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DAVID KEMPER ON INTERSTELLAR TRANSMISSIONS PART TWO

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Click here for Part Three

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2002

DK: It’s a law that says – and I don’t know the exact number – when you’re raising funding for a project, it’s limited to a certain number of entities that can go into it to keep this from happening. Now, the way around it, okay, the way around it (and I’m NOT encouraging the fans to do this because I don’t…you guys are apt to be…you’d need a million people to start before you actually did it) someone would have to make a corporation. Like a non-profit Blah Blah Blah [DK’s words, not mine] Farscape Corporation. They could be one donor if you get what I’m saying. Because then you’d have The Henson Company, you’d have Hallmark, it’s limited to a certain number. So if a million people sent in, it would get kicked. But, Dennis, great idea outside the box because I called Brian Henson with the same dumb idea and when I say “dumb” I say that with praise because it’s the kind of idea that could work and it’s such a good idea that they actually made a law against it. That’s how you know it’s a good idea!

IT: Exactly! If the politicians couldn’t figure how to do it first, they make it illegal.

DK: It’s illegal. It’s a great idea, I’m really impressed with it.

IT: I think there might be a Farscape fan organization that might be doing that as well. We’ll talk about it in just a moment. Let’s right now go to Nat from Boston, MA. Matt, you’re on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions with Dave Kemper tonight. What’s your question?

Nat: Hi, thank you. Believe it or not, my question is perfectly in line with what you were just talking about. We actually have organized such an idea on line and the idea was to from one corporation or some such thing and collect the money from the viewers and let them all participate in that. And then do exactly what David just mentioned – to contribute the money to help…at least partially finance a fifth season. You know, close the negotiating gap between the network and Henson, or whatever was required. And I was wondering what exactly, how exactly that would work and how much would need to be raised to make a difference. Of course, the $22m, trying to buy the whole season would be just great but it’s extremely ambitious. From our figures we think we could collect one to two easily without batting an eye. So the question is, could we make a dent with that and how would we go about it?

DK: With how much?

IT: A few million

Nat: One to two million to start.

DK: Let me explain…uh…um…probably not. The thing about doing this – this is why I do not encourage it – a petition with a million people pledging to give $22.00 each before you started. [This bit was garbled on the WAV file – The first people would send in their money but sooner or later it would languish and it would die]. A million people would sign a petition world-wide and say, “I will give $22.00 to do it, then who’s ever organizing this can make a bank account. The reason that doesn’t do anything is we have probably 12 weeks of pre-production. Normally we take eight, but we’d have to reconstruct some sets. Eight weeks of pre-production is normal. Normal for us. You’re talking about a couple of million dollars just to get ready. You have to hire the writers and the actors for the whole year. And then you have costs which are called fixed costs for the year. You have to hire me. You don’t hire me for a day, you hire me for a year. You hire Ben for a year. You hire the costume designer for a year. All these people get contracts. We’re like everyone else in the world, we have guys and girls who have good jobs and we say, “We’ll give you a one-year contract.” Most people won’t go work for their bank or take a job in an office if they say, “Well, we’ll give you a two-week contract.”  So you have to pay all these people, the creative talents, is called “above the line costs.” The line is your production team. Below the line costs are things like building sets, making creatures, buying film. So for your above the line costs, you better have $10m just to guarantee the contracts for the costume designer, the set designer, the creature shop. Then you need a couple of more million just to pay for getting the wood there to build, the foam latex. You have $12m before a single frame has been shot. And then you gotta have 2 million at the end of the thing to tear all the sets down, to clean up the building. You gotta raise about $14m to make one minute of film. And then after that, it gets much cheaper. Those costs…

IT: It’s the first minute…

Nat: Exactly

DK: It’s just to get the production mounted. And I’m talking about on just a regular year. The next year of, say, Odyssey 5, they’ll take a break when Odyssey 5’s over, they’re gonna need a couple of million dollars in pre-production just to get the scripts and the creatures and the stuff ready for year two. And that’s the problem…big-time sums of money. And so I wouldn’t encourage anybody to write a check for the $22.00 before there was a business plan in place that somebody could say, “Look, I’ve got a million signatures, and on December 1st, I want all million of you to sign the checks.” Now you’ve got $22m and you could do something. But raising a million dollars, which is fabulous, it’s unbelievable, isn’t gonna get you through pre-production and we’re gonna run out of money to pay the people before the cameras roll. You’ll be 6 weeks into an 8 week pre-production and you’ll have no money left.

IT: Our guest is David Kemper executive producer of Farscape on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions. Mark I know you have a question for David.

Mark: David, you see a lot of talk, and everybody’s trying to get around saving Farscape, bringing the series back into production. Has there been any talk on the SciFi Channel and/or on your end about just possibly bringing it back in, say, a series of TV Movies every 6 or 8 months?

DK: Well, at the moment…I dunno, let’s see…we…I’m trying to find the right way to say this…

IT: Take your time.

DK: The creative team – good question – the creative team, again, myself, Andrew Prowse, Rowan, Tony, Claudia, Gigi, Anthony, Ricky Manning, Justin Monjo and down through the department heads. We make a show that we’re real proud of and we think of it as our baby. I’m not sure that creatively we could do and be satisfied with what we do with a TV movie. There are different parameters, and what you end up with is we couldn’t guarantee the product to be what everyone expects it to be. The other problem that you have is, what’s Claudia Black doing right now? What’s Gigi Edgley doing? Say Claudia’s going to be in a movie in Spain, say Gigi’s going to be in a movie in Europe. I know that Wayne Pygram and Anthony Simcoe are in a band, by the way everybody you know that if you’re a Farscape fan that’ll be at the convention, they’ll be playing in the band. They record. They may be in the States on tour. We need these people. How’re you gonna say to them, “Stop your movie and come to Australia for like three weeks to make a TV movie.” You can’t. It’s hard to bring these people back together that way. You’re talking about 300 people. You’d need to get probably 40 key people back. It’s hard to do…it’s daunting.

IT: What sort of timeline do you envision for “the big push?” At what point do we say, “All right, do not resuscitate?”

DK: Well, what, at what point? My feeling is, at this point, we’re dealing with…it’s kind of wait-and-see. I think I said it to you guys – I haven’t done any other radio, by the way, you guys are my “official radio outlet.” – Okay…

IT: We feel honored

DK: Y’know, I like you guys a lot so I feel like a lot of times we could sit down and shoot the breeze. I’m trying [not to swear] because I swear a lot, so what happens…you guys are great.

So, I say, lets just get those numbers up in January. That’s your power. The power is have the numbers on TV go up. They go up…see now, if you have $200,000 in the account, use that money in January. I’m telling you, the best episodes we’ve ever made – I saw parts of ep 17 yesterday and I thought, this one through ep 22, There were four men in the room, 1 American and 3 Australian and we all had tears in our eyes. It’s good!

So my point is, take out a full-page ad in USA Today before 12 and 13 come out. Get people who aren’t Farscape fans to remember that you guys are passionate and say look, there’re millions of us who love the show, who watch the show. There are millions who don’t. We, the Farscape fans, are asking our fellow Americans, just tune in the show once.

IT: You’ve got a little over 100 days before those eps are there. Can you   SciFi and UPN. Should our listeners and fans keep up the pressure?

DK: I think that, to be honest, I think that SciFi has closed the door. Did you see the question thing that they put out?

IT: And I should point out, I did call SciFi three times to invite a representative to come on tonight’s broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions, and they declined. If it means much, David, I managed to send out a general blanket email to the news services. SciFi never did anything, but Cinescape gave us a very nice clause. They also gave us some information as well, to those on the web site, about the ADV animated series on Farscape, which apparently is now put on hold. I also encourage the folks there to get in touch with ADVFilms.com. Kind of write a nice letter to ADV Films saying, “Consider it.”

DK: I’ve been working with SciFi for 4½ years and there are some phenomenal people over there who are huge Farscape fans. The head of their programming, Thomas Vitale, is now a real good friend of mine, and he loves the show. Now I’m just gonna mention some names so the world understands that people like [David mentioned three people by name that I couldn’t understand, so if anyone knows who they should be, please let me know] these are really great people. And I just think that if you’d gotten it, if they were allowed or could come on the show, they’d be saying wonderful things about Farscape. There are a lot of great people that love Farscape. If we could have this decision made not by…made by the creative people, by people that love science fiction, not by people with the checkbook. That’s what the whole business is turning into. Read magazine articles in Esquire, read them in GQ or Vanity Fair, and they’re all talking about it. Everyone’s talking about how it’s become a huge corporate conglomerate that makes movies. And if you go and look at, I was reading an article, and it takes off in a oblique way. Look at Spiderman. It’s a movie. The Minority Report. These are big summer movies. Triple X. That’s what goes on everywhere. What happened, for those old enough to remember, when we could have Butch Cassidy, when we could have Shampoo, when we had smaller movies back in the 70’s back when artists were making films, the heyday of Scorsese and Spielberg. It’s like, where has that gone? That’s what’s happening to TV. Now it’s gotta be packaged. You better put four movie stars into your TV show and it’s gotta be all packaged. Or sequel-it is! In the movies you’re seeing sequels, in TV shows you’re seeing sequels. You see a spin-off of CSI, you see the 99th version of Law & Order: Preschool Division.

IT: Exactly! [Laughs]

DK: See, what happens is, and I like CSI by the way, they’re great shows, but it’s kinda like Law & Order: Missing Pets.

IT: I did not shove those crayons up his nose, officer!

DK: Exactly! That’s what’s happening in the TV business. I worked at CBS for a guy, [didn’t catch the name] who is a buddy of mine, and before him, Harvey Shepherd. These guys loved television shows. Frank’s Place if you remember with Tim and Daphne Reid. They gave us TV shows that were quirky and different. They put them on. They tried The Equalizer and Wise Guy. Hey, look what they did with Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran – “24,” a great show. Look where it is, it’s on FOX.

IT: Nominated for a Best Drama Emmy. 

Click here for Part Three

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