Writers Circle Confidential: Stonebluff Road

I walk on Stonebluff Road, only road that I have ever known…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that our sound designer, Patrick Murray, is incredibly proud of his choice of ring tones for Becky this week. So there that is.

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Unexpected twists

This was one of the last episodes written. Partly because it’s one of Keith’s, and Keith took his time producing scripts. Of course, at the time we were writing scripts, Keith had a full-time job, a wife, and two children*, and I had… let me think back, that was 2013, so… nothing. I had nothing. Nothing but time. Time, some rehearsals, and replays of the Mass Effect trilogy. So of course I could crank out episodes five times faster. “Nothing to do” is my superpower. I mean, I’m still going to make fun of him for not matching my output, but it wasn’t without reason.

It was for the best that Keith insisted on taking this one himself, because he took in directions I hadn’t thought of.

The basic pitch for this episode was “Becky asks Jeff and Zoe for help critiquing her friend’s terrible movie.” Seemed like a fun interchange that would get Zoe involved. Since we started breaking the season (“breaking” being an industry term for “figuring out what the hell we’re going to write”) within an hour of creating Zoe, I had some concerns about how to fit her in. We had the “Phil” episode (Deconstructing Phil), we had big episodes for Becky and Jeff, and I knew how to bounce those three off each other. Writing Phil/Jeff banter is second nature to me at this point. But how to ensure we were giving Zoe her time in the sun?

Keith took this episode. He was actually pretty insistent about that. And so it came to be that the premise of the episode, Becky’s friend’s movie, only ends up taking about a third of the screen time. The back half returns to the brewing Becky/Zoe rivalry we glimpsed last week. Only this week, Becky starts to get sick of Zoe’s shit. It was a bit of a left turn from the premise we’d set out, but it gives the episode some meat, which is kind of important this late in the season.

Also, it gives us another glimpse at the complicated relationship between Becky and her victim boyfriend Ted, as well as introducing the fact that he has a sister. That’s gonna be important in a bit.

*Don’t worry, he still has all of those things. Keith does okay.

Echo Chambers

The initial thrust of the episode, that of the titular Stonebluff Road, is a subtle commentary on something that writers everywhere need to be wary of: the dangers of getting stuck in an echo chamber.

Everyone likes to hear that they’re special and talented and wonderful. Why wouldn’t we? It’s a kick. Well, it’s a kick until your lifetime of insecurities and anxieties kick in and you wonder why this person keeps saying nice things about you oh god is it a prank are you being pranked find an excuse to leave–

Sorry. That got away from me a little.

The point is, that being surrounded by people who do nothing but compliment you and your supposed brilliance is like eating nothing but Cadbury Mini-eggs and Twinkies. It’s delicious, and great while you’re doing it, and then you die of malnutrition. Because while you were gorging on what you want, you weren’t getting anything you need. And what you need are people willing to tell you when you’ve screwed something up. And this is something Becky’s friend sorely lacks.

Call it a cautionary tale. Create in an echo chamber, and someone out there is reacting the way Jeff does.

Dawn of Super Fun Happy Good Times Week

This was the second of only three episodes that were shot in one go. And the first that actually took. Deconstructing Phil was the first, but needed reshoots; last week’s Favour For a Friend was third, because finding two days to cram the four of us into that car would clearly have been insane. Stonebluff Road represents the opening of the first and longest day of Super Fun Happy Good Times Week. Our merry band spent something like 13 hours in that room, shooting this and the bookend sequences of Love is Blind. It was also the first day that all four leads were in the same room.

Which always leads to calmness and order, not shenanigans.
Which always leads to calmness and order, not shenanigans.

That did happen… slightly ahead of schedule. Not, like, wickedly ahead of schedule, but by a few hours. No, wait, the schedule was right, but we were… possessed of an unwarranted optimism as to how fast we’d get Stonebluff shot. As such, Ryan’s call time was unfortunately premature. We were still hip-deep in Stonebluff by the time Ryan arrived on set. So for about half of this episode… probably the Jeffless half… picture Phil somewhere in the corner, staying out of sight, staying quiet, just hoping nobody notices him and drags him into this.

Shit. Why did we not just film that. Why did we not end the episode by panning over and revealing Phil at the table. Right, yes, because “Nobody notices me” is Zoe’s bit, and… the other thing that will become clear next week.

Ryan was a trooper about it, though.

Next week… Phil returns, and his banter with Jeff gets real as we ramp up towards the finale in Jeff’s Head.

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