It must've been January 2016 when we finished the original pilot episode of Starcalled, a show idea which had been gestating by that point for several years prior. It was twenty-something minutes long and packed full of explosive sound effects and twenty-something minutes of bombastic music that I sort of stumbled through for a few weeks.
I'd never really composed music before that point, but I knew enough music theory and assumed I'd just sort of figure it out along the way. I've always held a very passionate love for film scores. As a kid, I would sit down and listen to the Batman Returns soundtrack on repeat, imagining all the sorts of adventures Batman would have as the music dictated. Because the music did dictate the story. And I think that's a lot of what drew me into that world -- the capacity of music to serve as a guide and story teller. What does it make us feel? What can it make us see? By the time I got my hands on the Star Wars soundtracks, it was over. I knew I wanted to be that kind of creator.
But years passed, and opportunities don't just show up. So I made my own through Starcalled.
Going into the first iteration of the story I knew two things: (1) the music was the spine of the series and (2) there wouldn't be a narrator. I knew there was no conceivable way any story I wrote or produced would have a narrator weighing down every scene with exposition or telling us how characters feel internally or whatever other problems were discussed then. Which was all fine, mostly. The problem with entrenching yourself firmly against including a narrator is you then commit yourself to having characters use dialogue to facilitate action and discovery or just losing the action entirely.
And when you're trying to make an action adventure show with spaceships and aliens doing cool action-y things in space? You course correct.
And so with the first pilot successfully on tape -- with decent music, sound effects, and most importantly no narrator -- we immediately hit a wall with production. I was frustrated with the scope of the concept and the execution. I had written 3 or 4 episodes ahead, but I wasn't happy with what was coming out. It just wasn't enough. So the entire series went on hold so it could get redeveloped into something else. Something more compelling. More sophisticated. More mature. The writing needed to be better. The music needed to be better.
Gradually, the entire project got shifted to the back burner as I struggled to find my way forward.
It wasn't until Daredevil first came out on Netflix that I had a revelation about the how of the show. Noting the irony of a blind audience not being able to fully access a show about a blind protagonist, they started rolling out audio description tracks. A narrator filling in the details by explaining action and reaction -- keeping the pace of a television show but letting the narration set the stage for the sound effects, the music, and the sound of acting. As a creator, it was a paradigm shift.
So, I added a narrator. To prime the audience for the action. To guide the audience through the music because I still knew one thing about Starcalled -- the music was the spine of the series.
As to the what of the show, it wasn't until I finally (read: with great reluctance, etc) started watching Game of Thrones that I realized what to do with the story: take the characters back to the real starts of the journeys and let them grow into the characters I actually want them to be. That the story eventually needs them to be. It took a couple of years of reflecting and growing apart from the project, but it was necessary and important.
And, now, that brings us here. The new iteration -- revision if you like -- of Starcalled is progressing well into production on its first season. Out of five, hopefully.
Stay tuned. We'll talk again soon.