2007 and Beyond
Jeph Loeb (Heroes), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Chase Masterson (Deep Space Nine), Billy Campbell (The 4400, The Rocketeer), Ira S. Behr (The 4400), and Craig Tomashoff were on hand for the first panel discussion.
Tomashoff started off the discussion by asking if we’ve entered a Golden Age of science fiction and related genres on television.
Hatch: science fiction has a negative reputation based on decades of misperceptions that have tarred the entire genre, but science fiction has always allowed us to ask powerful life questions, as well as explore political and social subtext with contemporary relevance.
Hatch II: always wants to work with characters that represent that reflect the complexities of the human condition. He loved working on the original Battlestar Galactica (e.g., stories and characters). Science fiction allows us to look at ourselves, recognize moral complexity, and human flaws. actors live to play roles like that. On the current incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, the actors are kept in the dark about their futures. Hatch promised plenty of surprises, especially over the next two episodes, airing tonight and next week.
Hatch III: As a genre, science fiction is more viable. Production costs have come down, and with the ongoing success of genre television, network producers aren’t as hesitant or reluctant as they once were to greenlight potentially expensive shows. The original BSG was too expensive and was cancelled as a result (and not because of low ratings).
Masterson: always Golden Age, since it’s so malleable and has contemporary relevance. Part II: legal dramas, medical dramas don’t have conventions, dedicated fans. It’s about the characters. Innate nostalgia for the future.
Behr: doesn’t think too much about the big questions (e.g., political, social, cultural) just getting show produced to audiences receptive to the content. Genres films and television have tended to have resilience. Think of film noir, think of movies like the original Invasion of Body Snatchers, which was made fifty years ago. Who’s still watching Out of Africa, the 1980 Academy Award winner for Best Picture?
Behr II: The 4400 has evolved and continues to evolve, inherent volatility. Quoted filmmaker Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game, Grand Illusion): “every man has his reasons,” to explain character complexity. They’ve put to rest the saving the future plotline. Jordan Collier (Campbell), a pivotal character in The 4400 began to hand out Promycin at the end of the last season. The new season will explore the impact on society when everyone gets a power (or dies). Is Collier a (or the) Messiah, deluded, or a con man? As the de facto leader of “The 4400,” Collier hopes to take the world into a new age, but will he bring on end of the world.
Campbell: doesn’t watch television, doesn’t know what’s going on, enjoys not knowing whether Jordan Collier is a hero or villain, or changes from one another.
Loeb: Technology, special effects, world crafting, outer space, were all, once, incredibly expensive for television. Now, however, there’s no need to travel for locations; actors perform in front of green screens, backgrounds can be added in later during post-production. The quality of special effects is vitally important. Otherwise, audiences won’t buy in to the world up on the small screen. With better special effects, audiences are more willing to go on “imagination ride.” Why should we care about the characters, what do they mean to me, to audiences? Loeb was quick to point out that Heroes’ isn’t just about the powers, but about the characters and the problems they have to face. He referred to Spider-Man and Batman as relatable characters. It’s about backstories, creating identification between audiences and characters.
Loeb II: back to the Renoir quote: Darth Vader never imagined himself as a villain. “Good” villains don’t imagine themselves as such, they believe they’re doing good for the greater good. For Heroes and actors, unpredictability is key, actors don’t know where characters what they’ll do, how their relationships with other characters will change. That has the added benefit of keeping the actors happy and challenged.
Loeb III: discussed mythology and backstories. Genre films and television programs have an inherent need to explain the premise, the environment and the world characters inhabit early on and stick with it. For Heroes, they made sure to keep the world as closely tied to the real (our) world as possible. That opens up the audience beyond genre fans. The last arc will answer all the major questions posited during the first few episodes while generating new ones to launch the second season. Writers are already breaking down season two (luckily, Heroes was renewed early in the first season), new plot, new elements. First season will end with some cliffhangers.
Loeb IV: Heroes will obviously spawn imitators, some good, and some bad. Genre or general audiences didn’t appreciate the big screen incarnations of the Hulk and Daredevil, but they’ll be rebooted, as Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins (i.e., death of comic book adaptations).
Drive, new Fox television series, mid-season replacement. On hand were Kristin Lehman (Prison Break, Tilt), Nathan Fillion (Slither, Firefly, Serenity), Ben Green, producer and co-creator of Drive with Tim Minnear (Standoff,Wonderfalls, Firefly, Angel) who wasn’t able to attend WonderCon due to Drive-related obligations.
Here’s the premise for Drive: an illegal, cross-country race involving numerous drivers (close to fifty) with a $32 million dollar paycheck for the winner. Fillion’s character, Alex Tully, gets pulled into the race by an unseen character that’s kidnapped his wife. If Tully doesn’t win, she dies. Lehman’s character, Corinna Wiles, stows away in Tully’s truck and becomes his confidante/sidekick. Drive also follows several characters, but Tully is the viewpoint character we follow.
Green openly acknowledged The Gumball Rally and The Cannonball Run (both starring Burt Reynolds) as key influences on Drive. Green promised plenty of plot twists and turns, with enough mysteries, current and developing, to take Drive into several seasons.