Four Questions with Richard Manning, Farscape Producer and Writer......

FrooniumRicky (Richard Manning) was gracious enough to consent to be the first guest (lab rat) for our diabolical experiment here. Being the rabid fan of Farscape that I know you are, you're probably already aware that Mr. Manning has written the episodes Throne for a Loss, That Old Black Magic, Nerve and Won't Get Fooled Again. Prior to working on Farscape, he has penned episodes for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Q1: There are a great many steps involved with the production of an episode of Farscape that are completely invisible to the television audience. Could you please describe the development of an episode from concept to shooting? (For example: The Way We Weren't)

FrooniumRicky: Concept to shooting? That would fill a book! VERY VERY briefly: Writer has bright idea. Writing staff meets with writer; group bangs out a general storyline. Writer goes off and writes script. Creature Shop, Art Dept., Makeup, Wardrobe, etc., work up designs (see second question below). Sets are built. Guest parts are cast. Director, actors, network, etc. contribute more ideas and suggestions. Script undergoes more drafts. Episode is filmed. Editor works with director to assemble a cut. Cut is refined and brought down to correct running time (see question below). Composer and sound effects editors work their audio magic while the CGI wizards make video magic. Actors "loop" (rerecord) any lines of dialog that need replacement because of noise on set, whatever. Sound mixers put the audio together as post-production magicians integrate CGI, color-corrected picture, credits, etc. Off it goes to the various networks and hence to You, the Home Viewer. Repeat 21 more times per season.

Q2: Has there ever been something, a scene or a line, that was cut from an episode that you wished had not been removed? If so, would you give an example.

FrooniumRicky: TV episodes are delivered at an agreed-upon (with the network) length, period, so something almost ALWAYS has to go. Ideally each episode will, in the first edit, come in SLIGHTLY long, so that the director and editor have the freedom to tighten the pace and discard the weaker bits. (Coming in TOO long means we've spent expensive production days on stuff that won't be used; coming in short can mean we have to write and shoot a new scene or two to bring the episode up to length.) Generally the get-the-episode-down-to-time process isn't painful, and results in a BETTER show than if we'd been allowed to run three minutes longer. For instance, there was a little D'Argo/Chiana scene in "Mind the Baby" which director Andrew Prowse and I quite liked -- nothing earthshaking, just a mild flirtation on her part and some interest on his part (to begin setting up their relationship in future episodes) -- and Anthony and Gigi did a terrific job with the scene. But... the ep ran long, the scene wasn't essential.

Q3: In the episode "Out of Their Minds", a new set as well as a new alien species were introduced. When an episode of Farscape is written and it calls for a new type of alien species, a ship or a new set, who oversees this process? How does it take form?

FrooniumRicky: That's the job of the Art Director (Ricky Eyres in season 1, Tim Ferrier in season 2) and/or the Creature Shop (Dave Elsey etc.). Even during the story outlining stage, the writers/directors talk to the other departments -- "Tim, we need a Scarran interrogation room... Crichton's there, a Scarran is using fancy electronic stuff to mess with his mind..." -- "Dave, we need another Scarran, and we want to blow his head off at the end of the show..." Again, other departments are involved as well...we all may decide that Alien X will be animatronic and Aliens Y and Z will be makeup/prosthetic jobs... or that we'll build Set X, but Set Y will just be a doorway with CGI filling in what lies beyond.

Q4: How do you "police" yourself to maintain consistency for your characters and the show's themes? For instance, who would say "Oh, John Crichton would never say something like that"?

FrooniumRicky: Ben Browder! Ben's VERY good at making dialog his own; he's constantly tweaking lines, adding things, and generally improving us. On the bigger picture -- themes and consistency thereof -- that's the Script Department's job, and it's one reason WHY we usually "break" each story with most of Us Writers in the room, to make sure story elements stay true to the characters and fit in with our Grand Plans for the season.


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