Transcribed interview with Ben Browder and David Kemper from fantasticon.com (08/01)
Question 1: How are the Farscape stories created?
Ben: Oh, that's a good one. It's chaos.
David (overlapping): We make it up. No, literally, for real. There's a tremendous - ah, Ben, everyone may recognise Ben Browder, he's got a small part in the show. We talk to all the actors, and we talk to the directors, the writers and the producers, and we talk to the creative people and what we do is we make a concerted effort to include people's ideas. So, in the upcoming LATP trilogy, before I wrote the trilogy, before I write a scene, we've been doing this for three years almost, I'll talk to Ben and say: 'I got this idea for a scene, xyz, and as we just riff on it, he'll throw out lines and do dialogue and it goes in. Or he'll say I've got a concept for something, we have something coming up in the middle part in the gkensch (sp?) cockpit, which I don't wanna give away, but where he goes a bit mad. And I had an idea what should happen with the weapon and he added something that made it brilliant, and so then the director adds something and then the creature people add something, and then we go and we, it's very collaborate, it's the answer, and it starts with him and ends with him, actually.
Ben (overlapping): no, no, it starts with you! What happens is...
David (overlapping): Woa... well, we write for him, so it does start with trying to service him.
Ben (overlapping): yeah
Question 2: What happens with the behind the scenes process of Farscape?
Ben: What happens is we will get a script and the script comes down and the director goes back to the writers and says 'I got this, I got this, I got this, and we'll get David and David will talk to us and sometimes the director will talk to us and - so the writing department takes it, they come back, they work on it and then we end up with a shooting script.
And then we'll be on the floor, and sometimes we'll have something, we'll get a creature that will not look like the creature that is described in the script (David chuckles silently to himself and nods at that), or we'll have a sequence which has to change because of the physical nature, or we see something on the day that we're interested in, so we go back to the writing department, and it goes back through us. So there a kind of a circular process that goes through the entire arc of the shooting. We did ep 13 this year (David nods in agreement with Ben) where the script came down and it was really good, but there were a couple of scenes that seemed out of place, so we went back to the writing department and said 'you know this feels like instead of an act one break, it feels like a tag' and the writing department says 'yes, it does' and we go and do the tag and we change the scene and it bookends the piece in a different way.
It's all there, in the script, but there's a very fluid flow of creativity between all the departments, but particularly betweeen the actors, the direcotrs and the writers, and then all that is influenced by the creatures and the CGI , what CGI can and can't do.
It's amazing, David will have an idea for something and he'll go - it requires a lot of CGI - before it even makes it into the script he goes and he talks to the CGI people 'what can we do with this?', and they may have an idea, but there's a synthesis which occurs on the show and there a cultural synthesis between being Australian, American, British, that is unique in my experience.
Question 3: Tell us about the special effects.
David: Henson is actually a culture onto itself in terms of the Creature Shop and providing the raw materials of the creatures, all the prothetics. I think our stuff is better than let's just say any other Science Fiction show on TV by leaps and bounds, so it comes from that, it starts in that place.
Qer: And the public and the critics have like gone crazy over the show. I mean I don't know, you and I were talking (both David and Ben start laughing slightly incredulously), and it's like 'do you knwo how popular this show is?' and you said 'no.'...
David (overlapping): No.
Qer (overlapping): ...because you like live in Australia.
David (overlapping): We live in Australia, and we see the internet. We don't get TV Guide. Every once in a while we hear that there is a box in TV Guide or something. There are rabid fans, but we're pretty isolated. The show's been on just only 5 weeks in Australia, so people aren't yet recognising the actors, so there's no - we're kind of in a vacuum, we live in this little island...
Ben: And most of the actors you wouldn't recognise anyway, I mean
David: Right! Because when they're out of make-up it's hard to recognise them, and it's very strange to find out, you know, that we're, we're a hit (David grins wide-eyed at Ben)
Ben: It's very satisfying. (David laughs, Ben grins and laughs, too)
Question 4: How do you feel about the success of the show?
Ben: It's great because we actually work in a vacuum from all of that, so the process in which we're involved in is about trusting that we're trying to make the best show possible, and we will get notes back from the network and such, but on the whole it has more to do with the kind of show that David wants to make, or the kind of show that Andrew Prowse wants to make. And so there a - you know from episode to episode there's a, there are distinct changes within the show and there's very quick shifts within the episode itself which is a little unusual for television. We'll do one episode- the last episode that aired was basically a full-on comedy and it's still Farscape, and the characters are the same and there's still the drive and the dangerous elements and the CGI, but it's a full-blown comedy and, you know, two weeks before you have a veery serious, somber piece, and it's an unusual, unusual situation, and, ok, we do that and we've done it in a vacuum for almost two years and it's gratifying to hear that people like it.
Question 5: Why is each episode written in a different style?
David: There's a reason for it,also, it's by design. I keep telling him it's so that we don't look stupid (short laugh). We can't actually
Ben (overlapping): we don't actually know how to make the [intellegible]
David: we can't, we can't put a cohesive story on the air.
What we're trying to do is, we're trying to make a series that surprises - one of the words we say to ourselves is 'if it scares us it has the potential to be great... or crappy'. And more often than that - we're honest to each other - we make better than crappy. Sometimes we make crappy, and then we have to go fix it, we reshoot.
Ben (overlapping): Two. Just over two years ago.
David: And Rock O'Bannon, who you'll talk to in a minute, who created the show, was working with me and trained me on what he wanted the show- over a number of years before it ever got mounted we used to have lunches and talk about stuff.
Question 6: So who improvises most in the show?
David: This series - I was trained from a variety of producers many of them who said 'nobody changes a line on the set!'. I always found that when people give me the right as a writer to do a little bit crazy stuff I do better work.
So, in the very beginning, it's started with him and it's extended out now to a lot of the other actors... particularly with Ben, he used to come up all the time 'I, I wanna change a line if you don't mind' and I'd go 'yeah, ok'.
And now he'll do it on his own, because he understands the series as well as I do, so I will say that at least a third, possibly more - you wanna give credit to the writers and to other people - but the funniest lines or the most powerful lines a lot of times come from his mind, usually on the set, in the moment, like a great feature actor: instead of being locked into take after take, he never does two the same and that's not to say that he couldn't.
He's always evolving and some of the best lines that will get attributed to the writers - we set up the concepts and we'll put a framework for them to be creative, and particularly Ben, we set up the things - 'Here's the four elements you gotta get in' - and then he'll add a line that blows US away, then we will use that line in another script, revise on it and play it back into his strengths. So a lot of it does come from the actors, and particularly Ben.
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