Working the Beats for the Movies

Stargate Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi has just reported in his weblog, “The beat sheet for the SGA movie is in Paul [Mullie]’s hands and he has promised to work on it this weekend and put it out on Monday.” Mallozzi also reported earlier this month, “Carl [Binder] put out a preliminary beat sheet for the next SG-1 movie and will, no doubt, be expecting notes in the coming days.”

What exactly is a beat sheet? One of Mallozzi’s readers asked that very question back in February this year, so Mallozzi answered it in his “mail bag”: “A beat sheet is a general breakdown of an episode’s key moments. It can be something as simple as = Act 1: 1. The team arrives off-world and discovers the device, 2. Back on Atlantis, the device is triggered, 3. The Atlantis personnel start acting funny, 4. Everyone wakes up to discover they’ve changed gender. End of Act 1.”

What follows the beat sheet could be a revision or an outline: “The outline, on the other hand, is a fleshed-out, scene by scene breakdown of the episode.”

The process went something like this for an Atlantis episode: “Although the scripts are written individually, the formation of the story and its various beats are a team effort. Someone will pitch out a story, we’ll offer suggestions, then that person will go off and work on a beat sheet. We’ll all weigh in with our suggestions, then they may go off and flesh out the beat sheet into a proper working outline. From there, after another round of input, it’s off to script.”

Several years ago, Mallozzi published a “Production Diary” for Solutions that stepped through the production process. His current weblog is an even more detailed reference for the day-to-day procedures of producing a season of episodes (but also includes Mallozzi’s other non-Stargate subjects of interest).

Because the Atlantis movie was originally conceived as a two-part episode to follow the events from Season Five’s finale, “Enemy at the Gate”, it will probably adhere to similar production steps, but in Mallozzi’s words, “…the difference being that we’ll be able to tell our story on a much bigger, visual effects-laden, character-centered canvas.” The yet-to-be-titled movie is scheduled to be filmed in the late spring or early summer next year and then make its broadcast premiere on the Sci Fi Channel following the first ten episodes of Stargate Universe—possibly in the fall of 2009—before being distributed on DVD by MGM.

The third SG-1 movie has not yet been officially announced, however. If it follows the same production path as its two predecessors, it will be released directly to DVD. According to Mallozzi, “If all goes as planned, we should be filming both the SGA movie and the third SG-1 around the same time next year.”

Visit Solutions’ SG-1 Movies and Atlantis Movies pages for updates on the development of these two movies.

The following entries in Mallozzi’s blog were references for this article: