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ROCKNE O'BANNON INTERVIEW PART 2

Ratscape's picture of Rockne O'Bannon  Illustration from Ratscape

Transcript from Scapecast Episode 51

LINDY RAE

Let's talk about some other stuff for a while, 'cause the writers' strike is just about over.

ROCKNE
It should be over as of now, I should think, yeah. 

LINDY RAE
Awesome!  Do you have any thoughts about the goals of the Writers Guild; where they accomplished?

ROCKNE
Yeah.  I think considering where we started, and how the Producers had drawn a very deep and very dark line the sand in terms of what they were offering, and would be willing to give up, in particular in the area of new media.  It took a three month strike to get where we got.  So even though we may not have made the financial gain to the degree that we would have wanted, in any negotiations, certainly in my entire career, in any negotiations with a studio, you never come out of is feeling as though you're completely satisfied and haven't been put through the wringer.  So this is just that same experience on a 10,000 member level.  So yes, terrific gains were made, and with some pretty deep harm to, obviously, the guild members and our bank accounts, as well as to the industry at large.

LINDY RAE
Yeah.  Now do you think that the Writers Guild paved the way for the actors' agreement that are coming up.

ROCKNE
Oh, absolutely.  In the same way by going on strike, the writers going on strike paved the way for the Directors Guild to get the version of the deal that they got.  Believe me, based on the producers attitude going into this last October, if the writers were not on strike, the producers would've certainly held a similar absolutely nothing in new media stance with the Directors guild as well.  So kind of the way it unfolded was the Writers Guild goes on strike, it's on for two months, the Directors Guild comes in to negotiate.  The Producers certainly do not want the Directors Guild to ultimately go on strike as well, and they note that the Directors Guild tends to be a little bit more agreeable to the Producers terms, so they make some movement there with the Directors Guild without making it quite as far as the Writers Guild wants to go, and ended up setting up the Writers Guild.  We ended up getting a better deal than the Directors got.  So SAG will start negotiating in a couple months, and I think they're going to be in a terrific position because nobody wants there to be another strike to start out the beginning of summer. The creative community has shown some real strength.  Unfortunately you've gotta show a lot of strength with the Producers to put a crowbar in their wallet and give out a fair share to those of us who actually make their product. 

LINDY RAE
Now do you think that there are going to be some changes about how things are done?  For example, we've just heard that The SciFi Channel is picking up a web only series called Sanctuary -- I don't know if you know about that show.

ROCKNE
I know that they've started a website for web content.  I know that.  But I wasn't aware of this...

LINDY RAE
Yeah, there was a movie, er, it was actually a series called Sanctuary, and it starred Amanda Tapping.  And the SciFi Channel is now putting it on television. 

ROCKNE
I did read about that.

LINDY RAE
Do you think that there's going to be more of this.  Do you have any ideas that are web-based ideas that you think you might take straight to the web?  (Aside from that thing we're going to talk about later.)

ROCKNE
Nothing specifically at the moment.  I'm currently working on a couple of things.  One of them is an animated show.  But it's using a very new animation technology that involves the same creative engines that gameplay does.  It's really kind of bold and out there, and it's an opportunity to do animation along the lines of a Beowulf or something like that, but for television prices.  So that I'm quite excited about.  Obviously a show like that one that I'm developing, the opportunity to cross over onto the web is huge.  That's something I'm working on right now that obviously will have a big on-line component.  In terms of creating something specifically for the web...it's interesting 'cause 10 or 12 years ago I created a show called "Eon 4", which was the first professional science fiction series ever created for the web.  It was sponsored by Apple. At that time, people still had AOL, and it it was still dialup.  It was fairly early on, and Apple couldn't quite figure out how to make money off of it.  I had my foray into content on the web, not under the Writers Guild umbrella, obviously, 10 or 12 years ago.  I forget exactly when it was. 

LINDY RAE
Was it live action?

ROCKNE
No. It was very rudimentary.  No one had connections speeds, except maybe CalTech.  It was still images and text. I was very proud of the premise.  It wasn't just trying to be a drama presented in text and still images and you read it on the internet.  It used the then relatively young internet as part of the reason why this was being presented on the internet.  So it was very specific to the medium.  That I was very pround of and thought it was very cool.  If you google "eon-4" you can read all about it.

LINDY RAE
You have another upcoming project for The SciFi Channel that's a live action show, called Warehouse 13?

ROCKNE
Yes.  Warehouse 13 was something that I worked on for my buddies at SciFi Channel last fall.  It was an existing script that they had, and they just wanted it tweaked a little bit in anticipation of green-lighting it.  So I did a little work on that and was very happy to get it in shape; to their taste.  They were hoping to shoot that during the strike, and then decided not to because typically with any piece of material, but in particular a 2-hour pilot, when the strike hit there was no opportunity to do any production re-writes.  Depending up locations, you always have to adjust things, so if they can't get a library can you adjust things for an office building.  You know, those sorts of things.  There was no opportunity to have someone do that tweaking.  I haven't spoken with them since the strike ended, but I'm sure they're plans are -- I expect -- they'll want to gear back up as fast as possible. 

LINDY RAE
I thought I heard that some actors are associated with it already.

ROCKNE
I know that they were out to actors already, and throughout the holidays I emailed back and forth with the SciFi execs about what's cooking with it.  At that time they were still trying to sign a director, and they were kind of holding off.  Why sign a director when you don't know when you'll be able to go to production?  It's very hard to get a director of any repute to sign on to that as well. 

LINDY RAE
So, you know, we have to talk about another one of your upcoming projects now, and it's the Farscape webisodes.  I know there hasn't a lot been going on, and that you guys are being quiet about what's going to happen.  But if there's anything that you can tell us, that would be awesome.  Like, the characters that we already know and love, are they going to be around in the new episodes?

ROCKNE
There's certainly the expectation....unfortunately we got sidetracked by the strike, as well.  Because when the strike began, writing for new media was one of the things in contention, ultimately was one of the points that we defintiely won -- which was, again, a big win for the Guild.  We had to table it because we didn't know...to continue to write for it, obviously, it would've been flying in the face of the Writers Guild, which we were not anxious to do.  Now that the strikes over, it's really a matter of starting to crank up again.  So we were in the midst of developing story, characters.  Which and who, we're not absolutely certain yet.  There are, obviously, certain ones we'd love to get involved, but our mission is to create something that, obviously, for the internet doesn't have quite the budget that we had for the television series.  So that's one of the challenges of it.  But Brian, like Crichton, Brian puts the knife in our teeth and dives in and figures out how to make this thing work.  He and I are determined to make this a satisfying Farscape experience; that it isn't something that at all will disappoint. Certainly it won't be something that is identical in scale and scope to the television series, in terms of production values.  But in terms of ideas and humor and all that, certainly our mission is to continue the saga as faithfully as we can.

LINDY RAE
I'll tell you as someone who's talked to many of the actors of Farscape is that they really miss their characters.  And I think you got a little of that at the convention in Burbank.

ROCKNE
Yeah.  We all miss ... it's really just a matter of getting a story in place, concurrently checking on availabilities and interests, and all that.  It's going to take some jiggering, but, we've had three months of rest, so we're ready to jump in. 

LINDY RAE
Did they have a timeline before the strike?  Or are they talking about, like, next fall?

ROCKNE
We haven't committed to a time yet.  Because I know SciFi would love to have it as soon as possible.  But Brian and I would like to have it...because of the necessities of different budget level, and because of the fact that it will be told in short little segments, it's a very different style of writing.  Production values will be very different.  Brian and I want to take it with great care so that it's a truly satisfying Farscape experience.  We're not prepared to commit to a "when" yet, because we don't want to be trapped into creating something that we don't think is right for Farscape. 

LINDY RAE
And do you think that this is the gateway into bigger and better and more Farscape?

ROCKNE
I would certainly hope so.  You know, anytime that something is another iteration of something, it's an opportunity to a) put it in front of fresh eyes, and an option for the network to look at numbers and the appeal of it, and to say that this might be something worth revisiting.  Certainly no promises have been made to us in that regard, so therefore I do not pass along any promises in that regard.  There's such a passion for the show, and the very fact that your webcast and website exists is evidence of the fact that there's a Farscape community out there.  It hasn't gone away.  There's still an appetite for the show.  Everybody's out there.  All the characters are still out there living their lives.  We just don't currently have a camera pointed at them.  I'm as anxious as anybody to look in on them and see what they're up to.  The webisodes are our first chance to do that. 

LINDY RAE
Well, that's such a great way to put it.  And it is a growing community.  There seems to be more all the time. 

ROCKNE
That's the blessings of DVDs and syndication and --

LINDY RAE
Now iTunes!

ROCKNE
Exactly.  All of that.  The show has such a good reputation.  There are people that I meet, or I'll go to meetings at studios and that sort of thing, and there are people that had always heard of it that are not on the SciFi Channel.  There are ads for it in TV Guide or you'll see stills from the show, and which would often feature the creature characters, 'cause they're the most exotic, and therefore the ones that you're going to put up in an ad, and that sort of thing to draw attention.  But it's also one that can be daunting to people that aren't really aren't kind of interested in SF.  So I'll meet with executives and professionals, who are like 'I didn't catch it when it was on, and thought it was another science fiction show, and now I've caught it on DVD or I've watched a couple [unintelligable] and in meetings to a person they're effusive, and they're talking like fans, not executives.  That's always  very gratifying to me.  So yeah, it's cool to see new people. 

LINDY RAE
I think that it's because it's more about the characters and their lives, and not about the technology.  Do you have any thoughts about this is one of the few scifi genre shows where 50% of the fans are women?

ROCKNE
Yeah.  That was something that was really important to The SciFi Channel.  It continues to be.  They're still trying --  Even as I was working on Warehouse 13 with them, one of their passions is certainly to make sure that there are elements in it that will appeal to women as well as men.  I can't point my finger at...well Aeryn, as kind of the superficial and easy and obvious.  Aeryn was a strong woman, and things like that.  I think those kinds of things contribute, those superficial things.  I don't think women are that superficial -- I'll only watch if it has a strong woman character in it.  It was a challenging show, and an interesting, uncompromising show and I would like to think that women really appreciated the smarts of it.  That that was at least as appealing to them as the fact that it had a strong woman in it and a strong romance at its center, as opposed to those kinds of things, whether right or wrong, that to women.  You don't find a lot of television that challenges you. Farscape certainly did that.  That's one of the reasons why I think that it won't age, or it'll be long time before it ages.  The boldness of the series isn't something, certainly in science fiction television, that's been emulated.  Battlestar Galactica is, obviously, a very incredibly well done show and very bold in its own way, but bold in a different way than Farscape was.  The production design, the look of it, and the scale of it, is something I've yet to see matched on television.  It's wonderful to see that it doesn't age.  I think it'll sustain for quite a while. 

LINDY RAE
About the scapers, what would you ask the fans of the show?  Is there any question or thing that you would want to know from the 'scapers, fans of Farscape?

ROCKNE
Um..no.  Off the top of my head I can't think of anything.  The wonderful thing about the Farscape community is there's such a terrific rapport between the makers of the show and the fan world of the show.  Between the Farscape convention - and there'll be another one coming this year - and things through SciFi Channel I've had a terrific opportunity to meet and talk to and interact with the larger Farscape world.  I feel very satisfied in the base of knowledge of the Farscape community. 

LINDY RAE
I know we're getting close to the end here.  I had a question to ask you about Roy Scheider.  We heard the news that he passed away on February 11th, and he was the star of one of your shows, SeaQuest.  Is there any comment you have about him that you'd like to...

ROCKNE
First of all, when I first met with Steven Spielberg and we talked about what SeaQuest would be -- and obviously that was a thrill beyond belief.  I had worked with Steven on an Amazing Stories episode.  I met him then, but that was just a meet, there wasn't much to that experience.  SeaQuest was obviously a much different experience in terms of really rolling up our sleeves and being very much involved.  So that was a thrill in itself.   Then Steven said "I've been talking to Roy and he might be enticed to come to television".  So the very first meeting where Steve and I sat with Roy Scheider, and as a guy - I mean, Jaws is quite literally [unintelligable] fine films.  If you had to ask me in the middle of the night what's my favorite film, I'd say Jaws, because of the nature of that movie and etc.  So the fact that I was sitting in a room with Steven Spielberg and Martin Brody from Jaws was just the biggest kick of all time.  And then to deal with Roy as a creative partner was the other part of it.  He's an Oscar caliber actor, nominated two times, he was in a zillion movies, was an actor's actor, in things like The French Connection, and All That Jazz, Oscar caliber performances of note.  But then he also was very much a movie star.  Jaws, and Marathon Man, and Blue Thunder; he was the go-to guy as a solid, likable, leading man.  So all those things were in play.  And to work with him, he was also a terrific contributor.  I mean, SeaQuest was -- having been a movie star -- his first entry into television.  He was very interested that it be something that interested him and have other things going on, if possible, other than a big submarine show or a big adventure show.  The kinds of stories that were developed for the first season were often kind of science based, and grounded in a nice reality, and the fact that we had Bob Ballard do wrap-ups of the show and talk about the real science of the world that would relate to the story that you'd just watched - the fictional story.  All these things were things that were important to Roy.  A real interesting guy, a guy that I admired quite a bit.

LINDY RAE
Rockne, I think we've reached the end of our time together, and I will say that it's been a total pleasure to have you here with us on the Scapecast with us.

ROCKNE
Thank you very much, and a big shout out to all the 'Scapers out there.  Thanks for watching in the past, and continuing to watch, if in fact you do.  It's been a pleasure.


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