Tuesday, January 06, 2009
LEVERAGE: Stork Raving Mad/Open Thread
Ah, Stork Job. You started as the most depressing writers' room day ever -- "Hey, let's research Eastern European orphanage scams" -- and turned into our classic Mission: Impossible homage. This is the fun of doing Leverage. Bank Robbery bottle show, high-rise rappelling, classic Sting horse race heist, saving a church ... now going to Belgrade and finding a missing boy while butting heads with arms dealers. It's our little movie every week; sometimes crime-y and sometimes action-y.
Although I always cite late 60's TV as the model for the show, my Dad recently pointed out that I spent a great deal of my youth consuming the old Bantam Doc Savages from my Grandfather's cabin. Once you look at the Lester Dent master pulp fiction plot I internalized at age 12, I think we can safely say -- we're writing pulp here, people. Juicy, old school pulp.
This episode has one of my favorite scenes of the year in it, but it's spoilery, so we'll talk about it next week. The writer of the episode, Albert Kim, is a pretty great amateur photographer, although not quite as sharp as his wife Jennie. So, instead of my blathering let's look at spiffy backstage photos -- like the one above, showing first-time director Marc Roskin going over the script with Tim. Yes, Tim's hair is funny. There's a reason. Now, what else do we have in here (all pictures reveal a high-res version when clicked)...
The episode is very Beth-centric, by the way. Oh, and those weren't her parents who lived in that house she blew up. Now whether those nasty abusive people were still in there or not ... choose the answer that you like. We're never, ever going to tell you everything about these characters. For example, you have no idea exactly who Sophie was married to at age 17, do you? Or why when Eliot said "I don't like guns" in the pilot, he added "... you know that." to Nate. Why would Nate know that?
Let's see -- writer Albert Kim enjoying the thrill of the Steadicam under the expert guidance of our A Camera Operator, the legendary Gary Camp.
Hmm ... I can't show you a picture of Gina in her wardrobe for this episode, not only because it's too spoilery, but too mind-shatteringly ... sure, Moffat got her kit off. We're the ones who put her in boots and ... anyway, here's a lovely one of the gals instead:
Who else is doing this?
Nobody, sir. And finally -- "What is Howl Force?"
I cannot tell you. You are not ready for the soul-shredding truth behind Howl Force!
For those keeping track at home, this is actually Albert's second script of the year, which shot around sixth or seventh for the production cycle. His first script was the second episode shot, The Snow Job, which airs soonish. It'll be interesting to see Snow Job in that context. We were definitely still hacking out what the show exactly was at that point, and it's a much more contained crime/con game than later episodes. Big fun fact for that episode -- that actually is how you fake out an MRI.
Right, enough pimpage, let's get to those questions from last time. Spoilers now, because you can get all the episodes from iTunes and Amazon VOD.
Antonia: So are there any behind the scenes pics of whatever DB did to, how did you phrase it? Something about steamy?
Weirdly, that's the one episode I don't have pics from. Personally, I didn't get it. Apparently, though, chicks dig DB Sweeney s a tormented priest fighting to save a church with his fists and his heart. *shrugs*
Richard Jensen:Point the Second: "Toe pick"? (Puzzled look?)
From The Cutting Edge. Have your wife or girlfriend expain. I assure you she can.
Michael: 'm curious to see if you got any right wing hate mail for the episode that portrayed security contractors in Iraq as greedy, corrupt and violent.
There was a bit of a kaffuffle on the TNT boards about the reservist health care isssue, but they were quickly shut down by actual veterans showing up and saying "Yeah, that's really happening." The sad thing is, a lot of the people who posted were talking about how there are all these great programs taking care of soldiers after combat. Which is true, but like all programs conceived by fallible humans and run by the government, people fall through the cracks. A lot of Americans just don't want to wrap their head round the fact that when it comes to the men and women who serve this country, we have to try harder, and saying were not a hundred percent there is somehow implying that we don't care, we're bad, the country is bad, blah blah blah. Policies are instruments of governments, which are run by men, who are elected by the people. The entire point of the goddam country is that these men are not special. Criticism of any policy or any of those men is not inherently unpatriotic. I hope that simple, binary way of looking at things is passing.
Oh, I'm sorry, the contractors? No, nobody had any problems with that.
Mike Cane: You mentioned Hardison footage cut out of Miracle. Was it actually shot? I hope you're saving all those bits.
That, and how Parker got the FBI car in Bank Shot, and a few others. Sadly, when we're cutting for time the stand-alone flashbacks are the first things to go. They'll show up on the DVD's.
Maya: Reading about all the magic that is done with the green screen shots I was wondering if the actors really are looking at what the audience sees on the six plasma screen TVs when they're filming all those conference room scenes.
About eighty percent of the time they're looking at the actual video playback of imagery, the other twenty green-screen. We usually only green-screen those shots when the episode requires images that are shot out of order, or if the playback hinks up the actors' timing.
Casey: So what was your major reference source for the cons as far as books or docs go? And which was your favorite?
We've got the reading list around here somewhere ... ugh, too late in the evening for me to dig it up. Start here and branch out, you can't go wrong. We wound up with a bookshelf of criminal biographies, tech hacking manuals, and the like we took pieces from as they amused us.
rrwood: One of the greatest challenges you, as the creator/writer, face in creating episodic television is the fact that we, the audience, know that things are always going to work out-- that the hero is always going to be back next week, and that deep, fundamental changes to the formula of the show are not going to happen. This means that the easiest tools you'd use to crank up the dramatic tension in say, a movie, are locked up and off limits to you, and you guys have to work your butts off to keep us interested. And in addition to the can't-kill-the-heroes straight-jacket, you guys have a number of other pretty obvious restrictions, given the nature of the show ...
Which is why all TV shows are really about the evolution of the characters' relationships. You don't know how that's going to turn out. Hell, Nate and Sophie wound up unspooling differently than we anticipated.
That said, the pulp model applies. We want you to be hooked enough on how they'll solve THIS problem that just popped up, and then the next ten minutes later ... our complications are varied enough, too -- not a medical mystery or straight crime procedural -- that at the very least the obstacles probably aren't ones you've seen before. Commenter kinesys actually answered this question pretty well in the original Comments.
Kathryn: One question about The Bank Job (based on the sneek peak): Elmore and Leonard? Was that a nod to the author, because that was my first thought when I heard the names. But then, being a Supernatural fan and the fact they use aliases based on rock music performers, I may just be trained to think that way.
Hardison chooses the aliases for all the fake ID's they have. They tend to have some significance to the heist at hand.
gwangung: Ha. Then you'd love a friend of mine's theatre in New York. He specializes in battle choreography theatre; every single one of his shows features multiple battles (10, 12, 15 at a time), spanning all sorts of disciplines. Why, yes, he also does shows for the NY Comic Con. Why yes, he almost always features female protagonists (dressed in skin tights, very popular with said Comic Con). One show was a Shakespearean zombie/kung fu pastiche....
Personally I disapprove -- aw hell, just post the damn website address.
Tal: Do you ever wish you had more time to devote, or the budget to devote existing time to different cons? Because some of the cons that seemed really interesting to me (getting the assistant to confess, modifying the text of a Congressional bill) seemed tossed off as asides.
Every week, kiddo. Every week. 42:30 is a bitch. I think by about halfway through the season, we finally found the right balance.
Daiv: Am i mistaken? Or is that a fridge full of Jones Soda (with Real Sugar) that Elliot is pulling from in the beginning? (though he clearly did not get a bottle of Soda).
Hardison has a thing for orange soda. Jones was nice enough to provide some delicious beverages. Everyone wins.
Anonymous: Love the show -- it's definitely my current favourite! Had a question though -- who pulled the switch with the pizza box and the briefcase at the end of 'The Bank Job'? Hardison was talking to the judge the whole time, Nate was shot, Sophie was tending to Nate ...
That's just how good they are.
Yes, that's the answer. Now walk away.
Seriously, though, that's both one of the bits cut for time, and one of the times when the physical layout of the bank, didn't match exactly what was needed for one of the switch moves (the counter is on the wrong side of the actors) . So sometimes, you let this stuff go. We had a similar issue in The Snow Job and even Two Horse had a bit which was much more convoluted and involved the outside walls of the entire stables, not stalls. Choreography on location sometimes just doesn't want to cooperate.
R.A Porter: (Bank Shot) was my favorite episode to date, with great scene chewing from Michael O'Neill.
He's a villain, baby. With a skinny tie! Seriously, this episode was pitched as "This is our Western." Michael absolutely nailed the big Western villain tone.
EmanG:OK, not a flame but a serious question. Why does Burn Notice get to keep shooting in Miami yet Leverage has to move away from Chicago to LA? I may be in AZ these days but I'm still a firm believer in/member of the Chicago production scene and I know that this show would be that much better in a place other than LA. I want to see a regional cinema. Stories from and set in Cleveland, Portland, Chicago, Kansas City. LIfe doesn't just happen in LA, a place stories and characters go to die in the sameness. Damnit, give me a livable wage in Phoenix and a writer that can live on the same and I'll give you programming about not just the characters, but the place they live in. And too many of us live in places not at all like LA not to have our stories told, our visuals sold. To not to at least try to have that represented, no?
Unfortunately shooting in a city requires much more than just actors and the willingness to work there. A certain level of infrastructure is needed to do a series as opposed to a short, one off movie, and Chicago just didn't have what we needed at that short notice and on our tiny, tiny budget. The fact that we were all clustered around the Doghouse post-production facility is to a great degree what allowed us to shoot the show independently. Even for bigger studios, shooting in other cities is often prohibitively costly as far as physical production goes. Remember, TV shows bleed millions of dollars while they shoot, and recoup almost none of it until foreign sales and DVD. LA is streamlined to keep those costs down.
Burn Notice "gets" to keep shooting in Miami because they get heart-stopping tax breaks and have a very good relationship with the city. (One of my favorite shows, btw)
That said, one of the main points of this blog, and why I always write about emerging technologies, is that I firmly believe we're at the point where people can begin to make local entertainment of the same technical quality as we shoot in LA. We still need to lick distribution -- hell even we haven't licked that problem entirely -- but there's no reason, if you think your city has stories to tell, you can't go get cameras and tell those stories.
Richard: Whoops. Hit post too quickly. One question: How plausible do you guys want the cons to be? Because my only real problem with this episode is the miraculous image editing. As someone who uses Photoshop professionally ...
As plausible as the medicine in House. Take that as you will. :P
kinesys: Oh. And how long before we discover that Hardison knows this weird chick named "Aleph"?
You came thisclose to an episode this year where Aldis got romantically involved with Aimee Garcia. You know Aimee, right?
And the reason I knew Chris Kane was because he was the guy who came thisclose to playing Sean Ronin on GF.
I fully expect to see Leverage/GF crossover fanfic by Friday, people. Chop chop!
Robert Emerson: One of the things I like most about how Christian Kane's fight scenes are ... not linear, but multi-directional and adaptive.
This ep was the first time I dragged my heel across the dirt, laying out "the fight line", just like Jackie Chan explained to me ten years ago. Main axis for shooting and choreography, with alternate actions happening off-axis to open up the fight space.
Now granted, Charlie Brewer has been doing fights and blowing shit up since I was in a bad prom tux, but he tolerates my obsession and even occasionally listens to me. For which I am forever grateful.
Denita: I also have a question. Which episode does Sam Anderson (Holland Manners from Angel) appear in? A few of us on Whedonesque have been wondering.
The abovementioned The Snow Job. With Danny Strong, as the co-villain.
Whew. That was a helluva mailbag. A new open thread tomorrow, and thanks as always for watching and spreading the word.
Oh, and if we get more people on Facebook than Closer, their co-exec has to buy me dinner. So feel free to spam the bastards.
Use these Comments for Stork thread business. Comments and questions.