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Interesting Quote from JMS in old B5 magazine (TLT)

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  • Interesting Quote from JMS in old B5 magazine (TLT)

    " The only concern way in the back of my head was if someone said, 'We're doing it with or without you,' in which case, the last bullet in my gun would be a 'Tales from Babylon 5 anthology series, but that would be a last resort, and emergency parachute thing to keep it from getting into the hands of someone who didn't understand what we're trying to do." - points of departure article in B5 magazine vol 2 no 2 September 1998


    I recently purchased this issue because I am collecting them, was reading the articles and ran across that quote, the interviewer had asked JMS his plans for anything after B5. Thought it was very interesting, to see that JMS had thoughts of the Lost Tales back then. What I find most interesting about it, is that he talked about doing it if WB ever tried to do something in B5 without him, makes you think . .doesnt it? I am sure its just a coincidence, and I doubt WB threatened to do something in the B5 univese without him, but still an interesting read.

  • #2
    What I find most interesting about it, is that he talked about doing it if WB ever tried to do something in B5 without him, makes you think . .doesnt it?
    Not really. The context in 2006 is completely different from that of 1998, when the series was still in production.

    If that intereview appeared in the September issue it would have been conducted months earlier. "Sleeping in Light" aired in November 1998. At the time of the interview JMS would have been been in talks for Crusade, and at that point there was still some pressure (from WB, TNT and the actors) to do a sixth season of B5. Now obviously JMS would not have wanted to do that, and would especially not have want to do something that artificially extended the arc and just picked up after "Objects at Rest" in continuity. Since WB owned the series they would have had the legal right to do a season six, and they could have handed it over to another producer if JMS refused to play ball. The Lost Tales would have been his counter-offer: 22 more episodes of B5, but not "season six" per se.

    Far from threatening to do another season or batch of TV episodes without JMS, the studio approached him about financing and distributing a feature film. (Owing to a quirk in the original contracts, JMS, not Warner Bros., owns the rights for a big screen version of Babylon 5.)

    Back in 1998 the franchise seemed ready to take off. The fifth season and the TV movies were doing well on TNT, WB expected either a 6th season of the show, or Crusade or both for 1999, and the novels were being released to good sales. At that point, WB was also making noises about a feature film, which they would finance and distribute in partnership with JMS. By the summer of 1999 Crusade was over, relations with TNT were poisoned and no more TV movies were planned, sales for the books had softened and the U.S. laserdisc and VHS release of the show had been cancelled for lack of sales.

    When the independent producers behind The Memory of Shadows approached WB about financing and distribution the studio was only interested if they could basically take over production and cast "name" stars in the lead roles. (The features division of WB has basically nothing to do with the television and tends to look down on all TV actors, writers, etc.) Nothing ever came of that idea.

    Fast forward to 2006: Somebody high enough in the food chain at Warner Bros. finally realizes that this little B5 TV show, which was basically paid for as each episode aired, has been quietly making money for the studio for a decade with syndication and foreign rights, and generated a half-billion dollars in world-wide DVD sales. WB sits down with JMS to once again talk about a feature film with them as the producers. This time JMS turns them down, because he isn't emotionally ready to tackle such a project so soon after the loss of Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas.

    (All indications are that JMS had a plan in mind for a big budget feature film that would star the original cast - probably the Telepath War. TMoS was written as a modestly-budgeted "proof-of-concept" film that would feature one or two main actors from B5 in prominent roles and a few others in cameos. If it made enough money he could come back and do the movie he wanted. If not, he wouldn't have wasted a main story on the project and he could bide his time and try again later.)

    So he proposes The Lost Tales as an alternative. I doubt WB would have threatened to do a B5 feature without JMS - they know that he's the only one who could write a story the fans would want to see. I don't think this was a "last resort" for JMS anymore. Rather it was a way to do something in the B5 universe that wouldn't clash with the existing 5 story and which - unlike a feature film - he could start working on now. Since he mentioned the possibilty of tackling a feature film script in a year or two, it may also be that he sees The Lost Tales as both a placeholder project and a way to get back into B5 production in terms of CGI, sets, costumes, make-up, etc. - stretching the muscles in preparation for heavy lifting down the road.

    Regards,

    Joe
    Last edited by Joseph DeMartino; 11-10-2006, 09:12 PM.
    Joseph DeMartino
    Sigh Corps
    Pat Tallman Division

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    • #3
      Joe,
      wow that is the most extensive response I've seen on here in quite a while. Even slightly beer-buzzeed as I am it's comprehensive and answers all possible questions.
      Congrats joe, I think you've killed the thread (but in a good way) I can't think of a follow-up.
      Phaze
      on the "joe has me in stunned silence" ID
      "There are no good wars. War is always the worst possible way to resolve differences. It degenerates and corrupts both sides to ever more sordid levels of existence, in their need to gain an advantage over the enemy. Those actively involved in combat are almost always damaged goods for the rest of their lives. If their bodies don't bear scars, their minds do, ofttimes both. Many have said it before, but it can't be said to enough, war is hell. "

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      • #4
        Great post, Joe. Agree 100%.

        The only thing I might add is that JMS probably welcomed a low cost/low-risk way of getting back into B5 after the Rangers fiasco (and no matter how you want to paint LotR and football games and whatnot, it was pretty uniformly a bust with the fans and the network - I know that I, fan as I am, have no desire at all to see it again even though I own it).
        I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

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        • #5
          Well, I pretty much agree with everyone who has posted, was just trying to get a conversation going. Thanks to everyone who responded so quickly, and to Joe for his very informative answer

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          • #6
            I doubt WB would have threatened to do a B5 feature without JMS - they know that he's the only one who could write a story the fans would want to see.
            Well, as you yourself said earlier in that very post, JMS owns the rights to a B5 feature, so I doubt they could threaten to do that anyway.
            The Optimist: The glass is half full
            The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
            The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair
              Well, as you yourself said earlier in that very post, JMS owns the rights to a B5 feature, so I doubt they could threaten to do that anyway.
              You're absolutley right. I think I meant to write "B5 project", but had movies on the brain at that point, so what came out of my fingers was "feature". (Damn fingers, can never trust them. ) Thanks for catching that.

              Regards,

              Joe
              Joseph DeMartino
              Sigh Corps
              Pat Tallman Division

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              • #8
                Originally posted by arius
                "The only concern way in the back of my head was if someone said, 'We're doing it with or without you,' in which case, the last bullet in my gun would be a 'Tales from Babylon 5 anthology series, but that would be a last resort, and emergency parachute thing to keep it from getting into the hands of someone who didn't understand what we're trying to do." - points of departure article in B5 magazine vol 2 no 2 September 1998
                BTW, I was guessing at the context based on the reply quoted above. Could you post the question he was responding to?

                Thanks,

                Joe
                Last edited by Joseph DeMartino; 11-13-2006, 12:35 AM.
                Joseph DeMartino
                Sigh Corps
                Pat Tallman Division

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                • #9
                  The question asked in the B5 magazine, was whether B5 would go on past its planned 5 year arc, in light of the increased visibility on TNT.

                  JMS then goes on at length about why it will not, then he mentions other things in the works, like 2 more tv movies (which at the time hadnt been filmed), mentions Crusade (which had just been picked up), and the possibility of a feature film.

                  What I got from the part I posted earlier was that if WB had wanted to continue B5 on TV, then as a last resort to keep someone else from coming in, he would do the anthology series.

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                  • #10
                    Shabaz pointed me to a JMS usenet post where he said essentially the same thing - about a year earlier:

                    Now, in theory, WB could do B5 without me, since they own the copyright, and that would be the last bullet in their gun if I got real difficult about it.

                    The only other option would be to do a "Tales from Babylon 5" sixth season, which would be an anthology series, to all intents and purposes, using our characters almost like a repertory group.

                    But we'll see...it's still a long way off, and as Ted Kennedy once said, we'll drive off that bridge when we come to it.

                    jms
                    Regards,

                    Joe
                    Joseph DeMartino
                    Sigh Corps
                    Pat Tallman Division

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                    • #11
                      It seems that JMS has wanted to do an anthology series...probably since his days on TZ. Witness this post of his from '95:

                      From: [email protected] (Jms at B5)
                      Subject: ATTN JMS: What happens AFTER B
                      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated
                      Date: 8/22/1995 7:00:00 AM

                      There's always been the possibility of a side-story that would go off
                      in the B5 universe, after the B5 main story, but frankly the odds on that
                      happening are extremely slim at best, I think.

                      Other than that...if B5 goes its full 5 year run, as I've noted here
                      before, at that point (1998) the tentative plan is for me to retire from
                      TV, go back to writing plays and novels. I figure I'll have said all I
                      have to say in TV, and at that point you get off the damned stage.

                      About the only thing that could lure me back, aside from a B5 side
                      story, would be an anthology series, because I love that form dearly, but
                      the odds of that are even smaller; there seems such growing discontent
                      with the genre at the studios, despite some small successes here and
                      there.

                      jms
                      I'm glad he left the door open to television or we wouldn't have gotten 'Jeremiah'.

                      Jan
                      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just to provide a bit of context to the previous posts, I went back and looked up my original transcript of that original B5 Magazine interview, because I couldnÆt remember where and when I did it. It turns out the interview was done at Netter Digital back on January 21, 1998. IÆve including a chunk of the original conversation below, just so you could see what we were originally talking aboutà

                        Joe: The show now seems to be at its most popular just when itÆs about to reach an end. There are a lot of fans who want to see more B5, but youÆve gone on record as saying, æFive years, thatÆs all there is.Æ Will that change because of recent developments with TNT and so forth?

                        JMS: No, my feeling is you want to go out on a high note as far as the series is concerned. That the outpouring of enthusiasm is as great is in part because they sense we have kept our word and created a novel which will have a definite finishing point. If we were to violate that promise and just become like any other show that goes on and on indefinitely, then we wouldnÆt be the thing that has gotten their enthusiasm. It would be a betrayal to the fans and to the intention and the purpose of the show. Certainly weÆre looking at a possible follow-up series, æCrusade,Æ weÆre doing two more movies for TNT, there are discussions about a feature film, so in one fashion or another, that universe will keep going. I created this universe and find it kind of a fun place to play in, and I look forward to going back there through different venues, but this particular venue is closed. The universe goes on, but this particular telling of it stops.

                        Doug Netter: The five-year arc is over.

                        John Copeland: The story is over, and likewise, as Joe has described this as a novel, you have to get to the end of it. In the continuation of this, as this has moved off, because Babylon 5 is the name of a space station; if it not set on a space station, how can you call it Babylon 5 to begin with? WeÆve now left Babylon 5.

                        JMS: What no one has really understood on some level, is that for me, this has always been an artistic venture, not a financial venture. If I wanted the money, I could have stayed on Murder She Wrote, where I was getting twice what I got to come here and be executive producer. I came here because this form appealed to me, and if I were to walk away from it now, it would be to abandon everything that IÆve fought so hard to get. The only concern way in the back of my head was if someone said, æWeÆre doing it with or without you,Æ in which case, the last bullet in my gun would be a æTales from Babylon 5Æ anthology series, but that would be a last resort, an emergency parachute thing to keep it from getting into the hands of someone who didnÆt understand what weÆre trying to do.

                        John: But even that is not Babylon 5, it really isnÆt. This novel is done, and even if it comes back, these are stories set in familiar places that we have discovered during the past five year, with characters that people have met or spent a lot of time with over the past five years. The spin-off is set in the universe of Babylon 5, so thereÆs going to be a lot of familiarity there, there will places that are familiar to viewers, and there will be all sorts of new and exotic places that weÆve never seen before, so there will be a real wonderment again, just like the beginning of Babylon 5, of starting to discover these new characters and new worlds, so thereÆs going to be that same sense of wonder and exploration.

                        JMS: ItÆs kind of funny that the critics at first were saying, æyou wonÆt go for five seasons because the money is against you,Æ and now theyÆre saying, æWell of course you will go past five seasons because the money is in your favour now!Æ Money ainÆt the issue for me, it never has been. When Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he got to the edge of a ceiling and stopped; he didnÆt keep on going down to the walls.

                        John: No, but he went somewhere else and did other statuary and other paintings. Maybe it didnÆt take him the same number of years it took to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but it went on and if you look at MichelangeloÆs work, itÆs all a related body of work. Back then, the biggest patrons of the arts were either families like the Medicis or the church.

                        Joe: Would you say if thereÆs a future for Babylon 5 as an entity, it would either be in longer forms, such as TV movies or feature films?

                        JMS: Absolutely, thatÆs the key to it. The fact that the fan population is there now and we know there are 11 million core viewers of the show, means that if we were to do a $25-30 million feature film, youÆre going to make a profit, so our job becomes to do those as we come up with nifty stories; if I havenÆt got a nifty story, we ainÆt doing it. If we do it, the audience will come and find us.

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                        • #13
                          Thanks, Joe. I'm definitely one who both wanted more from the B5 universe but would've hated to see it try to continue to a sixth season. Someday, though...someday I really hope to see the Station on the big screen.

                          Jan
                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks Joe, and Joe (Joe for the spot-on analysis, and Joe for the larger context of the interview).

                            I have to say, this seems to be the most pessimistic bunch of fans I've ever seen! We have people on other threads and other message boards saying things like they're still not going to belive it's happening until they have the disc in their hands, even though they are due to start filming this week. And this was a different kind of pessimism, but pessimism just the same! From where I'm sitting, and the JMS messages I've read (which are the same messages everyone else has seen), this definitely doesn't seem like a gun-to-his-head situation.

                            I think people need some more fiber in their diets or something.

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                            • #15
                              I also would like to thank the Joe's for their informative comments. As to Amy, I never meant to sound pessimistic, all I was trying to do was bring up an interesting quote that I had discovered while reading an old magazine. Trying to get people to discuss it and see where it lead. I am a huge B5 fan, and look forward to anything coming out on the horizon. Maybe you just have too much fiber in your diet :P

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