January 20, 2006
Q & A

"Are the Centurions sentient? If so, does their memory get uploaded to a new body when they die?"

No, the centurions are not sentient and their memories/experiences are not downloaded into new bodies when they die.

"Why does every one call the officers Sir even if they are women? I was in the military but I thought that every one knows to call female officers or presidents Mam."

This was something I took from Wrath of Khan. In that film, everyone called Saavik "sir" and I liked the way it played and the implication that the honorific had become gender neutral at that point. On Next Generation, we didn't encounter a point where a female officer had to be addressed with a "sir" or ma'am" until well into the run -- an embarassing moment for the entire writing staff, by the way -- and it started a fair amout of debate about which one should be used to address Troi during a crisis (I believe the episode was "Disaster"). My personal feeling was that there was something vaguely condescending about "Yes, ma'am" versus "Yes, sir" in context and that by addressing everyone as "sir" it made a point about the egalitarian nature of Starfleet. It's certainly a debatable point, and Jeri Taylor, the executive producer running the writing staff at that point, felt very differently about it. Ultimately, we decided to go with "sir" and follow the protocol from Wrath of Khan. When I was writing the miniseries for Galactica, I decided I wanted to use sir for all the female characters and I even toyed briefly with the idea of calling Laura "Mister President" but that seemed like a step too far. Billy does call Laura "ma'am" on occasion, so the term itself does exist in the Galactica universe, but the military invariably calls her "sir."

January 18, 2006

I've seen some speculation out there that we dropped the Cylon POV episode from the lineup this season, but I'm happy to report that it's untrue. The episode, "Downloaded" will be broadcast as number 18 and I just watched it last night. It's a good show and a very different spin on our story thus far, in that we're telling the A-story entirely through the eyes of the Cylons for the first time. This was something that I'd been wanting to do for a long time but it took a while to come to fruition. The confusion probably came from the fact that we had initially planned to do a clip show as ep 18, but then dropped those plans once we made the decision to split "Resurrection Ship" into two parts, thereby giving us an extra episode and obviating the need for the clip show (which was being planning for budgetary reasons).

Some confusion out there about why Roslin didn't simply promote Adama over Cain at the start of all the trouble or try to relieve the wacky admiral herself. My reasoning was that Cain would never accept it, especially since her acquiesence to Laura's authority as president was shaky at best. Laura should be smart enough to know that Cain wasn't the kind of person who could be taken down by a legalism and so she shouldn't give an order that she knows will be disobeyed, thereby undercutting her own position as president. There used to be a line to that effect in the script, but it got cut over the course of the rewrites.

January 17, 2006
Q & A

Hey look at that -- two blogs on the same day.

Alert the press.

"Firstly, what lead you to choose Zoic studios, and secondly, how does your studio interact with Zoic? I can understand how that would all go over in a MOVIE, but in a SHOW where you have (essentially) a 45 minute movie EVERY WEEK, how do you get the shots that you want, then get them edited the way you want them? (Sorry, student films have 0 effects budget, so I've never worked with them."

Zoic was chosen for the miniseries after we examined several other houses and VFX artists. I was producing Carnivale for HBO at the time the final decision was made, but I believe that Gary Hutzel, our Visual Effects Supervisor and the man most responsible for the VFX of the show overall, strongly recommended using them based on their past work and their presentation.

Gary is the primary conduit between the VFX houses (and we do use other houses in addition to Zoic) and the show. Gary's involved in every episode right from the beginning of the process -- sometimes the writers are talking to him even before an episode is written in order to gauge the producibility (if that's a word) of what we're contemplating. For instance, we had numerous conversations with Gary regarding "Scar" (ep 15) which has a great deal of fighter combat in the show and we wanted to start talking with him early to get a sense of how to construct the episode so we could get the most bang for our buck. We also rely on Gary to help us "balance" the shows so that an expensive VFX show like "Scar" can be offset by pulling way back on VFX shots in a show that is less dependent on them like "Black Market."

Gary and his team are counting shots and coming up with rough guesstimates on budgets from the first writer's draft, and are intensely involved in the entire production process. We have dedicated meetings with just the VFX team throughout pre-production and Gary is often on the set during the shoot itself to go over the various green-screen elements needed to be shot.

Once the show is in the can (or rather the cartridge) the editor and the director collaborate on carving an initial cut of the episode and they slug in places for missing VFX shots. It used to be that you'd go through the entire editorial process with nothing but cards saying "Shot Missing --VFX." That was the way it was done when I did Trek; entire battle seqeunces were constructed only after the show had been locked and the editorial rhythms established. Today, the CGI artists will provide "previz" -- previsualsations -- giving rough animatics of the entire action. The editors, directors and producers play around with the placement and duration of the previz shots, often asking for changes in the shots or asking for new ones or dumping them entirely from the show. The entire process is complicated by the calendar, in that shows done early in the season have more time in Post and thus can be changed and monkeyed around with more than shows done late in the season which are closer to their airdates.

Gary is constantly battling to get David and I to sign off on VFX shots as early as possible to give his team enough time to complete them for air, and David and I are constantly battling to tweak the shots just "one more time." It's a long, difficult process and the fact that we have the best effects on television today (in my well informed opinion) is a testament to Gary's tireless efforts and the dedication of everyone involved on his team.

January 17, 2006
Is it really Season Three?

Somehow, I'm sitting here working on the third season of Galactica and yet Post Production has this annoying habit of reminding me that I'm still not finished with the second. (Note to self: fire everyone in Post.)

I can state with some confidence that everyone 'round the old battlestar is pretty excited about the end of the second season and where we begin the third. We've got the first four stories approved by the network, we're working on the next two, and this week I'm supposed to start writing the first script (yikes).

While the end of the first season also had us all jazzed about the finale, we were less certain when it came to the beginning of the second. Partly that was a result of not having aired any of the year one shows when we started working on the next season and didn't have a great deal of certainty when it came to the true audience reaction and ratings and partly it was a result of having spread our characters out over such a large story in the finale that we knew it was going to take a long time to sew everything back together again. This time, we have a lot more experience under our belts and we have the added benefit of looking back on season two and learning where we could improve.

So this time around, we're kicking off the new season with genuine excitement, and even though the production start-up date is mind-numbingly close, there's a lot of confidence in the air and not a lot of burn-out looming -- which stuns me most of all.

And yeah, I'm blogging again. Let's see how quickly I can get back on this horse.