But one of the things I love about conventions-and most recently, Creation Entertainment cons in particular-is the chance to listen to and speak with some of the creative brains behind our favorite shows. This past weekend during Creation’s Salute to Firefly & Serenity, Creation and QMx gave fans that opportunity by booking Jane Espenson.
Any self-respecting Whedonite should know who Jane is, but in case your memory’s on the fritz today, I’ll remind you; Jane is the writer behind such memorable Buffy episodes as "Harsh Light of Day," "Superstar," "Doublemeat Palace," and "Conversations with Dead People." She has also written episodes of Battlestar Galactica, including the upcoming 2-hour movie, "The Plan," and she’s worked on shows such as Tru Calling, and Gilmore Girls.
Since this past weekend was a salute to Serenity and Firefly, it’s only fitting that she wrote one of the series’ most beloved episodes, "Shindig."
Taking the stage to healthy applause, Jane was very at ease and eager to talk with the fans. She immediately let us know that any show she’d worked on was fair game, even Dollhouse, which Jane has recently joined as a consulting producer. She said that she has read the original pilot and five of the scripts for the show and it’s "fantastic. It’s sparkly and crisp." In fact, this weekend, she was in the midst of writing a script with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Thank goodness she made time for us!
She said the "fan-thusiasm" surrounding Dollhouse has been amazing and that she’s not worried about the Friday night time slot they were recently saddled with. When a fan mentioned the similarity between it and Firefly, Jane said, "It’s not the same world anymore. Tivo and DVR didn’t exist back then. I think we’ll be fine."
It was obvious Jane was quite excited to be working with Joss again and she said that it took her quite a while after Buffy to get her normal patterns of speech back. It’s what her boyfriend calls, "short mouth," shortening words, which of course, is part of what Joss characters are so famous for. She said that since she’s started on Dollhouse, she’s already noticed it creeping back into her vernacular. At one point, this was how she described Dollhouse: "It’s Joss-you’re laughing and crying while you’re writing it." Yes, indeed, that is Mr. Whedon’s M.O.
Discussion soon drifted to Battlestar Galactica, because, let’s be honest, the final Cylon is the best kept secret in Hollywood. Although Jane wouldn’t spill the beans, she did share details on the upcoming webisodes, which she wrote. She said that she adores Gaeta and so he is "all over the webisodes." She also mentioned that actor availability made writing the mini-scripts very difficult. It seemed everyday someone was dropping out or dropping back in and so she had to do quite a few rewrites to accommodate their schedules.
She also wrote "The Plan," the new Sci Fi Channel original two-hour movie that will premiere following Battlestar Galactica‘s final episode this spring. She told us that it begins during the miniseries and runs through mid-season two. It focuses almost solely on the Cylons and what they were doing during that time (hence the title). Ron always told us they had a plan.
When asked about more BSG, she stated that she didn’t know if the current series would ever come back in another form, although she said it was looking very good that Sci Fi might order more Caprica, the new miniseries/pilot that takes place approximately 40 years prior to the start of the Second Cylon War. So say we all!
Jane offered a lot of insight into the business of writing and Hollywood that was very informative for a writer like me. When asked about her one-year stint on Gilmore Girls, she said that it was great fun. Buffy had just wrapped and so she and the other writers were looking for work. She felt Gilmore was a good fit because she wanted to keep writing jokes. She also loved the fact that they often had seven, eight and even nine page scenes of pure dialogue, which as a TV writer, is just a luxury.
However, she admitted that maybe one of the reasons she didn’t stay was because she missed the sci-fi stuff. Which might be what led her to Battlestar. When a fan remarked that BSG isn’t really funny and asked how she wound up there, Jane challenged them saying, "Oh, there’s funny in there." She thinks Brother Cavil (played by Dean Stockwell), Cylon #1, is probably the funniest of all the Cylons. She’s got a point.
She also relayed a great story regarding humor and a moment during the season 3 episode, "The Passage." It involves the ‘paper shortage’ moment between Tigh and Adama. She said that using humor at that moment, when things are so bleak, makes the humor and the tragedy even more intense. She also said that Ron Moore cut other bits of the script-"like, story stuff"-in order to keep that moment in, for which Jane was very grateful.
In other Buffy ‘verse news, Jane said she will be writing an Oz arc for the Season 8 Buffy comics, but she hasn’t actually had time to sit down and discuss it with anybody yet. A few fans asked about the process of writing a script and in particular if there was ever any that just seemed impossible to write. Without missing a beat, Jane said, "Well, ‘Doublemeat Palace’ almost killed me!" There was quite a bit of laughter-Doublemeat Palace almost killed quite a few residents of Sunnydale.
She admitted that she loves the episode now, but it was one of the hardest to write and after she had handed in her first draft, she got the following call from Joss: "So, maybe there was a misunderstanding…" which led to a page one rewrite.
Toward the end of Jane’s time on stage, she was asked about the Writer’s Strike. "It was exhausting. I sprained my shoulders from carrying those signs." She said that she did love the fact that so many fans and actors came out in support of the writers and while that was very encouraging, it was a long, drawn out battle and she was glad when it was over.
After her panel, Jane graciously signed free autographs at the QMx booth and she was a pleasure to meet in person. She was warm and welcoming to everyone and seemed truly touched by the amount of fan support and kudos she received.
And, that’s the way it should be, because we know-our actors are great, but our writers are better.