It Begins

Sorry I haven’t posted much … it’s been an exhausting few days.

My flight to Berlin on Thursday was stuck on the ground at LAX for two
hours while workers tried to fix some mechanical problem. We made up
most of the lost time in flight, but about an hour before landing in
Heathrow, the passenger in the aisle across from me collapsed. The
stewardess got on the intercom and asked if there were any doctors on
board. Within minutes, there were about half-a-dozen doctors rushing up
to First Class to deal with the unconscious man.  I guess he was okay,
because he walked of the plane to the waiting paramedics when  we landed.

The security checkpoint in Heathrow is chaos…and takes forever. They
only allow passengers one carry on, and for women that *includes* the
purse, and I guess a lot of people weren’t told about that before
getting on their planes to London. It  was ugly. I managed to make my
connecting flight to Berlin…in fact, I even had a few extra minutes
to pick up the INSPECTOR LEWIS dvd boxed set at an airport store.

I was met in Berlin by my line producer, who took me to my hotel and
then to a long dinner to discuss the script, some of the production
challenges it presents, and to tell me about the potential production
designers, casting directors, costume designers, writers, etc. that I’d
be meeting over the next few days. We start shooting the pilot on May
20, and this is a very stunt-heavy show, so there’s lots of work to do.
On top of that,  I also have to develop the storylines  for the first
eight episodes and deliver them to the network before we start shooting
the pilot…so I am really feeling the pressure and so is he.

I got back to my hotel around 10 pm and by 11 I was in bed. I managed to
get a solid eight hours sleep, which was  a relief after 28 straight
hours without rest. I figured I’d be firmly on German time the next morning.

It was one interview after another. By the time the day was done,
though, I settled on a casting director and hired my assistant/script
coordinator.  We went through through dozens of actor show-reels and I
watched some of the work done by our top choice to direct the pilot.
After great dinner with the line producer and his girlfriend, I returned
to my hotel to watch more DVDs and pick some scenes for our American
casting director to use for auditioning the U.S. actors. I was exhausted
and fell into bed at midnight….and was still awake at 1:30 am. I
finally fell asleep some time after two…and awoke at 5 am. I couldn’t
get back to sleep…and finally gave up trying around 7:30. I got up,
showered and took a long walk to Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz,
Brandenburg  Gate and the Reichstag. It really hit me — I am in Berlin
preparing a movie that I wrote and will produce. Holy shit!

Today, I interviewed potential costume designers at one cafe after
another, just to keep things fresh and enjoy a change of scenery. It was
very exciting to see designers’ initial ideas for how the characters
will look. Talking about the characters with the designers has also
sharpened my own vision of the show and what I want the look to be, the
sound to be, etc.

I believe every aspect of this show — the cars, the clothes, the
locations, the music, the background "sound" etc —  has to convey
character and our franchise.  So I have to convey my vision of who these
characters are, and how I’d like to see those characters expressed, to
each of these artists. And, of course, I am very interested in hearing
their vision/interpretation of what I’ve written and what they see. I
need to know what they are going to bring to the show…I want to hear
their ideas, their interpretation of the characters, their sense of what
the franchise is.

For instance, the central set on our show is a garage.  But  it has to
be so much more than a garage. It’s where our characters live, where
they work, and where they make love. It’s their home. It’s the center of
their universe. And it better be an interesting place to be for the
viewers, too.  It needs to be special.  So, for me, a big test for the
production  designers is what they can tell me about their vision for
this set — what do they have in mind?

There’s a lot of car racing in this show. But the way those cars are
driven must be an extension of character…I want the viewer to be able
to tell, without seeing the driver, which of our characters is driving
the car. The cars themselves — which models, how they are painted, etc
— are also a reflection of character. So when I talk to our potential
action directors & stunt coordinators, I want to hear more than cool
moves…I want to know how those moments will reveal character and
further the story.

I don’t know shit about fashion. But I do know these characters — who
they are, what they want, and how they see themselves. The clothes they
wear need to reflect that. So it’s fascinating to me to see what the
costume designers have in mind — and it tells me if they see the
characters the way I do…or see things about them that I missed. And
the best of our candidates have been able to tell me very clearly who
these characters are and why they’d be wearing what they are wearing. It
has been a fascinating give-and-take for me. But the wardrobe doesn’t
exist on it’s own…it also has to fit with the production design, the
cars, etc. All the department heads have to communicate, work together,
and compromise. So I am also looking for people who enjoy collaboration.

I’m also interested in something else in these meetings with possible
department heads.  I want to get sense of them as people — can I work
with them? Do I like them? Do we "click?" It’s exciting, inspiring, and
exhausting. But I am loving it.

I got back to my hotel with a shoulder bag full of DVDs at 4:30, ready
to collapse…which I did. I set my alarm for a short nap…but slept
through the buzzer.

I woke up a 8 pm, took a walk to a supermarket for bread, meat, wine,
and chocolate, then  settled in to watch DVDs to see the work of  the
people I met and to prepare for my meetings tomorrow with more
production designers and the director.

It’s  2:15 am now, and the car is picking me up at 9, so I’ll be getting
into bed in a minute…and I hope I can clear my head of everything
that’s on my mind and get some sleep. (On top of all this, I still have
a MONK novel to finish writing!).

I’ll report back soon…

7 thoughts on “It Begins”

  1. Holy cow, I really want to see this show. It sounds like nothing I’ve seen before. (Well, except maybe “Speed Racer,” but that would make for a cool comparison).
    The concept reminds me of the German duo Yello, particularly a track on their Flag album called “The Race.” High-energy soundtrack music, overlaid with slamming car doors and screeching tires.

  2. Lots of luck on the new show. I can tell you’re excited to be working on it. It’s the kind of thing you’ve worked so hard for for many years.

  3. How bizarre. I know I read a long post about you meeting clothing designers in cafes, reviewing DVDs of potential cast members, interviewing everyone in sight and playing tourist in your few off hours. It was a hella long post, considering you must have been operating on three hours sleep.

  4. Next time do what I do, when I type a long e-mail or forum post. Copy it. That way if it’s swallowed by the system I can just get the whole thing back by clicking on the paste function.

  5. Lee, I was fortunate enough to have read the entire post before it got zapped, and I found it very enlightening. Just to let you know your effort wasn’t in vain.
    Looking forward to your next report – M


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