1: Many fans have an emotional tie to Due South. Did the creative team feel this connection as well?
Whenever I see it, even now, I absolutely get caught up in it. The fact that you knew what happened behind the scenes only makes the experience richer, it doesn't diminish it.
2: Was Diefenbaker deaf?
As for questions, I have a million on the lines of "Was Dief really deaf or was it selective?"
If you are asking medically, the answer is yes -- his eardrums burst when he saved Fraser. But as to where he could hear in any other sense of the word -- well, one has his suspicions. He certainly seemed to be able to turn it on and turn it off at will, didn't he?
3: Did Fraser and Victoria consummate their relationship at Fortitude Pass?
No, I've always believed that their connection was much deeper than that. Which made Fraser's betrayal that much worse -- resulting in his fear of women. He couldn't face what he did, and that shame manifested itself as fear -- which we all took to be comic -- but was, in truth, paralyzing.
They did not make love until she returned, in Fraser's apartment.
4: Which do you consider to be the least successful episode?
I can only speak for the first 22 episodes, as my characters continued on without me after that -- but during that time -- I think "They Eat Horses [Don't They?]" was one of my least favorite -- along with the one -- forgotten the title now -- near the end of the season with Dief and the animal experiments ["The Wild Bunch"].
5: What did you think of seasons 3 / 4 and the direction in which Paul Gross took the series.
A show like Due South requires a very skillful balance between humor and pathos, and should always endeavor to [be] grounded in whatever reality you establish. For example, Fawlty Towers was absolute farce, but the characters were all very grounded in the reality -- as absurd as it was. And so you always believed them. Athough there was some very good individual work in the last season, I thought, in general, that it wasn't as well balanced as earlier seasons, and relied too much on the viewers love [for the] character. Since Mr. Gross was wearing all the hats, it must have been very difficult to maintain perspective -- to fall in love with what should be on the screen, rather than what is. Meaning, many times I had to edit out things that I personally thought would be funny or touching, and when they were done, they just weren't. If it was my face on that screen, it would be much more difficult to make that call.
Also, the writing required a very deft touch, and when you are shooting every day you can't be writing every day -- you can't be coming up with clever plots and supervising the directors and editing and doing the music. A good series is about the fine details, the nuances -- and that takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.
6: How did Fraser Sr's ghost come about?
I was sitting a bar in the Skagway, Alaska, with Gordon [Pinsent], and we'd just shot his death scene in the Yukon, and he was hanging around because he had to play a corpse on the table. And we got to drinking and talking and I just fell in love with this guy -- he was such a fabulous storyteller and a wonderful personality, so right there I said, "I'm going to bring you back." He laughed, and pointed out that he'd just died, so that might make it a tad difficult, and I said: Difficult, but not impossible.
When I called him up to ask him to do "Gift of the Wheelman," he thought I was joking.
I loved that character -- I had so much fun with him. Even thinking up little things like his hat with the back cut off, and how embarrassing that must be to him in the afterlife, walking around like that. It was great, great fun.
7: Is there any episode you would truly have liked to have done... a plot, etc., that perhaps wasn't done because you weren't with the show, or it was cost-prohibitive, or the Powers That Be would have had a coronary if just presented with the idea? For example, how would you have resolved Victoria had she come back?
Yes, there were two things I wanted to do. I wanted to have Fraser bring in "Victoria['s Secret]", and face that again, and I had a plot I wanted to do about Fraser having to hunt down a friend -- the "Eric" character from the pilot whom he met in the gulch, who told him that the caribou died because they drank too much -- who has now gone renegade--taken the law into his own hands in order to stop the destruction of his native lands. And I had this wonderful ending, in which his friend leapt off the cliff rather than make Fraser face the impossible burden of arresting a just man. And then that would have been a much worse burden for Fraser to bear. I would have had him contemplate resigning at that point.
As for Victoria, I didn't know how I'd bring her back, but I surely would have enjoyed doing it.
At the beginning of the third season, I suggested such a storyline, but Paul [Gross] told me that the Victoria character wasn't that popular among viewers, so he didn't plan to do anything with her. I respectfully disagreed, but it was his show at that point -- and in a way, if she had to disappear forever, I'm glad she left on my train.
[Addendum] - The Eric story was how I was going to end that season, before we decided to do "Victoria's Secret" -- so no regrets, at least in that regard. And yes, since we didn't do that storyline, they later had Fraser Sr. quote it, as I recall. Though I could be wrong about the sequence, I often am.
It's quite wonderful, sitting in front of your word processor, thinking "okay, what's a friend?" and then getting the answer. Fabulous feeling.
And then you forget about it and go onto the next scene.
But it truly is how I define friendship.
8: A fan mentions dialogue such as "She shot me in the hat" ("Free Willie") and the surreal discussion about Fraser's hat afterwards. Were scenes like that fun to shoot?
They were wonderful. That one I completely made up at the last minute. The second unit director, that week, who usually did wonderful work, really shot a very stupid chase scene for the end. That's the trouble with comedy -- everybody tries to make it "funny", and that is the death of it. A funny scene has to be taken very seriously. In any case, it was awful, and I had no ending to the show. So I came up with the whole stand off, ending in the hat scene -- and it worked quite well -- though we had to shoot it dozens of times. Paul Gross grasped the concept immediately, but David kept insisting that it made no sense and kept trying to act, in the scene, like he thought Fraser was crazy and was letting him know that he was nuts. I had to keep explaining to him that Fraser WAS quite crazy in that moment -- the bullet had grazed his skull and all he cared about was his silly hat -- of course he was crazy! But a friend wouldn't point that out to a friend, a friend would be empathetic, and that, in itself, would be both endearing and very funny. We finally got the scene, though David didn't speak to me for a while afterwards. He thought I was trying to make him come off as stupid. It's a funny business, this comedy thing.
Just goes to prove what I've always said. I pretty much only know one plot. I just keep rewriting it.
9: There has been a lot of debate and fanfic about the note Fraser left on Dief's cage for Ray in "Victoria's Secret". What did the note say?
Yes, it absolutely said something! And I've forgotten what!!!! Oh, dear.
I remember that it was SUPPOSED to give you the impression that he was saying goodbye to Dief, but now I can't remember what my real intention was! I'll have to ask David Shore if he remembers -- or I'll watch "Victoria's Secret" again, something I haven't done for years.
My most humble apologies. But I haven't given up yet.
10: What is your interpretation of Fraser's actions at the train station in "Victoria's Secret"?
I think the fact that he would have considered poor Ray, and then still did what he did, is much better than not considering him, non?
And remember, he only had a split second to make his decision -- right there -- with the train pulling out -- and all the pressure on. But do I think he thought of Ray? I would say he had to. "You can only be betrayed by people you trust" Oh dear, now I'm quoting one series in discussing another. Has to stop.)
11: Where was Fraser Sr's cabin located?
The cabin was supposed to be way out in the Northwest, and the dam was supposed to be...well, pretty much where the dam ended up...in the Northeast.
We were supposed to have some fun and fancy grafix to make that clear, but Alliance said it was too expensive. So, since it didn't really matter to the story, I let it be what it was, and let the viewer read into it, or the reader view into it, if one is only dealing with the script.
Speaking of which -- how are those British novelizations of my scripts? I skimmed one when they sent it to me (fully "written", without my input -- Alliance didn't think it necessary) and it was, frankly, pretty darn awful. Flat-footed writing, no sense of style, nothing left to the imagination, and well, dull, as I recall. Did they get better? I do hope so.
12: I recall you saying that you created Renfield Turnbull as a Mountie who was even more 'by the book' than Fraser. Did you have any long-term aspirations for him (in third season, he turned into the office dufus)?
Yes, I loved the idea of having someone to whom Fraser had to play straight man, much as Ray had to do for Fraser. And since my idea was to "ground" Fraser more and more as the series went on, I created Turnbull so that the next producers could still play the same jokes but not have Fraser come off as too dumb -- which was always a danger. And I loved the actor (Oh my, I've forgotten his name now), I'd used him in one of my other favorite episodes, the man who knew too little (ps: saw Rino Romano, who I also love, who played "the man" last week on the Columbia lot where I work -- he's doing a series ARC on Jennifer Love Hewitt's new show.) . But, for whatever reasons, they didn't go that way. You can't do everything, can you?
12a: And is there any backstory on Turnbull?
None at all. Made em up out of whole cloth, don't know anything about him other than what was on the page -- which is one reason I really wanted to bring him back -- I wanted to know more about him! And I loved the idea that he'd try to "ape" Fraser, but could only accomplish a superficial likeness, which of course, made him nothing like Fraser. Because, of course, Fraser only appeared to be by the book. Love playing with stereotypes. Love those layers.
13: Can you relate any amusing anecdotes from your time working on DS?
14: Are you on a break from Family Law right now? You seem to be spending an awful lot of time on the newgroup?
Nope -- and it's already playing havoc with my writing schedule. But I'll keep it up as long as I can.
15: In EZ Streets you had a little in-joke to DS in one episode . Think you'll do the same on Family Law?
Now, I just might have to. Thanks!
16: Were you a big Sarah McLachlan fan before Due South?
Before I shot the pilot I'd never heard of her. But as part of the process, I started to listen to hundreds of Canadian artists (which is how I found Jay and the Northern Pikes). Sarah's music was wonderful, and I marked several songs I wanted to use, right then, and just waited for the right fit. When I did "Victoria's Secret," I knew I had the fit.
17: How do you think the 'new' Ray storyline was handled? I thought Callum Keith Rennie did a great job overall. It must have been quite a tough spot to fill after David Marciano left.
Very tough! David was terrific in that role -- but I thought Callum did a very nice job of creating his own, unique take on it. Mind you, I didn't see as many as I would have liked -- your time seems to disappear when you're running a show -- but when I did see him I was very impressed with his talents.
18: One thing I enjoy about Due South is it's ability to laugh at everyone. Canadian stereotypes about Americans, American stereotypes about Canadians...all are handled with a friendly wink. Negative stereotypes like
Ray's rudeness are balanced by positive stereotypes like his pit-bull loyalty and tenaciousness. With one exception. The FBI. To a man, they are portrayed as rude, arrogant, heavy-handed imbeciles who's only redeeming factor is that they are too stupid to seriously get in Fraser and Ray's way. Now, I'm not offended by this. I understand this is a very tongue-in-cheek TV show, and I personally love a lot of the FBI jokes that were made ("they couldn't find Waldo if they took the book home for the weekend"), but I am curious. Did the FBI do something to you or Canada that makes them come across as such jerks? Or did you just decide to portray them that way for a laugh?
No, that was an oversight. Even in the first season, there were many creative voices forming the show. I didn't personally write (or as with most, rewrite) the episode with the quote in question, but I'll try to answer anyway.
Nope, haven't had anything against them since their terrible behavior in the sixties and seventies, so it's nothing personal. And sometimes, with the limited time of a one-hour show, you do need to sketch some characters with less depth than others. But in this case it was an oversight -- and a regrettable one. I hate any characters coming off as just one thing. It's the contradictions that make the characters worth watching. So, I guess we just missed that one.
As to the other seasons, you'll have to ask the other producers.
Re: EZ Streets ... For the record, gotta say I liked it, too.
19: Did you seek a specific audience when you wrote Due South?
The honest truth is that I don't think of the audience at all when I'm creating a series or writing the episodes. The network thinks about it much more than you want them to, so I don't have to do it as well. I create a character that pleases me, whom I'm interested in spending some time with, and then I try to find out why he's doing what he's doing.
The only thing I knew for certain was that it's the "flaws" that make us fall in love with people. And it's certainly why we love our heros. We admire their daring and their bravery, but it we know that they are scared out of their wits when doing their brave deeds, we love them that much more.
It was Fraser's fears and insecurities that made we want to spend time with him, that made me want to explore him. And, when I create someone like that, I just hope that the audience will be as intrigued as I am. Because if you just go out and say "what do people want to see in a character and I;ll write that", well, in my opinion you are a hack.
That doesn't mean I don't care what the audience thinks -- it matters very much to me, and I listen to what they have to say -- AFTER I've done the thing. And when they embrace a character, it makes you feel wonderful. And when they reject one...I gotta admit it really stings.
20: In some scenes in "North", David Maricano carried Paul Gross around on his shoulder. Since Paul is a bigger and a little heavier guy than David, did you guys have to help David get Paul onto his shoulder? Was this scene shot more than once? Are there any funny stories to tell about making this episode that you would like to share with the fans?
"North" was the first episode of the second season. Jeff King wrote that one (I'm not sure if he wrote it with Kathy or not, but they were both Exec Producers that year. I think they did a wonderful job -- it's my favorite episode of the second season.
Farce is VERY hard to do right, and Paul Gross and David [Marciano] really shone at it in that episode -- I think a lot of that having to do with the terrific director, Richard Lewis (Richard went on to work with me on my last two series -- in fact he's coming back to do another episode right after Xmas.)
I was writing and preparing to direct an episode (forgotten the name of it) during the time "North" was shooting, so I wasn't around, and didn't have to produce the series that year, so Richard, Kathy or Jeff would be the person to ask for stories -- and I'll be seeing Jeff next week (he's writing an episode of Family Law), so I'll ask him to check in.
But no, I don't think David needed any help getting Paul on his shoulder -- though God knows he had to carry him for many hours and many takes of the same thing!
I check in here every six months or so, just to see how you're all doing and what you're talking about. And every time I click on the list, I truly expect you to be all gone. And you aren't. And after all this time, I still can't really grasp that. But it's very, very cool.
I don't go on line very much anymore. Probably because I enjoy it much too much. And I find myself staying up much too late and getting no work done and my son comes in and jumps on my chest at about 7:30 and...you know how it goes.
But whenever I do, and I see a new Due South Website pop up, or read a post that goes something like: "Excuse me, I am from Romania. Could someone please explain: exactly who is this Mountie person and what's he doing standing in front of this Chicago?"...I gotta say, it's a great kick.
I love the fact that you care about the characters, that you admire the actors, that you quote the dialogue that we wrote at three in the morning, or just before someone had to say it. I love the fact that you'd travel great distances to celebrate our efforts. I love that you forgive our worst work and argue over the best. And I love that you've found these friendships in each other. And found meaning in this perversely positive show.
So, I want to say thanks.
You see my new address here -- (yeah, yeah, yeah -- I change it a lot) -- I'm gonna be checking it from now until Christmas, at least once a week. Tell anybody you want -- any questions you have, any comments to which you want my response, have at it. I'll tell you the absolute truth -- and if I can't, I'll try and come up with a really impressive lie.
I'll also try and check into the group between now and then, about once a week and do the same.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving .
And start watching my new show! Monday nights at ten on CBS. It's taken a while, but we're starting to do some pretty nice stuff. You could tell me what you think about that, too. David Shore, who did the first year of Due South (and co-wrote my favorite episode) is a writer-co-executive producer, and my sister Joey has worked up to assistant editor, and is doing a fabulous job. I'm looking for a spot for Lincoln, but to date he hasn't shown much interest in the post-production process.
21: A fan mentions "Superman's Song," which was used in the Pilot movie.
And I still remember mixing that song late in the night - (most of my memories of Due South involve stuff that happened late at night) The band supplied me with their original tracks and their instrumental "bed" tracks, so I could dip in and out of the lyrics and edit the song -- and marveling how it all lined up so nicely with very little effort. I always seemed to be lucky that way, when placing music, or hearing it for the first time and thinking... you know, this could play over a sequence where it's snowing inside and Fraser's apartment....hmmmmm.
22: Some fans have thought that the song "From a Million Miles" was written especially for "Victoria's Secret" because it fits so perfectly. So, was it the song that inspired the snow image which inspired the story? Or did you already have the storyline in mind (as foreshadowed in “You Must Remember This”) when you heard the song?
No, shot it first, then placed the song -- though I was listening to a lot of this music while I wrote and planned the pilot and series. Often I would pick out a song and say -- I know I want to use this, I'm just not sure where yet -- and people would just stare at me until the day would come and I'd say -- it's going to fit over this sequence -- and it would.
Sometimes, like during the shooting of the pilot, I knew the dance-music song over Fraser at the airport was going to work perfectly long before we shot the sequence. The director, Fred Gerber (who is now directing and producing my new series, Family Law) just stared blankly at me and said "no, we're going to need some Chicago Blues or something like that -- not some Islamic chanting about a girl who is considering suicide -- it just ain't gonna wor!." I smiled in an annoying sort of way that I have and assured him it'd be great. And it did work great, at least it always makes me smile when I watch the sequence.
Often times during the first season the network reps would get all upset with me about the music and tell me to take it out or replace it with something more appropriate -- one sequence that comes to mind is in "Chinatown". Over the ending sequence, when the father was bringing the box to the bad guys in order to free his son -- and Fraser and Ray were racing across town to stop him -- I'd placed a celtic piece – Loreena [McKennit], if I recall correctly -- and they just flipped out and told me it had to be something really really upbeat, chase music kinda stuff, and it should be Chinese, not Celtic! I thanked them for their opinion --- and we received more mail about that song and that sequence than we'd received about anything else to date. After that, the network kept a little quieter and let me do what I wanted.
What people failed to understand is that you have to revel in contradictions, not avoid them. If you don't embrace a pardox, you can't really fully enjoy this flawed state of humanity that we roll around in.
23: A fan remarks that bringing back Fraser Sr. was an excellent choice, and how it would have been difficult for anyone else to fit that role.
Yeah, Gordon was fabulous -- I replied to someone else about how he got his recurring role as a ghost -- though I'm afraid, being a rank newbie, I'm making rather a muck of your lovely list -- replying in the wrong places to the wrong people, that sort of thing. Please bear with me (and excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, as I haven't figured out how to get AOL to spellcheck my posts -- only my email (help, anyone))
24: What was it like working with Leslie Nielsen? In "Manhunt," he played a much more serious character than in “All the Queen's Horses.” Did he have any input in that?
When we first started coming up with ideas for the first season, after I did the pilot, I thought it would be terrific to get Leslie to play a dramatic role. He'd done a lot of fabulous dramatic work, years earlier, on TV and films -- I was a real fan. In any case, I called his agent and found out that he wasn't in LA, where he lives, but shooting a video on a golf course about 60 miles from Toronto. I thought luck was with me, so Jeff King and I hopped in my car and drove out to the golf course and introduced ourselves. The show hadn't aired yet, so he had no idea who I was or what in God's name I was talking about. (I'd thought about strapping my Emmys on the hood of my car and parking nearby him, but I couldn't figure a way of doing it subtly). So I just asked him if he'd be interesting in playing this epic character of a legendary mountie fallen on desperate times, and, his father being a mountie, he sounded interested. He said he'd read a script and decide. So I drove home, wrote Manhunt over the weekend and sent it to him. And a couple days later he agreed -- and I was absolutely thrilled. It's still one of my favorite episodes. And he is such a pleasure to work with -- a real gentleman.
So, that's a long way of saying, no. He liked the script, so he did it.
25: Could Meg have been "the one" for Benton?
You'll have to ask Kathy [Slevin], because she's the one who created Meg. But for me, Benton was a one woman guy, and he let that woman get away. I think when he said "I should have gone with her" he really meant it, and always will. But then, my Fraser had more tragic overtones than the one that developed in later seasons.
And I suppose if he REALLY wanted to go with her, he could have gone to Providence.
[[Note: For those who don't know, Melina Kanakaredes, who played Victoria, is in the successful NBC series, Providence.]]
26: I was wondering where did the idea for having a super hero mountie come to Chicago and fight crime came from? Did it come in a dream <G>?
I just wrote you a response and lost it somehow (this is how I end up losing hours, through incompetence). But here it is again:
It was Jeff Sagansky's idea, he was the head of CBS at the time. Robert Lantos of Alliance had been pitching him some really corny ideas, but one of them, he thought, could be something. So he called me and said "what about a series about a Mountie or a trapper or somebody from way up north who comes to big city USA?" I told him I'd think about it, hung up and sunk into an immediate depression -- why did the networks always bring me their dumbest ideas? And then the thought hit me -- what if I turned all of their expectations upside down? They want this superhero kind of guy, what if I make him both a hero and incredibly human? And then I thought of all those great movies and serials I saw at the movies in my youth (I was lucky to catch the tail end of that fabulous era) and I remembered Sgt. Preston and his wonderdog Yukon King, and thought -- these guys wouldn't last two seconds in big city USA -- unless everything thing they thought and said, everything they believed in, truth, honor, compassion, civility, offering a helping hand to your enemy...what if they all actually worked... And wouldn't that drive a big city cop just crazy?
And I was off. I called Jeff back the next morning and told him I would do it and started writing. They had no idea what they were getting.
I didn't let Alliance see the script until it was all done, and then their only concern was how much it would cost.
For the record -- my first thought was to make Ray a smart, jaded, big city cop who[was] an American Indian (reversing and updating the old Tonto stereotype). But the network didn't like that idea. So I made him Hispanic -- but we couldn't find an Hispanic actor that we liked for the role. David came in, read it, I loved him, so I changed the character to be Italian.
27: We don't ever make any money from it, but there is still in the back of my mind the thought that this activity might be objectionable (or actionable!) in your eyes. Does fanfiction bother you?
Not in the least! I take it as a terrific compliment -- and I'm thrilled to see that so many people are inspired to write.
27a: Due South also has a very lively "slash" fandom. Fans who see romantic subtext between Fraser and Ray have developed the subtext they perceived on-screen into a whole genre of fanfiction.
27b: Although I don't write slash, I do perceive romantic subtext between Fraser and Ray in the show. My question is, do you have a problem with some fans actively discussing the series as depicting a closeted relationship between two men who are very much in love with each other?
Absolutely no problem at all. If ever two people loved each other, it's Ray and Fraser.
27c: Even if you respond that you despise fanfic and slash, I don't think they will go away. In fact, I would still finish the fanfic story I'm working on--because my muse won't let me stop.
Don't mess with a muse -- you gotta do what she says. I always do -- and when I don't, I pay for it.
28: A fan asked if Paul had any input (such as in advisory capacity) for the last season of Due South?
It's an area I'm not really comfortable discussing, but I'll tell you this much:
I started out to consult. When he was offered the final season, Mr. Gross called me and said he would only do the final season(s) of the show if I consulted. I thought it a tremendous opportunity for him, and encouraged him to executive produce the series, and I agreed to consult He consulted with me for the next several months, while planning the series; (among other things, I gave him the concept of how to introduce the "new Ray," since David wasn't available, and he decided to use it). At that point, for financial reasons, Mr. Gross and Alliance decided not to honor their contract with me--or, to be fair, suggested that we had no contract--and told me that my services weren't necessary.
Regrettably, I had to sue the production company for fraud and breach of contract.
Mr. Gross took the opportunity to make disparaging remarks in the media about myself and my family. I refused all interviews on the matter; the above information was in the paper, so I'm not disclosing anything new.
In any case, Alliance has made me a very substantial settlement offer, I have accepted, and won't discuss it any further, other than to tell you that I was very hurt, confused and disappointed by the actions of people whom I once regarded as my very good friends.
None of this lessened my enthusiasm for the show, or my respect for Mr. Gross' many talents.
It's odd, because even as the author, once you breath life into characters, you can't help but believe in them. I just have to remind myself that the character of Constable Benton Fraser that I created sprang out of my head, and had the values that I imbued upon him. His charm and wit, bravery, humility and loyalty are attributes that, whether they exist in others or not, we should continue to strive to attain. Fraser exists, and always will, exactly as I created him on page one, coming across the pass. He's a fabulous character, if I say so myself. I just love him. And Mr. Gross played him impeccably; his spirit of cooperation and collaboration were top notch, and I truly enjoyed every moment we spent together.
I can't ask for more.
'Nuff said. Okay?
29: A fan asks if he has his own domain name (such as www.paulhaggis.com).
If I had any idea how to use them or what to do with them, i would grab one. But then what? Plus, it may be the Canadian in me, but publishing my own website would be much too self-aggrandizing. I've never been able to even make up business cards for myself. That said, I have no idea how I've been able to survive in a town that lives on self-promotion -- but whenever I think of doing something like that, I can't keep from bursting out laughing.
I recently called a "famous" friend to congratulate him on his new series, which launched this last fall. I went on about how I loved it and what a terrific job he was doing. He thanked me, genuinely, then asked what I'd been up to lately. I couldn't bring mention that I had a new show that was in the top 20. I said, oh, you know, the usual. And after a few more minutes discussing his show we signed off. My own domain? It sounds much too large -- I can barely figure out what's in my refrigerator.
30: A fan asks about breaking into the business, and publishing novels.
Thanks for your patience. The answer to your question about breaking into the business is as infuriating as it is simple -- you write your very best work, and then you send it to an agent. If he or she doesn't like it, you send it to another, etc. At some point, you either get enough rejections, and hopefully enough good comments, that you have a way to rewrite it, if it hasn't sold -- or it hits the mark and does get sold.
I have no experience at all in the world of novels, but I've been around enough novelists to know that it works pretty much the same way it does in the world of screenplays -- you have to get the agent first, because no matter how good you believe your work may be, until an agent believes in it, a publisher, or studio, will never take it seriously.
I know that the Writers Guilds in Canada and the U.S. have lists of agents who will accept unsolicited material -- I don't know where you get that same list for agents who rep novelists. And it may be that you can just by-pass them and get the list of publishers from that big Writers resource book (i forget the name of it right now) and go through the list to see what each publisher is looking for -- because each has distinctly different needs -- but that's all I could suggest. If it's good, it will sell -- maybe not right away, but it will sell. If it doesn't, write another one, and the same rules will apply to it -- only, with each thing we right, we get better.
Sorry I couldn't give you an easier answer, but that's the way I did it. And if it was easy....
Best of luck. I hope it knocks them dead and there is a bidding war.
Gotta bolt. A couple solid days of this and I'm well behind on everything, including playing with James! (17 months).
So, I'll try to check in next week -- my daughters, Lauren and Katy, are in from school for the Thanksgiving Weekend, so it'll probably be after that.
It's been a lot of fun. Thanks for all the great questions, and for being so patient with me trodding around in your ng.
(Who, before today, thought ng meant no good, and was more than a tad confused.)
31: [You once said] "You can only be betrayed by people you trust" ... What source were you quoting?
I was quoting myself (alright, out loud now, let's all spell "hubris") from the pilot of EZ Streets, Quinn Sr.'s advice to his son.
31a. ... "Victoria's Secret"...is a story about the loss of the illusions we carry about our existence.
Got that one right. But, of course all good love stories aren't about love.
31b. Have you seen Peter Weir's film Fearless?
No, but now I'll be sure to rent it.
31c. I have since decided that Fraser was indeed thinking of Ray as he ran for the train, but he wasn't betraying him. I was brought to this conclusion because of the fact that Fraser is motionless until he sees Ray. At that point, I see a recognition come to Fraser, but not one that says 'If I don't go now, I'll never get away.' What I hear is 'If I go now, I won't get away. Ray won't let me.' In Fearless, Max says the same thing.
The wonderful thing about that moment is that in can be interpreted in so many ways -- and most of them are absolutely correct. All those conflicting emotions were in Fraser and Victoria and even Ray at that moment. I think all Fraser truly knew was that he could not stay there -- he had to run, because if he didn't act, life would just leave him. While running, I'll bet at least a dozen scenarios and conflicting motivations passed through his mind. Which one won out? That's for you to decide.
31d. Perhaps you should get Tom McCamus to guest on Family Law.
Excellent idea, I love Tom.
Thanks for the comments!
[Note: Questions 32 through 37 were from one fan for a paper for a course]
32: [Regarding Due South, what were the features of the topic of cultural differences that made you feel it was a good basis for a comedy / drama?
I am a citizen of one country and have lived in the other for 20 years, so I think I always felt like an outsider in both. There was so much I loved about the Americans, but their arrogance and egocentricity didn't make my top ten list. However, I was continually amused by the fact that they find it almost impossible to see their own flaws, or consider the possibility that they might be wrong. Canadians on the other hand are handicapped by the fact that they are...well, they're Canadians. Enough said.
33. Were you using stereotypes of Canadians and Americans, or were the characters unusual and out-of-the-ordinary? Why did you decide to use this type of character?
I think I answered that about. Sorry for getting ahead of myself.
34. Do you feel that any section of society would be offended or upset by your portrayal of them?
Absolutely. I thought the Americans would be very upset at their portrayal. And I thought Canadians would enjoy feeling superior for once.
35. What have been the reactions to your portrayal of the two cultures? Have they reacted in similar ways, or very differently? Have any third party cultures expressed a significantly different opinion?
The Canadians were outraged. The Americans didn't even notice -- or if they did, laughed. Completely the opposite reactions I expected. And the RCMP threatened to toss me in jail unless I removed a long list of items they found offensive to their image. (There is still a law on the books in Canada from the 19th Century that says that you can't criticize the RCMP without their permission. I told them to come get me -- it would be worth a banner headline in Variety.)
Eventually, the Canadians developed a sense of humor, the RCMP saw recruiting quadruple, so they dropped their manhunt and signed with Disney to market their image, and the Americans still didn't notice.
These are all gross generalizations, of course -- but I obviously don't mind dealing in stereotypes.
36. A running theme throughout Due South is the influence of parents, alive and dead- from Fraser (and later Ray's) dead father(s) to Ray's mother. Even Fraser's grandmother has influence over Fraser senior. Why do you think the idea of a parent still having such a profound effect over a grown adult is such a popular idea in so many comedies?
I have no idea. If I was to guess, I would say that most writers are adults, and part of becoming an adult is realizing your own mortality -- and the first way you glimpse that is through the mortality of your parents.
37. Anything else really obvious that I should have asked and didn't? :-)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I know you're pretty busy right now! If you don't want to answer any of these questions then please don't, I really don't mind. Good luck and have fun with the film-writing.
You're welcome. Good luck with your paper!
38. (Co-executive producer (Kathy Slevin once indicated that Fraser had no specified religious belief. What were your reasons for having Fraser talk about Victoria in a Catholic priest's confessional? Was he seeking spiritual guidance, or was he just talking to a friend?
I can't speak for Kathy, but she may be right. However, I tend to believe that Fraser did have a specific religious belief -- he just decided to keep that private. So much so, that he never even told me. But to your question, I think Fraser desperately needed some sort of spiritual guidance at that point in his life...and to him, a priest would seem a good person from whom to seek such advice -- whether or not he was a Catholic.
39. Who decided that Ray Vecchio should drive a 1971 (or 1972, depending on which episode you watched!) Buick Riviera? It seemed to fit him so perfectly - sort of flashy, but classic with a romantic streak ... And why did it get changed from the Mercedes seen in the Pilot?
Here's how that came about. As you may recall, in the pilot he drove a classic (read very old and so cheaper) Mercedes Benz. When it came time to do the series, my producers informed me that, crashing up classic (or even old) Mercedes Benz could be very pricey -- not to mention the fact that you always need a back up car, in case something goes wrong, and since we were shooting two units at the same time -- one for the drama and a second unit for the stunts -- that means you'd need three or four of these cars. And if you crashed one...well, you get the point.
So, we went on a search for a classic American car that we thought would look cool, but also one that a cop would actually drive -- which would require it to have terrific pickup and handling. The transport guys showed be plenty of photographs, and then we save a Riv and I said "I love that -- get me one to try out." So, the transport and stunt coordinator went out and found one, brought it to me, I hopped in and took it around the lot, did a couple of sliding 180's and I fell in love. We went out and bought 2 of them right away, and we added to our collection over the first year.
But still, every time we considered damaging one -- as in the man who knew too little -- we checked around with classic car shows to make sure there was an identical one available -- and then we would blow up a "junker" version of the car, and keep the original or "hero" car. We also had a couple of them reinforced with roll bars and support panels for stunt work. It was a great car!
Thanks for asking!
40. Did you ever had difficulties with the network's Standards & Practices departments? In particular, I was curious to know if CBS (or any other "Power that Be") gave you a hard time about the scenes in which the 16 year old girl visited the S&M bar in "Chicago Holiday." I was very impressed with the way the program handled these scenes, and portrayed the patrons of the bar dignity and respect, while still maintaining the humor. ("Does anyone here happen to have a pair of handcuffs?") ... Would you be willing to tell us about any story elements, in this episode or others, which the network may have wanted you to change or cut?
They were always complaining about something -- and they were VERY worried about that particular episode. The president of the network called me himself to ask me if I was insane. But for some reason we just were able to thank them for their input and then go ahead and do what we wanted.
I think Standards and Practice departments have a valuable place in television -- and sometimes they fulfill it. For example, in a recent episode I did of Family Law, I worked with S&P very closely to make sure that I was presenting an Islamic couple realistically and fairly -- the least we owe people is respect. As with the scenes you mentioned, it's easy to get humor out of a subject while still granting people a little dignity.
And then you usually find those people -- meaning whatever group you're dealing with -- have a very realistic view of themselves and a terrific sense of humor. The National S&M Society of Canada named me their Man of the Year for their portrayal in that episode! (I made them come to the set to present the award, and I made Paul Gross get his photo taken with myself and Miss S&M Canada).
Thanks for asking.
41. How did you come to hire Jay Semko to do music on the show? In the Northern Pikes, he was the principal songwriter and usual lead vocalist, but, as I recall, his instrument in the band was usually the bass, and, in my opinion, most of the band's music is rather unlike the strummy guitar sound of "Due South". Why would you think of Jay as someone who could provide music for your show?
When I was shooting the pilot, I listened to tons of Canadian artists on CDs and I kept putting them in stacks...and The Pikes kept ending up in the stack of bands that I really enjoyed.
So, I called them up and Jeff King and I went to a gig they were doing in Toronto. I met the guys, asked them if they'd be interested in doing a show and they went off and knocked out the theme song in a few days. The band was just breaking up then (I think I saw their last show in Toronto), so Jay said he'd be interested in working on the series. I then put him together with two other composers that I liked -- each for different reasons -- John McCarthy and Jack Lens, none of whom had worked together before. And the four of us went about finding the sound that became the series.
I love Jay and miss him. Say hi to him for me if you see him.
42. A fan mentions that they understood (via the Canadian TV Guide and other sources) that "Victoria's Secret" was originally intended to be the final episode of season 1, yet then "Letting Go" was broadcast. Was "Letting Go" intended to be the season 2 opener, and then shown to give the fans 'closure' when CBS canceled the series?
What happened was -- I also thought "Victoria's Secret" would be the end of the series, and that's the way I wanted to go out. But then Alliance said we had to shoot another one -- and since I was going crazy directing "Victoria's Secret," I turned to Kathy and Jeff and said "Have at it", and they did it all on their own -- and a terrific job they did. I was too involved with "Victoria's Secret," and too drained from the experience, to be any good to them.
43. A perennial argument on DS lists is about Fraser talking about going undercover at the used car lot. When he says the stuff about taking off his hat and saying 'Have you seen any stolen cars' or something ... The 'innocents' claim that he is perfectly serious. He is unused to the complexities of American policing and believes he can simply go undercover in that way. .. The 'not so dumb' camp think that he is conning Ray into helping him by playing dumb. This means when Elaine says 'You're good.' she is admiring his technique. (The 'innocents' believe Elaine is just being encouraging to the dumb lummock since he is clearly not up to American city policing.)
So which is it?
Let's just say that innocence is wonderful tool, in the right hands. And don't Americans just love to ride in and handle situations that others just can't seem to get right themselves.
44. I have gathered you are not one to just choose things willy nilly. Everything or almost everything has some sort of significance ... With this is mind, what is the significance of using The Windhover as the poem that Victoria recited to Fraser in Fortitude Pass? Or was it just because you've always liked it???
It's a terrific poem -- and I'd love to take credit for using it -- but it was Paul Gross' idea -- and as soon as I heard it I knew it was a great one. There are hundreds of examples of the way we worked together like that.
45. I've seen so many different angles on the origins of the character names, but I'd be interested to hear how and why you, or anyone else thought them up, particularly that of Benton Fraser. Several in-jokes....(Margaret thatcher, etc) have been noted, but why choose Fraser as a last name?
My first working name for him (meaning just the first name I gave him while I was writing the pilot story) was Sgt. Prescott -- a take off on Sgt. Preston, the old serial. Then legal told me I couldn't use that name for that very reason, so I quickly went -- Preston Sturges is one of my favorite directors -- so his name will be Sgt. Sturges, and that way, to me, he'll still be Sgt. Preston. Well, after a few pages I didn't like the name, so I tossed it out. I then realized I wanted something heroic, but uniquely Canadian. So, I looked at the names of the big northern rivers and came up with Frobisher -- named after the great explorer. And Frobisher he stayed for a long long time -- until we were just about ready to shoot the pilot and CBS said -- no really, what's his name? After just repeating "Frobisher" a dozen or so times, they threatened to smack me if I didn't change it to something that Americans could say without laughing. So, I went back to the rivers... and came up with Fraser. I named him Ben Fraser... and Kathy said "Benton"... and I said "YES!"
46. How do you feel about fans tearing apart plotlines, finding "errors", and "nitpicking"? For instance, in "Victoria's Secret", how did Victoria get the key in the snow globe without breaking it and/or all the water draining out?
I never mind people picking it apart. It's fun! And Victoria got the key into the snow globe the same way that we did... by turning it upside down, unscrewing the base, dropping the key in, replacing the base, and then turning it back over. The key then sinks to the bottom... and is covered in snow.
47. Mr. Haggis, do you have any idea what you have wrought in the character of Benton Fraser? ;) The example of Fraser has inspired thousands of people to clean up their language, try to behave like A Mountie in their everyday lives, and do nice things for other people just because it's right, and not for any hope of reward. Can you think of any other examples in which the creator of a fictional character has influenced so many people?
Yes. Apparently the murder rate in Britain increased every time Edgar Allan Poe published a new work.
No, that's a lie -- but I couldn't resist.
48. We've had discussions on this newsgroup about the fact that Ray Vecchio/David Marciano consistently pronounced Fraser as Frasier (which is a U.S. *household name* due to the sitcom of the same name). Was this significant in any way, or are we just *spinning our wheels* as obsessed fan groups sometimes due?
Spinning you are. It was just David Marciano's accent -- and we liked it, so we never thought to correct him.
48a. I am curious about the fundamental differences between U.S. and Canadian filmmaking, e.g. Money v. Craft. You've worked in both environments, and if you're willing to share your views on this subject, I'd love to hear them. How much of the industry is nationalized, for instance? How does this affect which films get produced, how much $$ they have to work with, overall quality of productions, etc.?
Sorry, you're asking the wrong guy -- I've only every worked in the big commercial system -- which works on the same principle in Canada as it does down here in LA.
48b. Do U.S. TV production budgets ever include $$ for background research, fact checking, etc. Is the responsibility for accuracy solely on the shoulders of the writers?
Yes. Every episode went through two sets of fact checkers -- one in house, and one company called DeForest Research, a research company that most TV shows use.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
49. Reading your post about how you came up with the show, I wondered if they were surprised when you took the concept in such a different direction? Did you then have a tough time selling them your vision of the show.
No, they liked the script when they finally saw it.
49a. You mentioned that Mr. Lantos had some pretty goofy ideas. I wonder if you can remember what they were?
I don't think I said goofy. If I did, I officially deny saying it. I'll just say...no, goofy is just fine. Luckily, I don't have the type of mind that retains those kind of notes. Actually, it's kind of a shame at that, because it would make for a good book.
49b. In "Victoria's Secret," did you deliberately have Fraser not tell Victoria directly that he loved her? He told his father twice that he was in love with her, but he never says it to her (but you had her say it to him).
Yep, that's true. Some things a guy sound trite when spoken. Fraser is a man whose deeds say everything.
50. I read you were interested in hearing comments on your new series Family Law. I looked forward to it with great anticipation because of you and I'm a Kathleen Quinlan fan. However, I was disappointed in the first few shows as I felt you had gone the way of David Kelly (whom I don't watch) and wrote scripts for shock value. However, the more recent scripts have gotten over that style and are much more to my liking -- more subtlety, finesse, tongue-in-cheek humor which I had enjoyed from you in Due South. I look forward to the rest of the season.
Thanks for giving it another shot!
51. I've noticed that you've run the gamut from sitcoms to incredibly series dramas during your career? I'm curious as to if you have a favorite genre that you like to write in, and are there any others (such as medical shows, sci-fi, etc.) that you might like to dabble in?
My favorite genre is the one I haven't written that week.
51a. I was told about an in-joke in the DS episode "The Blue Line," in which director George Bloomfield did a cameo as a video store customer who was going to rent a tape, but didn't. Mr. Bloomfield told me that the tape was your movie Red Hot. Can you tell me more about that movie and if you find writing for theatrical films radically different from episodic television?
Yes, the story is true. And is it different? Completely. I'm writing one now and am really enjoying it -- and I did a major rewrite on a movie being shot right now with Richard Gere, called Autumn in New York. Again, I enjoy doing what I didn't do last. Sort of a contrarians view of writing.
51b. Oh, and can't resist this, as I got enough of this question on job interviews: where do you see yourself in five years?
Right here, but hopefully with a better monitor.
52. There has been much discussion about Fraser's dark side and controlled inner rage. I'm talking about when he almost loses it in the Pilot when confronting Gerard. The same happens again in the Bird in the Hand
episode. ... Was any of this improvised with Paul Gross or did you have this element of Fraser's personality in mind before you filmed it? It seems such a departure from the goody two-shoes side of Fraser. I thought it made him much more human.
No, none of that was improvised. Like yourself, I believed Fraser had a well-hidden dark streak. While I was there, I chose to have it only surface when it dealt with issues concerning his father -- and Gerard was the man who betrayed his father, and was most responsible for his death.
53. My questions are regarding your role as Executive Producer on the first season of Due South. Was it entirely your decision on who you hired as your writers and what stories were chosen to tell? How much influence did CBS or Alliance have on your decision making? Were all the writers people you knew and had worked with before? Did anyone manage to 'break in' so to speak by pitching you a story that you fell in love with and you decided to give them their first big break. Sorry, I guess there's enough questions there to keep you going. I¹m interested in the writing process of television.
I was completely responsible for the stories we told. Alliance's input was strictly in the area of budget. CBS had notes on our stories, but their main concern was developing a love interest for Fraser -- something we toyed with, but something I resisted for the first season, if it meant a recurring love interest.
No one came in with a pitch and broke in, as you described it. The closest thing to that was David Shore, who, at the time had only ever sold one script. My father and Kathy [Slevin] recommended him, I hired him, and it was a great success. He's back working with me on Family Law!
54. I was wondering why the Diefenbaker from the Pilot was not in the series itself?
His trainer was based in L.A. That was ok for the pilot, but we were shooting in the series in Toronto. It would have been much too expensive to relocate him, even if his trainer would have agreed to move. (His trainer/owner had many working animals in LA, so it didn't make sense for him)
55. Did you contract Sarah MacLaughlin to write for "Victoria's Secret" or did you just choose the songs of hers and they fit? Her haunting voice and the ethereal piano set the mood so intensely - and the words are so descriptive of the relationship between Fraser and Victoria, it seems *quite* a coincidence if it is just coincidence! (Possession) "My body aches to breathe your breath, your words keep me alive" and (Fumbling Toward Ecstacy) "I won't fear love" .
I chose the songs and they fit. At the time, Sarah was well known in Canada, but only had a cult following in the States. I've been quite lucky with knowing what songs will lay over filmed sequences -- and you're right -- it was perfect. I didn't change the picture or re-edit the sequences at all.
56. I have some questions about the woman in the hotel room next door to Jolly in "Victoria's Secret." She was short, overweight, grey-haired, very, err... unattractive and wore a beauty pageant ribbon across her chest that read Miss Arkansas. She was also one of the elderly in the rest home in "Manhunt." Whose idea was it for the Miss Arkansas ribbon?
I'm afraid to say it was my idea. I don't know how I thought of it, I was just in one of those moods -- and I knew that when she opened the door I wanted to see a unique character -- and it just came out onto the page, and then we found the woman to play it. It wasn't actually until after shooting "Victoria's Secret" that I realized that I'd used her before, as an extra, in "Manhunt"! (sitting next to my mother, who couldn't stop laughing at Leslie Nielsen's off camera antics)
57. Are you ever planning on putting together any outtake reels?
I'm afraid I no longer have control of any of those clips -- they are all in the Alliance vaults -- so, although it would be a hoot to see them, you'll have to ask Alliance.
58. Was Bob Fraser's character originally written as a ghost, or as "a manifestation of Benton Fraser's conscience"?? If the latter, at what particular point was it decided to make the character a ghost, and why?
Good question! Robert, as I envisioned him, was certainly "haunting" Fraser, but I never really thought of him as a ghost. The fun thing was having Fraser constantly question his own sanity for talking to his dead father, and ask the very question that you are asking. I guess, if pressed, I would tell you that Robert really existed. But he probably just existed in Fraser's mind. I say probably, because, as Fraser discovered, he could actually steal his Stetson. So what does that tell you? The only person who really knew was Fraser, and Fraser couldn't figure it out himself -- he finally just accepted the fact that his father was with him. And stopped asking how.
59. You mentioned that at the time "Victoria's Secret" was made, you had expected that the series would end with that episode. Certainly the "Victoria's Secret" story arc was foreshadowed as early as "You Must Remember This". Did you have the "Victoria" story in mind from the very beginning of the series, and if so, was it always your plan to end the series on such a dark note?
Victoria crept in from my subconscious quite early -- but she didn't show herself until quite late. She just kept giving me hints that she was there.
And, I guess, I don't think it's that dark of an ending. But that tells you something about me. I've always believed Fraser to be a tragic hero -- who people took for a fool. There was a reason he was so quite and reserved and withdrawn. There was a reason he lived like he did. We just all assumed it was for lighter, comic, reasons. But they all had their roots in deeper stuff.
59a. In "Victoria's Secret," while our heroes search the city for some proof that Victoria is really alive, Fraser sees a sign in the window of the diner that it is closed because of "a death in the family." Did Victoria murder the counterman of the diner because he might be able to testify that he saw her? As she said herself, "No loose ends."
Oooo, you got that one. Kinda chilling, non?
Thanks for asking
60. Can you tell us more about your current projects, such as the remake of The Changeling, which I read about a little while ago.
I'm way behind on my Changeling script -- it's due to be finished by the end of the year. As of now there is no cast attached. I'll keep you posted. And there's some other exciting news I may be able to share soon.
I'm actually heading up to Canada now to see my dad for Christmas, so I'm going to have to sign off. It's been great fun sitting in with you guys for a while. I'll check in again.
60a. And you write a lot of TV... do you watch much yourself, or have any favorite shows?
I don't get much time to watch -- but I really enjoy NYPD Blue.
Thank YOU. And I'll check in next year.
My love and best wishes to all.