Monday, October 02, 2006

SciFi Interview with Ron Moore

The SciFi channel webpage has posted up an interview with Galactica producer Ron Moore:

Executive producer Ronald D. Moore offers a sneak peek at the third season of Battlestar Galactica—and beyond
By Melissa Perenson

Battlestar Galactica returns this week with the start of its red-hot third season. Set about four months after the show's doozy of a second-season cliffhanger, year three's opener focuses on the Colonials and their life under the thumb of the Cylons on New Caprica. In our first installment of interviews with Galactica cast and crew, executive producer Ronald D. Moore plays it close to the vest, giving us some juicy morsels about the upcoming season, the forthcoming prequel and the show's creative process.

What are you trying to do with the upcoming season?

Moore: Well, a lot of it was informed by where we ended the second season, which we ended with them down on a planet with the Cylons a year later in our narrative, with the Cylon occupation beginning on New Caprica. Now, the remaining [Colonial] ships are out there someplace, trying to figure out a way to get back and rescue the people down on New Caprica. The show is going to deal with suicide bombing, it's going to deal with issues of security and freedom, and it's going to deal with issues of collaboration in a time of war and freedom of speech.

We're going to be going through some pretty tough stuff this season. We're going to lose some people along the way, and there are some beloved characters that are not going to make it all the way through the season. But we're also going to get some victories that we've never gotten before, and we're going to get an insight into the Cylon society by doing a long-running story inside a Cylon base ship for the first time: We'll get a firsthand look at how they operate and what they're all about. I think it's a really interesting season.

The series was created five years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11. It's been interesting to see how the show is paralleling the events and issues in the real world, only in the context of the struggle between the Colonials and the Cylons.

It's been fun to sort of move back and forth on the perspective and to take issues and themes that are happening around us today and then do them differently. I really like the fact that there are some times when you're not quite sure who you should be rooting for in the show. And I think that's a really interesting accomplishment if you can take a viewer to a place where suddenly they're not sure who the good guys and who the bad guys are. I think that's a really provocative place.

Tell us about the Web-only episodes that appeared online at, leading up to the start of this season.

Moore: [The network] came to us about webisodes almost a year ago. And at first it took a while to work out some of the logistics involved, budgets, legal questions. We still haven't cracked all the questions involved, but we moved forward with doing them [anyway]. We decided we'd do 10 webisodes, each of them two to three minutes in length, because that was what's [considered] the ideal download length for people. We wanted them to be one story that would lead up to and help launch the season-three premiere. So I essentially took it to the writer's room and threw it to them and said, "OK. Come up with a bunch of ideas." And they did. They churned out a couple of pages of ideas and concepts that we could do for webisodes. We culled through them and decided on the resistance movement, the one that we're doing now. It seemed like the best for a variety of reasons, and it set nicely backstory to some events that are going to take place in the television show. If you're a fan, it's like "Here's added background and texture about why certain things happen." But if you don't see them, you don't lose anything. You could still watch the series without having to see the webisodes.

Battlestar has been on quite a roll lately, from rave critical reviews to awards. Earlier this year the series nabbed a George F. Peabody award—something that few series ever achieve, let alone series categorized as science fiction.

Moore: That was an enormously gratifying and very surprising award to get. It's not something that's usually even on your radar, because it's just so outside the norm to get that. There's no nomination: They just tell you you've won, and so it was very surprising. I remember we went to the ceremony in New York, sitting in this big ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria, and they were showing clips of all the winners. You're there with people that are doing documentaries about AIDS in Africa, and Katrina and all kinds of really weighty issues—and [then they showed] Battlestar Galactica.

What can you tell us about the status of Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar?

Moore: It's in script right now. We're doing some rewrites for the network, and we're waiting to see whether they're going to give it a green light or not.

How will Caprica differ from Battlestar?

Moore: Caprica is set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica. It's the story of the creation of the Cylons. And it's a very different format than Galactica. It's not a war show; it's not even a space show or an action-adventure show. It's a family drama and a political drama about corporations and politics. It's almost [more] like a sci-fi soap than it is an action-adventure series. And again, we're trying to do something different within the genre and give a different flavor to the material than Battlestar Galactica does. [The story] centers around two families, one of whom owns an enormous corporation, à la Microsoft, and it builds the first Cylons; then the other family is Adama's father, who's a lawyer at the time and starts to become an opponent of what they're trying to do.

Doing a prequel concurrent with the original series is unheard of. What made you decide to go this route?

Moore: David [Eick] and I have been kicking around ideas for a spinoff for a while. We talked about all the different possibilities. Do another Battlestar, do the first Cylon war, etc. We started talking about a prequel as a concept, as something that we were interested in, but we hadn't really worked out a storyline. We'd had a couple of preliminary talks with the studio and the network about it. And then separately, Remi Aubuchon came in to the studio to pitch a series of his own that had a lot of similar themes and a lot of similar ideas to what we were considering for Galactica. So the studio called us and said, "Why don't the three of you get in a room and see if there's something there?" So we sat down, and we all got along really well, and the idea started to really come together.

How many episodes are you writing this season?

Moore: This season I wrote the first two hours myself, and then I rewrote a handful of the next few. I think my next credited episode probably won't be until possibly one of the finale episodes. Although at this point I might not even do that. I might just take a hand in rewriting.

Do you have a particular five-year plan in mind for Battlestar?

Moore: It's still pretty organic. I still take it in 10-episode chunks. We've mapped out clearly the end of the third season, and we know how we're ending this season. I haven't started the conversation yet about the first 10 episodes of the fourth season, but I have a general idea of where we're going to start.

At the beginning of each year, I always feel like "Oh man, this may be the last one, because I don't know if I can fill up 20 episodes." But somehow by the end of a season you always end up with more stories than you could ever get around to doing. It's a judgment call. Right now I feel like maybe we have just another couple of years in the show. But you ask me again next year and I might give you the exact same answer. So it's really hard to say. When I was at Star Trek, I had two different experiences. On Next Generation, I think the writing staff universally felt like we went one year too long. The seventh season was not our best season, and we probably should have ended at six, because we all felt that that was one of our best seasons. At Deep Space Nine, we all felt like the show was going out at a high point, like it still had more life left in it and we could have gone for another year or two, because we still had plenty of stories to tell. And that's the point when you do want to get off the stage, when you're at the top of your game and you have more to give, but you leave [the audience] wanting more.

How does the writing staff approach writing the stories we see on screen?

Moore: I like to stroke out the first about 10 episodes in a generalized arc, and I'll discuss that with the writing staff. And then they'll start generating ideas, story suggestions and pitches, and there might be some specific story ideas I've got, too. We'll put them [all] up on a big board in the writer's room, and we start culling through that to decide "OK, here are the first three or four episodes; now let's break them." I'll have a preliminary discussion with the writing staff about what the episode is and what we want to try to do here, and then I'll set them free. They go off and they sit in a room for hours on end and hash out a storyline and start to break the show and put it up on a big board. And then when they're ready, they'll call me in and they'll run me through the break. And usually I'll change it and talk, and we'll go through some points, and we'll rework it a few times, and maybe they'll go and break it one more time, and I'll come back and review it again. I'll sign off on it at some point, and the writer of that specific episode will now generate a story outline that is then sent up to the network and the studio for comments.

Once the script is written, how much do you rely on storyboarding the scenes, early in the game?

Moore: It depends on the requirements of the particular show. For action sequences—and depending on the director—we like to have a storyboard artist engaged. Our visual-effects department usually delivers some kind of storyboard, and oftentimes now they've gotten to the point where it's actually an animatic. It's like a video storyboard that they'll use to show you movements—how the fighters will move and what Galactica is doing. It's pretty sophisticated in terms of visual-effect storyboards. The other storyboards [we do] really depend on the director. Some directors need it, some directors want it, and other directors hate it. And sometimes we'll force them to do it if we feel like it's a particularly complicated sequence; other directors, they don't storyboard at all. Each episode is a little different.

Do you continue to enjoy working on science fiction?

Moore: I do enjoy it. There are times I feel like "Gosh, I need to do something with people without space suits." But I keep finding things that are fascinating to do, and the canvas is just much broader. You can play a much bigger game of "what if?" in science fiction than in contemporary drama. And I find that challenging, so I continue to do it. But I'm also reworking a pilot for FX at the moment that has nothing to do with science fiction. And I have other movies and things on my desk that I continue to try to do.

No comments: