Exclusive Preview 2: The Write Environment with Joss Whedon

For my second sneak peek at the DVD series The Write Environment, I really enjoyed listening to and learning more about television and feature film writer Joss Whedon in Jeff Berman’s one-on-one interview.

Before I delve into the content of the interview, I want to offer Whedon’s chronological career timeline…

1989: story editor/writer on Roseanne
1990: co-producer/writer on Parenthood (1 season-sitcom; co-produced by Ron Howard, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, Ed Begley Jr. & Thora Birch)
1992: screenplay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1995: screenplay, Toy Story (collaboration w/3 others including Andrew Stanton)
1997: screenplay, Alien: Resurrection
1997-2003: creator/producer/director/writer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (series)
1999-2004: co-creator/producer/director/writer, Angel (series)
2000: screenplay, Titan A.E. (collaboration w/2 others, including John August)
2001: treatment, Atlantis: The Lost Empire
2002-2003: creator/producer/director/writer, Firefly (series)
2004: creator/producer/writer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Animated Series
2005: director/writer, Serenity
2007: director, The Office (2 episodes)
2008: director/producer/writer, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (3-act online series)
2009: creator/producer/director/writer, Dollhouse (series debuts on 2/13/09)
2009: co-producer/co-writer: Cabin in the Woods (film slated to premiere in October 2009, directed & co-written by Lost producer/writer Drew Goddard)
2011: director/screenwriter, Goners

I will start by confessing that I was merely a casual viewer of Whedon’s shows (Buffy, Angel & Firefly), all of which have achieved cult status thanks to his notoriously loyal fans and new legions who have discovered them on DVD. That being said, as a sci-fi and huge Lost fan, I can certainly appreciate why millions of people have such fervor for all things Whedon.

For the uninitiated, I refer you to Whedonesque, which is a fantastic and organized fan site and online community; it is both sanctioned and visited by Whedon himself.

The beginning of Berman’s interview with Whedon begins in similar fashion to the one with Damon Lindelof that I reviewed yesterday; a casual introduction to the writing space that Whedon has set up for himself. In this case, he has designated a small house rather than a single room or office [it is not stated, but I assume that this house is entirely separate from where he actually lives]. It is a cozy little home with great natural lighting and bookshelves filled with reference and history books. The walls are adorned with comic book art and a top secret white board/story board.  it is exactly the type of idyllic cottage that one would imagine a writer to have.

As I have stated before, I do not wish to recap the entire conversation. This 60 minute DVD is available now through the official site and Amazon, and I have no doubt that all fans of Whedon’s shows and films would love to watch and own this themselves!

From start to finish, Whedon provides fascinating insights into his multi-tasking mind, from a typical day-in-the-life to his approach to scripts. That he is a proud fanboy, sci-fi and musical theater geek only adds to his charm and my respect for his body of work.

This is not an original revelation by any means, but it occurred to me while listening to Whedon discuss the first script for the Buffy movie that his vampire vision preceded the current craze by over ten years; without Buffy the series, I’m not sure that the Twilight books/film and True Blood would be half as popular as they are now.

Whedon clearly identifies with all of his characters on the small and big screen, and has a collaborative relationship with the actors who play them. Although he sets goals for a season of episodes, the mythology cannot be locked in; he lets go and allows for surprises.

When asked about his preference for writing a film versus a television series, I absolutely loved his response: “TV shows are a question, and movies are an answer.” He enjoys creating a moment, which is easier to do in serialized television.

And now, for a few teasers. Whedon addresses the fate of Ripper, the story behind his Wonder Woman film scripts and working with/trusting FOX again with Dollhouse after the cancellation of Firefly.

So order the DVD now for yourself or a fellow fan friend. The in-depth, entertaining interview will give both Whedon acolytes and aspiring writers a unique perspective into the mind of this very accomplished writer and artist.

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Exclusive Preview: The Write Environment with Damon Lindelof (LOST)

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to present a preview of the new DVD series called The Write Environment, a series of one-on-one interviews with very talented and recognizable writers from your favorite television shows. Created and hosted by screenwriter Jeff Berman, who co-founded UnitedHollywood during the writers strike, I highly recommend these DVDs for any aspiring writers who are interested in and inspired by television and pop culture. Not all are available for purchase yet, but all DVDs will be sold via the official Write Environment site and Amazon.

Tomorrow I will review the interviews with Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse) and Phil Rosenthal (Coach, Everybody Loves Raymond).  And I hope to provide reviews in the near future of the interviews with Tim Kring (Heroes), Doug Ellin (Entourage) and Sam Simon (The Simpsons).

But of course I have to start with Damon Lindelof, writer/co-creator/co-executive producer of Lost.

The interview was shot like an intimate, well-produced home video and gives us a very cool glimpse into Lindelof’s office; the comfortable space of his actual writing environment, surrounded by Lost props and various pop culture toys and posters.

Without giving away too many details, I can tell you that Lindelof discusses both his writing process and details about his vision for Lost from conception (the pilot) through completion (the last episode of Season 6). He talks about how the serialized storytelling and character-driven elements of comic books influence him and also gives advice to those who seek careers as writers.

This may be old news to some, but Lindelof is writing scripts for the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk comics and is producing the new Star Trek film (directed by Lost co-creator/executive producer J.J. Abrams), in addition to writing and producing episodes of Lost

I believe that aspiring writers and Lost fans alike will really enjoy this 48-minute DVD; it is well worth your $10.99.  Lindelof touches upon the island as a character, the end game and mythology of the show and even Jack’s infamous Thailand tattoo episode.

You can pre-order this DVD right now; it will be released on November 26, and would make a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer!

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Geeking Out in Warp Drive: J.J. Abrams’ Revamped Star Trek

I know that the new Star Trek film does not debut until May 8, 2009, but it’s never too early to get your geek on when it comes to revamped franchises like this.  And yes, my nerd fever is elevated because Lost‘s J.J. Abrams is at the helm.

Make sure to bookmark and visit the official movie site, because it’s far too much fun and should prove to be an excellent procrastination activity.

While you may not recognize the new cast immediately, some of their names will ring familiar.  From left to right in the photo above: Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog) as Chekov, Chris Pine (Smokin’ Aces) as Captain Kirk, Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) as Scotty, Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings) as Bones McCoy, John Cho (Harold & Kumar) as Sulu and Zoe Saldana (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) as Uhura.

And of course, Sylar Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock:

Also appearing in the film are Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Winona Ryder,  Jennifer Morrison (House), Rachel Nichols (Alias), Bruce Greenwood (John From Cincinnati), Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire), Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote) and Faran Tahir (Iron Man), among others.

It’s early…but are you in?

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And the Oscar (Finally) Goes To…Kate Winslet

Last year, Cate Blanchett was the recipient of dual Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. This year I believe that my favorite actress of all time, Kate Winslet, will receive two Academy Award nominations as well.

At only 33 years old, she has already been nominated 5 times:

  1. Sense & Sensibility (1995, Best Supporting Actress)
  2. Titanic (1997, Best Actress)
  3. Iris (2002, Best Supporting Actress)
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Best Actress)
  5. Little Children (2006, Best Actress)

Winslet stars in two films that debut next month, just in time for awards consideration.  In The Reader with Ralph Fiennes (directed by Stephen Daldry of The Hours), she plays a mysterious woman on trial for Nazi war crimes.

And in Revolutionary Road (directed by her husband, American Beauty‘s Sam Mendes), Winslet is a malcontent suburban housewife in the 50′s married to Leonardo DiCaprio. Fair warning to Titanic fans…this is NOT going to be a pleasant reunion of Jack and Rose.

That Kate Winslet has yet to win an Oscar is inexplicable, but at least the Academy recognizes her talent time and again. I still contend that one of her best performances to date was in her very first film, 1994′s Heavenly Creatures. If you have not seen this fascinating and aesthetically pleasing little indie gem from Peter Jackson, I highly recommend that you add it to your Netflix queue immediately.

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What I Didn’t Do This Week: A Recap

By now, most of you know that I had surgery last week and am recuperating at home for a few weeks. I had huge plans; fun, lazy, dreamy ideas about days consisting of naps, multiple film viewings and blog posts.

I can’t drive until later next week, so I should be taking more advantage of this ‘free’ time. I am failing miserably. Except for the nap part.

Here is what I wanted to do instead, in no particular order:

  • Watch Casino Royale again, to get in the Bond/Daniel Craig mindset 
  • See Quantum of Solace
  • Catch up on entire current season of both Desperate Housewives & Survivor online
  • Share angry open letter here to ABC re: the firing of Brooke Smith
  • Finish reading New Moon, the 2nd in the Twilight series
  • Write/review, post, repeat…every single day

So what have I been doing, besides sleeping? Time-sucking activities like perusing new people to follow on Twitter, responding to status updates on Facebook and watching bonus features on DVDs.

Movie-wise…I tried to get through In Bruges but could not, endured 30 Days of Night even though Josh Hartnett is painfully miscast as a leading man once again, enjoyed the highly recommended/cheesy awesome Boondock Saints, gave M. Night’s Unbreakable another look and loved Iron Man even more upon a second viewing.

TV-wise…I attempted to watch The View but wanted to flick Hasselbeck in the head, finally had time to watch and appreciate Rachel Maddow, painfully giggled at Ellen on a daily basis, sat through my first ever episode of Dancing with the Stars with and on behalf of my parents, was pleasantly surprised by Heroes, rediscovered It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia online, and loved Life, Dexter, Brothers & Sisters, Bones, Eli Stone, and 30 Rock (except for Jennifer Aniston). The Office was a bit stale but I really liked Andy and Oscar’s banter. I am secretly disappointed that Lipstick Jungle was canceled, and am anxiously awaiting word on the future of Pushing Daisies. I also decided to stick with Grey’s Anatomy, but only because of my affection and respect for Sandra Oh and Sara Ramirez (who, I admit, made me tear up this week during that ER scene).

On second thought, I did do more than just nap. Sweet.

And on tap for next week:

  • Dual interview w/the authors of Lost Ate My Life (Jon ‘DocArzt’ Lachonis & Amy ‘hijinx’ Johnston)
  • Advance review of new television writers series on DVD
  • Belated review of Clint Eastwood’s Changeling
  • Kung Fu Panda & Son of Rambow from Netflix, followed by Wall E & Tropic Thunder
  • TiVO 1997′s Lost Highway (recommended by DocArzt) on cable, as well as Across the Universe and The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Apparently the key to inspiration is to nap too much, then stay up and write at this hour. We’ll see if that continues.

Thanks for reading an absolutely rambling mess of an entry. Good times, and good night!

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