Tuesday, January 13, 2009
LEVERAGE: 'Til Death. Like A Steel Cage Match.
A short post on "The Wedding Job", as we're a bit stacked up today. This was the third episode shot -- you can see some of the raw edges in the character relationships intended for the early part of the season. I think you can also track the season by Beth's evolving hair-style. Maybe we'll have a competition after the season finale. Figure out the original order based on dialogue and hairstyle, and win a prize!
Written by Chris Downey, directed by Jonathan Frakes (yes, that one.) Watching Frakes direct is a delight. High energy, lots of laughs on set. Actors directing actors is always fun. They share a common working vocabulary -- and are a bit more ruthless.
This is, as Chris calls it, our "farce with guns." It was actually born the day we were putting up the Hundred Cards of Crime. I'd written "Scandal in Bohemia" on a card. Chris, because he has a life, didn't get the reference. I immediately launched into my long explanation of the story -- with a digression into my usual rant of how everybody always cast Holmes and Watson too old -- when Chris cut right through to "Nate as a minister is interesting." So a "steal a wedding" became our high concept, and what's the most dangerous wedding?
You got it. Oh, and yes, you do recognize the FBI guys. FWIW, his is my second favorite fight scene of the year, if only because it's so Jackie Chan in tone. Man, Downey really hit all the buttons of the show with this one ...
EDIT: Almost forgot. That's Chris Kane doing not just the fight knifework but the kitchen knifework. He's actually a pretty great cook.
Let's tackle last week's questions, then open this up to an Open Thread for Comments and questions about this week's ep. Particularly the amazing fight scene.
Caseyo: asked about the books since I saw Apollo's list, was checking to see if there are any other's I should pickup when I go back to work.
Sorry, I was just jammed up that day. Sitting on my shelf right now are:
Sapphire Smoke: It might be just me, but the whole Hardison and his thing for orange soda reminds me of Kenan & Kel. "Who looovvee orange soda? Kel loooovves orange soda" LOL!
Aldis brought in the orange soda first day, and it's now become a running gag. Sadly trimmed from a script -- his half-page rant about the inferiority of Eastern European orange soda.
Hollie Neil: (Stork Job) seemed like a really expensive episode to shoot. Explosions, child actors, etc . The other episodes were slightly more contained (the bank, the church, etc) Did you have to sacrifice anything you loved in order to make all that work? Just curious.
Actually, shooting on our own set for Howl Force, plus KNOWING we were writing for a bigger budget, kept things relatively under control. We did however trim up the budget for a few future episodes to pay for it, but that's okay, that's the balance every TV show does. Ask the BSG folk about the boxing episode someday.
Ironically, blowing things up is not that expensive. CHILDREN, on the other hand, are brutally expensive. And you have to be all, like, careful with them and everything. Fuck 3-D, we desperately, desperately need robot children for tv acting.
TheMindFantastic: The American Embassy scene, found the banter especially interesting. 'Irina' knowing how a person will lie by eye movements, seems right out of a Bandler-Grinder NLP book, which links to the 'Anchoring' Sophie tells Eliot and Nate about, which is right out of a Ross Jeffries manual on seduction (who got most of his tech from Bandler-Grinder). That alone (mostly because its shit I happen to know about) made this my fav ep so far
It's almost as if you were looking over the hard-researching shoulder of ep writer Albert Kim. Who had to explain to his wife why he had that stack of books on seduction she found in his office. Ouch.
Robert Emerson: You know, episodes of shows where the premise is fake movie or television shoots are always hilarious, as those involved seem to exorcise some ghosts of real shoots past through the episode. I mean, seriously, damn funny episode, espcially the "Director." :D Anyone or group of someones in particular?
The Howl Force experience is based on various nightmare tales of eastern european film shoots from our crew. From the 1st Ad to the Best Boy, everybody's shot in a tax-friendly former dictatorship at some point in their life. We did, at one point, turn to each other and say "you know, we could just shoot out the rest of Howl Force and sell it to SciFi ..."
Rob: On one hand, I don't have a really clear thread of character/relationship development. This might be a function of broadcast order, but to sum up, given they started out as People Who Work Alone, they all got more or less totally comfortable with this arrangement way too quickly. After the pilot it's a little like I've just checked back in for season 2. Is this intentional? Tied to the slightly retro tone?
A mix of both. It's always hard, once the audience has bought the ticket, for the writers to say "Whoa, whoa, slow down the fun train ...". Coflicts remain between the characters all season, and the eps in original order track the arc a little more carefully. Actually, a major new conflict/shift occurs about halfway through, so it'll be fun to see how people respond to that.
On the other hand, yeah, retro fun. I think we split the diference.
KazG: The injury that Eliot was holding an ice pack to in the beginning looked pretty real, was that make up or Chris Kane's own stunt-induced damage?
SOMEBODY went out at 1am after his weekly poker game with Tim Hutton and SOMEBODY started tossing around a football, until SOMEBODY slipped on the asphalt in his goddam cowboy boots.
Miraculously -- and I mean MIRACULOUSLY -- that Somebody heals at weirdly supernatural speed. We only had to cover the problem in two shots (the lesbian bar joke was an on-set throwaway, I think). Seriously, the entire asphalt burn was healed in under three days. The doctors were freaked. It definitely supports the idea that "shitkicker" actually has a genetic component.
Commish: ) I'm going to do some poking around on the internet myself, but I'm just curious how real, and how large-scale, of a problem the situation with orphans in Serbia is. How much did you learn about that whole dilemma in order to shoot the episode? Were the actors involved in your research? Were you hoping that this episode might highlight the problem so that it might be further addressed?
We did a fair bit of research, more into the adoption scams (that tend to run out of Russia) than the Serbian issue. Enough to get really, really depressed while writing. But no, we're not arrogant enough to think we're drawing attention to the situation. If someone's motivated to poke around based ont he show, we'll take the win.
commish cont'd: 2) The only nit-pick I had this week was the way they decided to get the "real" director in Belfast out of the picture. They had to SWITCH his cell phone to send him a fake text message? Hardison couldn't just get the guy's actual cell phone #, and rout him a fake text message? Besides, wouldn't the guy be halfway to the airport when he realized it wasn't his phone, and be back on set within an hour? I know I need to zip it and suspend some disbelief, but I just wanted to mention that one.
You're looking at the "we can only afford to shoot one third of the actual scam" version of that scene. But fair on ya, particularly because we phone scam all the time without a lift.
commish cont'd: Ooh, wait, if I can get it answered, I have one more question... how are the ratings coming for this show? Is TNT pleased? How do the +3 ratings for it compare with some of the other original programming that TNT is airing?
TNT is pleased, and our DVR numbers in particular are ... strong, and we'll leave it at that. You know, at this point in the broadcast model, there's no real point to the overnight ratings we all quote, but that's what we've been doing for years, so that's what we all talk about. TNT, like most cable shows, looks at "runs" of episodes -- so, say, the three showings on Tuesday are added together -- and also pays a lot of attention to DVR +3.
Killah Mate: Don't worry about it though, it wasn't too suspension-shattering. In fact, if we ignore the locations, extras casting, all that budget-dependent stuff (and hell, even Casino Royale wasn't shot anywhere near Montenegro) you come out looking pretty good. I appreciated the amount of local language spoken, even by the leads (which is rarely done, maybe because they don't want it to sound stupid - which your guys and girls didn't, so props to the language team). Also, you established a nice sense of place (lovely greenscreen work, regardless of the actual source of the panoramas).
We appreciate your appreciation. Gina did have some grim satisfaction in watching everybody else learn how to do what she does every damn week. I know there's been a bit of a kerfuffle on the greenscreen samples, but that's one of those things where the importance of a.) affordable and b.) available at c.) the right resolution with d.) the matching camera movement trumped fine-point accuracy.
All told, we do our best in seven days. Nicely enough, there are a lot of actors who speak multiple language sin LA; we do tend to favor native speakers if they're available in those roles.
Jim Kakallos: I was also going to ask about Hardison using a translation book as opposed to software (even if the software I could use is too slow, I don't believe that Hardison hasn't hacked the NSA's super secret real time programs).
Hardison foolishly forgot to switch his keyboard over to Cyrillic on the drive over, so at that moment it was faster for him to pick up his dead-tree dictionary.
No, seriously. That's why. LOOK OVER THERE!
That's it for the mailbag this week. Use this thread for comments and questions, and we'll see you soon. Thanks for the time and attention.