Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oh Canada

I've been in Vancouver BC for the last few days and will be enjoying Canadian hospitality for another couple weeks as my next episode of Falling Skies winds through the production process. I'm still having an odd sense of deja vu... I'm staying in the same hotel chain that we used when Falling Skies shot in Toronto, and even though I spent quite a bit of time in Vancouver for Battlestar Galactica, I keep confusing the two cities. Hey, where's that comic book shop I liked? Oh wait, that was Toronto. Gee, maybe I'll go to Niagara Falls and... nope. Toronto again. Hmm, maybe I'll call some West Coast friends, but with the time difference... but wait! I'm in Vancouver! Yaaaahh!

I have to admit I do miss my American television. There are many American stations available here, but as a political junkie I wish I had my MSNBC and could access my Tivo'ed Daily Show and Colbert fixes. Yes, I know I could probably stream some of this stuff, but I'm old school, baby. I want to see it on TV. Also, for some insane reason Falling Skies was only available on some exclusive pay channel package (don't ask me to explain it, I'm just visiting) so hardly anybody here knows the show. So the "what do you do?", "oh, I write and produce this little show with Steven Spielberg called Falling Skies" exchange really doesn't provide as many dividends as it might in, say, PLACES THAT MAKE THE SHOW EASILY ACCESSIBLE.

The other benefit of Vancouver is the ready access to multiple casinos... this is where the Canadians have it all over the U.S. I can walk out the door on my hotel and begin losing money, I mean, "winning" after a ten minute walk. Now that's what I cal civilized. However, great tragedy ensued when I went to my former-fave casino and discovered they had torn out my beloved "Top Dollar" slot machines. Oh, the horror, the humanity. My despair must lasted all the way to the bar, when a shot of Woodford's Reserve eased my pain. I will have to investigate other casinos now to find "the precious."

The other tragic by-product of the global economy is that US money isn't worth jack up here. In the old days, when the exchange rate made the Canadian dollar worth 70 cents to a US greenback, businesses just LOVED to take your US currency one to one. But now that the tables have turned, the squints and "I don't knows" you get when we flash your Washingtons can be devastating.

But aside from that and the bitter cold, it's a really nice place...


Blogger Muldfeld said...

The best thing about Canada is the baguettes you can get any any Loblaws grocery store, even in small towns; my brother says bread is terrible where he has lived in New York state and now Tennessee.

Also, our chocolate bars have high cocoa content, rather than sugar, so even a Kit Kat tastes much better in Canada than the US -- though not as good as in the UK!

Now, you've an idea what I haven't seen "Falling Skies" yet. I don't have digital cable in Toronto, but in my folks' small city, they'd have to not only pay to upgrade to the highest quality digital cable, but spend another $15 per month to get Super Channel on which "Falling Skies" is shown.

When you think about it, that's not just excessive in requiring people to pay what I'm guessing is more than HBO for basic cable (TNT) content, but also because these Canadian channels don't make anything anyone in Canada enjoys. At least when you pay more for FX or TNT or AMC in the US, these channels take your money and make quality shows.

It used to be in the '80s and '90s, you'd pay to get US channels from the nearest state; I got the big 3 networks from Vermont and New York State when I lived in Montreal. However, starting in the 2000s, Canadian channels started to be able to signal substitute -- that is, block out the US network's reception if they're supposedly showing the same program to supposedly help Canadian industry with all those horrible Canadian ads. I can't tell you the number of times, I've been trying to watch "60 Minutes" or "Politically Incorrect" when, due to poor organization, some Canadian channel cuts in and I can't watch the end of it.

So we have an entire Canadian TV industry based on mooching off US content, which has been allowed to get increasingly monopolistic, buying up smaller stations and dumbing them down. In 2008, they demanded the government give them a hand-out to keep running.

Until 2007, a show like "Falling Skies" would have just aired on Space, which showed USA shows like "The 4400" and SciFi's "Battlestar Galactica". Yet Space is now owned by CTV, which is now owned by Bell, which wants to squeeze out every penny and probably is competing with whoever owns Super Channel. So Canadians have to pay quite a high price to companies that make NOTHING! And that angers me quite a bit.

You can't even watch footage from Comedy Central's website from your computer at your hotel. Why? Well, for some weird reason, Bell-owned The Comedy Network has earned the right to block that website. Any link to a specific clip on Comedy Central is redirected to the generic Comedy Network website, which is poorly organized as hell and makes you watch 2 annoying ads every time you want to watch just a few minutes. If it weren't for the unregulated youtube, we'd really be screwed in Canada.

So, yeah, I feel your pain.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Muldfeld said...

May I ask about your tweet about rewriting your script while it was prepping to shoot?

Did you and the other producers decide a rewrite was needed when you arrived? Did the actors want to change dialogue? It sounds stressful having to rewrite from a hotel room on such short notice and not from your more comfortable home base.

Will you be involved in editing?

May I encourage you to do an audio commentary for the DVD set; I wish more writers on BSG had the chance to do that for their respective episodes. Ron Moore's podcasts were second to none (I LOVED hearing about alternate story ideas or how existing ones came about), but hearing other commentaries from other minds would have been cool, too.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Mark Verheiden said...

All good questions. The answer is sort of "all of the above." Once we get a first draft, then it enters the production process where the reality of time, budget and location begins to dictate some of what can achieved. (Our production team does miracles on Falling Skies, BTW). And there is some dialogue with the actors and other producers, all part of the very normal process of making TV. I don't have a problem doing rewrites in a hotel or quickly, but then I've been at this for awhile.

And I may be doing DVD commentary on F.S. season one, we shall see!

7:31 PM  

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