Friday, December 29, 2006

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review Xmas 2006 Extravaganza!: Eragon, The Good Sheperd, Marie Anoinette, Babel

Eragon: No.
Good Sheperd: No.
Marie Anoinette: No. (if you like dresses and stuff) Yes.
Babel: Yes. (if you want to feel good about the holidays) No... but Yes anyway.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sergio Leone's latest Movie Quiz

Rob brought my attention to the new movie quiz from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule
Here's my answers.

1)What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?

Munich. It was on DVD and I just wanted to see it again. Speilberg has this reputation for being so commercial but geez, he can make amazing shots, not just technical but artistic. Great stuff.

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.
I'm embarrassed to say I'm not aware of many cinematographers other than the obvious ones, and I don't think most of them are still alive...

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?
Joe Don Baker.

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation…)

The original When a Stranger Calls.

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.

Quentin Tarrintino's Kill Bill. I swear it's all about making movies.

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.


M.

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.
Johnny Whitaker in The Mystery of Dracula's Castle.

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?
No idea.

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.

I'm not sure exactly what the question means but I'll say Last Picture Show.

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.
Does Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 count? If so, I'll go with that. If not, I'm drawing a blank. I will not say OJ Simpson.

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.
Being There or Harold and Maude... honestly I can't pick.

12) Name the first double feature you’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.

Stars Wars, followed by 2001.

13) What’s the name of your revival theater?
Magic Shadows (gross)... how about Cinema Cinema! (complete with Exclamation point!)

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?
Are you serious? Not even close: Humphrey Bogart.

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie.
The Love Bug

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound.
I'm with Rob MacDonald: The animal sounds in Raging Bull when Jake LaMotta is boxing.

17) Pink Flamingoes-- yes or no?
No.

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.
I'm so obvious: Pulp Fiction

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?
Naomi Watts.

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?
Reality Bites.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.
Best Credit sequence. Saul Bass for lifetime achievement and this year... the guy/gal that did the Casino Royale's credits.

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.
I can't remember the Fourth Man, so I'll go with Starship Troopers as the greatest ironic film of all time.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?
Make money.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney?
Geez, my heart says Ustinov but my head says Albert Finney.

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature.
I like how Warner Brothers allows it's logo to be messed with to reflect the tone of the movie before anyone else... but I also love the Marvel logo.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally.
Easy Riders Raging Bulls? I dunno.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any “spoilers” in your answer.)
Hmmmm. Lemme think about this. "Twist ending" is very specific for me. Some people say:Psycho. But that's not a twist ending for me. The Sixth Sense is the most obvious one.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.
Farenheit 451.

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?
Claire Danes.

30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.
John Hurt (and Marlee Matlin) at the Victoria Playhouse on PEI.

31) When did you first realize that films were directed?
There as a guy in junior high that made movies and my sister helped out on it. It was about a multi-coloured tire travelling around.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Liberal Leadership Convention

After failing to get my live coverage of the convention from CBC and CTV online, where do I turn?

CPAC!

Exciting stuff.

Friday, December 01, 2006

BattleStar Galactica's Writers' Room

My pal daves sent me this link to an article about the Battlestar Galatica writers' room. This is stuff is deep fried gold, baby.

Now, I knew about the Ron Moore's blog, David Eick's video blog, and episode commentary podcasts for the series but I never came across the mother lode...

Four hours inside the season two writers' room in a couple parts... right here --you'll find it about two thirds the way down the page.

If you've ever wondered what the heck happens inside a writers' room every one is different but this'll give you a good idea.

Enjoy, you crazy emeffers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Robson Arms Season II Trailer Online

For those of you who are interested, CTV has updated their Robson Arms page and posted a new trailer with highlights of our second season. At least, I think that's what's on it. They switched over to this Window Media Player thingy a while ago which for which there is no plug-in available for many Mac users like yours truly.

So if you do see the trailer... wouldya tell me how it is?

If only to post something other than movie reviews...

Angry Alien has a whack of new movie renactments. You know, these are the ones done in 30 seconds... by bunnies.

This by way of postponing my comments about the whole Borat debate... which the bunny are planning on renacting too, apparently.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Art of Coarse Writing


There's a writing buddy of mine who will never tell anybody what he's working on. If he does, he's afraid there won't be any motivation to write it. Once he tells somebody what the story is about... there's no reason to tell it anymore.

I think he's on to something.

Some writers are lucky. They'll never get the "On the nose" note.
For the rest of us, it's about constant vigilance.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term. "On the nose" writing tends to be scenes or dialogue that is very obvious. It's very explicit about... what it's about. And for some of us, it's a lot of the television writing we grew up watching.

Any scene that wraps things up... watch out. Any dialogue that people talk about their feelings... danger. And when the scene wraps things up with characters talking about their feelings... "Alex, maybe if I could talk to my dad like this, I wouldn't have this drinking problem." "Listen Les, you told me what you felt, and I respect that, but there's a part of me that will never get over Johnny."

Yikes.

But is there a place for On the Nose in your process? I think so, but I might just be justifying this to myself because I see it my own stuff. I think in an outline or first draft, there's lots of room for obviousness. You're explaining motivations to yourself, to producers, to broadcasters. It allows for a real discussion of why characters are doing what they're doing and what ramifications it might have on other episodes.

But... after the first draft... the second draft has gotta be spent covering it over. Otherwise, it's a short-cut that lets writers off the hook-- the hook being: to find a way to actually dramatize all those feelings. And like my buddy, when the writer tells the audience what he's writing about, instead of writing it, what's the point.

And it's not just writing that can be "on the nose". Some of the best examples of "on the nose" work I've seen is acted or directed, particularly in amateur theatre.

And productions of classical work is the worst. The actors have been directed by people who don't trust the audience to understand what the play is about and instead of staging it in a way that will heighten the drama and make it relevant and exciting, they make the poor actors (many of whom don't know any better) accomplices in their crimes. Characters are broadly drawned; scenes aren't performed, they're pointed out; jokes aren't played, they're explained.

It kills any drama or comedy that's there.

Don't believe me? Watch any university production of Shakespeare and see what happens when they make a joke about a "cod's piece". Trouble is, it's never bad enough to be really entertaining, cf: The Art of Coarse Acting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Looking for Intelligence

After trying-- and failing-- to find Intelligence on CBC this past week, I decided to poke around Bit Torrentland to see if I could find it.

No Luck. Except...

I stumbled across it here. Only the first two episodes but it's a chance to catch up if you've missed it so far.

Sidebar: Is Guba a place that everyone has heard about but me?

Edit: According to the Intelligence website the show airs Tuesdays at 9pm and repeats at Midnight and 11pm Friday. Apparently I tuned in on the wrong night... heh. What a dope.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cell Phone Travel Question

I've got a question maybe somebody can help me with.

When I was travelling recently I put my fully charged cell phone in my bag up in the overhead bin and when I landed (about 8 hours later) it was drained.

This happened again on the return flight.

Again, both times, fully charged. I've had no trouble with battery power otherwise. In day to day usage it's great.

Was it too cold up there in the bin, is there some kind of crazy battery draining thing doing on or what?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Feeding the Writer II

It's great to be back home after my whirlpool trip to Vancouver for the screening.
For all you bi-coastal travellers my advice: Commit to the change in time zone! Don't constantly calculate what time is "really" is. Your body will thank you.

Restaurantlly there were three highlights on this four day trip:

Tropicana: a Thai restaurant where I rediscovered the deliciousness of Sambal Bunchies. It's a dish of shrimp and green beans that is crazy good.

Shanghai Chinese Bistro: (on Alberni) A return for General Tsao's Chicken and sautéed snow pea shoots. Ka-yumbo.

Speaking of Yumbo, Ouisi's Bistro: (Granville and 16th) My first time here where they specialize in New Orleans cuisine. Although my pepper-encrusted chicken on beans and spanish rice was fantastic the House Sample Plate: Jerk Chicken, Gator Bites, and Louisiana Crab Cakes was the highlight.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Robson Arms Screening

I flew up to Vancouver this week to attend the cast and crew screening for Robson Arms Season II.

It was held at one of the theatres at the Paramount on Burrard and the place was packed. We screened the first three episodes: Ordinary Assholes by Karen MacLellan, Saultology by yours truly, and I Did Not Have Sex by Susin Nielsen.

The response was quiet and polite as we began but as the screening continued it was relief to hear what sounded, to my admittedly biased ears, like geniune laughter fill the screening room.

I'm not particularly objective about this, but I believe everybody was kind of surprised, even though they worked on the show, how different it was from the first season. And not to take anything away, but this season feels bolder, more confident, and frankly a lot funnier.

I think everybody raised their game. The directors, actors and writers took a lot more chances. We shot on HD and Kamal and the camera crew have made everything look great. The original songs by our "troubadours", these incredible musical summaries of the episodes, are tightly integrated into the show. By the end of the screening there was a real buzz through the theatre.

We still don't know when season two will hit the air, myself I've got my fingers crossed for a mid-season launch in January, but that's up to somebody working away in Toronto.

I'd been reading Denis McGrath's blog lately and can't help but wonder how many of his concerns about the state of canadian television are addressed in our production. More on that in another post.

In the meantime, I worry: How the show will be received by the audience? Will anyone even remember season one? Will they tune in? Will they love and appreciate the show... not because everybody worked so hard on it but because it's smart and funny and entertaining? That's been the goal.

Congratulations and thanks to everybody that worked on the show. I'm sorry to say that the job is only half done. Now we have to make sure, when it makes it to air, that everybody sees it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Robson Arms gets its first Gemini


We didn't hold out a lot of hope for the Geminis after we wound up only getting one nomination... but guess what?

Congrats to Mark McKinney for: Best Individual Performance in a Comedy Program or Series- Robson Arms Season 1 - Material Breach.



And congrats to New Brunswick's own Tony Sekulich who wrote the episode! Tony, my man!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

HOT FUZZ


Thanks to dave s. for sending me this link and this link to trailers for what I'm hoping will be the best thing to happen to cop movies since Shaun of the Dead happened to Zombie movies.

From the folks who brought you the fantastic SPACED.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Studio 60...

You know you've got this new girlfriend. And she's really smart, really funny and really pretty... but your friends all hate her.

Why?

Because she won't stop looking in the mirror and tossing her fucking hair!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Your favourite Television Scene



Callaghan has a post asking folks to nominate their favourite scene from a television show.

It didn't take me long to pick mine.

Star Trek: TNG Episode #118.

"Cause and Effect".

The teaser.

The Enterprise is sailing along when out of nowhere comes this ship. They try to turn, to push it away, it's no use. The Enterprise collides with the ship and explodes into a billion pieces.

Holy Shit!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Studio 60 and the Simpsons' Turn

One of the great things about the Simpsons is that you don't really know what any episode will be about until ten minutes in. You think it'll be about Marge and the new toll road, but it turns out to be about who Homer's real father might be. I call this: The Simpsons Turn and I think I just saw one on #104 of Studio 60.

I'm sure there are many better writers than me out there that saw the turn coming. But when I watch some shows the critical software turns off, and the act turn totally surprised me. There I was thinking, it was going to be about Matt and Harriet and knowing that he was going to see her and her new beau smooching, and wondering how Sorkin was going to make that fresh. Or it was going to be about Ricky and Ron and "the piece" and, what, were they gonna take credit for it? How were they going to try and turn this small success to their advantage?

Nope. With that act turn discovery, they made the episode gave our hero's their monkey paw wish: Ron and Ricky are offering to quit and Matt gets shaken out of his Harriet slump and is given a reason to concentrate on the show.

And not only that, the Turn actually gave the last piece of the show's theme puzzle-- what does it mean to call something "yours", and in doing so gave me a new way to think about writing About Something.

The show ended a little neatly for my taste but, I gotta say, Best Episode Yet.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

BattleStar Galactica this Saturday


Just a reminder, for those who need it. Season Three of BSG begins this Saturday, October 7th, on Space here in Canada.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Best Television of the last 25 years


Over at Scanners they're having a discussion about the best films of the last 25 years. Lots of great fodder for discussion.

But what about television?

I think there's a case to be made that we're entering a new age of great television. Over the past five years I think we've seen some of the best television ever... and, as it makes a kind of sense, some of the worst.

How 'bout it... what is your top TV pick from the last 25 years... Or your top five. Let's put this in a little perspective. 25 years ago tonight I could have been watching: One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, CHiPs... maybe looking forward to the ABC or NBC Sunday Night movie... A little later in the week my "must see TV" would include: WKRP, Mork and Mindy, Magnum PI, and that Saturday Night killer combo "The Love Boat" then, "Fantasy Island."

Canadian shows I'd watch during fall 1981? SCTV, for sure. The production values were getting really good and Martin Short was introducing all kinds of new characters to the show. This is the Law (the other quinessential canadian "game show" after Front Page Challenge). The Irish Rovers...what the hell? I wasn't a kid, but I definitely remember watching... and enjoying it! But not much in the way of "canadian drama." The King of Kensington...maybe... if I had to.

How's that for perspective.

That's the season where we begin. Let's start with the "best" or "most influential" or "favourite"... then we can follow up with the guilty pleasures, best canadian, etc.

For me, top ten. In no particular order:

Twin Peaks (season one)
Band of Brothers
Seinfeld (season four)
The Simpsons (season four)
Six Feet Under (season one)
Deadwood (season one)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The West Wing (season one)
The Office
Star Trek: TNG (season five)

And I haven't even got into Good Rockin' Tonight!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Is he having a laugh?"

I just saw Season II Episode One of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Extras. It was a surprise. I'm not sure if it's going to please people but I enjoyed it and it made me excited to think where the series might possibly go.

As a writer, particularly when you're thinking about spec script, you're always looking to break the spine of a series. How is every episode of a show the same as every other episode. And I think I'd argue it's usually the things that are consistent in the shows you like that keep you coming back. And when a show messes with that-- they've either run out of ideas, or they've changed the show-runner, or they've lost their minds.

Ricky Gervais has obviously lost his mind. And that's an exciting thing for me. Last season I knew what every episode of Extras was going to be about more or less: Ricky is stuck with an bit part in some big movie, he tries to make something bigger for himself, he gets smacked down. I thought this season was going to be more of the same... But if this season's first episode is any indication what the show is going to be about is very different. It's seems it's about what happens when we get what we say we want.

I'll save spoilers for the comments sections so people can avoid them if they want.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: The Protector

No.

Fancy Thoughts about Writin'

...and how I don't have any at the moment.

Funny thing how having to work on different phases of three "actual" projects dries up any fancy thinkin' I might have about writing, writers and the whole catastrophe.

It's nose to the grindstone time and I'm just trusting whatever "stuff" I have will just kick in without thinking about it. It's really important to avoid the centipede syndrome* now. My boss almost accidentally put a voodoo jinx on me this afternoon. We were sending notes back and forth about these outlines that were about to go to draft and she mentioned something about her process... and I said something about mine--- just before I was about to start writing my draft!

Bad Idea.

Usually going from outline to draft is a breeze for me... the draft is never particularly pretty but it's down there. And once it's down I figure I can make it beautiful any time I like.

I stared at my laptop for a half an hour.

Then a voice, that sounded eerily like my father said: "Okay Balzac, quit your screwing around." And I got to work.


*you know, where the guy asks the centipede: "How do manage to walk without tripping yourself up?" I'm not going to explain any further. Plus I think the whole thing was on a Facts of Life episode or something.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Other People's Writing

It's fall, a particularly dangerous time for writers of all sorts, but particularly television writers. We have a whack of work that's waiting on our to-do list. Outlines, beatsheets, one-sheets, first drafts, specs... they're all just sitting there waiting for us to finish while we download, read and watch OPW.

OPW... Other People's Writing.

It's the biggest obstacle I have to getting my own writing done. Lately it's been a sneak preview of that show everybody's been talking about... which is as good as everybody's says. And the last season of that show that everybody watched but still didn't get good ratings... which was as notsogoodasearlierseasons as everybody said. And that's just the television. There's movies, books and comics sitting in piles around my apartment. Calling me.

The summer is fading quick and there's a definite getting back to business vibe everywhere I look. Jim is writing a review of every movie at the TIFF, or so it seems. Will has posted a crazy Posto de la Gargantua about the State of the Industry, and Denis is back to his pre-summer blogging level. So that's it... I'm cutting myself off. No more extra-bonus-webisode-can't-miss-it procrastination. No more watching movies through twice (once with, once without commentary), no more special-featuring my boxed sets. Nope. I'm going Basic cable, kids. Spend a little more time trying to become somebody else's OPW.

Except on weekends... and holidays... and as a special reward for getting something done... like a blog post or something.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

BattleStar Galactica Webisodes not available in Canada, you say?... Pity.

Scifi is offering a series of webisodes leading up the the season opener on Oct 3rd. Trouble is, you can't see them from here and Space is offering nothing.

This can't be happening. Not on the Internet! And they look really good too!

It's happened where I've gone and found programming "unavailable in my area"-- but it never mattered before. This aggression will not stand. I know there's a geek out there that has probably already solved this injustice with some kind of IP spoofer or Internet Region Cloaking Device... right? A cloaking device?! No?

UPDATE: An anonymous friend has flipped us this URL and provided a convenient work around until the IRCD is invented. It was great to see Robson Arm's very own Alisen Down make an appearance in the second spot!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Feeding the Writer

One of the more enjoyable rituals after returning from a trip is: the restaurant debriefing. I sit with my pals, usually at some restaurant or other, and start listing the places I went and the things I ate.

The Marketplace: (Burrard and Nelson) I used to have breakfast "out" when away. And let me tell you I'm a breakfast fiend. I love bacon, eggs, toast, sausages, pancakes, hashbrown and a cup of tea almost better than any other meal. Sadly, I can only do that once a week nowadays, maybe twice. Instead, I left the Sutton Place and went next door to the Marketplace (for east-coasters it's like Sobeys only much smaller and much trendier). I got myself some milk and Raisin Bran and my breakfasts for the week were pretty well taken care of. [He wipes away a tear.]

SteamRollers: (Robson and Bute) When I was staying at the Sylvia on my first trip out three years ago, SteamRollers' steamy windows beckoned on those cool February evenings when I walked to and from our story meetings. But that first trip was heavy on itinerary and I didn't have a chance to go. But my next trip... and every trip after... For those of you who don't know what a SteamRoller is, their slogan isn't much help: "They're steamed...and rolled". Basically, it's a steamed burrito filled with rice, beans, meat, cheese, veggies and sauce, in endless variations. And hot sauce... Hot sauce which they can add on the burrito or you can take away in a little cup and drizzle into every bite. Oh, baby.

Royal Thai: (Robson and Bute) Right beside SteamRollers, is my favorite Thai place. This is usually the first place I stop after the hotel tells me my room isn't ready yet. The lunch specials are under $10 and delicious. Favorite dishes: Cashew Chicken, Garlic Beef and Brocolli, Hot and Spicy Prawns. I ate there twice this trip.

Shanghai Chinese Bistro: (Alberni?) Although it is deservedly famous for it's Dim Sum it's the General Chow's Chicken that keeps me coming back. Sweet and Spicy.

Kamei Royale: (Burrard and Alberni) I'm not a sushi aficionado so I can't really speak to the quality of the sushi here (although the people I was with liked it) I did enjoy the tempura shrimp and veggies and the noodle soup. The Chicken Teryaki didn't do it for me though.

Earl's: Earl's is a big chain out west. It's a nice-looking restaurant staffed with pretty girls and boys and serves fancy pub food. I had the Jeeri Curry. It was all right.

Savory Coast: (Robson) My first visit to this place. The location is great and it has a very nice patio area that overlooks Robson. It's moderately priced (especially when compared with the delicious but expensive Cin Cin across the street). The people I was eating with all ordered salads which led to my declaration: "I didn't travel all the way across this country to have a freaking salad!" I got the peppercorn steak and garlic mashed which was tastey... and/but in european portions.

Subway: On our last day, we started out feeling cocky. We broke two stories by lunch the day before and thought we had this last one sewn up. But lunch time came and went and we didn't get past our act one turn. It's wasn't pretty. The boss went out to Subway and brought back a couple of subs for everybody (I had the Cold Cut Combo) and some cookies. They were good, but didn't help. Eventually, the four of us went for a walk and just dumped the story we were working on and picked up one that was just mentioned in passing the day before. By the time we got back to the room, we had the story mostly broken down. Le phew.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pre-pre-pre Production

My brain is squeezed.

Today we had our first meeting about possible story lines for the possible third season of Robson Arms. It's funny how something so indefinite can begin to take shape with such determination. Maybe it's just where my head is at right now, but it feels like that it's an entity that exists, somehow, independent of the six of us in the room... And it wants to live!

I have no idea how my brain will refill itself by tomorrow. My hope is that tea, mindless television and a good night's sleep will do the trick.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dirty Purple

This probably old news to people who go to the malls and check out the latest fashions...

But it was apparent to me , while I was walking through a shopping centre off Robson Street today, that the International Designer Conspiracy, the cabal that determines what Everybody Will be Wearing Next Year, decided sometime last year that everybody will be wearing some shade of dirty purple this fall.

The good news though... that it seems like that purple goes nicely with all those browns you've been buying for the last year or so.

Horray!

UPDATE: My observations seemed to be confirmed by both CNN and Breakfast Television this morning. Within five minutes of one another both commented on the presence of purple on the red carpet at last night's Emmy Awards.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What Writers Wear Writing: Confessions

Okay!

Now we're cooking with an efficient, non-polluting, renewable resource!

The "What Writers Wear: a survey" post provoked a crazy and unprecedented response. And I knew when I posted it that this post would shortly follow.

Writers: what do you wear writing?

Forget the penny loafers and the tweed jacket with the patches on the elbows and the little hash burns on the lapels that you toss on when you step out. What have you got on when you're scribbling your play on the yellow pad, typing up your novel on the old Smith-Corona, dancing your fingers across your laptop's keyboard as you pump out quality television programming? -- if anything at all!

Tell all; omit no detail however stained, worn, or sophisticated in aroma.

Since I do most of my writing when I literally first get out of bed, I'm not wearing much. Sometimes my Stanfield's and a t-shirt-- usually picked up off the floor where I dropped them the night before.

Lately I've been wearing one of those wrap around things fat guys wear in Bali. It took a long time for me to work up the courage to get one but I got tired of using a towel and pretending I was Yul Brynner's younger, bigger-boned, brother. So I got this very manly one; it's a black and gold number that I just slap on when I stumble over to the kitchen for my Raisin Bran and fire up the computer... I'm lovin' it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What writers wear: A survey


It's the end of August and that means a trip to Mark's so that I can be properly attired when I arrive in Vancouver this weekend for the super top secret plans for Robson Arms Season III. Coming to you in 2008... or not.

So what does a well-dressed writer wear? I have no idea.

Josh Friedman has an hilarious description of his wardrobe, and if it's only half-true it's scary. Scary because it rings so true.

Now me, I'm no Hollywood bigwig screenwriter who can afford your fancy Beverly Hills tracksuit that the high rollers like Mr. Friedman don. Nope. I'm a Mark's Work Wearhouse guy. I got a pair of these nylon skater shorts that older, fatter guys who want to be cool wear. I've worn them so much this year they're transparent. I've gone back to Mark's countless times to find me more of these exact shorts-- no luck. There will be a ritual burning of what's left of them this fall.

I'd turn to the story department of Robson Arms for inspiration but it's mostly girls. Jesse McKeown drops in from time to time with a signature cap or toque hanging at some jaunty angle but after returning from India he's as thin as a PEI phone book so that's no good. The rest of the writing department is either a fitted Ironhead Tee with Lululemon casual pants and a jacket or a homemade knit sweater over a pair of capri jeans and some funky boots.

So... what am I to do? I need a "look" before I head back to the big city. Denis, what are you wearing to your Across the River story meetings in TO? Alex, I'd love to hear what the well-dressed Montreal screenwriter with a box office record breaking film has on as he strolls down St. Laurent. Jane, you of the bright and bold sweaters, can you tell us what Andy and the rest of the boys are wearing as you break one story after another? Diane, you're chatting with a lot of writers... who's wearing what?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jr. Scientist Procrastination Kit

I'm a big astronomy buff. So I was totally suckered when my sister sent me a link to the Stardust@Home project.

No more silly blogs, or time-wasting movie trailer. No, I'm afraid I'm too busy making a contribution dude! With the Stardust@Home project people like you and me can actually help out with the grunt work of a real astronomical project. It's a collaboration "consisting of thousands of volunteers all over the world, and professional scientists at U. C. Berkeley and NASA/JSC."

Basically, after a brief tutorial, you examine a series of slides of Aerogel under a "virtual microscope" looking for dust that was picked up by collectors on the tiny spaceship Stardust. (I'm not kidding) On its seven year journey through the solar system it flew around, flew behind Comet Wild 2's coma, picked up some interstellar dust... This is seriously cool, if slightly geeky, stuff.

So if you're looking for a new and useful way to waste your time, get your lab coat on and check it out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Interview with Espenson

Buffy writer Jane Espenson (who has a terrific blog of her own) offers a lot of great advice and insights on television writing in general and writing TV spec in particular in this interview on Popgurls.com.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

If it's not broke...break it.

It's weird how all the screenwriting books and magazines and podcasts are the worst kind of procrastination tools for writers. Man, if we're trying to avoid writing there's nothing better.

The irony is they may serve you best when you're actually working on something.

An example: I'm working on a rewrite of a feature and like a good boy I've been trying to avoid buying and reading the latest issues of the usual magazines. Trying to stay away from the usual websites. Keep away from my iPod.

I need to be strict with myself. Why? Things like: I once took a whole week off work because I convinced myself I had to watch the first three seasons of Buffy-- all at once. I mean, it made my dialogue very Weldonesque for a while but really.

The thing is when I'm actually working on something-- maybe that's the best time to be getting ideas from other writers. Today I had to take a longish drive out of town so I decided to take my iPod and listen to an old Creative Screenwriting Podcast with James Mangold talking about I Walk The Line.

Mangold was sharing a story about the trouble with shooting the musical numbers-- about needing to have a problem in every musical number. To make it not just be about the music. To have drama in the scene.

Insert awakening metaphor here.

It was just the reminder I needed. I find sometimes I wraps things up too early. I resolve problems between characters too soon. Maybe it's because I'm a middle child and have a natural tendency to play the peacemaker... But having the couple make up, or the bully get his comeuppance, or Indy find the Ark of the Convenant, before they absolutely have to is a mistake.

The reason the story goes on is because something isn't right, or unresolved, or broke. And once it's fixed whether you have 2 pages left or twenty-- your story is done.

So resist your natural and wholesome urge to fix things. Indulge your unnatural and evil urge to prolong the suffering of your characters until the last possible moment.

And save all those magazines, books and podcasts until you're actually working on something.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The God Who May Be


I don't know how many of you are radio fans, and of you radio fans, how many are CBC fans, and of you CBC fans how many are Ideas fans, and of you Ideas fan how many of you heard the third part of the program "The God Who May Be" last night. But it was very interesting. I can't encapsule all the issues touched on but here's the blurb from the CBC website:

It was a modern axiom that philosophy and religion should be strangers, the one relying on reason the other on revelation. But, as the limits of both reason and revelation have become clearer, a new conversation has begun, and Irish philosopher Richard Kearney has been one of its leaders. In a three-part conversation with David Cayley, he talks about his philosophy of the imagination and his book, The God Who May Be.


Of particular interest to writers was Kearney's journey from the roots of Irish literature to reality television to the monsters of imagination in Post 9/11 world culture. Some of which came, I believe, from another of his book: Strangers, Gods and Monsters

I can only hope that the program eventually comes up on the Ideas podcast... if not I'll just have to get the books.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Overheard in Charlottetown

How come nobody ever told me about this awesome blog? The thing I like best: it delivers what it promises. A bunch of expressions, snatches of conversations, bits of dialogue overheard. But, to be fair, there's some from out of town too.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: The Descent.


Yes. If you've already seen the film, I recommend reading Jim Emerson's thoughtful review as well as his thoughts on non-cinematic inspiration for and from the film.

Sci-fi Fans... stay tuned.

Great Idea. From the Futon Critic, comes news of a new "Masters of..." series. First there was a "Masters of Horror" shot in Vancouver. Now, from the same producers, I believe, a "Masters of Science Fiction" series is in the works. From the site:

Acclaimed physicist Professor Stephen Hawking will introduce each episode. Award-winning director Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond, The River, The Rose) and writer/director Michael Tolkin (The Player, The Rapture, The Burning Season) directed the first two episodes. Directors for the subsequent four episodes include Harold Becker (Sea of Love, Malice, Mercury Rising), Darnell Martin (Their Eyes Were Watching God, I Like It Like That), Michael Petroni (Til Human Voices Wake Us, Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Voyager, Roswell).


Among the other "masters": works by or based on the venerable Harlan Ellison, and Robert Heinlein.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Great Transitions Part II

In Great Transitions Part I was yakking about what I thought were great story turns that were held within a Cut. In the interest of expanding the idea of what a Transition is, or might be, thought I'd mention what I believe to be a couple of great story transition... but these turns are held within a character.

The best place to look for them in film is around the end of the "second act" where a characters world is turned figuratively or literally upside down.


The first one that popped in my head was the famous "my daughter... my sister" scene from Chinatown. Jake, our hero, reacts with violence at what his brain just cannot comprehend. Evelyn asks if he can understand..."or that just too much for you." It is.


The second scene that came to mind was a scene from another Kubrick film: The Shining. Nope. Not the "Here's Johnny" scene. But the scene just before it. Shelley Duvall comes into the room where her husband Jack has been spending months isolated from the world "working on his novel." When she trespasses into his work space she leaves behind any hopes she might have held, or delusions she might still be clinging on to. She reads the words of her husband's book and her life is destroyed forever.

These moments don't have to be filled with terror though. There's a great moment of transition for Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.

For the first half of the film they are convinced that Atticus, their father, is about the most boring man in town. Then the day comes when a rabid dog comes into the neighbourhood and the Sheriff calls for Atticus to come from his law offices to shoot it. Atticus aims, takes off his glasses and throws them to the ground and brings the sick animal down in one shot.

His children are amazed. They didn't realize their soft spoken father was "the best shot in the county." Their world isn't what they thought it was.

It's a great scene that foreshadows the climax of the film, when Boo Radley comes to save Scout and Jem from a mad dog of an entirely different sort.

What about you... Any great character transition from films that haunt you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

And it reads so much sexier!

In backtracking some of the visitors to Don't Feed the Writer. I discovered my entire blog-- translated into french!

Pour service en français, clickez.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: Miami Vice


Directing: Yes.
Writing: No.
Overall: No.

BSG Season Three Update

I don't know how many among you are BattleStar Galactica fans, I only know you all should be!

BSG re-imaginer Ronald D. Moore (writer: Star Trek TNG, and creator: Carnivale) has updated his series blog, with many hints about the upcoming season.

A PEI connection: Our very own Lauren Walker is rumoured to be working in the costume department.

And with one post Dwight Schrute brings all my favorite worlds together.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Taste of Fall


Summer's not over yet, but the taste of fall is in the air. And from where I'm sittin' the cool fall will be a welcome change from the muggy summer. I'm talkin' movie shows. It looks like this fall is shaping up very nicely so far with at least two must see film. James Ellroy's Black Dahlia directed by Brian DePalma (I know, I know, but the trailer is looking more like The Untouchables DePalma and not Raising Cain DePalma) and the remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, entitled The Departed. It's directed by Martin Scorcese with a huge cast. And because we're all hot about the writers on this blog it's interesting to note that Black Dahlia was written by Josh Friedman whose blog, though only updated sporatically is definitely worth checking out. The Departed is written by Kingdom of Heaven scribe, William Monahan.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Great Transitions Part I

A recent comment by Hamish reminded me of a conversation we had had when he was visiting the Island a couple of weeks ago. I was mentioning something I heard Stephen Gaghan attribute to the russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.

I'm para-phrasing here, but Gaghan, while he was being interviewed for the Creative Screenwriting Podcast about his film Syriana, said Tolstoy listed the four most important elements for writing a novel: 1. Transitions 2. Context 3. Character and last (and, in the self-styled-anti-mckee-Gaghan's opinion, least) 4. Story.

There's a whole post and a half waiting about that list but I thought instead we could talk about Great Transitions. I'm not sure that this is what Gaghan (or Tolstoy) was talking about but for the purposes of this post I'll keep my comments to what I think are some Great Transitions in Film.

The two kinds of Transitions I was thinking of were: 1. Great edits. Where the cut of the film took us from one world into another. 2. Great Transitions of Story/Character, moments of a film where the characters world turns upside down... sometimes literally.

For today I just want to mention a couple of my favorite edits.

In the first category, my two suggestions might be a little Film School 101 but I remember being blown away by two cuts the first from Lean's Lawerence of Arabia.
Lawrence puts out a match with his fingers. Then shows another soldier how he does it. The soldier is burned:

William Potter: Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.


And soon after comes the great moment where the flame of the struck match is blown out into the burning desert sun. It's a powerful cut that literally drags us through time and space, and introduces the central motif of the flame of a man's spirit and life tied to the burning desert sun, a man who will literally light the fuse of an entire culture.

The second Great Transition is from Stanley Kubrick. The jump of thousands of years with the toss of a bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The cut from bone to space station introduces the idea of how closely the evolution of our species is tied to the evolution of our technology and sets up the journey of where there evolution maybe leading us.

I'll post in a couple of days about some thoughts from the second category of Great Transitions.

If you'd like to email me some suggestions with or without links to an appropriate pic I'd be happy to post it. Contact info is just on the side thingy there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lady in the Water: Story must be attacked


I was having a great chat with my buddy Jason at work this morning. We were comparing notes on the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, Lady in the Water. He despised it with a passion that surprised me, while I who had his expectations systematically lowered by advanced word of mouth didn't.

I mean, there was great badness, but not much greater badness of story writing than I endured through Superman Returns, X-men III, and PoCII.

I think I can help though.

Seriously.

I think I see what Shyamalan's problem is: it's the central premise of his film. "Story must be protected!" But anyone who has done any writing at all knows: Story must be attacked.

Spoilers ahead.

Forget the missed opportunities of Lady in the Water, the film that could have been where characters discover that they are in a bedtime story and what that means to be a slave of narrative... and what kind of Pirendello adventure that might have been.

As is, the Lady, named Story, comes looking for a Writer. Story is a fragile thing... naked and vunerable, barely a whisp. If Story can find the Writer, the Writer can be Inspired, and through Story, share some Deep Knowledge that can Change the World.

As subtle as a brick to the nose but that's okay. It sets up the stakes, gives our characters some needs. All I'm saying is that there are worse places to start.

The trouble is M. Night does stay true to his metaphor. The film is all about our heroes trying to protect Story from the Wolves long enough that she can get her job done. But writing isn't about protecting fragile story. I mean, that could be an interesting beginning. Seeing Story under seige by all these apparently malevolent forces. And the first reaction is a defensive one. Protect the story... then it would have been interesting, and more truthful I think, to have the people realize the truth.

For Story to survive it must be attacked. Loved and nutured too, for sure, especially in its early stages, but to last? To live? The writer will have to turn on his Story.

The Writer isn't some Warrior Eunch assigned by fate to protect Story's virtue. The Writer must seduce the story, get to know it better than anyone else could. And then... please forgive the x-rated analogy but as far as Story goes, the Writer's gotta fill every hole. And please forgive me again as I say: the Writer services Story best when his love is hard.

The lesson of the Script-doctor--uhm... I mean, Healer-- isn't some atonement for letting down some old story in the past. The lesson for the Healer is that there is only one terrible thing you can do to protect Story. And that is to give her to the wolves and allow her to be torn apart.

To watch as her every fault and weakness, however beautiful, ethereal or pure is consumed and destroyed. Leaving only Story's heart untouched.


And when the Writer puts her back together again she may be changed, but she will be better, stronger, and more beautiful.

That's the Story that I'd tell anyway.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Speaking of context...

If you haven't caught the link to the Vader Sessions, check it out. It's an hilarious mashup of Darth Vader and the voice of James Earl Jones. The editors have used dialogue from movies throughout his career to... give a new spin to some old scenes, baby. It's worth it to stick around for the "dial spinning" near the end.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Emotion Delivery Engineer: Part One

The more I read, the more I watch, the more I write, the more I understand that storytelling, in any genre, is about the delivery of emotions. When you pick up a book or go to a movie, see a play, listen to your grandma, you are doing so with the expectation of feeling something. You want an emotional ride.

You ask the storyteller to throw you into misery to make you laugh, into confusion help you make sense, into terror to let you feel relief, into the lives of the alienated so that you might feel connected. If these expectations aren't fulfilled you feel unsatisfied. Comedy's gotta make you laugh and horror's gotta make you feel scared or you feel cheated.

For writers and performers it can make for difficult times especially when you decide to bend or blend genres, or shift tone within a piece.

The first time I remember this happening to me was while I was a teenager watching Jimmy Stewart in No Time for Comedy on some CBC afternoon movie or something. The first half of the movie played like a Frank Kapra comedy, fun and quirky... then at the halfway point of the movie, it became a drama. And it kinda makes sense the screenwriter was one of the writers on Casablanca... and Arsenic and Old Lace. Two great films... one weird mash up.

The experience was interesting... but I wouldn't call it enjoyable.

I find I'm learning a lot about craft by looking at the reasons I look forward to or enjoy particular books or movies. Why do I keep going back to the same writers, the same directors, the same books, the same movies again and again.

I suggest we're looking for the creation or repetition of a feeling... a satisfying emotional experience. I think this is why certain authors and filmmakers become brands. You know what you're going to get if you pick up a Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood, Bernard Cornwell, Nick Hornby; see a film by Kapra, Kurasawa or the Coen brothers; just as sure as you know what you're going to get if you watch The Simpsons, Deadwood, Frasier, or Felicity (okay, I don't know about Felicity but I bet the people that liked it... liked it.)

I'm saying there's something more than style. There's a feeling you want to have when you experience a story that has nothing to do with special effects or movie stars but has to do with fulfilling the emotional need of the audience.

The writer's job is, through story, to deliver it.

Why I'm glad the world isn't HBO (revised)

I was out for my evening walk (that I say is for fresh air but is really to avoid writing work) last night. When I stumbled upon several of the boys from Sketch22 sitting down and having a beer. Sketch22, for those who may not know is a sketch comedy group... a troupe... gang... here in Charlottetown. They are enjoying their third summer of fairly large and often sold out houses, but aren't without controversy. It doesn't seem to bother most of them.

Anyway, after they were gracious enough to invite me to join them, conversation turned to the shows everybody's been watching and in particular HBO's very fine Deadwood. Now not everybody had seen it, some had been meaning to watch it, some had only watched season one, some season two, and a couple of us have been enjoying season three, but we all agreed what a fine show it was and what a shame that HBO wasn't going to let them do a fourth season. But that HBO had a lot of fine programming.

This led to one of the guys to say: "Man, their shows are so awesome. They can say anything they want, they can show anything they want! I wish the world was HBO!"

And for some reason this got me all squawky. I started talking about how that's crazy talk and I don't want HBO programming all over. That I wanted HBO to stay on HBO, and many other things I just didn't believe.

It took me a day of rolling my eyes at myself, and working on another post about "branding" and story-telling (coming soon) to figure out what set me off.

It seemed to me that HBO was somehow being equated with freedom of artistic expression. Instead of a brand that stands for a particular kind of programming. Which led me to wonder: is showing sex and violence and using strong language freedom of expression when you HAVE to show sex and voilence and use strong language?

I would argue: It's not freedom, it's HBO.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Trailer for the new Michel Gondry film.

Can't wait! It's got the homemade quality of so much of his work: dream sequences like his Chemical Brothers video, the Giant Hands of his Everlong video, the helpless romance of Eternal Sunshine... plus the sexy french accents. Boni Plus!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Dark Night of the Soul... or an Early Riser?

I gotta stop this. There's something very "reading someone else's diary" about these statistics. And don't think for a moment I'm not aware of my own narcissism in this whole thing too. This is not about my short-comings. It's about some poor Islander up at 4am Saturday morning with nothing better to do than drop in and read and little "Don't Feed the Writer."

I should totally craigslist-pei this in "missed connections"...

me: self-absorbed blogger with a thing for stats... you: late-to-bedder (or early-to-riser?) looking for something to read... you didn't leave a comment.


in fact...I'm going to post that right now. get the old craigslist-pei going.

But seriously. I'm curious. were you bored? couldn't sleep? stumbling home drunk and wanted to see if I was any funnier when you were loaded? Did you wake up screaming and need to mellow out? Let me know... I'm worried.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Best Writing Lesson I Ever Got: Part One

It's been a tough couple months for the Yes/No movie reviews. When I started them, it seemed like an ingenious (ie easy) way to pop out some quick content for the website. I would see a film or show, read a book, catch some theatre and I'd just say "Yes" or " No." "Go" or "Don't Go."

What could be easier.

And for awhile it was. United 93 was a fantastic film, (the best film I've seen so far this year). An easy "Yes".

X-men III
came out and maybe other people liked it more, but I thought it was a mess: simple "No."

But it got a lot tougher... I took flack from friends and strangers alike about my "Yes" on Nacho Libre. Sure I was disappointed, I knew there was no way the film could live up to the trailer, I heard rumours of bad reviews, my expectations were suitably lowered when I went to the theatre... and I still laughed my butt off. How much is a laugh worth? I'd happily pay a buck for a good solid laugh. I got my money's worth from Nacho and stand by my positive.

But then.... the second wave of summer blockbusters comes.... Superman Returns was Superman: The Movie Redux. I was enjoying it from the opening credits... and I'm going: I get it, just like the first movie, only a little updated... (I should have known then what was in store). Brandon Routh did a great Christopher Reeves imitation. Parker Posey was an interesting Miss Tessmacher... but the movie stopped holding my interest about half way through.

Pirates of the Caribbean: II
followed shortly thereafter. It had like five movies stuffed into one there was so much action, so many subplots... trouble was they never got around to finishing any of them... unsatisfying.

And big budget films haven't been the only ones to leave me wanting more. I saw The Notorious Bettie Page this past week at City Cinema. The subject matter was interesting, the presentation fun but about two-thirds the way through... whatever was interesting in the story Mary Harron, et al. were telling was done. It kinda just eventually rolled to a stop.

This is an unfortunate situation. How could I possibly tell my school-age self to give Superman or Pirates a miss because it was "unsatisfying"? There was still a lot to enjoy in both films. Why should people miss Gretchen Mol's terrific performance or the interesting conversations that arise from the issues that surround Betty Page just because the movie peters out... so to speak.

All this to come around to one of the best writing lessons I ever got.

I was having lunch with Mike Clattenburg at Churchill Arms one day. What? Is that too name-drop-y? So how 'bout... I was having lunch with Mike Clattenburg in this pub/restaurant in Charlottetown.... Okay fine, I was having lunch with this guy who directed of what I predict will be the biggest grossing canadian feature film ever) and I was telling him about this feature I was working on and started in on the standard pitch. He stopped me...

"Just tell me the last big scene"

Huh?

"Just tell me what happens the in climax scene, tell me everything that's going on!"

Uhm.

Yeah. It wasn't a show stopper... but it was a pitch stopper. My ending wasn't a bang but a whimper. I stuttered a little bit about "context" and "performance-based"... but I wasn't a fast enough talker to convince myself (or Mike) that the ending was anything but unsatisfying in every way.

But, you know, it makes working on scripts a lot easier now. I just make sure I ask myself: "How does it end?"

Writers, myself included, spend so much time on the first couple scenes of their script... as they should. But on behalf of movie lovers everywhere I beg you, please spend just as much time on the ending!

Speaking of which... Mr. Clattenburg, sir... I'll be watching!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Giving the people what they want...

...which, apparently for people visiting this site is: more Alisen Down!



All right. I confess, I do keep an eye on the statistics about visitors to the site. I get a kick out of seeing where people come from, what's brought them here... how long (or short) they stay. Do I do it obsessively? I don't think so... define "obsessively". Fine, it's obsessive. Moving on.

Okay... so I was talking about the cool things the statistics tell me. And let me tell you, if Alisen Down was a stock... I'd be buying. I've mentioned the lovely Ms. Down a couple times in passing. She's the subject of one of the posts. And I get more hits from Alisen's Official Fan Site, which was sweet enough to link to the post (thank you Alisen's Official Fan Site) than any other site, but even more telling, there is a daily stream of people from all over the world visiting the site after having Googled her.

And it's not just a couple folks in BC specifically, or Canada generally, of which there are many... or the United States, of which there are quite a lot more! There are people from Brazil, Australia, Belgium, the UK, Argentina, Spain... Chile!

I mean, holy smokes!

So, in the interest of giving the people what they want... because all of these Alisen Down fans can't be wrong... here's a Don't Feed the Writer Alisen Down Exclusive-- you will not get this information anywhere else!

1. Alisen Down is taller than you think.... though it might be the heels she sometimes wears.

2. Alisen Down's dad seems like a nice guy. I met him briefly, he told a joke and appeared proud as he could be about his girl.

3. Alisen Down loves aniimals. Especially funny looking dogs.... Okay, I'm making a generalization here, but I'd bet if you had a dog with a bit of character, she'd make a bit of a deal over him.

4. Alisen Down is a good dancer. And not just on screen (where she dances fantastically) but also in real life. I know because I danced with her. That's right suckers! She moved her arms and legs and everything... Okay maybe I didn't dance with her but definitely beside her.

So. There you go Alisen Down fans. That's about all I've got. I just hope Alisen will forgive me for giving out this totally awesome, exclusive, inside stuff.

eTalk Daily consider yourself scooped!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"So when was it on?"

Listen, I know we're all very busy people now-a-days. What with careers, family, DVD box sets and the internet and all. But there's no excuses anymore, people.

It used to be, as a viewer of fine Canadian programming, you had rely on rumour and innuendo, scan the trades, watch the skies, and hope for a sign. When the first season of Robson Arms was aired the scheduling was a little... quirky. There were several email blitzes to family and friends to remind them when the show was on... and which network. Not to mention how many shows are advertised here in the AST provinces at EST hours. Not helpful. The troubles multipled when some episodes were aired a second time last winter.

And like most writers of Canadian Television I am mostly an avid watcher of Canadian Television. But I have to admit that even though I'm a guy with something at stake in the industry I find it hard to keep track of shows. And it's not just one network... Rick Mercer's Monday Report moved to Tuesday. (I know, I know, I'll get over it one day) Alice, I think; is on Fridays on Comedy... but also Sundays on CTV or visa versa. Falcon Beach was on Wednesday and Saturdays on Global... but it was the same episode... and I honestly can't remember when the hell Billable Hours is on. I can see where people could get confused.

Well no longer.

A couple of well-informed bloggers have put together a website about the whens and wheres of Canadian Television Programming. On the site is a list of all canadian shows that are on the air, episode synopses and schedules. You can even sign up to have email alerts of your favourite shows sent to you.

The site is still in it's early days so my long term expectations are being kept in check but I'm sincerely grateful to the people behind it. I hope the industry gets behind this grass roots site... and that it lasts long after the second season of Robson Arms get to air.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Yoink!

I've been pulling my hair out for the last two months over a particular writing assignment and Ms. Jane Espensen shows the way!

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: Superman Returns


Yes. (but i'm not happy about it)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Opening Shots


Jim Emerson's fine blog is giving away top secret stuff.

In a recent post he offered an Opening Shot Pop Quiz where he highlighted several opening stills from some famous... and not so famous films. He discusses how in many fine films the whole movie is contained in the opening shot.

This is particularly interesting to me because I was discussing this very thing with a couple of writer friends a short time ago for some television scripts we were working on. Except we didn't go so far as shots (it's still considered bad taste for the writer to offer up specific shots); we talked about our opening scenes and how, in whatever way we could, to make that scene somehow contain the whole episode.

Although it's something I try to do in all my film and television writing, it's rare that I have that scene in my first draft. Mostly because I often don't know what the hell the episode is about before I start... I know what it's "about" I just don't know what it's "about about." And if the scene is in there, it's probably really obvious and I'll have to spend time in subsquent drafts trying to make it not so "on the nose." One way I do that is by giving the job to supporting characters in the episode.

I'm trying to remember the first time that I was aware of it being done. I think it was the third or fourth time I watched The Godfather: Part One. It opens in this dark room and there's this man with a thick italian accent making an impassioned speech about being an American. How he's never wanted trouble... but his family has been harmed and he can't get justice from the police... so he turns to Vito Corleone to get justice for his family. It's a magnificent scene, and it contains the movie. This secondary character reflects the journey of the film's protagonist, Michael, from Proud American to reluctant Defender of his Family after the police fail to protect his father.

Hitchcock was also famous for doing this in many of his films. In the opening of Rear Window, for example, we see in a single panning shot who our hero is and the problem he's going to have to solve during the course of the film. (And it's not catching Raymond Burr!)

It's something that I watch for all the time now, and when I see it done well, I feel I can settle back and enjoy the show knowing that I am in good hands.

How 'bout you? Can you think of any of your favorite films or shows using this technique?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Casting your Life

My pal Rob, AKA The Annekenstein Monster recently posted a fun little diversion. Here's my variation on his game. Cast your life from specific characters in specific movies, not some idealized dream cast of family and friends... but cast them as closely as possible...including yourself, at this particular moment in your life. Add and subtract people as you see fit. For example, for our hero, the cast of his life might look something like this:

Dave: Paul Giamati in "Sideways"
Mom: Ruth Gordon in "Harold and Maude"
Dad: Darren McGavin in "A Christmas Story"
Sister #1 Emma Thompson in "Sense and Sensibility"
Sister #2 Joan Cusack in "Broadcast News"
Sister #3 Oprah Winfrey in "The Colour Purple"
Brother Nicolas Cage as Donald Kaufman in "Adaptation"
Friend #1 Philip Seymour Hoffman in "State and Main"
Friend #2 Donald Sutherland in "Murder by Decree"
Co-worker: Bonnie Hunt in "The Bonnie Hunt Show"
Co-worker: Topher Grace in "That 70's Show"

I could see where anonymity might be desired... but it kinda takes the fun out too.

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

Yes.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Podcast with James Dunnison and Brian Hamilton



Tonight director James Dunnison and I were interviewed by Robson Arms producer, Brian Hamilton. It was an appropriate way to spend my last night in Vancouver. We were at Taylor Manor as the second unit shot the last couple shots of the season and was the last thing on my To-Do list for Robson Arms Season II.

I hope our geniune appreciation for one another's work doesn't come across as self-congratulations. One wants to be enthusiastic and sincere when speaking about these things but I'd be mortified if it came across as immodest. Every one I know associated with the show is feeling proud about the work we've done, but we're all waiting and hoping... and praying that the audience is going to enjoy it. And it's driving us crazy that we'll not know that for another six months-- or more!

I fly back to Charlottetown tomorrow morning and am now officially out of excuses to keep me from the work piling up on my desk back on the Island.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's a wrap... Part Two.

No... the show is still wrapped, that hasn't changed. Except... that's not entirely accurate. While it's true the actors are gone and the make-up people have packed up their trowels and brushes, and the directors and (some of the) writers are spending the day trying on dresses, getting their hair done or shopping for souvenirs, there is still, at this very moment, a band of intrepid film makers: a producer, a director, a DOP, a couple of camera, gaffer and grip types who are hard at work shooting pick ups and establishing shots and all the minutiae that somehow fell between the cracks while primary photography was going on.

They are The Second Unit... think of the A-Team... only tougher. Many of this crew were working (in addition to the 12hourday5dayweek (Saturdays and Sundays when the rest of us were in rolling around in bed complaining how tired we were.

It's all the more impressive that they are shooting today after the exciting day we had yesterday.

It began early, at the corner of Burrard and Pender right in the middle of downtown. Peter and Susan, our locations people, managed to get a great office building and plaza to shoot a big musical number that will be prominently featured in the next season. There were lights, choreography, music playback and something like 50 extras. The circus, (the place where all the performers’ trailers and the catering truck are) was about two blocks away so there was a constant flow back and forth between it and the four locations nearby.

Having so many factors to consider there was something bound to go wrong... and it did. But what makes it all the more incredible to me... is that they actually planned for something unforseen to go wrong and we prepared for whatever unexpected thing to go wrong did... what the hell?

In this case we lost an hour or more to this major air conditioning unit from an adjacent building that choose this one scene-- the only scene with synched dialogue in our entire day-- to do whatever it is that air conditioning systems for fifty story office towers do. It made filming in the location impossible.

What did we do? And by we, I mean not me (who stood there holding a box of belts-- another story for another time) but I mean these teams of men and women in tank tops and khaki shorts who literally erased any trace of our presence in that place and set us up inside in a location for which they had planned, in case it rained, or snowed, or the neighbouring office tower decided to start snoring.

So while that was being set up we (and by we I mean not me, but an entirely different team of men and women in tank tops and khaki shorts) set up other shots, originally slated for later in the day. So our last shot of the day was actually second last and our third last shot was actually the last.

When the last shot of the day was done there was much cheering and clapping. There were plenty of hugs both sincere and showbiz in nature, and a couple of tears, which seemed entirely genuine.

I missed the wrap last year, and I'm glad I came back these last few weeks for this one. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and family. And I'm glad to say, even though like any family there are occasional arguments and hurt feelings, it's not a dysfunctional one. It's a family that works very hard together and takes pride in one another's accomplishments.

At least it looks that way from where I sit. I’m feeling very excited about the show this year, and I think our pride isn’t immodest but earned.

I guess we’ll see in six months or so.

It's a wrap.

The last day of shooting today. I left the bed and breakfast at 6:45am and returned at 11:10pm.
A long but good day. Tomorrow will be filled with writing thank you notes, and eventually, the Wrap Party.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Podcasting with Alisen Down


I can't imagine a much gentler introduction to the world of "celebrity interviewing" than interviewing Alisen Down. I got my chance to interview the very sweet and gracious Alisen in her trailer on location last Friday. As some of you may know Alisen is a very sincere lover of all furry beasts, while I have a soft spot for women who are fighting Cylons one minute and neurotic chain-smokers the next, so we got just fine. The theme of the inteview centred around Alisen's character on Robson Arms, Sault.

We talked about the origins of the character in the Robson Arms writer's room in 2003 and how Sault (and Alisen's performance) has evolved over the last two seasons. It was interesting to note how the acting and the writing keep informing each other and pushing the character on to new levels... at least that was my take on it. The talented Ms. Down talked, among other things, about being involved in the series' first chase scene... and its first musical number.

Try as I might I couldn't weasel any information out of her about Season Three of the new BattleStar Galactica.

The podcast will be posted on the Robson Arms site once the second season begins to air. Other podcasts include interviews with producers, directors, actors from the series. Next week, James Dunnison and I will be interviewed about "Daughter of Frankenstein" an episode I wrote and he directed.

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: A Prairie Home Companion


No.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Location, Location, Location.



Yesterday was a wrap on Taylor Manor. It's a former seniors home and girls' reform school which is now home to the main set of Robson Arms. And, until yesterday, we did the majority of our shooting there.

Today we moved out into the city and began our "location block" of shooting. Over the next week, we'll be like unwelcome guests hopping from one place to another, transforming them to our needs. Today we were on the BCIT campus and created a Fringe Theatre out of a TV studio, a 12 Step Program meeting place out of an empty class room and a Boiler room out of... a Boiler Room. That was actually much harder than it sounds.

Today was the day when you could really feel the end of the shoot approaching. Whenever one of the main characters of the series is finished their scenes for the season they're "wrapped" which involves much hooting, hand-clapping and back-slapping. Today Laura Bertram, AJ MacKenzie, Peter Deluise and John Cassini were all wrapped.

I was able to catch a lift with James Genn and sneak back to my bed and breakfast to get some more writing done for the website before the end of shooting today... but it was still 7:30pm before I got back. I can't help but think of the crew that has been working 12 hour days for the last three months and how pooped they must be.

Tonight, I gotta prepare an interview I'm doing with Alisen Down tomorrow, a podcast for the Robson Arms website.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

There are worse ways to spend the day.


I was lucky to get back to Vancouver in time to catch the last couple days on set before production heads out to a week of location shooting. I was even luckier that it was one of my episodes being shot. I enjoyed sitting beside director, Monika Mitchell, who didn't seem to mind me spending the day laughing at my own jokes. Maybe 'cos she's married to a bit of a character.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thanks all!


First, thanks to the folks from Sketch22 who asked me to lend a hand today. It's always fun to shoot something other than commercials. I think it was our most ambitious Sketch22 short to date. A small part of an entertaining whole.

Also thanks to the many volunteers and passersby of all ages who gave up part of their gorgeous Saturday morning to perform a series of manoevers, each more complicated than the last. Bravo!

The result of your efforts can be seen starting July 6th at the Arts Guild!

Congratulations all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Great Movies You've (Probably) Never Seen: The In-Laws.


This was a movie that was introduced to me line-by-line by Travis Pratt, a force of nature who lived on PEI during the 1980's.
"Serpentine, Shel, Serpentine!"
"There's no need to shoot at me, I'm only a dentist."

Produced in 1979, The In-laws was directed by canadian Arthur Hiller and written by Andrew Bergman but the heart of the film are the performances by its two leads: Adam Arkin and Peter Falk. To single out one over another would be a mistake. It's the two actors as a team that makes the film transcendent. Falk's son is marrying Arkin's daughter. Arkin is a nervous dentist, Falk is a unstable-seeming import-exporter... or maybe not... Arkin discovers that Falk is behind the robbery of the US Treasury and winds up "becoming inadvertently involved in a plot to defraud the US government out of millions of dollars."

It's hilarious and holds up surprising well. Rent or buy the DVD you won't regret it... Don't make the mistake of getting the 2000 remake with Micheal Douglas.

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand


No.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dave's Yes/No Movie Review: Brick


Yes.

CTV Announces My Show as Part of 2006-2007 Season


That's right. My show.

CTV announced today that Robson Arms is going to be in the 2006-2007 season. Which is great. But looking at the fall line-up it looks like it'll be more 2007 than 2006. Hey CTV, that's fine, give Aaron Sorkin's new show Sunday night. Sure he's created two of the finest shows on television... but will he love you like I will?

I think, not CTV... I think not.

(and CTV? by "like I will" I'm talking about the drug-free "all night long" kind of love.)