I wake up around noon, and hurl myself into “Red State” stuff. Carla, our Weinstein Co. exec, read it last night, so we go over it and come to the conclusion that it’s a long shot Harvey or Bob will wanna do it. Regardless, she feels, it needs to get made – even though, she agrees, it’s relentlessly bleak and tough to find one redeeming character in the cast of characters.
After that, I talk to Mos a bit more about the script as well. He’s reading it from front to back again and coming up with notes, which we’ll go over after recording the new SModcast tomorrow.
I get a message that “Battlestar Galactica” producer Ron Moore’s called, so I return the call and he tells me he’s sorry my directing stint on his program’s not gonna happen.
What? Me? Directing “Battlestar Galactica”? What the fuck?!
Yes – it was almost true. In fact, for a twenty four hour period, it was gospel truth: so much so, that I felt safe enough to talk about it in this interview. Apparently, a slew of online news sites were as taken aback by the news as I was, because stories ran at
…and a bunch of others.
The next day, it started being reported that I wasn’t directing an episode of “Battlestar Galactica” – which came as a suprise to me, because though I hadn’t spoken to anyone at the show lately, my agency told me they’d just spoken to producer David Eick, who confirmed I was, of course, directing an episode.
Then, suddenly, I wasn’t directing an episode of “Battlestar Galactica”.
What the fuck happened, you ask?
A few months back I got a call from Endeavor (where I’m repped) saying the folks at “Galactica” were asking if I’d wanted to direct an episode. I asked for some time to think about it, because while I love that show, I honestly felt there was nothing I could bring to it. When I directed the “Reaper” pilot, we were creating the world/tone/look from the ground-up. “Galactica” has been on the air for a few years now, has a genius staff of writers who’ve created a brilliant mythology and many hours of compelling television, and sports a distinctive look that’s never deviated from. In truth, I’m more a writer than a director, but I wouldn’t be writing my “Galactica” episode (nor would I want to; I’m not a good enough writer to tackle a “Galactica” script, to be honest); and in terms of directing… well, when a show’s been up and running as long as “Galactica”, and the look is established and distinctive, it’s not like a visiting director jumps aboard and says “I’m gonna change everything for my episode…” – particularly for a show that’s gonna be in it’s final season.
I mean, does anyone remember when Quentin directed an episode of “E.R.”? When all was said and done, even with a genius like Quentin at the helm, that episode looked like every other episode of “E.R.”. The same can be said of his recent stint directing “C.S.I.” (Quentin, apparently, only directs shows with initials as titles). And that’s not me criticizing Quentin – not in the least; that’s me saying that, when a successful television show is up-and-running (not in the pilot stage), nobody is allowed to come in and alter the status quo.
And who’d wanna alter the status quo on “B-Star-G”? Certainly not me, man; I worship this show – so much so, that the only reason I was even contemplating directing the ep was so that I could get to see the last season early, and glad-hand with a team of artisans and craftsmen/women I so greatly admired. Sometimes, my job affords me the opportunity to engage in some cool extracurricular activities; this opportunity was certainly gonna be that.
But, wanting to geek out on the Galactica is not reason enough to take responsibility for a whole episode of the best hour on television. That’d be irresponsible of me. So I passed.
Then, a few months back, when I was up in Vancouver doing a few days of reshoots on “Reaper” (doing the new scenes with Missy Peregrym), I ran into “Galactica” exec producer David Eick. We got to chatting, and the directing offer came up. He reiterated that they really wanted me to helm an episode, and in the moment, I threw caution to the wind and said “I’d love to.”
A month later, Endeavor called to say “You got the offer ‘Galactica’ directing offer again. What do we say?”
“Gimme a few days,” I said. I wanted to seriously consider the pro’s and con’s of taking the gig before signing on. Ironically, what should’ve been a simple decision was made more difficult by the fact that I love that show so much.
See, with “Reaper”, it was an easier decision to make. I wasn’t stepping into something that already existed; I was helping to create what “Reaper” would be, from the ground up. I know I knock myself as a director all the time, but when all was said and done, I honestly felt like I’d brought something to “Reaper” and made it what it was. I secured that cast, tweaked that script, balanced the comedy and the action, pushed to make changes, worked with the actors to nail the characters – all of which made that pilot really pop. Both the network and the producers have said that, if I hadn’t directed it, it probably wouldn’t have been picked up. They’re probably just being nice, but they’re right about one thing: you can’t watch the “Reaper” pilot and not see my fat hand at work. At the end of the day, I felt justified in taking that gig.
But I can’t tell the “Galactica” cast anything about their characters they don’t already know, nor coach them into better performances than they already give on a weekly basis. I wouldn’t wanna even so much as suggest changes for a “Galactica” script, because that shit’s always so amazingly layered and dialogued. And I wouldn’t wanna deviate from the look of the show, because each week, they already tell a more visually interesting story than I’ve ever done in film. The only thing I’d be doing on that set would be saying “Action” and “Cut”, really.
And maybe that’s enough. Maybe I was just over-thinking this whole thing. Someone’s gotta say action and cut for the episode in question; why not me? The fucking co-creators/exec producers of the show Time Magazine called “The Best of the Year” are asking me to do it; they must have faith that I can pull it off.
So, three days later (after a bunch of unrelated TV meetings), I told Endeavor “Okay – I’m in for ‘Galactica’. Let ‘em know.” I was told it was all good-in-the-hood and we were a go, so during that AOL interview, I mentioned the forthcoming gig.
And, suddenly, there was no forthcoming “Galactica” gig.
What happened? For that, I’ll turn this one over to “Galactica” exec producer David Eick, who told me I could reprint his email here…
I cannot tell you how fucking humiliated I am that we found ourselves actually able to have you direct an episode of Battlestar, only to discover we’d double-booked the same episode because we are clearly incapable of walking and chewing fucking gum at the same time.
In a nutshell: three really stupid things had to happen to fuck this up, and they all did. First, I heard that it was looking unlikely to get you because of Heroes Origins. So I told my partner Ron that although you & I had discussed directing an episode, it didn’t look good. He took that (legitimately) to mean you were out of the running and so set about trying to book another “name” director himself. No big deal, totally his right, but it meant there was a duplication of effort within our ranks and so when he started inquiring about John Dahl, he didn’t know my office was still working on trying to book you. Then, his office made the offer to Dahl and forgot to tell my office, so while that offer was out, we were still pursuing you. Indeed, Dahl accepted the offer before I even knew you were free for us.
Anyway, just know that both Ron and I were thrilled at the possibility of getting you and are both seriously bummed that we can’t. I also heard you’ve discussed this in interviews and that only makes my boneheadedness that much more profound and I will do anything — publish a public blog called The Anatomy of a Fuckup — you name it, to make up for it.
Please accept my and Ron’s sincerest apologies….
The moral of the story, kids? You snooze, you lose. Or, rather, if you spend too much time overthinking a simple yes or no question, the guy who directed “The Last Seduction” will get your job.
Still, I’m stoked to see Dahl’s episode – as I’m stoked to see every episode of the final “Galactica” season. I’ll always be shocked and appreciative that David and Ron even thought of letting me into their sandbox in the first place, granted; but I’m more than happy to play my standard role in “Battlestar Galactica”: that of the viewer.
After the Ron Moore convo, I emerge from the home office and join Schwalbach in the bedroom. Since Harley’s gonna be at the beach with her friends all day, we take the opportunity to enjoy the silence and just hang out, watching movies while I donk out on Full Tilt and blow my diet yet again.
Jen and I rock the Richard Gere/Andy Garcia psycho-cop drama “Internal Affairs”, during which I spy friend-and-producer Dan Etheridge (he of not only “Veronica Mars” producing fame, but also the voice of Mr. Plug in the “Clerks” cartoon) on iChat. I ask him if he’ll give “Red State” a read, to see if it’s a movie that should be made at all. He obliges, I give him a heads-up on the bleakness of “Red State”, and we make an appointment to chat about it later that evening.
Post “Internal Affairs”, Schwalbach and I head into “Fright Night”. Midway through, Dan pops up on chat again, with his thoughts on the script.
DAN: Well, lordy.
DAN: I don’t mean this offensively, but I feel like I want to take a shower. All that moral yucch.
We take the convo to the phone for a bit, during which we try to come up with reasons for and against the shooting of “Red State”. Around six, I’ve gotta get off the phone so I can drop Jen off at a dinner with her friend Daniella. I head back to the house, where Malcolm and I spend a bunch of time cracking one another up. Malcolm asks if Dan liked the script. For the answer, I go to the source on chat…
KEVIN: Malcolm wants to know “Did he like the script?” I don’t know if there’s an easy way to answer him.
DAN: there isn’t. though malcolm always gets on me for never giving a yes or a no. obviously, it’s not a bad script. but it’s such a dark trip, that’s it’s hard to come out throwing a parade of adulation. it’s provocative to be sure, and stirs conversation (i’ve been thinking about it since we spoke). but i’m still not sure what conclusion to draw. a good thing? perhaps?
KEVIN: I hate to say this, but isn’t that what art’s supposed to do?
DAN: tis true, which is why i cannot dismiss the moral swamp lightly. but i am still thinking through what exactly i am to take from it. and i don’t mean that in a bad way — but i am not sure i’ve reached my conclusion yet. what does malcolm think?
KEVIN: Malcolm loves it. Which might be a bad sign. He writes…
“that shit stays with you
I’ve thought about it alot
I think my favorite part is the ********** stuff
its so bleak
you have to have no pre-credit sequence
and after the last shot
have the screen go black and fade up on the words
DAN: all good notions. it’s a question as to exactly how likeable you want the characters to be coupled with how likeable can you make them given what they do? tricky
DAN: well, you’d be guaranteed the most divided love it/hate it reviews i think in a long while
I find my lawyer John Sloss on chat and ask him to read “Red State” ASAP so we can talk about what’ll happen if Harvey and Bob decide it’s not marketable enough to make. I IM him the script.
An hour or so later, I get the call from Jen to pick her up at the restaurant. En route, Sloss calls me, and we discuss “Red State.” Our mutual conclusion is that a) it’s very clearly a film that needs a festival launch, and b) who the fuck will wanna see this movie?
Jen and I get home and pop in “Mortal Thoughts” and eat ice cream. After the flick, we go to sleep to “Arrested Development” Season Three, Disc 2.