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Jenna Busch
I'm Jenna Busch. I'm the entertainment editor for Fan Voice. I'm here with Craig Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell, the creators of The Pretender. So, since it's a little quiet since everyone's stuck downstairs let's start this completely different than most panels and let you guys ask questions.
Fan
Want us to stand up?
SLM
Oh, just talk.
CVS
We're all friends here.
Fan
I just um, for myself I wanted to thank you for a show that was very unique, and I think it influenced many shows since, but my opinion, various aspects of it. But I'm curious, what shows you think may have been influenced by The Pretender that are maybe current or recent shows that you see some influence in.
SLM
Ya know, that's a real good question. Let's put it this way, Alias we thought in some ways had an influence because it was kind of the Miss Parker story.
CVS
There was also a show Glenn Gordon Caron, I can't think of the name of it, but it lasted, (asks someone off-stage) do you remember the show with Dennis Haysbert. It had a lot of Pretender influences and it came out I want to say a couple of years after we went off. I cannot remember the name of it, but it was about a guy who had been ...
SLM
Did they have the same guy? Did they have the same Vitruvian man? (Jenna holds up copy of Pretender: Rebirth)
CVS
They might have, yeah.
SLM
And then I think obviously Kyle XY had some, and actually one of the guys who was one of our writers went over and they brought him to kind of figure out the second season of Kyle XY, and he kind of said, 'and well I told them we'll just do the Pretender,' and I said ya know, go for it. So maybe we influenced or maybe just in things kind of changed. I think before we were doing The Pretender most shows were whole and complete there weren't a whole lot of mysteries.
Fan
Biggest influences, shows like John Doe
CVS
John Doe was one, yeah.
Fan
Even some of the shows now that utilize flashbacks, I think, owe a lot to you and how you did with the expansive plot kind of funnel shaped whereas you got into the show, the plot, the overall plots, the subplots, kind of widen and brighten a lot of information.
SLM
Well what we tried to ... one thing we tried to do as opposed to, say 'Lost,' which ...
Fan
It is what it is.
SLM
It was what it was, I love a show that is intriguing but if you have to put down this was from episode three and it was about the squirrel that came in with the snowman ... I mean, it's like ... it was real confusing. Going back to the original concept of The Pretender when we wrote it, it was a spec script., and when we, when NBC read it they said, "Oh we love it, we love it, if you can answer all these questions we'll put it on the air," and we said if we answer all these questions there's no reason to put it on the air. Literally we said that, we said you can keep your money and they were freaked out because television up until then had been about making sure those questions were answered, and the fact that we didn't answer them is probably the reason a lot of you are here today because you want those answers still. And because we got canceled because of the XFL there were a lot of answers that weren't given. But Craig and I love this show and never gave up and wanted to basically recreate it in a way where we can give those answers and bring it out for a whole new audience.
CVS
One of the best compliments we got was when Warren Littlefield told us the testing, they weren't sure how to test our show because it didn't fit any particular category, and then later they actually used The Pretender test criteria as a category.
SLM
They tested us as a, an X-Files-like show and a Touched By An Angel show because they didn't know what it was, and then the next year it was a Pretender-like show. Which is ... and our testing ended up being um, probably the reason we got on the air because NBC didn't understand it, but it tested higher than anything since Bonanza. That was the whole thing, they were blown away.
Fan
I wonder in today's TV landscape where the actual TV live viewer or even just TV viewer in general has gone down, The Pretender's ratings ya know when it was originally on, are so much higher than the "hits" ya know on NBC now, do you think if the Pretender, like the original concept was on TV now, would do the same numbers or even be like a huge hit as opposed to ...
SLM
Well I think it would be a huge hit, what do you think (to Craig).
CVS
Yeah, I think it would be a mega, mega's the word.
Fan
It wouldn't get like canceled because it got canceled because the ratings were low but now the low ratings for NBC, it would be spectacular.
CVS
And it was also the lowest rated night of the week. Saturday was the dead zone and they don't even program Saturday nights a lot of the networks so because of that and that's why I think they threw XFL on to try and do something different. Who's ahead in the XFL standings, does anybody know? Oh that's right, it's gone.
SLM
To kind of follow up on what you're saying it's like ... we don't know, but there was something about the show that appealed to a real cross-section of America as opposed to so much television right now is geared strictly to the urban markets, and that's really what they wanted. And they didn't quite, when we're saying the testing, understand why it tested so well and why really it was such a huge hit. You could watch it, it was intriguing, but also you could watch it with your kids. And that's the thing, now that the book's out people are, are writing to us. They're saying I used to ... ok there was an article Jenna, about Jenna doing the comic book or the graphic novel and the author of the article, he started with ya know, "When I was growing up I was like a gang-banger or like I'm a tough guy drank a lot of stuff, my brother was a nerd, my father and mother were, ya know, like white trash..." I'm really glorifying myself to people this morning but basically, "the thing was, we had absolutely nothing in common except at 8 o'clock on Saturday night when we all sat down and watched the same show." And that was like one of the more interesting things to look at and go like that was the one thing that bound them together as a family which, for us, is really bizarre to see those kinds of things, and we get letters about that all the time. It's like, 'my father, my mother, and my grandmother we always watched this.' And there's not a lot of shows on that does that anymore.
Fan
No there's not, everything is all now mixed so each and everybody has their own show.
CVS
Sure, and then anymore when you go out to sell a TV show you have probably ten different pitches of the same show depending on who you're gonna pitch it to. Just to follow up with what Steve said, we've been blessed with this show because we have gotten so many nice letters and feedback from fans that really say that the show touched their lives and that to us is really the impetus to come back and do more. There are a lot of reasons like the fact that we got so many nice life-affirming letters from people, it spurred us on to really keep on to bring it back. Thank you all for that.
Fan
Um, I just wanted to say, one thank you for (unintelligible). I didn't even know what Comikaze was until I heard you guys were going to be here.
SLM
Neither did we; Jenna did.
Fan
And then I wanted to ask you, maybe you plan to cover this later, but I'm still unclear how much of this is gonna be reboot, and how much of this is gonna be continuation and whether or not we're gonna ... it's been 10 years I still want to know what happened after Island of the Haunted.
SLM
The answer's yes to all of it. (laughs) Some of it is reboot, some of it ... what we've done is we've rebooted it in a way that contemporizes the characters so in the original show he was captured in 1963 and escaped in 1996 I guess. In the books he was captured in 1983 and escapes now. And the reason we did that is, we wanted to, and it's the same characters, Miss Parker and Jarod and Sydney basically everyone will be back. The thought process was we wanted to allow people to remember some of what we had done and also to invite in a new audience where they'll be reading a book and continuing the story with contemporary characters as opposed to a guy who's 55 running around being chased by this woman who ... they're all in love. Um, but what we've done within this what we've done is, we've given tons more back story into all of those characters so some of the questions you've always wanted to know are being answered in the reboot right off the bat. In the second book we establish a character who's goal in life is to find out what Miss Parker's first name is. We reveal what Sydney's last name is, 'cause we never had done that. So in every book we're gonna start answering those questions but within a new drama. So in many ways it'll be like watching, I wanna say, Star Trek: The New Generation but something like that or no, a reboot of Star Trek. It's the same characters but now a lot of the questions that we already wanted? you're gonna get in a modern version of the story. So ... It was funny when we went it out to a few super fans before we released it, they were all very nervous and some of the comments back were great words like, 'you bastards, I can't believe you did it this way' and once they realized what we were doing they couldn't believe it. Cause even in the first book we take literally some homages from the pilot itself; it's not the same story but he ...
CVS
There's similarities …
SLM
There's similarities where you can sit there and if you're a big fan you go like oh wow I can't believe he did that and if you've never seen it you'd sit there and go like oh wow I can't believe this guy's doing this. So it was really kind of a conscious approach to do that. And we will answer your questions.
CVS
Yeah we will answer your questions. It was a conscious kind of re-education too because we know that there are a lot of people out there that may not know the series, remember it and what-not and I think you can read this book and be a total novice and I get what a Pretender does and I get what a bitch Miss Parker is and how ....
SLM
Shhhhh ...
CVS
Shhhhh ... And if you're a fan you'll get all that you'll remember from the series brought forward so ... It was a bit of a tight rope act. Honestly, we talked about the story and the characters a long time.
SLM
Trust us, you know a lot more about the series than we do. You'll ask us questions and we'll go, ah ... as you'll probably see when we ... one other thing, kind of a segway to the graphic novel which, I don't know if you guys know this but Jenna's actually writing the graphic novel, and before, when we all leave today I'm going to give you a card where you can actually go link on and see a 10?
Jenna
Ten pages, yes.
SLM
A 10-page preview which is great ... But it's all about the origin of the Centre. And, all those questions that people have like where'd it come from, how did it do, what .... We're gonna do this in a whole parallel storyline where it's like we're gonna fill in everything about the past and little Miss Parker is in that so we're gonna do that from her point-of-view. And then we'll announce this somewhere ... And we're gonna do a series of other books that are gonna come out this summer about Miss Parker and her teenage years and her early twenties learning to become an operative if you will.
CVS
You'll get to see the arc of her change from a pre-teen to the Miss Parker that she grew into and why. And that was a, that was a rich character territory that we never got to explore in the series.
SLM
In the Pilot there's that line where Sydney goes, "You were such a nice little girl, what happened to you?" And we thought, let's show how she got from being a nice little girl to the woman we meet in the pilot who's helping to get him, and within that, we're gonna ... Part of that is her going back to France and learning and that's where the training was and kind of retracing the steps of her mother as a child so we're learning a lot more about Catherine Parker, so we're doing this in a way ... Everything we're doing is somehow tied together in a way that really answers those questions without it just being ... Cause we thought, ok let's just do a book that's right after Island of the Haunted, but if we did that …. first it would be an encyclopedia of answers, but it also would come out in a way where you'd go like ok, really? So what's the next book or does this story end now? And we thought, let's reinvent it in a way we can answer questions and get a continuing storyline that can continue the saga for hopefully years to come.
Jenna
Well I mean, I'd love to hear what, I mean I already know this, but I'm sure everyone would love to hear what this was to bring this back.
SLM (points at the crowd)
You … all of you. And those questions you wanted answered and your passion for what this was.
CVS
And the truth is we, we would've pulled it out of the bag sooner but there were some other issues that we won't go into, but, so our hands were tied to a large degree so we, we knew the fans were out there, we hoped they were and when everything cleared up on our side that's when we started reaching out, we saw the fan base was still there and you guys still wanted some more material and answers and what not. That just got us totally jazzed and we jumped right into it.
SLM
And as creators, it's an odd thing where ya know the powers that be at NBC, we didn't know they were negotiating for the football thing and at the same time they were saying leave it as a cliffhanger. And ya know we were the number one show, so no one gets canceled if you're the number one show tonight. But they bought the football thing so we had all these cliffhangers purposefully built in and then when we did the movies for TNT it was the same thing. It's like we're gonna do ten of these let's just plan it out how it's gonna go and then 911 happened and CNN lost all their money and they didn't know what to do and we're sitting here going like, 'wait a minute, we've set the audience up in a way that's not fair.' We all know … I'm sure everyone in here has had a show they loved and it got canceled and you sit there and you go like, all of a sudden 'I'm the uh, I'm the girl left at the prom. I came with one guy and he left with someone else.' And what happened. And our thought was, one it's unfair and because, as Craig was saying we, we got lucky and the rights were reverted back to us in such a way that we can do this. So we thought, the fans have always been loyal to us, so let's be loyal to them and continue this in a way that is satisfying because, well because we can and we love the project really more than anything else.
Jenna
I know you guys were really surprised at the insane amount of fans that are out there and, and all over the world. So what, what was the most surprising thing?
SLM
Did you say insane fans or insane amount?
Jenna
Insane fans and insane amount of fans …
Fan
We qualify as both.
CVS
I think for me, it was the worldwide reach of the fan base. We have literally set up, fans have set up these satellite centres all over the world. Russia, Australia, France, Germany, Spain.
SLM
Germany, Georgia, there's one in L.A. There's eight or nine now.
CVS
So the fact that the reach, we always kind of knew that we had an international audience, we weren't quite sure how international and, and it's amazing. We're twittering and some people are in bed and they twitter us back the next day. It's all over the time map. That was my greatest surprise.
SLM
Right and as we were writing the book we thought, we said, 'I wonder if there's anybody out there.' We're on our second novel here, we haven't released the first one and about that time a lady named Vania and she's from Portugal said would you be willing to answer a few questions. She said we've interviewed a couple of stars, and some of the stars that she'd interviewed were actually guest stars. She said, 'I'm just taking a shot in the dark,' and I said sure we'd be happy to and in fact we're launching some books, we're best friends. I talk to her two or three times almost every day and there's fans everywhere from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg which I didn't know was the Grand Duchy but that has been pounded in my head, to literally Italy, France, Germany, Russia. Who knew we had so many Russian fans; we have a crazy amount of Russian fans, South America, Australia. There's a lady in Australia that's done, well actually this (he holds up a card for panel attendees to go online to see a 10-page preview of the first graphic novel: The Centre Chronicles is taking you to an affiliate site which we put it on her site through our website just because she's a genius at coding and she just loved the show and you realize people have kept this thing alive so you wanna do that. But the insanity of that fan base globally is great and we I know the list of what it says there is we're reinventing the fandom on a global level, and what we realize is we are. Part of the fun of what we're doing is everyone here is like our name of our website is on your admission you should come check it out because within the website there's a lot of fun stuff that's not, it's not just a website it's kind of a celebration and a community for all the fans, but we're doing things where, for instance, we just started this like last month where we're sending out a newsletter but it's the Centre Employees' Newsletter from The Centre itself. And within it, there are character things and what-not and if you go on that newsletter that's on the site, there's an announcement of a couple getting married. Well, the couple actually is getting married, they're in the books now and it is Vania. She got married ya know, two weeks ago and we announced it in the thing, and she's in the books. And there's several fans that have written in and said hey, they put, one lady from France wrote a letter one day and said, hey can you um, 'my friends and I were kind of arguing about what Miss Parker's first name is and I think it's this it starts with an M and I think it's that and,' she kind of wrote out what the argument was with her friends. I happened to be writing a chapter about that and I realized she had written it better than I had written it, the question, so ... I emailed her and said, 'hey can I use your line and put it in the book because it's better than mine, and she's like oh my God, and then I thought can I use your name. And it ended up so we made her a character in the book and her handle on Twitter was Chickwithagun. So now she is head of the gun range in the Centre. And she's like, OK, sure. And we put her picture up on the website, and what's interesting is like we've kind of integrated this fandom on a global level where there's clues within that uh, there's clues within that newsletter that are important in the next book, and people don't know that yet. Well I guess they know that now. But the point is, everything we send and all the interaction coming back and forth really make this a global community in a special way.
CVS
We struggled ...
SLM (points at a couple in the crowd)
And these guys look like they could get (unintelligible).
CVS
Of course … We struggled for months about the cover of the book; sitting in front of Photoshop, asking people, and lo-and-behold one day we got this beautiful template which if you look at it it's kind of a cast-iron Vitruvian man. We knew we wanted to feature Vitruvian man and this template came from a woman named Kylie Lake in Australia and she's a fan. She said, 'I don't know if you can use this, I did this at home,' and it was brilliant.
SLM
And so what we did, we put a contest out for the fans and they could vote on the cover. Well Kylie didn't know we were gonna use her thing, her art in the competition and no one knew it was from a fan, but when the fans all voted, they picked hers. Ya know, she's blown away, she lives in a village in Australia of 400 people, and she's like a celebrity now. But it's great because she was such a fan and we just wanted to integrate everybody together that showed so much love and compassion for the show and reverse it and return that in a way that everyone could be involved.
CVS
The idea, it's funny because it kind of subconsciously came from our attitude about the series because the philosophy always was the best idea wins. It doesn't matter if it's someone working with Kraft Food Service, or if it's one of the producers, or an actor, or whatever. If it was the best idea, that's what we went with. And we've always tried to I guess pay forward a little bit or push people to push themselves to be creative and to contribute in ways even outside their typical jobs. And, it sort of happened that way here with the book, too, which is great.
SLM
I just want to say this now, I'm gonna tell you who they are later, but there's three people in this room who were actually in the show in one episode or another.
Jenna
When are you gonna reveal that?
SLM
Oh we'll give it a little longer.
Jenna
Alright, well we, we were talking a little bit, can you touch on this a bit about the Centre Universe and how it sort of expanded um, so can you talk a little bit about the plans and where that's all going?
CVS
The Centre Universe … Yeah, the Centre Universe … Again, it kinda came out of we wanted to do more than The Pretender and we knew that the Pretender overlay had a lot of potential tentacles, little tentacles out there that we could write material and really try to bring new fans in at the same time so what we've done is we, first of all we wanted ideas from everybody who visits the site: pictures, ideas they've had about the Pretender, and a lot of those ideas, well we read 'em all and we say, 'Ya know that's pretty cool maybe there's something there we can do with that.'
SLM
And we actually, we actually answer all of our emails to everybody who writes us. Done a couple of other things that are interesting and it ties to the Centre Universe. We realize the Centre's vast and it does a lot of other things so we have a couple ... like the young Miss Parker books is part of the Centre Universe because it's a different thing. The graphics novels are part of that Centre Universe. Next year we're gonna launch one or two other books that are tied in. One of which is written by someone in this room who was actually one of the writers in the show and was in the show. And it is about a guy who hunts serial killers who learned his trade from Jarod and basically does it as, well not as a pretender but as one aspect of being a pretender, and we realize there's so many different variations of where that can be that we wanted to bring that into the forefront. Actually this guy over here is writing these books with us. He wrote several episodes of The Pretender.
CVS
Mark Dodson
SLM
Those of you, if you're fans of the show remember when little Miss Parker first was brought into Sydney's lab because her mother committed suicide one night outside. Mark was a good friend of mine and was my best friend in high school, happened to be on the set that day as we started writing and we needed someone to be the sweeper and he goes, 'I'll do it.' And of course in the middle of it he gave himself a line which was not written because he actually wanted to say something.
CVS
We didn't pay him.
SLM (laughs)
Yeah.
Jenna
Do you still owe him money?
SLM
Yes.
CVS
We probably do.
Jenna
Alright, so as far as little ... I wanted most to talk about fan questions because that's, that's, getting answers is a really big deal. So, what's the question you get asked the most, besides Miss Parker's first name?
SLM
What happened to Baby Parker?
CVS
What's Sydney's last name?
SLM
Yeah. Sydney's last name we're going to find out in the next, in the second novel so take that one off the list.
CVS
And, when are Jarod and Miss Parker going to be a couple?
Jenna
When are Jarod and Miss Parker going to be a couple?
SLM
That's um, that's still on the drawing board.
CVS
It is. That's a big move. Ya know we've got to make sure that we've got that one.
SLM
One thing we are doing in the books is really exploring their emotional lines or connections to each other in which, on the show, you can see that and we can talk about it on a surface level but in the books and in the graphic novels we can really get into it on a much deeper level.
Jenna
Well I also wanted to ask you the difference between writing something in novel form and writing for TV, so what sort of challenges did you guys find?
CVS
Um, to me there were more positives than challenges because as Steve said you can really get into the characters heads a lot more and, and reveal things, explore things that you just never could on a TV series. That's really rewarding when you can do that and the uh, it's funny cause the dialog is the hardest thing to write in the novel which in TV that's what drives it. Because I'm just so into what are they thinking, what are their impressions of people around them, the situation, the tension and all that. And I think it's great fun, it really is.
SLM
But, and there's things like what is the thought proc ... one of the most difficult things about the TV show is you write scenes and what-not of Jarod coming into a situation, and well, you have a character who's not who he says he is, and relating to people in a way that is not how he relates so you don't really learn anything about him. You know the only way you learn about him is the flashbacks when he's talking to Miss Parker or Sydney because no one else knows who he is. But in this form, not only do we get to go into his head and see what makes him tick, we can see what makes him nervous, what makes him afraid in the middle of a pretend, literally what his process is in creating a pretend and we went into it in great depth and for me in particular I'm sure for Craig as well it was a territory we never explored. To like what really goes on and what is he really thinking when he's gonna slice a person's body open as a doctor and he's not really a doctor. That was pretty intense and a really unique vision and that's again, I don't want to play with the point, but that aspect of looking into those characters and finding out things about them allows us to answer all these vast questions that were posed because you know, let's face it, we're all sitting here wondering why does Miss Parker, why is, why does she have this affection to Jarod or why does she have this hatred to Jarod. But when we go into a story and flashback into her life 'cause then in the TV we never flashed into her life or her point-of-view. We do it in all of the characters now and we can really see things about her life and what happened to her life and her relationship with her parents. It's really fun in there, a way to fill in all those blanks.
Jenna
And how much, as you were writing it, how much did you know so if you come up with something like Baby Parker how much of that, the full story, is in your head and how much of it is this is really a cool idea let's just explore it?
SLM
Yes.
CVS
Yeah well we need to have the whole story um, flushed out. And that's, and Rebirth and Saving Luke are linked because we had, there was so much we wanted to tell, and we just felt that was the best way to do it so for the first two we had everything so now we're starting to, we have general ideas about the books going forward of course because you want to have a direction just like we do the series we kind of knew how season one was going to happen and two and three and four.
SLM
And we know the overall story and the answers of where we can go.
CVS
Right …
SLM
We always had the answers in a mayonnaise jar. Um, so we know where we're going but in a series you know where you're going, but you discover things along the way. And one thing that Jenna brought that really kinda was Eva Perón was really kind of a nutball and she was in many ways the anti-Catherine Parker because she did some really weird things with the children so our thought was the idea of ... cause we're really gonna learn a lot more about Catherine Parker and her trying to save the kids in the Centre, we thought, this is a great counterpoint because everything Catherine did was so positive and in the connection, we say connection, there's a physical connection within the Centre to the Perón's that just is ... you know we've always done this, we like to plant seeds and then they come back to well tease you or haunt you later. But that was one that's gonna come out of these books and graphic novels that are just really virgin.
CVS
Yeah, and one of the first things that we had talked about the novel was doing something that surrounded the history of the Centre, and we're really glad we didn't do that because what Jenna brought to the table, and when she started pitching the idea about what she wanted to do with the graphic novel we just looked at each other and it was like this is better than what we were coming up with. And it was rich and it was tied to history, it was international she, she nailed all the right points with what the Centre should be and what the origin should be so (to Jenna) Thank you. It's gonna be cool. It's gonna be very very exciting.
SLM
And because of what we're doing there and doing in the different novels, they're all interconnected, they all stand up alone, but they're all interconnected with different stories. We'll give you richer back story into the whole evolution of the Centre and everything Pretender.
Jenna
So we're getting close, we have about 6 or 7 minutes left so, or one.
CVS
One …
Jenna
Let's wave at Rebecca. So are there any final questions before we wrap up?
Fan
Now that you're doing this Rebirth and what-not have you guys talked to any of the original actors, Michael and Andrea?
SLM
Oh yes.
Fan
How do they feel about it? Have they expressed interest in being involved?
CVS
They're very excited. They're happy for us and the series that the Pretender is gonna come back, is coming back, and we've had little talks about ya know the future projects as Steve said we want to build to some films, maybe another series. They're very excited.
SLM
Who knows, we do the audio books they might be the perfect people's voices to put on 'em. We haven't told 'em yet, but I guess they just found out.
Jenna
I think we should all tweet them.
SLM
So listen, they're gonna run us out of here. I want everybody to take one of these cards so you can download, go visit the 10-page ...
Jenna
Yeah, check out the 10-page preview and make sure you go to the website thepretenderlives.com.
SLM
And we're gonna be down at our booth 714, come by we're gonna be signing books and we'll answer any questions you have. We'll continue this as much as you want.
Jenna
And then finally, Twitter handles.
SLM
Oh, um I'm @PretenderSteve
CVS
I'm @CraigVanSickle1 Thank you, it's early.
Jenna
And I'm Jenna Busch, like the beer not the President.

Transcript von "Jarod's Safe House"

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