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(Transcript): Audio commentary for 7.22 'Chosen'

3rd August 2008 (10:05)
accomplished

current mood: accomplished

Well, I kind of implied I'd do this, and so here's my first attempt at transcribing one of Joss's audio commentaries from the 'Buffy' DVDs. It took even longer than I thought it would - several hours - so I can't see me doing all of them in any sort of reasonable timescale, but I think it's interesting to read this. When it's all set out in writing it's clearer to see what Joss says than when you're just sitting there listening, I think, and there's some interesting (and doubtless controversial) things said here...

Why did I start with the commentary for 'Chosen' rather than, say, the one for 'Welcome to the Hellmouth', which might have been more logical? Well, partly because I prefer the later seasons and partly because I'm occasionally illogical and strange. As Buffy would say, it's a thing.

Feel free to link this or copy it elsewhere. Some day, if I do more of these, I may even put them up on a webpage somewhere. Well, other than this webpage, obviously.

Note: I've transcribed this as accurately as I can. There are a couple of occasions where I couldn't quite make out what was said, so I've put (??)  to mark that. I've also missed out the various "um"s and "er"s, the "you know"s, and the repetition and false starts. Where context is needed, I've put in [square brackets] what was happening on screen at a particular moment. If you spot any errors please let me know and I'll amend it.

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'Chosen' Commentary

Hi, I'm Joss Whedon and this is the very final audio commentary, on the very final episode, of the very final season of 'Buffy'. And if you've actually been through all the episodes and all the commentaries and all the DVDs and you have a feeling of exhaustion, confusion and sort of a low-riding rage that you can't really describe or understand, then you'll know how I felt when we shot this. To say that I was wiped out by the time we got here is the understatement of the world. 

[Buffy and Angel talking in the crypt after Caleb's apparent death]

And no scene, I think, showed that more than this one, because we had so little time to shoot so much. I'll explain as we go to the credits. You see, that was actually the first stuff we shot for the episode, and we only had David for a little while – and I mean a *really* little while, I had about seven hours to do about ten pages. And it all required everybody to be completely on point; but that's – with Nathan and Sarah and David, that's what you get. Professionalism. Everybody was right on the mark, and everybody worked really hard. 

It was a good start to this – because there was no episode we ever shot that was harder, bigger, and that left less time for me to try and do anything interesting with the camera, it left less time for the DP to light, left less time for everybody and everything to do their best work. And yet somehow people managed to. The stunts, I did not have to shoot that night. John Medlen shot most of it Second Unit, and you'll be hearing a little bit about David Solomon who also shot huge amounts Second Unit for me on the show because it took so many days.

[Caleb comes back for his final battle with Buffy]

What can I say about Nathan Fillion that hasn't already been said? He's a great hero and a great villain, and just delightful. I was so happy to have him back for the beginning of this episode. Just because I wanted to work with him, and he'd gotten to work with other directors and I didn't think it was fair that I didn't get any. 

And I thought splitting him in half from the crotch up was maybe a little on the nose as a radical feminist statement goes, but for his character, I really thought he'd earned it. So.

[Angel gives Buffy the information folder and amulet]

And David, again, came in and just was right on the money – same as Sarah – from the first take, which was so important. The only person who didn't do their best work here, I think, was me – just because the lack of time meant that, here we are:

[The camera shows Angel talking]
 

There's an over.

[The camera shows Buffy talking]


That's an over.

[The camera looks over Buffy's shoulder at Angel talking] 

Then we have a two-shot. Over, over, two-shot, which is pretty much the gold standard for boring television directing. But when you're in the kind of hurry we were in, I really didn't have any choice. They make one big move in this entire scene – and once they do, we started shooting both of them at the same time. And that's the rarest thing of all, because usually you light in one direction and it's very specific. And then it takes a while to turn around and light in the other direction. 

But every now and then, when you're desperate, you ask your DP to light both people at the same time. It's not un-doable; both of them look good here; but we had two cameras running at the same time. It also helps the scene sometimes because both people are in it – in their coverage, in their close-up at the same time, and they're giving their all and they're working off the rhythms of the other person very specifically, so you're not cobbling together something that is taken at what could be hours apart. So it's a fun way to shoot, it just makes life hell for a DP. Ray came through as he always does, really spectacularly at that. 

Yes, there will be praise, because a lot of people really impressed me. This was a really hard episode to shoot. And one of the shots coming up… this one:

[Buffy and Angel leave the crypt and walk out into the graveyard]

Steadicam shot designed to show the scope of the giant graveyard, and give a little motion – and emotion – to what they're doing. Of course, the giant graveyard here is our parking lot – the graveyard that Gareth Davies, our producer, suggested we build at the beginning of Season 2 to save time going out to graveyards. We shot the first half of this scene the first half of that night, then we came out here to shoot the rest of it. Again, the time constraints were insane, and yet this stuff looks great, and the two of them are as funny and real as they've ever been. So that worked out just fine.

["Oh my God, are you twelve?"]

And David doing my all-time favourite thing, which is being petty. Whenever Angel is petty I think he's at his best. And I love the fact that I feel the scope of the graveyard – which is where I thought Buffy and Angel should leave their relationship on this show, because it is the iconic place for Buffy. The graveyard, more than anything else.

A lot of this last episode had to do with finding that perfect iconic moment, and that perfect iconic thing that really said "This is a summation of what we've done". I did that before; I did it in episode 22 of Season 5, where I had Buffy fighting a vampire in the alley at the beginning. I had made a lot of the statements to round out my feelings about the show already. But life went on, the show went on, and writing a second final episode of 'Buffy' was, I'll say, much harder than writing the first. Partially because I'd already written one, partially because I knew this was actually the end. At some point I just had to let go and just write. Forget about the pressure. Forget about it being perfect because it wasn't going to be – and it isn't – and just try to make it good enough. Hit the beats. Give an episode that people would remember. We knew where we wanted to go thematically and it was just a question of getting there.

[Buffy compares herself to cookie dough]

This speech about cookies was originally pitched – not cookies exactly, but I believe baking was in there – by Marti Noxon early in the season. And I think as a showrunner I could have done a better job of bringing us to it. She comes to this conclusion a little bit out of the blue, and that's my fault, but we knew that emotionally, that's where we wanted her to get. And what we wanted to get to was the idea of "My relationships don't work out because I'm still becoming a woman, and finding my place, and I don't need to be "find the perfect guy" at age 22. Or however old Buffy is at this point. "I can wait. I can wait till I'm fully formed." And I think that's a very important message. And when Marti had – she'd thought about this in her own life, and she told me, and I was like, "I think that's exactly where we need Buffy to get."

And it helps with the other really complicated part of writing this episode, which was "How do you get Angel and Spike together in the same show, have her have the big emotion for both of them, and not make her seem like the Slut Queen of Slutdonia?" as Marti herself would say. So it was very tricky – and I would like to point out that I had to do it in the same act; that by the end – before the end of Act One she's sleeping with Spike.

[Angel fades into the shadows]

This exit for Angel was meant to mirror his first exit; him backing off in the darkness. Something hopefully iconic enough, and something to give people hope that Buffy and Angel might one day work out, because *some* fans – now, I realise not many, but there were a few fans who feel that the Buffy/Angel romance was, like, a big deal. And clearly I thought Parker was the most important romantic relationship of her life; other people disagreed; that's fine, I guess they can do that. They care about the Angel thing. Some people care about the Spike thing. I don’t know why we couldn't get Parker in there too, but apparently… whatever. That vocal minority who care about Buffy and Angel meant that we had to do service by him. 

[Xander hears about Caleb's death]

Eye socket jokes: always funny. 

[Buffy goes down to the basement to talk to Spike]

And this was the trick. How to get her in the sack with Spike half an act after Angel had left. But the experience – I've said this probably a hundred times, and probably all of them on the audio commentaries to these damn episodes – the trick is always to make the audience go through exactly what she's going through. It's confusing to us emotionally that we should bounce from one to the other, and it's confusing to her. But Spike is the person in her life right now. 

[Buffy sees the sketch of Angel on the punch bag]

That drawing, by the way, is my own creation; and a lot of the crew-members were like "Why does he hate Butthead?" I was like "Oh, it's supposed to be Angel." And that was something that I did on the day. It wasn't in the script. That's the kind of wacky improv I've got going. Who knows what could happen at any moment? I could come up with that. I think that's actually the only thing I came up with. I mean, besides the script. 

[Spike asks for the amulet]

The great Marsters, with a chemistry with Buffy that is just completely different from Angel's. And different than David's and yet works very, very well. He's more on Buffy's level. He's more… their vulnerabilities come out – and I don't just mean as characters but as actors – around each other. And that really works, it works on a very different level. Their relationship clearly been through a lot – much more, in fact, than her relationship with Angel in a way – and you feel that history. These two; and they bring it to the set every time they come to work. And that's why we still came to work; because they did.

[Spike dashes across to stop Buffy leaving]

And James: the ability to turn on a dime is a very rare thing in an actor. From incredibly noble or scary to completely dorky or disarming. He does it with the 'tongue' line earlier, he does it here. You'd be amazed how few people can actually do that: and the last person I'd ever expect to be able to do it would be a theatre-trained guy, but yet, he's got the chops. He can go from Dracula to Jack Benny in a heartbeat, which is one of the reasons that I love him. That and his shiny, shiny hair.

[Spike and Buffy lie down on his bed together to sleep]

The idea behind their sleeping together was very important. It was that their relationship had enough trust in it: that it was physical and romantic but not sexual. That was, of course, in response to the rape issue of last year, when he had attempted to rape her because he didn't understand the boundaries of their relationship – he was soulless. But having gotten his soul and having fought to become a person, we wanted to say this man can be redeemed from that. 

Not – and I've said this before, but I'll say it again – not in a Luke and Laura "he rapes her and they get married" way. Not in an "all is forgiven" way. Just in the way of he's still a human being who did a wrong thing and we still count him as a human being. I think that's a very important message, that their relationship should be complicated, and yet come to a place of trust. Without saying "Okay, now they're going to become lovers again", because I think that would be wrong. I think that's the wrong message. It's a very fine line. 

[Buffy talks to The First in the form of Caleb]

Love watching them face off. I love Nathan, he tells his little jokes like he's – almost like he's an old man. His little puns and his silliness, he's just - the delight he takes in his character is so very charming. And the point he's hitting on, of course, being the whole point of the show, being the whole point of the season.

[The First morphs into the shape of Buffy]

And it seemed not only really… affordable to have Sarah play The First for most of this, but also the smartest, because we've come full circle. We ended the first episode with her as The First, and we show this episode with her as The First. And she should literally be the person telling herself that she is alone. 

[Buffy and Buffy/The First talk to each other]

These two didn't actually get along at all. And working with the two of them was a nightmare. I thought they would – but they were complaining their outfits were too similar, and their trailers were the same size… and there was trouble. 

[Spike wakes up]

"I'm drowning in footwear" is just one of those lines that make you glad you're a writer, that can write something that silly and actually put it on the air.

["We're gonna win"]

It's an odd thing to end an act with an affirmation of potential victory; but it made sense to me here because it's so strange.

Act Two

[The Scooby gang are reflected in a mirror as Buffy talks to them]

Well, this shot was kind of a cheesy trick, but it was a way to get everybody in the frame so I liked it. This scene was one of those "Okay, got to make our day" kind of scenes in the sense of, I shot the room as a three-wall. You'll notice I don’t come around on Giles when he speaks to Willow – I get into profile. Which I don’t mind doing, I don’t need to be in everybody's face exactly for every moment. But it was a function of the very small amount of time we had that I played it as a proscenium, almost. We never do see that fourth wall. The bed helped. 

Some people have complained that the magic that this Scythe – originally from the 'Fray' comic that I was writing at the same time – is a little too convenient. And my answer to those critics is, "Well, don't tell everybody!" It is convenient, and that doesn't really bother me, because ultimately, to me, the magic, the phlebotnum is always secondary to what needs to be said. And what needed to be said had to do with empowerment. And the way to get there was through Willow's magic and what it means to her, and through being a Slayer and what it means to them. So the fact that everything fell into place a little too easily; maybe I could have thought of something a little more intricate but that isn't where my heart was. My heart was in… the heart, more then it was in the magic.

[Buffy tells the assembled Potentials about her plan]

This scene, well, first of all, the first time Buffy got through this speech – which, I'm sure you can realise when you watch the episode, we shot all as one. There are two parts to it and it's very long. And in fact it's about twice as long as what you see on screen; we cut about half of it in the editing room. Apparently my pen runneth over. So Sarah's basically doing a scene that is four times as long as what she does here. And did she get every single word right on the first take? Yes she did. Did the extras actually spontaneously burst into applause when she was done? Yes they actually did. And it's again one of the reasons why we went as long as we did, working as hard as we did: the fact that she can do that. 

[The camera focuses on Faith listening to Buffy]

I'd also like to point out the fact that it was young Ms Dushku who actually stopped to say how much she liked the scene, how much she liked the speech, how much she liked the words. And coming from an actor who knows that they're going to spend half the day standing there looking with absolutely no lines – I thought that was particularly gracious.

[Faith and Wood talk about their sexual encounter]

In this scene she accused me of getting back at some girl, because of the way Wood kind of disses on her. But actually it just made me laugh. And there aren't any girls I need to get back at! (Fake laugh) Actually, I think I told her that if that was what I was trying to do with the show, it would be going another four seasons... 

But I think these two just had a lovely chemistry. And this is not something that necessarily would have been in the last episode – a relationship talk from the two of them. But it deals with the isolated nature of the Slayer – embodied here by Faith rather than Buffy – which is really an important part of the season.  And it just tells us a little something about the two of them and it pays off really nicely at the end.

Two takes in either direction; both of them were so on point and so delightful. Eliza not happy about giving up control of the scene, of being, like, vulnerable when he attacks her skills. And the expression "Dude, I got mad skills" was actually said to me by Eliza. In reference to serving ice cream, actually, or working at the Dairy Queen, I believe, not in reference to anything else. But I loved the phrase so much I thought I simply have to have Faith say it. And of course since it was me writing it became dirty. Weird. It's a thing.

D B Woodside, from the first frame that I saw in the first episode, he intrigued me so much. A real comer, a real epic guy, just a little bigger than life. And you look for that: so often, you don’t find it. It's really hard to find someone who's a match.

[Willow and Kennedy prepare for the big day]

I love Iyari and Aly in this scene. Well, I love Aly in pretty much every scene… where she doesn’t have to speak a foreign language. And I think it's not a big secret that originally I had planned to bring Tara back; and when that didn't work out, I was looking for the anti-Tara. Somebody as un-earthy and unlike her as possible. And Iyari has a wonderful presence and a great physicality with Aly that is just very natural. So I liked working with them. And this was my first time because I didn't shoot any up until this one because I was too tired. I was pretty much too tired to shoot this one too, but I had no choice. I couldn’t let somebody else do it… except for the parts that I let John Medlen and David Solomon do… which again we'll come to later.

And the reasoning behind the two of them was very simply: somebody has to end this show with a goddamn girlfriend! And why shouldn't it be Willow? Somebody has to end in a decent relationship, because we had so many of them fall apart.

[Giles, Xander, Andrew and Amanda play Dungeons and Dragons]

I loved this. I loved doing this as a oner because I love a oner. I always love the oner. You have to do them a lot more times; they take about as long as doing a scene with coverage, but when you get it, it's all there and it's all in the frame. It's delightful. And Tom – well, I can't say enough about him. 

["Step back, girlfriend"]

This thing he does with his hood when he says "Step back", he had never done in any take. He just threw it in there right now; here we go: "Step back, girlfriend". He had never done that before, and he's always trying to bring more to the table. Not in that annoying "I have an idea that will ruin the shot" way, but just in that "I'm staying in it." And I loved that he became a huge part of the show.

This scene was also added so that we could give Amanda some screentime, so that later on I could kill her. Because I wanted to take a toll…

[Focus on Anya asleep at the table]

…and, well, I think Emma knows that as well as anybody. A battle without some kind of a toll is not a real battle.

[Buffy stands alone on the porch of her house]

I pulled wide here because I had planned to shoot that on set, and when they said "We're going out and shooting it" I said, "Well then, dammit, I'm pulling wide so that they know we really went there!" That night we had actually four directors shooting porch scenes for four different shows. 

[Buffy goes downstairs to see Spike]

And this bit here I did actually add on set. Not just the picture of Butthead on the punching bag but this, where I said I wanted to get a couple of shots. We were going fast – and that one, I didn't know if I was going to use the two of them. And to me it's almost the most important shot in the show because it really shows the mystery of their relationship. And that's one where I wanted the audience to fill in the blanks. I wanted them – I wanted whatever you want to have happened, to have happened. If people believe that on their last night together they made love, great! If they believe that on their last night together they talked all night, great! If they believe that they had a fight, great!

Whatever it is, it's up to the viewer and I think that the viewer has earned that, and I love that elliptical nature of their last night together. I think that there should be work for the viewer to do, in that sense, emotionally, because I think it makes it more textured. And that shot of the two of them looking at each other, I just find beautiful.

Act Three

[Everyone receives their instructions for the coming battle]

I had fun with this shot too, setting up all my parameters. Coming around, big wide lens, showing the school. 

[Andrew's speech]

And then of course the great Andrew 'Oscar' speech, which made me laugh every single time we did it. Sometimes out loud, which is actually not a good thing for a director to do during a take.

His brother Tucker, of course, a character that we referenced all the time, was the guy that tried to destroy the prom. And we had originally wanted that actor, Brad, to do one of the Nerds, but he was busy and couldn't. And so we found Tom and played up the idea that everybody couldn't remember him because he was somebody else's little brother. Which, by the way, happened to me in high school all the time. But I love that; the little continuity things are very important to me. 

[Dawn tells Buffy that anything she says will sound like goodbye]

That sentence was actually said to me by Marti after the show, when she was leaving the house after we'd watched it. Well, it nearly made me cry. But I don’t cry because I am a manly man.

[Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles are left standing in a circle]

This moment…. Well, I don't think I really need to explain what's going on here. I felt it was very important, and I think the audience did too, that these four, of everyone, have their moment together. These four who started it all should finish it all. And much in the same way they began it, which is why I echoed the exact line "The Earth is doomed" from Giles.

[The three younger ones walk off leaving Giles by himself]

This shot is an echo of the very ending of the two-part beginning. And this shot, also, very important as they peel off, one by one, best friends going to their destinies and Buffy left alone.

I shot it in slow motion, but unfortunately it was so slow that it took up about half the show. I had a whole long walk for Buffy down the basement where she remembered things and walked in slow motion. Really, really long. Had to cut it. Had to cut a lot of things. My shows almost always come out long because I talk too much. In this instance I'm supposed to be talking right now, too much, but sometimes I just do.

[Buffy, Faith and the Potentials slice their hands open over the Seal]

Almost cut this shot, which I think is again one of the most important shots, just for time when we were shooting. But the idea of all these girls bleeding together, I think has a good earthy, almost menstrual metaphor to it which I think is important since they're all becoming empowered together. Becoming Slayers. Oh, did I give it away? Well, if you're listening to the audio commentary you probably already know that.

[Willow prepares to cast her spell]

My biggest regret about this episode was that I didn’t get to do more funny Willow stuff. There was just so much plot to get through. And funny Aly is just such a great thing and I wished we'd had more. 

[Buffy leads the Potentials into the Hellmouth]

This shot is rather seamlessly woven in by Loni and our guys Zoic, and really gave us an epic feel that we just didn’t have the money for on this show lo! these many years. And so we'd been saving all year for this very sequence and these very shots. The idea that there was now a technology where you could do hundreds and thousands of bad guys just didn't exist in the first six years. And people said, "Well, somebody saw 'The Two Towers'", and the fact of the matter is, what I saw was the little thing that was in 'Cinefax' explaining that they had this new technology where you could create thousands of bad guys. And I was like, "That will make this battle different than all the others!" The sheer number. 

 [The Slayer empowerment spell]

And this. This I knew I was coming to from the start of the season, pretty early on in it. Buffy was isolated. As a character, even in the world, Buffy and her gang: never ensemble, always 'the star' and 'the others' in the magazines and what-not. And it was very important to me to say "Okay, it's great that you've worshipped this one iconic character: but find it in yourself. Everybody. And that's why we shot the people all over. And that was a great fun thing to do, and the last thing I shot for the show on First Unit was the girl in the trailer. And Drew Goddard pointed out that it was kind of a great last shot to be shooting – this one:

[A new Slayer deflects the blow of the man who was about to hit her]

– for this show. And I can't say enough about our little baseball girl.

[A new Slayer gets ready to hit a ball really, REALLY hard]

So many people just lost it. I thought, "Oh, this is going to be too cheesy, the baseball thing", and so many people were like "I was that girl, I played Little League, that was so important!" And that's the crying moment for a lot of people.

["These guys are dust"]

Again, I can't say enough about the Zoic guys: the job they did integrating these things. And Felicia Day as Vi and Indigo as Rona, just doing great work. And Sarah Hagan as Amanda, just – they really stuck. A lot of girls came, a lot of girls got killed.

[Willow gets all white-haired and glowing]

This image, which we refer to – speaking of 'Lord of the Rings' – as the Cate Blanchett image, obviously meant to… she couldn't stop talking about her black-haired evil. And the idea that when she empowers these women she comes to something more powerful – beyond the concept of power, beyond the power that's evil; something truly connected, about connection, about women's connection to each other and to the earth, and that it would bring out the best in her – it would be nifty – seemed like a good conclusion to her story, her arc. 

[The Slayers fight wave after wave of ubervamps]

This scene, all of this stuff, this is where David Solomon really came in and helped out. He shot for days of Second Unit, because there was simply so much to shoot. And without him – I mean, he was a great director on the show, and a great producer anyway – without him doing this episode I never would have made it through. He kept it interesting when… we actually had to stop filming one night, one Friday night halfway through because I was just too tired.

[Vi is in the thick of the battle]

Felicia was like "You (???)" She loved all this footage we got of her, but she looked great. 

[Buffy dusts a vampire with the Scythe as Slayers leap around behind her]

That shot was very specifically storyboarded before we ever did anything, it was very important to get that moment of just everybody doing everything in slo-mo, I thought it came out really nicely.

["Bunnies. Floppy, hoppy bunnies"]

And if you're going to pay off things people have dealt with over the years, bunnies is going to be one of the most important. Emma, just about the funniest person who ever looked that good.

[Giles and Wood fight ubervamps]

D B loved to fight. So did Tony. I wish we could have had more of it – we, again, wanted to keep everything as just fast as possible. 

[So do Anya and Andrew]

And "I have swimmer's ear" is just something he happened to say, that made me laugh. And so I put it in; it had nothing to… I don't know why the character is saying that, it's not going to stop the vampire.

Some people complained, again, that the vampires were too easy to kill. That they were supposed to be stronger than other vampires. And the fact of the matter is… it's true. Like the convenience of the magic, it's true. Because, again, I was more interested in showing the empowerment than I was in the continuity. To make every vampire as hard to kill as the first one would have been too hard.

Act Four

Shooting the battle as it was required many, many more days than we had scheduled, and more directors. So it… once I'd gotten all the big moments out…

[Buffy, wounded, gives the Scythe to Faith]

And this was a very important thing too also, the sharing of the Scythe. Means the sharing of the power, just about as literally as you can get. 

[Dawn sun-fries three ubervamps]

Had to use a little sunlight since it was the middle of the day. 

[The death of Anya]

And this. One of the most brutal images that we've ever done. And done to keep the sense of battle: the unheroic death. But also interesting because I actually had never seen it before; never seen anybody cut like that. And I came up with the idea of the stuntman using a half-sword and digitally adding the rest of the sword and the cut. So instead of just one of those endy (??) slices like you always get in swordfight movies you'd really get someone down.

[Amanda is killed]

And of course Sarah [Hagan] following as well. That was because I needed a toll, I needed this battle really to feel like a battle – and I couldn't kill any of my Core Four and still call it a happy ending. I couldn't kill Dawn and still call it a happy ending either. So Anya got the nod. And to make it as unheroic as possible just felt very real and very creepy – and that shot was in fact her last shot.

[Buffy tells The First to "Get out of my face"]

Lot of people didn't actually get that this was a pun. But it seemed like the right thing.

[Buffy gets up to fight, in slow motion]

And here I just - I've really got to give it up for the composer. He increased the budget of the show by half just because his music gave it such an epic feel. 

[Buffy swings the Scythe and knocks three ubervamps right off the ledge]

A great Zoic shot there. But this music, to me, embodies just so much of what I was striving for and just makes the thing feel twice as epic as it was. Beautiful piece of music. 

[The battle rages] 

That's Ming – great, great stuntwoman, she gave us great footage, as Felicia did too. All the girls really enjoyed their fighting, they really wanted to fight more and more. Iyari particularly. Sarah at one point said "Look, we're going to need some footage. I'll just keep fighting; just keep rolling, and I'll fight."

[Spike's amulet activates]

The sunlight hits Spike, the sunlight is channelled through Spike, and it gets nasty. Some of the body language from these vamps – again, all CGI – again, really beautifully done. The idea of the soul being the thing that elevates and kills him felt like a beautiful wrap-up. And again going from the epic to the humorous in a heartbeat; that's our boy. 

[The Slayers leave the Hellmouth]

The girls kept walking through the beam: I had to explain, "You're being chopped in half! Duck!" 

[One of them trips and falls running down the school corridor]

And she actually fell, which was really fun. Because it makes it look real – because it was! And she wasn't hurt; nobody was hurt; it's all fake, it's okay. 

[They board the school bus]

The idea of the bus: what can I say? Just felt right. It's a good way to get a lot of people out, and it's a school bus. You leave school on a school bus. That's what we did. 

[Xander looks for Anya but doesn't see her body]

This shot, one of my favourites too. He's looking for her, she's right there, he doesn't find her. Those always get me.

[Buffy and Spike's last scene]

This was an interesting scene because both James and Sarah came to it from the wrong place, really. They were playing things falling apart, and the terror of it, and I said that what I wanted was for them to completely distance themselves from it. I explained how all the sound was going to drift out.

[Their hands burst into flames]

I thought that this was a sort of romantic image, the two of them. We actually did it with real fire but their hands were all gelled up and you could tell, so this was added CGI, and looks beautiful. I thought it was a nice comment on their relationship. But what I basically told them was "Play the romance. Be proud of him. Love him when you say you love him. Love her when you say she doesn't love you. Forget about the crumbling world. For that period of time it doesn't exist." 

It's a cinematic trick but it's a necessary emotional one. I was surprised that they hadn't come there because usually the three of us come to a scene in exactly the same place. And this time it really was sort of different. And eventually Sarah said "If you have what you think you need I think we should move on, because I'm not sure I understand how this works." But I look at the two of them get together and their work is tremendous. But that is part of making TV and movies. 

Sometimes you'll get a take from an actor that blows you away and they'll go "Oh, I wasn't feeling a thing, I was thinking about something else, can we go again?" And you're like, "You just gave me gold" and they're like, "But I didn't feel it." I'm like, "The audience will." Sometimes you can let them have another and sometimes you just say, "Trust me. The audience will be there, because I was." 

[Spike sees how it ends]

Another beautiful image. Our boy, going down for the last time. Even though everybody already knew he was going to be on 'Angel'...

[The school bus rushes out of Sunnydale]

I loved revving Felicia up to as much intensity as she could get. That was fun. Right there, we're going around the lot. Our own little lot. And then this.

[Buffy flees across the rooftops and jumps onto the bus]

Actual miniatures and CGI. And I'm just obsessed with people running and jumping on things. The big leap. And so I got one at the end of my show. It's an old trick. There is another old trick.

[Aerial shot of Sunnydale collapsing into the crater]

The first trick was the fact – I love that, by the way, I just couldn't have a better description of what happens to Sunnydale – but, the first trick was, she jumped, the bus drove under, but actually they happened at different times, and we were still.  Which is something we did when Faith fell into the truck. They were talking about showing the back (??) and we were cheating with perspective, and I was, "Can't we just shoot them both and do a split-screen?" And then of course the…

[Buffy jumps off the bus and glances around at the open road ahead]

Now this, I have to say, the endless road behind them was something that came from Tony Head. He pointed out "Oh, that's beautiful! You have an endless horizon, it's a perfect image for the rest of the show, for the end of the show and for the rest of their lives!" And I was like, "Yeah, that's great, except I parked a bus in front of it and you guys play in front of the bus and we're never going to see it."  So I gave that moment to Sarah of just looking out and seeing that horizon, because I agreed with Tony, I thought it was beautiful, and I didn't think it should be missed.

[The 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign falls into the crater]

And then of course that poor sign, which in one incarnation or another has been knocked down so many times. 

[Xander asks Andrew about Anya]

Again, I had very much planned not to have any reason for Anya's death, any reason behind it or any reason to come after it. But the writer in me couldn’t not resolve it somewhat, and I think the audience needed what Xander needed, which was something. And that something was Andrew learning that the thing that he's sort of reviled for, making up stories, becomes the thing that he helps Xander with. Becomes the thing that he actually is good at. Giving her the epic death that she didn't actually get to have.

[Wood and Faith's last scene together]

I think these two have as grown up and textured a relationship as any characters on the show and they had about four scenes together total. So I love that about them. I love how much goes on in each of them when he dies. Dying – having a character die then suddenly bringing them back is something you can only earn after you've actually killed a couple of people. So this was a nice opportunity to say, "This isn’t over yet." Have the call-back and – but I wouldn't have been able to do it if I hadn't legitimately offed a few beloved characters.

[Everyone gathers on the edge of the crater]

And then we come to what is the final shot. Needless to say, we shot this one a bunch of times. I had this in my head from the start. When we first did it we started up high, and it looked kind of fake and cheesy. And they're, of course, playing against an abyss that isn't there. But I knew this was going to be a oner, I knew there was going to be a slow push-in. We started to shoot it, and then Ray, the DP, said, "You know what? The light's not that good, the wind's not that good. Let's just leave the crane arm and go shoot the little bits in front of the bus. So we held off for about four hours and came back, tried again. Everybody giving their lines, a tough thing; everybody being at the right place in frame. Very tough. But I wanted it to just be everyone, and to end with the close-up of Buffy. 

[Close-up of Buffy starting to smile]

Because what this shot ultimately about, is what a lot of the show is about: which is that the story goes on. That there is closure, but not a closing. That what we've seen is a life being formed, like the cookie dough speech explains. This is a life in progress, a life that in some ways is just beginning... 

...Like that smile.

That's all I have to say. Thanks for watching my show. 

.

Comments

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd August 2008 15:45 (UTC)

I've transcribed parts of commentaries myself, but only as they related to debates I was having at the time

I've done the same, but I thought how much easier it would be if they were all written out nicely for us instead of having to wonder where and when they said anything...


according to David Fury, Joss wasn't satisfied with this episode [...] You wouldn't know it, listening to the commentary

Well, he does say near the start that it's not perfect, and he frequently mentions how rushed they were, how little time they had to get things right, and how many compromises they were forced into. I think he's proud of the episode, but can see its flaws - an attitude I sympathise with myself. I'd love to see what he'd do if you gave him a TV-movie budget, twice as much time and all his original cast to remake it now. (And I wonder if he'd change anything with hindsight, having seen the fan reaction to the various controversies...)

Thanks!

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