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JMS talks best of Crusade, B5LR and workload


<font size="+1">JMS talks best of Crusade, B5LR and workload</font>
<font size="3">"I have no desire to write every ep of a series again"—JMS</font>

JMS has spoken recently about what he considered to be the best of Crusade, his punishing work schedule, and how he plans to spend his time differently when it comes to B5LR.

First off was a post a week ago, regarding the best of Crusade and an interesting conversation he had with a friend...

<font color="#99cc99">I still think the first five produced were our best of the ones we shot, in terms of the ones I wrote. The best scripts of mine per se would probably be the two that didn't get produced but which were made available via bookface.com, To the Ends of the Earth and End of the Line. I think they would've kicked over the table and shown where the production, and the story, was going. They're also the ones I wrote after "Apperances," which is where I decided, "Fuck it, fuck TNT, fuck the notes, I'm just gonna go back to what I was doing for the first 5 and write what I want." I got pissed, and sometimes I write best when I'm angry about something.

Weakest of my scripts...probably The Long Road, which started out as a good idea, and is still about 70% a good idea, but it's over-written and it feels...I dunno... stagey, somehow.

You actually happened to hit me with this question on a reflective night, so I'm taking a bit more time than I normally would with this.

I was talking to a friend recently, and I mentioned that in looking at the Crusade episodes on SFC, something about them bothers me...not the performers, who are all great, or the direction, which was generally quite good (with some lapses), but the writing. They didn't seem to me to have the same level of energy as B5.

To which I was told, "You want to know the truth of it? I was glad when they shut down Crusade." Now, as you might expect, I was kind of taken aback by this, and asked for clarification and what this had to do with my original statement.

The reply: "You were *exhausted*. You did five years of backbreaking work, you were averaging 3-4 hours sleep a night if you were lucky, you lost your hair, your health, and a good-sized chunk of your sanity...you were *tired*. The best thing would've been if there had been a year break between B5 and Crusade, to give you a chance to catch your breath. Would it have made a difference to TNT's decision? No. They changed their mind about the show based on their new ratings surveys before you ever shot a frame of film. But you wouldn't be sensing that lack of energy in the episodes now.

"Look at the stuff now: the Rising Stars screenplay is getting fast-tracked, the studio and the network love (title deleted until press release is issued), it's some of your best work ever, and Rangers has the energy that B5 always had, that Crusade didn't. It's still better than 95% of what's out there, but it's not you writing at the top of your top form."

"So how come you didn't say this at the time?" I asked.

"Because then you couldn't have heard it, wouldn't have listened. Now you can."

Hearing something like that is very difficult, because we all like to think we're invulnerable. In retrospect, I think there's a measure of truth to it. Maybe more than a measure.

Crusade is a good show. It got beaten down after the first five, stayed kind of beaten down through network notes and my own fatigue fighting fights that I shouldn't have had to fight, then picked up with the two post-fuck'em scripts because my energy was gearing up again at that decision. But overall it was a good show.

Not that it made any difference to Crusade's eventual fate; that had zero to do with the writing, acting, or directing, and everything to do with an internal corporate TNT decision about SF in general. Even written at 100% of my energy level, even if it had been a GREAT show instead of a very good show, it STILL would've met the fate it met. Of that there is no question.

It was starting to pick up speed again with those last two scripts. I think we would've eventually progressed in quality to where it needed to be.

But I had just enough energy to get it started, to write and produce it, but not enough to go through all that AND the day-to-day battles with the network. Having gone through five years of hell on B5, I could handle any two of those three, not all three.

And I'm wondering now if, in the long run, maybe it was the best thing that could have happened. If it had not gone the way it did, I almost certainly would never have been in a position to do the things I'm doing now...a (still classified) high-profile and high-budget TV series for one network, a B5 TV movie that will almost certainly go to a series on SFC, and the Rising Stars feature film in addition to a bunch of other stuff. And it's all fresh, with energy, there's fun there, and I think Rangers will have the fun and energy and cool stuff that is emblematic of B5.

I've always tried to be very forthright in my appraisal of my own work...I know where my strengths are, but I also know where my failings are, and I think one needs to be blunt about both. So I tend to be pretty merciless when looking back at this kind of thing, but I think it's necessary.

It's weird to think that I'm actually in a *better* position now, in terms of my career and the quality of my work, with Crusade having gone the way it did, than I would be if it had continued...but there it is.

It's a funny old world, you know...?</font>

Someone in the moderated newsgroup then asked if there was a greater risk of burnout for JMS, with so many projects in the works. He replied in the negative, also giving some idea of potential timings for a B5LR series.

<font color="#99cc99">Not at all, because I haven't been doing the B5 production fandango for the last 5 years nonstop. And the workload, at least at this point, looks like it's going to dovetail quite well....

To explain: we shoot the Rangers MOW May/June. The other (still TWCBN, alas) series would begin prep July/August, and (labor relations permitting) shoot right after Labor Day (I just realized how appropriate that is...that's damned funny).

Shooting the 20 hours involved in The Other Project will take us through January, maybe into early February. If Rangers goes as a series, we'd probably start shooting in February/March. We've even discussed having crew going from one project to the other, and just rotating between them.</font>

Finally, another user suggested that JMS would be more likely to write around 50% of B5LR episodes like he did with Crusade, rather than the 80% he wrote of B5. JMS replied, agreeing with that assessment.

<font color="#99cc99">Yeah...I have no desire to write every ep of a series again, ever. That was the real killer of the thing, on top of the rest.</font>

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