Writers Circle Confidential: Favour For a Friend

Fresh from its debut at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo (shoulda been there), it’s the latest episode of Writers Circle!

And fresh from “me writing it all down yesterday,” here’s your peek behind the scenes.

Writing Zoe

Keith has spoken, here and elsewhere, about how he felt challenged coming onto the project and writing characters that I had created, had written on multiple occasions, and was quite close to. The exception, of course, is Zoe. Zoe’s not in the play. We created her together. Wove her out of whole cloth as a unit.

And yet… and yet in my eyes, she ended up Keith’s character.

Sure, I wrote plenty of Zoe episodes. More than Keith, even, but that has less to do with our connection to Zoe and more to do with “When you write two thirds of the season, you write damn near everybody more often, that’s how math works.” But on the other hand, it’s episodes like this (and next week) when Zoe really gets fleshed out, because in my episodes (with the possible exception of the season finale, which is coming up just WAY too soon for my tastes), I really lean into the “Zoe is afraid of everyone” aspect of her character, while Keith created the Zoe/Becky hostility angle in this episode, and then continued to explore it next week.

In fact, now that I think about it, the “Jeff can’t remember Zoe exists or notice she’s in the room” running gag was Keith’s as well. I only wrote it into In The Depths after seeing how well it worked in Keith’s episodes.

We want more Zoe in season two. We want more EVERYBODY in season two. That’s gonna be a challenge. But I’m hoping we get to know her better.

Comfiest shoot ever

Take a look at Zoe’s car. It’s in, like, the first seconds of the episode. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Alright. See it? That’s a, forgive the product placement, Toyota Yaris. Belongs to our Yaris Wrangler Matt Pickering. That isn’t the story, it just seemed the best time to mention it. The point is, it’s not a super big car, is it? The answer I’m looking for is no, no it isn’t. Which is fine for the ladies, it’s super roomy up front… but what you can’t see, thanks to Ian’s thorough work at angling the camera, is that he and I are wedged into the back seat.

I was directing this episode (the first one that Keith 100% wrote and I 100% directed; there’s not really a story there, just thought it was worth mentioning) from the back seat, while hunching down out of sight. I am known as many things… writer, actor, director, malcontent, Mass Effect fan, traveller, Mass Effect obsessive, son, brother, uncle, last sane man left standing, recovering Mass Effect addict, or my most common label, “Oh right, that guy…” but “small” and “easy to fit in compact spaces” do not make the list. Not like fun-sized Stephanie, taller but slender Anna, or my co-exec Ian, who while certainly not much more comfortable crammed back there, has been charitably described as of superior height to an Oompa-Loompa, and makes a token effort to keep himself in better shape.

I also make a token effort. It just yields very gradual results. Anyway.

I was not what you’d call super comfy back there, and most of the actual direction got done during the rehearsals in my dining room. Let’s just say this was a good shoot for my barrel-chested co-director Keith Kollee to be out of town with his family.

Ian has often accused me of calling “cut” too soon, something he’s not wrong about, since one of our favourite things to do is to just keep rolling on our delightful band of weirdos and see what comes out of them. And in the case of this episode, there were a few comments in post-production about “do we have to cut this bit so short,” followed by “Yes, because Dan kept yelling ‘cut’ super fast.” But you know what? Pressing my head into the car door for entire takes was giving me a killer headache, so if it sounded like we’d finished the scene, I was shouting “cut” and sitting up straight. That was what happened next.

Also, stopping the car short tended to kill our sound recording. So, there was that.

Big fans of law and order here

We split the shoot into segments, each with its own slice of my neighbourhood to drive through. We stuck to suburban streets (as you can tell from the shots outside of the car) because we had kind of a complicated camera setup.

“Complicated?” you ask. “No, you just strapped GoPros to sides of the car, right? Seems obvious to me.”

No. No, that is not what we did.

"Complicated" may have been too much credit.

“Complicated” may have been giving us too much credit.

Lacking GoPros, what we did… or rather, what Ian did, let’s not throw plurals around unnecessarily… was follow this tutorial to build a simple wooden rig that we could attach our camera to and affix to either window of the car. So we were driving along with a camera-bearing wooden square hanging out of either the driver’s or passenger’s side window, depending on the angle. We… we think it was street legal.

We think it was.

Super legit, that's us.

Super legit, that’s us.

Because of this, and also not knowing if our home-made camera rig was going to survive at over forty kilometres per hour, we decided to keep to the quieter suburban streets of my neighbourhood, ending in the strip mall where we shot Night Moves. Encountering less traffic seemed to be the best option, even if it ends up implying that Becky just lives super deep in suburbia. You know, like those people you visit who are ten minutes from major roads, and you need directions both to their house and how to get back to any street that will take you out of the neighbourhood? Which doesn’t feel like Becky, she seems like a “build up not out” person, but… I don’t know, maybe she got the house super cheap because there was a bunch of murders or something.

Next time… after two weeks off, Jeff’s back in Stonebluff Road. See you back here.

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