on the subject.  But they’ve got to get back to me fast.  I’m going to have to move quickly…

Hey, here are those pictures of yesterday’s location scout…

Hmmm. A seemingly innocuous path.
Tim. Sassy.
The Devil's Punchbowl.
I shot this from a distance. No way am I getting anywhere near the edge. The very thought of this sequence makes me dizzy.
Anna, already thinking about lunch.
Shades of North By Northwest!
Director Bruce McDonald discusses options...

Okay, off to squeeze in a work-out, a couple of dog-walks, and then it’s on to that (new) final scene for 104.

I’m sure that once that’s done, it’ll be smooooooooooooooooooooooth sailing!

July 17, 2011: The Transporter – another Stargate connection! Dog pics! Catching up with the mailbag!

As many of you know, the new show I’m working on – The Transporter – has a few Stargate connections.  In addition to Paul and I who are show running the series (alongside Alexander M. Ruemelin), there’s Executive Producer Robert Cooper and series director Andy Mikita.  And now, another tenuous connection of sorts.  The director of the series pilot is the amazing Stephen Williams –

If he looks familiar, it may be the family resemblance.  His brother, Peter, played the villainous Apophis in Stargate: SG-1.

Yeah!  Japan wins the Women’s World Cup in dramatic fashion.  Let’s celebrate with dog pics and a mailbag!

Bubba demonstrating boorish behavior. Where's that dog whisperer guy?
Lulu's "Whatcha lookin' at?" look. My response: "The goop in your left eye."

Mailbag:

cwillmanbunge writes: “Nothing personal, but when it comes to series finales the ones for SG-1, SGA, and SGU were okay, but they weren’t satisfying.”

Answer: To be fair, with the exception of SG-1, they weren’t planned as series finale but season finales.  In the case of both SGA and SGU, we thought chances were good that we would be back or, in a worst case scenario, would at least be afforded the opportunity to wrap things up with a movie.

cwillmanbunge also writes: “Sadly to say it would kill me to not even know the single answer to one of these questions.”

Answer: Hey, believe me, there are a lot of us who are equally disappointed because we’ll never get the opportunity to answer them.  I could certainly provide you with potential ideas or scenarios but, at the end of the day, I’d imagine they’d be equally unsatisfying since they wouldn’t be canon.

cwillmangue also writes: “If at all possible, please, do what you can to at least get a movie for Atlantis and Universe.”

Answer: Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to see an Atlantis and/or Universe move go into production.  Brad Wright (franchise co-creator and Exec. Producer) pushed hard but, in the end, the final decision lay in the hands of MGM.  At present, it seems unlikely they’ll be giving the green-light to any SG-1, SGA, or SGU-related project.

Blake Linton writes: “Netflix is the ONE company with the money to produce more Stargate, the distribution channel to play it, and the built-in ability to precisely measure its success. We must awaken the sleeping giant! With 6.5 MILLION total Netflix ratings averaging 4 out of 5 stars, would it really be so hard to convince them that continuing the Stargate franchise is a fabulous idea?”

Answer: Unfortunately, convincing Netflix is only half the battle.  You would also need to convince MGM.

Randomness writes: “However I do find the whole Self destruct thing a little Deus ex machina, because well it’s a random twist that has come out of nowhere with little to no build up to push an event forward.”

Answer: I disagree.  It’s the move away from Pegasus (something new and unforeseen) that triggers the self-destruct.  Given the way things were going in the war against the wraith, it makes sense that the Ancients would take measures to ensure the city not fall into enemy hands.  Furthermore, we did establish the city’s self-destruct system early in the series run.

Trevor writes: “Thank you for all your hard work guys, what a fabulous name! I will inform Holly that Eufemia has won. Or perhaps on second thought, I won’t inform her and will just go ahead and fill out the birth certificate first, and then show her afterwards. Yes, I think that will be best.”

Answer: If you can hold off on telling her until her birthday, it would make for an awesome surprise.  Just a suggestion.

dodoalda writes: “Any news from Joel Goldsmith regarding the SGU soundtrack?”

Answer: Joel has actually been quite busy, out on the road, doing his own thing.

Samantha Padilla writes: “Hey, if I send you some of the Atlantis story ideas I have taken from when I desperately wanted to join the writing staff only for Syfy to drop the ax on the show and MGM to continue to hack away at it’s (still can’t believe I’m saying this) corpse, can I take a shot at turning Extinction into a novel? That’s if you like my stuff.”

Answer: Sorry, Samantha.  I have no influence on who gets hired to write the novels.  Again, those decisions lie in the hands of MGM.

majorsal writes: “anything on sg1′s ‘revolution’?”

Answer: Nope.  All quiet on the Stargate front.

dioxholster writes: “Was Todd with them for the ride? why?”

Answer: He was on Atlantis at the end of Enemy at the Gate.  We included a little scene in the Extinction script in which Woolsey and Sheppard go “pick him up”, essentially rescuing him from the clutches of government R&D.

Ben writes: “The story arc between ‘Faith’ and ‘Incursion Part 3′, regarding the ‘Eden’ planet and TJ leaving her daughter there was absolutely incredible-one of the most emotional scenes I’ve seen on tv, nevermind Stargate alone. Obviously later we found that Destiny was behind her ‘OOBE’ and those who stayed behind on Eden didn’t really survive. The way it was left before we discovered that was brilliant because you truly didn’t know what to think (I was thinking while watching how amazing the writing was). Were you at all tempted to leave that arc open ended?”

Answer: We knew we were going to do a story in which we revisited the people we’d left behind on the Faith planet eventually so, when that happened, the truth would be revealed.  I don’t think it would have been possible to have kept that particular element open-ended.

Ben also writes: “I’m not into all the legal details, but when a show is cancelled, is it not possible to be picked up by another network?”

Answer: Sure, but it would ultimately fall on the studio to give any such plan the go-ahead.  Are you sensing a trend here?

ruffles writes: “Is it typical for showrunners to also write? If you had to choose between writing and producing, which would you choose?”

Answer: It is typical in television but rare in film where the writer is often at the bottom of the pecking order and usually has nothing to do with his work moving forward once he’s completed that final draft.  As for which I would choose, writing or producing – it would depend on what I was writing and producing.

July 15, 2011: Another location scout for 12 Hours (episode #2, The Transporter)!

Managed to finish up my rewrite of episode #5 in the nick of time this morning, forwarding my draft to Trevor (who, in turn, ensured it was delivered to my writing partner, Paul, on set) and gathering up the necessary documents (drafts and notes) for my next rewrite before joining Director Bruce McDonald and the rest of the gang on another location scout for episode #2, 12 Hours…

Welcome to Geneva!
Tim (or "Time" as I've referred to him on this blog) demonstrates his supermagnetic powers. Unfortunately, there was no actual metal in the vicinity but had there been, this photo would've wowed. Trust me.
Bruce demands perfection. And a cappuccino!
I take a break for a little drinking and dancing. And not necessarily in that order.
The sight of my next chocolate party?
The bathroom is right down those stairs? Uh, I think I'll wait.
Toronto for Marseilles?
Ben oui!

From there it was back to the office where I gathered my things, headed back home for a quick dinner, then onto casting – reviewing auditions for over a dozen roles, then coordinating my selects with Bruce.  Taking the night off to finish reading volume 1 of Astonishing X-Men, reviewing more artwork and tweaking the solicitation text for my upcoming SF  comic book series (Dark Matter), and preparing the numbers for the “next phase”.

Tomorrow, I start the rewrite of Paul’s rewrite of Carl’s rewrite of his own script.  As we head into production, it’s no longer a not-so-simple matter of implementing the various notes (four broadcasters + two “producers”) but ensuring the scripts board properly (within the number of budgeted shooting days) and come in a little under pattern (to help off-set the costs of the pilot which, as pilots are wont to do, is going to be OVER pattern).  It’s a huge juggling act as we try to do this for the first eight scripts we have and beyond (as we come up with a game plan for the back of the season).  Making things easier for us (And by “us”, I’m referring to the show runners, those charged with the task of making sure the scripts are great and every aspect of the episodes meets or exceeds all expectations at every level, on time and on budget, regardless of the challenges we may face, under penalty of ritual seppuku – or the show business equivalent. Namely, Paul, Alexander, and myself) are the smart, dedicated, and incredibly talented individuals who head up and operate in the various departments, from costumes to casting, production design to locations, stunts to post-production, and everything in between.  Most of whom you’ll be meeting on this blog over the course of the next few months.  A huge thanks to everyone working 24/7 at the production offices and on set!  And a special thanks to Sue, Andy, Stephen, and Chris Vane and the rest of the cast and guest stars who have been nothing short of amazing.

As with any production, once you start rolling, it becomes much easier to identify the obstacles and encumbrances that may slow things down or keep the machine from running as efficiently as possible.  We’ve already zeroed in on a couple of those hindrances and will soon have them addressed.

And after that, it’ll be smooooooth sailing!