Jim Visits the Dresden Files TV Movie Set

Word from Jim on his trip to Canada to the set where they’re filming the Dresden Files television movie!

Okay then!
First of all, let me tell you this outright: Canada is not the USA.
I know. It’s such a shock.
We get on so well, you’d think they’d be just like us, but they aren’t. It’s like walking in and finding out that your college roomie wears pink silk panties. (Unless you happen to have been a girl at college, in which case that’s to be expected.) It isn’t threatening, but it IS sort of odd.
Anyway. It’s weird there, or at least in Toronto. It’s clean. You can walk around the darkened streets after midnight without being unduly worried about getting Wayned by some mugger, if the number of women walking around alone after midnight was any indication. They have enough plow trucks to handle the snow. Oklahoma City gets four inches of snow and everything stops for at least a day, or until it turns 90 degrees, whichever comes first–they only have ONE snow truck. Toronto has 3500. That’s a 350,000% increase over Oklahoma. When you buy something at the grocery store, you can see racks and racks of cigarettes behind the counter, and every single one of them has a picture of someone’s dissected blackened lungs or a picture of a smoker in the terminal stages of lung cancer or something. It’s as though they think the cigarettes are BAD for you.
And then there’s the metric system. Don’t even get me started.
But then, travel is supposed to broaden the mind. And I didn’t get cursed by a witch doctor while there, so it’s up on Brazil already. Sorry, Brazil. I know my good opinion is of paramount importance to each and every one of you, but I have standards. My planes all took off and landed with fully functioning electronics and hydraulics, and WITHOUT me being so sick that I didn’t really care if we crashed, so it’s up on Mexico. Sorry, Mexico. Brazil might buy you a round at the bar if you sit next to them. Misery, company.
Okay, on to the set.
Hundreds of people involved, literally. They were shooting scenes in Harry’s apartment while we were there, in a studio apartment with a loft. For an apartment, it was pretty huge, and for Harry’s apartment it was positively cavernous, but see above re: HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE. “Only” about thirty or forty were actually inside the apartment, but especially in the shots that had cameras panning and moving around, those thirty or forty people had to squeeze into the approximately two hundred cubic inches that weren’t actually in the shot. They actually screamed things like, “We’re shooting, run and hide!” and “Everybody not necessary GET OUT INTO THE SNOW,” and “DAMMIT BUTCHER BUMPED INTO THE LIGHT SWITCH AGAIN! SOMEONE PUT HIM IN A DIRECTORS CHAIR IN THE CORNER AND TELL HIM ITS BECAUSE WE LIKE HIM!”
Here’s something you might not know: making a movie is, like, BORING. There is a phenomenal amount of work being done by a whole bunch of different people, things to coordinate, problems to solve, visiting authors to clean up after, and all of that means that you can’t shoot any faster than your slowest work area can get set up. You spent a LOT of time waiting around, unless you’re the director or assistant director or producer, all of whom never have enough time to do everything they need to do. And when they DO shoot a shot, they do it several times. Then they move the cameras closer and do it again. Then they move the cameras to closeups and do it AGAIN. And THEN they turn the cameras to a different angle and do the whole process AGAIN. We were on the set for maybe 8 hours total, and I think I saw them get maybe forty five seconds or so of movie filmed.
I got to meet several of the actors: Harry, Susan, Morgan, the toad demon. They were awfully busy and had little time to hang out and chat. But hey, I was bumbling through the middle of where THEY worked and not the other way around, so that’s cool. Especially since they’d been shooting 18 hour days for two weeks. The set doesn’t even get LUNCH until 6 pm.
(Which was actually really good. I’ve been to catered banquets where the food wasn’t that good.)
I also got to meet Hans and Robert, writers/producers, and they were really great guys. Much jocularity was had. Robert says that movie crews are like armies: they work on their stomachs. Which explains the good food. Robert showed us all over the place: we got to see costumes, talk to stuntfolks, mooch bottled water, chat with special effects guys, and in general get a quick run through all of it. I also got to see some of the dailies (the footage from the scenes they’d already filmed). They were very nifty.
In speaking to Robert and Hans and dozens and dozens of other people, I realized something really neat: they care. Over and over, I heard from the folks there: “most of the time we’re working, it’s just a job. But on this set, everyone thinks we’re doing something really neat, and it shows in their work.” Which was really exciting. I mean, it’s amazing enough that I get to say “they’re making a movie of my book!” But it’s looking like I’ll get to say, “they’re making a GOOD movie of my book!” which is far more rare. Go go gadget internet alias. 🙂
Best for last, of course: the movie itself.
I can’t tell you very much, cause that’s SciFi’s thing. What I CAN tell you is that I /really/ dug how well the actors were working together and playing off each other. Paul has this Harrison Ford-esque ability to display enormous amounts of character via expression alone, especially in his reactions to other actors and in subtle inflections on his lines. He occasionally ad libs, does smartass well, is really funny, and everyone I spoke to about him told me what a nice guy he was. I got to see him across from Susan and Murphy in some of their scenes, and they were really cool. (Morgan’s actor does a /really/ great job, too. I think they’re gonna make this a fairly cool production, all in all.)
Paul’s American accent is excellent, and by all reports he’d been working hard at it for a while. You can only tell he’s doing an accent because it sounds “interesting.” I mean, there’s nothing you can point a finger at and say “hey, he’s a brit doing a yank” but something about it sounds very distinctive and gives him a unique sound–much like Hugh Laurie (House). Great voice, too, much like James Marsters, very expressive. 🙂 But he would flip from “American” back to “British” without batting an eye, and it was a little tiny bit disconcerting.
I didn’t get to meet Murphy’s actor or Kirmani’s (who is replacing Carmichael) or Bianca’s, or Ancient Mai’s, but I hear very good things about them. In the dailies I got to see both Murphy and Ancient Mai working. She was wonderful playing across from Paul, and I have no idea how Mai’s actress (who weighs about 90 pounds) manages to radiate quite that much menace. Very nifty.
I confess one major disappointment. I did not get to meet Mister’s actor. He was supposed to be on set that day, but shooting went kinda slow and he wasn’t needed. They actually found a freaking 30 pound trained movie cat. Ginger, just gorgeous, and frigging huge. Apparently the cat only knew one trick: STAY. But he was very good at that one. Quite the filming trooper by all reports, as well, and easy to get along with. That’s the kind of thing that cannot be overappreciated.
The script itself is very close to Storm Front’s–not identical by any means, but if I had written Storm Front the same way, I’d have been fine with it. The script captures the spirit of the book pretty well, which is very groovy. I’ve even been able to provide some feedback on the script, pointing out a few things that I thought could be stronger, and they actually listened to me. See above, re: internet alias.
I have some pictures on my camera if I can get them off of it, though I’m not sure I can share any of the “on stage” pictures. Have to talk to SciFi about that. I’ll try to get some of them to Fred so he can make them available. I got one of me holding Dresden’s hockey stick! 🙂

40 thoughts on “Jim Visits the Dresden Files TV Movie Set”

  1. Glad your trip to Canada went so well.Got to say seeing you comment this postively on the movie is makeing really excited about it comeing out. If you can share those pictures it be great :).

  2. It’s great to hear that the movie is going to be worthy of the books…can’t wait to see it! Also, I completely agree with you on the alleged preparedness(is that a word?) of the street crews here in OK. About as effective as a raincoat on a scuba diver…

  3. Snow. . .in OK. . .I wish! What is up with this weather this year? Sheesh!
    Ahem, but yay! I still cannot wait to see the finished project, even more so knowing Jim is impressed with what he saw.

  4. Well, for one, I’m very concerned. JB, I hope and pray this is the amazing film we all would like it to be. I understand that when converting a book to film, comrpromises must be made. But from what I’ve heard about the compromises.. I’m very concerned.
    I’m glad to hear you spoke up about script alterations, and I hope they paid attention.
    There’s this very bizarre waltz that takes place between written word and film. The word wants to pull one way, the film the other. The only way the dance doesn’t come off as a half-hearted disaster is when the two work together.
    All the best JB and fans, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all.
    – MC

  5. When people from other states tell me that Oklahomans don’t know how to drive in the snow, I tell them, “That’s because we don’t have to.”
    Personally, I would rather the state government spend our money on state-of-the-art tornado warning systems than on snow plows that we might use 2 or 3 days a year.
    BTW, love your report. Glad to hear you are happy with the guy playing Harry. After all, he’s the anchor of the show.

  6. All I can say is awesome. It sounds like you are as excited to see the work done on set as I was to find out it was being done. Your work has been the best I have been privelged to read and I hope it tranlsates to screen well. Though nothing can trump well written literature and excellent internal monologue.

  7. Oooh this just sounds nifty all around. I just wish that I could of been a fly on the wall.
    As for Mister I could of lent you my cat even though he is a tabby. He does weigh about 30 pounds… and his favourite trick is to run into my legs at full speed and attempt to knock me on my ass.

  8. JB .. I second the opinion of Elderwolf: the Dresden Files are fantastic!! (My wife will third that opinion.) They’re just as good as audio-books as paper. We await the movie with barely contained anticipation.
    One question .. who is “Ancient Mai”? Is she a substitute for the “Evil Sorcerer” of Storm Front?
    Actually, another question: did you get to meet Bob The Skull’s actor?

  9. I am so excited for this movie and I’m trying so very hard to be patient!!
    Canada…I love Canada, I’ve been there several times.
    Snow…Try Michigan in the winter!! You have to know how to drive in it.
    Congratulations Jim! I’m so proud of you.

  10. To answer the ancient mai question, I believe she had a brief appearance in book 4 of the dresden files, “Summer Knight”. She was in the scene with the white council meeting, and addressed the issue of sending envoys to the Winter and Summer courts of Faerie. But she can’t be cool ’cause she voted against dresden. BOO!
    BTW…just getting past the halfway point on Academ’s Fury…awesome book.

  11. This is really exciting, finally a show made from my favorite and some of the best alta-reality / alta-history novels ever written. Slowly….ever so slowly the time approaches. I don’t know who I want to see more Harry or Mister.Does anyone know a date or the month the movie will debut on SCI-FI?

  12. Hey,thanks for the complimets about Canada,eh! especially about toronto(i happen to live 11/2 hrs away from TO).Anyways Im excited about the movie ,sounds absolutly friggin FANTASTIC!!!

  13. Umm, okay, I admit it, I’m picky….and oklahoman…. OKC actually has SEVEN (yes seven! Everyone go OOOooooOOOO) snow plows. (which puts it at a ratio of around 50,000 times more :P) And for you weirdos who find it intresting, there’s 21 dump trucks, 21 salt spreaders and ten salt loaders. (Amazing the kind of boring crap you can find on the internet) Well, time to hit the indian casinos!

  14. The funny thing about the snow plow comment is that I remember a few years back that TO had to ask the military in to clear the snowfall because they had cut the number of snow plows due to budget cuts/stupid mayor. Major embarassment for a canadian city (especially the largest city in Canada). Oh well glad you liked it.

  15. “Well, for one, I’m very concerned. JB, I hope and pray this is the amazing film we all would like it to be. I understand that when converting a book to film, comrpromises must be made. But from what I’ve heard about the compromises.. I’m very concerned.”
    Um. Not to point out too much of the obvious or anything, MC, but I think it’s safe to say that I have a much huger worry-investment in this thing than you do. 🙂 I’ve spoken with producers, actors, directors, tech folks, sfx folks, stuntmen, craft service folks, wardrobe, cameramen and drivers. I’ve seen them filming on the set. I’ve read the script. I’ve seen footage that they’ve actually filmed.
    Which makes me tend to think that I might know more about what is happening on the set than someone who hasn’t done any of those things, and who has only “heard” things about “compromises.”
    The long and short of what I’m saying, then, is that I am certainly in a position to be FAR more concerned about how MY work is treated than, well, ANYONE. My future career may quite literally hinge on how this thing comes out. I’ve got a kid going to college in a few years, a mortgage, and a lot of stuff to accomplish that I’ve been putting off for lack of funds–like dental work. It would be so cool to be able to afford a dentist. 🙂 The flip side of that is that if the thing is an enormous flop, it’s likely going to HURT my career for the rest of my life.
    If there is anyone else who has reason to be as concerned about that as I do, let him speak now, and I will mock him remorselessly, because he doesn’t.
    Similarly, if there is anyone here who has had more time on the set than me, or met with more of the people, or who has read a version of the script I never received, let him speak as well. It might not be impossible that someone does, but unless somebody here is actually cast/crew, it ain’t likely.
    So. I am manifestly the person most deeply concerned about the film. I probably know more about the film than anyone short of the people actually working on it.
    So, just for fun, maybe trust my opinion. 🙂
    I think it’s going to be at /least/ good, and probably very good. Battlestar Galactica has been extremely successful, and that’s the show they’re gonna be using as a model for future series. The Dresden Files could potentially be one of them.
    “I’m glad to hear you spoke up about script alterations, and I hope they paid attention.”
    Um. I just said that they did pay attention. 🙂 I said “hey, this is inconsistant, this is flat out wrong, I’d really like it if we could do something else there, and they changed the script. I /saw/ the script where the changes were. I actually got to see them shooting a scene with one of the changes I’d suggested in it.
    That’s, you know. Paying attention. 🙂
    “There’s this very bizarre waltz that takes place between written word and film. The word wants to pull one way, the film the other.”
    Of course it does. Books are not films. They embrace polar opposite channels of communication. Books create thoughts in the reader’s head–I call it story space, a kind of virtual reality. The words have to create EVERYTHING for the book to succeed. Films are just they opposite. THEY create everything for the viewer, and then it’s up to the viewer to see and understand things like character motivation.
    Books go from thought to image.
    Movies go from image to thought.
    Some things don’t translate, or cannot be done as readily in one medium as the other. Ferzample, the soulgaze special effect in the books isn’t something that could easily transfer to screen. Nifty things like music, which are core ingrediants of a film, don’t show up in books. That’s where most “compromises” arise, from what I’ve seen, the limits of an AV production (finances, time, legal considerations, etc) versus the effectively unlimited space in which a writer has to work. I can write a five million dollar special effect just as cheaply as I can a two-dollar special effect. TV folks have to deal with actual money instead of imaginary money like me.
    Luckily for me, I seem to have a fairly cinematic style of writing. I think most of it is gonna carry over.
    “The only way the dance doesn’t come off as a half-hearted disaster is when the two work together.”
    Well. Not necessarily. I thought Jaws made a far better movie than a book, for example. But leaving that totally aside, I’m not sure how much more of the two of us working together you can get than them basing a script specifically off Storm Front, keeping every major character (even the freaking cat), and sending me scripts specifically asking my opinon on things they’d altered, and letting me provide feedback to which they actually LISTEN.
    I would like to think that I’m in a position to be biased toward worry, and that I’m not a moron with retarded ability to understand events which I have seen with my own two eyes. And I think it might turn out quite well. 🙂 In my opinion, the film doesn’t get any further away from the source material than the recent Spider-Man movies did. Some things may have changed, but the important stuff stayed.
    So lighten up, Eeyore! Maybe the glass will turn out to be half-full!

  16. A. Thanks for the comments about Canada…if you think Toronto rocks, you should really try to see the rest of the country which is (arguably) even NiCER. I’m from Newfoundland & Labrador, so I’m biased. 😉
    B. Yay for your “relentless mocking.” I laughed so hard that even if I didn’t like your books (which I do: I’ve been converting my friends to the RiGHT “Harry” for years) I’d buy them on principle. 🙂
    C. I know me alone buying your books can’t pay to put your kid through college, but I say, have faith in the quality of what you’ve written and your devoted fans. I work at a book store and try keep them moving off the shelves (a fairly easy task because, I only have to sell Storm Front and they come running back for the rest). I see the movie as a bonus but I’ll always read the books regardless of what the movie is like – nothing could be better than the “thought to image” that you’ve created in my head.
    My only request has nothing to do with the movie at all: keep writing!

  17. Hey there, first off. GREAT BOOKS.
    I was walking through a random bookstore and was literally stopped in my tracks by the cover of Dead Beat (to reference the recent mcanally’s thread) and I bought the entire series then and there. Less than four days later, I had finished them all (I read fast) and have read them all again since (heh, I actually bought a second copy of Summer Knight, because I had lent mine to a friend that was 3000 miles away). So, let me say again GREAT BOOKS!
    I see your point about having more to lose than anyone else on this deal, and I REALLY REALLY hope that everything is going to go well.
    That said, I am somewhat skeptical, especially since it’s Sci-Fi doing it. Can YOU say Earthsea? Talk about the most miserable adaptation ever. However, there were some signs early on that this was going to be the case since the author (Ursula Le Guin) was complaining early on that the producers were ignoring her. So, still hopeful on that score.
    At any rate, great work, and the new cover rocks! I do have one question however……WHY ARE YOU READING THIS INSTEAD OF FINISHING PROVEN GUILY?!?!? Haha! 🙂

  18. Hey, Jim! I just saw a commercial for the movie tonight and nearly fell out of my chair! (This is what I get for spending too much time being self-absorbed instead of checking message boards — I’m totally out of the loop these days … :P) Just wanted to pop by and give you a big fat Omedeto!! Can’t wait to see it!
    Funny timing, Sequential Tart was a “best of” issue this month, and the Culture Vultures editor picked your interview to run in it (alongside Maragret Wies. Not bad company, ne? ^_~)

  19. Jim’s already done with Proven Guilty (has been done, for a while now) — it’s the publisher that has to get it through the pipeline.

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