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(Transcript) BtVS 2.14 'Innocence' Audio Commentary by Joss W.

11th April 2011 (11:53)

About three years ago I began a project of transcribing Joss's commentaries from the 'Buffy' DVDs, starting with 'Chosen' and working backwards. I never did do all of them, but with this post, I'm drawing a little bit nearer my goal. :) This is the commentary from 'Innocence', notable for Joss's thoughts on rocket launchers, Tony Head's lack of pants, one-shot takes, love trapezoids, how to pronounce 'Angelus', whether 'Buffy' is a feminist show, whether Angel's curse makes sense, whether he will ever kill off Willow, and whether he thinks that teenagers deserve to be punished for having sex.

All my other commentary transcripts can be found by clicking the 'buffy dvd commentary' tag, or going here.

Scene-setting information and comments from me are in [brackets], and I've omitted the 'ums' and 'you knows' and 'sort ofs'.


Commentary on 2.14 'Innocence'

Hi, I’m Joss Whedon. You’re listening to the exciting audio commentary portion of this DVD of ‘Innocence’. I’m going to be discussing in, one might say, excessively minute detail the creative process that went into the making of this show. Couple of disclaimers before I start:

One, I realise this is not ‘Citizen Kane’. ‘Citizen Kane’ is in black and white, and it’s about a bald guy, so I realise they are not one and the same. However, during the creative process one tends to feel as though one is making ‘Citizen Kane’ because of the difficulty involved. You have to just get yourself in the mindset where everything you’re doing is incredibly important and genius. So if I discuss this as though it is the greatest work of fiction in the history of America, it’s because I had to sort of feel that way. And because every decision you make as an artist is important to you at the time, and has meaning even if it doesn’t add up to a famous black and white movie about a bald guy.

The other disclaimer is funny anecdotes on the set. If you’re looking for the wacky tales of the crazy behaviour of my funky stars, you probably won’t hear any. The show’s incredibly hard to make, everybody works really hard and there isn’t a lot of time for the wacky anecdotes. Everybody on the cast is extremely professional except for Tony Head, who’s frequently without pants.

We are now currently in the middle of shooting Season 5, which means I have very dim memories of three years ago, and I’m incredibly tired, so large portions of this commentary may be me yawning and coughing up phlegm. So buckle your seatbelts for the ride of a lifetime!

Start with a little overview before we get into the pointing at scenes and giggling. I created ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ as a movie, a long time ago, to protect, as I’ve said before, the blonde girl in the alley who always got killed. One of the distinguishing features of the blonde girl in the alley who always got killed was that she actually had sex. She always seemed to be punished for it; that bothered me; and I thought it wasn’t fair. So Buffy was created as a sort of stereotype-buster on that level.

However, when we came back to do the series we knew we had to keep it in high school for a while. We had to bounce her age back to fifteen, make her a sophomore instead of a senior. So the issue of sex was one that we were going to have to deal with eventually, in a different and somewhat more serious way in the series. ‘Innocence’ represents the effort to do that.

What we basically wanted to show was a horror movie version of the idea that, “I sleep with my boyfriend and now he doesn’t call me. And also, he’s killing hookers in alleys.”

[Angel kills a hooker in an alley]

As the credits run, talk a little bit about the show in general. I pitched it as the ultimate high school horror show. Very basically, taking the pain, humiliation, alienation, all the problems of high school, and blooming them into horrific proportions. The show works only if it resonates. That’s the most important thing in the show; people forget this. People like to talk about the monsters and the make-up and the fangs and the horns and the what-not. But the fact of the matter is, the only thing that separates this show from any other, if in fact it is separate, is the kind of emotional resonance that we can get to by playing the entire thing as true life. Just a little bit wonkier.

The two things that matter the most to me in the work I do: emotional resonance and rocket launchers. I think ‘Party of 5’, brilliant show and often made me cry uncontrollably, suffered ultimately, I think, from a lack of rocket launchers. Which, obviously, ‘Innocence’ doesn’t have a problem with.

This episode is in a sense to me, and probably always will be, the most important episode of ‘Buffy’ that we did. Important for a lot of reasons. It was important to the WB because we were moving to a new night, and this was the episode we showed in our new slot as the second part of a two-parter with ‘Surprise’. And they were worried if we could make it; and in fact we did very well. People responded to this. I think it had to do with what a pivotal moment it was in Buffy’s life.

And important to me and the other writers creatively because it fulfilled the mission statement that we first came up with. The idea of the emotional resonance of horror; the idea of the high school experience. And it also showed how much the show had evolved in the season and a half that we had done. Clearly one of the most important things there being that our actors were able to go to such deep levels of pain and intensity that we knew we could tell a story like this.

[Group conversation in the library. The camera shows Giles from the waist up only.]

It’s a harder-edged story than we were used to telling, and quite frankly an uglier story. And all of my actors were able to go to whatever place we needed them to. We had realised that by this time. Nicky, Aly, Robia there was so good for us for so many episodes; Charisma, and of course Tony who is, needless to say, in this scene, pantsless.

One of the great things of doing this series was to discover that my entire troupe of actors were able to do so much: comedy, tragedy, heroism, cowardice; anything  they needed to do, I could count on any one of them for anything, and feature them in any episode. And although I believe that actors are, as David Greenwalt says, “Rabid, feral animals who must be put down”, I think that these are among the finest that I’m ever going to get to work with. 

And of course in this episode so much of it rests on Sarah and David. Sarah taking her performance to a new level in terms of the depth and the pain and the complexity; and David of course going to a place we’ve never seen him before. Which was incredibly exciting for him and a little nerve-wracking for us. We didn’t know if he would suddenly become arch and ridiculous; but we found that there is a real monster in him. We were very happy to meet it.

After this delightful library scene, one of the many exposition scenes which we had to stick here, we actually had another scene which was cut. A tiny bit of trivia. Buffy’s sitting in class, teacher droning on, camera going in on Buffy as she just sort of remembered that she had sex last night. The lighting around her sort of disappearing. Very kind of, a little artsy and surreal, and unfortunately for length we had to cut it. Didn’t really add to the narrative and quite frankly I’m not sure if people would have understood exactly what we were getting at with the scene anyway. When I try to actually be an artiste I tend to just confuse people. I’m much better at just telling things straight ahead.

[Spike and Dru are talking]

Let’s talk about villains for a second. Season 1 we had the Master. He was great: Mark Metcalfe, very funny. Pretty much surrounded by stuntmen and not a part of the kids’ lives at all. The idea of Spike and Dru was to get somebody a little bit younger, a little bit funkier, who could walk in the lives of our characters and affect them: on a romantic level, on a more visceral level than just, “Ooh, I wish I could kill Buffy”. And to bring some real twisted romance to their relationship was a fun new place to go. It said vampires are even more complex than we thought they were, as are people.

[Enter Angelus]

And then of course Angelus [an-JELL-uss], or Angelus [AN-ju-lus] as everybody called him for, like, five years before he got his own series and we insisted they called him Angelus [an-JELL-uss], which is what we meant when we wrote it.

His triangle with James and Juliet – Spike and Dru – was again something we hadn’t ever done. Very exciting for us. Real trouble because now the villains were really a part of Buffy’s life, not just external. Something emotional that she couldn’t fight.

[The Judge tries and fails to burn Angel]

Most villains more or less like the Judge, who we designed simply as a way of saying, “This is a terrible thing, that you must have sex because it was so terrible to meet him!”, and then as a way of saying unconditionally, in this scene, that Angel had gone bad. And that Spike and Dru knew it, and didn’t have to just take it on faith. We didn’t want the audience to think for a second that we were just faking. That’s why we killed the girl in the teaser.

Little film-making thing here. One of my favourite things to do is the long, sustained take. Not a thing you get to do in television very often. But a take that changes: goes from the three-shot now to the close-up; Drusilla’s going to come in, take over the frame, it’s going to go to Spike... The reason you don’t get to do it in television that often is if you’re not the writer and executive producer, you can’t make decisions about what we’re going to see and what we’re going to cut out. But because this was my show and I knew I was going to be more or less on time and not have to cut too much, I have the ability to do these sustained takes where I know I’m going to keep everything.

I’m a big fan of [??] Minnelli, Woody Allen, people who keep the energy going in the frame when most TV has to go to talking heads. [Transcriber’s note: he’s presumably referring to director Vincente Minnelli (father of Liza), but the word I couldn’t make out doesn’t sound like ‘Vincente’.] One guy over another, two-shot. On ‘Buffy’ we did have the ability to do little shots like that. You don’t notice them, hopefully; they’re not the Brian de Palma “See how long I can take my Steadicam before we run out of film” kind of shot; but they give you a much better energy. They make the actors work together, they use the frame cinematically. To me that’s very exciting; but of course I spend a lot of time in a dark room watching movies by myself and have few friends.

[Back to research in the library. Giles is in the background, so we see his legs.]

This is another single-take scene. Again nothing fancy, just something to let everybody work together in the frame. Tony clearly very angry about having to wear the pants. And this scene also contains Nicky’s line, “Say hi for me” which is probably my favourite line in the show.

We’re about to get to another big relationship moment. We use this as a pivotal moment not just for Buffy but for Willow, when she’s about to discover Xander and Cordelia are making out. One of the other exciting things about the show for me is the changing relationships. Obviously in the first season we had, “Willow loves Xander, Xander loves Buffy, Buffy loves Angel, who is unobtainable.” Very simple triangle, or I believe actually trapezoid; and as we went on in the seasons we knew we wanted to shake that up.

[Xander and Cordelia talking]

The idea that Cordelia, who was in the first season just resident bitch, would end up falling for Xander, who – obviously played by Nick Brendon way too hunky for the role, but still able to bring on the shemp – that would be a perfect romance. Because they are so very wrong for each other that of course they must have each other; they must have each other now. Charisma showed the adorable side particularly here, the vulnerability, and the little wrinkle thing she does with her nose – that we had not gotten to see on her before.

It’s one of the realities of high school : nobody is what they are forever. They change, their alliances change and sometimes dissolve.

[Willow catches them kissing]

There is nothing more painful in the world than Aly when she makes her big eyes. When she makes her big hurt eyes there’s nothing you can do; she just kills ya. And she can also play extraordinary pathos and huge comedy at the same time, which she does throughout this entire scene. I loved shooting this. I loved the idea that they had a “We Hate Cordelia” club, and that Xander was the treasurer; I just think that says a lot about the way they make their clubs.

[“It just means you’d rather be with someone you hate than with me.”]

I know I was supposed to keep talking but I just love that moment from her so much that I had to stop.

[Buffy arrives home]

Here we are on the front lawn of Buffy’s house. She’s going to go to her house and then she’s going to leave. Now this is where we originally meant to shoot the “Buffy runs into Angel and he’s really mean to her” scene. We did in fact shoot it; we shot the master, she came by, he came by in his woolly overcoat and they tried to play the scene – and they were unable to. The master was no good, we couldn’t get them there emotionally. We couldn’t figure out why. Sarah felt it was all her fault; I quickly realised that it was all mine but didn’t tell her that.

[Buffy goes to Angel’s apartment]

The fact of the matter is, she had to see him in the bedroom. She had to see him with his shirt off; and it had to be as intimate a scene as possible, when Angel decides to torture Buffy by pretending he just doesn’t love her anymore. This scene, one of the most pivotal things we ever did, and one of the most interesting things for me as a writer. The fact that I thought it could play in woolly overcoats on the front lawn shows that I still have a lot to learn as a writer and as a director. But we stopped filming that night; I told Sarah, “Go to the door and just leave, and we’ll go next week and shoot this the bedroom where it belongs.” Which is what we did. And clearly they came up to the level that I hoped for, and surpassed it.

I wrote this scene; I actually felt like an ugly person. I didn’t know how I was able to write this so easily. It felt icky that I could make him say these things. It felt icky and kind of powerful; it was very uncomfortable and very exciting for me to do. And then of course David – well, forget about it. Considering he’s about as nice a person as you could ever hope to work with, he plays a bastard with extraordinary aplomb.

Sarah breaking my heart in this scene. She was very worried about doing it, too; kept saying she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t do it. Till I had to become firm and say, “Yes, you’ll do it”, and I realised that’s pretty much what she wanted me to do. She wanted me to be mean and send her in there and be the tough director, and of course I’m no good at that at all. I was like, [silly voice] “You’re going to! You’re, well, durn it, uh, mm, please?” And afterwards she made fun of me for how bad I was at being tough. Clearly not Sam Peckinpah in any way. But she didn’t really need that much; the fact of the matter is she took herself to that emotional level, she put it so beautifully on film. It’ a painful scene to watch, and possibly the best one we’ve ever done.

[Uncle Enyos talks to Jenny about vengeance]

Interestingly enough, however, the next scene is more of an achievement for me as a writer than that one was. And you’re probably saying, “Hey! This is the boring gypsy scene where the guy is talking really pompously about vengeance and what-not. And why on Earth is this an interesting scene?” To me as a writer, incredibly important because I had to take a lot of disparate elements that just didn’t work. The fact is, Jenny had been sent there as a Gypsy but had never done anything, had never accomplished anything. The gypsy curse didn’t make any sense. He’d become a monster and kill more people if he was happy– that’s not a good plan! That’s not a good plan. And we introduced the idea of Jenny being a Gypsy really late. So I had a lot of disparate ends to take care of. A lot of things that didn’t make sense.

But one of the things that I’ve done as a script doctor is take things that don’t fit together and just really try to make them all connect. Because when you’re a script doctor, they say, “We’re in love with all these elements, you cannot change any of them, just make them work together.” And in this case it was the idea of, “Vengeance is a living thing.” The idea that they served a kind of arbitrary god, that was itself irrational, completely justified the idea that nothing we had written before actually connected that well. I probably shouldn’t be telling you this.

I remember walking along the Santa Monica Pier, desperately trying to figure out how I was going to do this scene. And then coming up with this and realising that with that one phrase “Vengeance is a living thing”, we could just make everybody accept what had gone before. Make it make some kind of sense. A quiet little accomplishment, but an important one.

Some say the gypsy curse, a hokey concept: but “Danish curse” just doesn’t sound as good. You know, I love the classics.

[Xander meets Willow in the school]

Got Xander and Willow working in the school hall here. Big thing for us actually just to have this hall, because of course for the first season we had just the hallway outside the library and that was the entire school. We had nothing else. When we were able to expand a little bit Cary Meyer designed us a great deal of the rest of the school, and it looks great, and it’s just great to be able to work in.

Coming up to the scene where Angel finally reveals himself as a bad guy to our guys. And a very exciting moment, of course, working on the most important principle as outlined in Episode 1: “When in doubt, put Willow in danger.”

[The lights go out; Angel appears]

A lot of the creepy going on here. I love the way Michael Gershman, our DP, has lit – well, I love the way he’s lit the show for five years, but this scene particularly, where you could almost see that Angel’s in vampface if you really look. Very reminiscent of the Joker when he first confronts Jack Palance in ‘Batman’.

I don’t know why people always think that Willow’s going to die, because I’m never really going to kill her; but it’s always scary when she’s in trouble.

[Angel grabs Willow]

Shot this as a horror movie but also as a Western. The idea of being over people , cowboy-style, where they’d be holding their guns, to give it kind of an epic feel. Sort of Sergio Leone stand-off, in all of them. And of course Buffy herself, makes it a bit of a three-way stand-off. Which is something – a little Leone trick.

Very big fan of the epic; the action, the Western, the bigger-than-life heroes. And in the context of a horror movie sometimes they don’t go together, because one requires a great deal of space and understanding of that space, and one requires a small dark corner that you don’t really get. This scene gets to play both at the same time.

[Library exposition time again]

This is another one of those takes I was talking about, that you shouldn’t really notice but where everybody gets to work together and the camera gets to do some of the work, finding Buffy at the end of it. It just gives it a much nicer energy. It’s also easier to do these things when you’re writing the show and you get to work in the space. Whenever I’m writing a scene that takes place in the library – and we’ve had so many hundreds of them and everybody’s so tired of the library – I come there. I walk it. I act it out, figure out where everybody should be. Finding Buffy at the end of that shot was all about the fact that all of this is going on and she is completely in her own space, and isn’t a part of it.

Politics of the thing are always complicated. You know, I said I didn’t want to kill the girl who has sex; and yet I punish the shit out of her. That brings up a lot of issues with me. I don’t like the idea of a reactionary message, that everything you do must be punished. I believe that Buffy and Angel were in love and that what they did wasn’t bad. At the same time I don’t want to be saying, “All teenagers must boff! You must boff now! Boff each other! Do it!”

It’s complicated; I don’t really want to be telling them one thing or another. But inevitably in a horror show you end up punishing people for everything they do, just so you can find the horror, the real emotional horror of everything they go through. Buffy drinks beer, not going to go well for her. Buffy has sex with her boyfriend, not going to go well for her. The important thing is to make the punishment emotional, and not have her be axe-murdered. And also let her grow from it; let her be stronger, let it resonate on a normal emotional level, instead of on some Evil Higher Power that must put an axe into their heads just because they dared to have sex.

Eventually, of course, we deal with that with all the characters; but with Buffy we knew it was all going to be about the pain.

[Xander has a plan]

Well, there’s Xander telling Cordelia her outfit looks trashy, when in fact it doesn’t, actually. But that’s one of the little things that sort of falls by the wayside. I love the fact that Willow is the one who realised exactly what happened - and is the only one, again. Her bond with Buffy is something that I find kind of transcendent. Even when they don’t get along at all.

[Angel, Spike and Drusilla are talking]

The factory. I adore that shot. We’ll get a good look at the factory later on, but it’s a beautiful set. Cary Meyer-designed. Seeing some Rennie Mackintosh and some Frank Lloyd Wright in there, but mostly I’m seeing Cary using our tiny warehouse space and making it seem just giant and epic. And these three work beautifully in it. Love and pain: big contribution of Marti Noxon. 

The idea of love and torture and pain and power – and bondage – and all of these things working together in the minds of these people. Marti really brought a lot of cool twisted sexuality to the characters that fit really well. The idea that Angel had driven Drusilla mad, and that he wanted to do the same thing to Buffy, is a good character thing. And it also saves us from the Sam and Diane problem, which was a big issue in this whole romance.

We knew Angel and Buffy were going to get together, and we knew the moment they did people would become bored with it, much as in ‘Cheers’. And that’s how we came up with the idea of having Angel become the main villain of the show, the moment they got together. Because we thought that would keep it lively. And a lot of people objected to it heavily, but we did it.

[Buffy arrives back in her bedroom, feeling all miserable]

I stayed back pretty far with the camera here and kind of regretted it. I really feel like I should have given Sarah a big fat close-up with this crying scene. She is really crying; she goes to that emotional place. I don’t know how she gets there, I don’t know how she turns it off afterwards, but it’s pretty extraordinary. And I sort of backed off because I think of it as a cinematic frame; but of course on TV I don’t know if you see the detail as well as I’d like. But she’s giving it to you anyway, so it’s not a big thing.

[Buffy’s dream]

This scene, also a new thing for me. Extremely artsy, kind of a Lynchian sort of darkness to it; and very sexy, I think. I wanted to get into the sexuality of this girl and her memory of what had happened, without just being blatant, obvious, exploitative or boring. Talked to Mike Gershman about just getting tiny, almost abstract pieces; and he had his lighting guys take a light and put it on an arm and swing it around them, so the light would change constantly.

And then of course David and Sarah got into bed, and this was the first sexual scene I had ever shot. And I was really sort of uncomfortable. They were great; laughing and scratching and clowning around, and just getting it done and giving me the footage, while Mike Gershman called out for the lights to move and I asked them, “Touch her hair! Bite his shoulder!” and all that stuff.

When we finally got around to recording sound for it I was too embarrassed to ask them to vocalise it all. Which is why the heavy breathing in that scene was me and Cindy Rabideau the sound editor.

[Buffy goes after Jenny]

I love the brutality of that move. Again, a big sea-change in everybody’s relationships. Using this pivotal moment in Buffy’s life to upset everybody else’s. We’ve seen the Xander-Willow problem, and now of course Tony and Robia, the Giles/Jenny romance, gets squashed by what’s happened. Robia really did wonderful work. A great presence, great foil for Tony; and of course what did we do to thank her? We killed her.

[The ‘true happiness’ clause is explained]

The clueless father figure of Giles. Again, a sea-change as he realises his charge is, perhaps, growing up a little – and becomes very British. They’re talking about going to the old Gypsy. We use that as a transition so that we would assume it was them coming to him, to save the surprise of Angel .

We had an entire scene between the Gypsy and Angel where he’s started to torture him and talk to him a lot. I actually cut it before we shot it. I said, “Guys? The moment he says ‘Hi’, it’s over”, because I knew we were long. They were disappointed, but the scene gets it done.

[The army base]

Look at the big epic crane shot in the rain. The army base – the army base you’re looking at – is the crappy warehouse where we shoot our show. We’re at the far corner of it. The rain, our brilliant special effect, was because it was bucketing rain and there was nothing we could do about it. But I thought it added huge production values so I was quite pleased. Also because, not being an actor, I didn’t have to wear my outfit in it. But that’s why Nicky is wearing that coat and gloves over the Hawaiian shirt that he was supposed to be costumed in. Pretending to be a soldier.

See, we just stuck the fence there. Got about sixteen guys, some boxes and a couple Humvees – and voilà, instant army base. It’s a little cheesy but that’s really what I love about my show – is the amount of cheese that we can get away with. The amount of how little money we have, and how we make it look a little bit more epic than it is. It’s a little bit of an achievement. I like that.

Another big change, of course. This is really a pivotal moment in the evolution of Nicky as cool guy. Xander being cool even while he’s being a complete dork. We find out that he’s got some soldier knowledge; that he’s got some of the soldier in him. Of course that meant that I had to write the soldier, and since what I know about soldiers is that they sometimes march, I had to ask a lot of people. What on Earth he should say to him that would sound convincing. I still don’t know if it does. But it looks good, and really that’s all that matters.

Another little oner. Ooh, that’s the technical term for a scene that takes place in one take.  And now you have inside knowledge and you’re no longer bored as you were a minute ago. The other obvious great advantage of the oner is it saves you a huge amount of production time, unless it’s really elaborate.  These shows being impossible to shoot, and my shows almost always being the largest because I save all the best toys for myself – such as the rocket launcher – it’s necessary to cut corners. And it ends up being a more interesting frame anyway.

[Willow and Oz wait in the van]

Willow and Oz in the van. Another very important scene, and I’ve talked about this before, but people not loving Oz. People very angry that Willow was not with Xander, because she was so clearly into him. We introduced the character of Oz, who is based on an actual guy I knew in college. Somebody just so cool that he would just see how cool Willow was – even if she was wearing a big Eskimo outfit. In fact, because she’s wearing a big Eskimo outfit.

People not responding, and so I wrote this scene specifically as the scene that would make them love Oz. Because it’s the scene that makes Willow love Oz. Where he turns her down and refuses to kiss her. Again, you know, gauging the audience reaction is a very big part of the show. Making things not just work, making you not just accept a plot twist or a character, but making you need them. Making you feel about them the way that the character is supposed to. It’s the most difficult and the most important thing. And of course Seth is so beautifully restrained and so completely charming. And look at Aly. Fall in love with him… right now.

[Buffy, Giles and Jenny discover Enyos’s body]

When I said we tend go to an ugly place, we don’t have a lot of blood on the show. A little blood on his hand - not a big thing, we don’t show the body. But we show this.

[“Was it good for you too?”]

Yeah, I personally find that just unbelievably disturbing and grotesque. And I’m amazed we got away with it. I’m often amazed at what we get away with. It’s one of the joys of making this show. But it’s so intimate and so gross. It definitely take Buffy to the place she needs to be – which is ready to kill the boy.

[Back in the factory with Angel and co]

This scene gives us a taste of how this triangle is going to work. That Angel is in fact going to take Drusilla away from Spike a little bit, and that’s going to drive him crazy. We did have a bit of that in the scene where Angel smoked the cigarette, but we cut it for length because we knew we had it here.

And poor James left all alone.

[Xander gives Buffy the rocket launcher in its box]

Again, not to be obsessive, but this is a oner. And the rocket launcher – truly a fine thing. We couldn’t figure out how to kill someone as important as the Judge, and we had that whole ‘no weapon forged’ thing. And then we thought “Let’s hit that. Let’s just hit it”. And I believe it was Greenwalt… we thought about a tank for a while, but it was Greenwalt who said “Rocket launcher”. We knew that was something we could never do, and we could never afford. And then we suddenly knew that it’s what we desperately needed.

[Buffy goes to see if the Judge is at the factory]

This is a really nice view of the factory. I love those chairs. They built those specially. And we’re heading for our great big climax, which will take place at the movie theatre-slash-mall.

[At the movie theatre/mall]

This was an abandoned department store. This kiosk here in the middle , we built ourselves. We put it up and we turned this area into a movie theatre area. And then this staircase, this one that’s going up, we also built. It’s not part of our store, it’s actually going nowhere. You can see the flat behind them. Because we were going to set stuff on fire, and so we didn’t want to burn up the actual store.

[The Judge comes in]

Killing extras, funny every time. The Judge. Buffy refers to him in this scene as a Smurf, and I can’t really argue with that. Blue isn’t quite as cool-looking as I hoped it might be.

[As does Buffy and the gang]

That’s the great call-to-arms shot that we used in the credits for a while, because it gives you a great shot of the group. Again, the epic, the Western, people far apart. The showdown, the shootout. It’s a huge part of what makes her cool. When she picks up that rocket launcher I have never loved her more.

And here comes a lot of really fast editing with slow motion, which is my incredibly low-budget attempt to really be Sam Peckinpah for five seconds. Beautiful stunt there. Had the camera moving as fast as we could as they jumped. That’s something I owe to Luc Besson from ‘The Professional’, the dolly shot during the explosion. Usually people just set a camera during explosions and don’t actually do anything with it.

We had to add a little CGI fire to hide the fake rocket actually bouncing off the statue of the Judge that was hit during the explosion.

Now Angel and Buffy are about to have their big, much more intimate showdown, which we shot on stage. We built this little area to look like the movie theatre area we’d designed in the shopping mall. And we rained the heavens upon it. Poured it all over the actors for several hours there. They were pretty game about it considering the warm water they had promised did not in fact come to fruition. It was really cold. We had a couple of cameramen wearing giant plastic bags over them. And these guys.

And this is a fight that means more than any fight we had ever done, because it was the two people who loved each other so much going at it. And then of course in the middle of all that, my Oz moment. Because the juxtaposition is always the most important thing.

[“Uh, arm!”]

A lot of stuff that Angel says to her is just mean. Boyfriend-mean sexual stuff, it’s all relationship stuff. The fight, epic again, but the pain, completely intimate. And of course Buffy’s response: more intimate still. This show is designed to be a feminist show. Not a polemic, but a very straight-on feminist show. And for her to be so abused by him, and for her response to him to be to kick him in what Spike would refer to as the goolies, it’s very primal. It’s very important. Its kind of empowering. And I kind of love it.

[Giles takes Buffy back home]

This, we shot the night we were supposed to shoot the scene on the lawn. Sarah being very upset that that scene hadn’t worked, it was easy for her to get to this place. I think you’re going to see some real tears from our girl here. She really used that emotion in the scene, because she really wanted it to be as good as it could.

And she was upset, of course, because Tony - as always - wearing no pants.

Greenwalt watched this and was like, “Oh my God, she has the best father in the world.” And watched the next scene, “Oh my God, she has the best mother in the world. It’s so beautiful!” and the idea that she can come back to this family for strength, after her baptism of adolescent fire, the romance gone wrong, was very beautiful. To me.  

[Buffy and Joyce watch an old movie on TV]

Our guys in Post found me this clip of an old movie where she’s singing, “Goodnight. Remember you’re my love”, which just is so comforting, and so sweet. And so the feeling I wanted to get, the sort of poignant loss of – that’s right, innocence. Yes, title, did actually mean something.

It meant not just a loss of innocence, but the fact that the innocence isn’t lost. That Buffy is, in this sense, an innocent. That she hasn’t lost anything of herself, even though she’s gone through a painful maturing process. And that’s why her mom says, “You don’t look any different to me here.” As a way of stating that. That she’s still the same good person that she was.

We did the rocket launcher scene and I was jumping in the air with excitement. Literally jumping up and down like an idiot, as I have been known to. We did this scene the next day and it made me happier. It made me even happier than my big Man Toy. (That was a reference to the rocket launcher, not the other man toy.) Because it had such simplicity, such sweetness. Kristine is so wonderful in it. Sarah, you know, so good, and the two of them – they leave me with exactly the feeling I wanted to have at the end of this. Of regret, of loss, of love.

And the good news is, I’m done talking.

 


Comments

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 11th April 2011 15:08 (UTC)

I love you so much for doing these, knowing how it takes a lot of time to write it all down. I enjoy reading Joss' thoughts, especially this part: "Of course that meant that I had to write the soldier, and since what I know about soldiers is that they sometimes march, I had to ask a lot of people. What on Earth he should say to him that would sound convincing. I still don’t know if it does. But it looks good, and really that’s all that matters." That's exactly how I feel/do when I'm writing something I know nothing about in my fics.

And he's so right about Nicky's hunky-ness!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 11th April 2011 15:18 (UTC)



This one was quicker than the ones I've done in the past, because my keyboard has a button on it that pauses/restarts the video; I don't have to keep on taking my hand away from the keys and moving the mouse to click the Movie Player pause button. But even so, yes, it takes a long, long time to do one of these.

There are two types of fic writers: the ones like Joss who make it up as they go along and hope it sounds good, and the ones who research every tiny little detail with painstaking, exhaustive accuracy. It causes much conflict when they come into contact. :-) Personally, I think I bounce between the two: I actually like doing the detailed research, but I can also ignore it competely for something that sounds good instead...

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 12th April 2011 10:54 (UTC)

I'm a bit in the middle, too. For example, when I wrote my S8 fic, I did a long research on Scotland, but sometimes when it gets too much, I feel like, "It's just a fic. It's supposed to be fun." And go for something that sounds good instead of wasting hours on research.

Posted by: itsmrgordotoyou (itsmrgordotoyou)
Posted at: 11th April 2011 18:35 (UTC)

Thanks for doing these. I had completely forgotten the revelations about Tony Head.... I also thought I remembered Joss talking about his slip-up in the timing of Xander's rocket-stealing plan here. (Xander tells the others to meet him in half an hour, but then they actually go to the army base the following night.) Was that in another commentary? Or did my brain just imagine Joss explaining after I first noticed the mistake?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 11th April 2011 20:17 (UTC)

Thanks!

There was definitely nothing about Xander's plan in the commentary... unless Joss recorded more than one version of it, which seems unlikely. ;-)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 12th April 2011 17:32 (UTC)

Another attempt to say "thanks". LJ is wonky again!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 12th April 2011 17:33 (UTC)

Yay! It finally works!

It was a fascinating read.

Goolies? I had to google the word! :)))

Who are Sam and Diane?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th April 2011 21:29 (UTC)

Thanks!

Goolies is British slang for testicles. Doesn't everybody know that? :D

Sam and Diane were the lead characters in 'Cheers', who had an on-again/off-again, will-they/won't-they romance which was very popular with the viewers. However, when the writers finally let them get together in a proper relationship, the audience apparently lost interest. Joss has mentioned before that this was a formative experience for him as a writer. He drew the lesson that happy couples are boring, and so in his shows he never lets them be happy. :-)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 12th April 2011 21:55 (UTC)

Goolies is British slang for testicles. Doesn't everybody know that? :D

My knowledge of English slang is limited by words said onscreen. But from now on my Spike will certanly be using this word! :)

Re: Sam and Diane. Thanks for explanation. Looks like season 9 will be Spuffy's turn to get a shock therapy.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 14th April 2011 16:23 (UTC)
Hoping to get involved

Hi - I am really glad to discover this. Good job!

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 14th April 2011 17:23 (UTC)

Happy Birthday!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th April 2011 18:48 (UTC)

Thanks! :-)

Posted by: Pippin Davila (pippind)
Posted at: 30th April 2011 02:56 (UTC)

thanks for this, its awesome! Do you have a master list anywhere?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 30th April 2011 09:49 (UTC)

Thank you!

If you click on the tag "buffy dvd comentary" you'll get to the master list, or "Commentary Transcripts" in my Links sidebar.

Posted by: Lexi (eilowyn)
Posted at: 13th December 2011 18:06 (UTC)
Buffy - Yay!

You just saved my ass! My paper on feminism in fandom is due Friday (thank you, by the way, for your enthusiastic participation) and I'm living in the library and I needed that quote about Buffy being a feminist show from the commentary, and I didn't know exactly how he worded it, so your transcription came in very handily!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th December 2011 10:51 (UTC)

This is exactly the sort of thing I hoped people would be able to use the transcripts for. \o/ Glad to help. :)

Posted by: 12cubed (12_12_12)
Posted at: 24th June 2012 02:09 (UTC)

Thank you so much for this! I got linked to this post through Tumblr, and it's so wonderful reading this again and reliving the awesomeness of this episode (and this season!)

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