“In network television, you can’t have enough story in your pilot,” Schwartz told IndieWire’s Turn It On podcast. “So you’ll get the note, ‘Can you take Act Four and make that the end of your teaser?'”
Savage, who was a TV executive before she became a producer and writer, said the idea is to enact the premise as quickly as possible. But they got the opposite note at Hulu: “Can you take your teaser and make it the end of Act Four?”
Said Schwartz: “That turned out to be a great note and a great challenge. It became about character and not about plot.”
Schwartz admits that he and Savage have been accused of blowing through story too quicky, going back to “The O.C.,” where they struggled to come up with enough story to produce as many as 27 episodes in a single season. But “Marvel’s Runaways” was a unique challenge: The original comic, created by Brian K. Vaughan, burned through its entire story in 18 issues.
Vaughan told Schwartz and Savage that he did that because he assumed the book would be canceled. But for the TV series, everyone agreed it made sense to slow down the storytelling.
Vaughan joined Schwartz and Savage for a month to serve as a sounding board on the show and look over the series bible and scripts.
“Runaways” could in many ways be the culmination of everything Schwartz and Savage have worked on over the years, including “The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl” and “Chuck.” Schwartz notes the serendipity that “Runaways” was first published in 2003, the same year “The O.C.” debuted.
“I’m not a comic book person, but Brian’s voice, the heart and humor, the diversity of the characters, the resonance felt really special,” Savage said.
IndieWire’s TURN IT ON sat down recently with Savage and Schwartz to discuss their ever-growing Fake Empire. We began by talking about this busy fall for the duo, before going into the history of their collaboration. Listen below!
When Schwartz was first approached to develop a teen drama, Savage was his boss, as the head of TV for McG’s Wonderland production company. That show became “The O.C.,” an immediate sensation for Fox. Ultimately Savage wrote one of the landmark “The O.C.” episodes, “The Best Chrismukkuh Ever,” and began her transition to writer. From there, Schwartz and Savage worked together on shows such as “Gossip Girl” and eventually formed their own company, Fake Empire.
Now, besides “Runaways,” Schwartz and Savage are also behind a reboot of “Dynasty” for The CW. Next up, they’re working on the miniseries “Toy Wars” for Amazon, with Josh Gad and Seth Gordon; the pilot “Misfits” for Freeform; and writing a movie for Netflix described as “‘Mean Girls’ meets ‘Gone Girl.'”
Fake Empire went independent recently, after a decade at Warner Bros. TV and three years at ABC, allowing the company to pursue projects at a wide range of outlets. “We decided there’s a whole world out there and we want to be a part of that,” Schwartz said.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.