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.

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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!

Songs in the key of Wakefield

Great news: I’m getting back at writing in first person – for a few posts, at least. And I don’t want to give up on making this place a real diary about everything that happens about this project. I just got back from Rome where I had two things scheduled: attending a screening of the pilot to a small but selected audience at Caffè Letterario, and a business meeting with some important (yet undisclosed) person who might mean a lot to the continuation of our series.

Shortly after I got home, I received an e-mail from Michael Brian, our lead actor, that is Wakefield himself! He was asking news about the project, as it looked stuck from “outside”… and I must say he’s right. There haven’t been any major updates lately, and that is because dealing with development, distribution, funding, etc is time consuming, and being our production company still made of just two people, there is no much time left for promotion, updating, advertising.

And this is bad. It really is. A project like this is kept alive by audience, readers, bloggers, casual surfers too: being born from the internet, for the internet, it needs to be appealing to the people of the internet. I tried to figure out something to change things… and I thought about going back a little bit.. back to the origin of this project, of its story, its atmosphere, its inspiration.
I couldn’t help thinking about music, and I mean way before Michele Bettali, Stefano Carrara and Fabrizio Castanìa delivered their great score. Some specific music was in my head while developing the concept behind The Wakefield Variation, and it provided a lot of inspiration for what I thought this series needed.

So I thought it could be a nice move to share with you the beginning of the creative process through the music. I’d like to start with a song that has long been in may favourite playlist, and has kept me thinking about the lyrics since the first time I listened to it. It’s Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. In those words lies a lot of Wakefield’s “experiment”…