Co-Executive Producer/Writer Hans Tobeason answers your questions!
We have received an overwhelming response to "Birds" co-executive producer/writer Hans Tobeason's gracious offer to answer questions about BoP. Hot off the Presses: here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions! Additional sets of individual questions and answers will be posted in this thread on a regular basis so be sure to check back often. We are extremely grateful to Hans for providing the millions of "Birds" fans with this unique opportunity.
Hans Tobeason answers your most frequently asked questions:
Hans: I'd like to say, first, that I am quite amazed at the continued level of interest in BOP. It is gratifying. Thank you to all those who sent in questions. Second, I need to point out that, although I was intimately involved in the writing of the show (for better or worse), I had absolutely nothing to do with the original pilot. I was hired well after the pilot had been completed and the series ordered by The WB. So - I'll do my best to answer as many questions as I can, as fully as I can.
A lot of people asked if there is any chance that BOP might come back. In short - no. Of course, there are no sure things, but it would be miraculous. The economics of the TV drama (one-hour format) business are stacked against that kind of thing. It is so expensive to gear up a production that, once a show has packed up, it would be exceedingly difficult to justify re-starting. In the case of Buffy, UPN was waiting in the wings, and the production never went dark. And, obviously, Buffy wasn't cancelled due to low or marginal ratings - it was simply an economics issue. The WB didn't want to pay the license fee 20th was asking. BOP, on the other hand, had not demonstrated an ability to draw an audience, making its rebirth, either on the WB or somewhere else, even less attractive.
Perhaps the other most common question was some variation of "Why was BOP cancelled?" This one is somewhat more difficult to answer (not to mention I didn't make the decision, and I wasn't in the room where the decision was made). First of all, the ratings were not stellar. They were not abysmal, either. Ratings alone were not the primary reason for cancellation. The process of making a TV show is very complex - there are many different entities involved, often with differing agendas. In the case of BOP, there were an unusually large number of, for lack of a better word, factions involved. In no particular order - the network (The WB), the studio (Warner Bros Television), Tollin/Robbins, the writers, the production staff, and the cast. It was not always the case that all of these entities were on the same page, as it were. In the end, the network decided (I suppose) that the effort it was taking to try and get the show they had in mind on the air was not worth it.
As for the many queries about BOP coming out on DVD, I have absolutely no idea. I was not part of the companies who would make that decision, namely Warner Bros Television and Tollin/Robbins, and I have heard nothing to that effect.
Hans: There were about 70 fans who sent in questions. Most of them sent in more than one. Although many were similar, that still leaves me with a whole lot of typing to do. So, please excuse the slow pace. I will be choosing questions to answer at random - please don't take offense if I don't get to yours right away - or if I don't get to some at all.
Questions from Super85: First of all I want to thank Mr. Tobeason and Birds of Prey Online for giving us this great chance to ask questions. Here follows my list of questions:
1. How much was the WB movie division involved with the show? in terms of the fact you couldn't have Joker wearing the huge smile and similar things that annoyed the hardcore fans?. Same thing goes for the brief Batman footage, did WB say something like "just show him a few seconds, We own the guy!"?.
Hans: There was a considerable amount of "discussion" between Tollin/Robbins and Warner Bros Television on the one hand, and Warner Bros Films and DC Comics on the other. What you saw on the show was the limit of what we were allowed to use of Batman, Catwoman, The Joker, etc. As you know, WB Films is trying to re-start the Batman film franchise and they were VERY protective of those icons.
2. Was "New Gotham" also a WB movie division thing?
Hans: As I recall, it was a DC Comics thing. Since Laeta (Kalogridis, who wrote the pilot) was making up a "new" version of the BOP comics, DC wanted to distinguish it - thus, "New" Gotham.
3. If the show would have lasted longer, would there have been any other guest appearances from familiar DC characters like Nightwing or maybe Tim Drake?
Hans: It's hard to say. If the show had become a hit, who knows what we would have been allowed to do, or what characters we would have been allowed to use...
4. Could you reveal anything what you had planned in later episodes?
Hans: Honestly, I can't really remember very much. We had lots of ideas, many of which were on hold or had been killed by the network or studio or Tollin/Robbins - but as soon as we found out we were cancelled, we had the opportunity to try and "wrap things up" using bits and pieces of ideas we'd planned for future episodes. I can tell you that, in Laeta's original conception, the first season (22 episodes, roughly) was going to arc out the
Harley Quinn threat, and end with her capture.
Questions from Gold Flying Mouse: I have tremendous appreciation for your work! Please answer the following questions for me? Thank you so much!
Hans: You are very welcome, and thank you.
1. Did you ever consider the possibility of a future season plot of Catwoman (AKA Selina Kyle) being surprisingly alive & reuniting or encountering her daughter, Huntress?
Hans: No, this was never considered. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, we had VERY severe restrictions as which characters from the DC universe we were allowed to use (or even mention). Between The WB, DC Comics, Warner Bros Features, and Warner Bros TV, there was quite a lot of "discussion" re: the characters. In general, we were allowed to use and/or reference the less well known characters, but had to stay well clear of the biggies.
2. Were you personally a big fan of goldenage DC Comics when growing up?
Hans: You may be surprised to hear (or perhaps not) that I didn't even know what a "Golden Age" comic was when I was hired. Laeta even had to explain to me the whole pre- and post-crisis thing (I still don't really get it). I'm sure I read _some_ comics when I was a kid, but I don't really remember any of it.
3. Did you ever visit http://talk.thewb.com/ Birds of Prey message board forum? Were you open to any of the ideas of the hardcore fans there? Were there any topics or individual posters you took a particular interest in?
Hans: Yes, all of the writers would occasionally check out the message boards. You have to understand, however, that it is very, very difficult to react to the fans, even when there are good ideas popping up on the boards. The story for any particular episode is usually developed as many as 4, and at least 2 months before that episode airs. This makes any adjustment lag maybe 8 episodes behind fan reaction. Since BOP only aired 12 (13 with the pilot) episodes, you can understand how we didn't really have the chance to react.
As an example - "Devil's Eyes" (which I wrote) - the story was developed at the very last possible moment. I don't remember the precise timing, but we knew we were cancelled, and we had very little time. The WB requested that we wrap up the Harley Quinn arc. I came up with a story which condensed many ideas we had for the full season into one episode. Developing the story took maybe a week. I wrote the script. That took maybe another week. We went into prep (the 7 day period before shooting starts). I adjusted the script as necessary. We shot it (8 days). We edited it and added the effects (maybe another 3 weeks). So, it was about 2 months from story to finished episode. And that was the absolute quickest turnaround we had.
I know this doesn't really answer your question - but we weren't on the air long enough to really pay any worthwhile attention to the ideas generated by the fans.
4. The Black Canary died rather ambiguously. Was this done intentionally to keep the door open for the possibility that she may return in a future episode?
Hans: Yes. We fully intended to bring her back. There was also a lot of discussion as to whether Dinah would continue to work with the Birds - we had developed a season arc where she decided to go home at some point.
5. In general production, why was a decision made to keep Huntress unmasked? Was it because her performance would be more powerful if the viewers could see clearly the emotion of her face or was there another reason?
Hans: Well, there certainly was a whole lot of discussion about this issue. Laeta, in writing the pilot, made the choice to have her unmasked, and actually addressed that choice in dialogue. I suppose it was, as you pointed out, that it's so much better to have the actress able to use her whole face to act. Particularly when you're dealing with someone as attractive as Ashley, and the network's need to maximize the "babe" appeal of the show. This decision did cause a whole lot of plotting trouble - remember "Lady Shiva"? We had to rework that script endlessly in part because of the mask issue.
6. What is your personal favorite Batman movie?
Hans: Please don't hold it against me, but I don't like any of them. Man, would I love to get a crack at writing one.
7. Who was the most serendipitous actor/actress to cast?
Hans: I'm not completely sure what you mean, but, in any event, I wasn't involved with the pilot, so I didn't make any of the casting decisions for the key cast members. As it turned out, though I would have, under normal circumstances, been involved on an episodic basis in the casting, in this particular case, due to the politics, I had absolutely nothing to do with _any_ of the casting. I did, however, strongly approve of the casting of Mia Sara as Harley. And I also (in an underhanded way) influenced the casting of Helena's boss at the Dark Horse Bar (played by Bob Clendenin), who showed up in "Reunion", I think. I loved him.
8. From the beginning of the show, did you always plan on having Wade killed off for the sake of developing Barb's character? What inspired you to have him killed in the spectacular finale?
Hans: My understanding of Laeta's intentions with Wade was that she wanted to develop a long-term relationship for Oracle that was outside her relationship with the other Birds. Wade, as it turned out, became a very difficult character to write for. We always felt like we were "tacking" him on to the story lines. There never seemed to be enough room in the 42 minutes of screen time we had per episode to wedge him in. Somewhere along the line, we started discussing (when I say "we", I mean the writing staff) killing Wade off as a means of motivating Harley's evil and Barbara's pain. Would you be shocked to know that, in the first draft of the story for what became "Devil's Eyes", Wade was killed by Helena? And, believe me, it was spectacular. Yes, yes... she was under Harley's thrall at the time, and didn't really "mean" to kill him...
9. Which 'Birds of Prey' episode(s) are you most personally proud of? Which one(s) are the most true to your vision of what the show is all about & why?
Hans: It may sound self-serving, but I'm most happy with "Devil's Eyes". I'm actually quite proud of the script, though I felt that the film didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. We had to cut a lot of material that I felt was important due to time issues. We also had a disagreement about certain character beats in the script - the production personnel did not agree with me about some of things in the script. That said, I think it was the episode that best showed what the show could have been. Though it was compressed, the episode had the level of drama and excitement and action that all our episodes should have had. "Sins of the Mother" was quite successful too, I thought.
I need to add a note here - yes, I know that my name appeared on "Sins of the Mother" as co-writer of the story. That's not why I picked that episode as another of my favorites. The truth is that the writing staff was mixing up story credits due to some arcane and annoying Writers' Guild rules, not because those credits represented actual work on any particular script. The writer listed after "Teleplay by" was the person (or team) truly responsible for that script (though, again, many scripts were, to some degree, re-written by either Laeta or myself or both of us). This is not to detract in any way from the contribution that _all_ the writers made to each script. We all sat around for endless hours in the conference room hashing out stories, and everyone had some bit of his/her own work in every script.
10. When was the last time you talked to one of the major cast members? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
Hans: I haven't been in touch with any of them, sadly. I liked them all, and wish them all the best. It was a sad result of the political situation on the show that I was not really able to develop a relationship with any of the actors. On all the other shows I've worked on (particularly those that I've either created or run or both), I've had close relationships with the actors, and have stayed in touch with many of them. It was too bad that the
circumstances on BOP prevented much direct interaction with the cast. I think it contributed significantly to the weaknesses in the show.
11. Did you ever consider a future season romance between Gibson & Huntress?
Hans: No, we didn't. We loved the Gibson character, and we loved that his love for Huntress would forever be unrequited.
These were great questions. I hope I've answered adequately.
Hans: Lisa asked a question about one of my previous answers - specifically about our plans for Dinah. Just to clarify - we (again, "we" refers to the writers only) had discussed the possibility, but _not_ the certainty, of having Dinah's character pack up and head for home. We found it very difficult to write for her character - she always felt like a bit of a third wheel. For one obvious example, how was she supposed to "tag along" with Huntress out on sweep? Dinah couldn't hop from roof to roof like Huntress. So, how was she going to keep up? We actually discussed several crazy ideas like allowing her "powers" to mature to the point that she discovers she can teleport. Uh huh. Teleport. Another crazy idea was to allow her to transmute into a bird - an eagle, or something. And no, we weren't using drugs (well, I was drinking a lot of Red Bull). Either way, we were desperate to come up with a gimmick that would allow us to keep Dinah and Huntress together as a team.
Questions from Alicia:
1. Was there any other reason other than the writers that Birds of Prey got cancelled and is there any chance that it will be put back on the air?
Hans: I have to take some of the blame for the cancellation, obviously. However, the process of writing BOP was somewhat unusual, in that the writers were being pulled in many directions at once, and had a very difficult time finding a groove, as it were. There was way too much time spent struggling with the politics, and way too little time spent generating great scripts (in my opinion). For any show to work - both as a production and in terms of finding an audience - it has to be following a single vision, a single idea of "what" the show is about. Laeta, who is a remarkable writer, had such a vision, but she very quickly discovered that she did not have the power to effect that vision. There was too much disagreement among the factions (see my earlier answers), and sadly, I was not empowered to help as much as I wished I could. It was very difficult for all the writers (and, I'm sure, everyone involved in the show) to see an idea that we all felt could go places get so quickly torn apart.
2. Was creating all the effects (clocktower with all of Oracle's computers, Huntress' eyes, etc.) hard?
Hans: Some of it was hard, some not. We made a mistake early on, in the episode "Slick", by including a very complex effects character. That episode alone consumed a good portion of our effects budget for the entire first 12 episodes. Simpler effects (Huntress' eyes, removing wires from stunt scene, etc) are not costly. Nor are the background computer screen images used
throughout the ClockTower. What was hard, however, was the choreography and shooting of any fight sequences. We had, as writers, to make severe adjustments in our scripts in order to limit the number and complexity of any fight scenes. We just couldn't shoot them easily.
3. How long does it take to shoot one episode of Birds of Prey? How many people does it take to make the series?
Hans: One episode takes 8 days to shoot. Well, more precisely, 8 first unit days, and 1 or 2 second unit days. The "first unit" is the main shooting team - they work with the principle actors shooting the dialogue scenes. The "second unit" is a much smaller team that usually works with stunt performers and shoots action scenes without dialogue. In total, there are probably 150-200 people employed by a production at any one time, including all the actors, writers, production personnel, etc.
Questions from StoyBoy:
1. What have you been up to since Birds of Prey has been cancelled?
Hans: I have written a pilot for USA Networks that I hope very much gets ordered. It's a futurist fantasy about a prison island where all the "undesirables" are sent by the United States, which has become an almost fascist country. I'm also writing a mini-series for SciFi which is a re-imagining of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities". The process of working on BOP was unpleasant enough that I did not seek (nor did anyone offer) employment on another series this year.
2. Were you a fan of Batman or any other superhero franchise before Birds of Prey came along?
Hans: Not really, though I love scifi and fantasy in general.
3. Not sure if you had any involvment with the episode "Split" or not, but is there any backstory on Darkstrike or the Crawler that wasn't put into the episode?
Hans: I can't really remember - though the character's name was originally "NightStrike", but we had to change it due to legal conflicts. That script went through many revisions, and it escapes me now as to how much changed.
4. What do you think personally that the show did best, and what do you think needed the most improvement?
Hans: I think we did the intimate things pretty well - the relationship between Huntress/Helena and Reese, for example. Some of the things between Barbara and Alfred. What we didn't do so well, I think, was deliver the larger scale stuff - the fights, the scope of the city, the larger than life villains, things like that. We also needed to make better sense of the plots. We often got trapped trying to respond to notes and hurt the scripts in rewrite.
5. What is your response to the fans campaigning to bring the show back?
Hans: It's nice to see such interest, but I don't see it happening.
6. Would you like to see Birds of Prey brought back to the airwaves? If it were, would you work on it again?
Hans: I took the job because I thought the show had huge potential. It was an interesting setting, the characters had places to go, I love fantasy, I loved the original pilot script, the pilot film looked great, and I got along fantastically with Laeta (those are the reasons that come to mind, anyway). That said, yes, I would like to see the show again - if it were done the way it should have been done. And yes, I would work on it, but only under that same condition. I think that "Devil's Eyes" demonstrates that I loved the show - I did everything I could to make that episode work, and work as well as possible. Even with the cuts that were made in production, that's the kind of fun, emotion, and action BOP could, at its best, deliver. Too bad... (And, by the way, that's me getting fried by the mad scientist in the opening scene.)
7. It's a lot but I'm sure others will probably be asking a lot of the same questions. Thanks!
Hans: You are welcome.
Questions from LisaM:
1. How and why was the decision made to give so much screen time to Huntress to the detriment of the characters of Oracle and Dinah? Was this a creative decision on the part of the writers or did The WB pressure you to do this? The show clearly worked best when the screen time was equally divided between the three Birds.
Hans: There are many answers to this question. The simplest is, as you suggest, the hunt for ratings - The WB seemed to believe that Huntress was the "money". Although we (the writers) thought that Dinah's appeal as a teenager would be strong for the WB audience, we were told not to spend much time in the high school. I know that the high school setting was perhaps not sexy enough for the network, but it was going to be tricky to explore Dinah's "issues" without some peers. Thus, Gibson. But we never really had enough story time to get that to work either. Another factor mitigating against equal time among the characters was the considerable resistance we were getting from the network to Oracle being wheelchair-bound. Let me tell you, the "discussions" on this subject were heated. These, and many other, reasons conspired to skew the show toward a kind of "The Huntress Show" thing.
2. Was it the writers’ decision to focus so much screen time on the romance of Helena and Reese or did The WB’s “young couples” formula dictate such a storyline?
Hans: We really liked the chemistry they generated on screen. I mentioned in an earlier answer that I felt we did the intimate things best. Helena and Reese just worked, though we needed to "deepen" the relationship. We were also working with network notes that dictated getting Reese involved with the Birds in order to facilitate plot movement.
3. Why did we never see any of the personal living quarters in the Clocktower – i.e. Dinah’s bedroom, etc…?
Hans: Nice one. The answer is brutally simple. We had no money. The budget for the show was extremely tight. Originally, the show was scheduled to be shot in Toronto. For various reasons, we ended up shooting in Burbank, CA, on the Warner Bros lot. This decision ended up hurting the show terribly. It was simply too expensive to build any more sets. In fact, we had an almost impossible time shooting exteriors, particularly night exteriors. The studio wanted us to shoot on the lot, since they thought they were going to have a dearth of productions up and running. This turned out not to be the case. Some Tom Cruise
movie set in ancient Japan ended up taking over almost the entire back lot, and we had only one exterior location on which we could shoot. If you look closely, you'll note that the exterior street scenes (day or night) almost all take place on the same block of city buildings.
4. Prior to the show’s premiere, the WB touted the “return of children of the classic Batman villains” yet none ever showed up. Why not? Did Warner Brothers prevent their appearance?
Hans: It's not so much that Warner Bros or DC Comics "prevented" it, it's rather more a combination of story problems, and mandates from the network. We kept getting tossed around violently by shifting requirements - I think we probably threw out a dozen or more complete stories because either Tollin/Robbins, the studio, or the network was unhappy.
5. If the show had continued, would you have dealt with the child abuse which Dinah suffered at the hands of the Redmonds?
Hans: We had not specifically discussed this, but it's a reasonable assumption.
6. It appeared that the maturation of Dinah’s character occurred very quickly once the cancellation was announced. If the show had not been cancelled, would you have taken Dinah’s progress a bit slower so that she didn’t become a true superhero overnight?
Hans: Absolutely. I mentioned in earlier answers some of our issues with Dinah.
7. Would Alfred have been more integrated into the team as he was in Gladiatrix had the show continued?
Hans: We loved Alfred, both the character and the actor. "Buttle this..." You just can't deny it. He also worked equally well against any of the three women. You saw just a glimpse of how cool he could be in "Gladiatrix" when he showed up on the street to give Reese the ear thing, and then just vanished.
8. Were there plans to see more of Barbara/Oracle in her role as a schoolteacher? We saw her in the classroom but never actually working.
Hans: This, again, was complicated by the network aversion to the wheelchair, not to mention the whole high school setting.
9. It was an interesting choice to make Gabby a lesbian. Were there plans to include her in future episodes? There appeared to be an episode missing which would have explained how Gabby and Dinah became friendly. Early on, Dinah was “Zipper Girl”. Then, in Sins of the Mother, Dinah mentions that she is going to Gabby’s house to study. However, there was never an explanation that the girls had become friendly.
Hans: Yeah, you're right. It's not that there was a "missing" episode, it's just that we were so desperate to get some kind of character work going with Dinah, that we tried to accelerate some of her friendships/contacts.
10. Why were the majority of villains metahumans instead of being ordinary humans?
Hans: This was a problem. We had a large number of stories that had non-meta antagonists, but, for one reason or another, they were thrown out. I need to say that much of the confusion we suffered as writers seemed to be a result of disagreement within the network itself. At times, it seemed as if there were 2 or 3 factions arguing for very different courses. We were never quite sure which faction at the network was going to prevail, and thus had tremendous difficulty designing appropriate stories. Towards the latter part of our production, things started to settle down a bit, but it was too late.
Questions from Kea:
1. In Lady Shiva was Sandy the original Lady Shiva or was she the teenage girl in the window we see in the flashback?
Hans: The teenage girl was Sandy's sister. At least, that's how I remember it. This script went through many revisions. It was one of the first scripts written, but wasn't well received, got shelved, then was resurrected. Along the way it was re-written maybe 4 or 5 times.
2. Did the Black Canary survive?
3. Who is Dinah’s father? (Hawke's father or who?)
Hans: The Green Lantern (I think - I'm not the comics expert).
4. Do you know why Devil’s eyes was advertised as the Season finale?
Hans: I don't think they meant anything by it - just not paying attention to word choice.
5. Wouldn’t Harley have figured out sooner that Helena was the woman she was looking for knowing that her mother was Catwoman and that Barbara took her in?
Hans: Did Harley know that Helena's mother was Catwoman? I can't remember.
6. Can you explain Helena and Dinah’s powers a little more?
Hans: Here's the blurb on each of them from the show bible:
Helena is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Her character is informed by elements of both - the hero vs. the bad girl, the dark vs. the light. Helena will always wrestle with the idea of being a hero - did she choose the life or did the life choose her? She embodies the advantages and the flaws of someone who lives on the edge - and she wouldn't want it any other way. But her sense of humor covers, most of the time, for her insecurities - and she's never, ever insecure about her ability to kick anyone's ass.
Helena has extraordinary strength - she's not Superman, but is considerably stronger than mere mortals. She has cat-like speed and agility - imagine the leaping, climbing, and acrobatic ability of a house cat scaled up to human size. She has enhanced vision, particularly at night - again, it's not see-in-the-dark, but it's a good bit better than normal.
When she's stressed, or is feeling that adrenaline rush that comes with thrill, her eyes will morph into the cat-eye slit, and remain like that until the fight, flight, or other activity (you know what I mean) ends.
DINAH REDMOND/BLACK CANARY III
Dinah is the daughter of Black Canary II (hometown Opel, Missouri). She is a superhero in the raw - not yet sure of the extent of her powers, not yet sure of how she fits in to the annals of great crimefighters, but sure she is doing the right thing. Her character is informed by an adolescent optimism that often needs tempering. Her enthusiasm, combined with her lack of experience, will often provide both humor and stress for her crimefighting teammates. But Dinah's sweet and genuine nature will prove strong enough to earn their trust and love. But will she survive high school?
Dinah's a touch-telepath - she can read the thoughts of the person she's touching. However - her powers are raw, undeveloped - she cannot "read" into the unconscious or hidden mind, nor can she "see" the future. And the flashes she gets are not always clear - they can be jumbled, disjointed, clouded.
She's also mildly telekinetic. As she develops this power, she will progress from being able to move light, small objects to having the power (at some cost) to be able to move more significant things.
It's important to note that, unlike the other two Birds, her powers are in their infancy. She will, in time, develop, train, and strengthen them - and her ultimate potential may well prove deeply disturbing.
7. Is there a back story to the red and silver ring Helena always has on?
Hans: I don't even remember the ring.
8. In the first episode in the background a motorcycle can be seen. Was this suppose to be Helena’s or what?
Hans: Sorry, can't remember.
9. So Helena never knew her mother was Catwoman until Barbara took her in right?
Hans: I think you're right. We had many discussions about the timeline, and I'm pretty darn confused about it all.
10. Who was going to play Commissioner Gordon? And how would he have reacted to Barbara's decisions in life?
Hans: We had no casting ideas that I can recall, but we had a number of stories that included Gordon. Sadly, they were all tossed.
11. Was Dinah being set up to be the next Black Canary along with the Canary Cry?
Hans: Kind of, but without the cry. See above.
12. Are you surprised by how the Birds of Prey fandom is growing day by day and how passionate fans are about this show (its story lines and characters) and trying to save it?
Hans: As you probably can see from many of my answers, I'm not "surprised". I always thought, and believed, that the show had huge potential. I apologize that we never achieved it.
13. Would you be interested in exploring what things and issues occurred to Barbara and Helena during that 7 year block before Dinah came to New Gotham?
Hans: I'm sure that we would have mined that territory as the show developed.
14. How did Helena come up with the name Huntress?
Hans: I have no idea. It's in the comics, I think.
15. Many fans seen to prefer the unaired 1st episode to the aired version. Why was so much cut out? Did the network want it that way?
Hans: There are actually 2 versions of the broadcast pilot, so 3 versions total. The original needed some work, by general consensus - some scenes added, some reshot, etc. It ended up being way too long. The network allowed us to air a 50 minute cut for the premiere (with commercials, it ran about 70 minutes, I think). Normal running time is about 42 minutes.
16. Why was the episode Slick selected to be the next episode instead of (dare I say much more gripping episode like ‘Sins of the Mother‘?)
Hans: The network wanted that episode. At the time, I don't think we even had the story for "SOTM" - I know we didn't have the script done.
17. Why was the voice over in every single episode?
Hans: The network felt that, in order not to alienate any new audience members, they should include the explanatory voice over every time. It did get trimmed down, as I recall, as the series progressed. I (and the writers in general) had almost nothing to do with the post-production aspects of the show. Thus, I don't really have too good an idea why various editing or promotional decisions were made.
18. In "Reunion", Helena is not in the year book. Why?
Hans: I suppose it was because she, at the time, was somewhat anti-social, or just too cool to have a photo in the yearbook.
19. Where can we get some batarangs and replica copies of the comm set? (probably nowhere but it never hurts to ask!)
Hans: You are out of luck. I don't even have any souvenirs.
20. Why in ‘Three Birds and a Baby’ was the line ‘he’s got no teeth’ cut out the same in Split what Harley and the Crawler are talking at the end. Why was so much cut out? Like in "Prey for the Hunter", Dinah’s school story line never really gets a proper ending? Will we ever see these cut scenes on DVD or what?
Hans: There are a couple reasons that things get cut - first, we need to make the show fit into a 42 minute slot. Also, sometimes the performances aren't working. And, of course, sometimes, when a script is shot, what worked on the page simple does not work on film. As I mentioned, I was never in the editing room, so I'm just extrapolating from my experience on other shows.
Thank you very much for your time.
Hans: You are welcome. There were a number of other questions that Kea asked that I did not answer - either because I did not have an answer, or because I had answered similar questions earlier. No offense intended.
Hans: Again, I need to point out that many of you sent in questions that I have either already answered, or simply can't answer. Please don't be disappointed if I don't reply to every single question.
[b] Questions from Surferdaniel:
1. Dr. Quinzel was hardly used for a while and the therapist scenes were scarce. I though Harley Quinn was one of the best parts of the show. Why didn't the writers utilize her more? Were you guys waiting to the end of the season to use her?
Hans: Frankly, we loved her, but the network told us to drop her. Then, towards the end, the network told us to tie up her arc. See my earlier answers re: factions at the network.
2. Was her "Devil's Eyes" plan what you intended for Quinzel? On the thewb.com, the show description says that Quinzel wanted to release all the mental patients to take over Gotham. Was this true in the beginning of the series and if so why did it change?
Hans: We had developed an entire season-long arc for Harley that would have unfolded over 22 episodes. Part of that arc was the idea that Harley would release all the inmates in order to satisfy her craving for chaos. Because, at the last minute, we were given the order to wrap up the Harley arc in essentially a single episode, we had to cut corners.
Questions from RRR:
Greetings Hans: I really enjoyed "BOP". I was sad to see it die at such a young age. I can only imagine that your team had to do some serious re-writing to wrap things up the way you did. But I was curious about what the original outline for the planned run
of the series?
1. I had read rumors on the net that Clayface was going to be introduced in the last episode of the first season as Dr. Quinzell's right-hand man.
Hans: No, we never talked about that. We did have an idea for Harley's minion - at one point he was a teenager who was going to high school with Dinah and just happened to be Joker's son.
2. Batman was being held captive by the Joker's followers?
3. There was a storyline in the works about Joker escaping Arkham and coming to finish off the wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon?
Hans: We were not allowed to use Joker at all. It's a bit of a miracle that we could use him at all in the pilot.
4. There was going to be a magic moment where Dinah decides to take the name "Black Canary" to honor her mother?
Hans: Absolutely true. It was even written. I think it happened at the end of "Sins of the Mother" - in one version we find out that Black Canary has lived, and she hands over the mantle, as it were, to her daughter. Another version had Oracle conferring the title on Dinah. There were more, but they all ended up on the scrap heap.
Hans: RRR had other questions, but I found these four to be the most outstanding.
Questions from DeliaYu:
1. Why did you have most of the fighting done by stunt doubles? Why not have the actresses do most of the fighting and bring in doubles for the dangerous stunts?
Hans: Two reasons. First, because we had to shoot the show on a limited budget, and in limited time, we often had to shoot the stunt sequences at the same time as we were shooting regular dialogue scenes. This meant that we had to use doubles, as the actress could not physically be in two places at once. Second, although each of the actresses had worked hard to learn various physical skills for their parts, none of them was an expert. Much of the fighting was complex enough that it took experts to make it look right.
2. Why did the same city clips play in each episode and why were the same city sets and park used? Wasn't there other locations that could be used as New Gotham?
Hans: I mentioned in an earlier answer how limited our budget was. If we had had a 10-20 percent increase in our budget, we would have been able to deliver a vastly improved production. I was particularly bothered by the reuse of the CG clips flying through the city, as well as the reuse of the really awful CG clip of Huntress "bounding" across the rooftops. Uhg. I think we used the park location maybe 5 or 6 times. That fountain just kept showing up again and again. Did you notice that, in "Clayface", the fashion show tent is constructed right over the top of the same fountain? And, by the way, have you ever seen fewer "guests" at a fashion show? We had so little money at that point in production, and that episode had enough stunt scenes, that we couldn't hire more than a few extras to fill out the scene.
Questions from SamIAm:
1. I was thrilled to see a strong character who had a disability. I was a bit surprised, however, that the main relationship issue which the writers chose to develop was parental rejection. I would have thought, given Barbara's strong, independent personality, that one big relationship issue would be a reluctance to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can feel so much like dependence, which would be a particular issue given her disability. There was one quick scene in which Wade made the comment, "I just want to take care of you," and Barbara looked worried. I was just wondering if any thought had been given to developing that theme further. It just seemed to me to be such a deeper issue than Wade's parents not approving of the match.
Hans: Good point. The writers explored countless threads for Wade, and the Wade/Barbara arc. Sadly, we never really got the chance to dig into this particular relationship. There was so much pressure from various parties to deliver good plots and villains that we had a difficult time shoehorning in much interaction among characters other than the main three (or four, if you include Alfred).
2. Each story seemed to tie up nicely at the end of every episode. I was wondering if any thought had been given to, while tying up the main action of each story, leaving some of the relational story lines open, carrying over from week to week, allowing for the possibility of a cliffhanger or two to stir up interest. For example, I loved the scene in which Dinah discovers her mother talking to Barbara. I just might have put the initial discovery at the end of the previous episode in order to wind everyone up for the next week...then opened the next week from there. I also might have made an ongoing theme of Helena learning to let go and trust Dinah as a team member, rather than devote just one episode to it in Gladiatrix. I was just wondering if the decision not to do it this way was intentional, and why.
Hans: I've answered most of this question elsewhere - but it's worth repeating. We were just barely keeping our heads above water day to day with the writing. We were always hugely behind, due to the constantly shifting demands and requirements of "The Powers That Be". We did try, early in the process, to arc out an entire 22 episode season, with each character evolving gracefully. Then the sledgehammer of reality hit us square between the eyes.
3. I love writing fanfiction for this show--taking these fascinating characters and story lines and developing them. I write for the sheer joy of making the characters come alive on the page. I in no way intend to profit from this. I am curious as to how you feel about fanfiction. Does it feel like a violation to you, to have people take your characters and plots and write them their way, or is it kind of flattering? I would also like, when I get to that part of my fic, to re-write portions of the first season the way I would have done it. Would you feel offended by this? It is important to me to know this, as it is not my intention to offend--I'm only having fun.
Hans: I did not create BOP - it was developed by Tollin/Robbins as producers, and Laeta as a writer. Though I was devoted to the show, and to Laeta, I cannot take any possible offense at whatever you, or others, might posit in "fanfic". Hey, have fun. In general, I can't really get too worked up about the criticism posted by fans - the only people who truly understand the process that resulted in any given episode are the people who sat in the writers' room every day, struggling to make the best show we knew how. Is it flattering to hear positive comments? Sure. But again, even that must be tempered by the knowledge that, often, what we, as writers, are being complimented for is not of our doing - sometimes it's unintentional, sometimes it's been given to us by others, sometimes it's happy accidents on the set or in post-production. But, if you must, go right ahead and compliment us.
4. I can only imagine the pressure that you writers and producers must be under, with deadlines, and time limitations, commercial breaks to consider, ratings to worry about, outside ideas as to what is wanted, and a whole lot of money and people's jobs hanging on what you do. I was wondering if you could share some of the struggles you faced as a writer/producer for the show.
Hans: I've alluded in other answers to the pressures and problems the writing staff faced on BOP. The single most damaging of these (perhaps the root of them all) was the lack of a single, guiding, and "empowered" vision to shape and control the show. All successful television must have such a force behind it. For reasons that are somewhat obscure to me (and others), BOP was never endowed with such a force. You may recall that the network, after the cancellation, mentioned the lack of a strong showrunner (the showrunner is the person, or persons, who is the "boss" of the entire production team, from writers to actors and everyone in between) as the reason that the show did not work. I agree with this assessment wholeheartedly. HOWEVER, it is not that we had a showrunner, or showrunners, who failed at the job - it is quite simply that we never had anyone in that capacity who was allotted the power that a showrunner must have. In my opinion, that is the reason the show did not survive. When we started out, there wasn't even a writer/producer on staff with an Executive Producer title. This was, in my experience, virtually unprecedented. Unless you had been in the room with us, you cannot imagine how difficult it was to try and create a coherent, dynamic, and worthwhile show without such a leading force.
5. I liked the idea of having a bit of reflection at the end of each episode. I was wondering if any thought had ever been given to using Alfred in this capacity--making him the sounding board for some of the reflection, or if other options besides gazing out over the city from the balcony had been considered.
Hans: The reflective moments at the end of most episodes were nice. Alfred was in some of them, or at least nearby, as I recall. As much as the writers liked those moments, they were tough to fit in with the demands of plot and timing. As an example (not too far removed) of reflection - there was a scene in the shooting script for "Devil's Eyes" that was simply not filmed - the episode was going to be long, plus there was "disagreement" as to whether the dialogue was "appropriate". It came right before the scene where Reese finds Helena at the bar.
The scene was set on the ClockTower balcony at night, with Harley, Gibson, and Alfred. Harley was looking out over the city, as the sounds of sirens, horns, and rioting drifted up. She remarked how only two things could make the night better for her, and she shouted for Alfred, who appeared with a cigar box on a tray. Harley choose a cigar and Alfred lit it for her as Harley said that a fine cigar would be the first of the two things - having her love, Mr. J at her side would be the other. Then Harley launched into a half-page soliloquy. She asks Gibson and Alfred to listen to the sounds of chaos drifting up from below. She says she's waited a long time to hear that sound. And she describes how, when she was a child, her parents dressed her up in her best clothes and took her to the big Christmas party at Wayne Manor for the orphans of New Gotham. How she didn't understand - she didn't even know what an orphan was. How they dropped her off, drove away, and never came back. So she learned. She was an orphan now. And she understood how, if this could happen to her, who had never done anything bad to anyone, that it must all be chaos. And now she is giving back what was given to her.
6. How does one become a writer for a TV series?
Hans: Basically, it's just bad luck. However, if you're actually interested, there are a few routes. Easiest is knowing someone who is already a writer and who can introduce you to agents or other writers. Next is blindly sending sample scripts (either for shows on the air, or new ideas) to agents in the hope that someone might read them and like them. The most common method is to secure a job (somehow) as an assistant or intern on a running show and ingratiate yourself with some of the writers, impressing them with your tireless skill at enjoying the most menial of tasks.
7. With so many writers working on the show, how is the writing done? Do you all sit around and brainstorm, or does each person take a different segment? Does it ever become a case of too many cooks spoiling the soup?
Hans: On BOP, the writers spent countless hours sitting around in the conference room brainstorming. The first thing we'd try to do would be to come up with story "arenas", or basic ideas. Once we had what we thought was an interesting idea, someone would be assigned to write it up as a single page. Once that page was approved by the various entities (Tollin/Robbins, the studio, the network), we would all reconvene in the room to start brainstorming the more detailed outline of the episode, with one writer understood to be responsible for actually committing the outline to paper, which could end up being 10-15 pages. Once that detailed outline was approved, the writer would go into his office and write. When the first draft was done, depending on how it turned out, any number of the other writers could then end up working on it. Most of the time, either Laeta or I or both of us would do the last pass before shooting. As for too many cooks... Yeah. But it wasn't the writers.
Questions from SamIAM continued:
8. What are the most enjoyable parts of the job for you? The least enjoyable?
Hans: This job was unique in my experience - I have never worked on a show where I (or any of the writers, for that matter) was not welcome either in the production offices, on the set, or in post-production. So, I can't really respond. Normally, I love the entire process of making shows - from working with the writers, to solving the often difficult production problems, to hanging with the actors, to spending endless hours in the editing room, and then working with the composer and effects personnel. I did none of that on this show. All I got to do (aside from working with the writers - an excellent group of people - was endure the remarkably unpleasant politics roiling around the show. And that is always the least enjoyable part of any job.
9. Do you communicate directly with any of the actors and actresses or watch them work in order to glean ideas as to how best to write for them, or do you just write and let them do their stuff?
Hans: As I just mentioned, there was little to no interaction with the actors for us on the writing staff. This was a serious detriment to the show.
10. I'd like to know how writing for television compares to other types of story-forming. For example, I know that it is necessary to figure in commercial breaks--how does this change the story? What other considerations need to be taken into account when writing for T.V.?
Hans: TV has a very strict format (Teaser plus four Acts), and that defines the structure of the story quite rigidly. When we "break" a story (brainstorm the outline), I like to start with the Act ends - you know where they are, and you know you've got to keep the audience over the commercial interruption. So, finding compelling Act ends, for me, is the best place to start. Then, you simply fill in the rest. On BOP, and on many other shows I've worked on, the writers' conference room walls are covered with dry erase boards (white boards). We sketch out the structure on them in shorthand. Erasers are essential, as are multi-color markers. I think that this stage is actually the most difficult of the writing process. If you get it wrong here, you will be in agony when you actually try to write the script.
Hans: Lisa... this is the last of the questions that I am planning on answering. I know that I've skipped a lot - but most of them were repeats, and many I simply had no answers for. That said, I'd be happy to take a second round - follow-up questions, as it were - if your fans are interested.
Questions from Ashley:
1. I realize that producers are truly up against it when, after they’ve (amazingly enough) had their pilot ordered and approved, they now have (even more amazingly) just one half-season to prove themselves. Here’s a question that presents itself to me--so I'll present it to you. BOP was obviously rife with tonal possibilities: Action, certainly. Drama, certainly. Dark comedy plus a certain comic-bookish insouciance, certainly. Do you think that the abundance of possibilities inherent in the material were a hindrance to your writing staff as far as knowing which tack to take in the initial episodes? I only ask because I very much enjoyed many episodes and sensed such latent possibility in the show—possibility that obviously, because of economic reasons, was never allowed to develop.
Hans: Well, that's quite a question. I think the answer is no - it wasn't a hindrance to us. We very quickly figured out where Laeta, who, as she had created the show, was closest to the material, wanted to take it. The problem was that the various other factions didn't seem to either share her vision, or had no idea what the vision should be. That, combined with the incessant financial pressures, pretty much screwed things up.
2. I’d also appreciate it if you would comment upon your view of the difficulty of launching new shows when they are given so short a time to find their legs/their tone? (Everyone should be so lucky to have a Star Trek franchise, where the producers absolutely KNOW they’ll have years to prove their worth/build an audience.)
Hans: It is obviously an issue, especially given the current TV climate. That said, having a guarantee of time to build an audience doesn't, in itself, mean a show is any good...
Thanks again for being gracious enough to give your time to answering questions for us.
Hans: It was my pleasure.
This concludes the initial round of questions which Hans Tobeason was able to answer for us.
However, if your question was not answered...don't despair! Hans has graciously agreed to continue to participate in the Forum by answering follow up questions from the fans.
(This level of involvement with one of the top members of the creative team is really unparalleled. I can't think of another Executive Producer on a tv show who has spent the amount of time and energy with the fans that Hans has spent with us. The fact that Hans has offered to answer another round of questions is evidence of how much he values the BoP fans and the undying support that the fans have shown to Birds of Prey. Needless to add, we thank Hans for continuing to offer his fascinating insights to the fans at BoP Online. )
All follow up questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, August 28.
These are the initial follow up questions answered by Hans:
Question from WinterJewel:
1. Just curious to know, what was the costume of Huntress made of?
Hans: I assume you're talking about the "cape/overcoat" thing Ashley wore - as far as I can recall, it was leather.
Question from Monique:
My name is Monique, I'm Brazilian, and my question to Hans Tobeason is: How old are the characteres of BoP? I know that Helena is 23 and Dinah is 16. How about the others?
Hans: I think Barbara was supposed to be around 30. Reese maybe late 20s. Wade maybe 30.
Questions from Sraeps2:
1. Was there a wrap party after the taping of the final epsiode?
Hans: If there was, none of the writers was invited.
2. Did the WB warn you that you were on the way to being cancelled before it happened? How did everybody find out?
Hans: We all knew that the show had been cancelled quite early - although I don't remember the exact date, I think we still had 3 or 4 episodes to write, which means it was sometime in November. As for how we found out, certain parties at the network told us "unofficially".
3. Was the entire season mapped out from the beginning?
Hans: When the writers first sat down together, in June, we mapped out rough character arcs, and rough plot arcs for the entire first season. Most of that was thrown out within weeks of the network seeing our first few episode outlines.
4. Was there any episode ideas that seemed very interesting that you couldn't do because the show was cancelled or because of complications?
Hans: As I've mentioned, we had a really interesting arc for Helena's descent into darkness that would have taken a few episodes to develop. Helena was supposed to kill Wade, and then be redeemed. We had the beginnings of a cool Magician story, but we could never crack it. Also an amusing romp through a Funhouse. The Joker's Son was going to make an appearance, too.
5. Do you have any moments in the series that stand out to you as your favorites?
Hans: None come to mind.
6. Did you think that the WB didn't show the full story of the show by only advertising the series as "the daughter of Batman and Catwoman" instead of also talking about Barbara and Dinah also?
Hans: They choose, I guess, to advertise the easiest way "into" the show - and I can't really argue that. It would have helped, perhaps, to round out the impression left by the ads, but since we never really got onto a real rail in terms of what the show was supposed to "be", I expect it was hard to find a coherent way to sell it.
7. Can you recall any deleted scenes from the episodes?
I'm sorry to say that enough time has passed that I can no longer remember details like that. Plus, as I've mentioned, I was never in any editing sessions, so I wasn't aware of deletions as they were made.
8. Why exactly did the WB want to steer away from the Harley Quinn arc?
Hans: I believe that the network did not like the "over-the-top" nature of the character. This was, probably, a combination of the writing and the choices that Mia Sara made (with whoever was directing any particular episode). Unfortunately, as I have said ad nauseam, since none of the writers was ever allowed to have any input on the set, it was next to impossible for us to modulate the performance. Mia did, nevertheless, turn in some of the best moments of the show.
Questions from jdbop:
1. Why was the show not moved to be with Smallville or vice-versa? (We see how Smallville was moved to save Angel). Was it ever discussed to move the show to a better time slot?
Hans: I was never aware of any discussions to this effect, which is not to say that the network wasn't thinking about it.
2. Did Levin ever show any interest in the show succeeding?
Hans: I need to make this as clear as possible - the network did not order the show hoping it would fail. That would be beyond stupid. As troublesome as many of their decisions may have been, they were absolutely not trying to fail - there is too much money at stake.
3. What would be necessary to enable the production of the show continuing?
Hans: Not going to happen. But, if someone had the money...
4. Were they, mostly Levin, aware of the fan support ( i.e the mailings, website interest, the comment line phone calls, etc...)?
Hans: I can't say for sure, but I would guess that the network had people who tracked that kind of interest, as well as the more obvious viewer ratings.
5. If they were aware, what was their response behind closed doors?
Hans: Can't say, don't know.
Question from Maha:
1. Here, in Southamerica we're watching BOP the third time. Obviously it happens becauce here the serie is a hit. Maybe the people who made the decision of cancelling it didn't considerate our countries in their rank.
Hans: The WB does not make any decisions based on foreign runs of a show. First of all, by the time a show runs in another country, it's usually six to twelve months behind, and the song has already been sung. Second, the network doesn't benefit from foreign sales - it is the studio that sells the show, and reaps the profits. That's one of the primary ways a studio makes back the deficit they incur in the production of a show (a show like BoP, for example, may cost around $2million to make, but the network will only pay around $1.25million per episode for its license fee, leaving the studio with a $750000 deficit to recoup).
Questions from Jag:
1. If you will have the opportunity to be the producer of BOP again, what things do you think will change to improve the show?
Hans: The primary problem we had was very simple - no one had the power to be in charge. Change that, and BoP would have had a chance.
2. Have you ever think in the possibility to create a Film of Birds of Prey? The concept will work, just look "Underworld" everytime we see that poster, we sighed remembering Huntress.
Hans: The "Underworld" poster is just too funny. I hope the film is as amusing. As for a BoP movie, I have no idea. Sure, it would be easy to come up with a great script. But finding a studio to finance it...
Questions from The Phantom:
1. Is it true that The WB was primarily responsible for the demise of the show? Many fans blame Jordan Levin personally for the cancellation. Do you find this blame to be correctly placed?
Hans: I cannot single out any one particular entity to blame for the failure of the show. Certainly, the network actually swung the axe. Certainly, the network was very, very difficult to figure out. But the studio wasn't helping, nor was Tollin/Robbins, nor was the production side, nor was the absence of a truly empowered showrunner.
2. If there was nobody on staff capable of effectively running the show, why didn’t TPTB hire an experienced showrunner as soon as they realized the problem?
Hans: There was an attempt made to correct this issue, and someone was brought on to take control. It turned out, however, that the problem was deeper - the show was set up so that it was simply not possible to take control. Too many factions were fighting too hard to not let anyone else gain absolute power. The politics, ultimately, doomed all efforts to fix the issue.
Question from Brent:
I'd like to first say that I was not the biggest fan of the show. I had high expectations for the Birds of Prey because I'm a big fan of the Batman franchise. But unfourtunately, it seemed that the writing was more of a copying of the episodes from the show Smallville. Very cheesy lines, terrible plots, unrealistic villains, accidents that happen JUST when the hero is right there, no flow to the show, and certainly the emotion they added in didn't help much either. I realize you're one of the writers to the show, and perhaps the time that was cut from the show could have made it better, but I'm glad it was cancelled the way it was going. But I did like the concept of the story. I was really hoping for a Batman spinoff. The only exceptions I was not thrilled about was the fact that Helena had 'super human' reflexes (Ok, that really didn't make sense. If she's the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, who are both regular humans, why does she have powers...doesn't make sense), It wasn't dark enough, there could have been more fighting scenes, more better detective work, more suspense, and less 'girl togetherness'. If anything, the show could have been more like Alias with butt-kicking action. I'm sorry to be so harsh with my opinion, but i was really looking forward to something better. But i do have one question to ask concerning it's come back...I understand that now that the show is completely cancelled and the sets are taken down, the possibily of the live-action series coming back into production is slim to none. BUT, is there any possiblity of bringing it back as a one-hour ANIMATED show??? Maybe have Nightwing and Robin have guest appearances every once in a while?
Hans: I, too, wanted the show to be better. I think all the writers did. But - it was what it was. It was NOT a Batman spinoff, nor was it meant to be as dark as, say, the Burton movies. Yeah, more cool fighting would have been good. But it was never going to ignore the "girl togetherness" or emotion of the characters. No one was going to make you watch a show about oranges when you wanted to watch a show about apples. As for the animated show - I have no idea at all.
Questions from Josh:
Hi, My name is Josh, and I want to begin by saying that Birds of Prey was an amazing show that wasn't given a fair chance! Here are my questions:
1. Many people believe that the episode "Slick" was the poorest episode of Birds' short run. What do you think about this episode and do you think this specific episode was the reason for a sudden drop in viewers?
Hans: The story behind Slick is simple - all the forces that would eventually kill the show popped up and started making trouble on the first script. We were being pulled apart like a rag doll, trying to figure out what all the various factions wanted the show to "be". That struggle showed itself very clearly in the script. Plus - and this is important - it was the first episode shot. This means that all the "bugs" in the process of actually producing the show had to get worked out. We quickly found out that we couldn't shoot episodes as complicated as Slick. We had to cut back on everything - special effects, fights, script length, etc. We just didn't have the money to make the show that most people seemed to want. All of this conspired to deliver a weak episode.
2. The character Dinah seemed very pointless throughout part of the season because she didn't seem to fit into the episodes anywhere. Do you believe her character would have been more appreciated if she had been introduced at the beginning as already being a member, then in future eppisodes discuss her past?
Hans: As I've discussed before, we had a terrible time trying to fit Dinah into the flow of the show. Not only did her character give us trouble, but the actor was a minor, and we could only shoot her for a limited number of hours a day.
3. I noticed that Huntress' costume was toned down after the first episode. Why is this?(By the way, her trench coat in the "Pilot" was really cool. Not very normal.)
Hans: A number of people complained that the pilot costume was silly. I think we went through 2 or 3 costume designers by the time we wrapped production.
4. In one of the questions you answered, you discussed that the writers had trouble bringing Dinah into the crime fighting atmosphere because you didn't know how to allow her to keep up with Huntress. Why couldn't she just go off on her own? Why didn't she just do that when she wanted to show she was capable of taking care of herself?
Hans: Don't underestimate just how difficult it is to write a good, clean script. Part of the conceit of the show was the interplay between the girls. That's one of the things that Laeta does best - that kind of dialogue and emotional interplay. It was hard enough keeping Barbara and Helena interacting, with Barbara tied to the Clocktower and Helena out on sweep. Having Dinah just go off on her own would have tripled our problems.
5. Did you ever have a story about Dinah or Huntress losing control of their abillities? For instance, the "catness" in Huntress start to completely take over her personality in some way. Or Dinah becomming an object throwing maniac besides when she was mad or just meant to do it.
Hans: Sure, we talked about this stuff all the time, and used bits of it - Dinah trying to kill Hawke, for example, or Helena trying to kill the dude in Primal Scream. By the way - we had a version of Primal Scream where Helena actually _did_ kill the guy at the end.
6. Why did you turn to a Birds Of Prey show instead of a show about Spoiler, the original Black Canary, or one of the others?
Hans: This was not my decision - I wasn't around when the concept was pitched and developed.
7. Did DC Comics have no faith in the show that they wouldn't let you use characters such as Batman, Robin, or Nightwing? You mentioned it was because they were trying to revive the Batman movies, but if this show crumpled (as it unfortunately did), it would hurt the movies regardless of Batman being in it or not. I just believe Batman (or Robin, Nightwing, etc.) would have helped the show and added hype. What are your thoughts on this?
Hans: Sure, we would have loved to use some of the "big" characters. Both DC and Warner Bros. were not going to let us do it, I guess, because they were trying to protect the characters for movie use.
8. What attracted you to this show?
Hans: I liked the original script. It was cool, funny, interesting, and I love the fantasy genre. I also really responded to a meeting with Laeta, the creator. I saw a tremendous upside potential for the show. Bottom line, it was something I thought I would actually watch.
9. Many people believe the success of the Marvel comic movies compared to the most recent DC Comic movies, is because they stayed true to the comics. Do you believe this is true? If so, do you think this could have an effect on the Catwoman movie being made?
Hans: I am not a comics fan, so I have no way of answering this question.
Question from Amycw:
I've noticed a lot of rumors going around different chat rooms, forums, etc... and I would like to clear something up definitively. Many people have been putting subtext into a lot of scenes and claiming claiming that any or all of the Birds are lesbian or bisexual. I don't believe this, and would like to know if the writers had any intent of making it that way or if people are simply misinterpreting innocent scenes.
Hans: Honestly, I don't think any of the writers ever wrote a scene with the explicit intent of exploring lesbian or bisexual traits in any of the three leads. Sorry.
Questions from Wrenn:
First off, thank-you for making this terrific show.
1. As you may know from further down the board, a Birds of Prey movie is in Pre-production. what are your thoughts on this?
Hans: Good luck.
2. Why did you (or the writers) decide to use Helena Kyle, not Helena Bertinelli? Both are faithful to the comics, but I don't think many fans knew this, because it was so long ago. I read at many message boards, and people decided they weren't going to watch because of this name change. why was the name changed?
Hans: I wasn't around when this decision was made in the pilot.
3. After the show was cancelled, there were rumours of another channel buying Birds and airing it there. Is there any truth to this?
Hans: I think there may have been some discussion with other networks, but obviously nothing came of it.
4. In part one of the finale, how did Clayface and his son know about Bruce Wayne being Batman? it seemed like the whole world knew.
Hans: I'm sorry, I just can't remember what the backstory was.
Question from Lady Ribena:
Did they ever consider puting harley in her proper cartoon/comic book outfit for the sereis final?
Hans: Yeah, when I wrote the script, it described Harley entering the Clocktower in her full Harley Quinn costume. It would have been spectacular. Sadly, the production faction decided that they didn't want to do that, so they didn't.
Questions from Tnewebmaster:
1. Was the choice to change actors for Al Hawke made by the writers, or did Mr. McHattie choose not to come back for another episode?
Hans: The network was not happy with the original choice of actor.
2. If you could change what had been already done, would there be anything that you would have changed about how the series ran for the short amount of time that it ran? Do you think there was something that you could have done differently that would have prevented the show's demise?
Hans: I think I've answered this - at the very least, if you read between the lines of many of my answers, you may be able to get a feel for what I think went wrong.
3. Why was the psychic effect of Dinah throwing telekinetic light added to Devil's Eyes?
I was not invited to be a part of the post-production process, so I cannot tell you why that decision was made. For that matter, Dinah's rather impressive TK abilities in the episode came as something of a surprise to me - she seemed to get awfully powerful all of a sudden.
4. In accordance to previous answers, you were planning a future for Birds of Prey, and you were planning to end the season with Harley's capture. Were there any thoughts on a future master criminal or the reuse of the Harley character?
Hans: We had planned on using a new "big bad" character for the next season, and so on. We hadn't come up with anyone specific - or even if it was going to be a new character, or someone from the comics.
5. It was originally planned for the show to have Harley Quinn as a recurring guest role, not co-star. Do you know why this was altered?
Hans: I'm not sure that Harley's participation was delineated so precisely - we (the writers) wanted to mix Harley episodes with non-Harley episodes through the course of the season, kind of like X-Files mixed alien episodes with just plain scary monster episodes.
6. Did you have any say in what happened with the music during the show, mostly focusing on using T.A.T.U.'s lesbian love song, All the Things She Said, being used during fight scenes?
Hans: Sorry, once again, I was not involved with any aspect of post-production. Had I been, you can be certain things would have been quite different. That is not to say that I didn't like the TATU song - I did.
7. It was previously mentioned that Dinah could not keep up with Helena on sweep and that you were considering writing her out. Was there any talk of bringing in someone else to replace her or as a fourth Bird?
Hans: As I recall, we were not considering adding a replacement character - we just were having so much trouble with Dinah's character that we thought it might help to pare down the cast.
8. Did you ever consider calling the trio The Birds of Prey, other than in the opening credits?
Hans: I don't recall.
9. Did Laeta have any other characters in the original concept of the show that DC would not allow placement in the show?
Hans: I wasn't around, so I can't tell you.
10. You mentioned often that there were a lot of problems with the relaying of information between the different groups (Warner Brothers, DC, The WB, the Writers...). Do you know if Smallville has the same sort of trouble coming from a comic book as well?
Hans: I can tell you that Smallville, when it first began production, had many similar troubles - but I don't think their problems, any more than ours, were a result of comic book origins. DC was not involved in BoP other than having veto power over the use of characters that they owned.
Thanks so much for answering our questions!
Question from Sevenslave:
What exactly were supposed to be the capabilities of Barbara's chair? I once read an interview with Dina Meyer where she alluded to it having a whole array of CGI gadgets coming out of it. I was wondering if you could elaborate.
Hans: The chair was intended to be much more interesting - a real "Bat-Chair", as it were. What you read was totally accurate - we had planned on having a lot of capabilities built in to the chair - weapons, sensors, etc - and we were going to reveal them through CG tricks, then use live props for Barbara to handle. Alas, the budget stopped this fantasy cold.
Question from David:
Hans, the episode you wrote for Birds of Prey, "Devil's Eyes," was the best one of the entire series. The climactic battle at the end, between our three BOP heroines and Harley Quinn, was revolutionary since it was three female heroes battling a female villain. That kind of "girl-power" is rare on TV, since usually women are saved by a male hero. For that battle sequence and Harley's arc building up to it, what was your thought process that led you to write such a satisfying final confrontation?
Hans: First, thank you. I liked the script, and I had fun writing it. As for my thought process, the writers had always intended to end the first season with a final confrontation between the Birds and Harley, so I can't take any credit for the general idea. The precise wording of the confrontation, and the specific action ideas were mine. It was a bit of luck, actually, that allowed me to write the episode at all. At that point in the mess, we knew we were cancelled, and some of the writers had already departed the show for other jobs. I had not, to that point, written a script (though I had re-written varying amounts of all the scripts). I wanted to do the last episode both because I wanted to show everyone what an episode of Birds could be, at its best, and because I wanted to show particular people that I was capable of actually writing a script that worked. Most people, outside of the writers' office, had no faith that either could be done.
Question from Kea:
Was Clayface always intended as being Selena Kyle's killer?
Hans: No. We came up with the idea as we were messing with ideas for that episode. At one point, if memory serves, the dude in "Primal Scream" was going to be the killer. Which prompted Helena killing him in cold blood.
Questinos from Surferdaniel:
1. Why wasn't Batgirl aspect of BoP used as much in the storylines. Dina Meyer said she loved her part because it was three roles, one including Batgirl. Batgirl is a icon of America and I think would attract a lot of people to the show. So why wasn't Batgirl flashback or storylines more prominent?
Hans: We simply weren't allowed to use Batgirl by either DC or the Studio.
2. Why weren't comic book premises used in the show for plot ideas?
Hans: I don't really know, not being a comic book fan, but I assume part of the issue was the same as the Batgirl issue - we couldn't.
3. I think some of the best scenes were the relationships between the leads. So why weren't the relationships fleshed out?
Hans: Time, conflicting instructions, bad writing. All of the above.
4. From some interviews from the leads like Meyer, even after the spectacular premiere, the show still was in doubt of a full season. Did this represent the network's pessimism from the getgo?
Hans: Yeah, probably. The Network was quite unhappy with the original pilot film. And yeah, I know, they picked the show up anyway. It doesn't pay to think to hard about why networks do what they do - you'll go mad. Right from the start, the Network was all over us like a cheap suit on a rainy day - change this, fix that, etc. But, that's the business. They saw, as I did, the potential in the show. They wanted it to work. Too bad...
5. The Pilot was good but most reviews and fans said it had potential for a hit and wasn't a hit yet. Why wasn't the exposition told in present tense instead of a lengthy monologue in the past. I think the past tense monologue lessened the dramatics of the pilot like lacking an actual fight against the Joker (maybe a Batgirl fight him instead Batman since he was off limits). I think it would of added more excitement for viewers.
Hans: If I understand your question, the answer is similar to some earlier answers - we were not allowed to use characters on screen that we would need to tell that story. In the pilot, we only glimpsed Joker and Batman - and even those glimpses were brutally fought over.
6. Why did most episodes end with Helena or Barbara talking the antagonist or another hero out of doing something. For example Three Birds and a Baby, Primal Scream, Split, Nature of the Beast, Feat of Clay, Devil's Eyes. Didn't you think it started to get hackneyed?
Hans: Yeah. Our bad.
7. Why wasn't Babs' escrima skills used more? I think it was one of the aspects of Babs that the network actually liked because it appeared on thewb.com.
Hans: We (the writers) totally dug that Barbara could kick ass. But it proved extremely difficult to shoot - time and money (and bad production decisions) stopped us from doing it more.
8. Why didn't you give Dinah the Canary Cry for an offensive power? I would think this would please a lot of hardcore BoP comic fans.
Hans: I don't have a good answer on this one. I just can't remember the reasoning.
9. Did you ever think of bringing in Wayne Enterprises to the series to have a new aspect? It would be interesting to see Helena as the CEO since Bruce is gone.
Hans: I think there was some discussion of Wayne Ent. I think we were going to use the son of the guy that ran Wayne as a character... Sorry, I can't remember more.
11. Why was Helena's occupation a bartender? I know she wanted to be rebellious but it seemed to limit Helena's social life, which I felt was never explored, outside of crimefighting. Wouldn't some other occupation allow more overlapping of private and superhero life?
Hans: I didn't make this decision - I wasn't around for the pilot.
12. My last question is I think some themes were wrapped up too early in the series. Barbara and Helena's arguing, Barbara's wanting Helena to be like her, Helena's distrust of Dinah, Babs beef with Wade's line "I want to take care of you", Helena's doubts of being a hero, and so on disappeared after one episode. Why weren't this arced through many episodes?
Hans: Most of your questions dig into the very difficult ground that the writing staff spent all day, every day, for months trying to sort out. You're right - the show could have been better, much better. We could have done a better job writing it. I'm not making excuses, but it's just not as simple as it sounds. There are so many factors that come into play - the orders you're being given (often contradictory), budgetary concerns, actor availability, etc. And there are many levels that I can't really discuss since, sadly, I've still got to make a living.
I just want to say out of all my criticizing I truly liked BoP. I think you did a great job becuase I still love Birds of Prey.
Hans: Thanks. Sorry we couldn't do a better job.
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