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DAVID KEMPER ON INTERSTELLAR TRANSMISSIONS PART THREE

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Click here for Part Two

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2002

DK Yeah, it’s on FOX. A great show. A big shout out to Joel and Robert, especially Joel who’s an old buddy of mine. The business isn’t allowing that kind of creative force. And to be honest with you, we have talked internally. One of the things that screwed Farscape was, I, Ben and I and Andrew Prowse talked about this and Rockne. We screwed Farscape. We are responsible ultimately for its being canceled, in a wonderful way. We didn’t want to make it boring and bland, so we went and we kicked down some doors and we shot some battles early to get the right. And Brian Henson is the [?], no, not the [?], that’s the wrong word. The [?] was the big bird flying over us that kept us going, but I didn’t want to use the big bird analogy because of Gene.

What happened is, we wanted to make something different, and we made it different and it became a niche show. The other part that screwed us was our home. The SciFi Channel was the only place that allowed this show to flourish. This is the love/hate relationship that everyone should have. The SciFi Channel was the only network that was gonna allow these creative nuts to make a niche show. And it wouldn’t have been on on FOX with small numbers. It might have found bigger numbers, but the SciFi Channel took that risk. And in the beginning, the SciFi Channel was run by people who were making scifi. And then regimes changed, several times.

But now, we have a show that attracted a core of really, really loyal followers, but it wasn’t bland enough, and you had to think to watch Farscape. You’re gonna have to think to watch the last 11 eps. We demand that the audience pay attention. And Rock O’Bannon set it up in the beginning. He said to me when I was penning the stories for him and he was planning the over-arcing series, and he said, “It’s too slow. Make it move. I want more to happen in that hour than other TV shows get in three.” That was the beginning of Farscape. There was the audience that stayed with us. We have a smart audience. I’d love for a sociological study be done on our viewers I’m sure that they’re higher-educated, I’m sure they’ve got good jobs. We’re not just a Joe-six-pack show. We’re not a show you come home and you go, “Fine, I think I’m gonna watch this and fall asleep.” I don’t think that people fall asleep watching Farscape.

IT: No

DK: And that is our greatest strength, and anything that’s your greatest strength is ultimately, your greatest weakness.

IT: David Kemper, executive producer of Farscape is joining us on Interstellar Transmissions. David, it’s about 9:46 your time Saturday morning. Could we take a couple of more calls and then just wrap it up?

DK: Yeah, let’s take two more and then we’ll go.

IT: No problem. I’m sure you’re familiar with a place called Hell in Michigan, am I correct, sir?

DK: I have driven through Hell, Michigan. I go up north so Hell Michigan is a place I’ve been in and eaten lunch in probably about 10 times in my life.

IT: Suffice it to say we have a female oddly enough. So the first female call we’ve had so far…we just like to let everybody know that females do watch Farscape. And also, calling in from Hell Michigan and…uh…Kate, you’re on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions tonight with David Kemper. What’s your question?

Kate: Well, I want to say hello, David, from a lot of us female viewers. We have a lot of lists going around and believe me you have a lot of 40 and 50 and older women that love Farscape. But the question that I have for you: last week you said you didn’t think you’d make it to the Burbank convention because of Thanksgiving. I know this is my first chance to get from the Detroit area out to Burbank, and a lot of us online wanted to know what would it take to get you there? I for one have a couple of trophies I want to give you. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Roswells. I know we presented a couple to people there and I have a couple to personally give you and we’d like to see you in Burbank. So, what would it take? 

DK: Well, first of all, hello to Hell. And I would encourage all the listeners, if you get to Michigan, to go to Hell.

IT: Is it true that Hell freezes over?

Kate: Yes!

DK: It’s great! Michigan’s a wonderful place. Um…what would it take? Well, anything you want to give to me, you can give to Ricky Manning or whoever’s there. Y’know, anybody. I don’t know. I’ve got some family obligations. I’ve spent so much time in Australia so I don’t know. I may end up there, it’s still open. And it won’t be anything that you guys do, it will be what I do about my family. I have a niece and a nephew that graduated high school this year, and when I moved to Australia, they were in junior high.      

Kate: um hum

DK: And I missed everything in high school. I missed their graduation, I missed their plays, I missed five years of my family’s events, and the family are trying to pull together a big Thanksgiving which would mean that I would be with the family rather than with the Farscape family for the first time in five years and it may be hard for me to not be there. If I can work out the travel schedule, I will be at the convention. If it doesn’t work out, then I’m sure everyone will understand it will be the first time in five years that I get to cut a turkey with my family.

IT: And see the Detroit Lions.

Kate: Right

DK: [Talks about the Lions but it was a bit garbled] They gotta win! God! I still love the Lions and I check the internet from Australia and I see that they lost again and I get ticked off. Thank God for the Redwings!

IT: Kate, thank you so much for your call. We’re running a bit out of time. In fact, this will be the last caller. To all the other ones, I do apologize, but it’s been a fast hour and we do have to take care of some things and obviously we have to let David go on thorough his day as it’s almost 10 o’clock over there. So, right, it’s our last call so let’s go Gail in Brainfield, New Jersey. Hello, you’re on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions with David Kemper. What’s your question tonight?

Gail: Yes, hi David. I understand that it takes about 1½  million to make an episode of which SciFi covers about 700,000. I see through the internet that France is getting season one for the first time. I was just wondering if there were possibilities of showing Farscape in Latin America, or Japan, or the rest of Europe where maybe SciFi’s cost would come down if other people pick it up?

DK: I missed the very last part…and SciFi in Latin America and Japan with SciFi and then I missed the last couple of words.

Gail: If Farscape can be shown in other countries, would that cut the cost for SciFi? Would that reduce the share of what they need to pay in order to make Farscape?

DK: Okay, your question is very interesting. I’ll make it a quick answer. See how smart our fans are? Our fans are not asking what Anthony looks like without his makeup, they’re asking business questions.

IT: Yep

DK: Our fans are so frelling cool!

IT: There’s the old saying that everybody knows the show but only a few know the business and those that know the business are probably Farscape fans.

DK: Exactly. That was a very smart question. You’ve got SciFi Channel, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark. Hallmark is based in New York, Jim Henson is now owned by EM which is a German company. SciFi is owned by Vivendi, which is a French company. You’re talking about the foreign rights. The money that comes in when the show is aired in Japan or Latin America does not go to the SciFi Channel, it goes to the people – EM, Henson, Hallmark and other investors who have already put in hundreds of millions of dollars they need to recoup. They’re in the hole. If you saw the balance sheet of the business of Farscape, there’s red ink in large numbers that are inconceivable to any of us who don’t own Dell Computer or y’know, something like that. It’s enormous amounts of loss at the moment. If this shows in Latin America, that money will go directly to the people who need to recoup millions and millions of dollars that they have already expended. So it doesn’t change the equation. The money that you’re talking about to make new episodes or a movie is what you call new money. New money needs to be minted. Any money made from the first 88 eps goes to pay for the first 88 eps, which are still not paid for. People have put up money and received on $.06 on the dollar so far. They need to make another $.94, plus they need to make profit. That’s why they loaned us the money in the first place. So we need new money to make the show, which is why the equation is difficult.

We are also the victim. I believe we have the economy. I just woke up right before you guys called and I heard the stock market had plunged again to 7700, a new low. There’s a world-wide depression which is crippling the TV incentives[?]. It always does. There’s not enough money to make what everyone wants to make. If it was go, go, go like the end of the ‘90’s, I believe – not 100% - the paradigm would have been different at SciFi. Absolutely, they would have not wanted this firestorm of negative publicity and they would have kept Farscape for many years, even if the ratings slightly depressed. The economy and everything else makes it doubly difficult to drum up another x number of million dollars to make Farscape, which is why we’re having the problem.

IT: David Kemper, we’re running out of time. What is the one thing you should tell Farscape fans to do for the next hundred-odd days in advance of the broadcast first run of the last episodes of Farscape on SciFi?

DK: Oh, essentially. I mean, this is going to sound a little bizarre. My point is, don’t pin your whole life to it. It’ll happen if it’ll happen. Be smart about the use of the time that you’re gonna put into something because it may not work. And don’t put 100% of your time into something that you can’t have a reasonable expectation of success. Make sure that you’re hedging your bet with other activities that would be successful. So if this one is successful, we’ll all take great pride in the team effort. And if it isn’t, you’ve still got 88 eps of Farscape. The creative people who make Farscape haven’t burned their notes. We’ve saved the costumes, we’ve saved the prosthetics, we’ve saved all the props. Only the sets are gone. The module’s been saved, the prowler’s been saved. All that stuff exists. Farscape isn’t necessarily dead. It’s just taking a vacation.

IT: I know that there’ll be other great work coming from our guest tonight on Interstellar Transmissions, David Kemper. David Kemper, executive producer and head writer of Farscape. Whether or not it continues, you can’t take away the past four years and on behalf of all of us, of all the fans of Farscape, thank you so much for speaking with us tonight. And also for giving us a look into Business 101, Show Business 101. David, Farscape, thank you sir for being on our broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions tonight.

 

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