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(Transcript): BtVS 4.10 'Hush' Audio Commentary by Joss W.

3rd May 2010 (20:38)

And now for something completely different. Over the last year or two I've been transcribing the audio commentaries on the 'Buffy' DVDs. (You can find the rest through my 'buffy dvd commentary' tag). I started this one a while ago, but now I've finished it: the commentary for 'Hush'.

As usual, scene-setting information by me is in brackets, and I've omitted the 'ums' and 'you knows' and 'sort ofs'. The commentary contains minor spoilers for later episodes, up through Season 6.


Commentary on Hush

Hi, it's me, Joss Whedon with my exciting and possibly sleep-inducing audio commentary on yet another episode, this one being 'Hush' which was one of our best episodes of the season. At least we thought so.

[Maggie Walsh lectures her students about communication]

Episode opening with one of my favourite things to shoot, which is a dream sequence. I love dream sequences, whether or not they reveal themselves right away, because they just work on their own internal kind of poetic logic.

Oh, what is that Flintstone-looking shirt that Sarah Michelle Gellar is wearing in this scene? It's one of the things that didn't really bother me at the time, but I saw it in the footage and said, "Ah, it's Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, what the hell was I thinking?" But, you know, that's the problem with television: you can't control everything.

See how many people there are in the background there? I wanted as many people as possible for this kissing scene, so I filled up the aisles with people. We brought people down from the production office. If you look very carefully while Buffy is sitting, in the top left hand corner I think you can see Andy Hallett who went on to become the Karaoke demon on 'Angel'. Everybody who happened to be there that day basically got shoved into those seats so that we could really get the sense of them having to kiss in front of a giant crowd.

[Buffy and Riley kiss in front of a giant crowd]

And they have never kissed on the show, so this is a big deal. So big that it does in fact make the sun go down. We're into classic dream sequence stuff. We get to make with the creepy... and nothing's creepier than a little girl singing a nursery rhyme about the bad guys. Needless to say, 'Nightmare on Elm Street' did this better than anybody; but it was fun to come up with a little rhyme for the girl.

To talk a little more generally, what we're dealing with here. I early on wanted to... I considered the idea of doing an episode where people don't talk for a while. As the show went on I got more and more obsessed with it because I felt that as a director I was sort of degenerating. I was turning into a TV hack: over, over, two-shot, you know. Shot of him, shot of her, them talking to each other, then shot of the both of them, then back. And I was beginning, a little bit, to fall into a sort of shorthand. And the one thing that I don't love about TV is that a lot of it is what I refer to as "radio with faces". It's, you know, if you want to shoot a scene quickly you just put somebody up against a wall, have them say their lines and bumph! it's done.

And from the start one of the most important things about 'Buffy' was that I wanted the show to work visually. So much so, in fact, that a Fox executive told me I was putting too much visual information on every page, that it was not going to be possible to shoot it. And in fact it has always been a great struggle - but a struggle well worth, because it is great when you have something that is visceral and visual and cinematic and not just 'people are yakking'. Although 'people are yakking' can make for great shows sometimes.

Meanwhile, as the show went on, this being the fourth year, I had fallen into the "People are yakking. I could just do this without really thinking about it" style of directing, a little bit. And wanted to curtail that in myself. And so on a practical level the idea of doing an episode where everybody lost their voice presented itself as a great big challenge, because I knew that I would literally have to tell the story only visually. And that would mean that I couldn't fall back on tricks.

[Buffy and Riley fail to communicate]

Like this is a simple scene. Over, him to her, over, her to him: over, over, two-shot. It's one of the few... well, actually the whole first act is pretty normal in that sense. And that's the kind of directing that - it's fine, it gets the point across, but I wanted to do something harder. And as is typical of me I wanted to do something harder in the middle of the season when everybody was already exhausted.

[A disgruntled Buffy walks away saying "Fortune favours the brave."]

"Fortune favours the brave." That's a phrase I got from Rick Griffin, a Grateful Dead artist who had it plastered over one of his surfboard drawings. He was a great, great surfer and a great artist, and that always stuck with me. And of course Buffy using it ironically, because she's too chicken to kiss her new love interest.

[Opening credits]

Getting back, anyhoo, to the general of it. I decided I would go through Act One with people talking, and have them lose their voices at the end of the act, and then play the rest of the show as much as possible with no dialogue. And what was fun about it, which I experienced again later in 'Restless' and again later in 'Once More, With Feeling', was the absolute surety that I would completely fail. That this could not be done by me, that nobody would put up with it. That people would get bored or confused, or bored, or possibly just bored. So I came to it with real terror in my heart, which is a wonderful, wonderful feeling to have on a television show because it means you're doing something new.

What's more important about it all was that as I was writing it I discovered, having outlined the entire thing and knowing exactly what was going to happen, I discovered what it was about. Which I had not figured out while I was figuring out the story, that came to me as I was writing it. I had a general notion that what it was about was the idea that when people stop talking they start communicating. That language can interfere with communication, because language limits. As soon as you say something you've eliminated ever other possibility of what you might be talking about. And we also use language to separate ourselves from other people. We also use language as white noise. There's many ways... we also misuse it horribly. All of those things appear in the show, because once I realised that the episode was about communication, I then found that absolutely everything I wrote was completely on-theme. That is to say, every line of dialogue embodies the theme of the show.

[Xander and Anya argue about their relationship in front of Giles and Spike]

Hey, they're having a weird hair phase. Um, because it's about language. And so I deliberately put in things, everything being about the way language can be annoying. For example, in this scene we learn Xander can't express himself. He can't tell Anya how he feels, because he's not that kind of guy. And she of course says something inappropriate, because her understanding of language is very rudimentary and straightforward, and like it's her second language, which it is because she's a demon. Ex-demon. So that works thematically as well.

Also the fact that everybody keeps talking and Giles just desperately wants people to shut up. Can't take all the noise. That's in there as well. So later on in the Wicca scene, you know, the misuse of the word 'empowering' that'll come up - again, language used incorrectly. People just using it to block themselves from expressing, or not knowing how to express themselves. All of these things fed into the main theme, in a way that nothing I write will ever again. It is so inevitably coherent because it's about, not writing, but about talking.

[Willow goes to the Wicca Group meeting]

Love these girls. Love the whole idea of the Wicca Group as being a great big bust. As being just, you know, "We are earthy and crunchy and useless." This scene is also, of course, close to my heart in a big way for the other obvious reason. Seth Green, who played Oz and was Willow's love interest and is a great actor, left rather abruptly. And we weren't sure where to go.

[Tara's first appearance on the show]

And then she - Amber Benson - appeared, and made up our minds for us. We had the idea of introducing the character of Tara, the very shy girl who falls for Willow. Fairly early on we had the idea that college is the sort of place where people expand or explore their sexuality, and the idea of somebody who thought Willow was great was interesting to us.

And the idea that basically, we had a new Willow. Because Willow had become so self-confident and at ease with herself, she wasn't as helpless as she used to be. And so we wanted somebody, particularly for this episode, who could act as a kind of Willow character. Somebody we would be invested in, who could be put into danger, who would not necessarily know how to take care of herself off the bat. Because you need somebody like that, and Willow - and Alyson herself - had both matured to the point where it took a lot to get them into that kind of peril.

Amber Benson obviously a mainstay of the show now, and their relationship, extraordinary. Didn't know for sure; I was thinking of somebody more physically like Alyson: smaller and... and less womanly than Amber. It was Marti Noxon, when Amber auditioned, who said - you know, she knew the physical type I was thinking of because I really wanted that vulnerability. And she said, "I think Amber's got it in spades." And so we brought her back and she knocked us out. So Marti gets the kudos for that one, although I like to take the credit whenever Amber's around: so make sure Amber doesn't hear this!

[Riley and Forrest walk through the Initiative talking]

This is yet another of my long takes. I love to do long takes that go through as many visual areas as possible. Started vertically, and they go behind, they go in front, they go around. We didn't actually have that much space but I wanted to take them as far as possible in one shot. I did that also at the beginning with Giles and Spike. There's a bit of the Woody Allen in that, because I like the way he will use a frame as long as it can be used. I'm not thinking so much of the Brian De Palma in-your-face "Look, I'm still moving the camera" kind of shots so much as making a frame usable for as long as possible.

Now most TV directors can't do that because they don't know what an executive producer is going to want to cut. If a show comes in long something's got to be cut out. So if they do everything as a oner, as we call it - one long shot - and then the director wants to cut out part of it - the producer wants to cut out part of it - we're in huge trouble. But because it's my story, it's my show, it's my world to such a large extent, I know when I can afford to do that. I don't have to get the close-up on every scene, the over, the different shots. I can do stuff in one shot if I know I have the room to keep it, if I'm not going to cut into it, which gives the frame a kind of confidence, which is a great thing. Because the more you can accomplish in one shot, the better. It keeps you in the reality. It's a good thing.

[The spooky clocktower and the first appearance of the Gentlemen]

This was a clocktower that we built on the Universal lot, which actually has a clocktower ,but it was the famous one from 'Back To The Future' and not right for our purposes. This was an old house that our production designer, Carey Meyer, turned into a clockhouse. And then they built this interior clockhouse set which I think is one of the most beautiful things we've ever seen on the show.

[The people of Sunnydale have their voices stolen]

When we produced this it was unlike anything we'd done. This, just this small thing, cut away to 'small boy in a house somewhere', to 'an old man in a house somewhere'. These are all things you have to build the room, or find it; you have to get the actor, you have to... They're all things that you don't do as much. We'll light entire spaces in this and only use them for a few seconds, and in television you just don't have time to do that.

I love this effect too. It's a beautiful light of all the voices going towards the tower. And this is where Chris Beck really gets to kick in. We'll talk more about him in a bit. And we'll talk more about these guys, because they're so pretty.

[Act Two]

Now we get to the heart of the piece. The part that I really didn't think I could sustain. We came in a little bit long; I would have kept as much of this as possible. As it was I had to keep cutting into it.

[Buffy goes to the bathroom]

But it's nice to know that a Slayer actually has to go to the bathroom in the morning like a normal person. Again, the mundane is what I'm going for here. Seeing the process: I get up, I go to the bathroom, I brush my teeth, I do this, I do that. I notice something slightly wrong, but I don't really figure it, so I move on. Just the daily routine stuff, so that when we get to the part...

[Willow wakes up, wearing pink and brown spotted pyjamas]

And how about them jammies? Okay, I'm just saying. You know, one of the great pairs of jammies of television history.

[Buffy and Willow can't speak.]

Playing this moment was extraordinary, because it was our first experience. Although this was not the first scene we shot so it wasn't their first experience with doing this, but it was still early on. And it's a different kind of acting that everybody had to go through. One of the things we learn in Giles's apartment, which we look at later, is how to create moments, separate moments, without the standard dialogue.

[Xander and Spike can't talk either.]

This scene, by the way, between Spike and Xander was shot on a second unit by David Solomon who's our in-house producer/director, very talented guy and one of the few guys I would trust with any of the scenes because there was so much to shoot that I had to be off shooting another scene for the show at the same time.

[Neither can Riley or Forrest, or any of the people in their dorm.]

Here's an example of a huge set being lit and then barely used. Again, that's not something you do that much on TV. In TV if you're going to light a huge set like that it's because you're going to stand around and talk for a while, because it takes a long time. It took a long time to put together, that's a couple of big shots and all they were really doing is getting us from one place to another.

[They run into a problem in the lift down to the Initiative]

The little dialogue that appears comes from machines and from newscasters, which are like machines - so it adds, I think, to the creepiness a little bit. And occasionally gives me a shortcut, which is nice. The inevitable "Come on, come on" from the guy behind him. And the very classic sense of guys with their "being very together" completely getting it wrong in the state of emergency; thinking they're behaving incredibly rationally and actually just panicking.

[Tara wanders through the common area of her dorm.]

Getting a whole room, or a whole town full of extras to act as though they're distraught and really be in the moment - difficult. A lot of these people are extras we've had since the beginning and we've worked with them for a long time so that was good. But the big crowd scenes were very difficult.

[Willow and Buffy walk through downtown Sunnydale.]

The idea that the bank is closed but the liquor store is damn well open. Where the guy ran into, there is nothing behind that door, so he just had to hide behind that door. This is our back lot set, which I opened up on a fairly wide lens so we could see as much as possible on a smaller kind of a set. Religious craziness going on the moment there's a problem; and of course rampant capitalism the moment there's a problem. I can't help but think now, as I look at this, of people selling American flags within five seconds after the World Trade Center incident.

[They arrive at Giles's house. Xander is glad to see them.]

The girls coming in with message boards was once of my favourite cute moments. Notice the little thing from Anya there: "Does he care more about them than me?" to highlight the whole idea of her relationship with Xander not being defined yet.

["Hi Giles!"]

And then Willow's insistence, "Oh my God, I know exactly what I must do!" and it being something so mundane. Alyson Hannigan, cutest creature on the planet. That's always useful. I have often thought of her as a silent movie star because she has such giant eyes. I think back in the day she could easily have been one. And actually, in this she is. So in your face, pal.

[The TV announces an epidemic of laryngitis has hit Sunnydale.]

Actual newscaster; the guys at the local WB affiliate always great, always fun to use them. We used them in 'Amends' for a newscast as well. They're very game and they're very good at it.

This was the first scene that we shot as a group. And what was interesting was, as I was saying before, people having trouble figuring out the moments. Figuring out how to let things progress without using the words as their milestones. When they first played the scene out it took about twelve seconds, because everybody did everything all at once. Because they didn't know how to wait, how to act in a silent movie. So it was just a question of learning; and by the time we finished that scene the learning curve was complete. And everybody had a sense of "It's okay to wait." It frightened them, the idea of waiting. It frightened me a lot more. This whole thing was frightening to me.

[Buffy and Riley patrol the streets at night.]

And in fact this scene embodies that, because the one thing that I knew when I came into this was that this was going to be the episode where Buffy and Riley would have sex. We knew that they were going to get together round the middle of the season and I figured, "Okay, Buffy and Riley will get it on in Episode 10, and that'll be three minutes of silence I know people will want to watch." Unfortunately, as we came closer to the episode I realised it's too early. They can't sleep together, they're not ready. It wouldn't be right, it's not earned. And I lost my crutch, I was terrified. I really felt like "Oh God! Now I really can't write this. There's no way I'm going to be able to maintain... how do I make jokes, how do I do anything?"

But I did have their first kiss. And I thought that was worth something, although it's not three minutes long. This also introduces the Buffy/Riley love theme, which I particularly love. Chris Beck's great work. I think it's actually for my money better than the Buffy/Angel love theme which was very straight-ahead romantic. This has a plaintive quality that's a little bluer and stranger, maybe. It points to the way the relationship is going to go. But to me it's more adult than the very straightforwardly romantic Buffy/Angel theme. I love the Buffy/Riley theme, I think it's some of Chris's best work.

[The Gentlemen head out to collect hearts]

Getting now to the real introduction of my boys, which to talk about them practically... We hired mostly mimes, guys who had done creature work. Here they're suspended on wires; here they're suspended on a giant rig set up by our stunt coordinator. And then in the next shot you'll see the ones in the background are on the rig and the ones in the foreground are on moveable dollies that could be pulled or put on a track that our special effects designer Bruce Minkus worked out. They're very useful; there they're being pushed on those little dolly trolleys, which looks just extraordinary.

They're being pushed on the Universal lot because I wanted to get a real sense of the neighbourhood, not just our tiny little back lot street but a real, whole world going on.

[Giles is in bed with Olivia.]

Phina, who plays Olivia, is useful here in the way that Tara is. Because I needed people who would be, if not helpless, then not as savvy and canny about everything that's going on as our people. People who could, in fact, possibly be expendable. People who could be in real terror of what is going on. Real child-like terror, because it's something they've never really experienced before.

[Olivia gets up and goes downstairs.]

And so the scariest moments were reserved for Tara and for Olivia. This one coming up being one of my favourite truly scary moments I ever got to shoot. You know, they're floating, they're nearby, and they see you. I believe Don Lewis is the name of the fellow who did that hand. Also did some mime work, and I said to him, "Give me Nosferatu on the hand." Up it came, curled like a spider; he knew exactly what I meant when I said that.

[The Gentlemen are coming to town.]

All of these guys were great to work with. The tall one there is Doug Jones, the shorter one Camden Toy. And they both were so frightening in the room just in broad daylight pretending to do this without any make-up on, that I knew they would be great. And they add a huge amount with their performance.

There again they're on wires, and then after that back on the dolly. I believe there's one more shot of them where we suspended them on wires; very difficult.

[They enter Stevenson House.]

This was in fact the last thing we shot, was the scene of them coming down the hall. They have the Footmen there to do the dirty work, basically, because I thought the more dreamlike these guys were... they would not sully themselves with such things as struggling with their victim. And the idea that they float at you, as well as fairytale I was going for dreams. 

[Their first victim]

We're coming up on what I believe is the most dreamlike image of the whole thing. And finally a character who is actually expendable. I don’t actually like to hurt people, which makes me very bad at making horror shows. But in this particular instance I had no choice. I had a particular mission here, and that was to traumatise little children.

This is an image from a dream of my own. The men floating at me as I lie in bed. So shoot it from a POV. Again, more difficult than normal television because we had to shoot the ceiling, which meant we had to put a ceiling on the set, which they don't usually have because that's where they put the lights. Beautifully lit by Michael Gershwin too, for maximum creepiness. My favourite thing about these guys is how polite they are.

What I basically set out to do, and I realise that it's very ambitious, was to have a generation of children say "Do you remember the Gentlemen from that episode of that 'Buffy' show? That traumatised me!" the way I and my generation talk about the Zuni doll in 'Trilogy of Terror' with Karen Black. I wanted something that creepy. And I think I got it with my boys.

[Act Three]

Talk a little bit about the Gentlemen. What I was going for with the Gentlemen was very specifically a Victorian kind of feel, because that to me is very creepy and fairytale-like. The politeness, the suits, the crazies who are like the crazies in the asylum in 'Dracula'. The metal teeth representing 'Science Defeats Cavities!' Everything is very Victorian era. To me that just bespeaks total creepiness, and it has very classical...

When I designed them - because I drew a very specific picture of what I wanted for the Gentlemen which was realised beautifully by Vulich, John Vulich our makeup and effects guy, and Todd McIntosh - I was drawing on everything that had ever frightened me, basically. Including the fellow from my dream, Nosferatu, Pinhead, Mr Burns. Anything that gave that creepy feel.

You know, we get into a lot of reptilian monsters and things that look kind of like aliens. And what I wanted from these guys was very specifically, and again I say it here, fairy tales. I wanted guys that would remind people of what scared them when they were children. I believe the thing that scares us most when we are children is old people. (*chuckles*) Is the idea of age.

[Giles starts his lecture on the overhead projector]

I love the idea also that Giles brings his own theme music to his slide show presentation. This scene actually fell out very quickly in the writing. I remember sitting in the restaurant thinking, "Okay, I've got the exposition scene, and Giles - in 'Restless' he has to sing it, in this one it's a slide show", but poor Tony always gets the exposition scene where he explains everything. And to have him have to do it with a slide show was great fun. And Tony did more with his slides than I ever expected, so it was great. But thinking that this was going to be a difficult scene to write ., I then found that everything fell into place really quickly. There is so much you can do, so many fun miscommunications.

[A slide of a Gentleman cutting out a heart]

The drawings by the Art Department, I loved for their sort of childishness. Giles not a professional artist, but big with the gore. Choosing the music for this scene was very difficult and - I think it's Saint-Seans but I can't actually remember what we used. We went through about seven different classical pieces and watched the entire show.

[Buffy mimes wielding a stake]

The infamous gesture from Buffy. The "Why did they let us get away with that?" gesture. But all very innocent, of course, and my feeling - nobody who isn't old enough to understand it will be bothered by it.

But finding the right music meant just listening to it and finding something that worked out.

[Willow wonders if her CD could kill the Gentlemen]

I like Aly again proving that a great silent comedian has been lost to us by the introduction of sound.  Now this scene again easier for me to write than I expected, and not just because there's a lot of written word but just because there's so much ?? with these characters.

[Buffy is offended that Giles has drawn her with big hips.]

I believe the hips thing was actually pitched by Sarah, that that drawing... She thought the drawing made her look fat. Which, a classic actress reaction but a very funny little moment.

[Buffy picks up one of the slides of the Gentleman]

And this scene, this shot, gotten much later off somewhere else. Difficult to get but hits home the connection between her and the evil.

[Act Four]

[Meanwhile in Initiative HQ, Riley and his squad are grabbing body armour and weapons]

Here we have the classic male response to the situation, which is guns, guns, guns! Okay, taser guns.

[Buffy is patrolling the streets]

Again the Universal backlot where we shot a lot of this stuff. Has a good Sunnydale feel, very old-fashioned and neighbourhood-y.

[So is Riley]

Marc is somebody else who reminds me of the old days, because of his - he has a very calm but expressive face. Gives me a kind of a Charles Parnell kind of a feeling.

[Tara has looked up Willow's address and goes out to find her]

And here we're getting more and more into the Tara of it. That was a big oner that we had to cut into at that close-up because we were short on time. But the important thing was, we got to have the little girl wandering through the woods. This being my first experience with Amber, it was such a delight because she gives you so much.

[Tara trips and falls, sending her books flying as the Gentlemen appear in the background]

She can even fall down. The classic, which drives me crazy when girls do that in stories. But it's so perfect for this kind of fairytale, classic old-movie nightmare, all those things wrapped up in one moment. And then the boys just are coming for her. So happy, so polite, such nice guys.

Again, you know, mimes. Gotta say, my making fun of mimes went down by about 40% after seeing this show, working with them, because they brought so much character. They were so used to working with no voices.

[Tara has reached the dorm and knocks frantically on doors.]

The idea that society is crumbling, that everybody is too frightened to help her. Very important. And the helplessness and the vulnerability, and yet the strength in Amber, you can see them all already. And she'll wander through many, many halls in this show. And they'll all be the same hall, because we only had one hall.

[Buffy fights the Footmen. The stunt double is visibly more busty than Sarah.]

Oops. Slight moment there of Buffy strapping on her Fightin' Boobs. Sometimes the stunt matches were not a hundred percent.

[Riley enters the ground floor of the clocktower]

Now this was actually shot in an old house on that-- where the clocktower is, but actually it was the one next to it. The clocktower's too small, and so we built the interior here. Good to see Riley weapons ??, which is always fun. And Marc doing all his own stuff. We did have a really good stuntman there but Marc, one of those guys who just loves to get in it.

[Tara is still banging on doors. Willow hears the knocking.]

This, the classic mislead, à la 'Silence of the Lambs'. No, actually that isn't the door that Willow opened.

[Tara collides with Willow]

Now we've injured Willow, therefore making her a little more helpless. And we've finally got the two of them together.

[Riley is still fighting. Buffy bursts through the boarded-up window.]

The slow-motion come-through-the-slats thing, which really didn't work that well. And we filmed it a bunch of times,  we were like, "It just doesn't work that well."

[Buffy and Riley end up face to face pointing weapons at each other]

Well, that does. Bit of a John Woo moment, but also big, emotional, "Hey!" and, you know, hitting the theme through violence, fisticuffs and the pointing of weaponry, that people aren't always honest about who they are. And that sometime when they shut up they learn more about themselves and each other than they expected to.

This was another fight we really went to town on. Sarah doing her own high kicks - she's got great extension there, which is useful. She can sell a fight, whether she's just making an expression or if she's doing a bunch of stuff like swinging on a rope, which she does. She really puts you there.

Yes, this is Riley also realising, "This girl is stronger than perhaps I thought."

[Spike gets his dinner out of Giles's fridge]

The cup-o'-blood. James going for that. This was another of the scenes that involved very tricky setting-up so that it didn't seem completely contrived, but then came to a great resolution. Xander reveals his true feelings for Anya by beating the hell out of Spike, which is just adorable. And then of course it leads to the other great gesture of the episode, which the network also had a problem with. But we get to see Emma's transition here. Her realisation that he really does care about her, which I think is one of the sweetest moments in the whole show.

[Anya does the gesture with her fingers]

And then, of course, that. Which the network's reaction was much like Giles's, but they let us keep it because it was just too damn funny.

[Willow and Tara take refuge in the laundry room]

Now this is another pretty well-known scene. The "We can't move the drinks machine" scene. Some people took this as a sign that they would definitely have a relationship. Some people didn't. But it is meant to be a very sensual and a very powerful image between two women, whether or not - and we hadn't at this point decided how far the relationship would go. But we wanted this to be a moment that was very physical and very empowering and very beautiful between the two of them.

[They link hands]

And it set off some fireworks. It also moved the drinks machine. It's a very empowering statement about love. Two people together can accomplish more than when they're alone. A great deal more. More than the sum of their parts. Looking back at it now, knowing everything we've done since, it seems there was no other way we could have gone. It really is one of the most romantic images we've put on film.

[Meanwhile, Buffy and Riley are still fighting Footmen]

This again is the clocktower set that we had on stage. The upstairs, which was just kind of a nightmare to shoot in. There was so much to do. But very pretty. Very pretty.

[Riley zaps a Gentleman]

Ooh. You know, I never get tired of that little gun thing. I wish we still had it. The inevitable big-ass fight. And you'll see, of course, that I separate things. Buffy at one end, Riley at the other. That's so I don't have to get everything happening all at once, because if I cut into one and then it's tied into the other I get a mess. This means I don't have to have both actors there at the same time. It's just more useful.

[A Gentleman brandishes his scalpel at Buffy]

Actually deigning to stab her. And her realising that the box from her dream - and us putting a flashback in so other people do too, because it wasn't very clear. And the big moment - here he goes...

[Riley smashes the wrong thing.]

I just love that. His little smile for approval, and he gets it wrong.

[Buffy screams]

This scream - not Ms Gellar's own, although she did scream her head off. I ended up Foleying in someone else's for the sustain. That one shot, the long shot took an hour to film. The heads blowing up took a long time too, and is one of the grosser things I've ever seen, but also very gratifying. But that one tiny shot you saw of the whole place, I wanted because we'd separated things into little sections I wanted to really establish that space. But it took so long to light it that it nearly killed us.

But again, everybody that worked on this episode worked harder than they ever had, because we knew we were doing something pretty special, pretty unique. And we had a feeling at the end of it like we had never had at the end of an episode. People were shaking hands like we'd finished a movie, even though we were all coming back the next day to shoot the next one. Which is a pretty great indication that something is going right.

[Willow and Tara talk]

This scene we had to cut into. It was originally longer, but the show did come in long. But we found that everything we needed to say had been said just by the interplay between these two. The love is readily apparent. In fact, ten episodes later when Willow actually refers to Tara as 'her girlfriend' we got all the angry letters and emails. My first comment was, "Er, where were you guys for the last ten episodes? Did you see them join hands? Did you see them float the rose? Did you see the spell in 'Who Are You?'?" Their love has always been extremely physical and sensual and earthy. And anybody who missed it - even though at the time we weren't sure if we were only going to play it on metaphor level; soon became apparent we couldn't do that - anybody who missed it from the start, er, hasn't seen very many films.

[Giles and Olivia talk]

Poor Giles has trouble keeping a girlfriend. At least this one lived. But, except for the dream sequence in 'Restless' where we saw a lot of people we hadn't seen for a while - Armin and Seth, and Phina as well - she never did come back. The Gentlemen scared her off. And this is the moment where he realises it.

[Buffy and Riley don't talk]

And here, inevitably, the last scene. There was really only one way this show could end. And that was the idea that once we get our voices back, we stop communicating. After we'd been doing so well. It was fun because the next episode picked up at the exact moment we ended this one. But for this one it was imperative that we ended with, "I guess we have to talk" and then neither of them being able to say a word.

I think I made a mistake, though. I realised it a little bit after I finished cutting the show. I have the two of them sit there unable to say anything and then I have the two-shot. I shouldn't have cut in the two-shot last. It gives away the idea that it's the end of the show. I should have just gone off on one of these shots. 

[A wide view of the two of them sitting in uncomfortable silence on opposite beds]

See, that shot just says "End of Show". I should have just cut off on a close-up so you really did expect somebody to speak, and then find out that they couldn't.

[Closing credits]

Well, here endeth. Hope it weren't boring.



Comments

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 3rd May 2010 20:32 (UTC)

What a great project!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd May 2010 21:31 (UTC)

Thanks! :-) I sometimes see people using quotes from these commentaries in their meta and essays, and linking back to my transcripts, which makes it all worthwhile. It's just a shame it takes so long to do each one...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 3rd May 2010 22:06 (UTC)

Yay! This is one of my favourite commentaries, thanks as always for doing this.

And the very classic sense of guys with their "being very together" completely getting it wrong in the state of emergency; thinking they're behaving incredibly rationally and actually just panicking.

That - the scene with Forrest and Riley in the elevator - is actually one of my favourite Initiative scenes. They've correctly identified the situation; they've completely misunderstood how to deal with it. They apply technology where good old fashioned manual (or in this case pedial) labour is needed. It's not about the machines, it's about them.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 01:22 (UTC)

You're welcome! Though I always thought Maggie's pointing at the "In case of emergency use stairs" sign was more snide humour than sensible advice.


"Hey, Ri, we're needed downstairs! It's an emergency!"

"Let's go, then!"

"Uh, why are you taking the stairs?"

"You know the drill, soldier. If it's an emergency, we have to use the stairs."

*Ten minutes later*

"*puff* *gasp* Report-*puff*-ting for *gasp* duty *wheeze* Ma'am."!

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Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 01:23 (UTC)
cordelia-yourewelcome

You're welcome. :-)

Posted by: ubi4soft (ubi4soft)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 02:46 (UTC)

Love the exposition scene and how they get away with a lot of stuff just because they were to funny!

Thanks for transcribing the commentary.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 13:15 (UTC)
cordelia-yourewelcome

I can imagine a WB executive with his head in his hands, giving Joss back his script saying "Don't blame me if the FCC sues us into oblivion..."
:-)

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 10:35 (UTC)

You provide an awesomely invaluable service with these transcripts.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 13:16 (UTC)

:-)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 12:40 (UTC)

Thank you so much for these! It's enjoyable to read Joss' thoughts on episodes. Would it have killed the writers to do a commentary on all episodes? :(

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th May 2010 13:16 (UTC)

Probably. Have you heard the song Joss wrote for 'Commentary: The Musical' about them?

Thanks!

Posted by: phil_k_87 (phil_k_87)
Posted at: 5th May 2010 14:43 (UTC)

Thank you for doing this! I actually don't like watching audio commentary because I can read faster than they talk, yet I do like the things they reveal.

Now this is another pretty well-known scene. The "We can't move the drinks machine" scene. Some people took this as a sign that they would definitely have a relationship. Some people didn't. But it is meant to be a very sensual and a very powerful image between two women, whether or not - and we hadn't at this point decided how far the relationship would go. But we wanted this to be a moment that was very physical and very empowering and very beautiful between the two of them.

When I was reading this I was thinking: "Bullshit. Of course this scene meant that they were going to have a relationship; I just knew it. It was really one of the most powerful and most romantic scene of the entire show."

But then he said: Looking back at it now, knowing everything we've done since, it seems there was no other way we could have gone. It really is one of the most romantic images we've put on film." Damn straight! Or must I say "damn lesbian"? ;-)

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