Monday, September 05, 2005

Joss Whedon Q&A

So, today here at Wesleyan alum Joss Whedon was appearing to screen his new film, Serenity and do a Q&A afterwards. So, this event is at 7:30, most of your Wesleyan films events don't start until fifteen minutes or so after the listed time, and it was nowhere near full at the last event they did with Joss, but I figured I'd get there early just to be sure. So, I have dinner and get there at 7:10 and there's a massive line, stretching around the building. Apparently freshmen have not gotten the memo on the whole fashionably late thing, so I'm a bit nervous, but figure I should get in. And the line winds it way along and I'm getting close when one of the workers comes out and says "You're probably not going to get in, you can wait if you want, but it's not looking good," but I've heard that one before, and I figure they're just trying to weed out the people who don't really want to be there anyway. However, we don't move forward much more, and eventually the guy comes out and says that they are filled to capacity, and we would not get in.

So, I was quite annoyed at this point, and I sort of lingered around the door, talking to one of the people I know who works there, but he said that they were completely full. However, he did say I could come back in two hours and see the Q&A. This was not the best turn of events, I did want to see the film, but if I had to miss one thing, the film itself or the Q&A, I'd rather miss the film, because I can see that in a month, while this Q&A is a once in a lifetime thing, or twice I guess, since I already saw Joss when he appeared here back in Spring of 2004.

That Q&A was one of the best events I've ever been to, coming right as I was finishing my first viewing of Angel, becoming caught up as they prepared to air the final four episodes of the series. I was so into Joss' work at that point, it was amazing to hear him speak about Buffy and Angel and the worlds he had created. Hearing him talk about the process of creating a story was inspiring and relatable, I really understood his claim that the stories you end up telling are the ones that just won't shut up, they force themselves to be told somehow.

And I guess for him, Firefly is one of those stories, but I think the series was just starting to get good when it was cancelled. And because they had shown Serenity right before, the vast majority of questions here were about that world, and the film. Unfortunately I got a couple of spoilers for what happens in the movie, but most of the questions people asked were equally true for the series as they were for the film.

I'll commend the fact that people didn't ask really obvious, boring questions, but I think there was a bit too much of a focus on the Western elements of the film, four people must have asked which Western movies and tropes were a major influence on him. I feel like if you have someone who has created so much original stuff, it would be more interesting to hear about his process than just to go over what influenced him again and again. I'd imagine these were people who'd just seen the film, not any of his series, and as a result didn't have a big picture view of his work. Side note, it's very annoying that these people got to see the film instead of me who has seen all three series, but I guess this means I've got to show up earlier next time Interestingly, there were virtually no Buffy questions, I guess people felt that would have been looked at as sort of backtracking.

During the big Q&A there were a few interesting questions. One person asked about the reason for Joss' fixation on adolescent female heroes who commit violent acts and even he seemed at a bit of a loss, claiming that "my therapist and I are working on that." Even in the limited stuff I've done, I can see a lot of connected character types that come up almost subconsciously. When you're a writer, there's a way you see the world, and Joss clearly sees these type of female characters as important, something that's reflected in the work.

But the really interesting stuff came up after the big Q&A when Joss was signing stuff and fielding individual questions. Just as in the last time he was here, the crowd of people gradually diminished until only people who really knew his work were left. One really interesting thing he said was that when he came here to Wes, he made a conscious decision to focus on film and devote all his energy to that. He stopped doing anything that wasn't related to either watching or making movies. That's something I'm really happy to hear, because while I haven't done the total cut off, I can't think of the last really fun thing I did that wasn't somehow related to a work of fiction. I think he felt like you need to completely know film if you're going to make it, and wiht each new film you see, it's easier to understand what works and what doesn't work in cinematic storytelling. Martin Scorsese said the same thing, he used to watch two or three movies a day, so did Richard Linklater, so clearly this is the sort of devotion that one needs to become a filmmaker, or at least it doesn't hurt on the journey to making films.

I asked him the much rumored Spike movie. And he said that it required so many creative people to make, it was difficult to line up, and that they needed to make "a few more connections" before it would happen. He did say that it would take place after the end of Angel and would clear up some of the issues that people still had. I guess the biggest issue would be, do they live or die, and if there's a movie, that would imply that at least some of them survive. So, it is still in the works, but it's a matter of finding the time and bringing people together to make it happen.

The other really fun thing was when he was talking with someone about Runaways, the comic. He said that he still goes to the comic store every Wednesday and buys more books than he should, including Runaways, Powers and a whole bunch of Ultimate Marvel stuff. But, he was talking with someone else about Runaways and was just so enthused about it, talking about how great issue eighteen was, and how he and Bendis fought at Marvel to save it. I haven't read the comic, but it was so cool to see that a creator of so much phenomenal stuff was still a really passionate fan of fiction, and able to talk like someone you might run into at any local comic shop. The other thing he spoke about really passionately was Veronica Mars, saying it was the only show where he felt honored that it was called "the next Buffy." That's a show I need to check out, because everyone who watches it seems to completely fall in love with it.

Another interesting bit was when he talked about how people had criticized Firefly for ripping off Cowboy Bebop, but he had never seen the series. That's something that stood out to me when I saw it, Firefly definitely feels like it could be set in the same universe as Bebop. I'm sure there's a bunch of fanfic crossovers available on the internet. And as a fan of both series, it was cool to hear Joss mention the criticism.

He talked about a bunch of other interesting stuff, but that's what stood out the most to me. I get the feeling that Joss has so many great stories to tell and I wish he had more time to tell them all. I'd love to see him getting a TV series going, preferably on somewhere like HBO, without the constrains of network TV, or to just do some quick movies based on original stories, or an original comics work, just something to get more of his ideas out there.

So, it was an enjoyable time, he did about two hours of Q&A, and was always really entertaining to listen to. I don't think it was quite as mind blowing as the first time, because I knew more what to expect, but I could still listen to him talk for as long as he's willing to.


Keith G said...

You think turning up 20 minutes before a movie pre-screening is early? Damn, you're mad :-)

The first Serenity screening I saw was so beefed up with security it took about 30 minutes to get everyone through the door.

So anyway I'll definitely post my thoughts on Joss' Q&A in Melbourne next week. And then a review of the finished film as well!!

Patrick said...

In defense of myself, this wasn't open to the public, only students, and it's a 400 seat theater with only 2800 students in the whole school. And last time Joss was here, they only filled about half the seats, but I guess the lure of seeing a movie before it's released got more people there. I guess the lesson is, if you really want to see something and there could be a line, show up really early.

What annoyed me was that so many people, probably a third of the audience, left right after the movie, so clearly they weren't big fans of Joss' stuff, and yet they took my spot.

Keith G said...

Ah, that does suck.

Whereas when I see it the cinema will be full of huge fans - because basically the only people with tickets are members of the Serenity Oz message board (and their friends).

So I won't get one-on-one time with him - or an autograph even!