Gregg Araki always wanted to make a TV show, but he knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Now Apocalypse,” a half-hour comedy about four young friends trying to navigate love, sex, and fame in Los Angeles, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January before debuting on Starz in March. It aired weekly on the premium cable platform through early May, but all 10 episodes were released March 22 via the network’s streaming and VOD services.
“The thing about TV that’s interesting to me is the immediacy and scope of it,” said Araki, who appeared at the IndieWire Consider This FYC Brunch earlier this month. “It was kind of mind-blowing that the show was being beamed all across the world at the same time. I’m so used to indie movies where you’re in a theater for a couple weeks then later it comes out on DVD or streaming — it just takes years and years and years for a movie to get out, whereas TV just kind of blasts out all at once.”
Unlike some other filmmakers who made the leap from movies to serialized storytelling, the “Nowhere” and “White Bird in a Blizzard” director didn’t take the responsibility lightly. He helmed 11 episodes of six different TV shows to prepare for “Now Apocalypse,” which he wrote and directed in its entirety.
“When you direct somebody else’s show, you’re on it for a few weeks, you turn it in for an edit, and that takes like a week, and then you’re basically done and walk away from it,” Araki said. “So when I was directing other people’s [series], I was really learning about showrunning and how a TV show is made. Seeing these showrunners and how hard they work, they’re just ground down to the bone — it never ends in terms of – Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] from ‘Riverdale,’ that guy never sleeps, and [now] he’s got two more shows!”
But even with his own preparation, Araki was still stunned by the amount of work that goes into bringing a 10-episode season to life. He said shooting an indie movie could take three or four weeks, and then he can edit at his “leisure” — not so with TV.
“I’m still not done with ‘Now, Apocalypse,” Araki said. “I started writing it in November of 2017 — like full-time writing the 10 episodes — then we shot it in the summer of 2018, posted all through the end of the year, and then the beginning of this year was the release and all the publicity, and now I’m writing Season 2. I haven’t had a day off since before we started, and I’m not used to that kind of schedule.”
Still, Araki wouldn’t change a thing.
“The response has been so amazing,” he said. “It’s been pretty much exactly what I’ve wanted it to be. […] It’s been a pretty great experience all-around.”
Now, while hard at work writing Season 2, Araki just hopes Starz gives him the green light to make more episodes. Inspired by David Lynch and “Twin Peaks,” Araki prepared for a long run by adding a “kind of supernatural” element to the show — “a layer of mythology; of stoners, and aliens, and conspiracies” — which he thinks gives it “endless possibility.”
“Season 1 was crazy, but Season 2 is a whole other level,” he said. “I don’t want to repeat Season 1, I want to go to the next level. And that’s what the universe of the show allows.”
Watch Araki discuss finding the right cast members and preparing them for his outrageous sex scenes during IndieWire’s Consider This FYC Brunch below. “Now Apocalypse” is eligible for Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as other comedy programming categories, at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. All 10 episodes are available to stream on Starz.