Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kem Nunn interview

For the Writers Guild of America West, Denis Faye interviews Kem Nunn about his forthcoming collaboration with David Milch for HBO, John From Cincinnati.
When you're creating a bizarre, cryptic world like the one in John from Cincinnati, do you, as a creator, need to know the “why” of the weirdness, or are you just flying by the seat of your pants?

That occurred to me earlier on in putting this show together. If you were doing this as a feature or if I was doing this as a novel, it would have to have the old beginning, middle, and end. If you're going to turn the thing in and get your check from the publisher, you've got to nail some things down.

Take an imaginative movie like Being John Malkovich. I thought the first half of that movie was enormous fun, but eventually you get to the part where you have to explain it -- and my interest falls off. The imaginative part was fun because it kind of invites you into a dialog with the piece -- you're trying to think ahead of it, you're trying to think about what's going on and that can be an enjoyable process. But the filmmaker, because he or she is compelled by the form they're operating in, has to give you an answer. They have to tell you what's happening, what it's about and it often ends up like the old '50s sci fi movies where it's scary as long as you didn't have to see the monster, and then the monster comes out and it's James Arness in a rubber suit -- it all goes out the window.

In a way, episodic television is a perfect forum to explore some of these "paranormal" -- for lack of a better term -- themes and ideas and the stuff we hope to engage within the show because you can do the first part of that equation. You invite the audience into a kind of dialogue with you about, “What does it mean that this guy's floating up in the air? What's truly miraculous? Is that the miracle or is the miracle in one character discovering his love for another character?” It invites a certain dialogue between the piece and the audience.

But from a practical point of view, when you determine that someone is going to float off the ground, is it just a case of, “Let's make this guy do this just for kicks,” or do you decide ahead of time, “He floats in the air because of reason X”?

I don't really enjoy weirdness for the sake of being weird. I want it to be driven by something, even if I'm not sure exactly what it's driven by. It's not just, “Wouldn't it be cool if this happened,” but sometimes, as a writer, you have a sort of intuition. I'm not quite sure why it should happen yet, but I think it should and I think it makes sense in faith that if I continue to address myself in the proper way to this material, this will be further revealed not only to me, but to the audience.
The series started in America last week - there are (lukewarm) reviews in The New York Times and The LA Times.

"His name's not John and he's not from Cincinnati" - series promo

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