Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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

"Ragged Isle" episode seven 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 some behind-the-scenes insights into the episode. WARNING: There will be spoilers for episode seven (and earlier episodes) from here on out, so don't read any further if you haven't watched.

It was roughly a year ago that these scripts were being written. This is what would usually happen: The five of us would get together -- Barry Dodd, Karen Dodd, Rick Dalton, Jacob Lear, and I -- and we would hash out the season-long plot arc through long conversations, short arguments, silly noodlings, enthusiastic jumping around, and lots and lots of laughing. Then we would all go home, and I (all hopped up on creative adrenaline) would pump out a script and release it back into the collective (Rick calls it the "hive mind") for revisions, critiques, and rewrites.

In an early draft, this episode's scene in The Glass Jaw was paired with the library scene from last week, and the scene in the sheriff's office (from last week) didn't exist. Karen quite rightly pointed out that that was a heck of a lot of exposition crammed into one episode, and, additionally, the sheriff didn't seem to be doing much investigating. And thus, a new scene in the sheriff's office was born, and one episode became two.

It's interesting to look back on the story points that came out of the writers group meetings, and the story points we found in the scripting stage. For episode two, Rick Dalton wrote a scene in The Glass Jaw in which a picture falls off the wall. Since this wasn't something we'd discussed, I asked him what the significance of this was. He wasn't really sure, but thought it was kind of spooky and mysterious.

He was right, and I ran with it in this episode, tying it to the story Rachel tells the Sheriff. I think all of us took a pass on Rachel's story, trying to get the details of it just right. (And hey, does her story have anything to do with the stuff Paul was talking about in the last episode? I wonder...) Karen came up with the final version, and April Joy Purinton (as Rachel) really sells it. I like the chemistry between Rachel and the Sheriff in this episode. April and Rick play off each other quite nicely.

Another change that came about in the writing process was for practical reasons. I wrote the scene in the car, in which Louis reveals his suspicions. Barry immediately flagged this scene as too difficult to shoot. "Three people in a moving car? Nightmare!"

Barry and Karen proposed a solution in which Louis tells his story at the bar, and then we just cut to them arriving at Madame Clelia's. But I really liked the effect of Sheriff Dalton having pulled over outside of Madame Clelia's by sheer happenstance, so I asked if the scene could take place at night. (The episode as originally written took place during the day, so scenes in a moving car would require a moving background.)

And that's how I found myself last summer in an incredibly hot, darkened warehouse, standing on a ladder, moving a spotlight across Deputy Dan's face to simulate passing streetlights, as Barry shot this scene (and the car scene from episode five). As he worked the camera, he stood on the car's front bumper, bouncing up and down to simulate movement. That's show biz!

This scene (as well as that scene from episode five) was a rather large pain in the butt to shoot, but I think the final outcome was well worth it. I love the interaction between the Sheriff, Deputy Dan, and Louis. Nice car chemistry, guys! I love it when Deputy Dan barks authoritatively at Louis. Cracks me up.

All week, Barry has been hinting around to me that he's doing something special for the opening montage of this episode. He wouldn't specify, wanting to surprise me, but I kept hearing snatches of strange music and audio clips from previous episodes drifting out of his office. I've been very curious what he's come up with. Very cool, Barry. Very Lynchian!

P.S. Stick around to the very end of the episode. The very end. Trust me.


  1. I'm really glad you remember these things, Greg. I have no memory of writing a scene in which a picture falls off the wall, but I believe you. If it weren't for my friends, I would have no past. I do remember how hot that warehouse was, though. My office would have won for hottest shoot, if it weren't for the vehicle shoot: Cut! Mop sweat. Action! Cut! Mop mop mop...