Web Content Corner: Jane Espenson Interview Part 1

Monday, 26 September 2011 18:29 Written by  Jenni Powell
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Web Content Corner: Jane Espenson Interview Part 1

Some of the earliest wins in web content came out of the 2007 – 2008 Writer’s Guild strike Most people, whether they are web series fans or not, are aware of the explosive success of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Another high-profile win for the web space came out of a derivative series based on a little sci-fi show called…Battlestar Gallactica.

I watched the first series of Battlestar Gallactica webisodes religiously.They featured a lesser-known character played by an actor I have been a fan of for years and so I was thrilled he was getting more attention, while also getting to build out the intricate universe of the series. The webisodes also lead into the new season of the show, with the character featured in the new season, who they proceeded to kill in the premiere episode…but we don’t need to get into that. (I never quite forgave the show for that.)

What was so lovely about the Battlestar Gallactica web “experiment” is that they continued to support the medium even after the strike was over, doing several web series in between seasons of the show. For Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy, they brought in veteran TV writer and fan-favorite Jane Espenson to co-write and executive produce. Jane has written for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, The O.C., Gilmore Girls, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Game of Thrones, and Torchwood: Miracle Day among other series. She also co-created Syfy’s Warehouse 13. She’s got street cred and the series went on to be nominated for an Emmy as well as winning a Streamy Award.

And now Jane has moved from a derivative web series to team up with actor and internet entrepreneur Brad Bell ( AKA Cheeks) in creating her first original, independent web series, a delightful and unique romantic comedy called Husbands. I had a chance to screen episodes of the series at Big Screen Little Screen LA and had the wonderful opportunity to interview her via e-mail to discuss her background as a writer, the unique opportunities that come with working on the web, and asked her to give tips to web series creators just starting out.

This is part 1 of a 2-part interview. 

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to go into a writing career?

Jane Espenson: I've been writing professionally as a TV writer since 1992, but I always knew I wanted to write for TV. I grew up watching great shows like Mary Tyler Moore, The Odd Couple, Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, and I wanted to be a part of something like that. I feel really fortunate that shows like Buffy and Battlestar are on their way to having that same classic reputation – amazingly, I think I got my dream.  But you can tell from that list of titles that my first love was comedy, so Husbands is part of coming back to that original interest.

Cheeks (co-writer and star of Husbands) is such an engaging, free-spirited individual that truly lights up the screen. How did you meet him and begin working with him?

Espenson: I discovered his comedy on line.  He has a YouTube channel at GoCheeksGo, and I was impressed by his sense of humor. Once we started writing together I realized why – we have ridiculously similar joke-writing instincts. That made working on Husbands really easy and natural.  Sometimes he was writing to match my voice and vice versa. You really can't tell who wrote which lines.

You are an absolute wiz at social media. How did you go about learning those skills and how have they influenced you in marketing for Husbands?

Espenson: Oh, I am so not a wiz at social media.  That's Cheeks's department.  I can tweet, but that's about it.  He secured the web page where people can see the episodes (HusbandsTheSeries.com) and made a lot of the decisions about how to best make the material available to people. For example, he decided that the format would be to create a pilot-length story and then carve it into tiny 2-minute pieces for web consumption – a decision that's really paid off.

Did you write Husbands with the express purpose of creating role-models for marriage equality or was it just an aspect of a story you wanted to tell?

Espenson: Actually not. We actually added that part of the story after we'd already started work on the script. But once we realized that we wanted to create a romantic comedy, it became obvious. And perfect. If we can help make a case for marriage equality by putting faces on this young fictional couple, then that's amazing and very satisfying.

Anything coming up on the season of Husbands we should be especially looking forward to?  Are there plans for future seasons?

Espenson: Oh yes. As I'm writing this, episode five is prepping to go up. 5, 6 and 7 are very funny episodes with lots of Alessandra (played by Alessandra Torresani from Caprica) Eps 8-11 allow a little more heart to creep into the story. The investment the viewers are making in the couple that is Cheeks and Brady pays off as the episodes get deeper.  It's still funny, but I think people will enjoy seeing things get more and more grounded.

To watch Husbands, please click here

Be sure to check back with IAR soon for part 2 of our interview with Jane Espenson

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