Tuesday, January 20, 2009
LEVERAGE: It's Practically a Single Entendre
Always with the conference room scenes. Good Lord, it's dark in there ...
The Mile High Job is one of those episodes that seems so simple. It begins with us in the writers' room cheering "They're on an airplane, and have to pull off the con before they land! It's practically a bottle show!" and ends with a 70-foot replica fuselage on the soundstage. Oh, and we had to build an airplane bathroom with wild walls, because you just can't get a camera in there for the beautiful fight carnage.
Interesting dynamic in this ep, actually, and one of the episodes you can see the various creative styles of the writers really highlighted. The Notorious B.E.R.G. wrote this one. She favors contained spaces and an active victim/surrogate victim in the con. Chris Downey likes the "setting" episodes -- "It's a wedding! It's a --" -- whoops, spoiler, never mind.
I tend to construct the villain plan absent the heroes, then drop them in. Also, I favor multiple little cons on the way to the big con -- witness the pilot, Homecoming, and the season finale, along with various tweaks along the way. A lot of times I start with "What will we steal?", while Chris starts with "where are we?" There's a fair bit of cross-pollination in the room, of course, and we've spot-welded our approaches several times -- Berg and Chris worked together on The 12 Step Job, while our Filthy Assistant's first script, The Juror #6 Job, shows the taint of both Chris and I.
Layered on the plots, of course, are the stories. Which, as we all know, are not the same thing. Homecoming was about the team learning that being good guys is a lot harder than being bad guys. Two Horse is about dealing with your past. Bank Shot is all about the team growing up, cementing the family bond -- the 'kids' having to pull off the gig on their own. Miracle is about faith and hubris, of course, and you can go on and on. We don't like to lay it on too thick, but the team story is the top layer. End of day, it's very hard to get the audience to give a shit about the vic-of-the-week. In 42:30 they just don't have the screentime. So tying our guys in -- in hopefully non-hacky ways -- is the key to the show's emotional grounding.
For what it's worth, Mile High Job is a trust episode betwen the rest of the team and Hardison. I'd put it in the first half of the season arc. For those of you playing the home game, Bank Shot is the swing episode -- the transition to where the team is fully invested in each other, and walking away is not really an option.
Unless somebody really, really screws up.
Right, questions ...
Richard Jensen: Question about the fight scene. How much is written in advance and how much is blocked out in the shooting?
Depends on the fight scene and who's writing it. Usually we drop one signature bit in there, just to create a framework. Hold on ... let me pull up a pdf of Bank Shot. Tweak the formatting a bit ...
EXT. STANTON PARK - MOMENTS LATER
At the black SUV, THUG #1 stays in the driver's seat, THUG #2 and the head METH DEALER approach the briefcase. They pop it open on a nearby trash can.
THUG #2: It's more than we asked for.
METH DEATHER: Well, ain't that punk just full of surprises.
A BANG as the rear door pops open. Reveal ELLEN CLARK [mid- 40's, a cut over her left eye presumably from battling the thugs during her capture]. She's gagged and her wrists are duct-taped. She bolts from the SUV, manages to make it a few steps, but stumbles. Instantly the Meth Dealer is over her. He draws a REVOLVER, moves to pistol-whip her.
METH DEATHER (CONT'D): Where the HELL you think you're going,
old lady? Where the --
A hand CLAMPS on his raised wrist. He looks back. REVEAL Eliot, holding the Dealer's raised gun-hand.
ELIOT: Hey, what smells like crank and screams like a girl?
Before the Meth Dealer can reacts, Eliot KICKS out his right knee. The Meth Dealer SCREAMS like a girl and collapses. Eliot casually turns to the other Thugs as he empties the chamber to the revolver, letting the rounds fall.
ELIOT (CONT'D): Hmm. Right answer.
Thug #2 rushes Eliot. Eliot moves inside, one-two-three brutal blows, then aikido-flips the guy into a mid-air spin. Thug #1 is halfway out the driver's side door when Eliot closes and KICKS the door, slamming the Thug into the door frame. The SUV door swings open, allowing Eliot to SLAM the door on him again. As that Thug drops, the first one attacks from behind -- Eliot spins, PUNCHES through the window, grabs the THUG and SLAMS him up against the door by pulling his shirt.
As the last Thug drops, Eliot notices little BAGGIES OF METH scattered on the ground. He kicks one idly, turns back to Ellen Clark. Eliot crosses to Ellen, crouches. Throws on his most charming smile. She pulls off her own gag.
ELLEN: Who are you?
ELIOT: Well, ma'am. We'd be the cavalry.
Not exactly as played, but close enough. Charlie Brewer then turned this into something about 300% more complicated and cooler. They tend to fall on either side of this in level of detail.
R.A. Porter: ... I was also amused by the foley work during Eliot's knife conversation.
If there is one thing we can teach you, Spec-Monkeys, it is this: foley + volume = comedy
Sapphire Smoke: By the way, those bridesmaids dresses were disgusting looking, PLEASE tell me that was the point of them lol. You mentioned about scenes/lines being cut for time and stuff, are there any particularly good ones you wish ended up making it in this episode or any of the previous ones?
They were as intentionally ugly as our Costume Designer would let us get away with. I, personally, always marvel at that awful tradition.
I don't miss anything in particular. [EDIT: Actually, three things worth discussing, but they're spoilery. We'll do it tomorrow.]
It's worth noting that in the middle Nate/Sterling scene in Two Horse -- the one at the stable office -- Sophie, Parker and Hardison are actually crammed in that closet directly behind Sterling. The scene started as a comedy scene, and ended up in editing as a dramatic scene.
Alan Scott: Also, some of us haven't been exposed to your Holmes/Watson rant--and if we didn't want to hear you rant, we wouldn't be reading your blog.
Commenter ajay pretty much nailed it: Absolutely. At the beginning of "A Study in Scarlet", Watson has just returned from Afghanistan with a nasty case of PTSD. He went straight into the Army from medical school, and straight to Afghanistan the next year. So he can't really be more than 26 or so when the novel starts - Victorian doctors went to university at 18 or so and studied for five or six years. And Holmes is about the same age if not younger - he's studying at the university, he's had no previous job that anyone mentions, and Watson doesn't describe him as significantly older than himself.
John Watson is a twenty-six year old combat hard-ass with mujhadeen shrapnel buried in his leg (or shoulder, depending on the story), not some foppish fuckwit with a bowler hat. Sherlock Holmes is your substance-abusing perpetual grad student solving cases for the London underworld/working class that the cops won't touch. THAT'S why everybody fucks up Holmes and Watson including, probably, my favorite writer in the world.
About two years ago I was developing that version of Holmes and Watson with a director to do a TV pilot, and our agents correctly argued that no network was really looking for that. However, it's my fondest wish to someday do that show.
Oh, and they're women. Did I mention that?
kinesys: Also: Much love for Dan Lauria and Nicole Sullivan. I love seeing the comedic actors that you're pulling out of your hat and giving them the opportunity to pull out some dramatic chops. I actually did NOT recognize Dan Lauria at first.
More on the way. Brent Spiner was nice enough to drop by. Wheaton owes me one if we go a second season.
billjack: I've noticed some inconsistency in the characters' skills--most notably Parker can act and improv this week when her inability last week was a plot point. How do you keep track of each character's strengths and weaknesses in their skill-sets? ... Are you tracking changes in the characters' skills over the season (as you clearly are with the relationships)? Many shows end up with every character just good enough at every necessary skill as the plot requires them to be which would be a shame to do with such clearly defined characters as these.
The assumption is that most of them have Thief 101 skills. However, they all have their strengths, and you won't see a ton of crossover. Sophie and Parker do the lifts and pickpocketing; Eliot never touches computers except when it's a plot point that he has to; Hardison is the only hacker and never does sleight-of-hand, etc. and can't pick a lock. We wound up giving Eliot and Hardison more con stuff because, well, Kane and Aldis are just really frikkin' funny. You will note that Eliot is almost never part of a long con -- short scenes only.
There is a definite arc to Parker's ability to roleplay throughout the season, and Sophie's tutelage is one of the little relationship runners. It pays off in a big way in an upcoming episode. You'll note that usually, even when she's good, she's very close to blowing it at all times. Same thing with Eliot and Hardison cross-pollinating skills as their relationship -- I wouldn't call it a friendship -- evolves over the course of the season.
Joseph: Any other ideas for the DVD release - cut scenes, video diaries, commentaries. I cannot wait for this release! Have you thought of doing any podcast commentaries?
We've got a ton of b-reel, and that'll be a big part of the next few months, putting that together. We may do podcasts as a dry run for the DVD commentary, if people are into it.
Mitchy: This might have been filmed earlier but the Hardison/Parker scenes still zing as much as last week; is that a pairing that hit the ground running for you and the script writers or was it just luck that paired them up so often in these first episodes?
No, we intended that relationship when we developed the show, and once we saw the chemistry in the pilot we were relieved that we could explore it. Nothing worse than trying to force a relationship on characters who just don't click organically. On the other hand, the team kind of naturally splits along those lines: Nate and Sophie doing brainwork/long con, Parker and Hardison doing insertion/security work, and Eliot beating the shit out of somebody.
Warlach: That said, just a quick question: surely the mirror in the cabinet where you first see Hardison place a bug would make the device pretty obvious?
It's a reactive alloy that will blend in with the wood grain and -- HEY! LOOK OVER THERE!
Kevin: The plotting on this episode seemed a little shaky to me. In addition to what Tal_Kaline noted above, there were a number of inconsistencies that seemed unrealistic ...
We freely admit, this one was our big-comedy "farce with guns." We kind of cashed our Big Comedy card with this one. But frankly, it was worth it. The Fun Train will NOT BE STOPPED!!
All right, I need to get to bed, because some of us are writing six more goddam episodes. Thanks for watching, and we hope you enjoy tonight's Leverage-y diversions. Consider this your episode Open Thread.