September 13, 2016: Making chocolate! And television!

The plan was to enjoy two weeks off – after riding the non-stop production carousel since summer of 2014, stepping away from prep and post and scripts and notes  to just, finally, get away from it all for a modest 14 days before jumping back into it. A simple 2 out of 150 weeks to relax, recharge, and refresh.  You know?  A hard-earned rest after two seasons, 12 scripts, 5 major rewrites, and the plotting of another 13?  But this would appear to be easier said than done as, even halfway across the world, I can’t escape the seemingly endless production-related concerns.

Oh, but I’ll try anyway.

Today was our last day in Tokyo – for now – as we’re catching the bullet train to Osaka to spend time with Akemi’s family.  I was, admittedly, a little leery about what Akemi had planned for the day – a four hour chocolate-making course in Japanese – but I made it work because, hey, I’m all about collaboration.  I’m a freakin’ team player, right?


We arrive at a little before 10:30 a.m. for the start of production.  Chocolate production that is.  Our hosts are the Tokyo branch of San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate.


I kill time by ordering one of my many chocolate-themed snacks of the day.  In this case, a spicy hot chocolate.  Akemi ate my cookie and marshmallow.


The plan, not unlike a production prep schedule, complete with timings, structured progressions, and random chocolate tastings.


My impeccable Japanese penmanship on display.  The name tag says simply “Joe”.  “Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner” would have taken most of the afternoon.


Your final product is only as good as your starting ingredients like, say, the best raw cacao beans or best written scripts.


But before you use ’em, make sure to sort through them, removing problematic elements like feathers, nails, and ridiculous plot points.


After that, it’s into the roaster where that amazing base ingredient acquires another level of characters – aroma, flavor, and special guest star casting.


Once that’s done, it’s on to the winnowing where the heavier nib is separated from lighter, inedible skin.  The nibs are like really great script moments like the Android speaking in varied accents or THREE reducing FIVE to tears when he tells her he doesn’t care for her, not because she thinks he DOESN’T care for her but because, in so doing, it make her realizes how much he truly DOES.  The skin is like those suspect creative intrusions that get cast off in prep week.  Hey, how about making the corporate guard an oboe?


Producing chocolate is not unlike producing television.  It’s the ingredients that make the final product.  In this case, we elect to go with a delightful Belize/Trinidad 75% blend, sort of like marrying phenomenal director Ron Murphy with a script written by the talented Paul Mullie.


And into the processor it goes.  Day 1!  Scene 1!  Interior Raza Bridge!


Blitz!  Melissa O’Neil wants to tweak a line of dialogue.  Anthony wants to ad-lib a little at the end.  You say yes and the end result surpasses what you’d originally envisioned because your cast is awesome and totally in sync with the material, their characters.



From the food processor to the melanger, segueing from prep week to production. The nibs are ground, transformed from their humble script-like beginnings to something completely different and, hopefully, wonderful.


Before getting right into it, whether it be chocolate-making, production oversight, or 11th hour issues, it’s always best to be prepared.  I imagine that this is how the cast and crew see me whenever I show up on set.  The reaction: “Oh, shit!”.


Snack break #2 as the grinding process takes time.  20 minutes in the case of chocolate; about 8-10 days for an episode of Dark Matter.  A sweet and salty dulce de leche dessert accompanied by a bittersweet European hot chocolate that was pretty damn close to pudding.


Next, Akemi adds the sugar – 25% of the total package leaving us with a 75% dark chocolate blend – or, in production terms: directed by Ron Murphy, written by Paul Mullie, guest starring sweet, sweet Marc Bendavid.


Then, we have to step away and allow the sugar and cacao to melange, usually 2-4 days.  This is like delivering the dailies to the editor who then spends days assembling his/her edit.  While this is happening, we go out for ramen.  I order clam broth and pork with an egg, a side of cod roe on ice, and a request to really let those awesome VFX beats breathe.


And snack #3: dessert smore with a dark chocolate center and a weird but uniquely tasty drink made from the fruit of the cacao plant.



Oh yeah.  Almost there!  Check out the liquid gold director’s cut.  And send in those notes.


Hopefully, it doesn’t get too messy.


Alright.  Ready to head into battle once again.  Put on your battle armor.


Temper your chocolate – and expectations – as you complete post-production. Lose the air.  Add sound effects and music.


And color correct!  Akemi reminds us to color correct!


And there you have it – roughly 30 bars of chocolate, or 13 episodes of television.


Mariko-san and Masaaki-san, the chocolate-making equivalents of Executive Producer Vanessa Piazza and Supervising Producer Ivon Bartok.


Ah, the satisfaction of a job well done.  But don’t get too comfortable!  Work begins immediately for the next (chocolate) season!

April 14, 2015: My girl! And my show!


My sweetheart seems to be feeling under the weather tonight.  No, my OTHER sweetheart.  Well, technically, my first sweetheart.  At 16 years, Jelly is my longest relationship.  She’s getting a bit fussy in her old age, more demanding, less inclined to suffer fools (mainly my other pug, Bubba), but I think that just makes her more lovable.  She’s a daddy’s girl.  Despite her bad hips, arthritic joints, deafness, and weak eyesight, she always greets me with an enthusiastic fervor usually reserved for pan-fried chicken hearts.  Tonight, not so much.  Not sure what’s up.  Maybe she’s got a lot on her mind…

Did you see the Dark Matter teaser trailer?  78k+ views in four days!  Did you share it with your friends?  Your family?  Complete strangers?  Did you get it out to other SF enthusiasts?  Maybe William Shatner and Wil Wheaton are looking for a new scifi series to get hooked on?

Well, just in case, here’s the link:

I guarantee, this show will be more addictive than those honey and tabasco roasted pecans I made last year.


Two units shooting today on our standing sets.  While John Stead was directing the action on the bridge and the infirmary, Ron Murphy was directing the action in the training room and various quarters.  Scenes from four different episodes were on the docket today.  Meanwhile, Director Martin Wood was busy prepping episode #111, while Director Andy Mikta was prepping episode #112.


John Stead directs Marc Bendavid (ONE).  Crew blocking.

I spent most of the day agonizing over and, ultimately, writing two new scenes for episode #112.  Tomorrow, I kick things off with a soundscape meeting (deciding on all the awesome ship tones), then head to the production offices for a pre-VFX Visual Effects meeting – again for episode #112 (It’s a big one!).  I’ll while away the afternoon in my office, writing the two new scenes for #110.


Kyle models the soon-to-be space suit.

Amid all of the prepping, producing, writing, and editing, I have managed to get some time off.  For eating and sleeping, mostly, but also to check out a couple of horror movies with good buzz…


A simple but creepily effective and, ultimately, unnerving horror film.  I’m not sure what was more unsettling: the babadook or that annoying kid.


A small, independent film with a great premise and a lot of good scares.  Eerie.

April 13, 2015: A final Dark Matter location scout! And one more Thank You!

I spent most of today out and about, checking out possible locations for our last few episodes.  We were on the lookout for: a high-tech facility, cool corridors and stairwells, operating theaters, a dining room, and a field emitter room…


This chamber offers a great-looking entrance and exit – when it’s not being used to wash hospital gurneys.


Line Producer Norman Denver and Production Designer Ian Brock kick back between autopsies.


See if we can switch out that thing in the middle for a power saw.  We’ve got a tough nut to crack.


1st A.D. Brandon Tataryn finds his light.


Suitably creepy corridor.  Could you imagine it, just a little bit dimmer – with some unfathomable creature crawling toward you from the other end?  Yes?


To be honest, I’d try my luck in the creepy corridor with the crawling creature before I’d brave this catwalk.


“I’ve never seen a group so excited about a stairwell before.” – Guy who was giving us the tour of the place.


Director Andy Mikita in prep.


When the alarm that sounds like an air raid siren sounds, please put these one.

1Interesting architecture.  Potential HQ of Dwarf Star Technologies?


Ian invites you to share a seat with him on the hallucinogenic carpet.

Tomorrow, we follow up with a location photo look-see.  And then, I’ve got to write that Android(s) scene!

In yesterday’s blog entry, I thanked all of the people who helped make Dark Matter a reality.  BUT, I forgot one important supporter.  Thankfully, longtime blog reader Ponytail reminded me…

“Joe you forgot one person behind your success…the one who keeps the home fires burning, offering endless support, taking care of the kids, a culinary expert, flying companion and dog escort, a constant source of amusement and delight, beautiful partner, perfect distraction from job stresses, ideal Tokyo sidekick and personal translator, equally talented with endless energy, and beloved by all. Where would you be without Akemi.”

…and reduced Akemi to tears.

So, yes.  A special thanks to my awesome girlfriend who takes care of business on the home front while I’m away…


…and also sends me off every morning with these awesome bento box lunches.