Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanted Wanting & Slutting The Links

Saw Wanted on Friday night...lots of good loud sexy mind-bending fun, thanks in part to solid performances from James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, but primarily due to the incredibly imaginative visual stylings of Russian-Kazakh film director Timur Bekmambetov. Bekmambetov is best known for his effects-ladden vampire franchise Night Watch and Day Watch...and he brings more A-game to Wanted.

Seriously, check out this dude's work --- it's like the Wachowski Brothers on steroids.


But speaking of the Wachowski's, Wanted was no Matrix, even though much of its story was structurally similar. Regular guy...works in cubicle...finds out he has special abilities...learns to use them --- I won't play spoilers...but will say that not only was The Matrix groundbreaking as far as visual effects go, it still holds up as an exciting, well-told story today (I had to watch Neo do his thing again later that night). Wanted's story wasn't bad but it left me wanting... more.

LINK SLUTTING EDIT: Sex In The Sub's Bill Martell rambles on not only about Wanted but also the ups and downs of a possible SAG strike (see further down) over at his digs.

---

And speaking of directors, Ken Levine writes a nice post about 'Why Writers Direct', including this snippet...

No, the real reason writers want to direct is this: directing is easier. Sure there are long hours, a million stupid questions (who gives a fuck what color the floss is? It’s floss!!), difficult actresses, and Faye Dunaway. But your job is to make something that already exists work. That’s a whole lot easier than creating something out of nothing.

He's right you know...but even though its easier, I will still give top marks to the good smart directors out there who can take that something that already exists on the page and elevate it, I mean really elevate it, to a new and exciting level. Like a Timur Bekmambetov for example...

------

And go get educated by Nikki Finke about where things are at and where they might go regarding a possible SAG (Screen Actors Guild) strike. The actors contract with the AMPTP expires end of this month, and a lot of what you'll read will sound exactly like what was heard earlier this year during the WGA writers strike, and it is...the same i mean...but hopefully, lessons were learned then by the studios and networks and another extended work stoppage can be avoided (it's certainly slowing down right now for a lot of Canadian service producers I know). Or perhaps another shutdown is exactly what the Big Seven want...


That said.... Happy Canada Day everyone.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Get The Dumpling!

Yes, it was rather simplistic with a predictable storyline, but still the most fun I've had at the cinema so far this year was watching Dreamworks latest animated effort Kung Fu Panda. Chock full of several very imaginative and visually stunning sequences...the highlight was this Friday Fun-worthy chopsticks battle over a dumpling...



Because it made me smile...and say 'kewl'.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

(X)PS....I Love You

Mmmmm....is there anything prettier than a new laptop right out of the box?



Beavis has to transfer over all his files, and then it's time to play.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Diane Gets Busy...And Bible Belting

Ms. Diane Kristine has been busy, not only providing us with some interesting interviews via her BlogTalkRadio podcast with Canadian TV directors Martin Wood and David Winning...LISTEN HERE...but also piecing together a nice TV writing post gleaned from her time in Banff spent with House's David Hoselton and Jeff Greenstein from Desperate Housewives.

One snippet that stood out for me was this:

Hoselton confirmed that House doesn't have a show bible, a document that supposedly collects the known facts of the series. "It's sort of a joke," he revealed. "Every now and then, somebody will say 'Where does Wilson live?' 'I don't know, it's in the bible.' "

Greenstein suggested show bibles are not particularly common or useful, given the collective memory of the writing staff and the availability of episodes and scripts online. "If there's one on Desperate Housewives, I haven't seen it." In fact, he hasn't read a bible for any of his shows. "It's probably a useful tool if you're a freelancer," he shrugged. "But the series bible to me is a relic of pre-Internet days. It's not necessarily a tool we worry about."

Pretty much every US showrunner I've spoken with over the past few years has echoed this sentiment, that TV series bibles are a thing of the past. There might be a pitch document that gives character overviews and the gist of the show and where it all might go, but once it gets rolling the 'bible' really only lives in the writers room and showrunner's head.

But here in Canada for some reason, bibles continue to be a broadcaster-required necessary evil. I suppose it helps the execs maintain some control over the creative process ("That can't happen, it's not in the bible!"), but it can truly stifle the natural progression of things.

Good TV series don't happen according to a hard and fast pre-designed plan...they evolve. Of course you need a jumping off point, but once production begins, actor chemistry develops and character relationships take on a life of their own...pitches that sounded great don't end up that way on the page...arcs that felt right don't play out as well as expected....budget crunches require a bottle show or a lot of studio shooting...and then there's the audience response to take into account. And by that I don't mean listening to the screeching of the Internet fan boy/girls...I mean getting a sense of what viewers are responding to once shows go to air (what they are digging and what they aren't) and then applying it to future episodes.

And most importantly, there's 'the rooms' response to produced episodes. If you are any good as a creative, you should be able to recognize if something is working or not. But that can't happen if the season is being mapped out in minute detail from beginning to end prior to filming even beginning. And if it wasn't working, it'd be so painful to keep adhering to the bible because someone upstairs kept saying you had to...and by upstairs I don't mean God, though some may see themselves that way.

I'd forgotten I'd written about this subject last year, but pretty much everything I said then still holds water now.

The only shows I worked on that had bibles that were truly helpful and continually updated were Mentors, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and The Outer Limits. Note that all these were anthology series of sorts...and unlike most shows today, they used to hire a lot of freelance writers. So the bible was primarily an overview of the 'rules of the show' and the continuing characters (if any), and then a synopsis of all the stories produced thus far (so the freelancer would know what not to pitch). That kind of bible made sense...but in today's day and age of most series being written in the room by the staff, not so much sense.

And for Canadian shows entering their 2nd or even 3rd season, it really really makes no sense at all.

Read the entire post by Diane HERE.


EDIT: And as usual, anything I say here McGrath says better (and longer)...go read the big guy riff on Bible bashing over at DeadThings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

When The Good Stuff Gets Taken From Us...

...it's a sad day indeed.



I always had and always will have a place for Carlin's stuff. RIP.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Musically Tagged...Or What's Making Me Sing These Days

I've sort of avoided playing the tag game for some time now, but UK's Blowing My Thought Wad hit me up with one that I'm happy to take a run at...


“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now.”


In no particular order, here are my Magnificent Seven:

1) High & Dry' by Radiohead...



...from the new cd release Best of Radiohead...only purchased because I have always thought of Radiohead as an 'album band' as opposed to 'hit artists', and wanted to see if a compilation of their better known songs would be an enjoyable listen. It's okay, but still like their albums better.


2) 'War On War' by Wilco...



...after finally watching the marvelous music documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart about the making of the band's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album.


3) 'We Rock' by the Jonas Brothers et al...



...because 'Camp Rock' airs tonight, and my kids won't stop playing/singing it....and I find myself singing along. Shrug.


4) 'The Funeral' by Band Of Horses...



....because my eldest recently turned me onto them, which in turn made me want to pull out my old dusty copy of...


5) 'Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns' by Mother Love Bone...



...one of the pioneers of the Seattle grunge scene before singer Andrew Wood's untimely death, and first cassette tape of 'check this band out' music sent to me by Hart Hanson....


6) 'Stickboy' by The Hanson Brothers...



...because Henshaw thinks it should be the new HNIC theme.


7) And coming full circle sort of, Prince's live cover of Radiohead's 'Creep' at Coachella last month...

*WATCH CLIP HERE* - F'in Prince keeps taking down YouTube clips*



...because it's so smokin' hot cool (damn that boy can still sing AND play guitar)


The final instruction is to tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to. Well those seven that are magnificent are:

Um...McGrath, Weinman, Henshaw, Girotti, Rogers, Christina, and Jane... plus anyone else who wants to play (I'm looking at you Epstein and Diane)

.

Gooooooooaaaaaaalllll(s)...Of Blogging

This blogging as hobby but a form of networking thing still continues to pleasantly surprise me. As happened last year, I had a lot of people at Banff last week pull me aside to say hello and that they read the blog all the time. In fact, I found it almost disconcerting that maybe 2 out of 5 people I met randomly had heard of 'Will Dixon'...but on more than one occasion someone in the group would pipe up: 'Oh, he's Uninflected Images...", and then more like 4 out of 5 would say "Ohhhhhh!" (in a good way).

And when I asked why they read, one young aspiring writer from out West described this blog as a kinda cool stream of consciousness thing about the industry, and a great compliment to Dead Things, Complications, and The Legion.

So I got that going for me...which is nice.

And the networking factor extends far beyond this continent...for example, English Dave (whose most excellent UK blog Was It Something I Wrote? continues to shine) posts about finding himself on the set of Bones over in London the other day...says hello to Hart, and my name/blog comes up as common ground...very cool.

So with across the pond in mind, Euro 2008 soccer is down to the final games...so Friday Fun has to be this announcer...



GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL!!!!

Because it makes me smile...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday This And That

Just some random stuff...

A new report from the CRTC via Playback/Media in Canada shows life is good so far for our cable, DTH satellite and multi-point distribution systems.

Profits for cable distributors such as Rogers, Cogeco, Shaw and Videotron cumulatively surpassed the $7-billion mark for the first time ever, marking an increase of 16.1% compared with 2006. Meanwhile, combined revenues for DTH and MDS companies, including Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice, soared to a new high of $1.85 billion.

It's the second year in a row that numbers are up for broadcast distributors.

Way to go, guys! Cable is the new black. And of course this means monies going back into Canadian production will be increasing accordingly right? Right? ...."crickets"...

------

For all of McGrath's long-winded (in the good way) insights and observations, he kinda buries the lead in a recent post with very short yet astute assessment of how to succeed in the world of TV series staff writing:

So here's my one-line craft advice for the aspiring:

Unless you can be fast, and I mean FAST, fast -- don't bother. You want to really be a value to a story department? Hone your skills in such a way that you can a) structure a story well and quickly. b) revise it even more quickly. c) write the outline in 48 hours d) in a pinch, write a solid first draft in a week.

If you can do that, and do that consistently, you may just be employable.

Okay, it's not really one line, but it's bang on the money. I could be that guy on occasion, but consistently and effectively...not so much. It's hard. Students of the game, take note(s).

---

And expecting to see a gritty intense UK film, I found myself at the wrong screening at the local independent cinema recently and plumped down in my seat as the Canadian feature film Emotional Arithmetic began. Has anyone seen (heard of?) this movie? Cast included the usual 'necessary for financing' mish mash of actors- Canuck staples Christopher Plummer and Roy Dupuis,...international staples Gabriel Byrne and Max Van Sydow....all headlined by American Susan Sarandon.
And I know I'm more Beavis than Bunuel, but I'll give pretty much anything a chance. Still lasted only about 30 minutes, growing more and more irritated and bored...then dozed off for about half an hour....awoke to find nothing had really changed or happened, so ducked out.

If we've finally left behind making films about young boys coming of age on the prairies, then let's start leaving behind dreary adaptations of dreary Canadian novels....puh-leaze.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Longer Necessary?

As in, is my blog and others like it really necessary since a new one has recently appeared on the horizon - the Film Industry Bloggers blog (I think Alex mentioned this last week) that puts up weekly posts from industry professionals talking about the craft of making TV/movies from a variety of insider perspectives, like...

The Screenwriter! (Joe Gazzam just sold a pilot to Sci-Fi)...or the other side of the coin...

The Production Assistant! (I hope Brandie Posey sells a pilot to Sci-Fi someday)...


Check them all out...see what you think.


Still decompressing from Banff and catching up on some things that I let slide...but back soon with fresh new material as well as a few guest posts.

In the meantime, I wish I was Bob Dylan...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

But Isn't Hockey Over For This Year?

Grrr...Weinman beat me to posting this, but when I saw Colbert do his take on the Hockey Night In Canada Theme song mess last night...I laughed, and I laughed...



...and then I slept. But I was still laughing/crying? inside.

"Punching beavers in the face!"

Hoselton In The House

Racing to wrap things up and then head for the airport, so handing off to TV Eh's? Diane for her interview with ex-lawyer now House writer David Hoselton (I did take in his Master Class, but it's House for crying out loud...must not step on Diane's turf).

Spoilers alert: In the new season, House is still cranky and solves more medical mysteries!

So I Barbecued...

...and t'was chilly but at least the rain stopped, so have to give a thumbs up to the time honoured but absent for a few years tradition of the Western BBQ returning to the Banff TV Festival social calendar.

And as I'm want to do on occasion, instead of shmoozing spent most of the night hanging with longtime TV director pal David Winning who I hadn't seen in years. And it was time well spent, even if it seemed all he did was bust my balls...but we all need a little of that now and then, just to keep one's feet on the ground.

Ready to head home but one more day to go...but pretty much Banffed out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Read That Last Part Back To Me...Like, All Of Act Three!

I know, I know...who cares about kids/tween TV...but actually I do, and was introduced to a whole new spin on room writing from showrunner Michael Poryes. Poryes has had a long career writing TV comedy primarily (Cybill), but lately several Disney Channel shows have been his meal ticket --- writing and producing That's So Raven, Cory In The House, and the focus of his Master Class, Hannah Montana.

So here's how his room works. The staff scribes gather round the table and begin to talk out an episode. A writing assistant writes what they are spinning....no, not writes as in 'takes notes', but types out the beats, and then the outline, and then, eventually, the screenplay.

That's right, types the entire screenplay...from Fade In to Fade Out!

Then as a group they will do another pass, verbally, working presumably from hard copies or off their own computers, as the writing assistant continues to type it...or 'retype it' in this case. Then, when each script gets published, they either all share in or divide up the writing credits equally between the members of the staff.

In some ways I'm sure this is how a sitcom room must work, but still...I mean, I've been in the room as the group will work together to break the story beats, but then at some point a writer or the appointed writer will go away to pen the outline. And then, after notes and revisions, that writer will pen the draft of the script. But I have never heard of a room hashing out the beats and the outline and script verbally as a group, while the assistant 'types' the screenplay proper.

Poryes says this method works great for them ---they blast through a draft of a half hour episode in a couple of days (when you eliminate the 'going away to write' part and then the 'sending around what's been written for notes' part, yeah...I'd say pretty fast indeed), and are usually home by 5pm every evening. Sweet. But still...pretty wild, huh?


In other news...caught up with Al Magee and got some of the scoop about his new role as co-executive producer of Little Mosque...and we started the ball rolling toward a follow up interview to the monster one we dumped on all of you last year. Stay tuned for that.

Also spent some quality time with writers and bloggers Diane Wild (who was handing out TV, eh? hats! Hats I tell you!) and Jill Golick and David Moses. Actually Moses, along with screenwriters Rick Drew, Matt MacLennan, Karen Hill, James Phillips, and several other deserving participants, are all part of the CanWest Showrunners Training Program being held in conjunction with the festival. I was very pleased to get the chance to chat with a lot of them...AND crashed their catered lunch (sorry, but I was starving).

Forging on....though it's been pouring rain all day, and the notion of trekking out to the BBQ only to slog through mud and shiver in a tent is sounding less and less appealing.

We shall see.

Hanson Breaks Bones...Jason Katims Talks FNL...or Everyone Knows High School Lasts Seven Years

So much for my master plan of taking in all the Master Classes at Banff...missed Alan Poul from Swingtown's morning session as I was dragged away for coffee and toasted English muffins by Hart Hanson from Bones with a guest appearance by David Hoselton from House. A very entertaining conversation ensued, with a great muttering mini-scene played out by the two about both their shows having new timeslots come this fall and winter on Fox...even showrunners, it seems, don't have really any say about where a network schedules you.

But one showrunner isn't complaining... Jason Katims' Friday Night Lights will be returning for a third season, but in a very unique and ground-breaking fashion. I made it to his Master Class, and the series will be airing first on Direct TV in the US (Wednesday's at 9pm I believe), and then on NBC several months later as its second window. Apparently the show had been on the bubble for ages and its return didn't look promising until Ben Silverman brokered this deal. But the satellite company with first window....hmmm...interesting.

As far as writing and producing the show, Katims spoke at length about the FNL process...which also fell into the groundbreaking category. As he told it, they have no standing sets or even swing sets. No sets...that's like unheard of for a TV series, no?! Apparently it's shot in small town Texas, and they just walk onto a location, light to shoot (not for 'shots' or 'coverage'), and off they go. No rehearsals...no marks...no tape measuring for focus...just 3 camera's roll as the actors start performing and they 'discover the blocking of the scene' as it happens.

They call their camera operators 'snipers' because they just have to find the shot and take it.

Cool.

Katims likened it in some ways to the shooting of The Office, but for a one hour ensemble drama filmed on location, it's pretty unique. And they move really fast. He said they had 8 days to shoot an episode when the series began, took it down to 7 days last year, and are going to be shooting them in 6 days this summer. That's fast...and he attributed it primarily to the speed with which they can burn through scenes filming them in this way.

I know this style contributes to the authenticity and 'reality' of FNL, but I wonder if we don't see more and more drama shows being shot this way.

And as for writing the show, he gushed about how liberating it was to shoot so quickly while always on location. On any TV series, there is always the constant negotiation between production and writing/creative (e.g. we can't shoot out there because we need 3 days in studio, or it'll cost too much to build that set), but Katims said he never feels that constraint on FNL. He says there's this sense that you can write whatever comes into your head because production/locations will just go find it, and dress it, and then they go shoot it.

Niiiiice.

I also took in Hanson's Master Class for Bones....entertaining and informative as always, the Hartster spilled some without telling too much. But you always got the feeling he was biting his tongue. And he was. I'd heard a lot of the 'truth' that morning. Ahhh, show biz. Nevertheless they will be kicking off Bones Season 4 with a two-parter set in London, England...a good idea at the time that he said has proven to be logistical and creative nightmare, but he was leaving tomorrow for the UK to oversee the shooting of it. Best of luck my friend.

Rest of day was more receptions and gatherings and networking...some good stuff but more on that tomorrow. And ended evening not at St James Pub shockingly enough, but a whiz bang of a party at the Saltlik Steakhouse thrown by Paul Gross' company WhizBang Films. A good time was had by all, and Paul Gross is still a damn handsome man.

That's all I got. Must sleep.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Will Has Landed...(in Banff)

Basically pulled into town and headed right into the opening reception hosted by the CBC...saw a lot of familiar faces and said my hello's...enjoyed a late dinner with Super Channel's Dave Proc and Vancouver writer (Little) Ricky Drew, caught up with prairie producers Stephen Onda and Kevin DeWalt, touched base with Sanctuary producer/director Martin Wood, and ended evening with a quick walk through the St James Pub with formerly of Toronto but now in Vancouver writer/producer Larry Raskin.

And not a lot to report except to say every year at Banff there seems to be more and more of the TV Network Execs, and Telefilm/CTF/Provincial Film Agency heads and staffers, and Lawyers, and Guild and Union reps...and fewer and fewer of the writers, directors, and producers...you know, the creative types.

It must mean something, but not sure what...yet.

Will sleep on it and see what the morning brings.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Duh Duh Da Da Duh

The Hockey Night In Canada theme song is being put out to pasture, to be replaced by a song chosen from a national contest, and Scott Feschuk of Macleans magazine makes a Friday Fun meal out of CBC's 'brilliant idea'.

Question: Does everything now have to be a national contest? Must every freaking thing now be decided by audience vote, reality show, opinion poll, focus group or some other form of arduous, soul-sapping national consultation involving Farley Flex? Can’t some executive somewhere just make a goddamn decision without asking for a coast-to-coast show of hands? *

That said, just to cover my bases I nominate Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler as the new theme song for Hockey Night in Canada. Except sung by ninjas to give it more of a Saturday night vibe.

Read the whole hilarious post HERE - and you have to cruise back through Feschuks last week of entries to truly appreciate the Bonnie Tyler reference.


This has caused such an uproar across the nation, it's actually a little surreal. So listen again to the tune that has been called Canada's 2nd National anthem...or depending who you talk to, it IS the National Anthem.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Will Takes It...And Banff Beckons

No, not this Will...or Wil Zmak for that matter (too many Will's!), but Will Pascoe who ends up on top of the 2nd Annual Infamous Writers/Bloggers Hockey Pool. Sure, it lacked the drama and excitement of last year's finish, but all and all, lots of good clean fun.

Jim Henshaw has the full wrap up over at his place (and thanks again Jim for driving the car, even if your picks sucked balls)


So, crashing ahead...off the the Banff TV Festival this weekend. Little disappointed that our Don and most of the Writer's Mafia won't be there, but such is life - must be nice to be soooooooo busy.

And wearing several hats this year: Super Channel Development Rep, Story Editor/Writer, Television Director, Rock n'Roll Blogger...yet not really sure which chapeau I'll wear most. Nevertheless am still planning to give my irreverent yet entertaining (hopefully) daily updates as I have the past, but any ideas of where to hang or who to look for or what to try to learn, feel free to suggest away in the comments.

Oh yeah....the Western BBQ is back this year....niiiiiice.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

So Technorati...What's Up?

I know I shouldn't be concerning myself with such trivial matters, but over the past several months I've watched (with some dismay) my Technorati links plummet off the charts. Not so long ago, they stood at around 60, now they waver tentatively at an almost embarrassing 14. Even though visitor stats were still respectable, I just figured other blogs had been deleting Uninflected Images from their blogroll since I hadn't been posting as often.

But still...would so many abandon the Dix so fast?

So I started clicking through the sidebar and my favourites, just to see if what I thought had happened was actually the case....and I stopped checking when I hit 45. Yes, that's right...at least 45 blogs were still linked here, and I know of several more I didn't need to check...yet my Technorati stats still sit at 14. What the huh?

Not that it's that important...really...but because I'm curious and/or vain, is there a tech/blog expert out there in the scriboblogosphere that can tell me...what's up? Or better yet, how does one get the stats up...again?

Edit: And just so we're clear, I'm not talking links to posts...those seem to drop off after a certain time period...but just links from blogroll to blog. Okay okay, I'll stop whining and write Technorati a note...


I now return to wondering how I will be able to see a lot of the new and returning CTV programs this fall when I don't have the A Channel as part of my cable package. Oh no! Oh right, I can see all those shows on US networks anyway...problem solved!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Some Good Hockey

Thought I'd be posting the name of the victor of our playoff pool today, but Pens goaltender Fleury said 'not so fast'.

Can you say triple overtime?

Detroit has the better team, and they deserve to win the Cup (hopefully in 6 games...fingers crossed) - but they've run into a hot goalie...and when that happens, well, anything can happen.

As opposed to our pool, where Pascoe seems to have it pretty much locked up...


1 Will Pascoe 187
2 Scotty William 183
3 John Callaghan 177
4 Jeff Martel 174
5 Laurie Nyveen 169
6 Brian Stockton 162
7 Denis McGrath 161
7 Wil Zmak 161
9 Peter Allen Rowley 155
10 Will Dixon 154
11 Michael Foster 151
12 Mark Askwith 149
13 Juniper 148
14 Mark Farrell 136
15 Larry Raskin 131
16 Robert de Lint 116
17 Jim Henshaw 76


Oh well - was still fun...thanks to all for participating. And if the excitement has left the pool, hopefully we get some in spades with more good hockey later this week.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Go Green.....

Al Green has a new cd.... 'Lay It Down.'

Mmmmm....as good as the first time I heard the Reverend:




Sweet soul salvation....makes me want to pull out Anthology again (remember when box sets were all the rage? I have dozens of them...now packed away in boxes...sigh).