PopGurls Amy Pascale has an interesting interview with David Fury where he compares working on 24 to his past projects among other things. There’s some interesting tidbits about the 24 writing staff in here.
Have you found that people have followed you from Buffy to new shows?
If I’m to believe the bulletin board postings and fan mail I receive, I have to think “yes.” A great many told me they checked out Lost because of my involvement. I’m less sure about 24. It has its own core group of fans, and doesn’t represent the kind of writing I usually do – fun, bantery stuff – that viewers expect of me.
I think a lot of people were really excited to hear that you were going to 24. I started watching it again this season, partly for that reason.
I’m happy to hear that. I don’t have a usual forum to hear directly from people the way I used to. Buffy and Angel had “The Bronze” and the “The Bronze: Beta” fan forums. I was responsible for the creation of The Fuselage (the Lost fansite) and had fun conversing on that, and hearing feedback. But 24 doesn’t have any forums like that, so consequently I feel cut off from my show’s fanbase for the first time in eight or nine years.
I think Buffy was on the forefront of fans being able to interact with writers and staff. (For example, Grey’s Anatomy‘s writers/producers have their own blog.) After so many years of that immediate gratification of thoughts, and interaction, is it like settling into a world pre-Buffy?
I do think the fan/writer interaction was started with Buffy, no doubt. I think “The Fuselage” brought that kind of thing to ABC’s attention. It’s another one of Joss’ many legacies. As for being in a pre-Buffy world – that can never happen, if [there aren’t show-dedicated forums,] you can always read feedback on sites like Ain’t It Cool News or Television Without Pity. That’s a development that’s only about 10 years old. It’s the dialogue between the creative team and the fans that I miss here at 24.
Since continuity and story arcs are important, especially 24, do you get a framework of things you have to include in the episode? Or do you write an episode and someone else adds in things that might be part of a larger story arc?
It’s a very peculiar process over here. Basically we come up with a page of beats and go off to make something of it, usually directly to script. During the process of writing it, the scripts preceding yours and coming after yours are being drastically rewritten. Consequently, by the time you hand in your script, the mechanics, the characters, the structure has to change to accommodate the other stories. One winds up doing page one rewrites of the scripts with entirely new stories.
Often I’m called upon to write an act or two in someone else’s script. Or someone rewrites mine. Almost nothing remains from a first draft to a shooting draft.
Is it true 24‘s storylines aren’t planned out in advance? Do you at least plan a few episodes in advance, or is it strictly “make it up as you go”?
The first four episodes are generally worked out in advance, then it’s completely made up as we go. The closest thing to planning is if someone has a good idea for a set-piece (i.e. Jack has to kidnap the Pope), Howard [Gordon] or Joel [Surnow] will say, “We’ll do that in a couple of episodes.” Ultimately, or at least often, those ideas change once we get there. And we make something else up on the spot.
Wow. How was that to adjust to since Joss is infamous about mapping seasons out years in advance?
In truth, Joss never mapped out stories seasons in advance. That’s overstating it. He’d know what he wanted a season to be about, decide on a Big Bad and shortly into the season he’ll decide how the season will end. It was definitely the better way to work. Joss might know a couple of small things about the next season but there was no way to think beyond it.
It’s definitely challenging to write 24 this way, but the truth is – this show is a runaway train. It’s about movement, action, momentum.
Buffy was about emotions, relationships – a coming of age story. You needed to know where you’re going for it all to have meaning. 24 has no meaning other than to thrill you, keep you engaged in the ride.
This is true. And the ride has been pretty intense. It’s shown nuclear explosions, a gruesome virus, torture, and killed off several major characters, but FOX drew the line in Season 4 at stating outright that President Keeler had died. Is there anywhere else the writers wanted to go in season 5 where either the writers or producers said no, that’s too far?
Well, I know [co-creator and co-executive producer] Bob Cochran had strong reservations about making President Logan the bad guy. But as the show is run by a committee of Executive Producers, he was out-voted. The only thing the studio and network (as well as myself and others) objected to was the death of so many characters. Don’t misunderstand, I was for most of them and I understood there was nothing to do with their characters [story-wise], but I was afraid it would lose its shock value. Fortunately I managed to keep a couple of characters alive who were headed for the big CTU in the sky.
That was very kind of you! Any hints as to who was destined to be axed?
There’s a certain Secret Service agent whose death scene I wrote at least three times before the reprieve came in.
If it’s the person I’m thinking of, he would be greatly missed.
VP Gardner (Ray Wise) killed Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks. Henderson killed David Palmer. And President Logan is trying to kill Wayne Palmer. Should Arnold Palmer watch his back?
Killer Bob is definitely around. Arnie better have some defensive clubs ready.
Jack Bauer, Buffy and even Angel are consistently in precarious situations. What is it like writing for characters that are often on the brink of death in each episode but the audience knows that they won’t die (except, maybe if it’s the finale) as it’ll screw with the premise of the show?
It was much easier writing those scenes for Buffy and Angel. They could deal with their certain deaths with some levity and pithy comments. It wasn’t about their manner of death, it was about their attitudes. Jack has to deal with his demise directly, almost unemotionally. It may play realer, but it’s certainly less fun.
Where do you get to exercise the fun the most in 24?
Hmm… I haven’t figured that out yet.
Do you miss sci-fi? Do you feel confined by “reality” now?
We’re all confined by reality.
But, yeah, I miss genre shows. I miss writing allegory and metaphor. That was the fun of writing those shows. Saying something. 24 is about doing. And it’s great. But there’s nothing to say about it, except “that was cool.”
Is it more rewarding to work on a show that’s a massive hit like Lost, or a show that’s been on for a while and then hits a stride of high critical acclaim (and good ratings) like Angel‘s final season?
Frankly, it was a lot more fun to be on a cult show that was highly regarded like Buffy and Angel. When your show’s a ratings hit like Lost and 24, everyone feels too pressured. We never really concerned ourselves with ratings at Mutant Enemy. Joss was about doing the show that he loved. Consequently, I think his shows will resonate long after the others are gone.