Saturday, January 14, 2012

Update from the Desert!

. . . Otherwise known as how Wanna Cook?  The Unofficial Guide to Breaking Bad is coming along.

My co-author and I have roughed out a schedule - let's see how that holds up.  I've never written a book by collaboration before.  Either it's been all on my shoulders (such as the Faith & Choice book) or I've been contributing chapters to a project, so I've submitted my work to the editors, who get back to me with notes that I need to consider for the next draft so the entire book flows in terms of style and theme  (the Buffy in the Classroom book is an example of this).  But this involves a nearly daily process of watching, noting, writing up the rough notes and making note of possible "sidebars," such as an aside on just how it is that hydrofluoric acid can eat through a ceramic bathtub, but not a plastic storage tub.  We're using some tech tools to make this sharing of information easier and more efficient - have you tried Dropbox yet?  If not, you should and it's free.  Great Cloud storage, accessible from everywhere with Internet access, so no more flash drives (which I remember thinking were just cool as cool could be only a few years ago).

Just a few notes from the first half of Season 1.  When things go bad at this point (and they quickly do), watch how Walt is so hesitant.  He doesn't belong in this world that he's stepped into, but he's convinced that, so long as he has a plan and everyone else follows it, everything will be fine.  There are problems with both parts of his approach - first, circumstances are such that he hasn't formulated a real plan for dealing with them and second, people, by their very natures, don't much like a newbie ordering them around and demanding that their actions fit a certain profile (or, as Jesse puts it so succinctly, "Well, heil Hitler, bitch!").  Always keep in mind that Walt chooses his actions at this point.

Also, pay attention to the camera work.  Gilligan likes to surprise his viewer by using some unusual, not-at-eye-level camera placement.  When that happens, ask yourself, "What is the camera showing me?"  It'll be important, whether it's the camera focusing on a coin being flipped through the air above two people deciding who's going to do which "unpleasant chore" or focusing up through a floor covered in . . . well, watch the episode ". . . And the Bag's in the River" for that one.

Last, pay attention to locale.  The desert has been called "a place with no memory" and that may or may not be true, but it's a place outside the civilized boundaries of town where the normal rules don't apply.  I think of the city/woods division in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in this aspect of Breaking Bad.  The world of Athens (or ABQ) follows one set of rules and has one set of rulers; the wilds of the woods (or the desert) is ruled by another, completely different, set of rules and people.  Very interesting things happen when these worlds collide, especially in the border spaces.

So much is going on in this show!  I could write here about color in costuming and lighting, or about fear as a motivating force, or about the dialogue that sparkles like an amethyst, but that will all wait.  Follow the progress either here or over on Twitter - use the hashtag #wannacook for best results.

And get that RV out of the driveway!

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