Five years later

It turned out Wakefield (the movie we had nothing to do about) was no big deal. I mean, no offense intended for any filmmaker involved, I’m talking about The Wakefield Variation: yes, the source material is (almost) the same, and yes it sort of upset me.

I haven’t read the updated short story by E L Doctorow the film claims to be based on, but the narration is linear and ends exactly as Hawthorne’s original story does. That is, without an ending. Which was our premise to the series.

The film relies entirely on Bryan Cranston’s performance, with almost the whole story told in voice over, often breaking the fourth wall, something that also goes back to Hawthorne’s novella.

The story chooses to be all about Wakefield and doesn’t make much of the other characters, and the overall tone felt like an adult, dark-ish comedy with some hint of drama. So the atmosphere is pretty far from my idea for the (mini)series. Also, not exploring much beyond the original story, it is leaving us space to do so. At least I think it does.

Did it take me four months to elaborate such thoughts? Not really, as I came up with this five seconds after the lights went back on at the Princess of Wales Theatre during the TIFF premiere. And the above is actually part of an email I sent to a few friends and colleagues after the screening.

So what’s the point? Five years ago today I set up this blog and against all adversities I’m still here, discussing The Wakefield Variation. A vaguely similar movie will not stop me… after all, it is what the film industry is all about.

Geneviève Bujold and Cliff Robertson in the opening credits of Brian De Palma's Obsession (hint hint...)

Geneviève Bujold and Cliff Robertson in the opening credits of Brian De Palma’s Obsession (hint hint…)

So, as 2017 will see my effort focus on moving more or less permanently to Toronto, I’ll also do my best to make something as big happen for The Wakefield Variation.

Happy New Year to all of our the loyal followers 😉

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Maple Syrup

I apologize for the stereotype in the title. But not only is this a symbol of my Canadian days – I’ve been staying in Toronto for over three months now – it is also a fine metaphor for the taste left in my [mediterranean-taste-adjusted] mouth after the news: They made a movie about Wakefield. And we had nothing to do with it.

As you can see by the lack of posts, nothing terribly important really happened in the last six months, in regards to The Wakefield Variation.

Something happened to me though, as I decided to take the opportunity to experience Canada on a working holiday visa. Pushed to find work and network with fellow filmmakers in an all-new and still competitive setting, I didn’t forget about our beloved project. After all, Canada has always been a big part of the deal, being the home country of the lead actors and of Toronto-based story editor Jonathan Robbins (who I met again in person 4 years after Marseille! Yay!).

So, long story short: in the time that I have been here in Toronto, I have met some very talented filmmakers (all tied with MAD Resilience Films: thanks Mark!) and while talking about our respective projects, Wakefield comes up. Cards and links are exchanged, and plans of injecting new life into our dormant series are discussed! It looked like all that miniseries (re)development material was going to be taken out of the virtual drawer…

wakefield_01

…not just yet. I was browsing the catalogue of the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, until Bryan Cranston with a beard appears. TIFF will screen the international premiere of Wakefield, directed by Robin Swicord and based on the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne E. L. Doctorow. The late Doctorow retooled the original, public domain short story into an updated piece, published by The New Yorker in 2008. And no, we didn’t know about this.

So, I don’t know if this will affect the future of The Wakefield Variation. If it will, I hope it’s in a positive way. Somehow this is a perfect follow-up to the previous post: the nice thing is that it proves we might have had a good idea, using Wakefield as source material/inspiration. Needless to say, I’m utterly curious to see this movie. No matter what is actually in it, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bittersweet feeling. After years of thinking of all of this as a solitary run… we’ve been overtaken.

Although… the race isn’t over yet 🙂

The good idea syndrome

I watch a lot of TV series, and I’m sure most of you can say alike. The format has become even more popular in the last decade, and the quality bar keeps being set higher and higher. Many actors are eager to be part of an episodic show because they have a better chance at developing their character, and the viewers love to grow affection towards their weekly heroes. Also there are stories that fit much better in a serialized context.

In my opinion, the latter has always been the case of The Wakefield Variation, and besides being a fan of many shows myself, I always try to sit in front of the screen with a critical perspective: if I’m trying to make my own show, I can’t help analyzing other people’s work.

That’s why yesterday, just while Italy was showing how far behind the civilized world it still is with the controversial-to-say-the-least family day, I decided the give a shot to the highly praised Amazon Prime‘s show Transparent.

The series tells the story of a family who find out their father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is a transgender. I just recommend you this show and I won’t go through many details, I’ll just focus on the soundtrack here. The characters find some old records at their dad’s house: when they run into Jim Croce’s Operator, they start to sing along. You might remember my Songs in the key of Wakefield category posts, in which I mentioned the lyrics to Time in a Bottle to be pretty pertinent to the story I was trying to tell.

You may think that Operator has a more specific background which wouldn’t suit The Wakefield Variation as flawlessly: but what is Wakefield trying to do, if not trying to reach out to his ex girlfriend? All right, he’s got his way to do it, and he’s definitely beyond pay phones… but it’s undeniable that he has unresolved issues with that relationship. That’s basically the point of the show, as told in the three-parter web pilot.

I always imagined to use covered versions of existing songs in the show, alongside the original soundtrack, and I’ve been thinking that a female voice could be great to sing Jim Croce. It could be diegetic, with Eleanor or some other character (hint: three more female characters have been outlined during these years of undisclosed development) playing/singing on screen, for some reason. When I saw, and heard, Operator played by the two girls at the end of the pilot episode of Transparent, I had an epiphany.

Maybe I won’t be able to feature a song by Jim Croce in my show, maybe I’ll never get to take The Wakefield Variation to the next level. But I got a confirmation that I might have had a good idea, and that’s enough to keep me in the game, for now.

Christmas at Wakefield’s (one year later)

A Charlie Brown (or is it Wakefield?) Christmas

All right, there are two ways this thing can go: one is you remembering the previous post, with all the high hopes about 2015, TV development, treatments and such, and then bursting giant laughter. The other one is you thinking of this one-year long silence as the way Wakefield himself would have… after all, if you want to vanish and make everybody believe you’re dead, writing a blog doesn’t sound like a solid strategy.

I guess I’m in the middle of the above. I’m more inclined to pout than laugh about missing all the objectives for our project in 2015, but truth is that in the last twelve months some other work issues pushed us away from The Wakefield Variation. It’s almost three years since we filmed the pilot and we have not managed to go any further (so far). Development materials actually exist, I still think that this show has potential and I keep working on story ideas.

But without the right chance and/or the right people to pitch the whole thing to, there won’t be any steps forward. I haven’t lost hope, yet spying on people from a bunker is getting boring. I definitely need a plan to come out. Any suggestions?

P.S.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Variation 2015

Three years ago today we set up this blog, marking the official start of The Wakefield Variation project. The day after (January 1st, 2012) the first post was published, then you can read (and watch!) about all the rest 🙂

We wish things were going a little faster (actually we’d be happy if they were at least moving) but this business is tough and competitive, and let’s say we haven’t been lucky so far. We’ve been working on re-developing the series for television – yes the remote control in the previous post was a clue – although distribution is not as categorized as it used to be. We want to take advantage of this, and make our storytelling as flexible as it can get. After all, we want the best for our story and characters, and reach the widest audience possible, no matter what kind of screen they will use.

I once said that The Wakefield Variation will not stop with the pilot – now 3-parter tiny series! – and I still mean it. I think that spending some time on a bigger scale project is worth the time, and I firmly believe that something will come out in 2015. We might even post some bits of the treatment for the series continuation

Meanwhile, we wish you all a great New Year, hoping it will see our beloved cast and crew meet again 🙂

Family_watching_television_1958

Beyond the sea

And the third episode of The Wakefield Variation is out, too. It marks the end of our re-cut operation and the beginning of the series’ undefined hiatus. We hope this new version will be more appealing to audience, festivals and markets, and again, we’d *love* to hear your opinion.

This whole new re-cut thing wasn’t as easy as you may think, either technically (ask our sound designer, Alessandra) or from a creative point of view. Also, dismantling our filmmaking effort has been a delicate choice. While we hope it’s going to pay off, we’re at least happy to keep our project alive. We’d like to take a vow here, saying The Wakefield Variation will not die here, no matter what. There will be a follow-up of some sort. We’d love it being more episodes of this kind, but if that won’t be possible, the story will continue, somehow.

As for our last-but-not-least episode, the seaside flashback is…. back, clearer then it used to be, we think. Also, Wakefield is forced to get over his “variation” and yes, the title is a reference 🙂 feel free to post your guess!

E anche il terzo episodio di The Wakefield Variation è online. Segna la fine della nostra operazione di ri-montaggio, e l’inizio della pausa indefinita della nostra serie. Speriamo che questa nuova versione sia più attraente per il pubblico, i festival ed il mercato, e ancora una volta, sarebbe *molto bello* ascoltare la vostra opinione.

Ri-montare tutto non è stato semplice come si potrebbe pensare, sia tecnicamente (chiedete ad Alessandra, la nostra sound designer) che da un punto di vista creativo. Oltretutto, decidere di smantellare il nostro sudato sforzo cinematografico è stata una scelta delicata. Speriamo che la cosa dia i suoi frutti, ma siamo almeno contenti di mantere il progetto vivo. Vorremmo fare una promessa ora, dicendo che The Wakefield Variation non morirà qui, qualunque cosa succeda. Avrà un seguito di qualche tipo. Vorremmo che si trattasse di altri episodi di questo genere e fattura, ma se ciò non sarà possibile, la storia andrà avanti, in qualche modo.

Riguardo il nostro ultimo-ma-non-meno-importante episodio, il flashback della spiaggia è tornato, immaginiamo in maniera più chiara rispetto al passato. Wakefield inizia a metabolizzare il fallimento della sua “variazione” e sì, il titolo è una citazione 🙂 vediamo chi indovina!

Living the exile

Today I was thinking that we’re about to enter the fourth year of The Wakefield Variation: the project was conceived in late 2011 when Alessandro and I finally agreed on which previously-written-material should be the base of our creative vision. Soon after we picked up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” I wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what should have become a one-off cutting-edge short film to showcase our filmmaking skills.
The project was developed during 2012 and went through several stages (check out the previous posts!) morphing into a series; the pilot episode was set to be shot on early 2013, involving an international cast, a whole crew of film pros, and the need of a lot of money.
The huge storm that hit us on the last day of shooting should have warned us that 2013 wasn’t going to be easy… and it proved right. All is still stuck, not a festival accepted our work, and the continuation of the series is still in our head.
2014 will see a new cut of the pilot episode, split in three mini-episodes tailored for the 21st century-superfast-casual-websurfer. Will it work? We definetely hope so. In the meantime, time goes by… in a fancy we would expect to see in a future (but currently unlikely) episode of The Wakefield Variation.
I guarantee there will be happier posts :-): for now, Effetto Espanso wishes all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a great 2014!

Wakefield is watching you.
Oggi stavo pensando che stiamo per entrare nel quarto anno di The Wakefield Variation: il progetto fu concepito alla fine del 2011 quando I e Alessandro scegliemmo su quale materiale-precedentemente-edito basare la nostra visione creativa. Poco dopo aver scelto “Wakefield” di Nathaniel Hawthorne scrissi la prima stesura della sceneggiatura di quello che sarebbe dovuto diventare un eccezionale cortometraggio per mostrare le nostre capacità nella produzione cinematografica.
Il progetto fu sviluppato nel corso del 2012 attraversando varie fasi (date un’occhiata ai post precedenti!) fino a diventare una serie; le riprese del pilota furono fissate per l’inizio del 2013, con un cast internazionale, un’intera troupe di professionisti e la necessità di un sacco di soldi.
L’incredibile tempesta che ci trovammo davanti l’ultimo giorno di riprese avrebbe dovuto avvertirci che il 2013 non sarebbe stato facile… e aveva ragione. È tutto ancora bloccato, non c’è un festival che abbia accettato il nostro lavoro, e la continuazione della serie è ancora nella nostra testa.
Il 2014 vedrà un nuovo montaggio dell’episodio pilota, diviso in 3 mini-episodi fatti su misura per il navigante del 21esimo secolo, casuale e superveloce. Servirà? Lo speriamo con tutto il cuore. Nel frattempo il tempo passa, nel modo che ci aspetteremmo di vedere in un futuro (ma al momento improbabile) episodio di The Wakefield Variation.
Garantisco che ci saranno post più allegri :-): per adesso, Effetto Espanso augura a tutti voi buon Natale, delle piacevoli vacanze e un fantastico 2014!

Where’s Wakefield?

September has been another month without any post, and we’re the first ones to be sad about this. It looks like things are kind of stuck, with the original series way far from being greenlit (by whom then, that’s a whole other story) and the graphic novel still waiting for a proper debut – as it is not available from major on-line book stores yet. Even more sadly, festival and pitching response has been disappointing so far.

Nontheless, it would be legit to answer the question in the subject with “he’s hiding”, as that’s what he’s actually doing in the series… the one in our minds, the one you briefly tasted in the pilot. He’s hiding so well, that not even us, the series creators, could figure out how to find him. Then we realized that maybe it was all about the proper way to look for him… and ok, now I’m putting it down so it should all make sense: The Wakefield Variation was created with big cable network production in mind, just a little bit shrunk for web audience… if you’re thinking we might have overlooked a few things, you’re smarter than us, as we only got it lately. Well, since it looks like we didn’t impress either of the two above worlds (which often collide, but I digress) we thought about some suggstions and feedback that we received in the last few months… some of them going back to the 2012 Marseille Web Fest. Ok, enough talking: what if we recut the pilot to have three 3-minute episodes?

 

 

The “Before” factor

I recently found out that Before Midnight is coming to movie theatres in these days: I can’t tell how surprised I am (or hold my happyness either) to know that Richard Linklater has decided to give us a third installment in what can now be called a saga.

For those of you unfamiliar with the previous chapters, Before Sunrise tells the story of how two 20 something met on a train in the summer of 1994 and spent one day in Vienna, falling in love without never having the chance to meet again, the girl (Julie Delpy) being french and the guy (Ethan Hawke) being american, thus living thousands kilometers away. Before Sunset is set – and filmed – 9 years after the first movie, and shows the couple meeting again. I won’t tell you anything more because if you haven’t watched them yet, this is the right moment, and I guess I may have given away some plot points already.

Anyway, I’m not implying that this story is a direct inspiration for The Wakefield Variation, but connections are not hard to find, also considering how steadily these movies reside in my imagination. Time passing by is the most obvious reference, and the nine years between the first two movies are pretty close to our idea of how long Wakefield’s exile should have last. What I loved about the second movie, is that it made you feel like only a couple of months had passed (and Jesse/Ethan Hawke says that too!): the amazing dialogue and chemistry between the characters/actors let the audience feel that an afternoon spent together, condensed in a mere 75 minute movie, would be more than enough to fill in the blanks of almost a decade spent apart.

Again, I won’t go deeper in the plot analysis, yet I’ve always imagined that the day Wakefield met Eleanor again, it would be like their connection was never gone, and not because of the wiretapping or the hidden cameras. I know that the situation is completely different, and the cliffhanger we used to end the pilot episode doesn’t add much to the feelings Eleanor may or may not still have for Wakefield, but:

  1. Wakefield has been watching Eleanor for all these years… he may be obsessed, disturbed, whatever, but he’s not stupid, and I take all the responsabilities here saying that the series will not go in a direction for which it was all a dream, or anything like that. He did what he did for a reason, and if he kept watching her, he must have known there still was a tiny chance for them (whatever that means).
  2. the newspaper clippings should be some hint 🙂

Although the series development has just begun (and I’m sorry to admit that it’s going to be a while before we can watch anything) I’d like to point out that when I’m talking about connection I don’t mean pure uncompromised love: beyond the mistery, The Wakefield Variation is basically the story of a tricky relationship, something that won’t be overlooked. Also remember that a relationship involves (at least) two people, so our story won’t be just Wakefield’s point of view.

Let’s now put fictional characters aside for a moment, and ask yourself the question: “will I ever be able to completely forget that specific important person – boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, you say – from 9 (or 7, or 12, or 20 it doesn’t matter) years ago?” Let me be skeptical of any positive answer to that. So if time passing by doesn’t affect us, with all the real life issues, how could Celine, Jesse, Eleanor or Wakefield be affected? 🙂

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise

My Weakness

This is going to be a major post. Not in terms of lenght,  but because of its importance in the whole Wakefield universe. I’m revealing one of the major sources of inspiration here, and the title is not only a reference to my Songs in the key of Wakefield series, it does define an undeniable truth. My Weakness, from 1999 album Play by Moby, was the first “external” song included in the soundtrack of The X-Files (the episode was 7×11 “Closure”) and my devotion to that show is the weakness meant in the subtext.

Not that The Wakefield Variation is going to dig into paranormal anytime soon, but the atmosphere, the mistery, the unresolved tension between the main characters is something I’ve always been looking at when developing our project. The X-Files sits among the best television series ever, and has been the first popular culture phenomenon to spread across the internet back in the 90s. These two things alone should be enough make it a model to us. But that grim chorus repeating itself, mixing so perfectly with Mark Snow‘s music (who praised the choice instead of complaining), kind of made me preview the expression of Wakefield, then greatly portrayed by Michael Brian.

That episode, and that music, marked one the darkest revelations of the show, that is Mulder finding out his sister (whom he spent looking for over two decades of personal and professional life) was dead. Seeing the closure of that obsession – or it becoming immortal – made me think it was the same Wakefield needed to feel towards his relationship with Eleanor… that it was all his experiment was about, overcoming his obsession and being at peace with the world.

If you’re eager to know whether Wakefield is going to succed or not, well we’re even more!