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(Transcript): BtVS 4.22 'Restless' Audio Commentary by Joss W.

12th February 2009 (19:11)

I started transcribing Joss's commentaries from the 'Buffy' DVDs last year, and now I've finished another - for 'Restless'. As before, feel free to link this, refer to it, quote it or archive it (with attribution) as desired. I've transcribed it as accurately as possible, but omitted various verbal tics like 'um', 'you know' and 'sort of'.

Clicking the buffy dvd commentary tag will take you to the other commentaries. Next on my list is 'Hush'.

Warning: this commentary contains major plot spoilers for Seasons 5 and 6 of 'Buffy'.

 


Commentary on 4.22 'Restless'

Hi, I'm Joss Whedon, the executive producer/writer/director guy who made this episode, 'Restless', which I wanted to do a commentary on because it's different than anything else I had ever done before or have ever done since. And I thought it might be fun to go through the whole thing since it's a sequence of dreams, and talk about what the more literal meanings of all these vague dream images were to me; and the process of making them, what that was all about.

[Opening credits]

You notice that the 'Previously...' there went straight into the credits, which usually we have a teaser, and in this particular case the teaser comes after the credits, and then we go to commercial. Simply because of contractually, we had to have the other credits - not the main title credits but the other credits - come after the main title. But I didn't want to put them over the dreams because that would take away from the importance of them - so we just did a little crazy restructure here. All those legal things. Since then I've learned my lesson, and I always have a scene which will fit the credits nicely over it in Act One. In 'The Body' I added a flashback of the mother for that reason; and in the musical we had the opportunity for an overture for that very reason.

[The Scoobies get ready to watch some videos]

So we come in after the big climax, the big two-part climax that took place this year, unlike the years before, in episodes 20 and 21. And a lot of people commented on that; they didn't understand why we didn't finish with the big wow! explosion finish. But because we had done that twice in a row we really felt like it would be nice to do something very, very different. And I thought a nice coda to this season, which had been a very anarchic and upheavaly season - and yes, I know upheavaly isn't a word - for all the characters, would be to just do a piece that commented on all of the forming characters that we've grown to know and love, and where they were in their lives, and what they felt about things and each other.

And so we built the structure based on the idea of dreams - one dream per act, beginning with Willow, then Xander, Giles and finally Buffy. And the running thread in all of them being that they would be attacked by the spirit of the First Slayer, the Primitive, who would be killing them in their dreams one by one until Buffy had the strength and spirit to make her go away. Much like Freddy Krueger in the first Freddie Krueger, now that I think about it.

This was, for me, a great big departure because everything I've done has been very, very carefully structured. Every story, every beat of every story is structured before I write a word. I can't write unless I know exactly where I'm going.

[Everyone dozes off]

Though I did have a general idea of where I was going - here they're all asleep, and we go to what would be the commercial - in this particular instance I couldn't know where I was going. I literally had to just let it flow, and make sure the images were true to the characters, true to the flow of the energy of the narrative so that there was some momentum. Things become creepier as we go along. But basically I just had to free-associate in every act, which for me was very liberating. I knew that a lot of people would be alienated by it, and not get it, quite frankly - or not want it if they did get it. But to me it was a great exercise, as great an exercise as 'Hush', in learning about how to write and what it means.

[Willow's dream conversation with Tara]

Here they talk about the kitty, and finding out its real name. This scene is largely about their intimacy and trust, and the safe place in her life which is her relationship with Tara. Somebody actually pointed out to me something that I hadn't noticed, which was that they talk about letting something tell you its name - and then later on Riley talks about naming things. Specifically, the idea of the more feminine and masculine versions of how to experience the world. In the feminine version of letting it come to you and the masculine version of conquering it and codifying it yourself. That was actually somebody on the Internet who mentioned that.

[Willow writes on Tara's back]

This, apart from being, I think, one of the most sensual images we've ever done, is just something that seemed very dreamlike to me. That she would be writing out what is a paper on Tara's back. That, by the way, is a love poem by Sappho, which was researched by Todd Macintosh, our make-up guy, who's a genius who's been with us forever. And he went the full nine yards and painted it on exactly.

[Willow looks out of the window]

The desert she's looking out into is real. We moved a wall into the desert to get our first glimpse of the Primitive.

[Miss Kitty Fantastico stalks towards the camera in slow motion]

And of course the big, terrifying kitty shot.

[Willow walks past Xander and Oz in the school corridor]

Then we're in school. Again a dreamlike thing: the idea of late for class. Everything is just moving sort of dreamlike, everything is sort of just a little bit off. And of course Oz is there. He had left the show for a while, came back just for this one episode.

["Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell, and then I do a spell by myself."]

That joke of Xander's is a bit of a cheat, truthfully, since it's not really her experience. It just made me laugh when he said it, so I kept it in. But actually we lose her for that moment, which is not very dreamlike.

[Willow finds herself backstage in a play]

This is, of course, the classic actor's nightmare. And Willow had already had a dream about being in a play in episode one-- I mean, in season one, episode ten, 'Nightmares', where she had to perform 'Madame Butterfly'. So she is more open now, and taking drama class - or considering the idea of taking it - but it sort of vaguely terrifies her, and this comes out in it. And the idea of roleplaying -

["I showed up on time so I get to be Cowboy Guy!"]

Let's face it, how many of us see Riley - Marc was never better, and never had more fun, than when he got to be Cowboy Guy. Both he and Sarah look amazing and act amazing in these guises. But the whole point being of course that Willow is feeling like she's wearing a disguise. Like, she isn't telling people her true name; that people will find out about her.

And the mislead is that what she's talking about is her sexuality - but in fact what she's talking about is the fact that she still considers herself to be, well, a big nerd. Which we'll see later on.

[Giles gives his pep talk]

Giles's overly-directory speech. The poncey authority figure was enormous fun.

[Willow realises the First Slayer is stalking her]

And here of course we introduce the Primitive, which just sort of half-seen and half-understood becomes the figure of great menace. And the other classic dreamlike thing of everybody's priorities are completely not your own; and when you have a sense of dread that nobody else is paying attention.

["If we can stay in focus, keep our heads, and if Willow can stop stepping on everybody's cues..."]

Tony basically like Jack Buchanan in the curtain-call scene in 'The Band Wagon' is how I always felt about that. Just overdone and sort of delightful. And now we come to what many people consider the crux of the entire show.

["I've made a little space for the cheese slices."]

The Cheese Man. And "What is the meaning of the Cheese Man?" is the question that I'm asked by everybody. Which to me indicates that we're doing something right, because he is the only thing that has no meaning. I'll come back to him in a second.

[Willow walks between the red curtains]

The red curtains, many people associate with 'Twin Peaks', but in fact it was not a direct homage. The red curtains are a somewhat more literal image, again of comfort and safety. The place where she feels safe, where she finds Tara, between the folds, the red folds of the, uh, curtain... I'm not going to explain any more because children might listen to this. But I was being vaguely literal and sexual there.

At the same time, the idea that there's this space where there shouldn't be a space, right next to where all this bustle is going on, to me is extraordinarily dreamlike. And in a moment we'll come back to the play, and see what is for me a classically common experience. The play doesn't seem to have any resemblance to the actual play it's supposed to be, which is always the case when I dream about plays or anything like that.

[Harmony as a milkmaid talks to Riley the Cowboy Guy]

Again, images of womanhood and manhood and the very silly roles that they play sort of come into play here. "A salesman", he says with such intensity. Although that's really just silly free-associating, at the same time it's playing gender roles. And that's why Giles listened to Riley give the exact same answer as Harmony and said that only he was right. It's all part of how we perceive and who we listen to.

["Men, with your groping and spitting, all groin no brain three billion of ya passin' around the same worn out urge. Men. With your… sales."]

This shot here, we had to use a Frasier lens which gives you extreme depth of focus. They use them sometimes for the sniper scenes in 'Saving Private Ryan'. And that way I could reach up all the way to the very front of the frame, have somebody really close and have great depth in the background, And of course Sarah great at reciting these just insane long speeches, just rapid fire. She's got that old-school kind of delivery, which I knew she could do better than anybody.

[The Primitive tries to stab Willow through the curtain]

And again, talking about maleness - that's a knife. So, with the scary, because, you know, show's got scary in it. And dreams are often bad. And then of course coming out from the safety of the curtains into the classroom.

["I'm very seldom naughty."]

Willow protesting that she's not the sort of person who should be in any kind of trouble. And now of course finally the reveal. The costume that... she swears she's not wearing a costume. And in order to get her to the look we're about to see, we obviously had to put a wig on her and dig up clothes like we had in the first episode, so that we could get to Willow Year One. Or really, Willow Episode One, because the network instantly said, "She's too square, change her clothes, change her clothes!" So she became sort of hip and nerdy.

[Oz and Tara whisper to each other and snigger at Willow]

That's her worst fear realised. Her two old lovers, who seem to be very intimate, both of them staring at her and laughing at her. Fact is, when Aly put on the wig and had her old Year One hair on, everybody on the crew was all sentimental about it. "Aww, we just love her, we love Old Willow, she was so cute." Not that New Willow isn't cute too. But Aly never felt very comfortable with this look, but...

[The First Slayer grabs Willow]

Oh, and then of course death and terror and murder and all that stuff. And no-one paying attention, because that's what happens when you get ripped up by a beast in a dream. Sucking the life out of her.

[Act Two]

Moving off Willow to young Xander. Now here we played what is for me again a classic dream thing. The movie I remember seeing and really liking as being long, strange, cheesy and boring. That's why he mentioned 'Apocalypse Now' earlier.

And of course Giles says "It's all about the journey", and that's particularly true in the case of this episode. It's the journey of life, it's the journey through these people's psyche, it's not about the reveal. We don’t play it in the classical sense, although we have a mystery solved, a demon defeated - or a Slayer defeated in this case - but we don't go the old-fashioned way. It's not about the twist, it's not about the end, it's just about the journey. You can say that about the show in general, but in this episode we're very particular about it.

[Xander goes upstairs and is met by Joyce]

As much as possible I wanted to follow people with Steadicams. And Xander particularly, because he's going from place to place particularly a lot.

The sexual dream about your friend's mom - I'm sorry to say, it happens. It happens to most of us. I hope. Besides, Kristine is very lovely and it makes perfect sense that Xander would have these thoughts, even if they were subconscious.

You'll notice at one point here she speaks, we see her: she's not speaking but we hear her voice. That was deliberate to give it a dreamlike quality. Also a little slow-motion shots like this in the middle of the cutting pattern. There were a couple of movies that I thought of a lot when I did this one. And the one I'd have to say came up the most was 'The Limey'. 'The Limey' has a lot of very off-centre cutting, and dialogue where there's no dialogue, and that seemed to fit this style very much. It's particularly apparent in this scene. Soderbergh's whole sort of disjointed style worked really well here.

It was nice for Kristine to get to play just completely sexy, because when you play the mom on a show you're sort of relegated to momhood, so it was nice to see that side of her.

[Xander goes to the toilet, then realises he has an audience]

Anybody who hasn't had this dream, I'd be very surprised by. I think that's probably the best use of the Initiative we had all year. We really wanted to get that big, paranoid space, and nothing does that better than going to the bathroom in front of a bunch of people with clipboards.

[Xander finds himself back in his basement]

And now we find that the door leads to his basement. And of course that's going to become a recurring theme for Xander, the way disguise was for Willow. The journey for Xander always seems to end up in the same place, and it's the place he doesn't want to be. Partially because of a sense of failure and partially because there's something in there that frightens him.

[The children's playground scene]

This was shot on our own back lot. We used a very wide lens and really whited out the sky to make it feel very, very like a huge space. Even though quite frankly it's not. And we made things as bright as possible, overly bright so that they seemed to flare a little bit, so we really got a weird dreamy outdoorsy sense. You'll notice Spike there in his tweedy suit - that's something we managed to pay off in episode eight of Season Six where Spike actually puts on a suit like that, loses his memory and assumes he's Giles's son. So that was a fun little pay-off that we got to make there.

[Xander talking to Buffy sees Xander in the ice-cream van]

Nicky seeing -  sorry, Xander seeing  - I get them confused; Xander seeing himself working in an ice cream truck. A series of really bad jobs, guy with no future, hence all roads leading to his basement.

["Buffy, are you sure you want to be playing there? It's a pretty big sandbox."]

The sense of danger. And the thing I went for heavily here would be serious music cues, over an entire lack of action or dialogue. Just images. Just really letting things sit. That's something you have an opportunity to do a lot in television: just letting the images themselves take on meaning and resonance because they were just held so long.

His own POV of himself, and this moves us into the next scene.

[Xander drives the van while talking to Anya]

My dream was to have shot this rear-screen projection like the old days, like 'Vertigo' or any of the great old movies when they're driving around a lot. Unfortunately, setting up a rear-screen projection screen is really difficult on a stage. Especially our tiny stages. And so instead we went with greenscreen, which looks a little more modern. But you still get that sense of incredibly fake travelling backgrounds, which is what I very much wanted. A sense of no movement where there should be the most sense of movement. A static feel.

[Willow and Tara are flirting and making out.]

This is Xander's dream. So, what can I say? I make no apologies for this, this is how his mind works. The fact that he deals with most of the characters in the show sexually in some way or another is kind of a Xander thing. And in fact we comment on it when he refers to himself as a conquistador, because men are into conquest.

And this is the kiss. The longest kiss - the longest lesbian kiss on TV. That they actually asked us to cut down his reaction shot. But we held it for as long as we could, because we thought it was amusing to show the biggest kiss and not show anything. Just play it on his experience.

But as I was saying, he refers to himself as a conquistador, and Joyce implies that perhaps what he's looking for is comfort. And he replies, "I'm also a comfortador." And that phrase comes up again. And what I was saying with that basically was the idea that Xander is looking for love. Not just trying to get into the pants of every pretty girl that he's friends with, but really looking for something. Some comfort, some love that clearly is lacking from his mother and his family life.

[Xander crawls through the back of the van into his basement again.]

This I wish could only have gone on longer. But it's very important; the ice-cream truck becomes, yet again, the basement. That Byzantine little space you have to go through to get right back where you started, which in Xander's case is what this is all about.

["These will not protect you."]

And of course, the Cheese Man. Again, the Cheese Man - meaningless. Why? Because I needed something in the show that was meaningless, because there is always something in the dream that doesn't make any sense at all. In this case it was the Cheese Man. He confounds everybody because of that, and people ascribe him meaning. This to me means that we're being successful, because this means they're not worried about everything else, which means they sort of did understand most other things.

[Xander moves through a crowded green-lit corridor]

I love the colour scheme here. I love that we got to go to the very, very heavy greens and oranges. Again I have to say Soderbergh and 'The Limey' and a lot of his stuff - 'The Underneath', that was a big factor in some of this. Although so was 'Apocalypse Now', because Nicky - I've done it again - Xander not only incorporates watching the movie into his dream but a scene from it, as we will see.

[Giles and Anya start speaking French]

Everybody speaking a different language. Everybody's ahead of him. Everybody is growing up, moving on, and he's stuck. And he doesn't understand why. He can't figure anything out, and that's again, part of his dilemma.

[Xander is grabbed and taken to see Principal Snyder]

This particular shot taken directly from 'Apocalypse Now', when they turn Martin Sheen over right before he meets Marlon Brando. And this scene, we actually had 'Apocalypse Now' on videotape and played it as much as possible shot for shot. Gesture for gesture. The scene is sort of 'Apocalypse Now' paraphrased, but at the same time it's all about Xander. And of course the idea that Kurtz would turn out to be Principal Snyder is a delight to me.

And Armin came in, having been killed a year ago, just for this one scene and he played it so beautifully. Not trying to do a Brando impression, not being silly, not trying to do a pastiche. It's very common to incorporate things we've seen into our dreams and so he did a very realistic performance but at the same time he got all the nuance of the Kurtz character that Brando was playing. So it's kind of a delight to watch. And he's hitting on the theme, basically, of Xander not being worth much.

Nicky himself said he never had more fun than when we shot this, ever. And I think part of it was going through this journey was so different for Xander. He got to be so many different people, and in so many different situations, which he didn't often get. And this scene in particular was delightful for him. He plays the terror and the hopelessness so well, while still playing the hero of the story which, again, Xander doesn't often get to do.

[Xander gets chased by the First Slayer]

Now we get into the place where practicality and dreams come together. Because knowing I had all these different sets stacked up against one another, so crowded, because we shoot on this little warehouse that you'd basically walk from one and you'd be in another. And that is such a dream experience, that I said "Let's use it to our advantage." And I went onto Stage Three, where this is, figured out which things lead to where, and gave us the sequence where Xander goes through all these different sets. And ends up right back in the bedroom.

I believe we shot this with a 17 lens. The closet here, obviously, Carey Meyer - great production designer - built to get us the last leg of the journey. Which is the basement once again, godammit.

Another of the movies that I studied was 'Eyes Wide Shut', which also has a similar kind of dreamlike quality to it. I believe I read that Kubrick shot a lot of the walking through halls with a Steadicam on 17 lens. So I did that a lot for Xander particularly, because again I wanted to get that sense of motion. I really wanted - a wider lens lets you feel the environment around a person more. Walls rush by as opposed to just being blurry in frame. And I think it's not too much. If you use a very wide angle then it's clear you're just being whacky, and you might as well throw in ground fog and a frosted lens and really play "dream sequence".

[Xander's father pulls out his heart.]

Obviously the evil father there; Nicky's home life - or rather, again, Xander's - a real problem, and the heart of his story, the heart of his misery. He can't get out of the basement. He can't stop being a Harris - that's his fear. He does though, later.

[Act Three]

The way Giles talks to Buffy here is very mentor-y. But he also talks about men and women, in relationships - it's the many aspects.

[Buffy laughs]

The laugh, the giggle from Sarah - I just started making faces behind the camera unexpectedly to get her to laugh, because it's hard to just spontaneously laugh. So I unexpectedly acted like a complete idiot and she broke up. So that worked out for us.

[Buffy, Giles and Olivia go to the funfair]

Now of course Giles has become the father figure - he, his girlfriend who's carrying a stroller, although it's empty; Sarah-- Buffy is his little girl in this sense. The whole world is a silly vampire carnival.

["I am a vampire. I am a vampire"]

I believe that’s Brian Wankum from Post doing the voice of the vampire. I had planned to do it but he did it so well we never recorded over it.

["You're going to get that all over your face."]

Here we see Sarah with her face all muddied. And we'll see that again, talk about that later - the primal Sarah. The crazy zoom because you've got to have one.

[Giles goes over to watch Spike's sideshow freak act]

Now, black and white is something that gets used a lot, particularly in dream sequences - there's Phina crying in the background with the stroller, by the way - but I didn't want to use it for its own sake. It felt right. Spike is like an old Thirties movie villain, and he's playing it up. And he's playing it to the cameras, and he's such a showman. It makes perfect sense.

Giles, here, his biggest problem is that he can't decide who he wants to be. He can't decide: should he be going off being a father and living a real life, you know what's going on?

[Spike poses for the crowd]

James never had more fun than when he did those poses. He cracked me up so hard. But this conflict- ah!

[The Cheese Man makes another appearance]

"I wear the cheese. It does not wear me." Not many people figured out that that was me making fun of a line from 'The Man In The Iron Mask': "I wear the mask, it does not wear me" that Leonardo DiCaprio says.

[Giles goes into the Bronze]

Now here's another example of sets that just happened to be together. Spike's crypt was next to the Bronze, so let's go there. And this coming up is one of my favourite sequences. Again, we just stuck Giles's living room in the Bronze, so that everything could be happening all at once. Ah, but this again highlights Giles's problem because, "Should I raise a family? Should I be a rock star? Or should I give the boring exposition in every episode of 'Buffy'?" And of course we combine the two by having him get up and sing the exposition.

[Anya's duck joke]

Also, Anya as a stand-up comic just killed me. She seemed so perfect for it, because her sense of humour is so off. Her humour comes from the fact that she doesn't understand our ways, let alone our jokes; so her being a comedian is kind of a funny concept to me. I love the way she's framed off-centre. Framing things just a little bit differently than your classic "over - over - twoshot" is one of the joys of doing an episode like this. You can have an awkward framing, and it feels right. For instance, that - there's a lot of space there that isn't being used, and the light's very stark - but that seems to work perfectly for that experience.

['The Exposition Song']

There he goes. What I did, basically, was write a boring exposition dialogue... that's Chris Beck, the composer, and with him Four Star Mary who played as Oz's band. Chris arranged what I wrote. I wrote down the speech, and having written it I put it to music, very simply, and then Chris arranged it and the band played it. And this was delightful fun for Tony to record, and get to just kick it out. Obviously this was a precursor to what the musical would eventually become, because I had such a good time writing this song.

[Willow and Xander hold up lighters]

The two of them holding up the lighters, that was one of my favourite images. Hard to shoot the scene because Alyson kept cracking up. Every time Tony got on stage to sing she just started laughing, which was actually kind of delightful since we weren't yet behind that day.

But the song doesn't pan out. And once again we go into the small hidden space that seems right belly-up of the public place. Searching for something that we cannot quite untangle.

[Giles finds the tangled cables, and the watch]

I told you I was literal. The pocket watch brings him back to the idea of being the Watcher. Brings him back to the idea of what he's supposed to be doing. And of course he figures it out, what she is - but it's too late. She still scalps him. And he makes reference to the fact "You never had a Watcher", because he realises she is the First Slayer. And he begins to realise why it is she's attacking them. But unfortunately, this has to happen to him.

That blood, you know, just a little too thick. I meant for it to go a little faster. It didn't actually reach his forehead till after the lines, so we just used the shot and then dubbed over the lines so that it seemed to work. The fact is, that was our last shot of the show, and the last shot of the season, so it was a big moment. Emotionally, anyway. It meant we got to rest for a week and a half.

[Act Four]

Now this scene has a nice little piece of trivia around it. Buffy's dream has a lot of references to Dawn and what's going to happen next year. Not something I usually do, but we had made reference to her in the dream Buffy had at the end of episode... the end of Season 3, rather. So we made a lot of references to Dawn in this scene. The idea that Tara would be her spirit guide made sense because she didn't have that particular relationship with Tara, and Tara has a kind of good Wiccan mystical energy.

What's interesting trivia-wise about this scene is it is the first time mention was made of Dawn. It's also the time Michelle Trachtenberg actually came to visit the set. She had worked with Sarah before, and she was a big 'Buffy' fan, and so she came to visit the set, and I met her that day. Sarah introduced us, and I spent some time talking to her, and afterwards Sarah said to me "You should get Michelle to read for the part of Dawn. She's just great." And so I think there's some fate going on there. The fact that she showed up the first time the character was ever mentioned, and then went on to play her.

[Buffy finds her mother living inside the wall]

This, we went with a slightly wider, distorted lens. And this to me is another of my favourite moments in the show. The idea that Mom lives behind the wall. Some people saw it as morbid; and although I knew Joyce was going to die in the next season I didn't play it that way on purpose. It just seemed correct.

I would say the other movie besides 'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'The Limey' that I would really have referenced for this is Orson Wells's version of Kafka's 'The Trial'. ("A mouse is playing with my knees.") Kafkaesque is by its nature dreamlike, and so somebody's living in a wall just felt perfect for that sort of thing. And then of course she ignores her mother when she does ask for some help, because she's off doing the next thing.

[Buffy meets Riley and Adam plotting world domination]

This was a great thing also for Marc, playing Buffy's fear of what he could be. The Government incarnate. The businessman. The suit. The evil corporate CIA guy. This shows that their relationship is not entirely stable. Although she loves him, in her dream he's someone who doesn't get her, and doesn't walk in her world.

Plus we had that cool shot with the gun on the table. Very hard.

This, obviously, is Adam. George Hertzberg, who had to play in heavy make-up for the run of the season, in this one instance got to be himself. And he too has that clean-cut kind of "We're just two all-American guys." And all-American guys don't understand the very feminine mysticism of the Slayer. The government is all about right angles and white walls, and that's why the Initiative failed. And that's why...

["The demons have escaped. Please run for your lives."]

Oh. And men playing at their games. "We'd better build a fort." "I'll get some pillows." Another of my favourite lines. Very much about, these guys are playing with their weapons.

["Wait! I have weapons!"]

Sarah is actually moving back there. We put her on a little dolly and moved her backwards towards the demons, but it didn't really register when we showed it.

The mud. This is where the idea is that Buffy gets very primal. First of all it's "I'm looking for something, and all I can find is gunk." But then her reaction to it is that she wants to be in it. She wants to crawl around in it. She becomes primal. Now, you'll notice that once again her we went to a negative image. Partially because it looks really interesting - and partially because the sequence came out a little less primal than we'd hoped. It looked more like she was giving herself a facial. So we wanted to do something to just make it seem strange.

There you see the real- the side of her that is The Primitive. Sarah really gives you the demon within, and Riley can't seem to handle that.

[Buffy walks into the desert]

One of our transitions. It's all about the journey, you see. And Chris Beck making some very beautiful music here; and this shot, one of my favourites. Because we usually shoot in a tiny warehouse, and for once we could say pretty conclusively, "No, no, no, look! We went somewhere!" But the sense of isolation and grandeur that is the life of the Slayer I think is really embodied in that shot.

Going out to the desert turned out to be an extraordinarily fun experience. Usually you think that long a hike for a location is going to be a pain, but actually it was great for the crew. We had a great time. And the look of the thing was unlike anything we'd shot.

Again, framing things off to the side and down a little bit; just able to take some chances without the normal sequence of events, and normal mis-en-scène, normal framing. Using the dissolves instead of cutting. It's all - anything goes in a dream as long as it doesn't feel like a trick. You know, we dutch the camera occasionally*, we use wide angles occasionally. But every dream sequence that I've seen, almost, looked like some sort of trick, and my intent was to make something that looked very naturalistic, but at the same time very avant-garde. And as long as you're true to the emotion of the piece, then it works. If it clashes with it, then it doesn't.

*[ Note: "Dutch the camera" means shooting a scene at an angle, with the horizon not parallel to the bottom of the screen.]

["I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back..."]

And we learn the point of the thing. That the Slayer must be alone, must be a beast, by itself - and Buffy just won't put up with that. That what separates her from other Slayers, what we learn, what's the key to her psyche is that she is not alone. That she has friends, that she has a life, that the side of her that is Buffy is as important as the side of her that is the Slayer. That is what, in fact, makes her the greatest Slayer there's ever been.

And when she makes the poignant point about being alone, here comes the Cheese Man to say "Okay, it's a dream", and Buffy's had enough of this.

[Fight!]

And she refuses to put up with it, even though the fight sequence was really cool-looking. She seems to want no more of it. And down they go. This is one you can really only do once, because they make a big mess when they go down. So we put all three cameras on it and got the most out of it we could.

[Buffy wakes up back in her own house. Or does she...?]

So it was all a dream. Or was it...? You know, the classic and inevitable double twist, where... with the killing, and the "It's not a dream!" But then Buffy coming to the realisation that she's had enough of this.

Some people found this to be somewhat anti-climactic. That was, of course, the point. That she defies the notion of climax. That she defies the notion of the 'tragic tale of the Slayer', and basically says "Let's just put an end to this". And the more mundane it gets, the closer she gets to waking up.

[Buffy wakes up for real]

Which actually makes perfect sense. So she sort of saved everybody, in that respect.

We end with a typical scene of order restored. I had the same experience with this that I had with the musical. By the time I got to shooting a normal scene I'd forgotten how to do it, and it was actually very complicated to remember how to shoot just a bunch of people sitting at a table and talking.

[Joyce asks Xander to help in the kitchen]

Joyce, and Xander's reaction to Joyce, is again one of my favourite things. There's not really much more to say about this... hence my prolonged silence. We've gone through everybody's dream. We end with a little note of "There is more to come." This was one of the years where I was pretty convinced we would actually be picked up for another year, so we left a lot of things hanging. But at the same time I always felt if this was the last episode we ever filmed, it would be a good last one because it really did just get us into the minds of our characters, whom I love very much, and let them just sort of exist.

["You think you know. What's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."]

The thing that I love, knowing that half the people who saw this episode wouldn't respond to it, was that I was being true to the show. That whatever I wrote, whatever came out, whatever order it came out in, it was something that meant something to me. It was never a game. It was never just me having fun, although I almost never had more fun in my life.


 

Comments

Posted by: Ruuger (ruuger)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 20:25 (UTC)
Big Damn Hero

Thanks for this - I'm too lazy to listen to commentaries, so transcripts are always much appreciated :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 21:35 (UTC)

I hate podcasts for similar reasons...

Thanks!

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 21:16 (UTC)

This is great... I wish I had transcripts for all of the DVD commentaries. I don't like to over-watch the episodes, and when I do I like to watch them in normal mode without voice-over distractions. So it's very useful for me to have the commentaries written out.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 21:36 (UTC)

Glad to help. I'm planning to eventually transcribe all the Joss commentaries. Maybe some of the one by others too, but a few of them are quite simply too boring to have to listen to over again. :-)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 21:41 (UTC)
Scoobies by maharet83

Thank you so much. I like reading commentaries more than listening to them... at least it's easier to quote Joss now. :)

Posted by: Murielle (murielle)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 21:55 (UTC)
I just watched that last night!

I'm impressed. I know how much work that is and I attempted to transcribe one of my favorite series a few years back. Not sure how far into the process I got before I lost interest.

Posted by: The Anti-OTP (snowpuppies)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 22:31 (UTC)

This episode just gives me the tinglies and this was a great commentary. Thanks again for all your effort!

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 22:55 (UTC)

Wow, that's really helpful, and I know it must have taken a lot of work to do it. Thanks!!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 12th February 2009 22:59 (UTC)

Thank you very much for doing this. Reading commentaries is much easier than listening to them.

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather)
Posted at: 13th February 2009 15:21 (UTC)

Very useful and very clarifying in regard to some aspects of Buffy's character.

Thank you very much for this hard work, Stormwreath. It goes directly in my memories.

Posted by: thundercat_13 (thundercat_13)
Posted at: 19th February 2009 02:05 (UTC)
Many thanks!

Here originally for the Joss Q & A transcript and came across this gem. You have made one of the dreams of this deaf fan come true by expending the time and effort to transcribe these commentaries! It really means *so* much and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Just an FYI that I friended you to keep track of when you post ~ I'm rarely on LJ and am looking forward to checking out some of your essays, reviews, and fics.

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