Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Episode Four... and behind-the-scenes writer's commentary

"Ragged Isle" episode four is up. After you watch, read through to the rest of the post for a behind-the-scenes perspective from the head writer:

Okay, the rest of this post will be about the writing of the episode.  WARNING:  There will be spoilers for episode four from here on out, so don't read any further if you haven't seen it.

Kind of a low-key episode after the gaudier mayhem of Episode Three, but it does introduce several key characters, including Deputy Dan (Erik Moody), Julie Katsarakis (Amie Marzen), and Rose Fuller (Beth Ann Saufler), and maybe a few other people in the town meeting crowd who will play an important role in our story down the line.  Keep an eye on the crowd.

Also in the audience:  my mom and my two sons, who can be seen as people are walking into the room.  (You can read more about their participation here.)

For such a low-key episode, it was by far the episode subject to the most disagreements, arguments, revisions, and rewrites among the "Ragged Isle" writing staff, with no fewer than 19 drafts completed.  Yikes!

One thing that kept changing was the identity of the person arriving to meet Sheriff Dalton before the town meeting.  Originally, it was going to be a character to be played by me.  Once it was decided that character wasn't working, it became an alternate version of that same character (still to be played by me).  Eventually, it was decided that my character, whatever his iteration, probably shouldn't arrive until the second season.  See you next year!

I had already written a scene for Deputy Dan in episode five, but we hadn't written an introduction for his character.  He was just suddenly at Sheriff Dalton's side, assisting in the investigation.  Barry kept insisting we needed a Deputy Dan arrival scene, and I kept insisting we didn't.  Barry was right and I was wrong, and having Deputy Dan be the one to arrive at the beginning of episode four solved the problem of just who Sheriff Dalton should be meeting before the town meeting.

The other big bone of contention came about when Karen suggested the island would probably cancel its talent show and lobster festival in the wake of the recent deaths.  Since it was important to the structure of the season we had envisioned that the talent show and lobster festival not be canceled at this point, this threw a bit of monkey wrench into our plans.

That's when I invented Town Resident #1, a.k.a. Fred Hemeon (ably played by Barry's dad, David Dodd), to give voice to Karen's concerns, and wrote Rose's speech, to answer them.  That speech was written with the sole purpose of convincing Karen that it would be okay for us to proceed with our season as we had planned, but now I can't imagine the episode without it.  It's a great introduction for Rose's character, and Beth really knocks it out of the park.

(By the way, Barry's mom, Kay Dodd, plays Cora Betty Patterson, the second town resident to speak up, and Mark D. Lennon plays Town Resident #3, a.k.a. Gordon Manette.)

So, what's with the secret meeting in the woods?  I wonder who Harrison Shaw was talking to.  I hope we find out at some point.  And how about that weird guy grinning at the end?  I wonder what's up with him.  Stay tuned!

One final note:  Many thanks to Barb Bowers, executive director of the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, who at the last minute donated the space used for the town meeting hall after our original shooting location fell through.  We definitely traded up.

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