buffymusical.com - Buffy the Musical "Once More, With Feeling"
     

Episode #107
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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon

The genius behind "Once More, With Feeling" - in fact, behind the whole Buffy universe - is Joss Whedon. Not only did he write and direct the musical, he composed all of the the music and lyrics as well.

Despite having a pedigree for TV scriptwriting, (his father having written for sitcoms including The Golden Girls, Alice and The Dick Cavett Show, and his grandfather for series such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It to Beaver,) Joss never intended to be a TV writer. He intended to make movies.

He earned a degree in film studies from Wesleyan University and, while there, just happened to made a short film about a demon-slaying superheroine. In 1987, he graduated and moved to Los Angeles, where his objection to TV writing began to wane: "I was like, 'Television is lame-o, I am a film student, I shall never write for... They pay how much?'"

He soon got a job as story editor and writer for the hit series Rosanne, and later co-producer and writer for Parenthood. During this period he also developed his demon-slayer idea into a movie script called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy the Movie
The movie

The script was made into a movie in 1992, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui and starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy and Donald Sutherland as her Watcher. As anyone who has sought out the movie after becoming a fan of the TV series knows, the movie sucks dust. "It didn't turn out to be the movie that I had written," Joss later said of it - the first of many bad experiences he would have with people destroying his movies scripts (see below). He has had some success in the movie world, however, such as his Best Screenplay Academy Award nomination for his work on the hit movie Toy Story.

Three years after the Buffy movie, Gail Berman of Sandollar Television, thought the property might work as a TV series. Not expecting Joss to be interested, he was called about the idea out of contractual obligation. To everyone's surprise, Joss jumped at the idea to develop the series: "Yeah, I could do that. I think I get it.... It'd be a metaphor for how lousy my high-school years were."

The rest is TV history. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer has become one of the most obsessively loved and critically acclaimed TV series ever, just as Joss wanted:

"I wanted her to be a cultural phenomenon. I wanted there to be dolls, Barbie with kung-fu grip.... I wanted people to internalize it, and make up fantasies where they were in the story, to take it home with them, for it to exist beyond the TV show.... I think she has become an icon, and that's what I wanted. What more could anybody ask?"


Script doctoring is bad for your health

Joss's writing talents have often been called upon to draft, rewrite or fix scripts on some big title movies, although the experiences seem to be distinctly unpleasant:

Speed - "Most of the dialogue in Speed is mine, and a bunch of the characters.... Getting arbitrated off the credits was un-fun."

Twister - "In Twister, there are things that worked and things that weren't the way I'd intended them."

WaterWorld - "I was supposed to be there for a week, and I was there for seven weeks, and I accomplished nothing.... I wrote a few puns, and a few scenes that I can't even sit through because they came out so bad."

X-Men - "They said, 'Come in and punch up the big climax, the third act, and if you can, make it cheaper.' [M]y response...was, 'The problem with the third act is the first two acts.' But, again, no one was paying attention.... And then...they actually invited me to the read-through, having thrown out my entire draft without telling me. I was like, 'Oh, that's right! This is the movies! The writer is shit in the movies!'"

Alien: Resurrection - "I've never had a worse experience in my life, and I've often thought of doing a lecture series on how not to make movies based on just showing that movie, because I think they literally did every single thing wrong. The production design, the casting. There wasn't a mistake they left unturned."

The Getaway - (Alec Baldwin/Kim Basinger version) "My first gig ever was writing looplines for a movie that had already been made...to explain something, to help make a connection, to add a joke...saving something that doesn't work, or trying to, with lines behind people's backs.... If you look carefully at The Getaway, you'll see that when people's backs are turned, or their heads are slightly out of frame, the whole movie has a certain edge to it."

The Quick And The Dead - "I also did a couple of days of looplines and punch-ups for The Quick And The Dead, just to meet Sam Raimi."

Disney's Atlantis - "The movie they made has nothing to do with [my] treatment, but I'm happier having my name on that movie than on Titan A.E."



Quotes on this page from the Onion A.V. Club interview
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