Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Friday, December 30, 2011

Taking Stock 2011 Edition

This year was a big year in that one huge, life-changing event happened this past February:

The birth of my son.

Yeah, that pretty much kept me a tad busy throughout most of this year -- and yet I still managed to squeak out a few other achievements that I'm rather proud of:

-- I read through and reviewed a total of 30 TV scripts in 30 days.  I learned a metric shit-tonne about the craft of scriptwriting and also came to a deeper understanding of why I like the shows I like.

-- I put together a month-long campaign to get my now very out-of-shape self back into shape.  Over 30 days of regular hill-training (5-6 days a week) I burned a total of 32,155 calories, dropped one 1 belt size and lost 8.5 lbs.  Not too shabby.

And finally:

-- I managed to snag a Lift Out Loud reading of my Pilot script: Pipeline.

Which ended up being moderated by Chris Sheasgreen (of Less Than Kind fame)

Which piqued his interest so much that he wanted to come on board and help me take it to the next level.

I've since put together three full drafts of a pitch bible (including one Page One rewrite) and one 'Final' draft which ended up getting passed around (turns out that no, it's not 'Final' after all).

Next year we're going to refine it some more and start work on pitching this lil' beaster.

Of course in the new year I'll finally get started on writing this Doctor Who spec and I'm considering posting bits and pieces online as I go... we'll see.

Anyways, I want to give a big, hearty Thank You to each and every one of you who've made a habit of popping on by here over the past year -- especially to those of you who've tried to interact in some way, whether you took the time to find me at a party or sent me an email to talk about something I've posted, you've helped keep me engaged and I deeply appreciate it.

It's been a crazy 12 months (and I have a feeling that 2012's not going to be any less so...) but it's time to close the book on this one.

Stay safe out there folks, see you on the flip-side.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yeah, Don't Do That

So, a funny thing about the holidays is how quickly the slightest thing can obliterate your best laid plans.

On the bright side: Fun time with family... so... yay!

Okay, let's get back to it. On Friday I mentioned that I might try to write a blog post about 'Don't make my mistakes' when it comes to writing a pitch bible. If this turns out okay I might even consider adding it to the Newbie's Guide over there on the side (w00t! An excuse to update the guide).

Some of the notes that I received for my bible were actually things that I probably should've noticed but, thanks to being so entirely involved with the project... well, I never even noticed that something was off.

First thing, to start this post off on a positive note (as in 'do something that I actually did right'), 'Always make sure your "finished" project is read by an unbiased 3rd party -- someone who'll have no bones about looking you in the eye and say 'what is this?' or 'why is this?'. You might not always like what they have to say, but they will save your ass (and, quite possibly, your fledgling reputation with it).

As far as things to 'Do Not Do What I Did'?

Well, first thing I should point out is that many of these mistakes are completely natural and, despite your best efforts, they will find ways to creep in as you get more and more involved with your project. If you are aware of them then there's a chance that you can catch yourself in the process of making these mistakes rather than completing your project and realizing you've got a lot of weeding to do.

Mistake #1: Forgetting About The Importance Of Your Pilot.

When you're thinking about your show as a 'series' one of the most common things is to start thinking of all the things that can happen, all the stories that you can tell. Sometimes it's quite easy to get enamored with the concept or a character or even a single detail before you have an utterly compelling 'Pilot' episode. Don't do this! One of the warning signs to keep an eye out for is when you start saying (to yourself, or others) "and in the end of the season!" or "midway through the season" or (*facepalm*)"in Season Two!"

NOTE: Not that you can't work ahead, not that you can't go off and world-build to your heart's content -- just remember: NONE of what you have in your head will ever come about if you don't have an absolutely fucking mind-blowing Pilot on lock.

For a Pitch Bible you don't really need to have a whole pilot written (though it helps) but you should have an intriguing/exciting/funny synopsis that will show people what they're buying into; that will excite them for all the other things you have planned.

My mistake? Of the sample episodes that I put forth for my show, the Pilot was, by far, the weakest. Yeah, Don't Do That.

Mistake #2: Getting Lost In The Past

Yes, the other extreme to point #1. Sometimes when you're building your world and your characters you need to start giving reasons for why things are the way they are or how people know one another. Or why the sky is purple. Or why Frogs speak in Technicolor.

What can sometimes happen is this sort of feedback loop where you start explaining and justifying and explaining and justifying and creating cool ideas and events and actions... that already happened. Stuff that's already long done, stuff that holds no Drama at all because, why? It's entirely in the past.

As great as it is to have a fully living, breathing world -- one with history and depth and lots of 'fertile ground' to draw stories from -- you can't forget that this Pitch Bible is to explain 'what's happening NOW'. Where do we start from? How do these characters interact NOW?

If your most exciting stories are in your past then you've got to stop and either a) re-assess where in the timeline that you want your show to start or b) put some serious focus time into the 'Present'.

One way around this is to start extrapolating forward from past events, start using that 'fertile ground' before you get started to make some seriously strong stories and that matter NOW. (I know, sounds like 'no duh!' but... yeah you'd be surprised).

My mistake? In my earlier draft I made WAY too much back story so to counter it in my 'final' draft I cut out and re-wrote large swaths of it -- only hinting at things that I had explicitly stated earlier. It ended up backfiring as well because those who read it were like 'I don't get what happened here'. So, yes, also be aware of that little quirk as well: Cut but also be aware to leave in the essential, exciting parts too. Especially if they help to make your Character more interesting.

So.. uh... Mistake #2.5: Don't over-edit.

Finally, Mistake #3: Everyone Except Your Lead Is Interesting

This one was a huge curve-ball for me. In my head, I know my lead character, I know them cold. I know what they had for lunch that day. I know what their favorite color is and even where they like to be tickled (if they do).

And yet, somehow, what was on the page was just not ringing true, was not doing the job of SELLING them or their view-port into my world. On paper, to me, it was clear as day, made perfect sense who they were. But to my reader the response was: "Huh?"

Even if your show's a Comedy and your main character is the straight-man, they've still gotta be Interesting (yes, capital 'I' there). You've gotta sell it like no tomorrow, gotta sell that there's a real reason for this person to be THE PERSON to lead this show.

One thing I've learned to help deal with this problem is to constantly re-check your lead against every character you create. Even if they'd never meet, how would they react to each other? By playing through these scenarios you're doing more than just 'building character' you're building a vocabulary that helps you explain your character to others.

I know, that might sound weird, but I've found it rather helpful.

You know, the funny thing is that even though these mistakes seem like biggies (because I've gone and hung a lantern on them) the overall feedback about my Pitch Bible was incredibly positive. They're not Huge (well the Pilot one was a speedbump, but an easily mitigated one) but they're important to keep in mind (and have fixed) because this Pitch Bible is going to get you a MEETING with someone who will, invariably, point out these flaws (even if they don't directly realize it) by asking you questions about your world and your show.

Questions that you damn-well be ready to answer.

So, if you can, keep your head about you, avoid these kinds of mistakes and keep on banging on that keyboard (preferably not with your face).

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shimmy Shimmy

Okay, so I've been busy trying to piece together all the rough bits of my 'outline' into an 'actual outline' format.

It's been... tough.

But there is progress - nothing I can share just yet, but there's progress. One of the mistakes I made was that I wasn't all that specific in some parts and I've forgotten what I meant when I wrote certain sections down. Needless to say, this has made for some interesting moments where I sit there staring at my own work, wondering 'what the hell was I thinking?'.

But hey, it's a process. A process with lots of trash-sorting and even more baby-killing (no, not actual babies).

The other point I should note here is that, normally, this whole process is usually done over about 2 weeks (if you're lucky) where (one would hope) you're devoting your day - 8 hours or more at a stretch - to figuring this out. So what's here seems like it's pretty spread out (and it is) but it's also the culmination of an hour here, 2 hours there, sort of thing for the last month or so.

Anyways, after I put the rough edit together into a document I ended up with 9 pages of crap. Okay, well, a whole lot of it is crap.

But there is some good stuff rising to the surface here.

Flecks of gold hiding in the poo. (You're welcome)

In an effort to get an idea of how a Doctor Who outline might read (because, again, we're not privy to such information) I've been making use of a rather handy little website called The TARDIS Index File - a fantastic place where a host of amazing, intelligent people have come together to fill in a host of blanks in regard to this series as a whole. Especially the parts about the series and how it breaks down.

Here's a great example of one of their episode outlines.

It's pretty amazing stuff (and a fantastic resource if you're considering writing your own Doctor Who story/spec Script).

In other news, I got my notes back for the Pipeline pitch bible and, well, they were pretty incisive. There were some flaws that I just didn't notice because I was too close to the project (this is something that perhaps I'll get into on Monday - A "Don't make my mistakes" post for the post-Christmas rush).

Oh, yeah... Christmas. Yeah, that's really coming up fast now; hard to believe that it's only 2 freaking days away (Christmas-Eve-Day starts in T-minus 2 hours).

Wow.

Alright, that's it for now. Go wrap your presents ;)

Cheers all - and have a very, merry Christmas!
Brandon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pieces, Puzzles

Alright, so, yes. There we are, much better, all in one piece and ready to go.

Shall we?

Before we were so rudely interrupted by the sudden (and rather massive) introduction of alcohol into my bloodstream, we were working on trying to get this bloody B story into some semblance of shape.

And what do we have so far?

Well, the long and short of it - reverse-engineering the impromptu mini-outline I made last week - goes something like this:

-> Rory and Amy arrive (Rory apologetic)
--> They befriend the locals (Parents - John's the Father)
---> Earthquake/Sinkhole (Overlaps with A story)
--> They want to climb down after TARDIS, Amy gets Father to reveal secret entrance to underground cavern.
-> Amy is bothered by seeing the affection between the family
--> Amy and Rory fight (bicker, argue... uh...yell?)
---> Stop. Realize they're lost!
--> Follow glowing light to ancient alien computer terminal
-> See Doctor on computer monitor, try to communicate with him to no avail.
--> Follow after the Doctor (same general direction), round the corner - face to face with Dragon - Run for lives
---> Doctor almost talks down the Dragon - Dragon sees John with sack of her eggs. Amy takes collected eggs from John, runs past angry dragon (saving John from a nasty death).
--> Rory and Doctor return to alien terminal and work to get the cryo-cell working again.
-> Tech from TARDIS used to recharge the alien 'battery' running the cryo-cell
--> Rory finds Amy - who's tiring fast - she hands off the eggs to him, hides, lets him keep running.
---> Rory dives into the cryocell with eggs, is trapped with Dragon as doors start to shut.
--> Rory uses eggs as a distraction, dives past dragon, out the door as dragon is re-frozen.
-> All ends well, of sorts. Rory and Amy leave, have small moment on the beach 50 or so years later as the land is now a lake.

And, as far as beat sheets go, again, not too shabby.

Of course I realize I've completely forgotten to address a very important element:

What the *bleep* happens to that cavern full of eggs?

Yeah, that's a pretty large plot point to leave hanging in the air.

Now, admittedly, I went with the 'cavern full of eggs' thing for the visual impact, I could make it something more like 'a clutch of dragon eggs' if I wanted to make it easier on the 'this makes no sense' scenario.

Or I could just have everyone eat them up (not much better).

Side Note: For the Dragon noticing John with the eggs, it just came to me that the stronger way to 'notice' him would be to have him accidentally break an egg as he's trying to collect them. Hrmmm... I'll explore this further later.

Anyways, yes, the major idea now is to try and do what I did with the A plot: try to poke as many holes in this bloody thing as I can.

Ahh good times.

More to come soon,
Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yo Ho Ho

Okay, so I may or may not have had a few too many at the company Christmas party. Possibly imbibed a fraction more alcohol than my can be adequately processed by my liver in a timely manner.

On the bright side: I rediscovered my love/hate relationship with J├Ągermeister

(Full Disclosure: I had to Google J├Ągermeister and copy/paste the word because I forgot how to make an umlaut... It's been a long night).

Incidentally, no, I have not drank much of the stuff for, well, quite a few years.

Anyways, needless to say I'm not in much shape to blog tonight, mostly because my typing has slowed to a crawl as my perfectionist side comes out in full force.

That and it's really hard to focus right now.

Anyways, for now, I'm going to leave things as they are but wish all of you who are about to celebrate this coming Yuletide season a very merry Christmas.

For now, good night one and all. More to come.

Cheers!
Brandon

Oh! Quick update - Got some notes back on my Pipeline pitch bible (as read by unbiased strangers). They are good notes! I'm meeting with Chris on Monday night to go over them in detail and... yeah. Good news!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Swinging For The Fences

So, now that I've got an idea for where I'm going with my B story, I can try and come up with a rough Beat Sheet for that story as well.

Again, we'll keep it simple and start with what we know.

-> Rory and Amy arrive.
-> Rory and Amy leave.

The difference between this story and our main story is that, so far, I haven't really figured out what my 'iconic moment' is going to be. I have a general idea of what I want for these characters now, but so far, I'm flying blind.

Hopefully during the course of this post something will hit me.

So, let's go with what we do know:

Amy and Rory arrive with some friction already between them, the reason why is not entirely explained off the top, but Rory is apologetic so it's easy to guess that he's done something wrong. We'll learn that this whole trip is intended to help her get her mind off of something.

Once on the planet, especially after meeting the locals -- when they burst in during dinnertime -- to see a gaunt but voracious family eating dinner (which turns out to be eggs...(!). They catch the family by surprise but, thanks to the Doctor's quick wit (and a flash of the psychic paper) the family seems to accept them readily enough. (The Doctor is smart enough to not say that he's with the Government).

During this time, while the Doctor is interacting with children (2 boys and a little girl, who mob him), Amy and Rory talk up the father (John) -- a wide-eyed, excitable man who gets very cagey when they notice bits of iridescent shells laying around.

More rumbling, an earthquake (that odd muffled roar is back)?? The house starts to creak around them. Everyone runs outside to see the ground crack and shift then give way, collapsing into a sinkhole, taking the TARDIS down with it.

Amy and Rory suggest climbing down but there's no ladder and it's too steep - The father admits he knows of a small cave that leads down into a cavern, it's where he was getting the eggs. But there's something more, something that Amy manages to tease out of him: There's something down there. Something big. And angry.

This, of course, excites the Doctor, sending him off toward the cave.

John collects his family, hugs his children and wife, and heads off after the Doctor. Watching this moment seems to have a big effect on Amy, she shakes it off and stalks off after them with Rory taking up the rear.

Once in the cavern Rory and Amy begin discussing the event and her feelings (in her classicly blunt style). She knows that her daughter grows up fine, knows that all ends well... but she still wants her daughter back. She can't believe that he would even suggest giving up the search. This is where Rory makes his case - if they were meant to find her, they would have and they'd know it. He doesn't want to give up either, but he sees what the search is doing to her... and he doesn't want to lose her too.

The sounds of roaring and screaming shake them from their moment - and they realize that they're completely lost. They've been walking and talking all this time and they're lost in these carved catacombs.

In the distance they notice a faint glowing light and decide to move toward it - eventually ending up at an primitively ornate computer. Old tech, very, very old tech that still works but whomever created this terminal obviously revered the tech as some sort of Deity. The lights are faint, the power waning. Through some sort of screen they see the Doctor run into a large room, frantically scanning computers.

They try to figure out some way to get the tech to work so they can contact him but to no avail.

They leave the terminal and round the corner to find themselves face-to-face with the Dragon. There is much screaming. The Doctor runs out of an alcove and runs past them - acknowledging them only briefly before saying something akin to 'you should run now'. Everyone runs, the dragon is hot on their heels.

Finally, back at the main cavern, the Doctor spins - spooking the Dragon enough that it skids to a stop (too cartoonish?) - he goes into his speech, almost wins the Dragon over. Amy and Rory spot John with an armful of eggs -- and Amy clicks on what's been going on (hrmmm... not sure about that one...). The Dragon sees John and becomes enraged.

Amy pushes John out of the way, takes the eggs from him and runs past the stunned dragon (yelling to the Doctor to 'figure something out, fast' as she passes him and the Dragon follows). The Doctor and Rory fly into action the both of them heading back to the cryo-cell - trying to get it operational again (need to re-charge the battery).

Doctor and Rory go to the TARDIS, get (galactic jumper cables...?) and use it on the computer's power core. Doctor sends Rory off to find Amy (who's tiring fast). She hands off the eggs to Rory, who keeps running (as she hides in an alcove with the Dragon rushing past). Rory runs with the eggs, heading back into the cell - the Dragon dives in after him, seemingly blocking the entrance.

Amy arrives, having found the Doctor, out of breath. She watches in horror as Rory is in the room with the Dragon. Frantic, she tries to find some way to communicate with him, hits some of the buttons -- the doors begin to close, preparing to seal the Dragon in (this might be a bit too dumb for Amy to do... will revisit later).

Rory uses the eggs, tosses them to the Dragon, distracting it just long enough for him to slide through the dragon's legs and dive out the door, moments before it closes.

The door seals, the dragon is re-frozen.

Epilogue

Amy comes to realize that there are some things that are just out of her control entirely - the Dragon awoke alone, lost, trapped underground... and then some strange little creature started stealing its eggs (babies...? Too on the nose...? hrmm). Though she desperately wishes to have her child back, to be able to hold her and be the proper parent, she knows that River lives and grows up into a strong woman. She's not happy, but she accepts the consolation. (This will probably not have any dialogue and will mostly be an internal decision... not sure how much though just yet.)

End of episode, they arrive on the lake 50 years later for their day at the beach, a nice day in the sunshine.

Hrmmm... and there we are. Okay, not quite a 'beat sheet', not quite an outline... and yet, well, not too bad for a rough draft.

On Friday let's give this thing another go, see if we can't clean some things up a tad (as there's obviously quite a bit here that could use a spit polish/overhaul).

Not too shabby though, if I do say so myself.

More to come!
Brandon

Monday, December 12, 2011

Places Everyone

Okay, so yeah... wow, the holiday season is coming up fast, eh? I'd like to say that I've managed to get all my shopping done, but... yeah... no.

People are just incredibly hard to shop for.

In other news, the B story is starting to firm up a tad. I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play out just yet, but I can talk a bit about some abandoned ideas.

One of the first things I considered doing was to have Amy and Rory befriend the mother of this family, a woman who's lived this incredibly hard life and lost a few kids of her own along the way. I liked the idea of examining how this woman manages to keep on keeping on despite the fact that her kids, well, yeah, they died.

Note: this, of course, ended up being quite a dark take on things -- though it had a nice centre of 'feel-good-ness' for the companions in that they know that their child is still alive (hell, they know her pretty well as an adult).

Needless to say, that one ended up falling by the wayside pretty quick.

Though it did end up inspiring me to look into the idea of them befriending someone else in the family - at first the little girl (who's 9) but I felt that it might be a bit too 'on the nose' seeing as, well, they lost a daughter.

So I started asking myself a) who can they best relate to? and b) who's actually going to be able to take part in this story with them? (someone's going to have to climb down into the catacombs with them).

Which then lead me to another realization about series six: there was a bit of a common thread about fathers and their children -- how they ended up having to rise above their own weaknesses to prove themselves as fathers.

Which lead me down the thought process of 'What is Amy and Rory's state of mind coming into this story?' (Yes, my mind makes leaps like that sometimes).

Which lead me to start thinking: Where is the conflict between Rory and Amy coming in this episode, that's going to drive them forward?

Which lead me to this: Rory wants to give up searching. He rationalizes it by saying that they know that their daughter survives and grows up well. There's no use getting worked up, running all over the galaxy -- time says that if they were going to find her, they would find her. But they don't.

This, of course, does not sit well with Amy - she's not the kind to give up and even through Rory's coming from a place where he thinks he's trying to help his wife... yeah, it doesn't go over well.

ALL THAT SAID: How does one incorporate that into the story? I can't be spending time revealing back story, BUT, now that I know this, I can start with that event already happened. The fight already done long before they land in Iowa -- with Rory trying to make amends.

Hrmmm...

So what's the point of this for them? To reaffirm Amy's belief to never give up?

Well, I'm not entirely sure that that's the most effective arc (it's certainly the most expected). Thing is, if you watch the rest of the season, Amy barely mentions the fact that her infant daughter has been taken from her -- in fact, for the most part, she seems to have made her peace with it.

So that's where I can take this. Though, this story isn't about proving anyone 'right' or 'wrong', it's about knowing when you've done all you can, knowing when to let go.

We always like to bandy about these phrases like 'winners never quit' and such but the reality is that there are just some things that are infinitely larger than we are, some things that, no matter how much you 'just do it' you're never going to punch your bare hand through 16 feet of solid Titanium.

And there's a strength in knowing our limitations, knowing when to say 'enough is enough', being able to stand tall, dust yourself off and move on -- stronger and more prepared for the next fight.

I know this all sounds pretty dark, and yeah, I can see how easily it can go that way -- but, that said, hopefully I can balance it out effectively; balance enough light with that dark that it's not some overwhelming, downbeat thing. (Which, honestly, is what it's sort of feeling like to me... like I might be digging myself in too deep).

That said, I remember hearing somewhere that we 'work best when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones'.

Huh. Well, sounds like it's worth a shot to me.

Let's giv'r a go.

Cheers all!
Brandon

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Running Leap

So now that I've got a rough road map laid out for my A story, the time has come for me to figure out what my B story is going to be.

The good news is that in Doctor Who one of the most common things that happens is that the Doctor and his companions end up getting separated - which means there's a pretty clear delineation between A and B stories.

So why try and reinvent the wheel? That bit of formula works well, let's roll with it.

But how will that work?

In the part of the season that we're going to be straddling here, Amy and Rory have just had their child taken from them by an alien cult (who they plan to raise into a living weapon to kill the Doctor). They then learn that their mysterious, time-travelling friend River Song is actually their daughter, all grown up and heading backwards in time as they're moving forward (her future is their past, etc).

One of the things that really bothered me about this series was that, all things aside, we never actually witness Rory and Amy coping with the loss of their child -- something that is just rife with Drama and story and all sorts of things... but that thread never really got touched.

I'd like to tug on that thread a tad.

The problem is that when you're writing a spec script there's only so much room you have to start involving backstory. That room shrinks considerably when it's also not the focus of the story. And that's definitely something to keep in mind when weighing the scales -- especially considering that only a handful of people will ever really know what you're talking about anyway.

Which leaves me with a decision to make:

Tell the story I want to tell.

Keep the storyline and find a way to make it not be about Amy/Rory losing their baby -- but leave enough subtext that fans of the show will understand.

Find another story that's episodic in nature but still reflects the theme.

Now one part of the story that I haven't really explored much is this group of people, these locals -- this small town, which most likely will be shrunk to a small farm - maybe a family... (since it's more thematically similar).

Maybe the B story is actually about this small family that's starving in the middle of the Great Depression, their mom and pop fighting to make sure their kids are taken care of.

Damn, this is getting into some heavy shit.

Hrmmm, I'm going to have to think on this some more, try to figure out what the strongest angle is.

More to come.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, December 05, 2011

Outline Part 6

--> Doctor figures out who the Dragon is and who the aliens were.

When I was first working on this premise, I was planning on getting the Silurians into the mix somehow -- actually my Dragon was going to be a Silurian Devil God. One minor problem with the idea was the whole idea of bringing in the mythology, how to integrate it smoothly for those who've never seen the show before (let alone integrate it for those who are fans).

Then I had a conversation with my friend/editor Cameron - who introduced me to an interesting piece of information: those who are writing a spec script for the show are actually forbidden from using the established species/races. You've gotta make your own aliens. Once you're working on the show proper, then you're allowed to play with the locals.

That said I'm semi-abandoning my Silurian idea here. My race will be called the Ordovites, they're a now-extinct space-faring race that tried to make Earth their homeworld back at the height of the Silurian empire. Needless to say, the Silurians - with their crazy advanced technology - promptly went about obliterating them.

The Doctor realizes that this creature is a Queen of the species and quite possibly the last of her kind. The cell where the creature was imprisoned was some sort of laboratory that kept the creature in stasis for all this time -- running tests, collecting data. Over time this place was forgotten and now the batteries have started to wear out -- which allowed her to wake up: leaving her alone, scared and very, very pissed off.

---> Doctor Who Faces Down the Dragon.

Armed with the knowledge that he's gleaned from the test chamber and hearing the terrified screams of his cornered companions, the Doctor runs out to attempt to save the day. He calls out the Dragon, causing it to turn on him - where he explains that he is the Doctor and that he knows the unspeakable things that have been done to her. He understands her rage. Her feelings of violation and loss. He reveals that she is the last of her kind and then offers her a chance to start anew, start fresh - to get free of this world. He offers her hope.

--> Recapture Dragon

The Doctor seems to be making progress, the Dragon seems calmer, placated. But then the Dragon sees the locals with armfuls of her eggs, carrying them away. She becomes enraged and goes after the locals - the Doctor realizes he has few options left and so he sets an elaborate trap, blinding her with rage until she chases him into the cryo-cell once more. With a last-second dive through the doorway, the cell closes and re-traps the dragon. Freezing it stasis. The Doctor re-powers the battery, ensuring another several millennia of safe slumber.

-> Doctor Who Leaves

As the Doctor and his companions begin to leave, the locals say their goodbyes, cowed by this experience. The Doctor and his friends, leave just as rain begins to fall from the sky.

Jump forward 50 years

The area is now a lake, the Doctor steps out into a bright, sunny day, to where people play happily along the beach/lakeside. Beneath the lake, the Dragon slumbers, its eye twitching as it dreams its icy dreams.

End of episode.

And there we are. The first, rough outline complete for my A story. It took a bit longer than expected and I can already see some things I'd like to change/make better... but, hey, progress! (right?!)

That's all for now, folks!

More to come!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, December 02, 2011

Outline Part 5

Alright! So here we are, trying to get this together - the big confrontation.

So they find the TARDIS and realize that they're now in the heart of the Dragon's home.  The Doctor is busy scanning bones.  In the background, something stirs.  The locals arrive, their arms laden with eggs and stand, frozen in terror.

The Doctor picks up a skull, trying to identify the species, saying that the bones aren't that old.  More shifting in the background.  The locals drop the eggs and then

--> The Locals run away

The Doctor notices the locals running, realizes that he's alone. (Note: Idea - B Story could involve the companions getting lost in the tunnels...?) He pauses, stiffens as he hears a sound behind him.  He turns to see:

---> A large CLAW on top of the TARDIS - HUGE DRAGON bears down on him

The 3-eyed creature roars, and rears up, wings spread wide.  The Doctor instinctively draws his sonic screwdriver and points it up at the beast -- nothing appears to happen.  He fiddles with the settings but gives up as the Dragon lunges toward him.  The Doctor decides to:

--> Run!

While running though the caves, the Doctor starts to notice odd little bits of wiring and metallic panels peeking out from the rock.  He continues to run, however, as the Dragon continues its chase.  As he comes to a fork in the cave system, he heads toward a tunnel that has flickering lights emanating from it.  He charges into the tunnel to see that it's a dead end.  The Doctor:

-> Discovers the remnants of ancient tech - a giant cryogenic prison cell

He notices that the Dragon has given up chase, in fact, he runs back to the entrance just in time to notice the Dragon storming away.  He returns to the metallic cell - this giant chamber and starts to pore over the technology, scanning it, amazed that it's still working -- though only barely.  Whatever's keeping this place running, it's finally started to run out of juice.  He pieces together that this is a prison cell -- the dragon's prison cell.  More importantly:

--> Doctor figures out who the Dragon is and who the aliens were.

But that's something we can get into on Monday when I finish this first draft off all proper-like ;)

Until then!

Brandon

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Outline Part 4

Some good news to start us off.

Monday I sent off the final version of my pitch bible.  Last night I got an email back from Chris -- the subject line?  "Holy Shit".

In a good way.

Apparently he's really stoked about how it's turned out, so stoked in fact that he's started to pass it around, trying to get some external feedback so that I can make it even stronger.  You can consider my fingers officially crossed on that one.

Okay, back to the action.

So when we left off the TARDIS had just been sucked into a sinkhole.

The next logical step?

--> Investigate


Of course, that makes sense.  That said, as a 'beat' it seems sort of shallow, don't you think?  Especially when the next beat is:

-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole

At first glance there's not a lot here to play with -- except that this is an episode of Doctor Who.  And so we get another chance to have some fantastic 'Doctor' moments.  Of course he's got to use his Sonic screwdriver to do some scanning -- and of course 'something' has to be off the charts.  Which, of course, leads him to talking out loud, figuring it out, speculating.  This is a great time to have some character-ish moments.

But yes, eventually they're going to have to get down there to the TARDIS, they're going to have to descend into the the sinkhole.  How they do that could be a fun little moment as well -- could maybe have some fun with rickety ladders?  The general idea is that once they get down there they're going to be stuck.  Trapped with the dragon.

Anyways, so they end up at the bottom of the sinkhole, a tad dusty, maybe a touch bruised and that's when they notice that:


--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??

Yep, you can definitely tell it WAS there and you can see that something dragged it away.  Something big.  The group gathers themselves, follows the trail and stops dead in their tracks as they:

---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.

My first mental image here was like that scene from Aliens, where they walk into the cavern and see this massive clutch of eggs.  I'm not sure that it fits tonally just yet -- but hey, for now, I kind of dig it.  It's also another cool 'WTF' moment to end an act on.  It might not be the absolute strongest moment yet, but nothing wrong with leaving room to grow.


--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)

This moment may not ultimately fit in to the story, especially with them being trapped.  Then again, nothing wrong with them trying to take a few with them (for once they get out of here).  Could be that the locals decide to stay behind as the Doctor and his companions begin to look around -- they start collecting eggs and returning them to the entrance, where they fell in, to be 'rescued' by the others...?  This part, honestly, feels the most tenuous right now... so it's most likely to be in flux... but we'll see how it plays out going forward.

-> See the TARDIS

Of course while the Doctor and company are out and about, exploring this complex web of ancient tunnels, they eventually stumble upon the TARDIS, laying on its side amongst a pile of alien-looking bones.  They've found the Dragon's... cave? hoard?  Something like that.  I'm also playing around with the idea of having very ancient technology hewn into or merged with the rock-face.  The point is to give the idea that whatever's here, it's been here a long while.  This is something that the Doctor can readily attest to.

Next time, on Friday, we're going to get into the fun stuff, the confrontation.  The Doctor Vs. The Dragon.


See you on Friday!
Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Outline Part 3

Alright, well, would you look at that? My pitch bible for Pipeline is done and sent off to the races. Hopefully whomever gets to look at this thing will be impressed and/or interested in hearing more (as is the best case scenario with any good sales tool -- okay, well, landing the sale is the best case... but you get the idea).

Anyways, with that little so-and-so off my task list I can get back to trying to figure this outline out.

Progress!

Okay, where were we?

Slamming the door shut, they lean against the door, spitting out mouthfuls of sand, shaking it out of their hair. A short, hushed 'gasp' causes them to spin, revealing a scarily thin family dressed in little more than rags. They stare at the well-dressed, well-fed Doctor and his companions with wide-eyed shock/awe. Here we:

-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)

Ahhh right.  Awkward.

If you watch Doctor Who chances are you'll see this as a 'classic' Doctor Who moment, a chance for the Doctor to be all 'Doctor-y'.  This usually breaks down into 'frantic wide/wild-eyed spaceman talking completely over the heads of the bemused/confused locals'.  Needless to say, this is one of those moments.

This is also a great time to learn about the specifics of where we are and what's going on.

So what ground needs to be covered?  Time period (though the Doctor may already know this... have to re-research how much he knows about where he ultimately ends up).  Of course the earthquakes and the sand storms will definitely be a topic of conversation, possibly also the 'roaring' sound?  This is a good place to start setting some rules - who went where, how much people have seen, what they know (or don't know).

I was briefly playing around with a sort of 'The Mist' like scenario, where the town priest is a bit off his rocker saying Hell's trying to come through or something like that (using fear to control, etc)... but I've realized that it's just not going to work.  It's getting a bit too dark, and, more importantly, distracting.

The 'picking apart' phase is on-going, of course, but here - taking it from beat sheet to outline - that's the time where I'm the most brutal, asking the hard questions (and kicking myself when I can't find the answers I want).

I've also been considering the setting, wondering if it's entirely too dark even for a Doctor Who story.  I'm not sure if I'm at the 'kill your babies' stage yet with this aspect of the tale, but I'm definitely looking to make sure I'm using the idea for the right reasons.

Anyways, so the Doctor and his companions start to talk to the locals where they:

--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)

Earthquakes/tremors, sandstorms, dust devils -- most importantly: Weird cracks in the ground where there weren't any.  More witty conversation follows until the tremors start up again.  Everyone goes running outside to notice that there are many, many more cracks in the ground and that the TARDIS is in the middle of them.  The ground starts to lurch and then:

---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.

Our first 'Oh SHIT' moment.  A large hole opens in the Earth and down goes the TARDIS.  Not Good.  If there were Act Outs in this show, this'd probably be the end of Act One.

Now that's a decent start.

More to come on Wednesday!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Incommunicado

Hey all!

Sorry for going dark there on Wednesday but I've been in full-on 'head-down' mode trying to put the big finish to my Pipeline bible. We're in the home-stretch now and with just one final list of changes keeping me from moving to the next level, well, I've been pushing to get this thing done.

Fingers crossed, I'm planning on having the whole she-bang done tonight.

It's pretty exciting to see one of your projects about to cross over into a whole new phase, especially as I sit here typing away, polishing the prose, striving to add those final flourishes. Flourishes that are, hopefully, of the 'making-it-stronger' variety.

So, while this week's been a bit of a dud for continuing the Outline, with any luck, I'll have positive news to share soon.

I may even have a little bit to share on Pitching (depending on how this Pipeline Pitch Bible is received).

Anyways, I'm off for now but there will be more to come on Monday.

Back to the action!

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Outline Part 2

Hey all!

So when last we left our heroes they'd ventured outside of the TARDIS towards some sort of glimmering object on the horizon. This object turned out to be a bit of a problem due to the time period.

In the last post we had tackled the:

-> Doctor Who Arrives

part of the equation and here, now, we're onto trying to figure out this little plot point:

--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm

For now, in the interest of keeping things moving, the 'glimmering thing' ends up being the roof of a grain silo on the outskirts of a withered farming community. In fact, they can see people milling about. More interesting!

As they start to walk towards the little make-shift hamlet the people take notice then turn and run away. The Doctor is confused by this until they notice the sound -- the sound of rushing wind. They turn and notice the dust storm speeding towards them. (Thus keeping them from going back to the TARDIS).

The Doctor and his companions start to run, trying to outrun the storm but are caught in it, blown along as the ground starts to rumble beneath them as they:

---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
Amongst the fury and utter chaos of the storm a muffled ROAR can be heard, as if something underfoot is bashing and clawing and crying out. Still, fighting to breathe/not die in the dust storm the group bee-lines it toward the first closest house - a barely-standing wooden shack where they burst through the front door and:

--> Hide in a Hovel

Slamming the door shut, they lean against the door, spitting out mouthfuls of sand, shaking it out of their hair. A short, hushed 'gasp' causes them to spin, revealing a scarily thin family dressed in little more than rags. They stare at the well-dressed, well-fed Doctor and his companions with wide-eyed shock/awe. Here we:

-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)

And there we are, my first major beats turned into the framework for an outline. This is nowhere NEAR done yet (much of it is still a bit to cliche for me yet, but at stage one it's a fine place-holder) but, as you can see: Progress.

Now we're getting somewhere.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Outlines

So, once you've managed to get yourself into a state where your beat sheet looks like it makes sense, like it'll hold together as a story, that's when you can start to take things to the next level:

Start building a story.

Now, when you're sent off to put together a proper outline, it's something that tends to take a few weeks.  From my experience, most of that time is a bit like playing Tetris with your story, finding the right way to fit the right pieces into the right order so that the larger story you want to tell, well, is actually the best possible version of your story.

Usually the first thing I'll do is go into my beat sheet and, simply, expand each point from one sentence into a paragraph.  At this point there's really nothing complicated about what I'm doing, it's all a matter of figuring out the best way to approach this story, looking for ideas or concepts that I may have missed when I was looking at it from the angle of a 'beat sheet'.

So, for example:

-> Doctor Who Arrives

What would I do with that?

Well, one option would be to take it to something like this:

The Doctor decides to take his companions on a trip.  Some place warm, relaxing.  He envisions wandering with them amongst the prismatic markets of the Gamma Nectaris cluster or floating on the prismatic seas of the cloudkin race.  He sets the destination, practically crackling with anticipation. As the TARDIS arrives, he proudly throws open the doors to reveal: flat, barren land as far as the eye can see.  Dust devils swirling in the distance.

Great! Progress, right?  But in adding all this extra detail, now I've gone and given myself my first significant story problem:  The Doctor hasn't arrived where he intended - why doesn't he just shut the doors and try again?

Especially problematic when my next point is:

--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm

So, not only do I need to find a way to get them to stay, I need to find a way to get the Doctor and his companions outside of the TARDIS - and far enough away from it - so that I can get them trapped in a dust storm.

And now you see how quickly this simple task can get very complicated.  Every new addition creates a ripple, or a new idea, or an offshoot of an existing idea -- or a game-changing concept.

The simplest way to get them out of the TARDIS is to say, quite simply, that the TARDIS refuses to budge.

Of course this is also, by far, the weakest approach.  It's also known as the 'Because I Say So!' approach.  Not a very convincing way to start a story.

So, now, I can choose one of two other options: Redefine how I start the story -- make it so that this is EXACTLY where they wanted to end up (doubtful) or give them something worth investigating.  If there's one thing we know about the Doctor it's that he loves to investigate, right?  So, there's a start -- at least for now.  It could be this simple but later on, farther into our story, we find a more plausible, more interesting reason to get them out of the TARDIS.  That's great when and if that happens, but for now, let's give them something 'shiny' off in the distance.

Okay, so let's add:

... as the TARDIS arrives, he proudly throws open the doors to reveal: flat, barren land as far as the eye can see.  Dust devils swirling in the distance.  The Doctor realizes that this is obviously NOT the right place, is about to close the doors and head off again except for that shiny thing.  The small shiny thing just on the horizon.  The small, oddly-shaped shiny thing just on the horizon that one could just quickly check out and then be on their way.

And so they're off.

Is it 'better' than "Because I Said So"?  Marginally.  Is it the best possible start?  Probably not.

That said, I probably won't know the absolutely best possible start until I get to the end.

So, for now, good enough.  Off to the horizon they go.

But now I've given myself another problem:  The shiny thing in the distance, in 1936 Dustbowl, depression-era America.  Huh.  Yeah, that could be a doozy.

Or not.

They get off a good distance toward the 'shiny' object to find a... water tower that's in particularly good and shiny repair...?

Okay, maybe not.  But it's a good idea.  Something big enough - and high enough - to be seen from that far away.

What else could it be?

UFO? (unlikely)  A barn roof?  Maybe.

See, this is why it can be so easy to lead oneself down a hole while trying to put an outline together.  Small, simple things like this can be problematic -- even worse once you've got a bunch of them all floating around at once.

That's where I'm going to leave it for now, I'll play around with this a bit on the weekend and have some more to say on Monday.

But for now, yeah, outlines... not always fun.

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

News From Progress-Land

So, yeah, I meant to update yesterday but by the time I got my crap together Wednesday was pretty much a write-off.

On the bright side, I spent last night hanging out with Mr. Chris Sheasgreen (of 'Less Than Kind' fame) going over the pre-final version of my pitch-bible for Pipeline.

To say that it's come together nicely is a freaking understatement -- to look at it from where it started and then see what I've got before me now, it's just night and day.  Better yet, after I implement this latest set of notes we're both in agreement that we're pretty much 'there'.  

After this draft, we've decided to start showing it around; start getting some feedback... and, then, hopefully, begin the process of figuring out how to pitch this baby all proper-like.

There's definitely a few months worth of work left on it (including learning to pitch, etc) but I'm starting to be able to see the end point for this section of the journey.

Can't wait to see where this ends up.

Tomorrow we start to talk about Outlines!  Mmm... oooouuutliiines!

Cheers,
Brandon




Monday, November 14, 2011

Hey there

Okay, so this last weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) essentially saw me demoted to pack mule at the Toronto Women's Show and the Toronto Baby Show.

My wife managed to get tickets to both of the shows (they were both at the Toronto Metro Center) and then discovered that both were letting you come back the next day for free.

Now, I'm happy to use my tremendous strength for the forces of good and all... but holy crap are my dogs barking.

On the bright side, she's incredibly happy with some of the deals she managed to get, so, yeah, who am I to argue? (Incidentally, I broke out my pedometer and found out that I walked a good 18,000+ steps combined over those 3 days on the show floor).

Of course, that means I've made zero progress on writing for the last 3-4 days.

Yay!

Hopefully this Wednesday I'll have something far more thrilling to update you all with but for now I don't have a whole lot on tap.

That said, here's a bit of TV-related news that I heard in my travels:

Apparently Russel Tovey - George on the BBC series Being Human - has decided to move on after Series 4. This is sad news for me as he was my favourite character on the show, but Toby Whithouse has been rocking some fantastic scripts as of late (he wrote 'The God Complex' episode of the recent series of Doctor Who), and Series Four is already in the can... so hopefully he gives us someone new to root for before George lopes off to the sunset/takes a dirt nap.

Also: Apparently NBC's 'Community' has been bumped from the schedule (not cancelled, though, as far as I can tell).  I'm only just starting to get into the show after many, many people (James) nudged me in that direction (Cameron).  Hopefully the show will find its way back onto the airwaves soon.

Ugh.  Tomorrow's gotta be a better day, right?

Until then,
Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Filling Plot Holes

So, when we last met, this is where we left off -- a rough 1st draft of an A Plot for my Doctor Who spec.

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Hide in Hovel
-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)
--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)
---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.
--> Investigate
-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole
--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??
---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.
--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)
-> See the TARDIS
--> Locals run away
---> Large CLAW on top of the TARDIS - HUGE DRAGON bears down on them
--> Run!
-> Discover remnants of ancient tech - a giant cryogenic prison cell
--> Doctor figures out who/what it is
---> Doctor Who Faces Down the Dragon.
--> Recapture Dragon (thanks to brilliant last minute improvised plan)
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Of course, with any first draft, there's always things that're bound to be changed, or tossed. Most often that's because once you get to the end of your first draft, there's a good chance that what's going on at the beginning no longer fits.

And that's where the filling in of plot holes begins.

So, right off the top: The Doctor and crew are above ground, caught in a sandstorm and they 'Hear A Dragon Roar'.

Very cool effect, great idea for a 'moment'... but if they can hear a dragon roar in the midst of a raging sand storm -- especially when said Dragon is later revealed to have been trapped underground, well... yeah. That's a problem.

So, there's two ways to tackle this -- one infinitely stronger than the other, but also often much harder to implement.

The first trick - and the weakest solution - is the 'hand wave'. Toss a bit of technobabble, explain it away as quickly as possible, then bolt for the exit and hope no one notices.

If I were going for a 'hand wave' moment, I would probably play something like the 'Psychic/Telepathic' card. Oh, what was that? Yeah, that roar you heard? That was only in your head. It was a Psychic roar. Oooh! (Of course I'd probably add the word 'Primal' in there too, make it a bit more sexy).

A Primal Psychic Roar!

Of course 'hand-wave' moments in and of themselves often tend create the opportunity for (exponentially) more plot-holes down the line. You see, now our enemy is a 'Psychic' Dragon. Which means now you have to set what the limits of those powers are. What it can and can't do. Who it can effect, how it would effect them. Is the Doctor immune? How does he react? (You see what I mean?)

It's all nice and fun and incredibly distracting -- believe me, I'd end up following this rabbit hole until I'd written a 40-page treatise on the politics of ancient Psychic Dragon culture -- but, ultimately, it's not all that helpful in the long term. (Tho' if you're looking to write an Eragon fanfic...)

The second trick - and the harder of the two - is what I call the 'plausible compromise'. Where you take your moment, boil it down to its seed, find the essence of what you were really trying to do and then rewrite the scene to make it make sense.

Logically, I can't have a Dragon Roar because, well, the Dragon's not topside. I could make the Dragon topside, but then that would change the entire course of my story. Which, at this stage, is still an option (if I feel it's the stronger choice).

Another solution could end up being as simple as where they're positioned. If they're caught in the sandstorm while standing on the spot that eventually gives way into the sinkhole (that swallows the TARDIS), you could have a moment where they're in a sandstorm, the ground shakes beneath them and you hear a muffled roar. This gives a bit more of a setup for the actual physical event of the sinkhole. It also tells us that there's something underground. Later, with the locals, they can talk about repeated earthquakes.

See, now the sinkhole isn't just a 'sinkhole' it's the place where the Dragon was trying to make its escape from the cavern.

So, for now, that seems like a stronger option to me, so that replaces the earlier point.

---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)

becomes

---> The ground shakes beneath them, they hear a Primal (!) muffled roar from the Earth itself.

You can even keep the note about the Doctor 'sort of' being able to understand what it said. (Though I'm sure this 'understanding' would be more akin to 'what the *bleep*')

Now, yes, I know it seems like a small thing here, that I've just spent a whole lot of text to justify the changing of a few words... but it also allowed for the thought process to get underway, which allowed me to ask some good questions which, in the end, helped me to strengthen my understanding of my own story (and how I want to tell it).

I won't do the rest of the points here, as I'm sure you've got the gist of where I'm going with this. But if you're not doing it, if you've never been a 'beat sheet' kind of person, maybe this is a great time to give it a go for your next tale.

Have some fun with it. Explore.

Anyways, that's all for now -- see you Friday.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, November 07, 2011

Aaaand Beat Sheet!

So, one thing I just happened to realize: I never went and counted the number of major beats in the various stories of the other episodes. Luckily, since I filled out that spreadsheet all nice and lovely-like, it shouldn't be too much trouble to see what the major beats are.

Of course, since I've not yet re-installed MS Excel on my laptop, that'll have to wait for another night.

Until then, we can still have some fun playing with beat sheets, trying to come up with something that 'feels' right (and then I can compare that number to the actual number of beats in the episode).

When last we left, we had:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Seek Shelter
-> Find Hovel
--> Meet Locals (aaaawkward)
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Of course, that just won't do. So let's keep going.

Now, one thing that I realized is that 'seek shelter/find hovel' can pretty much be combined into one beat:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Hide in Hovel
-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)
--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)
---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.
--> Investigate
-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole
--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??
---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.
--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)
-> See the TARDIS
--> Locals run away
---> Large CLAW on top of the TARDIS - HUGE DRAGON bears down on them
--> Run!
-> Discover remnants of ancient tech - a giant cryogenic prison cell
--> Doctor figures out who/what it is
---> Doctor Who Faces Down the Dragon.
--> Recapture Dragon (thanks to brilliant last minute improvised plan)
-> Doctor Who Leaves

So, here we go - a good start for a run at the fence. There, in all its basic text glory, is ... well, the A PLOT for the episode. It's still a good long ways off from a STORY, but for an idea of 'what happens' in the episode, that's a good start.

Of course, the next step is to tear it apart utterly.

But that's something we can tackle on Wednesday (I already see at least one plot hole that'll need to be filled). Do you see it?

Anyways, more to come!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Next Thing

Okay, so my mind's not quite working tonight -- been trying to write this post for the last few hours but I think I've had far too much sugar and caffeine today. I'm not sure why, I'm normally not much for caffeine (and I prefer my sugar in 'scotch' format) but nevertheless, my mind seems unable to focus on anything outside of how little I'm able to focus on anything.

Incidentally, on a side note, I found a really neat site that shows a bunch of different beatsheets from a wide assortment of films and TV series. Check out 'Beat Sheet Central' here: http://www.beatsheetcentral.com/.

Monday I'll post a full rough beat sheet for my A story and we'll see how that goes. I've been playing around with a bunch of different concepts so hopefully by then I'll have some sort of amalgam that really grabs me.

In other news, I just reformatted my laptop... and it ended up being a rather profound experience. See, over the last year or so I started putting all this random shit on my laptop and over said last year it started to slow down on me, eventually getting to the point where I couldn't work at all. I'd turn the bloody thing on and it'd just sit there, loading... then loading... then chugging... then loading.

Now this laptop isn't the fastest thing in the world -- a 3rd-hand Portege 2000 with an old Pentium 3 chip and 256 megs of ram. It was certainly never designed to watch Youtube (16 megs of video RAM!)... and yet, as a writing tool, I dunno, it's just fantastic. The screen, the keyboard, everything just melds in this way where I get into this zone. My writing zone.

And over time, with various bad decisions, it got corrupted. By the end, Windows would barely load. Worse, instead of sitting down and making it right, I just said 'crap' and let it lay that way.

And so it laid there for the last few months, just taking up space, collecting dust. My morning writing sessions withered. My weekend writing sessions crumbled.

But last night I pulled this lil' wonder down off the shelf, I'm not entirely sure why... maybe I was curious, maybe I'd just gotten fed up...

I carefully, painfully, copied what I could from the drive onto my USB key (Which took several hours, with several restarts due to overheating) and then I wiped it clean. Full-on clean re-install.

Which took another hour or so.

But when it was all said and done, my little laptop -- this silly old hunk of plastic and silicon -- was back. Not exactly 'zippy'... it'd never been 'zippy'... but I could type in real-time, and that was more than good enough for me.

It's sort of weird how distractions can pile up around us, can pull us in a dozen different directions and ultimately keep us from getting anything done. I sometimes feel frozen like that, like I've got so much I want to do, so much I want to accomplish and so little time to do it in. I end up pushing myself, spreading myself thin, and then wonder why projects are languishing.

Keeping all the balls in the air is tough; keeping yourself from putting them there in the first place... well, that's a good bit tougher.

Sometimes it's good to just hit the reset button, to start fresh and give yourself another chance. To focus on what you really want to be doing.

More to come.

Until then,

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Beat Sheets Are Fun

Oh yes, Beat Sheets... they were the bane of my existence, once.

For a long time I never understood why the hell people bothered to write them -- of course, at the time, I tended to just start writing my script from the ground up and edit it on the fly. Sometimes it'd work out alright, sometimes it wouldn't. Often what would happen is I'd get a first draft done, look at it and then do massive, massive rewrites.

That, hopefully, is what a beat sheet (and Outline) will help you to avoid.

Essentially, a beat sheet is a half-brainstorming, half-organizational tool -- you're slotting in ideas and playing with a progression of beats to get a sense of how you want your story to go.

Think of it like plunking on a xylophone before hitting the piano before hitting the main stage with the full orchestral backing.

This is where you get to play -- get to go 'okay, that's cool, but what if...?!' without getting hemmed-in by your already-existing script.

You're working with a few words or a phrase instead of paragraphs and pages.

Of course, one of the classic writer's problems is sitting there staring at a blank page and going 'uh, okay, where do I begin?'.

Truth be told, everyone finds their own answer to that question; how to get the page to 'open up' for them.

But since we're all here anyway, this's how I tend to approach the problem:

The first thing I do is think of one thing I absolutely want to have happen in my episode. Remember: Broad strokes here. Big events only. These are going to be your nodes, your way-points through the story as you get deeper in and into the finer and finer details.

Okay, first thing that I MUST have in my episode:

-> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.

Where in the story is that? Who knows? Doesn't matter. Not yet. We know it's going to be in there though... so that's a start.

Also, give yourself a start and an ending. If you don't know what exactly that is yet, that's okay, it's just to give you a bit of a way to help limit your scope. Help you focus.

So we add:

--> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Doctor Who Leaves

Which means we now have our first story. It's a shit story right now, but there we go:

--> Doctor Who Arrives
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
--> Doctor Who Leaves

If we were writing a 5 minute short, there you go. You're done. Those are your beats.

We're, of course, going to need to go deeper.

So, how do we do that?

What I do here is one of two things:

1) I think of another event that I REALLY want to have happen in my story or
2) I try to imagine an event immediately preceding or proceeding one of the other events on the tree.

So... what immediately happens after Doctor Who Arrives? Let's get to it:

--> The Doctor and his companions are greeted by the locals
--> They go exploring
--> They are attacked
--> They get lost

Now, let's pause here for a second -- please realize that on their own it's not all that interesting. It's all very bland. That's where you use what you've already decided about your locale, time period, etc to help you spice it up.

Since this is happening in 1930's Iowa, great depression, dustbowl, what location/time specific events can we add?

--> Get caught in a Dust Storm
--> Plague of locusts
--> wander in the 'desert'

Obviously these are a bit more detailed than 'broad strokes' but they help you get into the mental 'mood' of your story and help get the juices flowing for more ideas along those lines.

So, let's try this:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

One other thing you may notice that I try to do, even at this stage, is to create a 'flow' of events.

So, once I start to actually put things in, I'm trying to create for myself a sense of progression and tension. For myself, I do something as simple as this:

->
-->
--->
-->
->

Always trying to be moving in waves, building towards something. Once you get into doing B stories and C stories, once you create several 'waves' and then integrate them, it can make for some really exciting story progression.

Anyways, I digress.

We've got a good event off the top... but is it the best? That'll be your mantra once you're done and working on a second and third and fourth draft.

For now, let's move on.

We're going to need a pre-major event. Something to bring us in deeper to the story, something that will set the tone for the coming Dragon Confrontation.

--> They make a startling discovery

Wow. Crazy hard. This Beat Sheet stuff is nuts, right?

Okay, but what could that 'startling discovery' be? Well, you do need to let the audience know that a dragon actually exists. Maybe your startling discovery involves foreshadowing. Or maybe it involves one of them stepping into dragon poo? (uh, no, I won't be using that).

Or, Maybe:
--> They hear a dragon roar

or

--> They find the charred remains of a local townie named Buster (how's that for specific?)

or

--> They actually come face to face with a full-blown dragon and run for their lives

Just to keep things moving, lets say: Option A (while keeping an eye on Option B for later...)

So now we've got:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

So, now they're trapped in a dust storm, blinded by sand and from somewhere, all around them, they hear a Dragon Roar.

Cool.

Now what could be a neat outcome of that?

--> The Doctor Understands the Language.

Hell, the man can understand Baby. Why not? Maybe he 'understands' it in the same way you might 'understand' olde English. Not entirely understanding what it is saying, but knowing enough about the expression to know that it is DAMNED OLD!

Ooooookay.

So now you want them to

--> Find shelter from the storm

Where they end up

--> in a small Hovel

Which is, of course, full of half-starved 1930's-era Iowans. Seeing the Doctor and his companions in their current clothing configuration -- AHA! our first person-on-person conflict!

--> They meet the Locals (aaaawkard)

So now we have:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Seek Shelter
-> Find Hovel
--> Meet Locals (aaaawkward)
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Can you see how the story starts to build? From just a few small points they start to take on a logical life of their own, even at this simple stage.

Like finding a raw, musical hook it just FEELS right.

That's how you know that you're on the right track for the story you want to tell.

And, if you'll notice, we've also created our first full 'wave'. Lull building to high-point to lull. A natural progression and our first 'building block' of our story.

Not too freaking shabby if you ask me.

Anyways, it's getting late and I'm skirting the midnight mark as it is so, I'm going to go off and play with this some more.

That said, I hope I've given you all a small but helpful rundown on Beat Sheets and how they can help you organize your thoughts and your story; help you focus and find the things that are most important to you and the story you want to tell.

Cheers folks and happy writing!
Brandon

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

If you're anything like me, you love a good scare.

So, for this Halloween, I'd like to share with you some of my favourite scary short films.

Enjoy! (And stay safe!)
Brandon

There Are Monsters




Deus Irae




The Closet




In A Corner - (From the creator of Ju-On before there was a Ju-On)





Bedfellows




8 Butterflies

8 BUTTERFLIES from Comatose / Nick Narciso on Vimeo.
 
And this one, well, it's not too scary, but it's still pretty darned cool:

The Facts In The Case Of Mister Hollow

Friday, October 28, 2011

In the Dark

Okay, so what've we learned so far?

It's really, really hard to write when there's a baby crying right behind you.

Well, yes, that too. What else?

A teething infant causes a significant number of sleepless nights over the week which all culminate into several, unexpected moments of visual and auditory hallucination.

Seriously, I heard someone call my name at work today -- long after everyone had gone home for the day... weeeird.

Especially weird 'cause I heard it clear as day but didn't recognize the voice. Also, those brief moments of movement out of the corner of my eye. Like shadows flitting about, doing shadowy things.

Yeah, fun!

On the bright side, we've started feel the uneven ridges of young, sharp teeth poking up, barely restrained by gum-line. Our son is displeased with this development, and, looking at it from his perspective, I can't really blame him.

You see, outside of all the wonderful joys of having your mouth and jawline ravaged by the onset of razor-sharp baby-teeth, one of the other side effects is a little something called 'Night Terrors'.

Now, being a Storyteller (one that started off with a strong Horror bent) I'm well acquainted with the concept of what a 'Night Terror' is. It's like an ultra-intense nightmare, one that you can't wake up from.

It's a classic theme and hundreds of wonderful horror stories have come from this simple concept -- this inescapable nightmare.

Yes, it's all well and good on paper.

And then you see the real deal. Face to face.

You witness your formerly-placid child, this little roly-poly half-pint, jolt upright in their crib, screaming like they're being murdered.

Now, you've heard them cry before. Sure. You've even heard them cry when they've hurt themselves, gotten a little boo-boo.

But nothing prepares you for this... sound. A shriek is the only true way to describe it.  You realize that it's more than just a scream, this child is afraid for their very life.

From zero to 'HOLYSHITWHATTHEFUCK!?' this kid is flipping out, flailing, crying, hitting. Whatever's in there, your child is fighting it tooth and nail.

I'd never seen a baby fight for its life before this last week, but my God if it isn't the scariest goddamned thing I've ever witnessed.

Even worse, you jump out of bed, scoop the little one in your arms, hug and hold and whisper and sing and dance and pat and kiss and... they're not there with you. Wherever they are, they're lost in the mist, trapped in a battle that rages on without you.

My son looked at me a few days ago, in the midst of a full-blown night-terror; his eyes wide open but seeing through me... and whatever he saw scared the utter shit out of him. He flailed like he'd been caught, like the slavering jaws were moments from closing 'round his head.

For a moment I truly believed that I was the enemy.

That somewhere, somehow, someway, I'd done something wrong, unleashed some unknown... thing... upon him. I racked my brain: he's a baby, he's never seen anything more menacing than a red plastic spoon, what the hell could be tormenting him so fiercely?

Still I held him, rocking him, calling to him, patting him; wondering how the battle was going, if the clashing of steel would come out in his favour.

And, slowly, he came back to us. Slipping back to silence as if he'd never been bothered, sliding a thumb back into his mouth, sucking away as his head lolled and my heart thudded in my chest.

We laid him beside us then, as if somehow, my wife and I could offer some sort of protection; some bastion from his dream usurpers.

I'd like to say that it never happened again, that we haven't had to undertake this battle over and over again, a few times a night for the last week or so... but, alas, that's not the case.

Though we've gotten better at it, steeled our hearts against it, when we sleep now we wait for that sound; that... shriek.

And when it comes, we're there, laying beside him; helplessly watching as this formless foe wreaks havoc on our little one. Helpless but to watch and soothe and cuddle the transition from wounded to whimper to whisper.

He's sleeping now, finally, my little guy. But even now I feel my pulse racing, waiting for the attack to come. Remembering those vacant eyes as they stared through me to that unseen beast.

Here, by his side, I wait.

And in the darkness, I know horror.

Sleep well, my friends.
Brandon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Storming The Brain

Okay, so, brainstorming. A timeless, classic way to flesh out a story idea or concept.

So, what's on the docket for today? What problem am I trying to crack here? (The first task in any brainstorming session: what am I trying to accomplish?)

What do I need to do?

The Doctor
Amy Pond
Rory

What happens in my story?

Broad strokes here, beats... anything goes, may or may not be used, just run with it. NOTE: Below contains the final form of several passes all in one (ideas/critiques/expansions).

- An attack - obviously
- Someone lost - duh
- betrayal?
- a new friend
- hunters - a mob...?
- a showdown (too Western?) -- Genre imitation/homage?
- rebels -- too much?
- a sound defeat -- a retreat -- loss of someone/thing close...!
- a plan -- 'cause there's always a plan
- a bowtie -- 'cause bowties are cool
- Aliens? -- a mothership? No, too big. Alien tech. Sure. -- An alien prison. -- A forgotten alien prison.
- an escape -- can't have a prison without an escape.
- wardens? -- too much. Forgotten, remember?
- a sense of loss -- too intense for a spec? Maybe keep it upbeat?
- Confrontation -- Doctor Vs. Dragon -- Sonic screwdriver... vs. Dragon Tech? -- Techno Dragon? -- Cyborg Dragon?!... Okay, breathe.
- Running -- Always running. Hell, it's right in the show intro ("And we've been running ever since").
- Some Action -- Fast-paced, low to the ground, fun but gritty.
- Something to Fear -- It's a freaking Dragon. A Big, freaking, alien, angry Dragon. -- Death-Ray eyes?? Oooh...
- A Death -- of course. Wouldn't be a Doctor Who without a death -- Dragon-bait. Like a terrestrial Jaws scene?
- Some sort of Compassion/Kindness -- Do we all make up and be best friends in the end? -- Ethical/Moral problem? Do we go too far? -- Humanity the real monster? -- Ask the Question! Nope, still the Dragon. Close second, tho'.
- An Amy Quest -- B story -- looking for distraction, looking to keep her mind off something bad -- takes to local kids? -- Maybe a kid named 'Harmony' or something music-based, to strike a chord? -- Drawn into something deeper, forced into a choice. This or that. No solid 'right' answer. She wishes with all her might it was an easy, solid, I-can-be-sure-of-this answer.
- A... Rory? -- Just happy to be there! Okay, no. -- Torn. Wants to help, not sure how. -- Dragons?! COOL! -- Lazer Death-Ray eyes, not cool! -- Who is he now?: The man who waited -- Feeling outside, she won't let him in -- she can't articulate it. Or won't. -- Why?
- The Doctor -- Wanting desperately to make everything right -- OR wanting desperately to pretend like nothing's wrong. -- That it can always be solved. He always finds the answer. He's the Doctor. -- Believing his own hype too much? -- Genuinely surprised by Dragon -- Very old -- Doesn't know much, if anything about it? Shooting from the hip (as it were)?
- The Dragon -- Freedom. Wanting out -- Angry -- Hungry -- Tired -- Alone -- Last of its kind? (Does/would it know this?) -- Sentient? How Sentient? (Dogs/Dolphins/People?) or unknowable? Thinks in entirely different way...? -- Brain in Tail? Multiple brains like Dinosaurs -- Dragon precursor/off-shoot of Dinosaurs? -- Space-faring Dinosaurs escaped Earth, return to it? (NOTE: new comic idea).
- The Locals -- Downtrodden, beaten -- Desperate -- Looking for an out, a win. -- Hungry. -- Not expecting to find a freaking Dragon in their backyard.
- A Grand Finale -- Collapsing Cave? -- Aquifer...? -- Dragon vs. TARDIS? (Dragon Breath? Dragon BITE?) -- Freedom or Death Sentence -- Not sure which one -- A Pyrrhic victory? (too downbeat?) -- TARDIS whoop-whoops off to the sunset...?

Hrmm...

Okay, so, yeah, if you made your way through that, you've just gotten a small glimpse into my mind as of late. Disjointed? Yeah, that's how things tend to roll... but I think I found a few interesting concepts to play with.

Maybe enough to even take an early stab at a beat sheet!

Yeah... maybe.

Anyways, that's all for now, folks! See you on Friday.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, October 24, 2011

And We're Back

Hey folks!

So, yeah, Friday ended up being a wash - from being swamped at work to actually managing to get out to my first 'Band Practice' in about 8 months, I ended up stumbling home around the midnight mark.

It was a fantastic time out there, seeing some friends, catching up with the world at large (a quick shout-out to Ryan, Chris and Nat, some real-life, bona-fide readers of the blog -- hey folks!).

Now that all that free tequila has worn off (thanks Karen!) I'm back in the saddle and starting to get a better idea of where I'm heading.

In case you didn't know, 'Band Practice' is Inkcanada's monthly meetup of Toronto-ish Writers, Producers, Directors and more to get together and just be social. It's a great way to meet (and have a beer with) people you may, one day, be working with.

Anyways, one of the great things I experienced at last Friday's 'Band Practice' was actually the reaction I got when started telling people about the Doctor Who spec script I was working on.

See, sometimes you just know you're onto a good idea... and sometimes that idea is reinforced in the most simple and casual of ways.

So there I am, being introduced to some fellow writers, shaking hands and such when the conversation pops up to 'So, what are you working on?'. We all chat a bit about what we're up to, then it turns to (as it usually does) what we're all speccing at the moment. A Castle here, a Community there, possibly a Justified, maybe a Good Wife; we all nod in agreement that they're solid choices. And then they look at me and I say 'Doctor Who'.

I haven't seen so many eyes light up so fast in one conversation before. (Incidentally, I was also surprised that so many knew of the show). Now, yes, please let me apologize ahead of time if I come off as sounding smug here, but these are the rare moments that every writer secretly wishes for: to come up with something that's genuinely interesting.

And that's what appears to have happened because, off the top I had a flurry of questions - (and yes, 'why?' was one of them) - but one thing I noticed (especially after I sold it as 'Doctor Who fights a Dragon') was how many people started smiling. Like ear-to-ear grins.

A small thing, but it was plain to see. People were interested, they wanted to hear more.

Yes folks, a good high-concept idea is hard to come by -- but when you find one that works... celebrate.

Of course, now I have to go out there and live up to that idea. I've gotta write a script that's going to be 'kick-in-the-pants' awesome.

But, for now, it feels good to feel reinforced in my decision; to know that I'm onto something here.

Wednesday is brainstorm day - we'll start to get a look at what all could possibly go (and go wrong) in such a script.

Until then,

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Side Quest

These last few days I've been working on some other projects that have been needing attention.

My web series, tentatively titled 'Undy1ng' (which, yes, will probably end up needing a new title), has hit it's stride in an impressive way. Our new Director has come out swinging with a wicked, wicked set of notes that've made us all go 'wow'. Needless to say, we're knee-deep in re-writing and making it a stronger, faster, leaner, meaner machine. So far it's coming along quite well, we're about half-done our re-write, so, with a bit of luck, that'll be moving forward in the near-ish future.

In other news, I've been hard at work on nailing the pitch bible for 'Pipeline' -- I've got some great advance notes from Chris and they've been pushing me to dig deeper, answer some questions that I didn't even realize that I'd missed. (Ahh, the joys of an external perspective!)

Other than that, I've been utterly enthralled by what's been going on in the news... just devouring every little tidbit I can about our (as in the World's) financial crisis. I'm not entirely sure just yet how the heck I'm gonna pull this off, but I've gotten a couple really strong ideas for stories. One might be a film, one is (at the very least) a mini-series. I've been jotting some notes down as they come to me, but I'm pretty psyched. Maybe it's something worth exploring once I get Pipeline locked down.

Until then, all I can do is write as much as I can and save it with all the other cool ideas I've gotten over the last while. (Ugh, all the ideas in the world right now, no time to follow up on most of them...)

Anyways, more scriptwriting stuff to come this Friday.

Until then,

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Freeze Frame

So, two episodes down, one left to go to get a good idea of the show itself, how it flows, if there are any patterns that emerge, etc.

But what comes afterwards?

I mean, yeah you've got Research. But then what?

Brainstorming, mostly.

I've already broached this subject -- sort of hopped around the list -- when I came up with my title ahead of time.

'The Dragons Of Iowa'

Which, of course, well, leads to the question: What would be the number one thing that has to happen to The Doctor in an episode called 'The Dragons of Iowa'?

Yes, we're going to have the Doctor face down a Dragon.

Pretty straight forward, really. Makes a lot of sense. You get what you pay for and it's labeled right on the box.

Of course, this Dragon will be an Alien, and will have been stuck in a primordial/technological prison for the last half-million years or so.

But yeah, the iconic image I have in my mind is that of the Doctor, sonic screwdriver pointed up at the giant, green, scaly thing looming over him, wings spread -- possibly about to douse him in flame.

Not sure how on-the-nose I'll go with the whole 'dragon' thing, but that image has me stoked for a whole host of other moments I want to bring alive.

You know, I often hear a lot of new writers asking 'what books should I read to get better at writing for TV?' and there really is a fantastic crop out there.

But, in my opinion, one of the best books ever written about writing for a visual medium has got to be 'Understanding Comics' by Scott McCloud.

I'm not sure if it's just because of the way I write, or how I view the world but for me, when I can see that one, still image in my mind; when I can see the entirety of my story summed up in one frozen frame... that's when I know I'm ready.

The book is fantastic because it helps you to learn to think visually.

In Comics it's all about trying to tell a compelling tale with no moving parts. Saying the most you possibly can with that one perfect image and a tiny bit of text.

It's a way of thinking about my work and my stories that I've been trying to perfect over the years. It's not always easy (and frequently frustrating) but when you nail it... it really, really nails it down.

In a Battlestar Galactica spec that I did, one called 'Reign', the image I had in my mind was that of Adama standing there, alone, quietly staring at the ghosts of all the people who had died under his command.

You see, one of the things that always bugged me about the show was that for all the things we learned about Adama over the years, I felt like we never got a chance to get inside his head.

I mean, how does a man who has survived as much as he has, has seen as much death and destruction as he has, manage to cope? Hell, how does he get out of bed in the morning?

That image, of him, alone in CIC, surrounded by the quiet stares of the dead was haunting to me. And it inspired me to write that whole script.

And that's what it's all about, really: Inspiration.

When I think about TV - this wonderful bastard child of Film and Radio - and the tales I want to tell, the very first thing I always try to do is find that image. That one frozen moment that encapsulates the entirely of my excitement for the project.

Furthermore, when I start to write without having found that image, I find that my work is also, well, listless. Lacking direction. Mediocre (or worse).

It's something to refer to, something to keep you on track, something to strive for.

Once you find that, the first part, the hardest part, is done. You're officially into your story. You build around it.

Then it's: What leads to that moment? What happens after that moment?

And, hopefully, you're so freaking excited about finding that one moment that you find another, and then another. Until, hopefully, your script is chock-full of awesome moments.

But I digress.

For now, I'm going to break down one more episode. Then I'm going to try and beat out a story. Then, if that works out, I'll try an outline... or two or three.

One step at a time, tho'. One step at a time.

G'night folks! See you on Wednesday.

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, October 14, 2011

6x12 - Closing Time Blues

Okay, so... yeah. This episode hasn't exactly been my favourite and, for a good while now I couldn't put my finger on exactly why that was.

For the last few days I thought that maybe they'd gone and used some other sort of structure for this episode (a 4-Act structure, perhaps) but the closer I looked, the more I realized that that didn't fit.

So I started digging deeper into the episode, charting it out, trying to figure out what was bugging me. And, really, so far as I can tell, there are two things that bother me.

1) The climax of the story is incredibly compressed. The last 3 minutes of the episode have nothing at all to do with the story that's just been told and only serve to set up the season finale. I know, 3 minutes doesn't sound like a whole lot, but considering how quickly (and forced) the climax of the story plays out -- with Craig being captured and turned by the Cybermen and then defeating them all in a matter of seconds... I don't know -- the more I watch this episode (I've seen it like 5 times now) the more I get the feeling like they intentionally pushed past the climax and hung a lantern on how silly the whole thing was (Craig says 'I killed them with love'... ugh).

2) The story feels uneven. Essentially this episode is 'two men and a baby... and some Cybermen' but because the Doctor is on this dark tilt of his (believing that he's a crazy old man who gets his friends killed) it messes with all the light-hearted fun that they've put together off the top.

The very beginning of the episode is right proper dark and spooky... if not a tad silly -- flickering lights belie the creepy-looking Cybermen hiding in fitting rooms and snatching shopworkers away (to be converted, no doubt). This dark bit of an intro ends up leading into some great, comedic scenes when Craig and the Doctor play off of Craig's newfound fatherhood fears.

Yet the episode never seems to decide what it wants to be; a problem that truly comes to the surface as the episode wears on, as they get deeper into their investigation and things start to get dark -- too dark, apparently, because just as the big climax hits, it's like they stomp on the fast forward button. Not only do they gloss over the significance of Craig being turned -- or that that means for the Doctor (yet another failure, another friend lost) -- but they rush through any sense of true danger. One minute it's 'Oh no, Craig's been turned' and then, almost a minute later Cybermen heads are exploding, people are running and explosions are happening. It's like they tried very hard to keep it light-hearted and then realized there wasn't a happy-go-lucky way out of this one so they stomped on the accelerator and hoped no one would notice.

(Or they really wanted that 3 minutes for River at the end and so chopped away whatever used to be there...)

Structurally this is a weird episode as well, pretty much the whole first half of the episode is dominated by A story (setup for the Doctor and the Cybermen) and then the last half of the episode is mostly B story with the Craig realizing he's a great dad after all/defeating the Cybermen, etc.

I had a lot of trouble trying to find the structural nodes of this episode, trying to get a sense of where the natural 'outs' would be. Because this was a slower-paced episode it was significantly harder but I think I managed to figure it out.

Teaser - Out at 3:12 - Shona pulls back the curtain revealing a dirty/scary-looking Cyberman leering back at her. She screams.

Act One - Out at or around 11:46 (possibly earlier) - The Doctor and Craig have just had their first brief encounter with the Cybermen and escaped by the skin of their teeth. Outside the Doctor reveals what they're up against and that they were just on a Cyberman mothership. Craig has a moment of wonder and excitement and exclaims 'I was in outer space!'. - Now, not the strongest of outs, but a natural pause in the story when considering what happens next (they regroup and start to search in earnest for the 'silver rat'). Personally, I think it would've been a quick structural change to have the reveal of the Cyberman coming at them and then cut to an act out (and then they escape) but, hey, that's just my two cents.

Act Two - Out at 21:14 - This is a definitive Act out. The Doctor and Craig are on the trail of a Cybermat and they hear a scream in the distance. The Doctor goes running off after it, gets knocked unconscious by a Cyberman. Out on the Cyberman looking down on The Doctor as he goes out. Heck it even cuts to black.

Act Three - Out at 28:42-ish - This is a 'calm-before-the-storm' Act Out as far as I can tell. They've just managed to kill a Cybermat, the Doctor reprograms the thing into something that can help him fight the Cybermen. He starts to talk to Craig, starts to tell him about the true nature of his fate, that he is to die tomorrow, but turns to see that Craig is asleep. Caring but resigned, he tucks them in with a blanket. As I type this, I'm realizing that the stronger out from this would actually be the next scene which shows the next morning and the Doctor sneaking out on his own to fight the Cybermen by himself. Coming back from the break would show Craig waking up and realizing that the Doctor's gone, sending him into a panic and chasing after him.

Act Four - Out at 34:20 - This would also be a pretty strong Act out if it weren't so darned rushed. The Doctor watches, helplessly, as the captured Craig is forced into the Cyberman conversion unit and the helmet of the Cybermen is welded shut around his head. A fantastic image, a great emotional punch to the gut... but it never gets its chance to really hit home. A minute or two later Craig is free and on the run with the Cybermen exploding from his 'emotional overload'. *sad face*

Act Five - Out at 41:24 or 44:10 - The Doctor's story actually comes to a (unsatisfactory) close at 41:24 as he tells a bunch of dumbfounded kids that he's saved all their lives countless times... then says 'you're welcome'. The episode ends with River underwater after being drugged and forced into an astronaut's suit, moments before coming out of the water and killing the Doctor (as we saw in the first episode).

Anyways, that brings me to a close on 6x12-Closing Time. I'm not sure how much of this will actually help me going forward, but if nothing else, I think I have gotten a touch better and digging into these episodes. This one frustrated me to no end... but, I dunno... I guess I'll have to take a stab at another episode to see if this is an anomaly or something more prevalent with this Series.

Not sure which episode yet, but I am open to suggestions.

Cheers!
Brandon