Writers Circle Confidential: Who Ya Gonna Call?

Hasn’t really sunk in yet that this is our penultimate episode. Gonna miss talking about this show with you every Friday. Well… here’s the episode…

Let’s get to it.

Where it all began

This is the first episode of Writers Circle that was ever written. It’s also the shortest, and those two things might go a little hand-in-hand.

People close to the show must be getting tired of me mentioning the train in Switzerland, but it’s not only where the series started, but where this episode was written.

It’s not a short train ride from Venice to Zurich. And while Switzerland is really pretty to look at, all mountains and lakes and waterfalls… god damn it somebody start paying me enough money that I can take off to Switzerland on a whim, ’cause I really want to right now… sorry, I’m back. Anyway, as I’ve said before, when I’m far from home with little to do but think (Ian was napping or journalling or a combination of the two), it tends to spark creativity. In this case, I thought of all the videos Ian and I had shot together, and wondered why we hadn’t started doing more stuff. Especially given all the times Keith had said “We should be shooting stuff for the internet.”

So I decided that the three of us should make a series out of Writers Circle. And, since we were still somewhere other than Zurich, I decided I may as well break out a notebook and do a proof-of-concept episode. I just needed something to write about. And what I came up with was giving Jeff a crazy on-again, off-again sex-buddy named Claire.

So before Ted, before Brent, before our fourth lead Zoe… there was Claire. Which is why it feels a little odd it’s taken this long for everyone to meet her.

That’s why Phil drags Becky along and not Zoe, by the by. Because Zoe didn’t exist when I wrote this.

The episode’s a little short, all told, and I’d like to blame that on the fact that I wrote it by hand on a train, and was trying to keep the premise as short and simple as I could because, well, internet. It did turn out shorter than I expected, though. It’s… kind of a simple bit.

I also could have done another pass on the episode to reflect the strained relationship of Phil and Jeff, or at least acknowledge that things were weird, but that Phil is still Jeff’s first phone call in a crisis. But honestly, I liked the simplicity.

Creating Claire

The “crazy girlfriend” is kind of sadly cliche. There needed to be something specific to why Claire was seen as “crazy.” So I picked a specific adjective to define Claire, and that adjective is “volatile.”

Claire likes to live on the edge, like a less self-destructive version of Danny Devito’s character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She’s into things that are crazy and dangerous. She likes a thrill. And simply calling Jeff and asking if he wants to hook up is way too boring, so she’ll spend untold weeks breaking into his apartment and screwing with his watch and clocks, until she’s ready for the endgame. The endgame involves boning.

But I also wrote that final conversation between her and Becky to show that as volatile as she is in her personal life, she’s actually very together and successful in her professional life. Crazy Claire isn’t some nigh-homeless bunny-boiler, she’s actually really good at her job, and simply likes to blow off steam with terrifying things and her dysfunctional relationship with Jeff.

We’ll see how well that’s going next episode.

Sex Ponchos

As soon as Keith wrote the words “sex poncho” into Stonebluff Road, it was clear what Jeff had to be wearing when Phil and Becky arrived. Well, mostly. The bow tie was our costumer’s idea. Aaron didn’t necessarily approve.

He fought the good fight, but was outvoted by basically everyone.

He fought the good fight, but was outvoted by basically everyone.

Aaron happens to own a bright purple poncho. This, we knew, was clearly the sex poncho we required. Sadly, there were only two of us gathering up all the equipment we needed to drag down to our friend Ben’s condo, and in the bustle of collecting the camera, tripods, spare batteries, lights, and sound equipment, the purple poncho was neglected. This we learned once we started getting the actors into costume. That is, at a moment when fixing the problem would have actively cost us shooting time, as the poncho was a half-hour round trip drive away.

This is the closest I came to losing it on set, which is something we try rather strenuously to avoid.

While I was stressing that there was no point in shooting without a poncho, Ben wandered up and said “Why don’t you just use mine?”

There was a brief pause.

“You… have a sex poncho?” I asked, confused that this idea might have existed somewhere other than Keith’s, let’s call it, “special” mind.

“Yes,” he replied. “Is that not why you wrote that?”

“It was not. But… thanks. That’ll help.”

He also attempted to provide some assistance when our sound equipment started overheating and shutting down when we tried to record, but that’s a whole other… thing I’d rather not go into. Instead, it’s time for…

Begrudgingly saying a few nice things about our sound guy

We didn’t have a method of creating convincing punch sounds on set that day, save for actually having Ryan wail on Aaron for three minutes, which Aaron was not super in favour of. So they simply created a placeholder sound by having Aaron smack his fist into his arm over and over.

Which our sound guy, Patrick “DJ Peens” Murray, had to replace with foley. Manually.

Over eighty times.

He made sure we knew that wasn’t a simple process, and that maybe in the future just don’t make noises and let him foley stuff in later.

He also puts a lot of thought into our ringtones. Each ringtone is a joke he’s thought up, found a song, and cribbed just enough of the music to make it recognizable if you paid attention, while still being A) subtle, and B) short enough to not get us nailed on copyright. He claims to care more about the first thing.

Listen closely, see if you can figure out what’s playing when Jeff calls Phil. Or, more amusingly, when Ted calls Becky.

Final facts

I filled Phil’s bedroom with geek stuff, only to have us shoot it so that only the comics and the plush Cthulu were visible. Well, what can you do.

Jeff in the bathtub is the only shot of Jeff’s apartment not filmed at or outside Ben’s place. He’s in my guest bathroom, wearing the pants from my pimp suit as pyjamas. Yes, I own a pimp suit. Do you not?

It is distressingly easy for me to find comics to festoon Phil’s shots with. Even on location.

Next week, blooper reel. In two weeks… the big finale.

And pop by here in the next couple of days if me talking about DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is of interest. Which I choose to assume it is.

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