April 20, 2019: More from the vault! Stargate, Dark Matter, and Dogs!

Continuing my dig through the archives…

Stargate: Atlantis concept art – preliminary view of the city by Production Designer James Robbins –

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Wraith pod jpeg…

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Bartol Rendulic’s concept art for the Dark Matter airlocks:

Behind the scenes on SGA: Touching up the wraith…

One of things I really loved about working on Stargate was the opportunity to tackle far-out yet theoretically sound sci-fi concepts.  Like this one from the planned Stargate: Extinction movie…

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And more pics of the dogs from back in the pack days: Jelly, Maximus, Bubba, and Lulu:

April 19, 2019: Random files I found on my old laptop: Dark Matter, SGU, the Atlantis movie script, and dogs eating ice cream!

This Space Channel preview for the Dark Matter series premiere…

This layout of the Destiny bridge from the art department package for the SGU episode “Resurgence”:

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A copy of the script for Stargate: Extinction, the Stargate: Atlantis movie.  I gave it a quick re-read and it’s pretty epic.

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The model for that Ferrous Corp shuttle we never saw…

Early VFX work on a research station…

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And dogs enjoying soft serve (the old gang: Jelly, Bubba, and Lulu):

April 18, 2019: Akemi Birthday Festivities!

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Today, we celebrated Akemi’s birthday by me going in to work for an 8:00 a.m. conference call, writing 7 pages of this latest script, and then sitting in on background extras and special effects meetings as well as a locations look-see. Oh, the office also had smoked meat for lunch and hosted a non-denominational Easter egg hunt.  Five large eggs contained clues that ultimately led to the Golden Egg containing the grand prize!  Line Producer Robbie David apparently made a pact with the eventual winner, promising to share the prize if either of them won – so I suppose now they both get to go to Red Lobster with Naomi and Drew and split the dinner special.

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Speaking of dinner – I gave Akemi the choice of where she wanted to go for her birthday dinner.  Her pick…home!  Where she cooked shio koji chicken, creamy polenta with roasted tomatoes and crispy basil, and kale salad!

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The flower delivery arrived just before dinner.

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My heartfelt birthday card.  Too late I realized that I had F’d up the length of their legs so I had to create this inspired rock to solve the problem.

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Cups!  Neko and paw are for her while the sloth is for me (which is seemingly designed to make it impossible to drink out of).

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She also picked up a couple of items for me – to give to her: a handy door stop and maple sugar.  Note: the door stop is too big for the door.

Mom, sis, and Daisy serenaded Akemi with their traditional off-key version of Happy Birthday from Montreal and then –

We ate way too many chocolates from Akemi’s favorite chocolatier: La Maison du Chocolat.  I went heavy pralines.

We’ll cap off the tonight’s festivities with doggy time and youtube videos!

April 17, 2019: This Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

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Amazing Spider-Man #19.HU (cover art by Greg Land)

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American Carnage #6 (cover art by Ben Oliver)

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Bloodborne #11 (cover art by Yoshioka)

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Daredevil #4 (cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco)

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Guardians of the Galaxy #4 (cover art by David Marquez)

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Naomi #4 (cover art by Jamal Campbell)

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Spawn: Dark Horror, vol. 1 (cover art by Francesco Mattina)

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Spider-Man: Life Story #2 (cover art by Chip Zdarsky)

1

Star Wars: Tie Fighter #1 (cover art by Eliza Bonetti, Giuseppe Camuncoli)

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Teen Titans #29 (cover art by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, FCO Plascencia, Ivan Plascencia)

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Tony Stark: Iron Man #10 (Alexander Lozano)

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West Coast Avengers #10 (cover art by Gang Hyuk Lim)

So, which were your faves?

I received the following email from my former writing partner last night:

“Cleaning out old boxes, I found this.  You may remember, these were the very helpful notes you took during our call with Syfy regarding the Atlantis episode “Inquisition”.  The significance of the flying frogs eludes me to this day.  Still, in many ways, it remains one of your strongest works.”

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Wow, this takes me back.  Note the attention to detail.  The dueling insect armies. The mosaic wings.  The melancholy frogs.  I don’t remember much about that actual notes session, but it obviously went very, very long.  Still, one thing is clear.  We can pinpoint the exact point where my career peaked.  It’s been all downhill from there.

Akemi: On Game of Thrones, who’s the dragons’ mama?

Me: Daenerys Targaryen.

Akemi: If I was Naderys, I wouldn’t use my dragons to fight.  I’d open a pizza shop and just have them fire pizza.

Hey, remember Anne Devereaux?

April 15, 2019: Answering your questions…

Ordinary Guy asks: “You are now showrunning the series that you are not creator of. How is that differs from “traditional” showrunning and what role creator have in that case? Who will have the last word on creative direction for the show?”

Answer: There really is no difference except for the fact that, in this case, the creator is an Executive Producer and gets a say in all aspects of the show’s development, production, and post-production.  In addition, the production company and broadcaster also have a say in the show’s creative.  This differs greatly from Dark Matter, a show I ran with little broadcaster input.

Tuptiagn asks: “What does a Gaffer door how does one become a Best Boy?”

Answer: A gaffer is the head electrician.  As for how one becomes a Best Boy – be better than anyone else.

John asks: “Could you explain sometime in the future how writers take the budget into consideration? I can see a writer with a creative imagination coming up with ideas that may be too expensive. An experienced writer may know that great battle scene with all kinds of extras involved would be too much, so they would come up with a few more intimate scenes to compensate. But a new writer wouldn’t know, of course.  Is there a “price list” so to speak?”

Answer: There is no “price list”.  With experience, writers learn how to produce on the page, meaning they write within the parameters of the show’s budget.  Individual episodes fall above or below the pattern budget (the episodic average) but things should even out in the end.  Those clip or bottle episodes are great money-savers.  And it’s no accident they tend to land in the back half of the season.  As for new writers, they should have a sense of the show’s budget going in.  In fact, I would say that, in my experience, one of the biggest deterrents to landing a staff position (besides not nailing that spec script) is pitching something completely unproducible.  Rookie mistake.

Drea asks: “Why not start a hotsauce sampling club?”

Answer: Y’know, I like this idea!

Robert asks: “Is it possible to move over to Amazon or Netflix like The Expanse?”

Answer: Theoreticaly possible, but some one would be a much easier fit than the other.

nantokanaru77 asks: “Btw, of your collection, which hot sauce is your favorite?”

Answer: At present, these are my favorites…

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Rebecca asks: “Will you be working with Will Waring on your current project?”

Answer: Sadly, no.  Will has been busy working on It and It: Chapter Two

Shinyhula writes: “The next challenge has to be more reasonable; sour gummies? Bitter mellon?”

Answer: David Nykl, Stargate: Atlantis‘s Zelenka once gifted the writers a box of sour gummies.  They lasted four seasons.

Sparrow_hawk asks: “Any thoughts about the new live action Cowboy Bebop?”

Answer: I am impatiently waiting to find out who they cast in the role of my favorite character, Radical Edward.

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Tam Dixon asks: “Are you bringing back the chocolate party too?”

Answer: Akemi has been asking too!

Fred asks: “Why isn’t Zelenka on the balcony at the end?
Why isn’t everyone thanking him for his Wormhole Dive solution?
Why isn’t Rodney embracing him with gratitude?”

Answer: How often have you seen Rodney embrace a fellow scientist with gratitude?  I’m sure the rest of Atlantis expressed their appreciation (in that scene that didn’t make the cut).  As for Zelenka not being on the balcony at the end – Yes, that was a mistake.

 

April 13, 2019: Showrunning 101 – It’s the scripts, baby!

Every so often, someone will note the myriad producers credited on a project and ask me: “Joe, what does a producer do?”  And I will tell them: “Everything and nothing and many things in between.”.  The truth is, unless you’re actually working on the production (and even then, there’s no guarantee) it’s tough to figure out a given producer’s role.  And while common sense would dictate the seeming hierarchy would offer a fair reflection of relative import, my experience doesn’t exactly bear that out.  I’ve worked with Consulting Producers whose contributions to a  series were crucial to its development.  On the other hand, there have been times where, halfway through production, I’ll be introduced to an “Executive Producer” who will be about as familiar to me as the guy who filled in for our regular craft service guy after HE called in sick that day.

Some day, I’ll give you a general overview of the meaning behind those varied producer titles, but for today’s blog entry, I’d like to discuss the role of one particular Executive Producer – the showrunner.  Simply put, she or he runs the show, overseeing production from prep through to post, weighing in on everything from set design to casting, wardrobe to music.  And while all of their duties are of utmost importance, their most critical undertaking is the show creative – and by that, I mean: It’s the scripts, baby!

I’m a firm believer in having as many scripts as possible in place before the start of principal photography.  I know, I know.  This, no doubt, holds true for most any showrunner – but desire and execution are two different things.  Last week, our 2nd A.D. marveled over the fact that we already had eight of our ten scripts ready to go.  Our Production Manager concurred and pointed out that she had only ever been on one other production where that was the case.  That production?  Dark Matter of course.  I’ve heard horror stories of show’s having to prep off outlines or a showrunner’s verbal pitch for a given episode.  And I have vowed to do everything in my power to ensure my team is given the tools to succeed.  Hey, things happen and a best case scenario isn’t always possible – but I’ve found that those worst case scenarios CAN be avoided with proper planning.

Early scripts allow for better prep across all departments which, in turn, yield greater efficiencies and, ultimately, a better-looking product.  The money ends up on screen instead being used to put out fires.  Of course easier said than done and a key part of pulling this off comes down to the people you work with: cast, crew, and, yes, the writers!  THEY’RE the architects, the world-builders, the ones locked up for weeks on end, breaking stories, eating cold take-out and drinking warm LaCroix while battling over character motivations, narrative pay-offs, and how alien shovels may differ from those on Earth.  It’s the showrunner’s job to run that room, create a comfortable environment in which all can feel confident enough to contribute ideas, no matter how crazy.  And it’s the showrunner’s job to not only explore those out-there ideas but also move on from them when it’s clear they’re not going to yield results.  It’s up to the showrunner to keep things on track.

Every showrunner has their own approach to the room.  I like to keep things fun yet focused while maintaining a blistering pace (by most standards).  I’m less concerned with getting all the details right on the first go and prefer to realize an episode’s story like a Polaroid snapshot, gradually defining it over time.  On the series I’m presently work on, for example, we broke the show’s ten episodes in broadstroke beats, then I went home every night and wrote up 10-12 outlines for each which we later discussed and revised in the room.  The writers eventually worked off these preliminary revised outlines, using them to write their own outlines before going to first draft.

But every production is different.  On Dark Matter’s first season, we broke all 13 episodes over the course of two and half weeks, an astounding feat achieved only because I’d been sitting on those stories for over five years before getting that elusive green light.  Season 3, on the other hand, was more of a challenge, a much longer room that produced much fewer outlines.

As I said, the writers are the architects.  Their scripts are the foundation of each episode and the series as a whole.  But once principal photography commences, depending on the production, that writers’ room could be down to a single individual: the showrunner.  I remember one such scenario where I was assured: “All the writers are great.  You won’t have to do any rewriting”.  This, of course, is utter nonsense because, once an episode goes into prep, changes will be required irrespective of how successfully a writer captures the character voices or executes that fourth act turn.  Actors or locations become unavailable, episodes don’t board, potential builds and proposed developments prove too expensive.  Changes need to be made and, with no writers’ room to call, that job falls to the showrunner.  And the size of that rewrite can vary.

When my former writing partner, Paul Mullie, and I first joined Stargate, we co-wrote episodes.  Years later, long after we had started writing episodes separately, we still shared a co-writing credit because I was writing originals while he was doing uncredited and unpaid (Hey, it’s part of the job) passes on other writers’ scripts, and occasionally those dreaded page one rewrites.  I remember one year Paul received a nomination for two scripts, one he had actually written but hadn’t been credited on, and another he’d been credited on but hadn’t written.

Like I said – it’s part of the job.  And a job I got because I was a young writer who was given an opportunity by another showrunner and allowed to learn the ropes and grow into my role as a Co-Producer, Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer and, eventually, Executive Producer.  Like many others, I landed that opportunity by delivering a terrific first draft of the pitch they bought.

It’s the scripts, baby!

April 11, 2019: Dark Matter Vault Drop! Playback!

Going through some old file folders and came across the awesome playback elements from back in the day…

DM313 – Aslanov Field Screen

DM313 – Ferrous Corp Lab Wall Graphics

DM313 – Ferrous Corp Shipyard Transparent Lab Monitor

DM313 – Ferrous Corps Shipyard Transparent Monitor

DM 313 – Ferrous Corp Shipyard Console

DM313 – Ferrous Corp Shipyard Store-room Inventory Screen

DM 313 – Ferrous Corp Shipyard Monitor (Aslanov Field)

DM313 – Aslanov Field Overload Initiated

April 10, 2019: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

1

Avengers: No Road Home #9 (cover art by Yasmine Putri)

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Detective Comics #1001 (cover art by Nathan Fairbaim, Andrew Hennessy, Brad Walker)

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Infinite Dark #5 (cover art by Nick Robles)

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Justice League Odyssey #8 (cover art by Carimine Di Giandomenico, Ivan Plascencia, Stjepan Sejic)

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Livewire #5 (cover art by Kenneth Rocafort)

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Mighty Avengers by Dan Slott: The Complete Collection (cover art by Marko Djurdjevic)

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Planet of the Apes Artist Tribute (cover art by Alex Ross)

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Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Princess Leia #1 (cover art by Terry Dodson)

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The Batman Who Laughs #4 (cover art by Jock)

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The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #2 (cover art by Mico Suyan)

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X-Force #6 (cover art by Pepe Larraz)

So, which were your faves?

April 9, 2019: Production Day #12!

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Well, check out what Andy Loew came across today.  A giant light up G.A. symbol, perfect for that Galactic Authority-themed bar I’m planning to open up.  It had been sitting in the breezeway, in the way, and I suggested they just store it in my office.  It took TWO guys to carry it upstairs!

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Other awesome finds include these set dec labels I’m storying away if and when we end up doing that Dark Matter wrap-up miniseries.

Meanwhile, the set dec on this show is decidedly different than my last space-faring adventure series.

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Awww.  Story Editor Sam Godfrey gifts the Whiskey Club a new bottle.

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All I’ll say is – I’ve been drinking a lot of these lately.

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The Brain Trust – Creator/Director/Executive Producer R.T. Thorne, Supervising Producer Ivon Bartok, Line Producer Robbie David and (not pictured) yours truly (honestly, I’m part of the team!).

So, what’s up on your end?

April 8, 2019: The Weekend Wrap-Up!

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Well, well, well.  If it isn’t Will Waring, longtime Stargate director and orchestrator of the Ishida Palace bloodbath back in Dark Matter’s second season episode “Sometimes In Life You Don’t Get To Choose”.  He’s in town for a round of meet and greets but found time for dinner with Akemi, Ivon and me.  Will is pictured (above) holding his trademark pineapple (in decorative art format).  For those of you not in the know, Will has always found a way to work a pineapple into pretty much every episode he’s ever directed.  For fun, go through his Stargate repertoire and play “spot the pineapple”.  But blink and you may miss it.  Here was his trademark visual making an oh so subtle appearance in Dark Matter

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Speaking of Stargate, I discovered this behind the scenes video from Stargate: Universe – testing out the stasis pods…

I suspect Akemi is growing weary of my ever-growing hot sauce collection.  The truth is I collect them faster than I consume them.  So, Saturday, she insisted I taste test my way through the unopened bottles and ditch the ones I didn’t like…

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To entice me, she made chips!

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I ended up tossing 2 out of 20.  Not bad.

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There’s always something to do at TIFF.