Friday, January 27, 2012

CM_SetReport Chat Transcript for Breen Frazier 01-26-11

pagetgirl101: BREEN!!!! YOU DA

Breen Frazier (BF): French slappy chick is our bad guy for season 8 y'all.

Hannah_CM: Hi Breen, do you have a favourite episode which you have wrote? :)

BF: Was thinking about this last night. I differentiate between the scripts and what's shot. I think if you read Cradle to Grave and compared it Uncanny Valley, C2G is a better read. Right now, Unknown Subject is my favorite. When I think about the process, the word that comes to mind is "seamless." The director, the cast, the way it cut together like butter. It really was a fab experience.

avferreira: Were the songs used in the episode already on your script or were they chosen by the music department?

BF: I chose the songs. Guess how much we spent? Over $100,000. They were both written by Jim Steinman, who co-wrote Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell. They were written for an unused rock opera about a vampire. When the rock opera didn't go anywhere, he pawned them off to Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply. But if you listen to them, you can totally hear Meat Loaf singing them.

swon: Breen, amazing episode! Paget told us that the last jet scene was supposed to be longer...can you PLEASE tell us what else was written for that scene that didn't make the episode??

BF: Paget says, "I'm having a bad day." Hotch: "Do you want to talk about it?" "No." "Do you want some time off?" "No. (BEAT) I want the old me back." Then Hotch says, "Well, she's gone. But you're still here." And Michael Lange, the director felt that the scene's high point was Prentiss saying, "Bad day." That's why you hire directors.

LornaDavenport:What would YOU like to see in the show's future? Romance? More sick and twisted unsubs?

BF: More sick and twisted UnSubs, which we don't seem to be in any danger of running out of. That's the show's bread and butter, that's what keeps 15million people tuning in week after week. The challenge for me is dig into the psychology of why they do what they do. Romance is a close fifth, though. Personally, I don't love writing romantic scenes for these characters, it's a hard tonal shift after the disembowelment scenes.

bgmbrme: are there times were it's a great read, but doesn't work when cameras start rolling??

BF: Oh heck yes. Trying to think of an example. Well, here's one from 52 Pickup. Hotch and Rossi find the UnSub's mom and we see the source of all his trauma. She says, "I need to be changed." It was so bad the first time we reshot it and it was still bad.

thetruthbetween: I LOVED the Charade shout-outs! Regina Lampert, Hamilton Bartholemew, Peter Joshua? Epic. Is that a favorite movie?

BF: It is a favorite movie and I have no idea why it sprang to mind as I was writing this script. It's a lighthearted, low-key Hitchcock rip-off, but brilliant in its own way. I think what drew me to it was that the Hamilton Bartholomew character in the movie was underplayed by Walter Matthau, who turns out to be the ultimate bad guy. I wanted to convey that sense of pulling the rug out from under you, and you can't wrong ripping off that movie. Even if all you steal are the names.

laurenreynoldsisdead: Why did you choose Hotch to comfort Prentiss, rather than JJ or another team member?

BF: There was some chatter about this when I teased it in my last chat. Fans felt that any of the characters who suffered trauma could comfort her. And considering they've all pretty much suffered trauma, it was dealer's choice. However... Hotch was the only one who would have access to her psych report. Hotch was the one who covered up her death. Hotch was the one who was knife-raped by the Reaper where Prentiss was gored by Ian Doyle. As such, it felt like a rich Hotch/Prentiss scene to write. And that's why I went that way.

HotchDAMN: How did you decide to have 2 unsubs for 7x12 and was there ever any question that Regina would have captured the "wrong" man (not HER actual rapist)?

BF: No, I wanted her to capture the right guy. I don't know why, it was just storytelling instinct. The way we broke this ep was, we figured out the UnSub story first, meaning Regina/Hamilton. What that little play was, how she caught him, how he reacted in captivity, how he turned the tables with the slut-shaming story, how they fought, and how Prentiss would have to lie to her to get her to put the gun down. Going back to the first part of your question, THAT'S why it had to be right guy. I knew that Prentiss had to lie to her to disarm Regina. But I'll tell you this, I'm never writing an episode with two UnSubs again. Because the minute you do that, you double the amount of exposition the audience has to track. Or, as my father shouted over the phone to me this morning, "It was too damn confusing!"

poucelina79: Hi Paget, I really loved last nights episode, especially the plane scenes. My Question, did you have to film that scene about Sergio a few times? I think it was hilarious! ::laugh

PB: I'm so glad you liked it. Yes, we shoot every scene many times to give the editors and director choices in editing. Sadly, the final scene in the jet with Hotch had to be cut down to keep the episode at the right length for airplay. It was a longer scene and we had a great time doing it.

bookwurn32191: Breen, do you have any advice to aspiring screenwriters?

BF: How old are you? Rough Estimate. College? Post-grad? High school? 60s?

bookwurn32191: College.

BF: Okay, good. What I mean is, you're at an exciting point in your life. If you go to film school, you will be surrounded by budding directors, directors of photography, etc. But writing is the great equalizer. If you can WRITE you can tell a story. That's the first thing you have to be able to do is communicate visually through words on a page. The screenwriting software out there is top notch. I recommend Final Draft, that's pretty much industry standard and it's really easy to use. For story structure, I am a fan of Robert McKee's "Story." Virgil Williams recommends Christopher Vogler's "The Hero's Journey." Finally, and most importantly, WRITE. Every day. IT IS A MUSCLE. One trick that I learned recently is, don't write on a computer screen. When I have 60 pages to write, and there's a blinking cursor, all I want to do is check my email and in that order. But when I write longhand something unlocks in my brain and I can get the pages done. Unfortunately, ep720 is now at 72 pages when it needs to br 55. So there's that.

cmwonderlady: Hi Breen! What's your next episode and who will be the team member on focus?

BF: It's 720. Morgan is the focus.

jillian: Would you ever consider publishing one of your scripts online for the fans?

BF: If we're allowed. ABC has weird policies about that. But if we get permission and you guys vote on your favorite, we'll be happy to put it out. I think what would be most interesting would be the first draft AND the final draft so you can see how the writing evolves.

ZoeyJzzz: I can't believe I'm asking this, but have you ever read Criminal Minds fanfiction and if you did, what was your reaction?

BF: I haven't. I don't want to get inspired.

JJHotchner: Will anyone on the team ever meet Beth?

BF: Yes, that's going to happen soon. Can’t say when but soon.

debra: Are we going to see more of Prentiss continuing to deal with the repurcussions of the Doyle arc and her reintegration throughout the season?

BF: There will be a few beats throughout the season, but nothing substantial. I don't want to say that Prentiss is hunky-dory after last night, but it's one of those things where we've mined the most dramatic potential, mirroring her emotional state against the UnSub. There are only so many episodes where one of the team members goes, "That's just like me!"

kitten0409: Please, somebody tell Breen's dad that the episode was fantastic/interesting/intriguing, anything except confusing! ;)

BF: Mom?

toloveandbelovedbyme: did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and how did you deal with it when people discouraged you?

BF: When I went to college, I wanted to be a big movie director just like all of my classmates and every transplant to Los Angeles. Then I shot my senior project and discovered how freaking hard it is to direct. I am not a visual person. I don't think in terms of light or color scheme. I think in terms of character, dilemma and conflict. When I came out here, I learned that there was exponentially more work in TV than movies. That's esp true if you want to write. Think about it, there's 10 job on every show. That's 10 writing positions. There's only one or two or four names on a feature written by credit. Once I figured that out, I decided to focus on writing TV, and this was a time when dramatic TV was exploding. From ER to Sopranos to Buffy. You could do so much more over a season than you could in two hours. Once I made the shift, I never looked back and I've been very happy ever since.

ohmyhotch: If you could meet one real life serial killer or other creeper, for inspirational purposes or otherwise, who would you like to meet?

BF: Hitler, just to get a sense of his mania, as shown in the propoganda. There's an OSS psych profile of him online that's fascinating. Manson would be good, to get a sense of how he could get control over so many people. I wonder if he could do it without the aid of mind-altering drugs. Bundy, who seems like the charmer without the LSD.

TN-1T: In your mind, did Prentiss have qualms about lying to Regina?

BF: Yeah, I think she did. But I think it was a decision she made in the moment to avoid something much worse happening -- Regina pulling the trigger and going to prison. This was something I struggled with, would Regina be able to get under her skin. To a certain extent, she would be like, "Yeah, I did it, so what?" That's why Regina figuring out Prentiss was a victim of similar trauma was the turn in the scene. That's where she gets to stick the knife in. Or, if you prefer, the wooden stake.

MrJ: Do any of the team have a secret talent that hasn't been made canon yet because it's not relevent?

BF: JJ plays the accordion. Morgan plays the jews harp. Hotch plays a double bass. Rossi sings. Reid plays the harpsichord. They're going on tour like the Partridges for Season 10.

uhmlyeah: Why the emphesis on self-contained episodes. It really stymies character development of the team.

BF: This is a complicated question. At the end of the day, we're a CBS show. If you're on CBS, this is the deal. I think there's a way you can make that more interesting to the audience though, because part of them is tuning in for the comfort food TV of it. Part of them are tuning in so they can fill in the personal stories.

emilyPOW: do you ever get nightmares due to your job

BF: Nope. Never. People think we do, but we never do. I think there's an exorcism that happens on the page that keeps you from taking it home. I will say that I'm a lot more secure, more aware of leaving doors open around the house, keep my kids on a short leash.

Amplifigaytion: Can you give us a Morgan/Reid s7 tidbit? I'm not holding my breath for a secret marriage, but I'll take what I can get.

BF: There's not a lot. It's not a creative decision, it's just one of those things. For instance, right now, Matthew is getting ready to direct, so there's not a lot of Reid/Morgan. Shoot. I wish I could think of something good but I can't. But they still like each other. The characters and the actors. We'll spin them off in Season 9.

SesameSquirrel: What kind of other background reading do you do for prepping on unsubs? (besides OSS profiles)

BF: Depends on the UnSub. We have a great researcher who pulls anything and everything we want with frightening speed. In last night's ep, I had a vague memory of reading something in the NYTimes about the age at which music imprints on us and she had that article printed out within 5 minutes. My favorite book on SK's is Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn about Fred and Rosemary West. Crime non-fiction is a mixed bag. There's a lot of bad stuff out there and it's easy to waste your time. But that book is one of the best.

toloveandbelovedbyme: Do you ever get inspiration for the show from your dreams?

BF: No. I'm most inspired by movies. I mentioned in my last chat that there was a Korean movie about a woman lashed to a piano via piano wire. That's where the torture came from.

itscalledastarpuzzle: is there any content that you are not allowed to write about for the show?

BF: Network frowns on incest. You have to be careful with kids. And a lot of times the network just wants a win. Even if there are no survivors, they want to see the BAU arrest or shoot the UnSub. So to have an episode where we lose, it's an uphill battle. The network will let us do it, but we have justify it in terms of story necessity. And we can only do it so many times a season.

JJHotchner: Can you tell us the title for 7x20?

BF: The Company.

laurenreynoldsisdead: Do you have any spoilers for the upcoming episodes?

BF: Keep an eye on my bad guy for 720. Virgil's writing one that's a great structure screw up.

laurenreynoldsisdead: Will we ever get a sex scene?

BF: Not a good one. Only so much you can do on CBS.

toloveandbelovedbyme: Who wrote the upcoming episode where Morgan is half naked in Garcia's apartment? Because I Love them.

BF: Bruce Zimmerman. I love him too.

Jenn: Do you ever have particular actors in mind to guest star as the unsubs/victims you write? If so, so they usually end up being the ones cast?

BF: YES. I wanted Patton Oswalt for last night's episode. That was possible because Paget is friends with him. But he was doing press for Young Adult when we shot this and was unavailable.

BreenMegan: Can we get another serial killer arc? Like Foyet?

BF: We're working on it, but it won't be as many episodes as Foyet or Ian Doyle.

prentisslovesreid: Do you like writing episodes where the victim dies and isn't rescued before they catch the unsub? Should we expect any soon?

BF: Depends on the needs of the episode. If it dictates it, then sure. I'm more interested in writing compelling scenes and if how you handle death is part of it, great. Can't think of any eps where that's going to happen, but that's just my bad memory.

devoncarrots: Breen do you think that we'll ever see an episode that has a Trans* character?

BF: TG? No. If you remember, there was some outcry about that WRT Silence of the Lambs. I don't think we'll do a TG UnSub, because I don't want to misrepresent the TG cause. If you pursue that, your issues don't overlap with the paraphilia of most UnSubs.

theadoptedbrewster: breen i love you okay

ZoeyJzzz: You said that you write every day, Breen. What do you write, other than the scripts?

BF: Really, nothing. If I'm not writing, we're in the writers room, which is exercising the same muscle.

laurenreynoldsisdead: If you could have any celebrity on CM, who would it be?

BF: Can't think of anyone great. I was thrilled with last night's ep. Jay Karnes is actually a better fit than Patton. We have a great casting gang and that's what they excel at

personthing: Did you know you have a fanpage on Facebook?

BF: NO! What is it? Is it better than Minions of Drew Goddard?

SmileyGidget:Do you enjoy the opportunity (when you get them) to meet your fans and fans of the show?!

BF: Love it. They're really nice. Appreciative. And smart. Really, really smart. They value the show and in a lot of ways, that's who we're writing for because you keep us honest.

lauraandsergio: Have you ever had really awful writers block before something huge like february sweeps is supposed to happen?

BF: Some episodes are just harder than others. I hit the wall at the end of the season because I'm tired and don't want to write another scene of a girl screaming. No terrible writers block, though. One thing that keeps that from happening is, we've broken the story in the room. So you know what you're going to write. It's just a question of the discipline to write it.

CM_fan89: Do you ever write habits of the cast members into their characters?

BF: Paget biting her nails. That became an unexpected story turn in Lauren. The bit about Prentiss faking Declan's death was a late addition to the script. We needed something in the pictures to prove it and Paget's terrible incredibly gross fingernails suddenly became a useful plot point.

SesameSquirrel: What goes on in the writers room? Spitball fights? Brainstorming? Or will you be strangled with piano wire if you tell us?

BF: A lot of trash talking, but it's mostly good-natured. There was more drinking in Season 5. But we're healthier now.

tabularossi: How do you get the voice of each character right? (phrasing, word choice, etc.)

BF: That's the journey of each writer with the show. I think Reid was easiest for me. I just write a big speech and he delivers it verbatim. A lot of times you get feedback from the actors and we take it very seriously. The drinking was a component of a VERY small writing staff. Now that we have the right number of writers, we're not nearly as stressed.

criminalmusings: Drink more!

alyssa_croft_: Have you ever aired an episode that you wish you didn't? Or wish you could have changed? If so which one?

BF: Compromising Positions was my least favorite. I just never got that script to where I wanted it to be. I think part of it is, when the UnSub loses his mind and shoots up a swingers' party, you can't really come back from that and ground it. 52 Pickup... love the character stuff in that, but the UnSub just never made sense. Also, there was a mom who pooped herself in that one.

OrkutCM: Hello Breen, hugs from Brasil...

LornaDavenport: What's your favourite line you've ever wrote in an script?

BF: Last night's ep. JJ: "And his tramp stamp probably spells out Massengil." AJ nailed it.
That's it for me, guys! Thank you so much!!!


  1. thanks for the chat script. Enjoyed reading it :D
    May I give you some inputs to psych. evaluations for Law Enforcement?
    - Details can not be contained therein, only if he/she is fit-for-duty or not. It's against the doctor-patient confidentiality and for protecting the examinee (ethics)
    - Employees/Supervisor talking about the findings, must be done at workplace. Where no one can overhear the conversation. (Pilot, airplane door open) Wrong place Emily was right with:"here"?
    - Hotch misused his position to his own advantage (he wanted avoid being analyzed through his office window) and too because he has not previously informed her - he wants discussing the findings.
    - Employees medical records must be kept always under lock and can not be "openly carried around" while on a case. Duty of care
    - examinee must respond honestly to questions (psychologist) otherwise the findings are biased

    + he wanted to make a deal. Nice! (But I see a conflict of interest)

  2. This page is so far back, you may never read this, but on the off chance that you do, I wanted to comment. First, I consider Unknown Subject to be the best episode of the season, hands down. I loved it.

    Regarding your comment that it's the unsubs that the viewers tune in for, I want to give my reasons. For me, it's watching a highly intelligent and skilled team capture the unsubs by getting into their heads. And watching the closeness of this professional family. But, also, the thing I found made the show a cut above was the respect and attention given to the victims. The humanizing of them. Which I feel has been missing lately. And, another reason why I loved your episode. That you showed us the interviews with the women. That you gave us extended scenes not just with Regina, but with Diana as well. I know the unsubs are a main part of the show, but I like when the show gives the impression that the victims are the important ones. To me, it's the thing that makes the show stand out. And, your episode delivered.


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