Sunday, December 21, 2014

LIBRARIANS #104 "and Santa's Midnight Run" Question Post

Bruce Campbell as Santa.  You're welcome.  questions, snark, confusion, rage away in the Comments.

LIBRARIANS 101/102 +103 Answer post

Since I already did the write-up for 101 and 102, I figured I'd fold those fan questions in with the 103 stuff.

The challenge to episode two, in any ordinary show, is to really hammer home what the week-to-week of a show is, from tone to plot construction to character.  Advertising, promotions, casting etc get you Week One. Week One gets you Week Two, but so often Week One is a giant high-concept blow-out, so you need to transition people into the show proper.  It's rare to shake all the loose bolts out very quickly -- in Hollywood there's a generally known if not universally agreed-upon theory (I'm an adherent) that most shows on TV don't quite figure out what they are, how the actors and characters interface, what the template is, until episode 5 or 6 of the first season. This is now a fun game to play with your friends when discussing your favorite shows.

FWIW, we actually shot the 2nd broadcast ep ("The Homecoming Job") of Leverage 6th.  "The Bank Shot Job" was broken and shot first after the pilot, but aired 6th.  Librarians 103 "Horns" (no way I'm using the long form of the titles in these posts) was shot 4th, aired 3rd, but really 2nd because of 101/102 being more of a movie entire.

We needed every inch of that time.  As mentioned, we needed to establish all the methodology of the series, but in a show where we spent the pilot burning down the previous template.  No single Librarian, no artifact hunting like the movies (Warehouse 13 owns that particular franchise now), totally different team dynamic.  How do their cases work?  How do they get to where the cases exist? How does the procedural engine of the show function?  You ordinarily have the time between the selling of the pilot and the shooting of the pilot, and then between pilot pick-up and production, to figure this stuff out.  But as mentioned, this show came together in five weeks, from greenlight to first day of shooting.  We managed to buy a bit of time with the longer production cycle of eps 101/102, but not a ton. There was a lot of spot-welding.

The "rules of magic":  Back in the movies each artifact was a one-off; if we were going to do a show, there needed to be an internal consistency to the supernatural physics of the world.  The network very politely insisted on having magic explained to them in great detail -- they had never made a magic show before, not all the execs were fans of the genre, and well, there's always the fear you're just "solving problems with magic".  They were very supportive, as always with our friends at TNT, but wanted some hard boundaries thrown up.

I'll admit a certain amount of frustration with this tendency in modern television.  Although magical fantasy as a genre is widely accepted by audiences,  it's a young genre in TV, and as a result gets a lot more scrutiny from execs.  You can point out that there's an enormous amount of bullshit on CSI, or most of the science in science fiction is one cool high concept that frankly does not in any way work in real life like the way it's portrayed in the show, but it has the air of legitimacy to it.  It's technology. People respect technology and science, we're hard-wired to do so in Western culture.  Substitute "technobabble" for "abracadbra" and you have 90% of procedurals.

Basically, if we'd called the Back Door a "teleporter", I could've gotten away with explaining it in a couplet.  By calling it a "Magic Door", we needed to dedicate an entire scene to it.

When you add that well-executed magic is inherently surreal, you wind up with a lot of squinting.

There's also the Goofy/Cool challenge.  Everyone -- myself included -- wants to make something people enjoy.  Networks are staffed by people, actual human beings, and you would be stunned at how many of them are genuinely concerned with not making something "goofy".  They want to make cool stuff, they want to be cool, and not cool in the sense of "what I call a thing I like" cool but "hip as judged by society" cool.  A couple years ago I had an exec (not at TNT) express fear that critics would make fun of them (the execs) for making a certain show.

We often joke that Hollywood is high school with money.  It is nightmarishly truer than you know.

The problem, of course is that "cool" and "goofy" work like this


where that line is an infinitely thin and completely subjective space within which genre shows travel.  Most creative people are totally willing to drive their little idea through that space, banging off the guardrails, and non-creative people are by their nature repulsed by that space.

Other acceptable metaphors:

-- COOL as an elevated roadway over a swamp of Goofy
-- COOL as a molecule made up of Goofy atoms (probably better)

All to say: you'll never make anything worth caring about until you're willing to risk making a fool of yourself.

Where the hell was I -- oh, right, I forgot how these things tend to wander. The "Rules of Magic" in the Library-verse turned out to be an excellent idea (thanks Execs!), as they gave us a structure for the cases in a show where there was really no established template.  As Jenkins explains: "Power/Focus/Effect". If you pay attention to that equation, you'll actually find that shows are fair play mysteries.

So this episode had to establish how we got to the cases without abandoning our gorgeous Annex set, establish the rules of magic for the Library-verse, and most importantly, set down the relationships of the main characters in the new configuration.  I'm a big believer in addressing show structure in text, so we decided in writing the awkward, nobody-knows-what-they're-doing second episode.  It's going to be a while before they're a well-oiled team (just like us!),, and addressing that seemed honest. We wanted, too, to make sure that the friendships didn't just gel because everyone's working in the same building. They're strangers.  This is how they become friends. (Unlike Leverage, I don't think this is a show explicitly about family.  But that's me.)

The last item to put in place was tone -- not just in dialogue, etc, but in choosing the type of case the team investigated.  A big theme of the show is "What does magic look like in the real world?", so a straight up old-school X-Files-style investigation seemed a nice template for this one.  We looked to the columns of card son the walls, all the monsters and mysteries obscure and famous, and decided a legend people were familiar with would be a good way to ease into the show. A missing person case that transforms into the secret of a corporation feeding interns to a Minotaur screams X-Files S2 to me.

Writer Jeremy Bernstein had done the research on this, and he did indeed lead us through the entire, sordid version of the original myth.  This led to a wasted afternoon of me riffing off the ancient Minoan Court's R&D budget and Daedelus and the one sane guy in a very weird research project, reined in only by Kate Rorick's iron will.  Being trapped in a maze for an entire show was passive and had only a single goal (and limited sets), so turning it into a Grudge-like curse seemed a nice twist.

We originally experimented with a CG minotaur, but the suit made more sense for our filming schedule.  To properly light and shoot for a CG character you'll insert later which will actually INTERACT with other people -- oof.  The human "Man-o-tour" was originally a combination of neat magic idea ("monsters are among us") and getting to then open up the action. The fact we could nab Tyler Mane for the X-Men reunion was just icing on the cake.

Tricia Helfer joined us courtesy of producing director (and director of this episode) Marc Roskin, who'd directed her on another show.  She's one of the best at delivering a "banality of evil" speech, and was a very good sport about having a tiny redhead clinging to her for a big chunk of one act.

Right, let's see what's in the questions.  That's always more interesting.


@Unkown:  a.)I haven't seen the movies, so maybe this was an established thing already, but Flynn in the pilot seemed to have a great deal of the Doctor Who nature. Was that intentional? b.) The show is obviously going to be compared to WAREHOUSE 13. What do you see as the important differences?

a.) No,in the movies the gimmick was as Noah describes it "Indiana Jones played by Don Knotts." We wanted to keep the movies in continuity, knew that we wanted to explore the neophyte-style characters with the NEW characters, so keeping Flynn that way made no sense in the timeline or show structure ... and the Eccleston reboot was sitting right there.  I also like writing dense speeches for Noah, he likes saying them as fast as possible, and so there you go.
b.)  I was the loudest voice in the room that we could not just continue on the the idea of a weekly artifact hunt.  I mean, I don't want to just be a rip-off of Friday the 13th: The Series.


No, I'm a big Warehouse 13 fan, and although many fans have been kind enough to point out that the Librarians franchise predates that show, they own that space. We're more a magical investigation show.  A lot of the show is about how magic is just out there, already permeating society.  It's a looser, more distinctly magical world.

@theuglybugball:  a.) Will Jake Stone ever get a cold beer. b.) What happened to Lamia

a.) Not from Jenkins.
b.) Knocked out, and back this week! She and Jake Stone develop a very ... weird relationship.

@Joe Helfrich: Are other episodes going to be streaming online?

For sale on iTunes and Amazon, the extended cuts (I think those are up on all services now), not streaming until we find out if there's a Season 2 or not.  One of those things you need to negotiate for all new shows.

@Ara: Are the Leverage10- podcasts available online?

I'll check.  They should be. Aren't they still up on iTunes?

@Anonymous: The first season has already been filmed. Will feedback from critics and viewers influence any of the upcoming episodes in terms of editing choices? Or is everything already "set in stone"? (Sorry, couldn't resist that.)

To be honest, even when shows shoot and air closer together, feedback from fans usually falls in too late to influence anything anyway.  Even then we will occasionally go "hmm" and explore something, but never re-direct.  Our show, we don't give up creative agency.

@Tom Galloway: Interesting bit; assuming Eve is meant to be team lead, it'd appear she's significantly less smart in the general IQ sense than the rest of the team. I'm not saying she's not competent; it's obvious we're getting another does of competence porn, but Jake and Cassandra are specifically called out as super-geniuses, and Ezekial's background and set-up would appear to put him up there as well. While she seems to be positioned as common sense (as is Jake).

Thing is, that makes the set up for Eureka spring to mind, and sorry to say I really disliked the set up of a town of super-geniuses very frequently needing the token non-genius "regular guy" to solve the problems. It'll be a fine balancing act to have her utilize leadership skills and her explicit field experience while still having the others outshine her intellectually.

I actually consulted on first season of Eureka (wrote the ep with Joe Morton's wife returning) so I get what you're going for here. (I also did standup with Colin, back in the day)  But Eve isn't just common sense, she's also crisis management and an investigator. She directs the others, and in the situations where she's missing or incommunicado, you see the team really struggle.

@Anonymous: In which circle of hell would you place the fans who complain about Christian Kane's hair?

We trimmed him in Leverage, so we've been easing them to this.  As Rebecca Romijn joked, we have the hair hermetically stored for future use, just in case.

@the_eye: I noticed in the scene in the "Black Forest" that the Land Rover had German-looking number-plates. Fine so far. Then I noticed that it was a plate that (currently) can't exist since the prefix you used doesn't reference any actual location. Is there a legal reason for this? Triggered by this I was reminded of one of the last Bonds (Quantum of Solace, I think) where there's a scene in Austria and there also, we get Austrian number plates but impossible ones.

Yep, the same reason we don't use real phone numbers and have to use law books as library books (we'll get to that later).  They're called clearances, one of the most useless, time-consuming elements of film and television producing.  We need to make sure that nothing we do in the show can be connected in any way to anyone alive, lest they sue us for implying ... I don't know, that they rent their truck out to world-spanning Librarians.  

It's one of those petty things you need to do to make sure that just in case, as one lawyer explained it to me,  "you get the craziest client in the world in front of the craziest judge in the world with the craziest jury in the world, you're covered."

@vickysg1: One question: with Unforgettable cancelled, will Jane Curtin be in more episodes next season? (There's no doubt for me there'll be a second season, of course.)

We hope. She was originally in both halves of the premiere, but we had to cut her down to just those scenes due ot her availability on the other show.  She actually flew in the last week of shooting the season to do those scenes, which meant we had to sit there, all season, with the pilot unfinished.  If we' d lost her then, things would have been ... unpleasant.

@Neil W: Is there anything else you might have done differently if it hadn't been made in such a rush?

In retrospect, I think we might have tightened up the season arc, and done another production pass on a few of the scripts to streamline them for both physical production and effects. Otherwise ... eh.

@Isaac: ... for some reason, I really want to see the Librarians meet up with people who seem suspiciously similar to Elijah Snow and the PLANETARY crew, but I suspect that's not possible.

No, but the influence of Planetary on this show will grow more obvious as the season goes on.  It's certainly one for the touchstones for the show.

@Neil Jasper: Perhaps its the role-player in me that put this thought in my head, but a question occurred to me when I saw the magical box that Flynn opened in the opening sequence, and again later when Cassandra disarmed the mesh over the stone -- Who makes those traps and security measures? Are they still around, and do they get ticked off with people like the Librarian and the Serpent Brotherhood getting past their inventions?

That card is actually on the wall.  It's a group of artisans, and they are still around.  And yes, they get annoyed, but it only spurs them to finer work.

@jill: So happy to have you back! My husband and I are both law librarians, so the randomly scattered Federal Reporters cracked us up - weeded legal materials make for cheap and authoritative-looking set dressing, I guess!

Pre-cisely. Here's the trick with books -- they're copywritten, and by publishers, who are about the only humans on earth who actually give a shit about control of books rights.  Even the COVER ART is designed by and therefore belongs TO somebody.

So when you're filling a set with books, you have a giant pain-in-the-ass problem: how do you "clear" (ah-hah, remember that from above?) a whole library of books?  Many sets use pre-printed spines, which you just lay over boxes. We wanted a living set, though, one you could yank books from, shoot through the shelves.  In that case, we and pretty much every television show on earth use law books, because the law is in the public domain,  Anything government published is fair game. 

Nobody notices except if you deal with law books on a regular basis, in which case it screams at you like a bonfire.  This is one of those things where you shrug and say "eh." Welcome to television.  I have a similar problem with mathematics or physics on whiteboards in TV shows, where it's plainly some random trigonometry scrawled for background. That's why millions of Leverage viewers have unknowingly come to know my handwriting, because any time I could, I'd be the one to fill a board with equations. 

@Anonymous: The randomly arranged volumes of the easily recognizable Supreme Court Reports interspersed with other colored books was very distracting to quite a few of the viewers I conversed with. Maybe this is a sign that the plots are not riveting enough to skimp on the props?

See, this is the same question, as the previous one, but this person is being a dick.  I can say that, because this is my blog, not a TNT blog.  Don't be a condescending dick. No one likes it.  You are not clever.  Go watch another show.

@Stacey: The little leather ties at the back of King Arthur's crown which only appeared when Lamia was wearing it--olde magick or movie magic?!

Nice catch.  Movie magic. It was custom made by someone who specializes in medieval and LOTR-themed weddings (which is awesome), but sized before we had the actors.

@ellabell: 1) In the beginning it appeared that the series was about to take place in New York, and based on your previous comments I know you don't like that / didn't want to do it. At what point was the location decided / how was the plot point of moving the library / home base outside of that area approached? And, was it just a no-brainer to move it to Oregon based on your previous experiences?
2) I loved the in-references to Leverage ("adorable", the Dagger of Aqua'ba), and my friends that were familiar with the previous movies were also very pleased with all the nods to continuity. How did you / the writers approach the balance between creating something new that was accessible to new viewers that also appealed to your previous fans?
3) I would LOVE more elaboration on the "diametrically opposed pairs in order to best showcase your themes" part, but if you want to wait for the (now promised, and we will hold you to that) book, I'll be the first in line! :)
4a) The only bit of mixed reaction that I've come across with respect to the pilot has been the romance / kiss at the end. Can you maybe discuss the reasoning / thought process behind it? I'm especially interested in the contrast with Leverage as the romance was underplayed for so long, yet this showed up in the first (...second?) episode. (I'm approaching the line of your fourth caveat, but I'm just really curious, especially if it has callbacks to the movies.)
4b) Any chance of some non-heteronormative characters? (*insert reference to your own joke about Det. Grayson and having real lesbians on TNT)
5) Can you give us a quick rundown of your writers' room? Scrappy assistant? With such a quick turnaround from the greenlight to the production, how was the hiring process different from normal? How did you balance hiring staff you knew / had worked with before with getting in new blood? Because it wasn't part of the usual staffing season, did it limit accessibility or help it? (imdb shows that the only new name is Rorick -- and I think it's really cool that you hired someone from alt-media / Pemberly. Did her resume cross your desk? Or did you seek her out because you're a fan of alt-media?) Was it the same with picking directors?
6) How much input does the network have? Is this still a little more arm's length like Leverage was? Is it easier to work the execs on this show because you already have a relationship with them? Or has there been enough changeover that you're starting fresh?
7) Are you approaching the structure of this series / the characters like another true five-hander?
8) Are you going to publish your characters sheets for us? :)

Ellabell!  You're back!  And properly numbering questions, to, which I appreciate.

1.) We knew we wanted to take away the Library proper, to give Flynn a clean start. KNowing we were going to shoot back up in Portland, and loving the city, we decided to honor it by shooting Portland for Portland.
2.) We tried to use the Doctor Who reboot -- bonus joy if you know the continuity, but it all stands on its own.  Hopefully.
3.) I will put up a photo sometime later in the season, because there are spoilers on it.
4a,) To be honest, it was two things.  First, there are so many "will they or won't they" shows, it just seems like that's the boring trope.  There are other damn relationships besides potentioal ones.  Why not just kick in the door?  He's attractive, she's attractive, they're lonely and Eve Baird would ABSOLUTEY do that kind of thing just to shake him up a bit.

That said, no one's saying that this will go well. So let's explore that. Let's explore the long distance relationship, and the power struggle that happens when Flynn returns to the team which Eve's been running very well, thanks.  It will not go smoothly.  Words will be exchanged.

4b.) Season finale.

5.) The writers room for the show is very small.  Not only did I need writers I knew because I didn't have time to train people, a lot of writers were already working when March rolled around.

Paul Guyot (@fizzhogg) from Leverage and a bunch of other stuff. Paul was #2 this year, and spent much of the season up in Portland while I hammered at the scripts. Paul is not a genre guy in any way, shape or form, so he was a good check on the room going too inside.  He is a big softy, though.  He digs the emo.
Jeremy Bernstein (@fajitas) from Leverage.  He's also a biochemist and wrote the shit out of Dead Space 2. Jeremy is a hard core sci-fi and fantasy fan.  He's also a research nut, and will hose you down with tru-facts on any story you're breaking.  His shows tend to have some complicated little puzzle inside them.
Kate Rorick (@NobleRorick) was the new writer -- my company had read her for something else, and when the staff was coming together quickly we were lucky she was available.  Besides being a genre fan and writer, she's a classic literature and history buff who some of you may know as the author of a very successful romance series under her pen name Kate Noble.  She also did the novelization of the transmedia hit Lizzie Bennet.  She is inordinately patient with the rest of us.
Geoff Thorne (@GeoffThorne) is a much beloved Leverage writer  and sci-fi novelist who likes to dig in on the high concepts.  Let's go steal a Parker! Let's do the straight-up haunted house Librarians!  He is just nine kinds of enthusiastic, a massive geek, and a great writer.  You can read Prodigal, his retrieval team/magic world comic on my site, Thrillbent, here.
Adam Hann-Byrd (@BigManTate) is our writers assistant. He wrote a really fine script my company was submitted a while ago, and when the slot opened up we decided to give him a shot. A writers assistant, for those who don't know, is the person who has to take 8 hours of people screaming ideas at each other, posting then tearing down index cards, jam it all together and make it make sense.  And get lunch. NEVER FUCK UP THE LUNCH.  I will leave you to ponder his twitter name and do the IMDB search ...

6.) The network was as always amazing. Our execs got and dug the show.  There's a new boss at TNT, of course but he came in after we wrapped. I'm sure, although he may change the programming direction of the network, the current  execs will continue to be our friends.

7.) Yes, in the first season, every character gets a showcase ep or two. There are always some "big heads on the poster', as the marketing people say, but we consider each character to be the lead of their own version of the show.


@Kelly Kluckman: 1) I love that Jones has a strategy for traveling back in time. Does he have a plan for other unlikely situations? Everyone has a zombie plan but how about traveling to the future, an alien invasion, a deep one uprising or an outbreak of super flu? 1.a) Also, could he build a steam engine on his own or was he counting on help from the others?  He's on top of things and that's awesome. I like that he's looking up ways into the palace just because they're heading in that general direction.  2) Did Stone say it was "old" iron or "cold" iron 2.a) How bad would it be if the fae got a hold of the crown? Or could you command magical critters with the crown?

1.) As a matter of fact, yes, and you hear one of them later in the season.
1a.) He actually good. He's quite clever with tech. Although he and Jenkins do not care for each other, they come to grudgingly admire each other's work.
2.) "old iron" but there's no reason not to keep that phrase in mind for later in the season.
2a) They couldn't use it. Merlin put in a failsafe.

@seraS: . 1.) I wanted to ask about the poem on Lamia's arm, The Second Coming. I've never really seen it translated into Latin before. Was that just to showcase Jake's skill set and maybe to add some mystery to Lamia's character, or was there another reason?  2.) Actually, now that I think of it... I do have another question. Is Jenkins going to take over Charlene's job of asking for the LITs' receipts? I mean, someone's gotta keep the books, right? :p And it just wouldn't be the same without someone nagging about this.

1.) We actually had to have it translated. In the extended version, you see that she has multiple symbols of magical apocalypse tattooed on her arm. It's her thing.

2.) Jenkins is a little different than Charlene, in that he really, really would prefer nto to be assuming that job. He has other, annoying and possibly fatal habits.

@Laure Killian: (re prosciutto cutting torch) I hope the Theo Gray video will silence skeptics. If not, tell doubters just to ask their nearest welder about the feasibility of the device, 'cause it'd pretty much work. Since watching the show on iTunes Monday night, my son the welder has held forth... at length... on multiple occasions... about possible optimizations for the prosciutto cutting torch. A high carbon content in the meat is apparently critical to the success of the torch, so prosciutto is probably better than bacon. Unless it's this one particular kind of lean, smoked bacon his favorite lunch place flies in from Montana every week. He says buffalo jerky and smoked coho salmon might also be worth testing. When the weather improves, he & his deranged welder buddies will probably do some trials to be sure. (True fact: Welders are just not normal.) As we live near Portland, you may hear about the tragic aftermath when their experiments go awry.

I ABSOLUTELY DEMAND YouTube footage of your son bacon-welding. DEMAND IT!

@Peaches: If I remember correctly, in one of the original Librarian movies, Flynn accused Judson of being over 2000 years old. Now in the premiere, we see Charlene rushing in with a sword and tattered clothes after presumably going a few rounds with the Serpent Brotherhood. When The Library starts to fold up, Lamia tells Cassandra “the first Librarian has cut the anchor chain”. So was Judson the first Librarian with Charlene as his Guardian? Is he really that old and is Charlene of similar age?

Judson was the First Librarian. We will reveal that Charlene was a Guardian, was at one point Judson's Guardian, but it would be a spoiler to reveal if she was his original Guardian, or how old she is.

@Peaches (again): So if the potential Librarians got their invitations to interview for the position 10 years ago, how old were Cassandra and Ezekiel? Lindy Booth is playing younger, but John Kim seems to actually be that young.

Ezekiel did indeed get his invitation when he was a teenager.  His life path since then ... well, you'll see.

@Boholano si Lyn: My question relates to the character names. How do you come up with them? Do the names come first or the characteristics? Is it just a matter of picking them out of a hat or just finding something that clicks? I know on Leverage "Parker" was a reference. Any floating around The Librarians? Like Cassandra- she was telling people something and no one believed her- reference to the mythical Cassandra?

To tell the truth, this time it was just me, with a fistful of Irish whisky, thinking "What's the pulpiest sounding names, with lots of quirkiness and alliteration, I can come up with?" Lots of K's.  They just ... sound right.

@Art Connery: So, how many times did Christian get hurt, heal the next day and you swear your usual saying? Was Lamia her own Busey?

Kane got hurt only twice, really, and Lami ais Dulaque's Busey.

@John Johnson: (technical bit regarding henges) Yes, correct, there are henges in Germany, nut none in that style in the Black Forest area. We had a historian or two run that down for us.

103 "... and the Horns of a Dilemma" questions

@Chris Zook: In which scene with the Minotaur did Christian break his thumb?'

The run down the alley, ironically, not when he hit the wall six feet up. Cut the corner too tight.

@Jessa: Two questions: 1 Will we actually see Jake's family if there is more than 1 season (not just a mention of then as it was in Leverage)?? 2. Since he isn't an Eliot Spencer character when it comes to women...could/would you have him have a love interest if the series continues? Possibly cassandra??

1.)  You almost met them.  Would've if there'd been 13 episodes.  That said, you will hear the entire story of why he never left home.
2.) He meets someone later in the season he has some chemistry with, and I think he and Lamia have a somewhat unhealthy relationship.  He and Cassandra are still working out their friend stuff.

That said, 'ship to your hearts' content. It's your fandom.

@LynRasa:  This episode felt very, very fast. So did the premier, but that got slowed down a little by Flynn's tendency to spout and well, awkwardness. 
1.) Is this going to be an ongoing thing? It felt like we could only be half/two thirds done, but then I looked at the clock and there was less than a minute left. Is it always going to feel like this? Lead/Rush/Rush/Rush/Win/Character Tag?
2.) On a related note, how is The Librarians working around the commercials? You talked a lot about 5/6 act structure re:Leverage. I didn't get too strong a sense of act breaks here. Letting the chips fall where they may?

1.) This was a straight-up chase episode,  so we kept the momentum very high. As much pressureon the characters as early as possible.  The rest of the eps stay tight, but this one and the finale are probably the snappiest.
2.) For now, the chips fall where they may. We do write to the act breaks, but not strongly. We get a better sense later in the season.

@Thomas Ahearn: Can you tell us what's going to happen to the Minotaur? I doubt it's a good thing to have one running loose in Boston. Or is that going to be dealt with in a later episode?

He's now loose to return to the magical worlds (hello!), stopping by only to settle some debts.

@Caliann Lum: Is it true the entire season is already written? If so, what are your writers up to now?

Written and shot.  Everyone's basically waiting to see if we're picked up, but they;re also writing their own projects just in case.

@Nusaiba Chowdhury: I was wondering, is the Jake/Cass/Ezekiel relationship(s) mirror that of Eliot/Hardison/Parker? They were the thing I loved most about Leverage (besides the takedowns) and I'm already starting to love the Librarians in Training. 

As a matter of fact, we have all sorts of notes up in the writers room reminding us NOT to structure the show that way.  You'll see them split up into two-and-two pairs quite often, and those are generally the axes of the relationships. Stone and Ezekiel will never, ever be friends.

@Kelly Kluckman: 1) What was Stone reading in that last scene?  2) Who played the minotaur? He was great. 3) How old is Jenkins? How long has he held his position? Does the Library send out cards for researchers?  4) Why didn't Charlene ever use this "back door" to save on plane tickets? It seemed to work pretty well, all things considered, and no one has to worry about loosing luggage. Hopefully. 5) Are the new recruits apartment hunting in Oregon or are they camping out at the Annex? 

1.) An illuminated manuscript form the Middle Ages.

2.) Tyler Mane!

3.) Shh.

4.) Jenkins invented it the Back Door. His meddling with/hacking the Artifacts was a bone of contention with Judson, and one of the reasons he's at the Annex. He is a bit torn, in that he;d prefer to be alone, but having the Librarians there gives him a reason to tinker and subjects for his experiments.

5.) You almost saw Jake's apartment. They've got local places.

@Stacey: Why Boston?

We wanted an East Coast city, and we knew, for reasons, that Portland doubled Boston well.

@Sarah Roo: So, character background question: in the premiere, we learn that Jake has been researching and publishing in art history under a pseudonym. How does he have the time and resources for that? does his pseudonym have some kind of university affiliation so that he has access to an academic library? And does he, like Eliot, only sleep 90 minutes a day?

The internet has been a boon to Jacob Stone. He also makes little runs to museums and libraris when they're close enough to pipeline jobs.

@LynRasa: Thought of another question, sorry to double post, you'd mentioned in Leverage commentaries that certain writers tended to dig in on certain characters. Has that already developed in The Librarians writers' room? Obviously, as you said, Jake Stone's Turner rant was you, likewise Cassandra's math. What about personalities? Are the writers matching up to characters by complimentary skills? by complimentary personalities? by brand of sarcasm? by something else I haven't thought of?

And how are you actually referring to the characters? I keep finding myself switching between Jake and Stone, between Cassie and Cassandra; there's a certain tendency for the other characters to just call Ezekiel Jones 'thief'. It feels like the military influence has everyone calling Eve 'Baird'. I've found myself avoiding calling them Stone and Jones, using at least one of the first names to avoid the rhyme. How has that settled in for the writers?

1.) Right now it's still a scrum, but I'm definitely noticing Thorne's digging Jones, Kate and Paul really wrote some amazing stuff for Cassandra in the Science Fair ep ... we'll see.

2.) In the room it's Baird, Stone, Cassandra and  Jones.

@malcolm: I noticed that a lot of the fights happened off camera. Is this going to be the style of the entire show, or just this episode?

We actually ran into some issues with Rebecca's fight double schedule early, so she's go tmore later. That said, we're a different show than Leverage, so it's not a focus.

@NomadiCat:  Is Jenkins Nicolas Flamel? What with Jenkins dropping lines about Alchemy and Nicolas Flamel always showing up where you need him in the same episode, and being a grouchy reclusive arcane-focused scientist type in general, I am willing to wager money that he is. The idea truly delights me.

Nope, although they are friends.

@Anonymous: It seems like there's a million "evil factions" misusing Magic out there. Are there "good" factions others than the Librarians? Will we get to meet them?

Yes and yes. I'm not sure if the O2STK (corrected, thanks!) reference made the cut, but know it's canon ...


RIght, I think that's most of them, or at least the non-spoilery ones. Head back to the main page ot post your questions for #104, and we'll see you on Twitter!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

THE LIBRARIAN #103 "And the Horns of a Dilemma" Question Post

Hey all. I think now that the show is up and running, I'm going to use the old form, where I wait to see the questions and then do the behind-the-scenes write up depending on what you seem most interested in.

So, post your questions, confusion, joy and snark in the Comments below.  I'll be posting the answers to last week's questions tomorrow.  If you're new here, check the last post for the posting rules.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE LIBRARIANS 101/102 post-game: "and the Crown of King Arthur" / "and the Sword in the Stone"

Wow, this joint is dusty.  Damn Twitter, with its instant gratification.

For those of you just joining us, this post-game was a Leverage tradition which held up pretty well until air dates and production started overlapping, thereby consuming my spare time.  I am sure there will be a fair number of Grifters standing in the corner, glaring at me.  Don't worry, kids, if I'm in here re-arranging the chairs, I'll get to the old business.

So, here's where we usually do a brief bit about how each episode came together, then in the NEXT post answer any questions you may have. If you'd like to see how that usually goes, just click that "leverage" tag over on the right hand side, and those posts will come up.  A few caveats for the new folks:

1.) I tend to swear.  Be aware.

2.) Argue to your hearts' content, but please be respectful of each other. I've never had to ban anyone, and I expect that same level of restraint with the new show.  This is my house, not yours, and I do not consider asking anyone to leave my house "censorship."  Basically, don't be a fuckwit.

3.) It doesn't have to be a question.  Your comment below does not need to be a question, it can just be a comment or a shout-out about something you want to discuss with other fans.  That would be cool.

4.) Us writers, you fan.  I love your input, your questions, your theories, even your disdain when it's amusing.  But end of day, my scrappy writers and I are the ones who have to fill 50 pages of empty paper every week which are simultaneously amusing and shootable on a brutally tight budget and schedule and makes three levels of executives happy.  Basically, know that I dig that you watch the show, we should be pals, but that particular line is not crossed.  Our choices are our choices and we earned the right to make them, even if you don't like them.

Okay, now to the show.

How did this happen?

You can find plenty of videos on YouTube of me discussing this, thanks to some podcasts and bloggers, but here's the short version.

I'd done a rewrite on the 1st and 3rd LIBRARIAN  movies, but really wasn't that involved, back in the day.  I mean I enjoyed them, but they were very much Dean Devlin, Noah Wyle and Michael Wright (the former head of TNT)'s baby.  They were like THREE MEN AND A BABY, but the baby was an adorable family-oriented action-adventure movie franchise.  For years, they attempted to navigate a weird bit of contract thorniness involved in transforming TV movies into a series.  Finally, last summer, they called me.  "We have the rights!  Now lets make a show!"

The trick, of course, was navigating Noah's schedule.  Falling Skies was still going strong, and there are a considerable number of legal whizzbangs in place preventing actors from being the lead on two shows simultaneously. So we knew we need alternate leads.  "Leads" plural.  We didn't want there to be another "Librarian".  We weren't replacing Noah; hell, he was looking at busting his ass to shoot as many episodes as he could.

Oh, and we couldn't have Bob in every episode, nor Jane.  This was getting interesting. (NOTE the 1st: This is always tough for fans.  Roles are attached to specific actors, and sometimes we just can't have them due to scheduling or contracts.  One of the reasons I like animation ...)

(NOTE the 2nd: You can always get Mark Sheppard. Not because he's easy, but because I seriously believe there's three of him.)

We certainly as hell weren't going to do a cold reboot. Those movies had FANS (as we've seen from the premiere numbers, a surprising number), so the challenge was to honor them as much as possible, make the tie-in as tight as possible, but still have a base upon which to build with new actors.

At some point, rewatching them, we said "Hey, what if we did more than reference them?  What if we actually made this in continuity?"  That solved a big problem for us -- Flynn Carsen after a decade of doing this would be pretty good at it, or dead.  So let's make the fact he's good at it a plot point.  It came at a price. Solitude and sanity, to protect the rest of us.

But if he's around, even intermittently, how do we balance the rest of the team?  He's a polymath, what do the rest of them ... do?

Nicely enough, Lester Dent solved this problem for us in the 1930's.  Lester Dent wrote Doc Savage, among a million other things, and very much built the pulp base upon which the rest of us toil.  Doc was a polymath superman, but his friends were specialists who would solve the only nearly-impossible problems in a story while he wrestled Incan cultists (yay!) or lobotomized prisoners to cure them of their "criminal tendencies" (er, boo. yikes).

So we split Flynn Carsen up into his disparate expertise ... ises. - isi? Anyway, we assigned art and history to one, sciences to another, and tech/tomb robbing to a third.  Three neophytes seemd like three identical beats, so again we went back to the movies.  Hey, who ARE all those people on the stairs in the first movie ... ?

Okay, they were geniuses, and could've been Librarians, but weren't.  What the hell did they do with their lives?  That's when the themes of the show began to emerge.  About loneliness, and choice, and how everybody has gifts, but not everybody choose -- or is allowed to -- use them.   There's a complicated bit of business about characters are lenses, and so you should build them in diametrically opposed pairs in order to best showcase your themes, but that can wait for the very boring and specialized book I'll write some day.

All of this was done on an  insanely tight schedule.  Most shows have three or four months to get up and running.  To beat Noah's deadline for returning to Falling Skies, we had five weeks from greenlight to camera roll, with nothing but the first script written.  We shot out of order, on location, so the production team could buy enough time for the paint to dry on the sets. Writers were hired four weeks out, some of the actors weren't locked until the week of shoot.  This was interesting, as it meant the writers were well into episode four writing dialogue for characters that we had no idea how they talked.

As for the actors you haven't met in the movies:

Rebecca was on a short list of potential leads.  One of the signatures of The Librarian movies is the action heroine partner.  Not kidnapped, nor rescued, nor vixenish -- she can and should always be able to kick Flynn's ass.  Rebecca had just done King & Maxwell with Leverage co-creator Chris Downey, and he couldn't be more effusive with his praise.  RR can land a joke, too; in person she's relentlessly dry and funny.  You'll see us tweak Baird's delivery style closer to her own sense of humor over the course of the season.

Kane, well we knew we wanted to go against type for the art historian.  Even the rough ideas we had were close to Kane as a person, and when he turned out to be available it wasn't a hard choice.   Kane's tragedy -- and I tell him this all the time -- is that he's a bit too good-looking to have to rely on his comic timing. Which is magnificent.  Ironically, although the character background is close to his personal background, the role itself is a chance to show off some of his other chops as an actor.

Lindy is one of those actors that everybody in Hollywood knows is good.  Kind of the "player to be named later". The role of Cassandra was a straight audition -- the character wasn't even "Cassandra" at first, because we auditioned all ethnicities and we wanted to keep the concept loose, until we found the right person.  She just frankly out-muscled the other actors.  The audition pieces were the hospital meltdown and the henge mathematics/meltdown.  Those pages ate a LOT of other actors alive, but she blew through them like a champ, and hit all the emotional beats.  So straight-up audition there.

John Kim was submitted on tape from Australia.  We screened the tape, all agreed "Much like Ezekiel's super-power is that he's charming, this kid is charming." It was also his first series shoot, and the other actors teased him mercilessly.  With love.  Usually.  And yes, that is his real accent.

John Larroquette is John goddam Larroquette. We were very lucky he was available.  He brought so much style and tone and unexpected pathos -- seriously, he constantly surprised us -- that we eventually started writing the role much bigger than we intended.  Jenkins winds up with a nice little season arc.

Some cool behind the scenes production facts, and then I'll open the floor to questions.  SPOILERS AHEAD.

The opening sequence
A rather large number of the soldiers around Baird in the opening sequence are, thanks to some friends of production,  actual SEAL team and Delta Force members, past and present.   They have ... been places. The large fellow to Baird's side at the door is Delta.  This amuses me to no end, as I imagine some terrorist watching the show in a bar in Karachi and saying "Hey, wait a minute..."

Oh, and she's carrying a Glock 17, so Baird does indeed have enough in the magazine for that shootout.  Not only did we count, Rebecca called us on it to make sure.

The missing magic artifact lost in an abandoned Nazi store-room very much establishes the tone of the show -- our show posits that there's a secret (INSANELY COOL) history of magic, and its remnants are scattered all over the place.  Very fine writer Ken Hite (@kennethhite) recently wrote a book called The Nazi Occult which is a fascinating piece of work.  It's meant to be a sourcebook for role-playing gamers and others, so it blends real Nazi occult history and practices with fiction, as if everything that could've happened, did happen.  Basically, everything in the book which seems too insane to be believed is true, and the boring stuff's the bits he filled in.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

The sequence was originally set in a church until we found that location, which was also much closer to other locations we needed.  So the bit was rewritten.  Hey, you want your precious words perfect, go write a novel.

Charlene and Jenkins
Charlene was originally in both parts of the launch, but her other show unfortunately meant we couldn't make he shooting schedule work.  She eventually came in and shot all her scenes in a single day at the END of the season.  I think that she winds up with a very nice hero moment instead.  I do miss the original script beat where she's the one who saves Flynn and you discover she was Judson's Guardian, but we'll figure some other way to bring her back ...

Meeting Ezekiel Jones
is in the theater in Portland which served as the Parliament House in San Lorenzo in Leverage. That is indeed the Dagger of Aqua'ba. (whether I mean it is the same prop or the same object ... as I used to say in the Leverage post-games all the time, you choose whichever makes you happier)

The Prosciutto Cutting Torch
Works, more or less.

Of course we know Excalibur wasn't the sword in the stone in Malory's version of the story. Note how I said "in Malory's version of the story" because it was, in fact, a made up thing.  In the Librarian-verse, it's the Sword in the Stone.  Which is fine, because in that case it is still a made-up thing. As a long-standing nerd, this particular style of pedantry always drives me mad.  It is not one of our better traits.

 'Cal was established in the movies as the Sword in the Stone, he's certainly the closest thing Flynn has to a recurring friend. It was Michael Wright who suggested setting these two in a more classic European treasure hunt, and that led us pretty nicely to Arthurian myth.   I knew I wanted to use ley lines as the gimmick with which to return magic to the world, and "ley line" screams "earth, rock, stone" etc.  You can see where this is all intersecting.  His sacrifice was meant more as closure on the past series than as a sacrifice, but we knew something more was going on here when crew members began to cry as I pitched the scene out for the visual effects guy, without even seeing it.

I do suppose we could have been truer to Malory's version (note I do not say "more accurate" as Malory's version was, again, a made up thing) but given the choice between taking a page of dialogue to explain that Excalibur is not the sword in the stone and instead spending that time making you cry over the the "death" of a meter of metal, I will spend my time more wisely. Did you feel something? Good, right choice.  I don't feel beholden to the a plagiarizing rapist under house arrest. Let him write his own damn show.

The Tower of London Stone Heist
is all one shot, if you go back and watch, including John Kim disappearing act as two extras cross. Razor bit of timing, there.

The Levitating Stone
is just the old wire dog-collar trick, with Noah selling the shit out of it.  How professional is he?  He spent time experimenting with different vibrational frequencies, finding the resonance of the wire so the STRING part would flutter and bounce while the Stone stayed relatively motionless, and therefore in focus for the camera even as they ran down the street. I mean, damn.

Stone's run on John Turner
If you stumble across my writing, you notice I reference Turner quite a bit. He's my favorite artist, so I can write character discussions about him without slowing down to do research.

Right, this always goes better when I'm answering your questions, so have at it.  I'll try to answer as many as possible by Sunday, and put up a question post for "and the Horns of a Dilemma" at the same time.

For 10 episodes or 100, it's great to have you along for the ride.

Try not to die.

Monday, June 24, 2013

ARCANUM: What's with this Hiatus, Then?

This technically doesn't happen until Arc Two ...
Basically, I neglected to quit my day job.

When Leverage wrapped, I had two projects to occupy my downtime: the Thrillbent 2.0 launch and the founding of my own production company, Kung Fu Monkey Productions. It takes a good year of development to pull any projects together for TV development, so I figured I had some room to spend exclusively on Thrillbent.

Arcanum is a difficult comic series -- it's meant to duplicate a TV series, which means breaking 13 full interlocking stories per arc, rather than a single serialized story. There's also, for a fantasy series, a ridiculous amount of research. Savvy readers will be able to figure out from the real-world clues already dropped under exactly what location the Arcanum facility is constructed. The full timeline of all the plot links stretches from historical figures of the mid 1800's through World War One to modern times. This is my Big Swing, so to speak. But, as I'd just gone from "A Show Eating My Life" to "Relatively Unemployed", Todd and I jumped in with a certain comfort in the lead time we'd built up.

What I did NOT anticipate was rapidly closing the deal with my friends at TNT for a new pilot or two, my friend Dean Devlin getting the rights to a dream project we'd talked about for years, and the fine folks at Cinemax giving me a call for ... something. Never mind the ruthless efficiency of the young people who work at my company, who scared up about 20 projects I'm NOT writing for development. Essentially, my TV career post-show did not suck at quite the volume I believed it would.

All that to say there was no way we could keep jamming the art through as my Arcanum scripts got farther and farther behind. We needed a gap for me to get the first batch of stories fully completed and give Todd and Troy a chance to do their best work. I'd also like to start doing what the Eighth Seal lads are doing -- offering Arcanum issues on Comixology ahead of their Thrillbent release. 

And so Arcanum takes a rest until September, with the exception of some concept art and research notes we'll post occasionally. In the meantime, the Monday slot will be filled with Todd and Geoff Throne's great indie action book, Prodigal. Supernatural treasure hunters who punch stuff, fight ninjas and dragons, and banter. It was this book which made me ask Todd to come on to Arcanum, and of course you all know Geoff Thorne from Leverage, so I'm sure you'll dig the series as much as I do.

Thanks for your tolerance as we screw around with our little publishing experience, and be sure to check out Thrillbent's other titles.

Monday, May 06, 2013

ARCANUM: The Sausage, as She is Made.

Rather than take all the fun out of the fiction, I thought I'd give you a quick background on how Todd, Troy and I put together Arcanum. Everyone works differently on Thrillbent, but this is the general production template.

I write each episode, defining each slide and generally calling out the panels.  Every now and then I'll just suggest something, not detail it out.  The fight between Cole and the Elven Swordsman in Episode 002 -- or #102 if we're using standard TV episode numbering, which probably makes more sense in this format -- was originally scripted as "Give me as many panels as you think interesting, across as many slides, to show me Cole using stick-fighting to take this asshole apart."  Sometimes I'll call a editing pattern, which Todd then translates into page space. In today's installment, for example, I called for a 50/50 to mimic a cross-cut between Subject Zero and the door to the vault opening. In my head they were side-by-side, but Todd designed it as a top-and-bottom spilt, which worked even better.

Todd then sends me layouts, a sample of which appears as the header for this blog post. I approve, he then does the full art digitally, combining colors and inks and what-have-you, whatever guys like him do to make the pretty pictures. It all seems very difficult, frankly.

When Todd delivers the color pages, I tend to re-script.  Not a massive re-write but sometimes I look at an action or an expression and realize I want to adjust. Sometimes I see that thanks to Todd's art, I don't need certain dialogue.  It's a much more fluid process than print production, a bit more of a conversation.

With the script properly adjusted, each dialogue line being numbered so the letterer knows what goes where, I take Todd's art and export all of that week's installment into a single pdf document. I load that pdf into Goodreader, my iPad doc reader and editor of choice. Using a stylus I lay-out where each dialogue balloon goes, or at least suggest it. Mark taught me how to do this, but I'm a sad dilettante compared to him. He can see the page layout instantly, has an almost musical sense of how comic page storytelling should work. I kind of galumph along.
  Arcanum 006 panel one

This often leads to further tweaks to the script. With all that done, I upload the script, lettering-guide pdf and the original color art to our FTP server. Troy Peteri, our in-house letterer and general file genius, letters the comic, does the final image prep, and dumps it back onto the server.

On the appointed day Lori Matsumoto, our general site coordinator, makes sure the comic goes live, sends out the appropriate texts, emails and tweets, and off we go.

We're a little more complicated than most similar sites as we're coordinating a giant chunk of continuous, new material. But I find it boggling and impressive that most webcomics are a one-person show, a single person tackling all that, often three times a week. There's a reason we use them as our distribution/production model rather than print. That sort of hustle is what you need to move the model forward. Time will tell if we've learned the right lessons. Go ahead and read today's installment here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

ARCANUM: Immortality is So, So Creepy

Even pseudo-immortality, the thousand-year lifespan, has a nasty ring to it.

Not just because of what it might mean for the individual who's rocking the forever-life, either -- and there have been plenty of discussions of that idea, both in the vampire myth and in science fiction. One of my favorite authors to tackle this idea is Richard K. Morgan in his Altered Carbon series. In this universe people are implanted with tiny upload hardware, almost impossible to destroy, allowing your persona to be transferred from body to body. Not quite the traditional view of immortality, but the tone -- the weary, noir sensibility of an endless dream-like loop -- is spot on.  People who've lived too long in the AC universe are fundamentally wrong in an alien way. They have seen and done too much. They've gone past nihilism. There's an ... absence where the fundamental connection to other humans should be.

No, what's even creepier to me is what a society of such people would be. Look around us now. Boomers are freaking out over millenial values, just as their Greatest Generation parents freaked out over theirs. I have people working for me who've never even seen a dial telephone.  Change hurtles ever onward, and the only thing more corrosive than the fact that the future isn't evenly distributed is the fact that there are plenty of humans who don't want this future at all.  It's all too much change, it may be literally too much change to process for human hardwiring. Many older humans are living future shock, right now. It was ever thus.

But the difference now is that those people are alive.

In 1900 the percentage of the American population over the age of 45 was 17.8%. In 1950 it was 28.4%. As of the last census the share of the US population over 45 is 36.4%. Hell, the 65+ share's gone from 4.1% in 1900 to 13.3% in 2010. More and more people still in the society, with greater and greater influence, still constructing societal and legal norms based on emotional, psychological, cultural and technological frames of reference that are less and less relevant.

We'd all like to think we'd reinvent ourselves, re-assimilate, learn and grow along a constantly regenerative learning curve. But most of us wouldn't. We're just not cognitively wired for it. We crave stasis, because our lizard brains crave safety and security.

Now, am I bashing older people in general, painting them all as regressive? No, of course not. But the law of averages is the law of averages, and people are people, and the vast majority of we humans formed our core values in our adolescences, locked our social and political opinions in our early 20's. Grudges dig deep. To call out a specific example: no matter who you voted for, wasn't it a little goddam tiring in the 2000 election to still be refighting the 32-year old Vietnam War records of the two candidates for the US presidency?

Now imagine it was the Civil War.

Imagine it now.  A functional lifespan of, say 200 years.  Working with people who owned slaves.  Trying to negotiate international trade treaties to deal with global warming by reconciling voters who watched their brother's head get spun into a fine red mist by a Boston infantryman or a Georgian cavalryman. Getting funding for stem cell research from voters who grew up believing not only were black people a genetically inferior race, but other versions of white people were, too.  200 years is what Bruce Sterling posits in Holy Fire, a gerontocracy, and it's a goddam mess.

Now make it 500 years.

Nothing ever forgotten. Nothing ever truly passing.

The death of history and the birth of the Long, Eternal Now.

So when you posit a race of beings who stare at us pitilessly, as so much mortal cannon-fodder in the midst of their centuries-long feuds, I do not fantasize about meeting them. I want them to sod off post-haste to the Grey Havens, good and gone.  The prospect of them returning, and dealing with them as an enemy with reality-bending powers and millenia of strategic experience, does not fill me with elfin glee. That's horror, to me.

A new installment of ARCANUM, as usual, can be read here.  And you can browse our other comics, from continuing series to quirky short subjects, here.