Chapter 1: Introduction
Whenever guests visit
the studio for the first time, I always like to steer them over to the
very far end of the second floor production offices. “This,” I inform
them as they scan the walls with breathless anticipation, “is where the
magic happens.” We take the turn into an unremarkable section of
corridor, empty except for a forlorn couch sitting by Brad Wright’s now
empty office. Four doors to our right. Three doors to our left.
A door at the far end leads out to an odd-smelling wing (I suspect there’s
a body entombed in the wall but our location’s manager insists it’s that
“weird carpet odor”), a flight of stairs and, the back entrance.
“Do you feel that?” I ask - to which they’ll glance around, bewildered,
and invariably ask: “What?” “Electricity,” I tell them and immediately
usher them over to meet the creative forces that have seeded the countless
hours of Stargate SG-1 they have enjoyed over the years.
A blow by blow
breakdown of the production process from concept to finished episode
STOP: Second to last door on the right.
can usually be found at his desk, staring into the warm blue glow of what
I affectionately call his Norwegian Fancywriter computer. A kind
and affable fellow, the soft-spoken Damian never passes up the opportunity
to take a break from his work to chat. He joined the writing department
in season 6, receiving the invite on the basis of his pitch and script
for “The Other Guys”. He doesn’t get as much notice (or notoriety)
as others on staff but this is changing as evidenced by some recent magazine
interviews. I’m sure he appreciates the burgeoning interest but I’m
equally certain he can’t help but feel disappointed with the somewhat lackluster
titles that have graced those same articles. Michael Shanks got “Shanks
for the Memories”. Amanda Tapping got “Get Carter”. Brad Wright
got the evergreen “The Wright Stuff”. My writing partner Paul looks
forward to the day Damian finally achieves comparable cleverness with:
“A Kindler, Gentler Stargate”.
STOP: Across the hall and to our left.
door is usually closed because Peter is either out prepping an episode,
on set directing, or desperately trying to avoid the company of other writers
so he can get some work done. When he’s writing a script, no one
is as focused as Peter. Unfortunately for him, no one is quite as
magnanimous as Peter either so if a writer decides to grab a seat in his
office for a nice lengthy chitchat, far be it for PDL to ask him to leave.
He’s the perfect host: warm, sincere, and boisterously entertaining.
Whenever a kid visits the studio, a stop by Peter’s office is a must.
PDL’s routine opens with a dead-on Barney imitation, segues into a hilarious
highlight package of the numerous oddities decorating his room, then dovetails
nicely into his trademark “Pull my finger” gag. A fan fave, he’s
our resident expert on show mythology. When Stargate finally wraps,
he’ll no doubt publish that English-Jaffa dictionary he’s been working
on all these years.
STOP: Across the hall, dead ahead.
your head into the office and, more likely than not, it will be empty.
The laptop will be on, that cup of tea on the desk still hot and steaming,
but Paul will be nowhere in sight. Wait around long enough and he’ll
eventually make his way back to the office. Paul is a pacer.
He prefers to be on the move when he’s developing stories or running dialogue
in his head, walking the halls of the production offices or back lot deep
in concentration, brow furrowed, fighting to get those tiny details in
his head just right so he can hurry back to the office and get them down
(in order to rethink them, abandon them, and ultimately rewrite them at
a later date).
STOP: Back down the hall the way we came, around the corner and an
you look through the glass wall, past the bust of Greedo sitting on the
t.v., you’ll see Robert at his desk. More than likely, he’s on the
phone. Come back later when he’s hopefully less busy. He’ll
still be on the phone. Wait around for him to get off, start talking,
the phone will ring and he’ll be back on. It’s to be expected.
With the departure of the ultra-talented Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper
has assumed the mantel of Capo di tutti Capi, the boss of bosses.
Now our fearless leader, the hands-on Robert C. or “Coop” as everyone but
me likes to call him, fields everything from scheduling conflicts to selecting
just the right crew gift. He apologizes. We wave. We’ll
come back later. Chances are he’ll still be on the phone.
So ends the tour of the writing
department. At this point I will hand off the visitors to the nearest
production assistant and they’ll make their way down to set, no doubt grateful
for the rescue. And I’ll head back to my office. If I timed
it right, it should be just about lunchtime...
This, dear readers/fervent fans/casual
observers, is our starting off point to the wonderful world of television
production: the writing team. Granted, there are occasions when outsiders
will enter our hallowed realm to take up the mantel. Names like Wright,
Judge, and Shanks have and/or will continue to adorn the celebrated Written
By credits. But, for the purposes of this diary, let’s stick to the
standing regulars: Rob, Paul, Peter, and myself (let’s call me Montague)
as I deliver you a blow by blow breakdown of the production process, from
concept to finished episode.
In my next installment, I’ll
focus on how ideas are nurtured and fashioned, like simple caterpillars
metamorphosed into bright, beautiful butterflies (or mercilessly squashed
underfoot) as we audition those presumably brilliant ideas in the harsh,
unforgiving arena known as The Room.
Joseph Mallozzi is a Writer
and Executive Producer for Stargate SG-1.
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