Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bacon Bits, Grillin' and Illin'

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This will be a shorter blog than the last few weeks. As you'll read below, I've been under the weather.

High Concepts

I was unsure of how to begin the blog this week. Craig had an interesting first line. “Hamish, the dog, dragged me into an AA meeting while looking for donuts.” That was my first choice, but I decided to save it for a new segment of 'Conversations with Craig.' There is also a mention of lederhosen, but that can't be confined to a single sentence. Surprisingly, lederhosen comes up fairly often in this part of Los Angeles. There are lots of German tourists who enjoy wearing traditional clothes while touring. But I digress. There were other lines that came up during the week. However, none suited my twisted philosophy like the slogan for Bacon Salt 'Because everything should taste like bacon.' Now, I don't believe that everything should taste like bacon. That would be really weird on fruit or ice cream. But I do love the taste of bacon. That singular flavor is one of my many reasons for avoiding vegetarianism. This product offers some tantalizing possibilities. It claims to be vegetarian and kosher somehow. I imagine that it created in a similar fashion as liquid smoke, turning the vapors into something that can be tasted and smelled. I can certainly see some useful applications in things like dry rubs. Craig was truly gleeful about the thought of such a substance. His girlfriend is a vegetarian. Thus, Bacon Salt opens all sorts of new possibilities for mayhem with her recipes. And I suppose that guilt-free bacon flavor makes about as much sense as Vodka infused with vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Month of Fun – Almost Done

Why almost? We never did the seafood extravaganza. Starting Tuesday of last week, I fell ill followed by Jon. I was only consuming soup for a few of the days. The illness sure forced me to stay off my feet for most of the week. I was reminded once again how much news broadcasts annoy me. One of the city's leading anchormen was using the word foreclosure when he should have been saying furlough. This same genius also announced that the charges against Phil Spector had been dismissed when he was about to be sentenced for murder. Meanwhile on CNN, another stellar anchor said she thought that a hung jury meant a suspect couldn't be tried again. At that point, I turned on The People's Court which makes a lot more sense. Why was I watching daytime TV, you ask. My head was too full of cotton to write. I made very little progress on business plans or anything else I was supposed to be working on last week. The other problem was extreme queasiness. I actually had a real portion of dinner only yesterday. Needless to say, this week was not a good time to take on oysters. Thus, the Seafood Extravaganza will have to be next weekend.

I did have fun last week right up to falling ill. Grilling was a lot of fun. I haven't pulled out the keg shaped grill since our first summer in this apartment. It's not easy to set up a grill in the courtyard. A pool dominated the space, and what's left is usually full of running children. Thus, I timed the cooking for the morning when most of the residents are out of the building at church or some sort of kid related activity. By the time everyone began to trickle back, the coals were cold and ready for disposal. The menu was very simple: burgers, ribs and brats. The ribs and brats were braised before I put them on the grill to finish cooking, so they didn't take very long. I did the burgers and the onions at the same time. We wrapped everything up and left it to warm in the oven until it was time to eat. And worry not, this was not purely a meat feast. We had lovely fresh corn and I made tabouleh and hummus to go along with my Mom's potato salad. That was fun! Today, I'm still eating mostly soup though I think I can handle some crepes with fresh berries for dinner. Don't be too impressed. I'm not making the crepes from scratch. I just can't seem to get that to work. Our local market has credible packaged crepes. I'm just making the filling and the sauce.

I had some fun in more lucid moments during the week. I looked into flights to Philly. I also found that I had to go to some of the city's tourism pages. There are a lot of restaurants and other points of interest that have sprung up over the years that Jon and I haven't visited. I'm hoping to have some time to take in one or two of those. And since our luggage disintegrated after our last trip to France (we had to borrow luggage to take our last trip to Philly), I've been shopping for new luggage. I don't know why, but I've always enjoyed looking at luggage. Weird, I know.

Writing Updates

There isn't much to report on any of the projects. We've been preoccupied with helping a friend with her business plan. That's been a very involved process that is is still ongoing. I'm waiting for comments on my portion of the plan, so I can refine it. I'm also waiting for Jon's comments on the Blood Oath scripts, so I can refine those. While I'm, waiting, I'm working on the cookbook and sketches. Mostly, I'm babying myself so I can face the work week. Ugh.

Next week – Updates and Conversations with Craig

Monday, May 25, 2009

Grilling, Photo Fun and Film Remakes

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

I allowed myself to be tardy this weekend. The blog was largely finished yesterday, but I still had to find links for some of the things I mentioned. It was a lovely day, and I was cooking and laughing with the Hubs. I hope no one minds.

Month of Fun – Week Three
This moth seems very long this year. I don't mind. To counter the torment visited upon me via e-mails from Cannes (Dragoncor Productions is still on the Cannes Market website of production companies. I'm getting lots of inquiries for meetings, parties, and the Monaco Grand Prix), I have been making plans for next year's Festival and Market. I've informed our partner and Jon that we will have a film to screen there as well. Jon is groaning a lot. I'm a determined lady. I'm also planning a long delayed trip back to Philly. My writing group beckons and it's been literally decades since we've been in the same room. That's way too long. And there are family and a host of friends we haven't seen in a bit. Unfortunately, we'll be traveling in August with all the humidity, but what can you do?

The Month of fun is going well. We went to dinner at one of my favorite places in the LA area, Bistro of Santa Monica with Matty Ferraro (Vincent from Blood Oath) and his charming companion. The food is very well made and reasonably priced. The restaurant is beautiful and they even have a pianist playing during dinner. Despite great temptation born of a long and stressful day, I did not have a couple of dirty martinis in quick succession then drape myself across said piano before Matty arrived. I also skipped the Carpaccio in favor of the amazing shrimp bisque. I wanted to have room for their decadent chocolate souffle with fresh Chantillly at the end. I made chocolate mousse last Sunday (very nice to have a big bowl of it about). Dinner was leisurely and delicious and a lot of fun. Matty is delightful company. We had a great time. The fun continued during a photo shoot for Blood Oath. It was pointed out to me by one of my readers that we were missing an opportunity to promote the series and the books. The cookbook would make an excellent marketing tool. I had recipes and anecdotes for the book. I'd even worked out the layout. But I had no cover art. Thus, we had Matty again dressed as Vincent this time, Jennifer pitched in to do the make-up last minute and Jon was re-dressing my kitchen to make everything just so. Silliness ensued. Matty brought along a souvenir from his last trip to Italy, an apron featuring Michaelangelo's David as a torso.. He wore one of mine as well. It turned out fairly well for something that was happening on the fly like that. And there was a lot of laughing. I'm particularly fond of the way Matty will strip down to his skivvies just because I ask him. Yes, I really love working with this group. Sometimes, it's nice to step out of the grind and remember that. The rest of the cover photos can be found on the Blood Oath Myspace page and my personal facebook page. Have a look and let me know which ones work for a cover.

The seafood extravaganza will be next weekend. I decided to grill copious amounts of meat for company Sunday. At this writing, I have no idea who, if anyone, is going to show up. No worries, I have vacuum seal food bags for leftovers. At this writing on late Sunday, we have had no guests. However, I enjoyed some lovely baby-back ribs. And I have some very tasty lunches for the rest of the week. Jon enjoyed his burger and potato salad and the fresh corn. My actor is burning the candle in far too many places before a major move. And I think Gabriel's latest CG movie scene got the best of him. He sounded pretty whipped when he called. I hope they get to enjoy tomorrow.

Pillow Talk and Editing Fun

Both are related to Blood Oath. Like love scenes, pillow talk is really different in a book and on screen. The screen is for action. Characters can't stay in bed endlessly talking unless an ax murderer is sneaking up the stairs or one of the lovers has an ice pick handy. It's especially difficult to have a pair of men endless chatting in bed on screen. Even in the novels, I had to be careful about what kinds of things they talked about and how they talked to each other. If they sound cutesy and domestic, it just doesn't ring right as between two men. In fanfiction this phenomena is known as Tupper talk. I tried finding a written definition on line, but there simply wasn't one. Basically, the term originated as a criticism of a story in which the men sounded like a pair of Tupperware ladies. I certainly don't work that from my living killing machines. Fortunately, Vincent is a smart-ass. He would be nervous about the newness of the situation. Thus, there would be awkward jokes. There is a sweetness to the scenes that – hopefully – doesn't drift into treacle. That was as hard to pull off as the love scenes. I'm waiting to hear from my Rik and Vincent if it works for them. Meanwhile, Jon is experiencing the fun part of editing when you get things you didn't expect (good stuff) and are missing things you did expect. Since the storyboards were based on what we expected to get, the story has to be changed to fit. This isn't a disaster. That happens when you get none of what you expected. Jon experienced that while making his senior thesis film. The changes can be made, but it will slow post down a little. Ah well, it has to be right. And despite the grumbling I'm hearing from across the room, I know that Jon enjoys this sort of challenge.

New vs Classic

As a fan of films in general, I can't say that I'm automatically opposed to movie remakes. I can really understand those who want to remake films that could benefit from better special FX than existed when the original was made. There are also different ways of relaying exposition and different ways of editing that could make an older film even better than the classic version. Personally, I've known it to happen that I really liked some remakes of films I admired. In those cases, I cannot say that I liked one over the other. It's just that I appreciated and enjoyed the newer version on its own terms. Sometimes, this has surprised me. I was a huge fan of the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. Loved it to pieces. I'll still watch it when it turns up on TV, and it still holds up for me, FX and character wise. Thus, I was most reluctant to see the Spielberg version. No, I was not a receptive viewer by a long shot. Yet, I found myself blown away by the film. It was a very different film from the classic, but worthy of praise on its own terms. I can say the same about the Ladykillers. Both films were highly entertaining, but they were completely different films from each other. Vastly different.

This brings me to the newest remake coming to theaters this summer. The Taking of Pelam 1 2 3 is one of my favorite films. I adore Walter Matthau, and I love Robert Shaw. It's not a film that would typically get my attention. Oddly enough, I'm not into the action thrillers unless they have a lot of interesting things going on with the characters. This film had that in addition to taught action, great suspense and humor and a phenomenal payoff in the end. I can't say that I was pleased to see the giant billboard over Sony studios heralding the remake with Denzel Washington and John Travolta. I fear that if a remake is bad, it's less likely that viewers will ever look at the classic. And one always should. But it's important not because older films are better. It's because the classic inspired the film maker who re-made it in some way. There was something that he or she digs that compelled them to do a remake. It can put the newer version in context, and that's worth the effort it may take to see it.

So, don't be like some of my colleagues over the years that judge all Robin Hood films by Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. See The Adventures of Robin Hood. Though Will Scarlett (far left in the photo wearing red) is a little hard to take, there was only one Errol Flynn. Likewise, be sure to see both the 1955 version and the 2004 version of The Ladykillers; the 1953 version and the 2005 version of War of the Wolds; the 1951(snappy dialogue and wonderful sense of humor) and the 1981 versions of The Thing; the 1962 version and the 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate; the 1933 version and the 2005 version of King Kong. Now, I haven't seen the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, but you must see the 1951 version. Likewise, I haven seen the new version, but I heartily recommend seeing the 1974 version of The Taking Pelham 1 2 3. It's a real treat.
The Month of fun concludes next week!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Modern Media, Modern Dance and other Oddities

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This blog will not be anywhere near as long as last week’s. I have other writing I have to finish today. Warning, there is a lengthy discussion on writing graphic love scenes for camera, Isadora Duncan and other disjointed topics.

Blog vs Facebook

I've been on Facebook for a month or two now. It's certainly been interesting to have people in touch with me that I haven't heard from in decades. My joining and searching for friends of old is largely due to Harry's passing. It's been a lot of fun to share some quick thoughts or images with folks who are otherwise really hard to pin down. However, there is a bit of a conflict for me. There is an entry for your status at any given time. People write what they are doing or thinking or feeling. They are entertaining for me to read but difficult for me to write. The problem is that I my random thoughts often become subjects in the blog. Today, for example, I was going to post a note about how I was struggling to write a tasteful love scene. But that lead me to thoughts about tasty love scenes which brought me to chocolate sauce. I realized that my problems with that scenes weren't suitable for a two line post. It should be part of the blog. More on that below. In fact, I don't but status reports on my facebook page everyday out of fear that I won't have any thoughts left to spin into the blog. That is also why I will not be tweeting on Twitter. I don't believe I'm doing anything that interesting from one moment to the next for that service. And if I am doing something really interesting, I'm too into the moment to tweet about it. I'd rather revel in it later on the blog. Or if it's really juicy, I just tell my friends and cohorts on the phone. At any rate, that's how I roll.

Month of Fun vs Fatigue

The whole point of the month of fun is to give oneself small presents throughout the month. Sometimes, presents take a bit of effort. Our schedule was designed and refined for maximum efficiency. That sort of inflexibility makes it hard to grant small indulgences even to oneself. But I feel that it's important to make the effort. Sometimes, it's quite an effort. Seeing the WGA talk with Ron Moore threw our work schedule off for two days. The change reverberated until the end of the week, because of the stuff we weren't doing on the days our routine was altered. The event was completely worth it, but it costs us. I also have to guard against getting obsessive about doing a big thing every day. I can get a little neurotic and cause myself stress when I'm trying to do something positive for myself. Yes, deep down, I am a wacky artist. With that in mind, I am adding, giving myself a break metaphorically and literally into the mix this year. Tomorrow, is a bit of hair care and a chocolate mousse. One would think that would be really easy. Oh, no. If I’m not awake by 9 am at the latest, there is a strong chance that a number of my plans will unravel. It takes me all of the 12 hours of Sunday to get done my usual list of chores and have the weekly chats with family members and some friends.

Meanwhile, the month of fun is still full of good fun. A very generous birthday gift from my brother enabled us to get some wonderful treats for the pantry and still pick up a desperately needed external hard drive for the humongous video files Jon is editing. We’ll be making mousse and chocolate chip cookies today. And on Tuesday, we’ll be having dinner with two of my favorite actor lovelies at one of my favorite restaurants here. And next weekend, aside from three days off, there will be the seafood feast (including the long delayed oysters) and I’m breaking out the grill. Perhaps, this time, I can lure some of my former Borders peeps here for food and fun.

Tasteful vs Tawdry

Despite my personal reputation for naughtiness, I am known for very tasteful and often elegant love scenes. I do not use coarse language to detail the actions. Sometimes the characters talk dirty (Vincent, from the Soldiers novels, has quite a potty mouth). But I don't use profanity in depicting the intimate acts. I'm not saying that there isn't great detail. There is. Those here brave enough to read my excerpts know that. The problem in writing a love scene for the big or small screen is that every detail is made more powerful when it is visual. If I cut and pasted one of the love scenes from A Soldier's Choice into a script, it would be porn of the triple X variety. I can't put all the interior monologue between the lovers into the scene description. All that the script requires is the actual action. Even the premium cable network considering this project doesn't go that far in its love scenes. Thus, I have to throttle back the details in the action and give more latitude for the actors to convey the emotion in the scene by the way they touch and hold each other and how they look at each other. Incidentally, the actors will be a lot more comfortable with a subtler scene. Not only are they not showing all of their goodies to millions of subscribers, they get to shape the intensity of the scene through their performances. Don't get me wrong, there will be plenty of their lovely skin on those well-formed bodies to enjoy. It just won't be something that one buys from the back room of a video store in WeHo (the photo is from a Gay Pride weekend. The neighborhood isn't typically so packed with the shirtless). The actors have such a strong chemistry between them on screen, it would be foolish not to let them use it. It had to make myself put in the full-blown love scene.

I had been focusing so much on the intrigue and building of suspense, that I had only an abbreviated love scene in Homecoming, the episode after the pilot. It's truncated, because I have Vincent arriving at Rik's home the same day that they are cleared by the military tribunal instead of three days later. That is a very long day for both men. They had just been released from the hospital, a place that is never very restful. They'd had a long hearing before the tribunal. Rik then went grocery shopping before putting his long neglected house in order for a lengthy stay while Vincent is dealing with his brother and all the well-wishers who want to hear about his adventures. They would be nearly exhausted by the time they went to bed. Thus, I wrote a tender scene where there is moving physical intimacy, but not a full-blown love scene. From there, I went straight back to the intrigue. There is a lot of that part of the plot to cover, but I was having trouble finishing the script. It just felt like something was missing. It was Jon and one of my readers that pointed out that there needed to be a payoff for all of the build-up between Rik and Vincent. From the characters' perspective, the first morning after would be too much for the men to resist. They're healthy guys, after all. And they are in love and in lust with each other. Rik has been desperate in Vincent's absence. The real and underlying fear that Vincent could be wrenched from him once again, would compel Rik to act.

Still, the writing isn't easy. I now have a lot of director stuff in my head from Jon. As I am writing this scene, camera angles and editing issues are mulling around in my brain along with what I have to convey. This isn't a bad thing. After my disastrous debut as a director during a Radio/TV and Film class while in journalism school (there was a great deal in the way of screaming and crying in the control booth during the shoot about my whole family including my Grandma from Georgia expecting to see me walk down the aisle in a few weeks), I hadn't given a thought to how a scene would be directed. For the record, I was directing a three-camera video of a dance performance originally performed by Isadora Duncan in a booth like it was live TV. I got a great grade for pulling it off despite the screaming and graduated on time. Where was I? Oh, yes. I've been watching Jon work for so long that something seeped through. It makes his life easier if I'm writing scenes with his direction in mind. It just takes me a while.


At this writing, mid-day on Sunday, I have finished the love scene and will finish the episode tonight. I’ve also gotten most of my food prep under way. Thus, I will have time for my hair.

And finally, next week I'll likely be ranting about the various series finales that have assaulted my brain during the past couple of weeks. Chief among them is CSI: Miami whose finale is tomorrow night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trek Verdict, More Fun and Writing with Ron Moore

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This blog has become something different from the norm. I was not expecting to create an epic essay on television writing, but that was kind of fun. The usual craziness and crankiness is in there, too. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. It’s going to be a long trip.

Star Trek Verdict
Because I was in Trekkies and associated with conventions and wrote copious amount of naughty fanfiction, I’ve been asked a lot about my opinion on the new film. It’s also come up because of having worked with Karl Urban on The Privateers. I didn’t think the film was a good idea right now. The last series didn’t fare very well and the last film, Star Trek: Nemesis also under performed. It was less than 10 years ago. I think I’ve reached a point with Star Trek that I reached with James Bond (I’ve followed that since my grade school days as well). I’m just not interested in continuing, even for a new configuration. I can’t say I’ve liked any of the Next Generation films, so I had no vested interest in how like or not like Star Trek this film is. I don’t have a lot of time to go to movie theaters. Thus, I’d rather see something that I haven’t seen before. In the spy movie genre, that was and is Bourne. In sci-fi, it was Galactica. If I’m going to spend my entertainment bucks on action/adventure, it’ll have Giant Robots like Transformers (I've recently discovered a profound weakness for giant robots) or hot, well toned men in tight rubber unitards like GI Joe. I’ll certainly catch Star Trek as a DVD at some point, and I hope this leads to more films for Karl Urban. But beyond that, I’m just Trekked out.

Month of Fun Continues

This week brought unexpected pleasures of all kinds. The Archive began acknowledging staff birthdays with trays of fudgy brownies and a big tray of gourmet cookies. That made for a few days of fun, and I really needed the chocolate to get through a couple of those days. We indulged in a rare weekday breakfast of challah bread French toast with cinnamon-honey butter (I was actually in a good mood during the commute after having that). On Friday, I consoled myself about not being in France with information on this year’s Cannes which is a little less glamorous than years past because the downturn has impacted even the expense accounts of movie execs. I know it’s bitchy to be happy about that just because I’m not there. Envy is not a pretty thing. Why was I thinking about that on Friday? It was May 8th, which is also V-E Day. I thought it was also a Holy Day of Obligation, but according to my Anges ou Demons 2009 calendar (a French calendar of naked men, Holy Days, Feast Days and national holidays) that I enjoy consulting (Merci Sylvette!), that 8th is in December. Why is V-E Day a problem for tourists in France? They still celebrate that very important date in Europe with parades and spectacular fly overs the Arc De Triomphe. Thus, finding an open restaurant has been a challenge. We always did. And in fact, I think fondly on that day because we found some very charming places to dine by just poking around the neighborhood we happened to be staying in. Fond memories.

My birthday is tomorrow. It’s a regular workday with the usual extra craziness with our film gigs. We’ll probably have some fun appetizers and a little bubbly that day. Maybe some chocolate. But I’m holding off on the seafood and dessert extravaganza for next weekend and a dinner reservation at one of my favorite restaurants here. I have to pace myself.

Jon has put together the rough opening sequence for Blood Oath. As it happens in editing rooms, it turned out quite differently that I expected. However, I really like it. He’s almost through the first pass on the entire presentation. That makes me excited. Meanwhile I’m wrestling with how many love scenes will be in the episodes after the pilot and how much will be seen in them. The network getting the pitch has no problem with copious skin or explicit action, but I want to balance the erotic with the characters outside the bedroom. I have the books to do endless sexual gymnastics. And I want readers to have a reason to buy them. I also don’t want Blood Oath to be defined by just sex. It’s been an interesting dilemma for someone with my reputation. The third episode, Homecoming is almost complete. I may stop there for the pitch to the network or I may continue to a full six episode. At the very least, I know I’ll do treatments for three more. Whether I flesh them out or not will depend on what the films are doing in the next couple of weeks. And no, I have no idea what the films are doing right now.

Below is a very long essay on the ups and down in writing for TV. I think it is fascinating and I have been profoundly influenced by it. The examples are from Battlestar Galactica, but you need not have seen it at all to follow. For those that are not inclined, see you next week!

Realities of Writing

But I didn’t mope about where I wasn’t for very long. I’ll probably do that later. On Tuesday, Ralph found a WGA event listed on the Breakdowns. It was a discussion of writing with Ron Moore, Showrunner, and a friend of ours. I befriended Ron through Sophie La Porte, a freelance writer and close associate of Richard Hatch. I sent Ron some tailored erotica. The rest is history. We even interviewed him way back to run one of the incarnations of the Privateers. He is one of the most insightful and honest people I've met in television. I really loved the idea of an evening listening to him talk about the process of writing a series we greatly admired. The talked turned out to be more about the writing process than the show itself.

Let me wander a bit here. After we screened the Privateers for our crew and some suits, one of the women who'd been very helpful through the entire, hellish shoot told me that she had enjoyed the experience a great deal, she didn't want to do anything like that again. Nor did she want to know anything about the behind the scenes info on any of her favorite shows. Knowing how a production actually worked stripped away too much of the magic for her. I had run into that kind of sentiment before, but there wasn't the same level of honesty. I've vainly tried to tell fans at conventions that there were mundane production reasons behind strange plot twists on their favorite shows. While they didn't jam their fingers in their ears and shout until I shut up, they really weren't listening either. The discussion we went to see was by a writer for writers. It was honest and unvarnished. There were fans a- plenty in the audience, but Ron's attitude was that if you wanted to keep the magic, don't delve too deeply into the reality of the production. In other words, don’t peek behind the curtain.

The first surprise for us was that the key element of the new series (Cylons look like humans) was a purely financial decision. They realized that they couldn’t have the clunky robot suit with a guy in it. If they could build a more sophisticated suit that moved quickly and realistically, they could only build one. CG Cylons were considered, but having them interact with the cast would be expensive as well. They kept coming back to human looking Cylons. That decision lead to more questions. If they look like humans, why do they want to kill humans. The answer that they were created by humans begets the question of why do they want to destroy their creators? What did humans do? Throughout the series, more questions that raised the dramatic stakes were spawned. What is really human? Why do humans deserve to survive? All of the drama that grew from these questions began with a purely economic decision.

According to Ron, the look of the show (clothing and furniture that are current rather than futuristic) was to give the series a sense of being in a real place. That’s certainly true, but it also is an economic decision. To have futuristic sets and costumes give that sense of real costs heaps of money each week. As it was, the original plan of having more episodes happen entirely on other ships (one on the hospital ship – I didn’t know there was supposed to a hospital ship another on a refugee ship). The cost of doing Bastille Day put the show in the red for many episodes. After that, the Galactica was the main set. In the case where one is on a Cylon vessel for an entire episode, consider what of the ship is actually shown. We figured Cylons invented projection to get away from that threadbare ship.

There were other writing challenges beyond the financial. Ron said that they always knew where the show was going (that it would end in Earth’s distant past), but in getting there, the writing team encountered many false starts and detours. It’s clear that the cast caused some of the changes. Helo, for example, was supposed to dies in the miniseries on Caprica. His performance was so strong that they kept him, and the whole plot involving him and Athena was hatched. That willingness to be flexible made for excellent drama and got all the cast involved in the production (more on the work atmosphere below), but it also caused some problems that had to be solved in the writing. The biggest of these that caused the most speculation among the fans was about the Cylon model 7, Daniel. His story was created to correct a discrepancy in the number of humanoid Cylon models. Caprica-Six said that there were 12 models. However, it was said that there were eight models in the fleet and a final five. That’s thirteen. Daniel’s story was created purely to cover that error. Unfortunately, some fans were enchanted by the possibilities of this character and his relationship to the unanswered mysteries surrounding Starbuck as the series went into the finale. The rise of the ‘Cult of Daniel’ caused Ron to say flat out that the character was a writing construct to solve a math problem. Likewise, the last, enigmatic words spoken by ‘head’ Batltar were a function of air- time. The scene was running too long. It actually didn’t mean anything at all.

The problems didn’t end with the scripts. The editing room was another place where plots and plans had to be adjusted for the sake of the big picture. The editing room was another challenge. There were episodes that ran a lot faster and more smoothly in the director’s cut, but as BSG was a serial, certain scenes had to appear even if they slowed the pace or made the narrative more clunky, because they were very important to an episode three weeks later. A writer can put all he thinks an episode needs in a script, but it’s what shows up in the editing bay that is important to how the final episode actually looks. As a writer, Ron also had to be an editor to keep the show heading toward its final destination.

But it wasn’t all the sort of surprises that can bring a fan up short. When asked what sort of Emmy he hoped for Galactica’s last season, Ron said he’d like to see it win for best drama. The show winning would be an award for everyone from Ron down to craft services. He said that everyone in the production took ownership of the show and gave their all. Prop people would make an extra effort to make sure the background was right. Edward James Olmos was directing extras on how they should behave (I really wish there was some way to replicate Ron’s highly amusing impersonation of ‘Eddie.’ I still think of the man as Lieutenant Castillo. It was a bit unnerving, but very funny. All of the actors were fully engaged in their work as were the writers. Ron said everyone caused the show to catch lightning in a bottle. It’s the kind of work environment he really enjoyed and hoped he could find again. I was glad to hear that. It’s great to hear that a show that brought so much pleasure was a pleasure to make.

When asked about the initial reaction to the re-imagining by fans of the original show, Ron mentioned that the reaction was very much like that CSI episode, A Space Oddity. The crowd reaction went from hostile to worse through the course of the Q and A. There was even one fan on the BSG bulletin boards whose icon was a cut-out of Ron’s head with his brains being blown out.

As for his personal writing habits, Ron said that when he was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he wrote in the office and in silence. When he worked on Deep Space Nine, he had to write only to Sinatra music. The showrunner, Ira Steven Behr, had gotten him into it. Next, he wrote to sound tracks. Currently, he can write while listening to takes from scenes of a previous episode or in the midst of bedlam on a set. It doesn’t really matter. I was heartened by this as I grew up writing in a distracting environment. Thus, I write while listening to 70s detective shows. My current favorite is Hawaii Five-O. The moderator asked about his religious influences. Ron admitted to being a wandering Catholic and that may have informed some aspects of BSG characters and their beliefs (For the record, I called that – Cylons are Catholic. I recognized the neuroticism being one myself). When asked what sort of advice he’d have for aspiring writers, Ron said that they should try to find ways of subverting form or content or both to surprise the viewer. There may be only a finite number of plots, but there are endless ways of telling them. They strove to find new ways of touching and challenging the viewers. That’s what he was most proud of with BSG.

For me, it was great to hear the talk. I hadn’t seen him since the premier of the mini-series. There was one part that talk that irritated me though. Ron mentioned that he hired two of his writers after having run into them in the DGA lobby after the premier for the mini-series. I was in the lobby of that premier as well. Something I reminded him of rather pointedly when he greeted me after the talk. I let it pass for that moment. I know where he works. We talked briefly about Caprica en route to the lobby. That show will be quite intriguing, I’m sure. But I cannot say what he told me about it right now.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Month of Fun, Devil's Due and Caprica

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Again, this blog has been written in pieces during the week and today.

Month of Fun

The Month of Fun was conceived the year I turned 40. It was a variation on Agent Dale Cooper's philosophy that one should give yourself a present every day. In Agent Cooper's case, such presents could be an extra long nap in an easy chair or 'a damn fine cup of coffee.' The Month of Fun is not based on extravagance every day, but a little something in the name of pampering that I don't usually do, because I'm too busy or too tired or too crazy. Even though the trips to France could be called extravagant, they weren't, really. We worked during the entire ten days at the Cannes Film Market, and ran around Paris like nuts trying to cram everything we could in a few days each time. My presents to myself while I was there was to slow down for an hour or so and really be in the moment in such beautiful places. In Paris, it was having some damn fine cups of cafe while people watching or having a perfect piece of creamy chocolate or a perfectly made jambon et fromage on a perfectly baked baguette or an amazingly flakey palmier. These treats were really cheap as was the gorgeous, huge, fringed scarves we found in Paris the last visit. They were the 3 Euro accent to my outfits at the formal premiers at the film festival. I still use them often. My favorite thing to do in Cannes was still in the American Pavillion, tune out the show biz wheeling and dealing and just gaze at the Mediterranean Sea in the sunlight. It's my favorite body of water to date. I understand why artists moved to the Rivera to paint. The light is extraordinary. The beer was cheap.

This year's month of fun began in a brand new store in downtown Santa Monica. It's called Penzeys Spices. My dear friend, Bruce in Ohio introduced me to them a couple of years ago. I've been using the products and the catalog ever since. I was so stoked when I saw the store a few weeks ago, but wasn't in the area to shop until this past Friday. Oh, man, did I enjoy that place. I made two trips around the store just sniffing. They have glass stoppered jars with the featured spices to sniff. I was in heaven. I bought only a few things this time. I'll be returning often, believe me. This time, I bought some beautiful, Turkish bay leaves. They were huge and glossy. I'll be making stock this weekend with those babies. I also picked up some sweet, Hungarian paprika and some French grey sea salt. Now, I've looked into using gray salt, because many of my Food Network and PBS chefs us it. But the price made me balk. At Pensy's, I bought I nice sized packet for a few bucks. That makes it worth a try. And they had a great deal on my beloved Kosher salt (twice the size and half the price of my supermarket). It was a fine beginning for the Month of Fun.

I thought I'd sign off now (Friday), but there was the recording of the last installment of VH!'s Greatest One hit wonders of the 80s. It was the top 19, so I had to watch. Those were the years when I was at my flirtiest fun enjoying dancing on the weekends. Of course, the 80s hits had videos which was new and amazing. All of the 19 brought back fond memories and disagreements with their choices: a-ha, a Flock of Seagulls and Dexy's Midnight Runners were the top three. Come On Eileen took the prize. Jon thought it was because it was a song that only could work in the 80s or that it's goofiness encapsulated that period in time. I would have picked A-Ha's I Ran, Devo's Whip It (a personal favorite) or Thomas Dolby's She Blinded me with Science. Did you know that Dolby is responsible for ring tones on cell phones among other groovy science stuff? The entire five part special was fun to watch. It's repeating a lot on VH-1, if you are so inclined. There were a lot of great dance tunes in that decade. For me, it was the last decade to have what I call dance music and singing. I'd stack the pipes in Gonna Make You Sweat against anyone today (though it was released in 1990 but the singer was an 80s Icon). Youtube link. The big surprises? Jon's fondness for You Spin Me Right Round. I was surprised at how many of these so called 'one hit wonders' actually had long successful careers in their native countries. I was also surprised to find out that there are Black Scotsmen when I saw the band Big Country. I know there are Black Swedes, but never saw any Black Scotsmen before. But enough. This sort of research can lead to hours wasted on Youtube.

Saturday Interlude

The weekend brings a couple of notable days that are usually good excuses to bend the elbow a bit. The Kentucky Derby was actually quite a cause for a party back in Philly and somewhat here. But I didn’t have the time to stock up on bourbon, and I hadn’t really been following the horses this spring. So, I let that slide in favor of a lovely glass or three of bubbly and remember my Mom and Harry who really enjoyed a good Kentucky Derby shindig.

Devil in the Details

This week hasn’t been all fun things and bubbly, I’m afraid. On the film front there were a lot of machinations that I’m not at liberty to discuss. We were approached with some offers that made me feel like we were weighing all we’d been working for against the proverbial 30 pieces of silver. But that begged the question of what price do you assign everything you’ve worked for? And what about all the other people who have worked on these projects with you? How many times do you walk away on principle? This left me deeply depressed on Tuesday. Again – Tuesday! However, I found myself quite surprised by the end of the day when an entirely different sort of offer came up. It was as different as noon is to midnight here and it restored my optimism that it’s possible to succeed without complete compromise. The roller coaster left me exhausted by week’s end. My back has been the number one manifestation of great stress. I’ve had to scale back my weekend plans, and I’m two hours behind schedule right now. But I feel better than I would have if we’d accepted that first offer of last week. I may indulge in a nap after this blog. I’m beginning to feel the affects of the latest sinus med. I’ll have updates on the films and other writing next week.

Warning: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, DO NOT READ.

Jon and I saw the two-hour pilot for the Battlestar Galactica pre-quel, Caprica last night. I’m no longer confused about why they released it to DVD rather than airing it. It’s going to need a lot of editing for nudity, sexual acts (lots of topless girl on girl action) and extreme violence (even for Galatica). I can say with a straight face that the nudity and violence were important to the story in depicting a society that is about to spiral out of control on its own. Cylons are not a factor in the decline of this civilization. It is a bigoted society that in no way resembles the utopia that the fleeing colonists from the series describe. The government and the judicial system appear to be corrupt. This is a tale of two families, the Greystones and the Adamas and how their lives are changed by the deaths of their daughters during an act of terrorism. There is a soap opera feel to the pilot (and likely the series) with plot intrigues and relationship entanglements that should satisfy the CW crowd and the FX audience. There are teens in Hogwarts attire contemplating the salvation of their mortal souls against endless access to topless girl on girl action. There is an earnest lawyer who, in trying to provide for his family in a racist society, has sold his soul to a mob that resembles the Russians, Maoris and Orthodox Jews. There is an earnest scientist who seems to be seeking to re-connect with his lost daughter but still manages to get a government contract to build killing machines based on stolen technology. And then, there is the Headmistress of our teen heroes’ private school. I don’t know what this twisted sister is up to, but I think the destruction of the colonies are almost certainly connected to one of her actions. Along with all of this there was a pall of paranoia and a vague sense of doom that felt a lot like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Events in the pilot answer some fundamental questions for me like how did the Centurions get into monotheistic religion? And how did they decide that all humanity had to go? Those answers were quite a surprise, but the answers posed even more questions. It looks like a promising series, but it is doubtful that it will line up completely with the evens that happened in BSG. I’m willing to tune in. And I finally got to hear a Centurion say 'by Your Command.' It was all I dreamed of.

Blog Delay

I'm a bit under the weather this afternoon. All the links and such are a bit much right now. I may try to post later today or tonight.