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Friday, 27 November 2009

Questions from Planet Hood

It was quiet on the lot yesterday. Apart from the crews on the stages, most people seemed to have left early to travel for Thanksgiving. I went for a wander and found my way onto the giant set for Miami Trauma, Jeffrey Lieber's show for Bruckheimer which is now shooting. I don't think I'm giving any secrets away if I say that it's pretty spectacular, and resembles a space station in a big-budget science fiction movie.

My medical thriller episode for The Forgotten had completed its filming over on Stage 6 the day before. It'll move into post-production next week and I'm really happy with the way it's been turning out. Director Guy Ferland nailed and enhanced every scene; now I know why Medea turned out as it did. This episode is a nice blend of creator Mark Friedman's vision for the series and the things I'm best at. And as we move toward production on the show's 'back five' they've been letting us be more adventurous, more character-driven, funnier when we need to be.

As with my earlier episode, many of the crew from just about every department had previously worked on Eleventh Hour. Over the days of shooting I got into numerous conversations about the series, with everyone expressing dismay at its cancellation. Many made the point that shows with lower numbers are being hailed as this season's successes.

When we wrapped and all shook hands after the final shot of the day - the 'Martini' - I told DP David Stockton that I looked forward to working with him again. His parting response was, "On Eleventh Hour, the Movie!"

Which brings me to the Resurrection Campaign, a fan-driven movement which instantly grew out of the Renewal Campaign on the day the cancellation was announced. While I'm entirely sympathetic to what these guys are doing, they're completely independent of me. They're working to their own honest agenda, not some devious one of mine.

When I heard that there was a feeling of disappointment at the lack of response to their approaches, I contacted one of their number, Kellie, and said that if she wanted to collate some questions from the participants in the Planet Hood forums I'd do my best to answer them here.

What are your thoughts on our continuing this campaign...is there hope?


I'd rule nothing out. I thought the British show was dead in the water until I got an email that said, 'Congratulations on the American sale'. But at this stage we'd be talking about a rebirth rather than a renewal. Normally I'd be a pragmatist and think, okay, that was good while it lasted, dust yourself off and move on. But what keeps me attached to it, even while I'm working on The Forgotten and developing other shows, is that the appetite for the material is proven but nothing else is filling its niche. It's an action show with hard science. The science may be dramatized - its processes shortened, its effects exaggerated - but the audience can sense that those processes are grounded in a reality. You didn't get that from The X Files, you don't get that from Fringe. They go the fantasy route. Which is entirely valid, but those are different worlds.

What are you and the producers willing/able to do to help bring the show back? Are Bruckheimer and Warner Bros interested in trying again with another network?

For my part, I could be up and running overnight. Cyrus and Ethan have moved on to other things but for the past six months I've effectively been in training for the gig. As far as Bruckheimer TV and Warner Bros are concerned, I'm on great terms with everyone there but they play their cards close to their chests. I'm not aware that reviving Eleventh Hour is high on anyone's agenda right now. Not because they don't believe in the show, but because all their energies are deployed elsewhere. A cancelled show doesn't normally stay in the portfolio until something unexpectedly puts it there.

What more can we do as fans to help bring the show back?

Stay visible. I can't say that any specific thing that you're doing will lead to success, but the fact that you're doing it proves there's a continuing audience for the show.

Have you had any contact with any of the actors about the possibility of the show's return?

Rufus and Marley had already moved on when I got out here. But that's a conversation we'd start when there was a real possibility of making it happen, and it would take place in the context of their other prospects and commitments. Most things are negotiable.

Have you had any feedback/interest from any of the networks we have contacted?

Not personally, no.

Did CBS ever give you a reason for canceling the series?

My understanding is that they believed they had a strong development slate for the next fall season, and also that they could profit more from shows that their studio division, rather than Warner Bros, owned, even if those shows drew smaller audiences. Which explains why they picked up Medium. I know that Nina Tassler was a strong supporter of Eleventh Hour, and for that I thank her. But there was another CBS executive who let slip a few injudicious remarks when talking to a class of film students, which appeared later in one student's blog; we knew then that there was a faction within CBS that was less receptive to arguments for the show's renewal.

Did Warner Bros ever give a reason for their choice to release the DVD as manufacture-on-demand and in the US only?

I've tried to find out. All I know is that if it wasn't for the personal interest of Danny Cannon and the good graces of Peter Roth, there wouldn't have been a DVD release at all. Which to me seems mad. I can walk into any video store in LA and buy the British version. You can't tell me there's less of a market for a Bruckheimer show.

What made the show so expensive... and will this affect someone picking it up?

Sets, locations, dressing, and crew moves. Most shows have a 'precinct' - a series of regular locations where a significant proportion of each week's story can take place. It's already built and dressed, and in some cases is pre-lit. By always setting a certain number of pages in your precinct sets, you can get a lot of your material shot efficiently and at basic cost. Hood and Rachel were always on the road, and a big part of the appeal of their stories was that they'd show up in a new place every week. In production terms, every story was like a pilot.

Some shows reduce their costs by leaving LA, taking advantage of tax breaks in other states and using local labour. Leverage, which I love, shoots in Portland. Battlestar Galactica shot in Vancouver. Mental shot in Bogota (to unhappy effect, I'm told) while in The Starter Wife Australia's Gold Coast doubled as Miami. But...

But a top LA crew is a phenomenal thing to watch in action, and Eleventh Hour's production team were integral to its success.

I go back to what I said at the beginning. Rebirth rather than renewal. I need to gain more ground here, and somewhere along the line I'd need to meet someone who's interested in working with me, who has the power to greenlight shows, and who feels the spark when I pitch the idea of reuniting Rufus and Marley for a feature-length special or miniseries. I'd need to get the production company and the studio onside, since they own the property, but two things would work in my favour; a killer story, and a noisy fanbase. I can't now see a network picking it up, and I'm not even sure that network TV is the best place for Eleventh Hour stories - anything with any edge to it makes the networks very nervous. I can imagine doing the special as a piece of 'event' TV for one of the more quality-minded cable channels, where the prospect of snagging even a fraction of the show's 12m network viewers could have an appeal. We'd have to make it to a budget. But if the special proved enough of a draw, there would be an argument to go on and make episodes.

Thre's a saying in Hollywood, that I picked up from Lynda Obst's book Hello, He Lied - ride the horse in the direction it's going. I can't force it to happen, but I can stay prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that may come up while I pursue those things I can make happen.

4 comments:

luvinx said...

Steve,

Can't thank you enough....for everything.

Kellie

Lu said...

Thank you so much, Mr. Gallagher.

I really hope the show is picked up, and the idea of a miniseries sounds wonderful, but, we EH fans can't get enough.

Until then, I'll keep watching The Forgotten.

Doomwatch.org said...

I really hope that Eleventh Hour is picked up again. I would like to know if the UK BBCtv series Doomwatch was its inspiration? I have a website at www.doomwatch.org if anyone wants to draw comparisons. On the whole I think the US series was far more polished than the UK version and I'd love to see more and I wonder what subjects would have been touched upon in the second series.

Stephen Gallagher said...

Interesting question because much as I loved Doomwatch the first time around, with EH I was trying for something precisely different... Doomwatch was "this could happen tomorrow" and EH was "this can happen today".

Where Doomwatch was about the possibilities in the world we're making, EH is about the realities of the world we've already made.

I think the reason why the show had 'legs' in in the US is that the producers totally understood that.