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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

You don’t know all the secrets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer yet

Saturday 30 March 2013, by Webmaster

Think you know everything there is to know about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? A brand new book might just prove you wrong. Released for the 15th anniversary of the Buffy TV show, Buffy: the Making of the Slayer by Nancy Holder contains tons of Slayer lore. Here are some things that you might not have known about Buffy.

Holder’s book comes in a super deluxe box set, packaged with a big envelope of "Slayer Lore," including pages from some of Giles’ books and some other cool reproductions and art prints. Holder did tons of interviews with people who were involved with BTVS from the beginning, including executive producer Gail Berman, and unearthed a lot of little Buffy secrets. The book apparently came out late last year, but we only just got a review copy recently, and here’s what we found out.

(And here’s an obligatory disclaimer: If you’re a superfan, you might already know a lot of this stuff. It was news to us, or else we’d forgotten it. Some of the info in this book seems to be culled from DVD commentaries, but there are new interviews with Berman and some of the designers.)

Fox turned Buffy down. When Joss Whedon and Berman put together their ideas for a Buffy show, they went around town pitching it to the network, and there were "lots of sets of rolling eyeballs when we left the room." Everybody thought a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer was just too ridiculous — and Fox, which had ties to production studio Twentieth Century Fox, turned the show down. Then The WB ordered a 20-minute pilot presentation, which you’ve probably seen on Youtube — and then The WB rejected the show for its fall slate, in favor of Seventh Heaven. At last, the show squeaked onto The WB as a spring replacement show.

Many of Whedon’s early ideas were too expensive. Like, he wanted to shoot a dream sequence for the premiere that showed Buffy’s last days in L.A. and explained what a Slayer was, and that her first Watcher had died and her mother had moved her away from L.A. — but he couldn’t afford to, so he just cobbled together a sequence out of shots from the already-filmed first season instead. Also, Whedon wanted the pilot to have a different opening credits, showing Xander’s friend Jesse as one of the regular cast, so everybody would be shocked when Jesse died. And Xander was supposed to be a skateboarder, but that was too expensive to shoot.

Sewers Saved Buffy. A big challenge for this show was shooting lots of dark action, with sunlight-fearing vampires, without shooting outdoors at night. The show had three soundstages in a Santa Monica warehouse, near the Mutant Enemy building (Mutant Enemy was the name of Joss Whedon’s first typewriter.) Production designer Steve Hardie came up with the idea of creating a set of sewer pipes for vampires to travel along, giving the whole set an underground, industrial look. His successor, Carey Meyer, turned the sewers into a complicated system that went all over town, and included cool add-ons like break-away floors, manholes and grates. The sewers were reused as the cargo bay of a 747 when Kendra comes to town. Also, the high school library was originally planned as a dark, cavernous space — the book includes some really nifty sketches — but turned into a big, brightly lit set instead, due to the demands of television.

Sunnydale is San Diego. The book includes a prop map of Sunnydale from the TV show, showing where the high school, the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater & Science Center, Wilken’s Grove and the WorldBeat Center are, and the layout is clearly based on San Diego’s Gaslamp district. There are also docks and "nautical adventures" promised.

The vampire dusting was done digitally. Especially as CG effects got more advanced, the vampire deaths became more fancy — the vampires’ faces were turned into "dust men" — people with all the moisture removed. But as the show went on, digital effects supervisor Loni Peristere added 3-D animation and compositing, showing a time lapse of skin giving way to muscle, giving way to a skeleton as the vampire disintegrates.

The United States government totally collapsed during season 4. At least, that’s what a prop newspaper created for use during "Hush" claims — apparently the United States House and Senate both dissolved as governing bodies, replaced by a shadowy group known only as "The Surviving Members of Queen." Even though Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon and "digitally enhanced voice samples of Freddie Mercury" might not actually have U.S. citizenship. Meanwhile, then-President Clinton faced another scandal after he tested positive for presidency-enhancing drug Crovan.

There’s plenty other stuff in the book, including some cool behind-the-scenes pictures of monster makeup and some early sketches of the "mayor snake chases Buffy through the high school" sequence from the season three finale. And you learn lots of weird tidbits, like how the show teased its fans after rumors started that Willow was going to die in season four, having Willow appear to be in imminent danger a few times.Plus all the weird casting stuff — like, you probably already knew that Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally planned for the role of Cordelia, but she kept asking about the lead role of Buffy. And when Alyson Hannigan tried out replace original actor Riff Regan as Willow, she had three auditions and apparently blew her third one — but still got the part.

It’s a fun look back at the show, and definitely worth checking out if you’re having a moment of Buffy nostalgia.