January 29, 2009 Jill

Written by has a terrific piece on Joss Whedon. It offers some great insights to the guy behind Buffy and Dr Horrible. Some of his comments about writing are just great:

“I have never written a single thing that wasn’t meant to be read, and that’s part of why I never wrote rough drafts of any of my papers,” he says. “With my little typewriter [and] before we could delete things, every paper I wrote, I thought, The next sentence better be the right one, because you can’t go back.” He adds that he never kept a diary because he assumed it would have to be read one day.

“When I write, I spend most of my time on my feet, and then when I know what it is I want to say, I sit down,” he explains. “I don’t like to look at a computer screen and see a placeholder line; it will make it harder for me to write.” He can also get stuck for days trying to think up a name. “I need to know who that guy is, so I need the name, and it can kill me. I’ve got this time blocked out to write, and I can’t just say Mr. X. It’s really debilitating.”

But what interested me most was the stuff about Dr Horrible:

The show was a web pioneer, streaming online for free before becoming available for sale on iTunes, where it shot to the top of the charts. It also broke new ground, half-leaning on the rock. Although there’s no way to tell where it ranks in terms of online programming, it is certifiably the most successful web musical of all time. Whedon’s traits are on display—humor, humanity, musical chops, reversal of expectations, tragic twists—but serving a new medium and no masters. Make that two masters: Whedon and his audience. What makes it even more delightful is that it sprung from the mind of a man who is so Internet-unsavvy, he insists, “I’m the guy who can’t find the porn.”

The genesis for Dr Horrible came, it seems, partly from Star Trek: New Voyages and partly from Felicia Day.

Whedon was inspired by shows he had seen online, like Star Trek: New Voyages, a show created by fans that continues the original Star Trek series. “I sat at my counter in my kitchen watching the thing, and so help me God, crying. And I’m not even a Trekkie,” he says. The Guild (www.watchtheguild.com), a sitcom webisode about a group of online gamers, was another influence. The show’s star, Felicia Day, who played a recurring role on the final season of Buffy, had created and self-funded it. Whedon ran into Day on the picket line and asked her to explain how the Web works. “She has one of those crazy Rainman brains, she’s sooo smart, so I sat her down to tell me about monetizing the Internet, and halfway through I was like, I’m just going to drink my tea and smile and nod and pretend I understand because my God she talks fast.”

I knew Felicia Day was a genius and it seems like Joss knows too:

Once the project was completed, a few companies took interest in it. Joss and his cohorts went to a meeting at CAA, “and they were literally like, ”˜We don’t know how to proceed with this,’” at which point Day took the lead. “Felicia was following sites and [explaining that] ”˜you have to go here, and they don’t have a bandwidth, and we always said we were going to stream this for free, and we don’t want to let go of that,’” Joss says with wonder. “She was so on top of it, the rest of us were like, ”˜Yeah, what she said.’ It was like a Buffy moment—the cute little girl in the room blows everybody out of the water.”

Put a writer in charge and what kind of a business model will he come up with?

Joss also positioned the writers and three principle actors as profit participants. “There’s no reason why there can’t be a business model that is completely inclusive in profit participation. I’m the studio. I still get way more than everybody else, after I make back my production costs and everything’s paid out. When we’re into pure profit, which at this point we are, I win. So—and this was the whole thing during the strike —why try to offer us nothing, when all we’re asking for is a percentage? You can’t say that 99 percent is ever a bad number.”

There’s more to the article, Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse.  You can read the whole thing online at the WGA site.


Comments (2)

  1. Felicia is not only smart, but super fast and witty, too.

    Felicia is paving the way for creator OWNED and CONTROLLED content.

    If the networks were smart, they’d start adapting internet “stations” much like what they did when radio became television.

    Since no one is doing much of anything, the models are going to be forged by the forerunners. The Guild is currently LICENSED by Microsoft. An unheard of step for television —

    –but man, what a utopian paradise it would be if networks were ONLY involved in distribution, allowing the creators to control content.

    Novel concept, isn’t it?

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