This was the hardest episode I ever had to put together. I started working on it in March and finished it on the day of release. I had only given myself February off to recuperate from the grueling pace of production on the first season. In retrospect, I needed more time off but then again, you would have had to wait even longer for the new season.
So, three things happened:
- I was burnt out and I had to re-learn how to manage my energy, time and work habits to get into the flow of production again. I’ve only just managed to do that with Season 2 Episode 2.
- I had to schedule and conduct all the recording sessions for S2Eps 1-3.
- Work at my day job exploded. We are now contracting out a lot of work to one particular contract house in India (and yes, this is a no-bid contract which kinda defeats the purpose – basically the head of our company is doing his extended family a favor). However, the contractors we are using were entirely ill-prepared for the work. I was brought in and given these massive emails filled with questions and incorrect assumptions that took me months to parse out and answer – while attempting to train this group. Saying I was stressed was putting it mildly.
So “Glory Days” took me three months to do. It’s lonely work, doing all this editing myself without anyone to bounce ideas off of. When I had finally cut a draft together the week before the release date, I took it on the standard car-radio-test – and I was really disappointed. It lacked energy. Conversations would shift in tone, dramatically. I know it was in trouble even during production – I actually had Leslie come back and record a ton of Gwen’s lines. (Neil was kind enough to speed up the Fanbeings’ lines for me since Audition was introducing too many artifacts.) So I spent that Thursday through Saturday painstakingly recutting the episode together from scratch. The original Audition file has all the tracks in nice clean strips. The reworked file looks like a crocodile’s skin – the tracks were sliced up in a very fine manner and a lot of the key special effects were redone.
Fortunately, it worked out. But no episode has made me more miserable and stressed out than that one.
Okay, onto the episode itself. “Glory Days” = Bruce Springsteen, etc. etc. Now you know what the Mouse and the cats were talking about in Season 1 when they said, “She’s going to be very mad, you know.” We were originally going to include that line in Season 1 Episode 1 but we weren’t sure we would make it through that season.
The reveal had to be organic – so I had to give Len something that he would feel as passionately nostalgic about as Inanna would. So Gwen returns, as foreshadowed in Season 1 Episode 2. Leslie was cast as Gwen back in 2008, I think, but it took us a while to get around to her. Sorry about that! (Andy was also cast as Len before Neil had come to me with the project. Fancy that.)
This episode is about the feelings I got when I dreamed about my mother being alive. She died in 2008 from breast cancer and I wrote this episode shortly after that. Gwen isn’t an analogue for my mother – this was more about the feelings I had about seeing a dead person alive again.
Also, being a post-humanist furry with Asperger’s syndrome, I was very happy to be able to write a story about an interspecies romance in which the participants actively fight to make the relationship work.
The “June Comes Around Every Year” leitmotif was a lucky accident. I knew I needed a leitmotif so I went to my volume of public domain jazz and that ws one of the first tracks I heard at random.
The initial scene with Allen and Gwen meeting for the first time is my favorite scene in the whole show. (Well, actually second favorite, but my favorite is in one of the scripts we won’t produce, in which a young David Lewis chases after a young Jessie while she’s trying to buy weed.) I really love the tender character establishment that happens over only two pages of script. Andy and Leslie pulled it off amazingly well. That scene was originally smooshed in the middle of the episode – a flashback happening on the lighthouse cliffside – but it was too good for that spot. And it sells you on the romance early in the episode.
The church dinner at the beginning – that’s only four people doing the congregation’s voices, believe it or not. There’s a lot of audio trickery that took a while to do to make it sound like tens of people.
When Len meets Gwen at the dinner, I wanted Gwen’s cane to be more a part of her character than it became. You may notice that she walks to the beat of “June Comes Around Every Year”.
I love the scene in which Len and Gwen break up, too. My Presonus audio board died during the recording of this scene so I missed out on recording a hilarious take that Andy and Leslie did, doing the scene as a comedy bit.
So, did any of you pick up in Season 1, Episode 1, that David Lewis says he’s from the Harper Foundation, and that Scottie introduces herself as Sara Harper in that exact same episode? Or did you only realize it when David says it in this episode?
The “charms” special effect is a set of windchimes I have, nestled in a sweater, and spun around in my bedroom until I was sick and nauseous – multiple times, and then with the takes overlayed. The things I do for you guys.
The scene on the lighthouse cliffside had a good quarter of the dialogue chopped out of it to make it work. But thank goodness… I got it to work. That scene just wasn’t working for so long, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
The Mouse flipping the lighthouse – well, heck, I had already established the “two worlds” concept – what kind of post-modern author would I be if I didn’t actively flip it around? Basically, it’s like a fish wanting to talk to you so it floods your house.
I had to do the Fanbeings. The script compelled me – because there’s a reason for the Fanbeings which we won’t get to until the last episode.
The minisode, “The Never People” is based on what I thought the average 1950’s suburbanite would think of our modern economic system. In the 1950’s, you almost never saw a bank in a strip mall – that was almost like crossing a line. Offering money and credit right next to the places you’d go and spend it? That’s just… unseemly and unwholesome and oh god where can I sign up? But wait – where’s the money going to come from? You’re not mortgaging your children’s future just for a few extra baubles today? Oh god, you are! I knew it! (Also, damn, that’s a nice television you future people have – how did you get it to be so flat?) So, yes, “The Never People” is kind of a Twilight Zone conspiracy theory about the future.
I really like the spider walking sound, mostly because of how long it took me to do. Each step is a creak and the scratch together, arranged to match the footsteps of Rose Hair Tarantulas walking, based on many Youtube videos I found.
After Gwen gets defaced (and seriously, what did she expect would happen when she grabbed two squirmy kitties with great big claws?) that’s me as the scratchy voice that underlays Leslie’s lines. I recorded lots of takes and even then I had to rechop them to match Leslie’s lines. It was a fairly horrible experience, particularly to my throat, and I’d rather not do it again.
The ending – I definitely wanted to leave the audience with that dichotomy – the big reveal doesn’t matter next to Len’s sadness. I’m fairly happy with the end result.
Thanks to Andy and all the actors that made the considerable effort to get this episode done.