Saturday, December 27, 2008

LEVERAGE: Mirabile dictu and The Bank Job

Well, let's crunch a recap and a preview post together over the holiday weekend. We'll answer some questions, and offer an open thread after this week's ep answering anything you ask in the Comments here.

Speaking of thise week's episode, it is not The Wedding Job. It's The Bank Shot Job, and the preview is here.

This was the first episode actually shot, written by our infamous co-producer Amy Berg based off a pitch from Dean Devlin and directed (in six frikkin' days) by Dean. Yes, it is a lovely little cosy shop we have, and yes, it is better than the old way of doing things. Anyway, it's way, waaaay outside the usual format, but it's one of the TNT suits' favorites, so it got bumped up in order. The ratings have been pretty promising, so they seem to want to really push while nobody else is producing new material.

The first-season-order-shuffle is always a mixed bag. On one hand, I think the chumminess the characters evince in Two Horse and Miracle -- two episodes written to be mid-season -- kind of jump the gun on the emotional arcs seen in this broadcast order. On the other hand, the Nate/Sophie scene in Miracle really belongs that early in the season, and I'm glad we got Sterling introduced early in Two Horse. Again, luckily, we wrote these intended to be primarily stand-alones, and the order pretty much settles in as intended for the rest of the season. Oh, yeah, and we got an entire season of 13 guaranteed. Unlike every other rookie show on the air. So, you know, aces.

For what it's worth, the upcoming Chris Kane fight scene in The Bank Shot Job is my favorite. Well, this and the one in Wedding. Oh, and Mile High ... never mind. (Yes, I have a fight obsession, to the point of being mocked by my own staff.) It was the first one we shot and it sets the standard for the rest of the season. The fight in Miracle is more of a conceptual fight. The gun-waistband bit in Miracle is stolen from ... ahh, it's too painful. Let's just say the movie will never be made, and we use all the parts of the animal.

One thing about Miracle: I've seen a few comments about how Hardison's morality seems to be ... flexible. It is indeed. He rationalizes like a sumbitch, and the one thing cut from Miracle I miss badly is the flashback to a teen Hardison with braces, rocking the Kid n' Play look, while he adapted his Nana's moral code to hacking the Bank of Iceland. Once the suited humans have returned to their offices in January, I may try to pry that footage loose. Also -- DB Sweeney gets the ladies steamy. The shoot had a constant background hum of whispered "toe pick!", strangled giggling, and the scurry of footsteps off to dark corners.

Big congratulations to Christine Boylan, also a staff writer, also her first produced script. Another East Coast Catholic like myself, she took a ridiculous amount of care on the sermon. Yes, we atheist sodomite Hollywood-types spent hours laboring over our episode about faith. I assure you, we ran right out and had some gay socialized medicine afterward.

Right, questions from the last post, and we'll tackle any from this post in the open-thread post for Tuesday. Bloody hell, that confused even me.

Mike Cane: >>>There are 116 green screen set replacement shots. OK, you just managed to con ME. I just watched my time-shifted copy two hours ago (working on pimpage post) and didn't notice ANYTHING like that. I can usually spot them too! Is this seamlessness due to: 1) HD vid? 2) Dir of Photo? Both?

Having Mark Franco, our visual effects ... honcho? Guru? Resident genius? ... available to come and call angles for the best greenscreens is the key, and Dave Connell of course has a major hand in it. Shooting digital makes a big difference in the workflow for vfx -- which I have Mark buttonholed to explain here on this site sometime soon. We have guys basically inventing ways to do quick 'n dirty greenscreen shots at Electric.

For example, the church in Miracle? Never more than half full with extras.

Alon: Only semi-on topic, but just FYI, I cannot get the episodes that are up on the TNT website to play. Every time I try, it crashes my browser, regardless of which one I try to use. When I first went to the page in Firefox, it said I needed a plug-in, so I downloaded and installed ...


Anonymous: commenting late on this, but: you talk at length at various points in your history about 4th Generation Media and so forth, but still, when I try the options listed by you of how to watch this show (which I want to watch) and also send some money in the direction of the people that made it, I have no chance to do so because I happen to live outside the US. Utter stupidity again. So we return to the age-old saying: piracy, the better choice, or, as in so many cases, the only choice.

And really, I _wanted_ to view it legally. I have no moral qualms about downloading something when I'm basically told: you live elsewhere, so fuck you.

First, piracy is wrong. Wroooong. Look, everyone currently reading my blog with a law degree who also works for one of the large corporations with whom I do regular business, piracy is wrong!

Well, fair points all, but this is the nature of evolutionary change. It's already a bit mad that we have no studio. Distribution comes with a whole other set of issues. TNT (rightfully) gets the streaming window, and it's up to their fine web humans to rock that out. They pay a license fee, and nicely enough broadcast and promote the hell out of us. The foreign sales network people demand their windows for broadcast, or they won't buy the series, which means that we'll take way, way longer to be in profit. Which will curtail our ability to make more wonderful TV shows. Television is cash flow, something Dean could explain to you in exruciating detail while dabbing the fine sweat from his forehead.

Basically, we're pushing the envelope, but we're beating one problem at a time. We got "how to make a TV show based out of one old dog hospital in East Hollywood" out of the way. Next up is "being utterly independent of the distribution chains television has relied on for the last fifty years. " But we'll get there.

Emily Blake: am enjoying the show and particularly Christian Kane and , but I was wondering something. If I remember correctly, Hustle also did a racing horse switch episode. Do you guys watch Hustle? Do you think about ways to prevent your stuff from being too similar or do you just do what you do and not worry about it?

I watched the first two season, and then bailed. (I met Adrian Lester on an unrelated project. Great guy.) A fair chunk of my staff has seen every season. We have killed a couple ideas because they did something similar on that show. But at some point you just shrug your shoulders and say "Every caper show is going to have a card game/horse race gag/Big store/etc etc." It's a bit like working on Without a Trace and wondering if your "The wife you thought was dead is actually the killer" crosses over with any of the CSI's or Law & Orders. There are genre conventions, but the shows have a different tone, gang make-up, a difference in the number of explosions (advantage: us), and moral center - they are, as far as I can tell, never helping anybody, while that's our raison d'etre.

Besides, we're way too busy stealing from It Takes a Thief and Rockford to steal from Hustle.

Toxic Frog: Love the show - I just introduced it to my family (we're all fans of heist/con shows) and everyone involved approves. I do have some questions and comments, though:
- How did you get Gina Bellman on board? You didn't talk much about the casting, and when Sophie was introduced both my parents went "Oh my god! Her!" and are now pestering me to find out.

There's a little behind the scenes on casting up at TNT now. Which, conveniently, discusses Gina...

cont'd: ... - My parents wish to inform you that the circular-track camerawork in the opening of the pilot made them nauseous, and that you should stop it :)

You hear that Dean? You're hurting innocent MOMMIES AND DADDIES!! (sorry, private joke)

Vicki: BTW, is anyone planning to sell those nifty "Leverage" latte mugs anywhere? I need to have one.

... hmmm. I wonder if I can finance my day players with tchockes ... we'll see.

Kid Sis: Wow. This is all getting very Star Trek convention. You going to start yelling at bloggers to get a life and move out of their mom's basement??

I'm going to let it run until I see the Comic-con booth for "The Black Kings" next to the Browncoats, where Nate/Sophie shippers start throwing punches at the Sophie/Parker slashers. Then and only then will we blow the ref whistle.

lummox: BTW Leverage is a pretty decent show. Once it's either out on DVD or there's some other way us non-Americans can buy it, I'll be happy to do so.

I hope I didn't give a false impression earlier -- it will be broadcast, and soon, in most countries. Within a few months, unless I'm high or mistaken. You shouldn't have to wait for the DVD's.

Rght then, that's the mailbag for now. Toss any Miracle-oriented , or hell any other questions, into the Comments, and we'll get to them next week. As always, thanks for watching, recapping, and forum-posting. In the modern television landscape, we can't do it without you.


Anonymous said...

So are there any behind the scenes pics of whatever DB did to, how did you phrase it? Something about steamy? I admit, that the only reason I started watching your show is because I heard he was in it. Now, having no idea up front which ep he was in, I had to watch them all, and I am, naturally hooked on it. So, any neat video or pics?

Unknown said...

I'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. Where do you nutty writers get your crazy ideas anyway?

Mike Cane said...

To remind everyone again, I have appointed myself the blog pimpage concession (until 12/31!) for Leverage. Miracle Job post.

And, oh look at what Doctor Who was up to on Christmas (NO spoilers!).

DVD extra: Gerry Anderson fan? Clicky!

Mike Cane said...

Ooh, I have a real question!

You mentioned Hardison footage cut out of Miracle. Was it actually shot? I hope you're saving all those bits. Making the episodes longer for DVD would be nice. (Stop tearing out your hair! You'd make the same request if you were on *this* side of the, um, TV screen!)

Maya said...

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.

-Nate/Sophie shipper ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the episode titled "The Hand Job"

Gerald So said...

Stopping in as another East Coast Catholic and friend of Christine's to add my congratulations and appreciation for the sermon. Best of luck to LEVERAGE.

Unknown said...

I would like to second the request for Leverage latte mugs.

Unknown said...

So what was your major reference source for the cons as far as books or docs go? And which was your favorite?

rrwood said...

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.

Assuming you agree with all of the above, what are you guys consciously doing to keep us hooked and needing to "know what happens?"

If nothing else, consider this as an opportunity to vent to a sympathetic audience about the challenge you've set for yourselves with Leverage. :-)

rrwood said...

An additional note regarding my comment above:

Obviously the whole premise of the show is based on twists and misdirection, so there's a baked-in element of surprise; however, we know that anything that really matters is going to work out in favour of the good guys. How do you guys work around that? What are you trying to do to make us care what happens in spite of that?

I'm curious to know if this is something you're consciously aware of every time you pull together an episode, and if you have a plan that can carry you through a full season or more.

And I'm fine if you have to hold back on details for Leverage in particular. In fact, I'd probably be happier if you can comment about episodic TV in general...

Emily Blake said...

Thanks for answering questions and giving us all insight into the show, even our questions are not proofread.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you can watch the streaming video of 'Leverage' outside the USA.

Plenty of free toolbars (eg: Hotspot Shield) use proxy servers, so you have an IP address in the USA.

After installing the toolbar, just go to the website and watch the video. This NOT piracy, nor is it breaching your agreement (or TOS) with the website.

I double checked their TOS and it says simply:

TNT makes no representation that material in TNT's Web site is appropriate or available for use in other locations. Those who choose to access this site from other locations do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with local laws, if and to the extent local laws are applicable.

That's it. No agreement not to watch this outside the USA. The closest might be:

.. the materials in the TNT Web sites are presented solely for the purpose of entertainment and (other stuff) .. where the (other stuff) includes the purpose of promoting services available in the USA.

So clearly there is no legal or ethical problems with viewing it from other countries using a proxy server.


Anonymous said...

given your love for/theft from It Takes a Thief and The Rockford Files could you work in guest appearances by James Garner and/or Robert Wagner as either great victims or great villains or great scam artists teaching a master class to the Leverage crew?

Anonymous said...

.. hmmm. I wonder if I can finance my day players with tchockes

I'm going to do a quick survey of my work desk. I haven't done this before because I... frankly didn't want to see how big a nerd I am.

- 3 National Novel Writing Month Mugs, $18 each.
- 3 small wooden Pac Man ghosts, $2 each.
- 4 original drawings of robots bought at a convention, $5 each
- 1 Lego whale, $9.95
- 1 Wall-E figurine, $8.95
- 1 signed print of an comic, $25. Yes, I spent $25 on a drawing of stick figures.
- 1 bulb planting stake with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer sticker on it a friend gave me back In The Day, about $10

Mind you, this is my WORK collection.

So, yes, tchotchkies are good and a useful fundraiser. As long as you don't go NBC on us and charge $35 for a t-shirt.

Theliel said...

I'm going to let it run until I see the Comic-con booth for "The Black Kings" next to the Browncoats, where Nate/Sophie shippers start throwing punches at the Sophie/Parker slashers. Then and only then will we blow the ref whistle.

Now now now, there's no reason that you can't have a nice nate/sophie/parker triangle!

*ducks the purists of either stripe*

No, 100% 4 srs, if levarge gets as popular as Buffy/Harry potter/Twatlight or battlestar i will pop a st.julian's sparkling juice beverage just for you because that would be asesum (especially if you get the seaven seasons as well).

Anonymous said...

I think the groove of Leverage is not so much about where the story is going. These guys are bad-asses in their respective fields, and the nature of the show is such that at present, there's not really the structure for an Arc style of show like say Buffy.

The pleasure in a show like Leverage is watching how the story unfolds and it's twists and turns. Also, it's nice to watch the bad folks get burned and get burned badly.

That, in and of itself suggest some possible ways that arcs might come into play later on down the line.

There will be bad guys who will desire some get back, (Ben Dubenich would be a perfect candidate for this.)

There will be the Target that never seems to lose. The target that we should all come to love to hate.

There's the "good guy" already typified by Sterling. Who i already think is planning some sort of long game. Because i can't see yet how that footage of Sophie is going to come into play.

You've also got the "Mirror image" which would be a team of con operators, who do it for the jazz and don't care who gets burned.

You've got the generational gambit in terms of the people who taught our crew everything they know. (Can't wait to meet Parker's mentor) and the next generation of script kiddies who are going to make Hardison have migraines

You've got the Ex-lovers who have an emotional strangle-hold over the hearts of some. and the old friends like Nate's priest friend.

A show like this has a lot of connections to Pulp and Noir styles, insofar as you have a ready stock of characters and types and that the fun is throwing them all in the same pot and stirring them up.

And i have been relentlessly flogging this show to my friends. It's our kind of thing.

Btw: I KNOW where the monkey is.

Anonymous said...

...where Nate/Sophie shippers start throwing punches at the Sophie/Parker slashers

I have to say I can totally see that. Please take some photos before you blow the whistle. ;)

It's great that Leverage will be broadcasted in other countries, but I'm sad to say that I still won't watch it on TV when it airs here (in Germany). Why? Because I don't have the option to switch between the original audio and German audio, I don't even want to imagine how much the show will lose just because of the German editing.
So thank God there'll be DVDs.

That said, I'm really grateful for Leverage since it's the best entertainmment I've seen in a while.

Anonymous said...

Point the first: Dug the hell out of "The Miracle Job".
Point the Second: "Toe pick"? (Puzzled look?)

Anonymous said...

Loving the series and really enjoying all the supplementary web information, like this blog and the opportunity to ask questions. It's really good of you to take the time to do that.

One minor complaint - the sound quality on the behind the scenes vid you linked to last week is awful. Even with my PC volume cranked way up I could barely hear what you were saying. Any chance it can be fixed?

Hope you had a great Christmas break, wishing you lots of good things for 2009.

Mike Cane said...

Some new Leverage pimpage at my blog:

TNT’s Leverage: The Team

And an extra requested screensnaps!
I Get A Request To Provide … Leverage!

I almost feel like a team member. (Wow, am I self-deluded there! HA!)

Kat said...

I would love to see some Leverage mugs. Especially if they are that big! It'd be nice to have a decent sized coffee cup.

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.

Unknown said...

Is piracy really always wrong? For example, would it be wrong if I had a starving son and I stole a loaf of bread to feed him? Of course not. Now, suppose, instead of bread, my kid can live off of downloaded episodes of Leverage. Would it be acceptable to pirate them then?

Anonymous said...

Leverage is the first show my entire family has watched together and enjoyed in a long time. I'm glad you guys got a full 13 episodes and we're all hoping you get a second season too.

gwangung said...

For what it's worth, the upcoming Chris Kane fight scene in The Bank Shot Job is my favorite. Well, this and the one in Wedding. Oh, and Mile High ... never mind. (Yes, I have a fight obsession, to the point of being mocked by my own staff.)

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....

I think you'd love the group, Rogers....

gwangung said...

Oh, by the way...

The ratings have been pretty promising,


Unknown said...

I understand your position, but I did want to point out that I discovered the show based on the recommendations of Warren Ellis, who somehow found a copy 'in the dark intrawebs' as he called it.

i also plan on getting the eventual DVD set so..

Daiv said...

On the Miracle Job.
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).
And why didn't someone explain to Parker that Saint Nicholas is Santa Claus, by way of the german Sinterklaas?

That said, this show makes me happy.

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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 and Elliot and Parker were switching clothes (and places) with the father and son. I am only asking because of Kid Sis' comment of course.

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