Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss
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Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon. Dr. David Lavery Fall 2014 PH 308, M 600-900. Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon. Collaborating. Directing Other People’s Shows, Cameoing

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

Dr. David Lavery

Fall 2014

PH 308, M 600-900


Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

Collaborating


Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Directing Other People’s Shows, Cameoing

Whedon’s collaborative nature has manifested itself outside of his own ‘verses in various ways. He has written for two comic book series, X-Men and Runaways, created by others (as I will discuss later); directed two episodes of The Office (NBC, 2005- ) and one of Glee (Fox, 2009- ); and done a cameo for one of his own favorite shows, Veronica Mars (UPN, 2004-2007).

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

Collaborating


Special topics in film studies joss whedon

In response to Tasha Robinson’s question about his motivation for such projects (JWC 154), Whedon explains “I love working with other people's characters if they're characters that I care about.” His role as an on-assignment director of The Office came about because he was

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

“an insane fan.” “[I]t was really fun for me to direct an episode, because I had very strong opinions about what everyone was going to be doing in the background, based on all of their history. It's helpful when you're a geek.”

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Whedon already had connections to The Office. He knew Greg Daniels, the American version’screator and showrunner, through his wife Susanne, who had played a major role in putting Buffy on the WB, and via Jenna Fischer, the wife of former employee and friend James Gunn, and had his own office near the show’s headquarters.

Greg Daniels

Jenna Fischer

James Gunn

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

These connections, and the show’s practice of inviting prominent directors in as guest star helmers,* led to an impossible-to-reject invitation to direct an episode, “Business School” (3.17) in which Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) convinces his gullible Dunder Mifflin nemesis Dwight Schrute (RainnWilson) that a bat’s bite has transformed him into a vampire.

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* J.J. Abrams, Harold Ramis, Jason Reitman, and Amy Heckerling have all directed for the show.

Jim Halpert

Dwight Schrute

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

“God, it was fun,” Whedon recalls. Even as a “visiting director” he would make substantial contributions to the episode:

They wanted my notes on the draft before they went into the rewrite. There was a lot of physical stuff, especially when the bat appears, that I got to pitch. I got to pitch a ton of stuff. Some of it, they were like, "Great!" Some of it, they were like, "Hmmm . . . try it." The physical stuff made it in pretty well, and there was some stuff where I was like, "We're not going to shoot this, we don't have time, and I know that it's not going to work." They're incredibly open with their actors, and they're shooting improv.

Collaborating

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon


Special topics in film studies joss whedon

He would ask the art department to redo Pam Beesly’s (Jenna Fischer) art work for the exhibition that ends the episode. He found the experience “open and collaborative” and, still the company man he was when BtVStM was ruined, tried to remain “completely respectful of their process and their world.” “I'm just going to do my best. “Obviously, as a director on that show, all you want to do is

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

hide. If anybody notices that it was directed, you've kind of failed. They gave me way more freedom than I can remember giving people. . . . I'm not going to lie about it” (Onion AV Club 2007). Whedon would return to direct “Branch Wars” (4.10), which aired in November of 2007.

The main attractions of doing a Glee episode for Whedon were no doubt the combine prospect of doing another musical and of working

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

again with Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, and “Dream On” (1.19) turned out well. Noting the episode’s prominent use of characteristically Whedonian “one-ers,” Todd VanDerWerff (Onion TV Club), for one, judged it to be one of the best if not the best episode of a series known for it unevenness.

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Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon


Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Having already written an enthusiastic endorsement (“Ace of Case” in Entertainment Weekly) of a series often cited as Buffy’s heir apparent and that he himself described as “a teeny bit flawless,”*

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* Whedonwrites,

At the center of it all is Veronica herself. Bell is most remarkable not for what she brings (warmth, intelligence, and big funny) but for what she leaves out. For all the pathos of her arc, she never begs for our affection. There is a distance to her, a hole in the center of Veronica's persona. Bell constantly conveys it without even seeming to be aware of it. It's a star turn with zero pyrotechnics, and apart from the occasionally awkward voice-over, it's a teeny bit flawless.

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Whedon’s “guestage” as a supercilious employee-of-the-month rental car salesman in Veronica Mars’ “Rat Saw God” (2.6) must have seemed a no-brainer. Spoofing his nerd image, Whedon plays Doug, a straight-arrow, by-the-book, Lariat Rental Car “company man” who has the following exchange with Veronica (Kristen Bell), who is trying to acquire information about the driver of a certain vehicle:

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Season 1 works as mystery, comedy, and romantic drama, often simultaneously. But what elevates it is that in a TV-scape creepily obsessed with crime-solving, VM actually asks why. It knows we need our dose of solution as a panacea against the uncontrollable chaos of life's real mysteries. And it shows, feelingly, that having the answers is never enough.

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Veronica: Hi. I'm hoping you can help me.

Douglas: Well, the good news is, that's just what I'm here for.

Veronica: Looks like I totally got the right guy. (Veronica, turning on the charm, points to Douglas's "Employee of the month" picture behind him. He grins inanely.)

Veronica: Okay, here's my thing: my friend, she rented the coolest car from you

Watch on DVD

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

guys, and some of us were going up to see the Staind show, and I wanted to find out what it was so that I could rent one for us to roadtrip.

Douglas: Okay, what's the name?

Veronica: Margot. Schnell. Margot with a "t," Schnell is—

Douglas: It means fast. In German.

Veronica: Wow. You speak German?

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

Douglas: "Jawohl." Okay, uh, that's a LeSabre.

Veronica: And what did they call that awesome color? It was...

Douglas: White? That's called white.

Veronica: Yup.

Douglas: Yeah. That particular car is rented right now, but I can get you a Regal with moonroof in teal for two-fifty a week, not including tax and liability, which'd be a great way to go and see Stain.

Veronica: Duh. Stain-duh. Gosh, that is more than I thought. Um, you wouldn't happen to have anything more like . . . forty?

Douglas: [severely] No.

Veronica: [abashed] Oh.

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

  • A bit later we hear Douglas chewing out an underling (YouTube has an hilarious outtake of the entire rant):

    • Douglas: Okay? I'm here, I'm double me, there's two of me.

  • It’s almost as if he were about to name a certain fast food franchise in that other California city, the late Sunnydale. Whedon’s contribution is solid and memorable and for fans of the Whedonverses an intertextual delight.

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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Special topics in film studies joss whedon

The Cabin in the Woods

Anybody who thinks that Drew and I are not Hadley and Sitterson clearly never met us.

Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion [hereafter CWOVC] 13)

I never thought writing it by myself. I thought, “This is something I want to do with Drew.” Drew, since he has been working for me, has been a dear friend and one of my greatest collaborators. And so Cabin was never meant to be anything other than a collaboration. And Une Film de Drew Goddard.

Joss Whedon [CWOVC 19]

Coming Soon (Week 11)

Special Topics in Film Studies: Joss Whedon

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