Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inside the Secrets of the Behind the Making of the Music of Battlestar Galactica Revealed

So, I have obtained the Bear McCreary mockumentary, full title in this post's title. It. Is. Brilliant. It's on Youtube, but might be taken down soon. Watch it now. James appears at about 8 minutes and on.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I might have whined here about how little of it was on Youtube earlier, and how I craved to see the rest. I was a bit worried though. When you wait for something so long and build up expectations, it's often disappointing to see the whole thing, no matter how funny it is. But this time, the whole video was better than I had expected. It's so much funnier than the Youtube clip, which was already hilarious. Even the Gaius Baltar theme song is funnier when you see the whole thing. So now I'm glad I wasn't spoiled more than that. I cannot praise this thing enough. Funniest. Thing. Ever.

Bear McCreary himself blogged about it here. You can tell he had a blast filming the James bits!

So here's my transcript of the James part with commentary. Special thanks to M for all the awesome screenshots!

The basic premise of the video is that no one knows who Bear McCreary is. Throughout the "documentary", Bear tries to get invited into the BSG wrap party, with no success. Some writers and crew members are interviewed about the music, and there are many confused "there's no music on BSG" comments. The insanely long title shows up on screen one word at a time, to the rhythm of drums. There's also a nice parody of the "one year later" cut in the season two finale. It's all hilarious, but I will only transcribe the James bits.

James appears with his real name, but he's really playing a role here. Basically he plays Gaius Baltar - completely arrogant and rude, self-obsessed, childlike in a bad yet amusing way. And no, this isn't his real house either. While James pretends to be super rude, Bear plays the James part, being uber-nice and accommodating to his whims. I'm not sure how much of this was scripted and how much was improvised, but it's awesome. They have a great comedic timing together.

Also, I have never heard James swear this much. Just for the record: he says "fuck" 9 times and "shit" 6 times within ten minutes. Awesome.

Bear: (rings the doorbell) We're at James Callis' house, we're gonna talk to some of the cast and find out what...
James (through the door): Who is it?
Bear: James, it's Bear!
James: What?
Bear: It's Bear!
James: Who?
Bear: Uh, McC...
James (opens the door angrily, wearing sunglasses and a black bathrobe. Tries to control himself when he sees the camera.)

Bear: Bear! Bear McCreary! We, uh, we're doing the interview today about the music.
James (takes off sunglasses and stares): Music of what?!
Bear: Battlestar! (points to a Battlestar logo on James' chest)
James (looks at logo, then looks around annoyed) Umm...
Bear: We spoke on the phone about an hour ago?
James: (calm but threatening voice) How did you get my address? (forces a grin for the camera) Who gave you my address?

I must say, the captions make it look like a "serious" documentary, which makes me laugh even more. James really sounds threatening with "who gave you my address". He has this forced grin on that gradually fades off his face. I'd be scared to go in after that, but Bear's pretending to be a gleeful optimist here.

Cut to: sunny back yard, James' face as he looks incredibly bored. He's changed to his now famous suspenders outfit. Hee, suspenders! That certainly adds to the comedy.

Bear (setting up, walking around him): I'm actually quite a big fan myself.
James: (uninterested) Are you. How long is this gonna take?
Bear: Um, I'm not sure...
James (inaudible)
Bear: I really appreciate you taking a second to do this, James.
James (annoyed): Mmyeah.

Cut to: both sitting by the table. James tries to sound a lot more chipper and interested in Bear, but it comes off as fake. (Of course, he's only pretending to be uninterested, so uh.. this is gonna get really meta before I'm done with this transcript!)
James: OK, so it's Beer?
Bear: Bear.
James: (emphatically, to the camera) Bear. Bear. And you have something to do with the music of, mm, this show. You're involved in some...
Bear: I write the music of the...
James: YOU actually..?
Bear: I'm the guy behind the music, yeah!

James: Shit! (removes sun glasses to take a closer look)
Bear (nods proudly) Yeah!
James: Who'd have thunk it? You don't, uh, you don't look musical at all, do you? (chuckles) Isn't that funny. It's funny only because I actually, um, I think that that would be something I would be very good at.
Bear: I didn't know you played an instrument.
James (smoking): No, I don't play an instrument.
Bear: You must read music then.
James: Why would I bother with that shit?
Bear: What's your musical background?
James: I have no musical background. (leans closer) When you've got something inside of you, something...primitive, something... atavistic, your tubes are banging together, you've got something to give out, haven't you?

James: I was in bed with Tricia, and I thought of this great theme that would be (looks at camera) just... a knockout...
Bear: Wait... A theme for Battlestar?

James: Fuck Battlestar! -Actually, why not Battlestar! Why not! When you... Why not Battlestar, because you've got another... (lights cigarette) ...six or seven episodes to do, and this is (looks at camera) killer, I mean you would love it! (gets up) No, listen, listen!
Bear: You know what, I... (grunts)
James: Stop, listen! It's gonna change your life! Come on! (walks inside)
Bear: Aghh...

"So it's Beer?" Why would it be Beer? :D Nice little touch there, showing how little the meeting means to him.

I heard "not Battlestar" but it's apparently "fuck Battlestar", which is a lot funnier and works well with "James"' attitude. Who cares about Battlestar, he's so much better than that show! Great touch.

I remember James saying before that if you told Gaius, "I was in a car accident", he would reply with, "Actually that happened to me..." He has to relate everything to himself, and James is clearly doing that here. Of course, he's the natural talent in composing, nevermind that he never did any of that. I think he's also mocking the idea that art is all about inspiration and no hard work or training is necessary. And of course, as soon as Bear asks if it's a theme for BSG, he takes it as an offer.

The casual "I was in bed with Tricia" kills me every time. I'm not sure which is funnier:
a) that they were supposedly in bed outside the show, or
b) that it was as Gaius and Six, but the "egomaniac James" thinks it was real for her.
Maybe b), coming to think of it.

He even smokes cockily here. As usual, I'm fascinated by his smoking, and it seems like a pack of red Marlboro there. That felt really cosmic and meaningful when I first saw this late at night.

Also: atavism. Thank you, professor James. I love that even as he plays a clueless arrogant ass, he still defaults to big words.

"nnngaaaius baaaltaaar..." He both looks and sounds like he's having indigestion. It's... :D

Cut to: Inside, Bear is playing chords on the piano, James is "singing".
James: OK so... (terrible-sounding falsetto) Gaaius Baaltaaar... and then something really strong.
Bear: Like..? (plays a strong chord)

James (screams like a madman): HE'S THE MOTHERFUCKING SHIT!! HE'S THE MOTHERFUCKING SHIT!!!!!!! (pumps his fist)

Bear (shocked): I...really don't think you can... say that on TV, James.
James (leans head on hands and looks pissed off): Motherfrakking shit, how about that, again. So start over here. (forces Bear's finger on a key) That's the one, that's the one, do that one.
Bear: Oh, OK. (plays a chord in major)
James: That's like, that's far too happy. I need it sad, tragic!
Bear (plays the same chord in minor)
James (looks at camera excitedly, points at the keys) That... that's it there! Whatever it is. The black notes... they're sad notes.
James: (testing the keys) What's... Why are the low notes down here... What kind of a fucked up piano is this? The high ones... Well how are you ever gonna do anything like that?

Bear: James, look. The bottom line is, your theme is nice. I mean, your theme is very pretty, I don't mean to, I just, I just, I just don't think Ron would ever let[?] something like that in the show.
James: Ron loves it! I've already spoken to Ron!
Bear: You what..?
James: Ron is gonna put it in the show! Ron is gonna, Ron is definitely gonna put it in the show! If not this show, then another one of his shows when I change the lyrics! Cos I just made up these lyrics cos, you know, cos you're here, you know. But let's just try it one last...
Bear: It's gonna be...on the show?
James: Yeah. Yeah.

I think James has a childlike quality to him, and the "James" he plays here does as well. It's a different kind of childlikeness though. The real James is amazed at the world and curious about things. The fictionary James here thinks everything revolves around him and that he can do anything he sets his mind to, with minimal or no work at that. And just as soon as he comes up with a theme (and all by himself too!), Ron already loves it and is totally willing to put it on the show.

James: Let me get my pitch, please?
Bear (plays the chord)
James: Stop messing around there!
Bear (stops)
James: (focuses hard) Thank you. (falsetto) Aaaa... OK.
Bear (plays the sad, tragic chords)
James: (falsetto) Gaaius Baalt..aar..
(shouts) HE'S THE MOTHERFUCKING SHI... You're too late, your time's out...
Bear: Oh, alright.

James: Gaaius Baalt..aar.. HE'S THE MOTHERFUCKING SHIIITT!!

James and Bear (in unison):
Best president since Jimmy Carter,
Banged more blondes than JFK,
Well not that many since they're all the same!

"Best president since Jimmy Carter"

"Banged more blondes than JFK"

"They're all the saame!"

James (forces Bear's hand to another key) Saame.. saame... That one!! Whatever that one is. For fuck's sake!

Heee! I've seen this so many times now, and the song and James' facial expressions still crack me up. It seems like they used slightly different footage for the final version, and James' crazy expressions can be seen better here. The second time he sings "Gaaaius Baalt...aar", his voice falters a bit, as if he's about to laugh. I do wonder how they got thru this and how many takes it took! On the other hand, it could just be that his throat was tired from screaming!

In reality, James actually composes music and plays the piano a lot. So this is just two talented guys fooling around with the worst possible song ever. I find it hilarious that he would have a piano, but never have used it enough to know that the low notes are to the left. I can see why the distance between high and low notes would be a problem with a song like this - his voice jumps an octave lower within "Balt...aaaar".

Bear: You know what, actually I think that works pretty well.
James: (bored again) Getting somewhere, okay. That's uh...
Bear: And Ron has heard this already..?
James: Ron is in love with it! Ron actually listens to this to get himself to bed...
Bear: In that case, I...
James: ...and to motivate himself in the morning to go running.
Bear: I think we've got a hit.
James: We've got a hit in our hands. Great, well... (glances at watch) Uh...
Bear: Now if you don't mind, can we talk about my music for a second?
James (looks at the camera)

Cut to: James pushing Bear out the door.
Bear: Well, sure, but I also wanna say...
James (to the camera) You as well. Thank you.
Bear: ...on a personal note, what a big fan I am of your work, I really appreciate what you bring to the show...
James (rolling eyes, closing door): Yeah, yeah.
Bear:... and I look forward to seeing you at the wrap party, my friend!

James: (shocked) What, you're going to the wrap party?
Bear: Yeah!
James: (rolls eyes) Right. Uh, yeah, I may see you there.
Bear: Great...
James (slams door in his face)
Bear: Uh... (excited, to the camera) James Callis, everybody!!

Bear is still so starstruck after James treated him like crap. James really nails the "arrogant actor" thing here with the eyerolls and looking at Bear with such contempt. Basically he has two moods: grumpily bored and childishly excited (over his own genius). Brilliant.

In the next segment, James walks around with a handheld camera and tries to interview other cast members, who all pretend they never heard of Bear McCreary. In this part, he's himself again - he's friendly, he's got that smile in his voice that he always does in interviews, and is very polite and calm with people. It's sort of in contrast with the other part, but it doesn't disrupt the "reality" of the mockumentary that much. It's a different comedic role - James goes from being the funny one to the straight man.

First up is Jamie Bamber. Their names are confusingly similar, but I hope it's still readable.

James: What do you think of the music in the show?
Jamie: We don't really have any music, do we? We've got those drums..
James: No, there's like a soundtrack all the way.. all the way htru.
Jamie: It's like documentary style, we don't do score.
James: Bear McCreary.
Jamie: Um... Irish bear.. big Irish bear.. McCreary.
James: Um.. he's, he writes the music for the show.
Jamie: Music? Mu...
James: Yeah.
Jamie: Oh, the Bob Dylan thing.
Jamie: So pretend like I met him..?
James: Like you really love him...
Jamie: So this is gonna be shown at the concert to all the six people that come?
James: Yeah, actually it's sold out, just so you know.
Jamie: Small venue?

James: And here we go! Jamie, go!
Jamie: (awkwardly) Bear! Bear, Bear, Bear! Listen, congratulations on the concert. You rock! You rock! Love those drums. (waves) Hi! God, I can't, I just don't know what to say.
James: (with contempt) That is just fucking pathetic. That is like...
Jamie: Let me try again. Bear! Thank you for all your hard work on Battlestar. We love... you, we love this show, you make this show, uh...thank you Bear. How was that, did that work? Oh, breakfast, lovely. Thank you. God, I'm so hungry.
(camera pans to "Troy Scott, 3rd assistant director" - it's too dark to really see his face though.)
James: Hello.
Troy: Hi.
James: You good?
Troy: I'm awesome.
James: Okay.
Troy: What is this for?
James: Um, this is for Bear McCreary.
Troy: Who's that?
James: Yeah, exactly!

I'm not sure which one of the guys says that last line. Both are off camera and both are British, so... I can usually tell apart their voices, but I had trouble with it here. Edit: Both M and Nicole hear James, so I'll go with that.
The Jamie bit seemed awkward in the brief Youtube clip, but it actually makes sense in context - he's just naturalistically pretending to be awkward, which actually works well.

Next, a brief bit with Mary McDonnell.

Mary: What is his name, Bear?
James: His name is Bear, and he is gonna do a concert.
Mary: He's doing a concert?
James: Yeah, I just wanted you to give like a little message to him and say you know, 'great concert and have a great time' and...
Mary: Okay. I want to wish you a great.. concert to... (puts her hand in front of the camera) I'm sorry, what was his name?
James: Bear, his name's Bear, yeah.
Mary: Bear... (smiles charmingly) Bear! I... I just hope it goes well. Is that enough?

I love how everyone keeps forgetting his name, even if Bear should be easy enough to remember. Actually, rewatching this, I've come to wonder if James isn't playing a role here also - a well-meaning, but bumbling guy who has no idea how to interview his castmates.

Katee Sackhoff is having makeup done (apparently that tattoo in Starbuck's arm isn't a real tattoo, they seem to be painting it on). James can be seen in the mirror, holding a camera. She laughs and points at something, I'm not sure if it's the camera or James' hair (which is cutely scruffy on top).

James: Wanted to ask you about um.. the music in BSG.
Katee: (confused) Oh, the drums? The drums!
James: Well, the I mean...There's more going on than just um, the drums..
James: You get into character listening to those drums...
Katee (looks confused)
James: Um... Basically, just lie. I mean, in that sense, I can cut out this...

Katee: (smiling sweetly) I love Bear's music. He's great, his music is fantastic. He's been such an instrumental part of this show for five years that we couldn't... We couldn't do without him, I love him. (blows a kiss at the camera) I wish I was there.
James: That's beautiful, that is, that is beautiful. Thank you. Happy, happy birthday...
Katee: Thank you. It didn't look too much like I was lying on that one?
James: No no no, I mean listen, none of us have heard the music, none of us care.
Katee: Cos in all honesty, I thought it was just Eddie, like, beating on shit on set.

I think "Eddie beating on shit on set" is one of the funniest lines in this video. I do wonder about EJO, because he seems like such a character. I don't know if that line would work with anyone else. And no matter how many times I see this, I still crack up at "basically just lie, I can cut out this..." and the cut there. :D Like James, Katee's really good at this sort of naturalistic mockumentary style (see the first David Eick video blog).

There's another camera in this bit, so you briefly see James walking with the camera. Jamie is having makeup done now.

James: That was pretty good, but I mean I'm just gonna.. you know, that's kinda got a bit more ... that's real here.
Jamie: You know, it's fucking hard talking about shit that you don't know...
James: You're supposed to make it up! That's what we do as actors, you're just making up, isn't it! You know...
Katee: It's really putting people on the spot, asking everyone to do this!
James: Well, I mean, but you know...
Katee: No one knows who the fuck this guy is!
James: I know! But that's whatever... Listen, it's just a favor to me, you know who I am, don't you, for fuck's sake?
Katee (looks at camera with disdain)
Jamie (unenthusiastically) Yeah...

I love how they're pretending to not even really like him. It's like "yeah, we know who you are..." You can tell James has a great chemistry with both Jamie and Katee though.

Edward James Olmos - who I will refer to as "Eddie", because everybody else does and it's contageous - and Michael Hogan are standing around an empty stage. Hogan is smoking. They're not looking particularly busy.

James: Guys? Guys, hi! Hi! Um, Eddie, Michael, um... Uh, sorry to bother you, um.. I'm doing, um, a little...
Michael: What?
James: Bear McCreary...
Eddie: Excuse me, who? Who's that?
James: Bear.
Michael: Bear Curtis?
James: The music of Battlestar Galactica.
Eddie (laughing) There's no music on Battlestar Galactica! Enough of you, get out of here!
Michael: We don't need no frakking music!
(James lowers the camera)
James: (in a low voice) There's a guy called Bear on the show. There's a guy called Bear, he does the music for the show.
Eddie: There's a guy that does the mu.. (empathically) There's no music in the show.
James: No there is, Eddie, there is!
Michael: Can I get a toke of what you're on?
Eddie (laughs)
James: (laughs) Yeah, very good. Listen, no, listen, OK? What I mean to do... He's doing a concert, this guy, and..
Michael: Oooh, I've seen his picture on the album cover, Bear. He's that... bluegrass guy.
James: OK, he's doing a ...

Eddie. But the guy's name is not Bear. What is it spelled, B-E-A-R? Is that how you spell that, B-E-A-R?
James: All I need you to say is like, Bear's doing a concert, you love this guy, and...
Eddie: Hah! (laughs)
James: ...good luck with the concert, Bear.
Eddie: Hey Bear! Rrrrrr! All the best at you! Rrrrr!
Michael (laughs)
James: (laughs) Uh... yeah.
Eddie: If there's anybody seeing this, you've been taken for a ride!
James: Genuinely, you've never heard the music on the show?
Eddie: I'm sorry man.
Michael: There's sound effects.
Eddie: There's sound effects.
Michael: Like kshhhhhh! [imitates shooting a gun]

Eddie: You know, once in a while there'll be a radio, there'll be source, but...
Michael: Yeah, yeah. There's radio, like...
James: No, cos there's like...
Eddie: Does he look like one?
James (laughs) You know he's...Yeah...
Eddie: He's like seven foot, rrrr! Like a grizzly?
Michael: Anyway, man, we were talking here so if you...
Eddie: We were doing stuff, alright? Get out of here!
James: Thanks. Sorry, man. Thanks. Thanks very much. Thanks.

Eddie's just hilarious here, especially when he does the bear impression. Also - "You've been taken for a ride"? Hee! I love how James is politely trying to keep this on topic, while the two guys keep going off on tangents and laughing, like they can't focus on such a simple thing.

The following bits are from the credits. These are obviously stuff they cut out. First, we see James and Bear at the piano again. This would be from the "can we talk about my music" part.

James (mockingly) Bear! Bear, go on Bear! Show us what you got... let's see, let's see...
Bear: You wanna hear some music? I'll play you some music!
James: Whatever.
Bear (plays the cylon baseship theme, sways to the rhythm) You hear that James? Yeah! This is music!
James (gives camera a hilarious look of utter disdain)

James: That is awful.
Bear: Awful?!
James: That is like dog poop being stuck down my ears. Don't put that on the show mate, nobody's gonna want to watch the show if you put it in...That's awful...
Bear: (incredulous) That's already in the show!
James: What?!
Bear: It's in your scenes! Have you ever watched the show?!
James: (puts hand on face) Oh god almighty, this is getting worse and worse by the minute. I could, whatever... I've worked with more musical cats!

Dog poop *dies* Actually, looking at the picture, he looks like he's about to laugh. And when he says "dog poop", it sounds a bit like that too. I wonder if they burst out laughing after he said the last line, and that's why there was a cut. I do think it works better the way it's cut - "can we talk about my music" - cut to James walking Bear to the door. But it's still fun to see this little bit here too, especially with James so proud of his poor taste in music. Incidentally, this theme is one of my very favorite pieces. I'm not sure if it's because I love Baltar and the cylons, or because it's just so beautiful and atmospheric.

There's another very brief clip in the end, where James points the camera at himself and says, "Yeah, I was gonna tell them that I was..." and then suddenly breaks into this incredibly cute giggle like he's being tickled: "ehehehehehe... no!" The camera shakes and you can see a few brief clips of him laughing. M was able to get these screenshots from those couple of seconds (Edited slightly by my girlfriend) :

You can see Michael there grabbing him. You can hear Eddie saying, "He's just frakking with you guys! There ain't no Bear! There's NO BEAR!"

Every time I watch this, I just get so happy. I was just incredibly happy all week because I've seen this. I'm so glad it's on the US DVD's (also booo to the Euro DVD's for not having it). I'd like to thank Bear, James and everyone else involved. This was just awesome.


Nicole Anell said...

Eeeee I love it! This video made me so happy too, and I loved seeing the fantastic screencaps, transcript, and as always your commentary! :D

I love that even as he plays a clueless arrogant ass, he still defaults to big words.
So true, LOL!

He really did look threatening on that frozen-smile "How did you get my address? ...Who gave you my address?" And then in his later role as the interviewer, I love how he sounds kind of flustered and intimidated when he first goes up to EJO and Michael Hogan.

I could be wrong but I think it is James with the last "yeah, exactly" line in the Jamie Bamber part.

apparently that tattoo in Starbuck's arm isn't a real tattoo, they seem to be painting it on
FYI yeah, that giant one is the matching wedding tattoo of Starbuck and Anders. But Katee also has some real tattoos.

Deniselle said...

M's screenshots truly came out amazing - I laughed so hard while watching the video, and then laughed again watching the pictures. There's something about freezing the expressions that makes them even funnier! :D It'll also be useful when the videos are inevitably taken down, because some people will surely miss out on how awesome he looks here.

Yeah, he did sound a bit like he didn't know how to talk to Eddie and Michael, and then they just totally talk over him. It was so... :D

To me it sounds like James, but it would make more sense for Jamie to say that.

I'm a bit surprised about the tattoo, since it looks quite real to me. But if that's the origin, then it would be odd if Katee had really taken a Starbuck wedding tattoo. :D

Deniselle said...

Addendum: since both you and M hear James, James it is. :P

ELINA said...

I started watching this but the volume was really low, even after i turned it at the max on both my computer and the video player! I guess I'll have to give it another try, because those screenshots look so funny...

So is it copyright protected? Can you get it somewhere else legally other than Youtube? (Of course everything on youtube is legal.......)

Deniselle said...

Elina, it's on the US seaon 4 DVDs, but unfortunately not in the European ones, so the only way to legally get it is to purchase the US DVDs.

The Youtube files are, of course, an infringement of copyright, but Bear McCreary himself linked to them in his blog, saying he doesn't endorse piracy but wants non-US people to see them.

There are also illegal ways of obtaining it, but I don't feel comfortable discussing them in public.