It sounded familiar… Hollywood and football

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As you probably already know, this week Terry Dresbach and her husband Ron Moore sat down for a live tweet with fans. They were ready to celebrate the monumental task of bringing Outlander to life and they wanted to share their joy in accomplishment with the fans.  Many fans were ready to share in their joy and accomplishment, but some…not so much. There were folks who evidently saw this as their opportunity to air grievances.  And,…they did. I didn’t know this was happening until hours afterward. A Twitter friend told me to go check it out. The complaining I saw there was at the least opportunistic (I’d never seen some of these folks tweet Terry before and I’ve been around awhile) and most certainly rude in tone.  I’m not sure how anyone male or female could be expecting their opinions to be taken seriously when couched in such a way.  It is tough to have respectful discourse when you are being attacked.

Terry has gone on record saying that she is fine and it is to be expected, but she hadn’t really seen this behavior in this particular fandom before. She said she was aware there was some grumbling about certain issues with the show and cast, but none of it had been expressed directly to her.

I’m told what started in the live tweet didn’t stop once the session ended. The door was cracked open and then flung wide by fans who seemingly smelled blood in the water. Terry got tweets all day, night and into the next day.

Upon reflection, I realized this felt familiar to me. I’d been there. My husband wasn’t a Hollywood writer/producer, but he was a football coach. Now, don’t laugh, but I saw some real similarities between these two professions and what it was like to be a spouse to a man in a profession like Ron’s!  Like I said, it felt familiar.

The time, dedication and sacrifice

First, let’s talk about what it takes to be a football coach. Hours and hours and hours. Time spent recruiting. Time spent meeting. Time spent planning. Time spent practicing. Time spent promoting.Time spent mentoring his staff.  Time spent with academic administrators who truly didn’t understand what it took to run a quality program and then trying to convince them to give you what you needed to do the job right. Time spent making sure everyone has what they need to do their jobs and nurturing the program, so that the folks you brought with you continue to have jobs and opportunities to better themselves. Time spent with the players ( I swear at times I thought he was a counselor not a coach).  Time spent directing what happened on the field on game day and then… doing it all over again the next day. And, somewhere in all this find time to have a wife and family.

It wasn’t easy and I got pretty creative at finding ways to make the most of the time we had together. Looking in at our chosen lifestyle, an outsider might have thought the sacrifice wasn’t worth it, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  It was the price I paid for loving a special man. He was good at what he did and was truly making a difference in some young men’s lives. He was a role model in a world that sorely needed them. I’ve always been so proud of his passion, compassion and integrity.  He always did what was best for his athletes even when it wasn’t the most popular or easy thing to do.  He truly cared about the young men in his programs. So, when his talent, dedication and sacrifice wasn’t acknowledged or recognized it hurt.

Everybody is a critic and the misconceptions

My husband didn’t have millions of people watching how he coached and ran his program (but Ron does), but what he did have were stadiums full of people, very vocal FANS. People who saw the team as THEIR team. (sounding familiar yet?)

Despite years as a coach’s wife, I would still find myself caught off guard at times. I would be baffled that people couldn’t see what my husband was about and how lucky they were to have him coaching their kids. They just didn’t get it!  It seems everyone had their own ideas of how things should be done and they were convinced my husband wasn’t doing things right. Everyone knew better and everyone THOUGHT they knew what was going on. Several stories come to mind that illustrate my point.

For instance, in a particularly close game we were on the goal line and it was fourth down.  We needed a touchdown, not a field goal, to put us in the position to win.  It was a now or never situation. My husband called a time-out and gathered the boys on the sideline. From the stands, we all could see him yelling, pointing, getting up in the kids’ faces. The crowd began to boo, yell names at my husband, threaten to “kick his ass”, etc…  The boys went back on the the field and scored the needed touchdown.  We won and all seemed to be forgiven. Later that night, I asked him what he was saying to the boys on that sideline. “I was telling them I believed in them and pointing out how hard they had worked and how much they deserved to win. I told them them to go out there and do what I knew they could do”, he explained.

I often laugh that I would have loved to give some of these vocal FANS a taste of their own medicine!  There was one particularly vocal gentleman who stands out in my mind.  He was a local dairy farmer by profession.  I had created this little dream scenario where I would show up at his barn with a bullhorn, pull up a stool, and critique his milking. “You call that milking!? My 85 year-old grandmother could milk better than that!”  ” Can’t you see that the stream keeps hitting the pail in the same place?  My God! Tweak the teet on the left.”  etc.  I would then write about it in the paper the next day!  The headline would read FARMER BROWN CAN’T MILK! COMMUNITY WILL HAVE TO EAT THEIR CEREAL WITH WATER!  The article of course would contain unflattering pictures of him with his head near the cow’s butt and be full of comments taken out of context!

For the most part, I dealt with what I saw as unfair attacks on my husband with the grace he expected. In fact, I can really only remember saying something to  a fan one time and even then I thought I handled it pretty well.  Directly after a game, I had a parent come up to me and say she had a terrible time trying to enjoy the game because of a fan sitting beside her that just couldn’t keep from bad mouthing everyone! and she said she thought he might actually work for the college. She pointed him out in the stands and sure enough, it was one of the professors. Tamping down my need to rip him a new one, I climbed the stairs to confront him. “Hi!”, I said in the cheeriest voice I could manage.  ” I just had a parent tell me that a fan had ruined the game for them because that were talking so badly about the players and coaches. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be you!”  “I paid my five bucks” was his eloquent reply.  Over the years, I learned that this behavior was indeed to be expected.

My husband has retired from coaching, but the memories linger and I feel for Terry and the price she is paying for loving a special man.  She’s a hell of a lot tougher than I was and I applaud her efforts to continue to interact with and fully engage the fans. I don’t want to lecture, but just gently remind folks that these are real people with real feelings and just because you paid your “five bucks” it doesn’t mean you can’t be kind or respectful when you disagree.

The One Where I Was a Fly on the Writer’s Room Wall…Outlander Episode 14

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ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! It is 3:00 am Monday morning and I JUST got done watching Episode 14 “The Search”,  the world and a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend conspired against me! Woke up about an hour ago to a finally quiet house and couldn’t go back to sleep knowing that I still had some viewing to do! I really should find out how people get those advance viewing privileges….anyway….let me say ….wow.  There have been some beautiful scenes shot in this series, but as of right now,  these scenes are my favorite! I felt this episode was rich with strikingly beautiful or unique images that I am officially dubbing “Metaphorical Moments”.  The puppet show alone was worth watching the entire episode! I’m in love with whomever thought of and created that piece of whimsy! And,…Murtagh…alone against a starry sky?  Sniff …sniff…

It strikes me as ironic that just about the time the series is over, I’m finally starting to understand this adaptation stuff!  One of the many reasons that I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and her writing style is the amount of rich detail she uses.  In her books, I have learned everything from how to keep and store a cadaver to how to make blood pudding. Her descriptions of what it feels like to give birth or put your hand inside a live body or watch a beautiful man sleep naked among the ferns while an ant crawls across his hand are written so descriptive that isn’t hard to imagine what the character sees, hears or feels and I find myself lost in her stories as a result.  But, sometimes …she leaves things to the readers’ imagination (like a good writer should) and I’m starting to see how that fact might play out in the Outlander on Starz writer’s room.

Like many of Diana’s long-time fans, I’ve had the singular experience of watching the whole TV adaptation unfold from the first day she announced that the series was a go. What a wonderful time we have had interacting with the folks creating the show. Over the past year or so, I feel like I’ve gotten to “know” some of the creative folks helping to make our beloved books and characters come to life.  We’ve had a chance to ask them questions, read their tweets and as a result, gotten to know a little bit about what they do and something of their individual personalities.  So, I’ve decided that in this article, I’m taking creative license and writing my own screenplay…about what I think might have happened in the Outlander Writer’s room when they were creating this episode…..

*Producer’s note: (that’s me! Giggle, snort!) I really don’t know if these things were ever said or who might have said them.  It’s based on my experiences “interacting” with Ron, Maril and Matt over the last year that guides this bit of guessery!

Setting the scene: A room with folding tables their tops scattered with paper and resource materials and the remnants of assorted beverages. At least three writers, Ron, Matt and Maril are sitting in various states of contemplation as they stare at a wall full of chronologically posted dialogue from Diana’s book.  They are discussing how to write episode 14 “The Search”. 

Ron: Okay…we’ve got two women striking out on their own to rescue a man they both deeply love…a devoted sister and a desperate wife.

Matt: It makes sense to follow the chronological order here, in fact, I think we have to.  The arc for this episode isn’t going to be hard to figure out, it’s all there.

Maril: Yes, I think it’s going to be pretty easy to stick to the book this time. Nods her head in satisfaction

Ron: Agreed.  Now, let’s start by discussing these women.  They are not going to have the benefit of superior strength or intimidation that a male might be able to use in this situation. They aren’t going to over-power anyone. Ironically, it is their femaleness that is their best weapon.

Matt: Yes!  The whole deal with Jenny throwing herself into the road relies on chivalry for its success.  Poor man never knew what hit him. Doomed by gallantry. Chuckles at the irony

Maril:  Might be fun to play with the interrogation.  Diana doesn’t give us a lot about that scene other than they made it uncomfortable enough that he told them what they wanted to know. Now what would that look like?

Ron: shrugs Good cop, Bad cop?

Matt: Ohhhhh…I like that…Claire, of course, is the good cop convincing the prisoner that Jenny is just a hair-trigger away from doing him some real damage!

Maril: Which she probably is!  What could she do to him…..?

Group continues to discuss the good cop bad cop idea and concludes it would be the perfect time to introduce Murtagh to the story-line

Matt: ….and, he prevents the women from having to commit murder.

Maril: Murtagh is one of my favorite characters.  His devotion to Jamie! Diana doesn’t tell us a lot about him.  He’s always portrayed as quiet, dour, serious, a bit of a mystery really.

Ron: LOVE his devotion to Jamie and… how Claire might be the only one who really knows why Murtagh is so devoted.  The viewers are going to love finding out about the bracelet connection.  We have a chance to develop Murtagh’s character here. He and Claire working together is an interesting dynamic.

Matt: Nodding Yeah, it is!  Love how Diana had Murtagh devise a plan to find Jamie. They have no idea where to look,  so they are trying to help Jamie find THEM by making themselves the talk of the Highlands.  They travel from village to village exploiting their skills to call attention to themselves; Claire’s healing, fortune-telling and Murtagh’s singing.  chuckles Does anyone know if Duncan can sing? Or Cait?

Maril: laughing I think Cait can and I’m pretty sure I heard Duncan can’t.  Going to have to find another skill to highlight.  Dancing?

Ron: Diana left a lot to the reader’s imagination with the visits to the villages. We could really run with this.   They stare at the wall for a while and then suddenly Matt begins scribbling madly on a piece of paper.

Matt: Okay, okay listen to this.  Reads from his scribbles  What if we DO go with dancing?  Murtagh doing the sword dance, but here’s the thing.  He isn’t any good. They boo him.  Throw vegetables at him.  It would highlight the lengths he is willing to go for love of Jamie.  The serious dour man allowing himself to suffer the indignity of dancing in front of a crowd.

Maril: warming to the idea  I like it!  The women had to step outside their comfort zone to rescue Jamie and so does Murtaugh.  But, how about this twist?  He thinks he’s good!

Ron: Laughing  It has a whole  “Shakespeare in Love” vibe. Actors acting about acting and performing.  Nothing’s really changed has it?!  They laugh at Claire getting comfortable with her performing and Murtagh’s anger at their audience’s obvious lack of appreciation for superior dancing skills. They rapidly add ideas to the pot including nods to 1945 and Claire’s new performance incorporating a song Jamie would recognize.

Matt:  …And…the gypsies.  They play an important part in this.

Maril: There wasn’t much about that in the books either.

Ron:  Gypsies?! How great is that going to be? What are gypsies famous for? More discussion insues and they decide that the gypsies steal the Sassenach song and complicate things for Claire and Murtagh.

Maril: …so, that’s how Jamie gets caught.  He follows the song right into the path of the Redcoats.

RON: …and that leads us to the scene with Dougal.  I think we can stick pretty close to what Diana has written.  It’s a great scene. Powerful and a bit shocking. Not liking Dougal much in this scene.

The group continues to do what they do best…look at the source material and adapt it for a visual medium trying always to bring the story back around to where it needs to go. I ‘m sure this process takes hours and not just bit of argument. Hence the need for drinking and naked Twister afterward.  

So, this is what I imagine goes on in the Outlander’s screenwriter’s room.   This episode made a rather vague area of the book fairly pop with intriguing possibilities and images and still brought the story back to where it needs to go.  I get it.  And … I. Love. It.

All the world’s a stage….our author becomes an actor!

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imageFor Outlander fans, this year has been wonderful.  I’ve told anyone who will listen ( my children actually time how long it takes me to mention Outlander) that this has been a singular experience.  I’ve had my favorite book turned into a TV series and I’ve had a chance to feel a part of things from casting to costumes.  Thanks to all involved who were so generous with their time; Ron, Terry, Maril, Matt, Sam, Caitronia, Starz, and many more.  It’s been a thrill to discuss the process with other fans and get glimpses from behind the scenes.  It’s been thrilling for me, but I can only imagine how thrilling it’s been for Diana.  Talk about falling down the rabbit hole! Despite her fame as an author and quite a few public appearances over the years, I’m pretty sure she has to be feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

First, I’m not sure she could have believed this was ever going to happen.  The rights to the story have been sold for many years. She’s never said exactly how many scripts she’s looked at over that time, but I get the feeling…a lot.  She told us that quite a few talented scriptwriters have ” had a go”  at adapting her book.  We’ve all heard how disastrous those attempts (anybody remember the turn white or burst into flame comments) were.  She had to be afraid someone would actually go ahead and film anyway.  I believe she said she couldn’t have stopped them because the rights were sold.  How scary!  Thank God no one ever did or I’m not sure Ron would have gotten his chance.  How do you pitch that one?

I wonder if she knew Ron had been trying and planning for three or more years, to get permission to pitch a TV series. When I heard it was being made into a series, I was so relieved.  How relieved was Herself when they came and pitched their ideas? I could only compare the feeling to sending your young adult child into the world and having them bring home a series of not so suitable prospective mates.  Finally, they bring “home” the right one to meet momma!

What a weekend that must have been! What was she thinking when she closed the door on that visit? I have this little mental picture of her being folded into Doug’s arms with a sigh of relief. And since then….they involved her!  I know she has said over and over that they are kind to listen to her and are under no obligation to take her advice, but they appear to be smart people who recognize a good thing when they see it!  Why would they not want to take advantage of such a valuable resource?  As Ron said in one of the trailers, ” the experience with Diana has been delightful”.

I know it’s silly. We are not best buds, but I feel protective of Diana.  Her books have become an important part of they my life and as a result, so has she. I get excited that she got a tour of the set, that they ask her advice, that she has relationships with the actors, and that she’s being filmed and interviewed everywhere!  I’m happy for her! I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  A reporter, who attended one of the San Diego events, wrote that she was surprised that even though the actors received warm welcomes from the fans the largest applause was reserved for the author.  I’m not surprised. I was proud of my fellow fans. Seeing our characters come to life is lovely and exciting, but we love Diana because she wrote _books_ that mean something to us.

Diana herself has expressed how odd and wonderful it is that one of the off shoots of her writing these books are the connections people have made with each other.  There are Facebook groups and Twitter groups that range from a shared  interest in knitting to sharing how Diana’s books have changed lives.  Some folks have even been inspired to write a blog (tee hee). She means a lot to a lot of people so, yeah, we are excited for our favorite author!

Tell me how thrilled we all were to see Diana’s moment in the sun on national morning TV and to see her resplendent and smiling on the red carpet!  So, this weekend we are sharing another “fallen down the rabbit hole experience” with Diana.  Herself is going to be an actress!  Millions of fans will be glued to their TVs hoping to catch a glimpse.  What a wonderful experience. We love you Diana and we are so excited for you and proud of your success.  Break a leg!