Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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

"Ragged Isle" episode twelve, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," is up.  Check it out, and when you're done, read on for a behind-the-scenes writer's commentary.

Are you done? OK, there will spoilers in the rest of the post, for this episode and everything that came before.

One early idea was for there to be parallel investigations into what has happened on the island -- an "official" one that doesn't consider a supernatural explanation, and an unofficial one that does.  What emerged in writing season two were actually three investigations.  The official one is now being led by Homeland Security Agent Allison Thorne, who's being assisted by Deputy Dan, who last season was assisting Sheriff Dalton, who this season seems to have shifted the focus of his investigation to include the possibility of the supernatural.  Somewhere in between are Vicki and Paul, who are willing to go wherever the evidence leads.  It will be fun to watch these investigations ping-pong off each other as this season (not to mention next season) progresses.  And the lucky audience will be privy to what everybody uncovers, even if the different investigators don't share with each other.

So, Deputy Dan's unanswered question to Julie about Rose:  That's interesting, no?  When we were shooting the lobster festival massacre two summers ago, Barry somewhat spontaneously asked actress Beth Saufler (who plays Rose) to whisper in the ear of Amie E Marzen (who plays Julie).  "What's she whispering?" I asked him, which, as the head writer, I thought was a fair question.  Barry grinned mischievously and said, "I dunno.  But it's always cool to have people whispering."  When the episode aired in May, 2011, I don't think anybody had any idea what Rose was supposed to be whispering, but Barry was right.  It was cool.

So, when it came time to rewrite season two, that whisper was on my mind.  Julie's account to Deputy Dan is what I came up with.  What do you think?  And what do you think it means?  How did Rose know something bad was about to happen?  Feel free to speculate in the comments section.

The interrogation scene between Julie Katsarakis and Agent Thorne boasts terrific acting from both actresses and features a reveal that's been a long, long time coming:  the secret sordid history of Julie Katsarakis.  We've had that one in our back pocket from the very beginning (yes, Amie too), and it's been a delight watching Amie's performance as the always-upbeat Julie, knowing that there was more to that character than meets the eye.  I believe Barry had Amie play the scene many wildly different ways, then cut various takes together for a jarring, unsettling effect.  Very cool, dude.

While I was writing episodes this season, one note I had for my character (Dr. Hoffman) is that he and Sheriff Dalton should each consider the other man his sidekick.  I imagined Dr. Hoffman thinking of himself as a fearless investigator, poking into strange and mysterious goings-on around Maine, and the sheriff would be his local guide on the island.  Meanwhile, Sheriff Dalton would see himself as the lead investigator on the case, with Dr. Hoffman brought on as an outside consultant.

I still think this is a funny idea, but there are a couple of problems:  1) I don't think I ever managed to fully execute the idea on the page, and 2) Rick Dalton is such an impressive, imposing figure (in real life and on the screen), it's hard to imagine anyone thinking of him as just a sidekick.  However, I think there are still traces of the idea to be found in this episode.  Like Hoffman's skepticism at Madame Clelia's, or his taking over the questioning of Gus Hendershot at the grocery store.  It's not much, but there are hints that each man secretly thinks he's in charge.  I just wish I'd been able to push it further.

The CDC identification I flash for Gus was created by co-writer/poster-designer/bean-can-maker/graphics-guru/all-around-swell-guy Jacob Lear.  Fun fact:  He spelled Brian Hoffman's first name, "Brain."  Ha!

During shooting of the first season, I was notorious for knowing every single line by heart, and for gently (I hope) correcting actors when they strayed too far from the path.  I wasn't on set behind the camera as much this season, and when I was in front of the camera, I was usually more focused on my lines than anyone else's, but Rick tells me that in the scene outside Madame Clelia's, I was silently mouthing his lines along with him.  He said the effect was somewhat disconcerting, but I had no idea I had been doing it.  It wasn't caught on camera in that scene, and I hope to God I didn't do it on camera anywhere else.  I can just imagine Barry pulling his hair out trying to cut together a scene without revealing my Rain Man-like capacity for / obsession with knowing everyone else's lines.

OK, enough from the writer/actor.  Here are some stray observations from a fan:

1) Man, does Barry Dodd know how to shoot (and cut) a scene or what?  That kiss between Vicky and Paul is epic!  The acting, the lighting, the music -- everything.  Holy cow!

2) And the tail-end of that scene, the very last second, when the wind blows Vicki's hair out of her face, and then we get a matching cut of the sheriff sweeping Madame Clelia's curtains aside?  Nicely done, Barry.

3) It's always great to see Kathryn Coccyx as Madame Clelia.  She just bring something special to the role.  And yes, that's her house (with minimal set decoration) standing in for Madame Clelia's home.

4) Farewell, Sebastian Carlsen (a.k.a. Sea Bass), played by Sebastian Carlsen (a.k.a. Sea Bass).  Thanks for being on the island with us.  Sorry we had to kill you.


  1. Am I imposing? I could leave.... :)

    I think this episode was incredibly beautiful. Beautiful music and beautiful cinematography, and of course, beautifully cut. I always laugh with pure joy at the end of these episodes, they're so nicely done. Watch out for The Bear. This is my new catch phrase; it's a permutation of Barry's name. Kathryn Coccyx is one of my all time favorite actors. Her performances are delivered with such apparent ease, and grace, well, I just don't know how she does it, but she does. And Amie Marzen is a secret acting weapon. And I would like to mention that Kathryn Perry (Agent Thorne) is not actually heartless in real life! And...I can't start talking about Erik Moody, or I'll have to track him down and hug him. Also, Ben Row is our modern day savior, and that is why
    I pray to him.

  2. i heva a bad hibat of transposing vewols when i type too fast.