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‘The Terror’ Creator on Building an Arctic Expedition on a Soundstage and His Decision Not to Return for Season 2

Toolkit Podcast: David Kajganich breaks down the process of creating the historical horror story and why, after originally pitching the show as 5-season anthology, he’ll be handing over the reins.

- The Terror _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: AMC

“The Terror”


When AMC greenlit “The Terror,” the network initially signed off on a self-contained 10-epsiode limited series that would be based on David Kajganich’s adaptation of Dan Simmons’ novel and would tell the fictionalized horror version of Captain John Franklin’s doomed expedition to locate the Northwest Passage in the mid-1840s. But that wasn’t Kajganich’s original concept. When he first pitched AMC, he envisioned a five-season anthology centered around one location, the Arctic, that would bring the story all the way up to the present day.

“We were going to tell a kind of haunted house story about the Arctic using this piece of land and this mythology as a kind of a constant presence, but subvert it every season,” said Kajganich when he was a guest on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “So the first season was to be about the Franklin expedition, the second season was to be about one of the rescue expeditions — probably the the John Rae expedition — then it was going to move into the 1950s, then it was going to move into the ’80s and then to present.”

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At the time, Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” was only just entering its second season and anthology series hadn’t yet proven to be something audiences were ready to embrace. Kajganich and his co-showrunner, executive producer Soo Hugh, started the project with the mindset that this was a limited series, but early in pre-production, the network wanted to start talking about a second season.

Now, after the show has become both a critical hit and a legitimate Emmy contender, AMC and producer Ridley Scott are actively exploring how to bring the show back, but it won’t be with Hugh and Kajganich.

“I have decided not to continue with the show because we had the opportunity to do the season we wanted and to do it well and we wouldn’t want to do subsequent seasons — although we pitched some things to AMC and had a few things we really wanted to do,” said Kajganich. “It didn’t seem like the resources were going to be quite enough to top these, so our attitude about it was we didn’t come in thinking we were going to do multiple seasons. We did exactly what we wanted with this season and we want to let that be what it is and move onto other things.”

Kajganich, who wrote the upcoming “Suspiria” remake, said he’s really looking forward to sliding into being a audience member for a second season of “The Terror” and seeing what a new team will cook up.

While on the podcast, co-hosted by IndieWire’s resident “The Terror” expert Steve Greene, Kajganich talked extensively about the process of adapting the story for the realities of shooting almost entirely on a sound stage, collaborating with Scott’s “The Martian” VFX team, and his ongoing conversation with Simmons about adapting the author’s book into a TV show.

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, OvercastStitcherSoundCloud and Google Play Music. Previous episodes include:

The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

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