The Universe is Inherently Just
April 1, 2014
My notes from the event bringing Vince Gilligan, Creator of Breaking Bad, to the University of Pennsylvania. Interviewed by Professor Marcia Ferguson.
- TV vs. film writing - actually get it made (movie two hours vs. TV 100 hours - now mini series six to eight hours)
- Star Wars as transformative event
- comedy as something well-earned, honest. in a drama, makes it more palatable.
- professional influences - Twilight Zone - humanity. Science fiction speaks metaphorically about hot button issues. Less about the Twilight Zone twist - more about the drama, acting, cinematography, character development. Kubrick, Coppola, Kurosawa. Godfather I, II. The Conversation. Apocalypse Now.
- Lessons of Breaking Bad: (1) TV needs characters to remain the same to stay on the air for years; (2) the universe is inherently just; there is always a price; represent reality.
- Morality tale? A lot of TV is land of permanent statis. In real life, the past affects us. Murder / etc. - that changes you every time you do it.
- Cinematography - what's the first thing we see? [open a scene, episode]. Focus on storytelling thinking - think visually.
- Just had the central spine of a good guy becoming a bad guy - helpful to go back to that.
- Real scared about this character (WW) being likeable enough. Overdone it - teacher, car wash, son issues, cancer, etc. --> Hook
- Better Call Saul - writers working while we speak! Writing episode five already. Will be ten episodes on first season, start shooting in June, on air in November. Thought it would be much funnier, has ended up being much more dramatic - it's not a comedy. Shot in 35mm film negative - not digital. Shoot in Albequerqe - but it's a different show. Venn diagram overlap between the two shows - big overlap.
- Battle Creek - buddy cop story - local detective with economic problems, FBI agent. Shooting as we speak in Manhattan Beach. 11 years ago pilot. He will have little to do with it.
- Loved painting the writers' room into a corner to create something exciting (boring guy in real life). The reason WW is a genius is because it took him eight minutes to come up with something that took seven writers the better part of a week to come up with (i.e. Walt and Jesse in RV when Hank shows up)
- Talked a lot about Macbeth (Skylar as Lady Macbeth), Godfather
- In 2005, "I just Googled meth." professional liar = writer. Don't write truthfully as much as writer with authority. DEA chemist cooked meth on video for us.
- WW is dying of cancer but he himself is a cancer. Metasticizing throughout his family.
- Pilot was set in Riverside, CA (knew DEA agent there). Sony said ABQ to save budget. ABQ felt like virgin territory cinematically speaking. Modern day Western.
- Empathize with Jesse the most - WW as mentor could have steered him in a different direction.
- Walt rationalizes his behavior - truth is that he loves the business, power
- Skylar reaction - we don't like powerless characters. Can't identify ourselves as powerless, trapped characters. Want to live the vicarious life of gangster, etc. Have impact on the world.
- Gustavo Fring - everything ambiguous about Gus was purposeful. His friend was more than a friend. Kept him as opaque as possible. Only character smarter than WW. WW only barely wins chess game - Superman has a very small Achilles heel.
- mystery of Pulp Fiction - we decide what's in the briefcase
- flash forward / back - playing with fractured chronology (X Files)
- teaser three to five minutes; title; four acts (commercial in each). Fun to be nonlinear, fun trick in writer's bag.