“I kind of don’t give a shit what the agenda is. I want to make something I want to watch.”
Frank talk dominated the discussion at Sunday morning’s Produced By panel with the men behind “The Walking Dead,” “True Detective,” “Homeland,” and “Hannibal” sharing stories and advice with an attentive audience. Bryan Fuller’s (“Hannibal”) above quote was met with unanimous support from his peers, agreeing the script was their main focus, not the surrounding benefits networks may emphasize later. The group was eager to discuss the issues they face behind-the-scenes of your favorite shows. Here’s what we picked up:
Scott Stephens worried fans of “True Detective” were too hung up on the serial killer story.
One of the few points of disagreement during the first season of ‘True Detective” was what the show was about. Some thought it was a twisty whodunit with the finale serving as the big reveal of a giant mystery. Others maintained it was a character study, with the serial killer plot put in place primarily to develop these men.
Producer Scott Stephens picked a side Sunday morning. “The social media frenzy kind of caught us by surprise,” he said. “The fan base became very rabid very quickly, and the ongoing discussion of plot points that really didn’t exist…the creator of the show, Nic Pizzolato, intentionally stayed away from a lot of plot points to keep the serial killer aspect as much in the background as possible because the intent of the show is to focus on the two main characters; the dynamics of the men and the lives they live.”
What can be shown and said on TV is as big a mystery to producers as the rest of us.
“I don’t really see a difference between what we’re doing with ‘Hannibal’ on NBC and the cable shows,” Fuller said when discussing the cooperative spirit between his team and the network’s Standards and Practices guide. Yet even in cable, some things just aren’t allowed in what sounds like very arbitrary decisions.
“So we can shoot a six-year-old girl zombie in the face, but we can’t shoot a human and show it the same way,” David Alpert said about “The Walking Dead.”
“We shot a human in the face on NBC,” Fuller replied, jokingly.
“We get four shits,” Alpert countered. “We can use ‘dick’ and ‘pussy’ in nonsexual context, and we get as many ‘douche bags’ as we want.”
“There was a quote from the book [‘Red Dragon’] where a character described his lesbian sister as a ‘muff diver,'” Fuller said. “So the Standards and Practices chain of letters was hysterical because I wrote, like, ‘Well, I looked in the book and he says muff diving.’ And she said, ‘Well, you can’t use muff-diving,’ and then gave me a whole bunch of words I’d never heard of. Then she said ‘Anything that is orally implicating you can’t use,’ and I was like, ‘Well, what about button-stitching?’ And we got to use button-stitching instead of muff-diving.”
“That’s good writing,” Alpert quipped.
“We wrote ourselves into a corner [on ‘Homeland’].”
Lots has been said about the season three finale of “Homeland,” when [SPOILERS] the central story of the show changed completely. Brody died, and Carrie has been left on her own as the only character in what was a two-person story.
“We are creating another very intense dynamic relationship in the wake of what our main character probably considers to be her defining moments, and to have been her defining relationship,” said producer Alex Carey. “That’s a challenge. We wrote ourselves into a corner, and I think what we’ve always enjoyed is trying to write ourselves out of a corner. It’s the same show, but we’re telling another generation of it… We’re being rigorous about staying true to what we want to watch.”
Cary was then asked how long they had planned to axe one of the main characters, a question co-creator Alex Gansa answered during a recent FYC event for “Homeland.” Gansa said then that they had planned to kill Brody off in the first season, and then kept him around because of the chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.
“We sort of lived in denial for a while,” Cary said. “We just sort of believed we would cross that bridge when we came to it, and we’re in the middle of it now.”
We’ll have to wait and see if they cross successfully when season four begins in the fall.
Bryan Fuller has no idea how he gets paid.
One audience member asked the panel how they get paid as producers, specifically asking for the different stages with checks for their job on the show, VOD sales, backend revenue, et all. Fuller took point and gave an answer as hilarious as it was unhelpful.
“I’m always perplexed because I’ll get a call from my accountant saying like, ‘Oh you finally started getting paid and now we can pay your taxes.’ And I’ll be like, ‘But I’ve been working for eight months.’ So…I have no idea.”
“The Walking Dead” could last for a very, very long time.
Alpert was asked what it was like working from a pre-existing product.
“I happen to love working from source material, specifically because we have a pretty good idea of what season 10 is gonna be. We know where season 11 and 12…we have benchmarks and milestones for those seasons if we’re lucky enough to get there.”
If the ratings keep rolling in like they have been, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Robert Redford is set to executive produce a TV show based on his 1980 film “Brubaker.”
And you can read all about it right here.