|Posted by carpechakram on December 6, 2010 at 12:42 AM|
Dear Fans of the show, what fun it is to have these questions asked and have people still care. To see all of the old handlesbrings back fond memories. This period of my life from 1994 to 2001 was thus far the most creatively satisfying time anyone could hope to experience. I knew atthe time that what was happening was special. I enjoyed it as much as I could and knew that it would one day end. Thus I enjoy looking back upon Xena. I knowthat there is no going back but, like Star Trek, there is still something left in the franchise and the characters that merits at least continued support andhope that somehow something will arise from the ashes I left behind.
1. Lucy spoke about a project after Battlestar Galactica with you. Is it going to be the musical she talked about, some time ago or is it something else?
I sure would still like to do a musical with Lucy. It has lost some momentum as of late. Lucy doesnt love the script and that is a problem. My Buddy, Mark Beesley, who wrote it, loves the script. He is thinking about the rewrite to try to address Lucys problems. Then there is the financial issue.
I had this tv project at Oxygen that was called Escape from Graphic City but through the development process became JUMP. An entirely different project. Oxygen has just been sold (just as I turned in the draft) and in a couple of months I will know if they are interested in that.
Also the original Graphic City didnt work as a series. It was a movie idea. It is still a CRAZY idea and I recently got a piece of inspiration that might let me fix it.
2. Q.: Is any of the next Ghost House projects going to have you as the director?
No, I doubt it. At least for the time being. I like directing and if I did produce something with Lucy and Renee I would want to direct that!
3. Q.: In most TV shows / series I've seen, none of the characters are so well developed as Gabrielle was in X:WP. Do you think it's the public who doesn't want changes or it's just the producers not taking risks?
You (like many who have written ) must be a Gab Fan!!! Certainly there have been other characters on tv who have changed and grown. It is harder for the lead like a Xena to change as the audience wants that consistency.
Producers do want to take risks. They want to please the audience, break new ground, and get ratings. As long as they do not alienate the audience, the studio lets them take some risks. Later I touch on this in detail.
As far as Gabrielles growth, we are glad that she grew. Now, with hindsight, maybe the series was about her growth. Thanks Renee for bringing this character to life!
4. Q. From Xena to 30 Days of Night: how different is it now to film in New Zealand? Has it become easier, or more expensive, for instance?
NZ has become more expensive and better trained. There are more crews. The people that started on Herc in the early days are now 15 years older. The next time I work in NZ I am going to try using people that I have not worked with before. Give the new younger folks a try.
5. Question: Do you plan to be at the helm of a new tv show? If yes, what type would it be (horror? action? fantasy?...) ?
I am desperate to do a Fantasy TV show. This darn writers strike put a crimp in my plans. I have a script that Lucy and I love that we wanted to do at Oxygen. It got stalled with the sale of Oxygen to NBC and now with the strike. It is a what if modern-day show about jumping to all the lives you could have led if you had made different decisions in your life. In the coming months I will have news in this arena.
I have also been working with Sam on bringing a new fantasy show to Tribune. That will be either a go or a no in the coming days.
6. Any regrets about how Xena ended? And how long do you feel as a fan/director/producer of a series (any series) is the optimum number of seasons, assuming the studio agrees? Thanks!
The optimum number of seasons is one of the how long is a piece of string? questions. The usual speech about going out on top etc., is a bunch of hooey.
As far as how things ended. Well, I failed as producer (on Hercules and on Xena) in that things ended and I didnt want them to end. I thought the end of the series was the lead into something new with Xena. Elsewhere I talk about the possible TV movies. What I should have done at the end of XENA was over any objections by Lucy, Renee and anyone else, secured some sort of tv commitment for a mini series or something when it was on the table. Then if the actresses didnt want to do it, I could have pulled out. Unfortunately, based on Lucys and Renees sentiment at the time, I called and said NO to the tv movie offer when I should have said Yes. Unfortunately, I was drinking my own Kool Aid at that time. I failed Producing 101---- Never EVER turn a Green light into a Red Light.
I have NO regrets with killing Xena at the end of FIN. I do have other issues with those episodes. I should have reigned in some of the performances and fixed some of the lame script moments. It would have been nice to see what Gabrielle warrior princess was capable of going forward. Like having an episode after FINs which shows the ongoing dynamics. Kind of like Dj Vu was at the end of season IV after IDES. I actually do not think people would have had a problem if Gabrielle died with Xena at the end of FIN or knew that Gabrielle was not traumatized. It is the reality of Gabrielle having to go on alone that people found objectionable.
For those who really cared about Gabrielles journey and growth they know that Xenas death was not a tragedy but a step in life. For those who only cared about them as lovers, Xenas death was the ultimate tragedy.
7. What was your best memory of making Evil Dead with Sam Raimi?
Poking Bruce Campbell with sharp sticks in his sprained ankle; eating the cooks, David Goodmans, famous chili and waking up on the floor 10 hours later; drinking mountain Dew; smoking Marlboro lights and eating Moon Pies as a lifestyle.
It was actually a learning process. In the year of post in NYC we hung around with Joel and Ethan Coen and Barry Sonnenfeld. Ate Friday nights at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, and generally gained a bunch of good memories. Bruce Campbells book IF CHINS COULD KILL really covers this era and its high and low points.
8. Question: Do you have any plans or foresee any future plans to bring the unique chemistry of Lucy & Rene together again on the big or small screen in a non-Xena project?
NOTHING WOULD MAKE ME HAPPIER!!!!!!!!!!!! I am but one person
9. Question(s): At the NJ Xena con in June, you said that Universal had offered a small budget for a Xena movie which was not enough to produce the film you'd like to do. Are there any other sources of financing that could be explored to supplement Universal's offered budget so a Xena movie could be produced for TV, theaters or direct to DVD? Are there any ways that fans could help with financing such as how we helped Rene with Diamonds & Guns?
Ultimately the home video/dvd people say that the franchise is worthless to them or not worth the effort and the promotional cost. The reason they say this is a long boring story but Panzer Davis Corp who licensed the video and dvds from Universal/Studios USA during the turmoil of the sale of the tv division in the late 90s are on the surface crooks. They owe Lucy, Renee, and I money for our commentaries and are years in arrears. They have not reported sales to us for 2006. They have done a bad job marketing the dvds and, as such, the units sold are lower than Universal Home Entertainment is willing to bother with. Panzer Davis says or reports that only 225,000 sets were sold (although) I think this is rubbish. I believe that more sets were sold but, equally, I do not see it for sale in any chain stores. The problem is that they are not a distributor but a merchandising company.
As far as fans helping to finance something, that is a bad idea. I would never take their money if I wouldnt use my own first. There really isnt a deal to be done. The rights are a mishmash and complicated. The real cost to do something is a lot. If an episode was 1.25M 10 years ago when the kiwi dollar was at $.55 ( it is now at $.78), a two-hour movie would easily be 3.5M at a minimum. Something like THE DEBTS, SIN TRADES OR FIN would easily be 6M or more.
Something tells me that a Renee and Lucy movie that hinted of XENA would work for the 200,000 people who bought the season box sets. By studio calculations (200,000 x $9.00 per dvd ) that would justify a budget of around 1.8M with tv as the potential profit center. That isnt much money.
10. Question: What are your thoughts about the Xena comics? Are the comics true to how you see the characters?
Do you as the original creator of the characters and TV series get any say or input on how the comics develop or portray the characters from the TV series?
I hate the comics and dont even glance at them. The people who publish them have done the series a disservice. They also have the Army of Darkness comics and Sam, Bruce and I feel that they have overstepped the boundaries with that franchise. We have nothing to do with the publishers or the content. You would think they might have called and asked about doing business together. But they just license the properties from Universal and then do as they please.
11. Question: I recently saw a story about Hollywood's latest successful trend to bring comic books and graphic novels to the big screen like Sam's Spiderman. Do you think this trend would pique Universal's interest in bringing Xena to the big or small screen as a property that went from a TV series to a comic book to a movie? Would you want a Xena movie to happen that way or is the comic book version too different from your vision of Xena and Gabrielle?
If the comic people could help get a movie made great, but they cant.
12. Question: Considering the rapidly changing technology and the current trends in the entertainment industry, do you feel that the future of films is more in home entertainment like direct to DVD than the commercial movie theaters?
Great question. There will always be a BIG movie that creates a group experience. You want to see SUPERBAD or 300 with a big group of people. Equally there are more and more niche movies that do not deserve or command the 25M plus needed to launch a movie to the general audience. Thus it seems like home entertainment is a growth industry. I believe that traditional TV is a dinosaur. Kids play games or watch Youtube. The dvd market is shrinking. Too much crap out there. Thus something is changing. My fear is that the movie business will become like the music business and will be file sharing and really then a business of contraction.
This all says that I dont know anything about what is happening!!
13. Question: At the NJ Xena convention in June, you said that Universal made a mistake in how they marketed Xena the series. What do you think they should have done differently?
If I said that, I misspoke or was misunderstood. Universal as a corporate entity was in turmoil in the mid to late 90s. Edgar Bronfman of/and Seagrams bought the company and mismanaged the assets. They starred Kevin Sorbo as KULL. Well, the tv division was spending huge money promoting Sorbo as HERCULES and the feature people were creating confusion by marketing him as KULL. They were confusing their own brands.
Then Barry Diller bought the TV division of Universal. However, he didnt want to grow the business. He fought with Universal and licensed (or allowed) the home video/dvd on Herc and Xena to be licensed to Panzer Davis. There was no Sid Sheinberg (one time head of Universal) who looked after the asset for the corporation. It was just divisions looking out for themselves. This problem continues today. Even though Diller sold the entity back to Universal and made a Billion dollars for adding no value, there is no one in the NBC/GE Corp who looks at the franchise from a big picture overview.
A movie or miniseries or a dvd series would freshen up the library on the 134 episodes they have that continue to play around the world. There just isnt a division that sees a huge profit center from doing a one off. However, from a corporate overall strategy, freshening up the series with new material would increase the value of the assets they already have.
14. What did you originally plan to do with a degree in economics?
I have no idea. I took a hard economics class in college that had 1100 students in it and was taught on tv. I got the second highest grade in that class and the teacher told me to go into economics so I did. I was studying Natural Resource Economics when I left school -- which was the study of how to manage the states resources to maximize the public good.
15. You once said in an interview that you respected Sam in college because he was a "wise ass", as are youhow so?
I dont remember saying this. I was always impressed with Sams creativity and he was an impish wise ass in some peoples eyes but I was never a wise ass. I was somber.
16. Your first film with Sam and Ivan was "The Happy Valley Kid" do you still have a copy of it?
I have a -inch tape and a vhs copy in NZ. The only print was destroyed (all the sprocket holes shredded in the projector) in April of 1979 when we were showing the movie to our friend, John Cameron, at NYU. That was the night that the US helicopters crashed while trying to go into Iran and get the hostages.
Sam still has the film in a bag and says that he is going to restore it one day. Peter Jackson has a special machine in NZ that will transfer super eight with bad sprockets to digital. It is the only machine like this in the world. I need to convince Sam to preserve the Happy Valley Kid.
17. Sam had sort of lost his nerve/drive after the failure of your second movie "Its Murder", but you wouldnt let it diewhy?
Not so. Sam made ITS MURDER and I helped do the post production sound. I also helped market and exhibit it (I was the ticket seller and taker). It bombed in college and was a good lesson, but it really spurred us on to making a feature after that. We thought we understood why it bombed and could use that knowledge. I have never seen Sam lose his nerve.
18. Renaissance was created/started with a loan from Sams father, approximately how much was that? Could someone do what the three of you did with the same amount to money today?
Not so. Renaissance Pictures LTD was started as a limited partnership to raise money for Evil Dead aka Book of the Dead. Sams parents never invested. The first in kind investment was the lawyer who did all the legal work for a percent of the returns. He has done very well and was really our savior and, ultimately, our biggest investor.
19. Where did Evil Dead first play?
I believe the first screening was at the Redford Theater in Redford, Michigan at the premiere on Oct 15 (?) 1981. Ethan Coen flew from NYC to Detroit with the last reel just prior to the screening. As I recall, he just made it. We had Michigans largest pipe organ (which rose from the basement) play Toccata and Fugue in D Minor prior to the movie starting. Thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
21. How did it come to the attention of Stephen King?
Our overseas sales agent, Irvin Shapiro, (who changed the title from Book of the Dead to Evil Dead) was, at that time, the grandfather of the Cannes festival. He was representing Creepshow which Romero directed and Stephen King wrote. King saw Evil Dead in Cannes in 1982. Sam had gone with Irvin Shapiro and the movie in 1982.
I went in 1983 to try to raise money for Crimewave (originally called RELENTLESS.) It was crazy and fun. There were topless girls and fancy wines. Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul) took us to some fancy dinner somewhere that only had five tables and people brought their dogs into the restaurant and they made them dinner also. I read a book, Azteca, while there and Loved it.
22. Have you worked with De Laurentiis since Evil Dead 2?
We worked together (or for him) on Army of Darkness. He got into a fight with Universal, who distributed it domestically, over the Hannibal Lecter character from Manhunter. It delayed the movie being released and finished for 2 years. (However, this is a long story about being a pawn in a battle between two bigwigs.)
23. What is the fascination with TelevisionDo you still have it or has the industry changed so much it lost some of its appeal?
I still like the character study that TV provides. I love that there is a black hole each week that needs to be plugged.
24. Do you miss first run syndication?
Absolutely. Tribune making bad shows ultimately killed that market. They now know it, but that cant change what happened. They have a new owner and may find a way back into the barter first-run action hour business . . . or they may not. However, all the pretenders and copycat shows also diluted the market place.
25. Do you think genres cable channels give the same outlets that syndication use to?
There is NO fantasy action channel. Sci Fi is all about sci fi and not fantasy.
26. The creation of the CW has left many stations in the US with a lot of open time to fill. Could this help a possible rebirth of syndicated programming?
Stations now called My Network tried those lame soap operas and failed. They have no money for programming. We have tried to talk to them about fantasy programming but they do not have the budgets. (They are also locked into a bad deal with the local station groups on the ad barter split but that is another story.)
27. You seem like a research guyHow much research do you do on the subject matter before taking on a projectTelevision or Film ?
Less now, but when we entered the movie business, I did a lot of research on movies and pushed Sam and Bruce to do a horror movie first.
I looked at the research we got on Hercules and Xena and tried to apply it meaningfully, but it is hard and it is hindsight. I would never have done a two-parter or even a three-parter if I had the advance knowledge of research. Then again, we would all have missed out on some great episodes.
However, there is a hindsight story I have that is relevant now. When we first were shown 30 Days Of Night as a comic, I said that my research of Herc and Xena ratings showed that people who watched syndicated tv did not like episodes set in the cold as they repeat poorly. I said tropical locations are sexier and more user friendly. I believe that 30 Days of Night was harmed by peoples aversion to the cold.
I think that the audience for Horror and syndication is similar. They see the cold as a painful experience.
28. How do you go about picking talentActors, Directors, Writers, etc?
Each field is picked differently. Ideally, actors read the material/audition. However, sometimes there is a type in mind. Then you may ask the person to come in. Tawny Kitaen came in to read for the part Renee OConnor played in DARKMAN 3. However, upon seeing her, I said she is Hercules wife and asked her if she would go to NZ.
We read writers material and meet to discuss their views.
Directors you watch their reels. Then you meet to discuss the material.
29. Do you think film schools truly prepare kids for the industry?
It gives people a peer group that they go into the industry with as buds or associates. Then these people disperse into the various fields. Their paths then cross as they move up or through the industry. Thus there is a group that have connections. But, beyond that, film school is not the panacea to being director or writer.
The technical information can be learned on line or from books. Watching movies is informative.
The really hard part of the tv film business is the writing and directing which involves storytelling. I believe that a degree in liberal arts or its modern-day equivalent is a great way to understand humans, history, storytelling and how to make an audience feel something. This is experience and a gift. This, combined with a study of cinema history, will certainly provide the understanding of the art form.
30. Do they teach the business side that young artist will need to know to be successful in an age of so much production done outside of the US?
NO, but this is not really that important to the project. Crews are the same the world over.
31. What is the ratio expectationbudget vs. box office to make a film successful to a studio spread sheet?
This is a tough question to answer simply. There are too many variables. In fact, this is so complicated that studios have departments that just analyze this question. With a studio movie that goes out wide (2000 prints or more) there is 25M to 40M in prints and advertising (called P&A) just for the domestic market. The P&A costs have a different impact on recoupment on a movie with a 10M budget and a 100M budget. Here is a rough breakdown domestically and internationally of what happens.
BUDGET 50 M
Ad expenditure world wide 70M
Total sunk cost into project 120M
BO domestically 60M
Theaters take 50% (30)
Return to distributor domestically 30M
International BO 60M
Theater take 60% (36M)
Return to distributor is 24M
Thus after the theatrical run the distributor is (120 less 54M) or 66M in the hole. The movie has taken in 120M in Box office receipts.
Then there is dvd, pay per view, pay tv and free tv.
DVD would roughly be 7 to 9M units @ approx 8 dollars profit per = 64M
Pay per view approx 10% of Box office = 12M
Pay TV approx 15 to 20% of Box Office = 20M
Free TV approx 10 to 15 % of Box Office = 16M
Total is 112M. There is still a 66M deficit thus the profit is 46M over many years.
However, because the ad commitment is so huge to open a movie and all the ancillaries are based on Box office performance, if the movie opens poorly, it is easy to lose 46M. Run this formula at 40M domestic and 40M for 80M in total BO. And only 6 to 7M units on dvd and it works out as a wash or close to it. This is without the cost of money, the internal charges within the studio for distribution fees, or personal cost or gross players, deferred cost,etc.
THIS IS JUST A ROUGH ROUGH EXAMPLE AND NOT AN ACTUAL STUDIO MODEL!!!!
32. Do you find that with success comes the urge to take the safe route to remain successful? If so, how do you try and over come that?
No, with success comes the feeling that you cant fail . . . then comes the fall. Really, I cant think of many people in the business who took it safe after success. Was FIREFLY safe? Was MILLENNIUM safe? Was HEROES safe? Yes, another Law and Order or CSI is safe, but the creative driving people I follow or consider cutting edge never seem to play it safe.
33. Most of the press concerning Ghost House Pictures says "Ghost House is a production label able to self-finance, develop, package, and produce broad appeal theatrical films", why is this so important?
We own the negatives. Usually the studios own the negatives and you hope for a fair accounting for your split of profits. We are building our own library or catalogue for the future. Like the Hammer Horror Library. This will then be our retirement fund or annuity.
34. Do you want your kids to go into the business? Daisy has already moved in that directionwhat advice have you given her?
This is a hard business and if the sirens call is all you hear it is a curse you must follow. Lacking that sirens call I would not recommend going into the film or tv business.
35. Ghost House Televisionwhat is in its future?
I do not know as of this juncture. There is a strike on. But there might be tv in the next two years. Too early to say. There might be a tv show with Sam and Josh Donen based on a series of fantasy novels, but that is a long shot.
36. What can you tell us about Graphic City Limits?
I can only say that it was changed into something totally different. If I go back to what it was, it would change again. Mark Beesley calls it my rebellion against the Hero. The character makes no decisions for 2/3 and is a total victim and then realizes that she is not making a single decision.
I am a long way from having something that has any value. What I originally wrote was a purge of XENA.
37. Your projects, sets, offices, and productions in general, are not considered the Hollywood norm in a positive way. Why do you think that is?
Hmmm? I dont know.
38. Did you ever think that you would be sitting here today with two pop culture icons to your credit, a movie and a television show that people still talk about, write mentions into other projects, have festivals and conventions around.?
NEVER. I read the EXORCIST as a teen and thought that it would be so cool to make that into a movie. I did not have the foggiest idea how one would even do that. But the Universe has a need and I help fill that need with XENA. Funny how things work out.
39. Why was Xena special?
We stumbled upon a great character. That was primary. Put her in a situation as a kick butt female that had not existed on TV before. Then got lucky in casting Lucy and Renee. Surrounded myself with the right people and we jointly had enough creativity to do some cool things that help offset the lame things. Truly lightning in a bottle on all fronts. It really is just that.
40. The creative team behind Xena seems to have had a magic about ithave you ever thought of working on another project with them? RJ, Steve, Liz, etc
Liz turned me down to do an American adaptation of HEX. Turns out we couldnt get the rights, but Liz was out before then. RJ has retired. Steve and I would need someone else as we would not balance each others natural proclivities. The show would need a third leg to balance it.
41. Hercules was stared because Universal needed to create a "wheel", can you explain what that was or is?
I believe that this term, wheel, comes from the mystery wheel Universal TV did back in the 70s with McCloud, McMillan and Wife, Kojack (?), Columbo, and others. However it may pre-date that.
Universal TV sold to the syndicated station groups, of which Tribune was the largest, 24 action movies from top directors. These 24 movies would be called a wheel. There would be 6 spokes on the wheel which where the underlying franchises. HERCULES, TEK WARS, VANISHING SON, MIDNIGHT RUN, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, AND ????? Each spoke or franchise was to have 4 movies and was to be overseen by some big director type. Universal then had the right to take two of the spokes to series. Hercules and Vanishing Son were the two franchises (spokes) that went to series. However, Hercules did better in the ratings and very quickly it was decided that Xena would be a better companion piece. Thus, they killed Vanishing Sun and ordered Xena.
42. Why was New Zealand picked to film Hercules and Xena
NZ was picked for Hercules because we needed a pastoral world in what was the Northern Hemispheres winter and the exchange rate was beneficial. XENA rode on Hercules production coattails.
43. Do you ever worry that if you did get backing for a Xena movie the fans might not like what you put together? Will a movie be enough or will they just keep wanting more?
Human nature will always want more. Josh Becker, who I dearly love, says that only a funny comedy would satisfy everyone. He believes that Lucy, Renee, Bruce and Ted are all best as comedians. He is probably right.
44. What have the Evil Dead fans meant to you?
I am always retro cool to some group of teen boys.
45. What have the Xena fans meant to you?
That I am always a target for someones anger and someones love. What they have really meant is that I was involved in something that brought people together in a way that I never intended or could have forseen. It thrust me into a world that I didnt know existed.
46. Is there anything you havent done that you would like topersonally or professionally?
Make a musical with Lucy. Make a XENA or XENAesque project with Lucy and Renee. After seeing Lucys BURN NOTICE, I really think she should do more with guns.
Personally, I want to go to CARNIVAL in Rio!!! I would like to catch a 300 lb yellowfin tuna! I would love to move back to NZ to live with my wife and family.
47. It didn't cross your mind to study film in college at first, but you were drawn into studying it with Sam Raimi's influence.
No, this is not exactly right. Prior to Sam coming to MSU, I took film appreciation classes. We watched a movie every Wed and would do reports and dissect it. This is where I learned about Bergman, Fellini, Rossellini, and all the other European art film makers.
When Sam came to MSU, he brought a camera and the movies he had made and the idea that we could make a movie.
48. What exactly was "it" though, about filmmaking that attracted you to it? What was the primary element that sealed it for you?
The idea that sealed it for me was making the audience feel something.
49. Were there season 7 scripts for XWP on standby in case circumstances changed and you had proceeded with another season instead of a series finale?
No, there were not. I tried at the last minute to get Renee and Lucy to do 4 tv movies. Lucy was kind of game, but, at the time, Renee was pregnant (when I asked her to do the movies she told me she was pregnant). She had no interest in doing any more Gabrielle at that time. As it was, at the end of 6 solid years, Lucy and Renee wanted to hang up their outfits.
Having been in show biz longer, I knew to try to milk something to the very last moment. I just didnt follow through back then.
50. If yes, what were some of the topics involved?
Never got that far, but FINS would have been remembered differently!!!!!
51. What would you have liked to do on Xena that you didn't, or what would you take back and change if you could?
First of all, there were episodes that simply were bad. I look in each season at the train wrecks (Key to the Kingdom, King Con, Back in the Bottle, Purity, King of Assassins, Punch Lines, Takes One to know One, Life Blood, Vanishing Act, Ulysses) and I would love to go back and tell different stories or recraft those to fix what went wrong. Season 1 had a lot of lame stuff in it, but the show was finding its feet. I see those and think of it as amateurish at times. Thus, it would have been great to have found the show earlier. But, that aside, the ones listed above failed as entertainment.
I know that some people hate Married with and Lyre Lyre, but I love those episodes for all the reasons that XENA as a show was great in glimpses. They tried something wild and out there and worked at some level for me. Lyre Lyre is one of my favorite episodes in terms of watchability. About two months ago I showed Lyre Lyre and Bitter Suite to my gay male friends to show them my musical TV long before this current resurgence had taken place. We watched Lyre Lyre first and then BS. They were blown away. Those were the most recent episodes I have viewed.
But I digress. In hindsight, one of the things that proved hard was writing to the end of the season, i.e., knowing where exactly you wanted to end. Either the season becomes totally serialized or some episodes do not serve the seasons purpose. A few years ago, but long after the end of Xena, Tim Kring (look him up) said to me that if you know where the show is going to end, you can really only write toward that goal. If an episode isnt serving the purpose of moving toward that goal, it can never be great or even memorable. Or, as in the case of LOST, they do not know where they are going, thus they keep presenting ideas and clues but refuse to lock down a specific idea that they want to play toward. Those words resonated in me. When we knew the season ender and the dramatic arc, then individual stand alone drama episodes always seemed unsatisfactory. Thus, we resorted to comedy. They were outside the overall arc and seemed satisfactory on their own grounds as entertainment.
There were stories that I wished we had told. They were one-lined or roughly beat out in my notebooks, but never made it to the screen. We did pull aspects of a story that I always wanted to tell into MANY HAPPY RETURNS. However, it was the comic approach. There is a story of Jeztapha (or close) from the bible about a girl who was promised to god by her dad if he won a key battle. He won and she was to be sacrificed. This is were Xena and Gab showed up. Liz took that kernel of an idea and changed it for comedy.
52. Do you have any idea how good a show XWP was? That it's the best thing that's ever been on the TV?
I know that the love we all shared on the staff reflected on screen and when the staff got blind to the series, for whatever reason, it was reflected on screen (witness the middle of season 5).
53. Why do you think your wife isn't starring or co-starring in any major movies?
I have NO Idea. She is a fantastic under utilized actress. This is something that causes me more pain than her. I sure would like to get a project that she could star in, but it will have to be cheap because NO ONE will commit 30M in Prints and Ads on her delivering an audience.
I am actually more surprised with Renee. She is not tainted as an icon in peoples eyes. She is a brilliant actress and a beautiful woman. She should be on a series.
54. What do you think the very heart of XWP was and who do you think truly understands that the best?
Lucy and Renee were the heart and they understand it best. RJ, Steve, and Chris were the voices and combined with Liz, and I were scenarists who created the situations for them to have heart.
55. When, if ever, did you start taking XWP seriously as an epic love story between the two main characters?
We never really said it was an epic love story. Or maybe at the end of Season 6, but Love was a motive.
In hindsight, WFC may be an epic love story, but its genesis was that in No life could Xena escape being crucified. Kind of my Christian upbringing seeping in. Katherine helped make it that love story.
If there was a key moment in my eye for them as lovers or people in love, it was the end of BITTERSUITE. Only through love could all their problems be left behind. The end image was a poor version of the lovers.
Then again the scenes in Callisto or Greater Good may have cemented the love story.
Or maybe in SINS Of The PAST the seed were sown for the love to blossom. Gabrielle had the courage to put herself in harms ways to protect Xena and vice versa. Did they nurture each others growth in that episode? If so maybe that is where the epic love story started.
Hope this helped!!
56. At the end of the episode You Are There, the dialogue went like this..
N: "Gabrielle-- Xena-- are you two-- lovers?"
X: "It's like this-- technically-- "
Any guesses as to what Xena was going to say just before the scene faded away?
If we bring each other to orgasm, then I guess we are lovers. Happy? Actually, I have no idea what they were going to say as we never scripted it. We just wrote it to torment people for ages to come . . . thus you can fill in the blank as nicely or nastily as you want. Personally, I think that Xena was going to pull the Bill Clinton thing . . . oral sex doesnt count.
57. What was it like working with Rene O'Connor on Xena?
She was a bitch. It was hard to get her to put down her crack pipe. Then again, I would have needed a crack pipe if I was asked to walk barefoot through the mud for the winter or to eat squid or any of the crap we pulled on her.
I love Renee. I think that she is kind, loving, talented, beautiful and so easy to work with that I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Like with Lucy, it hurts my heart that Hollywood is not lining up to work with her
58. What is the secret behind Sam's obsession with his 'classic' 1973 Oldsmobile Delta Royal? (Other than it has a better movie resume than most Hollywood actors!) I mean what makes that particular car so special for Sam?
Good question. So I went to the source! I asked Sam the other day. He said that he named it the classic just to torment Bruce and I. He knew that Bruce and I knew that rusting heap was no classic. Sam also knew as we did that no one can call their own car a classic. That honor must be bestowed by others after many many years of this privledged title being earned.
But Sam has always called it classic. He has now made it that in everyone eyes.
59. Also Non Xena related my question would be what are his next projects & will they be more movies or a TV series?
Movie wise, we have the following titles trying to get made: MONKEYS PAW, DIBBICK BOX, BURST, DRAG ME TO HELL, and a bunch of direct to dvd sequels.
60. Taking the show's credits as my source, it seems that you were not significantly involved (in a story idea or teleplay way) with particular stories/episodes between Sins of the Past and Destiny, nor between the latter and The Debt. As The Debt episodes represent a major element of The Rift arc, and as the format that presented the respective characters of Xena and Gabrielle and of their relationship appears to have been altered dramatically after the commencement of The Rift through the remainder of the series, do you feel that some of the writers of the first two seasons took those characters and their relationship in directions that you felt were inconsistent with your own vision of them, and that a certain degree of correction was therefore necessary?
I recently came across all my old notebooks on Xena. Story ideas, themes, cool action scenes, and hastily written beat sheets that I was going to outline in the writers conference room to the staff so that there was clarity as to what we hoped to achieve. I was reminded what I loved about working on the show.
To simply answer your question, I was involved in season 1 to 6 pretty much equally except I was missing in action during 5 for a bit. Certainly during seasons 1 and 2, I was there for every single step of every single script. My management style reflected sharing and being inclusive as much as possible. I was well paid and thus I never wanted to take money from the writers by taking a credit (and thus their money) or diminishing someones credit.
Our working style was unique to this show. We all sat in a room and jointly beat out on a chalk board or a white board each and every episode. We worked out the teaser beats, the act breaks and then the 6 to 10 beats (locations or scene shifts) per act. This was all done jointly with the assigned writer logging all this. The writer then took this and expanded it into a story. The assignment of credit did not reflect solely who worked on the episode but more who physically wrote it and cashed a check. Not exactly like a sit com, but not like most other dramas. I do not want to diminish the writing of any episodes, but, equally, I do not want take credit from Liz Friedman or myself or any of the other staff people who crafted the story through many beat sheets and drafts but did not take money for story credit. For example, RJ and/or Steve rewrote pretty much every episode to some degree. Some freelance scripts were totally rewritten from word one, but the original writer got the credit and they got the check. No one on our staff ever asked to have WGA arbitration on a script to determine who should, in the guilds estimation, get the credit and thus the payment. Bless all those guys and gal for being team players, but I think that I also set that tone.
Although my name as a writer is nowhere on Bitter Suite, I crafted that from the way to heal the RIFT through music. I guided it to story, to song, to production design to editing. Steve and Chris certainly sat at their computers all alone banging away. However, I guided this undertaking as an invisible hand.
This has been mentioned elsewhere, so I am not talking out of school, but one day I pitched RJ an idea -- a Day in the Life of Xena and Gabrielle between the fights and plot. Waiting for the bad guy to show, cooking, blah blah blah. We laughed ourselves silly and RJ took that idea and ran with it. I could have insisted on co-writing the story and splitting $5,000 (or whatever it was) with RJ, but, ultimately, my time was better spent on something else to make XENA and HERCULES better and RJ did not need to have his hand held to realize that idea. There were times when I had to physically do the outline, type it up, get notes and really do all the work of the writer in order to be understood. The DEBTS and SIN TRADES needed my document as a jumping off point. I got the other staff members notes and incorporated them.
On a more macro scale, here is what would happen. We would typically, at the start of a season, all bring ideas to the room. We ( RJ, Steve, Chris, myself and Liz) would write down 50 or 60 ideas that we liked. Some would be marked as B stories, i.e., smaller stories within an episode with a bigger idea. We would hatch these ideas and place bigger event ideas on key air dates like Halloween, sweeps episodes, the season ender and so on. A writing and shooting schedule would slowly emerge but we never locked anything in stone as we needed room to creatively change should we be going down a dead end. (We tried unsuccessfully many times to have Xena and Socrates meet and her influence him. When this didnt work, we needed to jump to another fresh episode idea.)
In this process, everyone would be free to express their ideas. Then when various drafts of beat sheets and scripts came in, we would all meet and give notes. Some episodes went through 5 to 8 beat sheets before they went off to script. Then we always did at least 3 and usually 5 drafts of each script. The process was grueling, but we tried to get everyones best ideas.
The RIFT this also is old news, but while laying out season 3, RJ and I thought about what was the Halloween episode. Against the backdrop of man giggles our Rosemarys Baby, Gabrielles Hope, was hatched and from that came the precursor of THE DELIVER. Once we committed to these two episodes, the RIFT seemed somewhat inevitable.
On the relationship after the RIFT. It changed because Gabrielle grew up and got her own voice. Fans may have preferred the old Gabrielle but she matured. Equally, we had run out of stories that we wanted to tell with that nave character. If she didnt change, then Xena couldnt have stayed with her for all those years. They affected each other.
One of the things that the audience forgets is that, as writers and creators, our job is to bring the audience back after the commercial break or, more specifically, hold them for the commercials. Or, if it is a two-parter, bring them back from the cliffhanger of the first night so they will watch more commercials. Thus, Gabrielle selling Xena out at the end of the DEBT I was the ultimate cliffhanger. Was it totally in character? My answer is yes, we revealed a side of Gabrielle and a complexity that the old nave Gabrielle never showed with the same aplomb . . . rightousness. Would others disagree? Certainly. Did it let us get to a great scene in the prison with Gabrielle apologizing? Yes. Thus was character at times a secondary thought to the story, act break, the evening break, or the greater good of the overall episode? Probably. Certainly we would do the exact same thing again . . . but more elegantly.
61. What was the chief moral principle that guided Xena's actions as she saw it? If Xena believed in a struggle to support "the greater good", how did she define that term?
Hmmm? I cannot answer this on a general overall point. This is a question about specifics in the moment. I guess the fate of 40,000 souls joining some better version of an afterlife was in Xenas mind a Greater Good than anything that she might do from the end of FIN until some other end of her biological life. She was willing to give up her mortal happiness and part with Gabrielle for some greater good. She also thought she needed to do time in LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN. But it wasnt often that Xena didnt think the scales weighed in her favor.
62. Much controversy has arisen over your words in the January 2001 "Whoosh!" interview, when you said that you did not know how you would end the series but that you weren't "going to kill them again" (I assume referring to the Ides of March narrative conclusion to season 4). After A Friend in Need was broadcast, RJ Stewart stated that the story idea for the series finale was broached at a point in time which would have been subsequent to your interview. Was any consideration given or discussion had in the story process relating to that implied promise when it became obvious that it would be contradicted by Xena's demise?
There is an old Hollywood joke How do you know when a producer is lying? His lips are moving. But I think that I meant that I wouldnt kill them both again. Also, we vacillated on whether to really kill her or not. Missy, who read the finale before it shot, weighed in heavily that it was a bad idea but being pig-headed at times . . . Perhaps I lied, maybe I changed my mind, or maybe I was misunderstood. None would be a first.
63. How would you describe Gabrielle's main functions or contributions to the series as a whole, and do you think that what was shown on the screen fairly matched your expectations?
Gabrielle was originally conceived of as the sidekick. The person who could do the talking when XENA couldnt or wouldnt. She was Irv the Explainer as I call that role. Look to Iolaus on Herc for the template for Gabrielle. She was also the weekly damsel in distress but that grew tiresome quickly. The series was never conceived as a duel role series. However, over time, that evolved. Season three was a balance of each character and how they interacted. There are those who would argue that all of Season 4 was about Gabrielles journey and that Xena supported her as the muscle. Even when Gabrielle wasnt physically there, the actions were precipitated by her as a character.
Early on in the series of XENA, there were discussions about adding another woman character so that they would be a trio. Ephiny in Hooves and Harlots was to be the new addition. However, by the time that episode aired, we all had so fallen for Renees portrayal of Gabrielle that we didnt want to diminish her or, heaven forbid, put her in a position to kill her off.
Although not a conscious thought, what happened is we evolved Gabrielle to fill the role that Ephiny would have played.
64. Do you feel in hindsight that a system of closer cooperation between the show's writers or a story bible would have served to reduce script inconsistencies?
This is covered elsewhere, but to simply answer your question NO. The writers on this show were as close physically and socially as on any show in Hollywood. As for a show Bible -- it is just a set of rules to be broken.
What people do not understand is that TV is a machine that needs to be fed scripts. There isnt time to be creative and create a Bible that really considers everything and leaves room to deliver/create/what is wanted but unexpected. To have a Bible that covers 6 years would have been impossible. Our Bible had the character Pan. He was to be a third wheel, like a Joxer, but once he was cut from the first pilot script he never found a home.
As much as the script machine pumps and grinds out material, the production machine faces the same challenges. No single individual can cover all basis (and Hercules!). Thus directors, art coordinators, prop people, wardrobe and make-up personal come and go. They make a huge amount of decisions in the moment. (Rick Jacobson made a decision on Motherhood that made me NUTS! But that is another story.) The mass exodus of our crew to LOTRs made it necessary to train up a whole new group of people that most likely had only seen one or two episodes. Is production going to wait three hours while someone goes and gets the right Chakram? No. But huge pieces of knowledge and continuity were lost whenever there were massive personnel changes.
Lastly, there was Renee and Lucy. They made changes and adjustments on the day with the writing and intent of the script. They did not care about history, they cared about what worked for them as performers in that moment. They were great at boiling down the written word to what was impactful in the moment. Often what was lost was modifiers or Irv the Explainer moments. That Xena once taught Gabrielle to take the pinch off but not put it on was/is meaningless in a drama of another sequence 10 episodes later.
Although there were some script inconsistencies, I never found them a hindrance to the forward character movement.
65. Lucy and Renee have a great chemistry on screen when working together on the show and since, at the conventions and Lucys concerts, when casting Renee as Gabrielle did you have an idea that this would be the case.
I loved Renee from HERCULES AND THE LOST KINGDOM. That character had spunk. The chemistry they developed was just luck of the draw. Really during casting you would never think of the chemistry between the characters but who can play the role best.
66. I have read various reports that you always wanted Renee for the part and that it was written with her in mind and also that she just audition along with others. Did you have to push to get Renee or was it a foregone conclusion ? Lucy and Renee made the show for me.
I had to very much push and lay down for Renee. One unnamed studio executive thought that the more classically hot babe would work better. That other woman was also a real gifted actress but Gabrielle was based on Renees performance in HERCULES and the Lost Kingdom.
67. I hope this isn't too personal but I have always loved these two moments in your life. The comment you made after your wedding that you had 'waited 43 years for this woman' - just a gorgeous sentiment - and how Lucy wanted to be married before she was 30 so you chose the day before her 30th birthday - such a wicked sense of humour. So I guess I'm asking if yours and Lucy's keen sense of humour played a part in attracting you to each other.
Contrary to what you hear . . . likes actually attract. We all search for Unity and not for separateness or dis-unity. Thus, in a partner, we want to find ourselves that isnt us but mirrors what we like about ourselves. Does that make sense?
On a less esoteric level I think the common parish/parochial upbringing we both had made us suited. And yes we had similar senses of humor although I would still say Lucys humor is crasser than mine.
68. What do you like THE LEAST about being a producer?
Not being the director. That said, we called the director the Chump du juor. I love being the producer.
Thank you for your time Rob. I'm going to ask this question for my brother-in-law who turned me onto your Evil Dead movies long before Xena.
69. Where did you get the idea for those Evil Dead movies?
The Book of the Dead or Necronomicon plays a prominent role in the adventures of Ash so will we ever see a sequel..a part 4. I thought Army of Darkness was brilliantly done.
Bruce and I have been led to believe by Sam that there will be an Evil Dead 4. Neither of us are holding are breaths, but Sam is a man of his word. I hope I am alive to see the movie.
Personally, I liked Evil Dead best. It was the real deal at the time.
70. Many of your movies are in the horror genre..such as Grudge 1 & Grudge 2 & the newest 30 Days of Night. Why do you think audiences, and I am one of them, enjoy being scared to the extent that we close our eyes, jump out of our seats & gasp at certain scenes? And come back for more.
Why are there Roller Coasters? To get rushes of adrenalin but know that we are safe. Horror is just another ride.
71. Hi Rob .. in a dvd commentary you said that Lucy was more Xena than Renee was Gabrielle. What exactly did you mean by that? Does Lucy say "take the village" or "kill 'em all' or "I have many skills" often at home?
I have to stop Lucy from killing the kids every evening. Kill them all rings through the kitchen. Renee is not that fast talking character that began on Xena. She is probably more like the character that Gabrielle became. I also suspect that Renee is wilder than Gabrielle but that is just speculation.
72. Did the philosophies of Joseph Campbell, especially works like "Hero With A Thousand Faces," have any influence on the structure of Xena?
I read the book about every 5 years. Its the definitive work on western heroes. I more consciously used Campbell as the template for Hercules, but I am sure it spilled over into Xena.
73. Since we all know how difficult everything goes concerning a Xena movie, have you ever considered the idea of making a new longer season in which you start with Xena and Gab as the main characters, but by the time the season has ended new younger persons have risen? So Xena and Gab could close a nice chapter and the new fresh and younger approach could open doors for a fresh-start-movie?
Great idea. Yes, I thought about that as a version of the movie. That whole idea of how can we get them into younger actresses bodies. When Universal was 30% serious, this was discussed. Now they dont want a movie at all.
74. Is there a type of movie you have always dreamt of making, but never have?
A Musical. I wished that I had made 300. I would have liked to make a funny comedy like SUPERBAD. But all and all, I am happy with the hopes I have to make things in the future.
75. Your genre on the whole is verrrry scary movies. What made you jump to doing Xena. Which by the way, you did a great job and I for one am forever thankful.
I always wanted to do a woman superhero. As a kid I loved HONEY WEST, but didnt love Police Woman because she always had to be rescued.
76. What do i need to do, to get to that profession ?
Your name spells out the road you are embarking upon -- suffering.
This is my stock but simple answer -- writers write, directors direct, and producers produce. It is just that simple or hard. Get your friends together and make a movie. Or take your favorite scene from a movie and reshoot it with your friends as the actors. If you can actually finish the project then you are well on your way to being a producer. Initially, your job is to make sure that the project is started and completed and that all the guns are pointed in the right direction. Metaphorically speaking -- No friendly fire. If you can make something that the everyday man or woman on the d street finds entertaining then you are in Show Biz.
It has never been easier to make a movie on dvd. There is nothing holding you back from doing it. Get a camera, a computer that can edit, and a script. There are millions of movies on YOU TUBE. Any one can do it.
77. What did you do to become a success?
I redefined success.
I only became a success when I realized that I would never reach success. Once I enjoyed the process, then everything was a success. I know that sounds like Hollywood gibberish, but I once thought if I could make 3 movies then I would be a success and everything would be easy and women would run to me and banks would give me money. I am way past three movies and that still hasnt happened. Success is a truth or standard that you hold yourself to separate from your profession.
78. Question: What movies inspired you when you were growing up? Were you fond of all movie genres or did you prefer scary/horror movies?
I loved Peter Pan, Sound of Music, and all the movies kids loved in the early 60s. But, equally, I enjoyed the Saturday Matinee movies ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, ESCAPE FROM THE GREEN PLANET, and scary sci fi stuff. As I grew into my teens, I loved PATTON, BUTCH CASSIDY, LITTLE BIG MAN, PAPILLON, GODFATHERS.
I am still not a real fan of art movies, but I am a sucker for good chick flicks I loved SAY ANYTHING, NOTTING HILL, BRIDGET JONES DIARY. They make me feel.
79. Question: If you were to create another television series would you focus on creating another action series or would you move in a different direction?
I recently went through the process of creating a pilot. It went from all action to 85% drama, but I clung to that last 15% of action. Ultimately, I am an action guy. What I do best is place characters in a situation that requires some action.
80. Question: Would you ever consider doing a comedic movie or a comedic short film with both Lucy and Renee?
Yes, just need a great script and money . . .
81. Question: Would you ever consider doing a movie based on an action hero? What action heros inspired you as a kid?
I loved Jason and the Argonauts. I loved a recording of the 12 Labors of Hercules that played on the record player with one of those little image carousels that spun around. I was a huge fan of Man from Uncle, James Bond and all of the usual things.
There was also a book of adventure short stories that I read over and over that had elements of heroes in them. The Interloper, Lenigen vs. the Ants, The Bamboo Trap, To Build a fire were but a few of the stories that I loved.
82. What do you think of Chris Carter (X-Files) and would you do a project with him?
Mr. Carter is an enormous talent. I respect his work and what he has accomplished. I do not see a circumstance where we would be brought together on a project. No one would want to match our quotes!! But, more importantly, we are both used to running our own show.
83 Do you believe in the paranormal?
Yes and No. I believe that the body has a spirit and consciousness separate from our physical body. That said, I do not think a ghost can hurt us.
84. With the writers ready to strike within 24hrs, how will that affect the movie industry?
Many people will lose their homes or have hardships. Lots of mediocre movies will get made from scripts that werent quite ready and long term traditional TV will lose even a larger part of the audience.
85. What is up with "Welcome to the pleasure Dome" ? are you still going to do that movie? Thanks
What is up with that is right. I hope to be able to say in January. END OF PART 1