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FireflyJoss Whedon - About "Serenity" Movie - Aintitcool.com Interview
Tuesday 20 December 2005, by Webmaster
So... like I said... short week. The day Joss Whedon called me to do our interview, I was in the middle of something else and had lost track of the time. I was totally unprepared for him. The phone rang, I picked it up while trying to see my writing partner to the door, and realized it was the Universal publicist with Joss waiting on the line. I ran back to my office and tried to turn on the speaker phone while also fumbling a fresh tape into my recorder...
... and managed to hang up on Whedon completely. I waited a few moments, and thankfully, they called back. This time, I managed to get all the equipment set up properly, and we jumped right into our conversation:
MORIARTY: Hi. Sorry about that. Terribly sorry. Oops. (pause while they connect Joss). Hi, Joss. Nice to speak with you finally. I know you’ve had several interactions with Hercules The Strong over the years, but we’ve never really had a chance to talk before. I wanted to start by asking you your feelings about the telescoped release window of SERENITY on DVD. Three months after it was in theaters seems like a landspeed record. Do you feel like the studio supported you properly in the theater?
JOSS WHEDON: Well, when you say you want to talk about the quick release...
M: Do you feel like there’s still a unique theatrical experience you create for an audience, or do you feel like this quick release window encourages people to just wait for video at this point?
JW: Ultimately, yes, that is the devil of the quick release. Knowing that you’re going to be able to see it in three months in the privacy of your own home, which is where I watch most movies, definitely hurts attendance. Absolutely. But that seems to be a common thread. But the fact of the matter is that the movie left theaters a little more quickly than I had hoped anyway, so the DVD release isn’t bellied up against it as much as it could be. It’s a problem, but it seems to be the strategy, and now Soderbergh’s experimenting with day-and-date releases.
M: I saw that. I’ve also heard rumors that you’re talking about a line of Buffyverse titles that would be direct-to-DVD.
JW: I’m talking about it. Don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I am talking.
M: I think it’s a really valid form if you know there’s a certain-sized audience that’s out there looking for these stories. You’ve definitely reaped the benefits of what happens when there’s a groundswell of support for a DVD title. When FIREFLY came out, I know I bought several of the boxes and gave them away to people who hadn’t seen the show because I thought it was a great way to make the case for the series. You just hand it to someone and say, “Watch it.” I think with DVD, there’s an ability to build an audience over time instead of having to count on one weekend.
JW: Yeah, it’s, uh... I mean, I see the benefits, but you do hurt the other thing. Every now and then I’ll watch a DVD and go, “Okay, I blew it. That was a theatrical experience I should have had.” And I made this movie to be big. I made this movie to be enjoyed with a crowd on a big screen. Ultimately, everyone who makes a movie does that, but this specifically was designed to be a grand adventure. And it’s the kind of movie I want people to see on DVD and go, “Man, I wish I’d seen that in the theater.” Because you want to reach that level of spectacle and heightened emotion. You want to make it worth being a movie. That’s still a concept that exists beyond the DVD and the DVD market. The movie. The moviegoing experience. However, yeah, the DVD in itself is such a powerful force for storytelling, especially as a tool for bypassing a studio and a network and going directly to the audience. That’s a very intriguing concept for an artist.
M: When I was looking back recently at the work that Stan Lee did in the ‘60s, creating one giant franchise after another, working with Kirby and Ditko, turning out these great iconic characters one right after another, I don’t think he really had any sense of the scale of what he was creating or how it might endure. He just kept creating these things that still hold up to new interpretation 30 or even 40 years later. It seems like it’s rare for people to turn out that many franchises in a row. So far, with the Buffyverse and now with FIREFLY and SERENITY, you’ve set up these stories that you’re able to continue to explore in comics and in movies and in TV shows. Is this something you work at consciously, this sort of franchise-building, or do you find that you are just drawn to stories and characters that refuse to be neatly contained in one simple package?
JW: It’s a little bit of both. Obviously, I studied at the feet of Stan Lee. How can you not if you’re of my generation? The way he tells stories was so exciting and so inventive and so human, and it absolutely hooked me on serialized storytelling in a way that television never did. Comic books were my soap operas. And I think of franchises, and I think of universes the way Marvel has a universe, or the way DC has a universe, and I think of the Buffyverse or the Fireflyverse like that. I definitely think in broader terms like that, but at the end of the day, that’s me having fun. That’s just great, but you have to look at the heart of the one story that you’re trying to tell, each and every time. You can’t coast on the fact that you created these other things, and you can’t assume that people are going to care just because of some formula. You can’t go there. You have to shake it up. You have to challenge yourself. You have to find the next story every time, and I’m not just talking about the next franchise idea. I’m talking about the next episode of whatever it is you’re doing. You have to keep your eye on the ball and turn out the next issue or episode or film or whatever it is, and if you spend too much time thinking about “Maybe this will be great,” then it probably won’t. Ultimately, someone like Stan Lee latched into something, and his collaborators latched into something, that was like finding a vein of gold in a mountain. They just tapped into something really important. Everyone would like to do that. I don’t think I’ll ever work on quite as high a level as that, but that’s what we’re all trying to do, I think. Those of us working in the genre, certainly.
M: You’ve had great success with your run on X-MEN, and currently you’re gearing up for WONDER WOMAN. These are other people’s franchises you’re playing with now, and you get to go back to your roots. You say that comic books you’re your soap operas. Well, now instead of simply doing your variation on the form, you’re actually playing with these iconic characters. Is that really gratifying for you?
JW: Ultimately? Oh, yeah. It’s the combination of characters you’re so familiar with that it’s like writing your own originals and walking with giants, knowing that you’re controlling the lives of these characters that you grew up with, that you learned with. It’s crazy. There was one moment when I got an e-mail from Joe Quesada saying, “Just to be clear, this is your team,” laying out who I’d be able to use in my first issue of X-MEN, and I had what I can only describe as a nerdgasm. The top of my head exploded. I was just like, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t believe I’m going to be telling Kitty Pryde what to say for the next year.” It was truly a great adventure.
That was it for our time, so we said goodbye at that point. I know I’ve heard people rail against Joss, saying how he seems almost arrogant about his work, but I didn’t get any of that off of him in our brief conversation. Instead, he seems like a hard-working guy who has found himself doing what he loves, and I find that inspirational. Of this week’s releases, SERENITY is definitely the one I’d recommend the most, and I appreciate Joss taking the time for even the brief chat we had.