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DAVID KEMPER ON INTERSTELLAR TRANSMISSIONS PART ONE

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2002

Part One of a Transcript of David Kemper's second visit to Interstellar Radio’s Interstellar Transmissions September 27, 2002

IT: I will say this. It is in essence Farscape night. Last week we had David Kemper, the executive producer of Farscape, which was cancelled by the SciFi channel. Hopefully the fans will do everything possible to bring it back. We asked him at the end of the show if he could come back this week. He agreed. [There was a problem with static on the phone lines here that was just letting up.] Right now we can actually speak. I am trying to maintain a link and Henson’s trying to maintain a link as well. They’re very, very nice to let us go ahead and secure the call on their dime, with a conference call to David who is still out in Australia, where it’s about 9:06 am Saturday morning. Whoever said there’s no tomorrow has never lived in Australia. [Here he spoke about non-Farscape stuff for a bit while they got the phone straightened out.] Erich and I will take you back, back, back…

Erich: …way back

IT: To the week that was with SciFi news. Erich, take it away!

Erich: As was reported last week on Interstellar Transmissions by Joey, now more in depth. In its quest for more original science fiction programming, the SciFi Channel has asked viewers to submit their dreams for possible analysis on its upcoming original reality series, “The Dream Team with Annabel and Michael.” During the show, expert Michael Lennox and co-host Annabel Gerwich of the TBS Superstation’s “Dinner and a Movie” will dissect and explain the dreams of the audience members and call-in viewers. You may submit your dreams by telephone or by email. The dreams must be recent ones so that the details are fresh in memory.  “The Dream Team” premiers January 2003. Great.

IT: If it means much, editor’s comment here: um…THIS is what SciFi is probably gonna replace Farscape with. (evil laugh) In fact, I remember Erich taking a comment about this last week. What was it?

Erich: Yeah, I got a dream. I wish you’d put Farscape back on.

IT: Indeed. Oh, by the way, we want to thank Cinescape Online for taking some of their web space to mention our show tonight. And the lines are burning up. We’ll be going to the lines for calls very shortly. It wasn’t the only Farscape-related news, though. Cinescape Online reports that in an interview, or rather a telephone conversation and in a follow-up email, ADV Films public relations manager Andrew Nelson confirmed and elaborated on information contained in and ADV press release dated September 20th and mentioned by David, by the way last week, [regarding] Farscape the animated series, with 26 half-hour episodes under the heading of “Properties in Active Production.” Well, Nelson wrote in response to that, “Animated Farscape should more accurately be described as “in development” at this point. Again, pending a major release during NITCOM.” NITCOM, by the way is an international television programming trade fair. Kind of like what it is to Europe as NEFE is to the United States, for those of us who know. [They’ll be holding ] from October 7th to 11th so we probably won’t hear any further word on a Farscape animated series until mid-October. But, hint, hint, ADV Films have a website – http://www.advfilms.com/ And the reason why I say that is because I’m sure you wouldn’t mind finding the website and possibly nudging them a little to encourage them to get a little Farscape, at least in the animated version.

IT: David Kemper, live and direct from Australia, where it is about 10 minutes past nine o’clock tomorrow morning in Oz. David Kemper, executive producer of Farscape. Welcome back to Interstellar Transmissions.

DK: Hey! How are ya?

IT: We are doing well, thanks, and I’ll tell you this. The moment we got word that we were a firm go for today, I got about…after the broadcast, I got about 40 emails thanking us and I think I had about 100 emails in response to the announcement that we got you back. So the phone lines are burning right now. So what we’re gonna do is let Erich initiate the first question. I’m gonna take some calls and get things racked up and let’s get on to it, shall we?

Erich: This one comes from listeners who are all across the globe on this one today. We’re trying to get new fans hooked on Farscape, given that the SciFi Channel isn’t airing reruns. Would you consider encouraging Henson to release the DVDs to season one to three more quickly? I’d like to buy the full season box sets for Christmas.

DK: I think that season one and two are fully out, and I’m pretty sure that three is out in the UK and is due out soon in the States. I’d have to check that, but I know one and two are out because I’ve seen them in the stores.

Erich: Okay

DK: We can find that out before…when I hang up, we’ve got Henson people with us and we can…my phone here is going static…we’ve got people out from Henson who can tell us exactly when the stuff is released bit I believe that what they need to do is check specialty stores and check magazines,

Erich: Okay, thank you sir. Moving on to a question that has come to us from the internet, in Brazil. “I’m terribly upset about the cancellation and I’m trying to introduce Farscape to all my friends. My question is: ‘If another network picked up Farscape for a real two-year contract, would you accept it. I mean, you told us the fifth season would be the last season. For me, I don’t mind seeing more and more Farscape.’

DK: Well, all it is…it’s a matter of funding. Somebody has to put up the money to allow us to do what we do. And if Farscape were to pick up two more seasons, we would have done two more seasons. If Farscape would’ve picked up four more seasons, we probably would’ve tried…four would’ve killed us, okay? I can guarantee that Ben Browder would be dead if we were gonna do four more seasons. I would be dead. I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t make it. It’s just a matter of who is going to run the show. And the problem is that the SciFi Channel has re-run rights to the first four years for a little bit of time, so it doesn’t make it economical. If you are a network and you want to pick up Farscape, and you said, ‘We’ll buy five, six, seven and eight from you but we need seasons one, two, three and four so we can run them on our channel to promote five, six, seven and eight.” Well, the first four years are on SciFi, so a new network wouldn’t have the first four years to re-run. It doesn’t make it economical for them. It’s a decision that has nothing to do with us creatively.

Erich: Bob Parsons from the UK had a similar question. If Farscape were to continue, how many more seasons worth of ideas does the creative team have. One that I thought was interesting goes to another project that you’re working on with Farscape, and that might be a movie version. And the question here says, ‘Would it be possible to make it into an IMAX movie at this point?’

DK: I think there’s a lot of wishful thinking in terms of what it could turn into. I mean, it could turn into anything, but…um…a successful movie has to make, what? It has to make a hundred million dollars. What’s a movie ticket today (I don’t go to the movies).

IT: Oh, seven dollars, seven-fifty.

DK: Okay, seven-fifty. If even a million people, to make $7m, so you need ten million people to make $70m and then you need 15 million people to make $100m. If we’re going to make a 60-70 million dollar movie, then you’re going to spend $120m promoting it. So you’re at $200m. Okay, now we need 30 million people to go see our movie. Now we’ve got about 1 ½ million, say we’ve got 3 million.

IT: Okay, people, you have your marching orders. Go and see this movie when it comes out.

DK: And we have another problem trying to figure out…when a show is on the air…it’s easier now…when a show is on the air, where is the Farscape movie? If you’re doing a television show – X-Files had this problem – do we make the Farscape movie set right now? Would it happen at the end of season four? Let’s say we were going to season five. The movie might not get on the screen until we’d played season five. So, do we make the Farscape movie something that took place during season two? Should we get rid of the cast from now and go back to those people? Or do we…and the other part is who do we make the Farscape movie for? If we make if for the Farscape fans, we’ll get all three million of them into the theater, we’ll have $20m worth of revenue and the people who put up $120m to make it will commit suicide. So maybe we have to make the movie for a more general audience. Which means…that’s what they tried to do with the first Star Trek. They didn’t know that it would become so infused into the popular culture that they could shorthand. Remember that long shot with the Enterprise in the first Star Trek movie? I remember sitting in the theater just thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is the slowest shot in motion picture history. And they were trying to get the audience excited about the ship. And it was for a new audience, it wasn’t for the old audience. Star Trek has been around long enough that a lot of people have seen it. We haven’t been seen by that many people. We’re gonna have to make a movie that might tick off regular Farscape fans who want to see it go go go and we’re gonna have to explaining. You’re gonna have to explain John Crichton again, and how do they meet? Imagine you meet 40 million people who had never seen a single Farscape. they don’t know who Moya or Rygel are. And we’re gonna have to explain every one of these people and what their relationship is to each other prior to the movie really getting going into its story. That, by the way, is what Rock O’Bannon and I have been wrestling with for some time, along with Brian Henson. We’ve been working on that for a number of months and we tried to crack the equation. So if you see what I’m saying, you’ve got seven, eight, nine characters with huge interlocking situations that 97% of the movie-going audience that we need in the theater have never seen a single bit of.

IT: They don’t need to. I’m not blowing smoke at you, but you are a genius! For John Crichton and D'Argo…they’re the best buddy team since Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the “Road” movies. You don’t need more explanation than that. There’s your whole movie, right there.

DK: We know how to get into it. We think we’ve got a really…Rock and I have a really, really what we think is a clever way, which sure-fire means it sucks. But we think it works right now on paper so we’re real happy with it. Now, there is stuff going on I think, to go back to the original question, IMAX. It doesn’t much matter what the format is, it matters if people have to put up a lot of money and they have to be secure that the money will get returned. I’m not a business man at all, I’m a writer, but I understand from being 25 years in the business what we need, and you have to think of it this way: Everybody who’s a Farscape fan, I say to you, “I want you to give me everything you have in the bank.” It might be $10,000 it might be $100,000. Some of our fans…our fans went to college. I want everything you have, and give it to me and I’m gonna make a Farscape movie. All the talk goes away, and usually if you’re an accountant we go. “Crap! NO!” I mean, what if it tanks? I lose every penny. Okay. I’ll give you my whole life savings. When am I likely to get my money back? And I say to you, IF you get it back, you’ll get it back in six or seven years. There’s a chance to make a lot, but for six or seven years you’re not gonna get a penny back. And then, when you start to get it back, you know you may not get it all back. You’re not going to give me your life savings. A movie studio exec is not going to write a check for $60m until he’s pretty darn sure, with some kind of equation, that they’re gonna get that money back. My gut feeling tells me that how Farscape does in syndication for a year or two will dictate what kind of forward motion we do with Farscape.

IT: I wonder what would happen though if Reese Witherspoon was in it. If the movie’s successful, will there be a television series that’s based on it?

DK (Laughing) Well, I think…what I’m saying is I really believe the honest answer for me (and I’m sitting in the middle of the maelstrom) is if the syndication does well, if it gets out onto regular stations all over the country and new people, new kids start finding it and new adults are finding it at 7 o’clock at night when it gets there, what’ll happen is we’ll be able to…I don’t think Farscape is gonna be dead. I think there’s enough…if the clamor continues, if people find the show, there’ll be something, you know? I hope it’s not…it won’t be a TV movie because the people [I missed a word or two here] won’t do it. We have to do something…or we have to come back and finish it off right. Because when they’re asking how many years of stories do we have, we could have gone for six years and tentatively…I always had the dream, I was telling people it was a six year show. And then the network was telling me it was a five year show. So I had come around to having an ending at the end of five. But we all knew that as we were pushing toward the end of five, if we went for a sixth year, we would simply open it up. Think of it this way…you’re on your way home, you’re getting close to home, you’re driving home. You’re on your block and you see your house. That was going to be the end of your. All right. If they’d said to me, “We’d really love for you to go to year six, I was going to make a left turn into the alley before the house and you’d have another year’s worth of adventure before you made it to your driveway.  We could keep it going as long as necessary, but what could we really have? We know the next year. We know the 22 eps in rough from. And if it went for the next year, we know the basis and we know where the main characters would be at the end of year six. So you could say we’ve got one year pretty fully known to the core group of people here, and then we have a second year that we all have kind of an understanding of what we were gonna do should we get it.

IT: Dave Kemper is our guest tonight on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions. He is the executive producer of Farscape which we’ll have the balance of it’s fourth season continuing in January. For most of you who don’t know, on September 6th, Dave had the unfortunate duty of announcing at a SciFi website chat that the series had been cancelled. And here we all are right now. In fact, David, we’ve got a lot of calls to take care of as well. So before we take calls, Erich did have a question to ask.

Erich: Yes, on October 5th, there are going to be many rallies across America. I’d just like to remind our listeners in Florida that the venue for Orlando on October 5th is going to be at the Science Fiction Hobby Superstore in Orlando. For more information, you can go ahead to the Savefarscapecentral.com for info on the October 5th rallies nationwide.

Let’s get to our callers. Our first caller on Interstellar Transmissions today is Mark from Judd City, MO. Mark, what’s your question on the broadcast of  Interstellar Transmissions tonight for David Kemper?

Mark: Well, it wasn’t a question so much, just as a…uh…kind of a notion that Farscape has been a real inspiration for me. I was literally born and raised on Star Trek. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool  Star Trek, live long and prosper  and making the Vulcan peace sign and everything like that, and I’d always wanted to be a writer. Okay? But nothing ever inspired me or gave me ideas and to be perfectly honest, I never really thought I had any talent for writing. Then lo and behold! About a year ago I suddenly discovered Farscape. And Farscape completely overwhelmed me. And as a result, I’ve started trying to develop a skill for writing and I think it’s actually taken off! I’ve written some incredible stuff, I think. It just goes to show what Farscape can do when it’s given the opportunity.

IT: Exactly. And Mark, we want to thank you for your call. There’s a lot of people involved who grew up watching Doctor Who in Great Britain, David, and obviously not that they’re grown up to adults, they’re running their own production companies. It goes to show how a simple television show that runs 48 minutes can cause someone to go out and do great things.

DK: I’ll just say that I know that Star Trek was the thing that got me into science fiction. I had read all the books, all the classics before Star Trek, but it made me go, “Oh, wow! I can see the pictures of it!” And I know that for Rock, it was a variety of shows, but notably The Twilight Zone. He worked on the revival in 1985 at CBS – that’s where we met. And Star Trek. When Rock and I finally met each other on the Twilight Zone, we  commented on the same television shows and the same books.

IT: Let’s continue further now. Springfield MO. I think that’s where the Simpsons hang out. We have Dennis on the line. Dennis, you’re on Interstellar Transmissions tonight with Dave Kemper.

Dennis: Yeah, I don’t know if he’s a genius but he puts on a pretty good show. I will say this…mom once told me that where there’s a will there’s a way and if there’s no way, then make one. And Kemper seems to me like a business guy. And it all comes down to money. And the reality is that sometimes you have to think outside the paradigm to make things succeed. We’ve already gotten a lot of news coverage through CNN and other news agencies because of the internet situation. Why not make this…if you guys start a corporation yourselves, and people could deposit the money. For instance, you got 1.2 to 1.5 million households in America. If you take only 500,000 of them – and that’s not counting the overseas audience if 500,000 of them put $25.00 in a year for instance, that’d cut half your production costs.

DK: I missed…

Dennis: SciFi would say, well we could put a new show on there, a nice show that even gets the $1.2m that Farscape’s getting, we’d be cutting production costs by half if we did that. And if you did that. If you started the corporation, people would more likely send the money to your company than to a person on a website. And the reality of the situation is if SciFi put on ahead of the time say some reruns, or promoted that on the internet prior to January. Not the internet, I’m sorry, on television, you may start picking up this money and we’d get a lot more news coverage which would help SciFi who would say this is a hybrid way of pay TV.  

IT: Dennis, thank you for your call. By the way, that was Dennis from Springfield MO.

DK: Dennis, if you’re listening, I was trying to tell you you’re a savant. In a good way. Here’s what I mean: I actually, when this was going on, I called Brian Henson. I’m a writer who’s writing a TV show and I said, “What if we had one million fans who wanted 22 shows. And we said to them, ‘Look, if each one of you sent in $22.00, that’s $1.00 per ep. And if a million of you sent in $22.00, well, I don’t know if you could write it off on your taxes.’ Or if you take the cost of a movie with your date or your wife,’ we could make Farscape!” And Brian laughed at me. He said, “There’s a law against it.”

IT: Yeah, it’s like [Soupy Sales?] said to take all the little green pieces of paper from mommy’s purse…

Click here for Part Two

Click here for Part Three

 

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