Homepage > Joss Whedon Crew > Joss Whedon > Interviews > Joss Whedon - Screenwriting Expo November 12, 2005 - Q & A (...)
« Previous : Sarah Michelle Gellar - "The Air I Breathe" Movie (2007) - High Quality Poster
     Next : Buffy & Angel Cast Wallpapers From Captured-elegence.com 1 »


Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - Screenwriting Expo November 12, 2005 - Q & A Report

Tuesday 15 November 2005, by Webmaster

A brief report on Joss’s just-under two hour appearance at the Screenwriting Expo on Saturday.

Before Joss took the stage, I joked to my girlfriend, "wouldn’t it be funny if Nathan was here?" since I’ve been to several other Joss appearances where Nathan unexpectedly showed up. Sure enough, before Joss was introduced, who should take the stage but our beloved Cap’n Tightpants, to deliver a brief and amusing intro.

Joss made some jokes about Nathan, saying he hated him for being so good-looking and talented. Also revealed that more than any other actor he’s worked with, he’d trust Nathan to ad lib, since he’s so funny and good at it. Apparently, Nathan’s "Faster! Faster would be better!" was an ad libbed line, not written by Joss.

As usual, Joss was in fine form, entertaining and edifying the packed auditorium in a moderated discussion focusing on screenwriting.

The tiny clip-on mike they had for him wasn’t picking Joss up very well, so he wound up holding it in his hand the whole time, and making several jokes about liking it because it made him feel big. There was some comic business also when a stage-hand tried to get Joss another mike, but the cord wouldn’t quite reach, so Joss jokingly assumed some uncomfortable positions on the seat so he could reach the mike. Of course, describing it doesn’t really convey the humor, but it was hilarious.

He talked about the difficulty of writing the "Serenity" script, given the structural differences and different needs of a tv series vs. a theatrical motion picture.

Revealed some of his favorite films: "The Bad and the Beautiful," and "Once Upon A Time in the West," as well as two more obscure films, "I Love Melvin" and an Andre DeToth film whose name escapes me.

Discussed how he immersed himself in watching films in college (four a day at classes, then more at home at night on video... reminded me of my film school days) and how he learned important lessons about genre and myth that eventually helped him in the creation of his various genre-blending shows.

Someone asked a question about an anecdote Tim Minear told in the previous day’s seminar, involving the Buffy writer’s room, and how Joss would often come in and distract everyone by humping the couch (though Tim used another word for humping, starting with "f"... just trying to keep the post family-friendly icon_smile.gif )

Joss pretended to be shocked, then admitted that he didn’t "f" the couch: "I made love to the couch. And I made it breakfast. It was a lovely thing." Not verbatim, but close. Had the crowd in stitches.

Told us that the invisible jet would be in his "Wonder Woman" movie.

When the discussion concluded, avid Joss fans rushed to the front of the auditorium to get autographs and take pictures. Joss graciously hung out to talk to people, and when he finally had to exit the room (another seminar was starting), the crowd followed him out. In desperation, he admitted "I have to go to the bathroom... and no, you can’t come!" to the crowd, who all patiently waited in the hall, then followed Joss to another part of the convention center, where he continued signing stuff and talking to the people who remained.

He seemed understandably a little overwhelmed at being swamped by the crowd, but never less than accomodating and warm. My girlfriend kept saying to me how sorry she felt for him not being able to get out of there without being followed by a crowd, but he stayed till everyone got to say hi and get there stuff signed.

Anyway, it was a delightful two hours of Jossy goodness.

Just remembered a couple of other tidbits...

The moderator asked Joss about how long it took him to assemble the great "Buffy" writing staff, to which Joss replied "Seven years," meaning that he was always looking for great writers and that the process never stopped until the show was over. He had high praise for his whole staff, but admitted that his one regret was not hiring Tim Minear earlier...

Tim had come in to pitch for Buffy and had three great pitches, with the story and metaphors all worked out, but Joss felt Tim was filled with rage and couldn’t imagine working with him on a daily basis. He later realized that Tim had been working on the X-Files, and after meeting several other angry X-Files writers, realized the rage stemmed from the fact that they worked on the X-Files (the implication being that it was a tough, emotionally frustrating gig), and then hired for Angel and Firefly. Joss praised Tim highly, saying that after hiring him he realized that Tim was not only a great writer, but also a great person, smart, funny, and very nice (but Joss said it better than I’m recalling it).

In Tim’s seminar the previous day, Tim revealed one of his three Buffy pitches was an episode involving Xander being cursed and the only way he can lift the curse is by getting laid, so he’s running all over town trying to get girls to sleep with him, telling them his life depends on it. I’m not really doing it justice but when Tim talked about it, it was hilarious.

Further addendum:

After the "couch" discussion, Joss elaborated, saying that in the Buffy writer’s room, everyone would frequently try topping each other with horribly offensive remarks and they’d all be laughing and then someone would say something so horrible that everyone in the room would go silent... more than half the time, that someone would be Joss.

There were some requests over at Whedonesque.com about this thread to go into more detail about Joss’s writing process... I actually wanted to ask Joss specifically what his process was, but the line for questions was too long and Joss only got to three or four people before his time was up (most of the seminar was Joss answering questions from the moderator).

Joss did discuss "Alien Resurrection" and how he learned some valuable lessons in writing the script (though he hates the movie), but I’m not sure I could recall his remarks in enough detail to do them justice or make sense. The seminar was being video taped, however, so hopefully, it’ll eventually be available from Creative Screenwriting on a DVD.

Someone asked about the half-hour Buffy presentation that Joss wrote and directed in order to get the show picked up. Apparently, at that time, the network didn’t even want a pilot, but rather a presentation giving an idea of what the show would be. Joss admitted that it came out horribly (it was his first directorial effort, first time working with actors, etc.), but that he learned a lot about the process.

When Fox came to him with the idea for turning Buffy into a series, they imagined it as a fun half-hour teen show, which Joss didn’t really warm to; he didn’t want it to be fluff, and only after he figured out the whole "fighting monsters as metaphor for teen/high school angst" thing did he realize the show could be something special. After telling his agent his ideas, his agent pointed out that Joss’s concept for the show was more of a one-hour drama than the half-hour comedy Fox had wanted.

One of Joss’s formative moments in terms of filmmaking was the Steadicam tracking shot behind Danny riding the bigwheel in the hotel halls in "The Shining," which Joss said was the moment when he realized "someone made this"... his burgeoning awareness of the director/creator’s role in crafting a film.

Joss talked about being a third-generation tv writer, and how his dad at one point advised him not to get into the business, just as his father had told him not to get into the business, but that once he decided that was what he wanted to do, his dad was completely supportive. Joss said that after his dad had read some of his scripts, he told Joss that he could make a living of writing (again, like most of these anecdotes, this isn’t verbatim, but best I can remember).

Joss was working at a video store when he was offered a writing job on "Roseanne." His video store boss told Joss he could do both if he wanted; work on "Roseanne" but still keep his job at the video store part-time.

Joss got his writing job on "Roseanne" after submitting a "Roseanne" spec script, against conventional wisdom (which holds that you never submit a spec for the show you want a job on, to the show you want a job on... e.g., if you want to land a job on "X-Files," submit a spec for a different show, since the X-Files staff won’t be as familiar with the characters, story and themes, and will thus not be as likely to find fault with the script). Tim Minear also defied the conventional wisdom to good results, submitting an "X-Files" spec and getting a job on "X-Files."

As is well known, Joss disliked writing on "Roseanne" because his work was often substantially re-written. He said that writing for tv can be great if the writers and producers control the show, but not if the stars dictate what happens.

Joss also made some funny catty remarks about Donald Sutherland, who as Joss has said before, rewrote a lot of his lines in the "Buffy" movie to the point where they didn’t make sense, which was one of the main reasons Joss wound up so disappointed with how the movie turned out.

That’s all I can remember for now... back with more if it comes to me.

Okay, back again with another brief tidbit:

Both Joss and Tim (Minear, who did a three-hour talk the previous day, see my post in FF ep discussions) talked a lot about how writers can get distracted with "moves" — complicated plotting for the sake of plotting, versus the emotional intent/content of a script, and how ultimately, it was more important to them to focus on the emotional arc rather than a complicated plot. Joss admitted that he doesn’t enjoy and doesn’t think he’s very good at crafting intricate plotlines, preferring instead to move an audience, to convey something emotional, some insight into human behavior. He loves a good yarn but in his own writing prefers emotion and substance to clever plotting, since ultimately, a clever plot without emotional substance, is just fluff.

Joss and Tim mentioned how sometimes on Buffy and Angel, they and the writers would sometimes plot out a really cool episode with a lot of "moves" and "cool stuff," only to start over when they realized they’d forgotten about the story’s emotional arc.

Joss also made some jokes about "Fastlane," admitting that he’d never get tired of joking about it. "Fastline" for those of you who didn’t catch FF in its original run on Fox, was the wretched show that took over FF’s 8 PM Friday time slot before being cancelled soon afterward.

1 Message

  • I was at the expo. Saw Joss and thought he was one of the most entertaining speakers at the whole expo. (Okay he was the funniest guy there.)

    I don’t know if the dvd is out or not but I mannaged to videotape the whole show for a friend of mine who is a big buffy fan. Im sure the dvd when it comes out will not have the fun 15 minute intro on the art of putting on a mic. lol I wish I had time to follow him with the camera to the point where he has to tell people that bathroom time is private time. Sounds like a classic.