Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Toronto Diary Day Four

08.24.16
by Ty Franck

And the answer to, “What the hell is a concept meeting?”

So, here we are on our fourth day in Toronto. After an exhausting night of sitting in Executive Producer Naren Shankar’s hotel room and rewriting scripts while drinking red wine, we began the next day at a very civilized 9am. It’s a big day. We finally met our episode 13 director, Thor Freudenthal. Now the real work began. Set tours and concept meetings and tone meetings and production meetings.

Set tours are pretty self explanatory. The art director, the production manager, the 1st AD, and our new director took a walk around the studio lot to look at all the sets we’d be using for this episode. As the episode writers, Daniel and I tagged along to answer story questions where applicable. This is more important than you think, because often this is the director’s first chance to begin imagining what shots he might use to capture the scenes. Everyone has seen drawings, but it’s not until you see the actual space that some of the best camera angles and shooting strategies come to mind.

Next up is the concept meeting. This is what a concept meeting looks like:

IMG_2083That gang of folks over there are some of the people whose job it is to take whatever crazy bullshit Daniel and I put into our script, and turn it into actual pictures. I say some, because apparently the shot we took cut off our amazing costume designers, and everyone’s favorite VFX coordinator, Cailin Munroe, is blocked by the dude next to her. The VFX supervisor, Bob Munroe, is also not visible here, but he’s no one’s favorite, so that’s ok. (Hi Bob!)

 

At this extremely long meeting, the 1st AD, Joel Hay, walks the entire group through the nearly fifty page script stopping at every beat to discuss the technical requirements. Script says, “In zero G, the wrench floats up from the floor.” Joel pauses and looks around the room. Jim in props says, “Is that any old wrench? Is it high tech? Does it need lights or gack?” (Gack is the generic term for extra stuff added to shit to make it look cooler.) Tim in Special Effects says, “Are we flying the wrench? Can I do a cable fly or will it need to rotate on it’s way up?” Bob in Visual Effects says, “We can do this. It’s a simple gag. As long as no one is touching the wrench or walking around it, we can just CGI that in pretty cheap if it needs to do more than just float up.”

And on and on and on. For every beat. On every page. And we discuss squibs and blood packs and costumes and sets and camera rigs and lighting and every damn thing the show needs to make a 42 minute movie. Told you. It’s a long meeting.

At several points, the director or the show runner ask us, the writers, questions about the intent of scenes or to clarify something that isn’t as precise as it needed to be. And you better come correct. This room is full of about 300 years of combined movie making experience. You start talking out your ass, you’re gonna get called on it. For newbie writers, it can get a little intimidating. Thankfully, now on our second season of this, Daniel and I acquit ourselves well.

Then, after the long ordeal of the set tour and then the even longer concept meeting, all we need to do is hang out in our office plowing through a final script polish with the show runner. Easy peasy.

The writer, hard at work

What it looks like when writers are hard at work.

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4 Responses »

  1. Have there been any changes in the scene where Naomi and Holden kiss?

  2. I am loving these blog entries! Thanks, guys!

  3. The key words here are “42 minute movie” because, unlike every other TV series I’ve watched (and I’m over 50 so I’ve seen a few), every single episode of The Expanse comes across as a short movie. The attention to detail, by itself, is astounding for a weekly series. Congrats to you and Daniel and everyone involved. -Joe

  4. I found this quite interesting. Cool window into a world that I have no access to.

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