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 Message
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com (Jms at B5)
 Subject: Letter Home from jms
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 12/29/1995 8:55:00 PM  

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In my last general posting to rastb5, I mentioned that from time to
time, I'd try to post the occasional "letter to home" just to keep folks
up to date on matters Babylonian. Now that I can catch a breather, I
figured I'd take this opportunity to do so (though since it's 3:15 a.m.,
this'll likely be short).

"catching a breather" refers to the script situation. I've just
finished writing 316 and 317, the two parter, "War Without End," which was
a very difficult task, given the amount of story and logistics that had to
be put into it. While writing "Babylon Squared," to which this is the
flip-side, I figured, "Oh, sure, yeah, I can get this all in on the other
side, no problem," but when it came time to do it, it got awful tight, but
finally I fit it *all* in. (Well, all except one teeny, tiny sentence,
about where Zathras was first seen, and how, 'cause to do what I'd first
had in mind would've taken another 3 pages, and I didn't have that, so
that one element I'll have to just deal with later somehow. But that's
it.) Hopefully, one need never have seen B2 in order to watch and follow
WWE. (Which was one of the hard parts, since B2 may or may not be aired
prior to this, all the background information *had* to be in the episodes,
so that's a lot of background to include.)

This now leaves 5 episodes to be written for this season. At this
point, Lyta should factor strongly in one or two of these, there will be
some direct confrontations between our side and the shadows, then a really
nasty final episode for year three.

I'd suggest, btw, that if there are any folks you've been waiting to
bring into the fold on B5, you may want to consider 8 and 9 in the new
cycle, the last of that bunch in February. Eight is potentially one of
the best, possibly the best episode we've produced to date. Much as I'd
have wished PTEN would've aired 10, the final part of the 3-episode arc
that changes direction on the show, a week after 9, even though it'd be
out of sweeps period...it's probably for the best. When producer George
Johnson saw the scrpt for #10, "Severed Dreams," he laughed, walked over
to me and said, "Boy, this is the best episode we're never gonna deliver.
ARE YOU NUTS?!"

As an example of "ARE YOU NUTS?!" in "The Fall of Night," in the
sequence between the first Garden shot and the end of Sheridan's rescue,
about 6-7 pages of script, there were, I think, about 60 or 65 EFX and
practical shots. In just the span of 4 pages in 310 there are roughly
100 EFX and practical shots. In EFX terms, it's probably one of the
biggest shows we've done, so it's better to give Foundation a little extra
time to get it right rather than rush them.

(Oh, and lest I forget, yes, Zathras does return in "War," as does
Sinclair, who has a lot of great scenes with Marcus, Sheridan, Delenn,
Zathras and others. It also has some real surprises in store, including
some flash-forwards from WAY down the line.)

Another "oh, yeah, I nearly forgot"...for those out there who have
young kids, or if you're a bit on the squeamish side yourself...there's
one EFX shot at the end of the teaser for "Exogenesis" that you may want
to avoid. When it was finished, John Copeland brought it into my office,
fired it up on my TV, and looked away, saying, "You look, it creeps me
out too much to look at it again." It's...pretty strong. So you'll miss
the minimum possible, here's the sequence: first there's the Screaming
Man (a), then a cutaway to two people (b), then back at the Man for the
first part of the shot (c), the two people again (d), the man (e), and
finally the two people. What you want to avoid, if there are real young
kids in the room, are shots c and e. That's it for the whole episode.
For non-netted folks, it'll go by pretty fast, but I figured it'd be
worth mentioning as an added piece of info for the netted amongst us.

("Exogenesis" is the 2nd episode up, after "Voices of Authority,"
which premieres the next batch around January 29th.)

Some more info on the fan club...the announcement that was posted to
the nets, which appeared on various news wire services, and on-line
services (authorized reposts) was issued after the basic contract came in
from WB authorizing us to do the fan club. This after, oh, well over a
year of kvetching at them to let us do it. That's all we have at the
moment: the contract allowing us to do it, which was signed right before
the Christmas hiatus. There's currently no one on staff, there IS no
staff, until after the 2nd of January. We've interviewed some folks and
will make a final decision that week.

The way this is gonna work is that Doug and I will both contribute
half the operating expenses for the fan club apiece. (We feel fairly
comfortable with this, since the fourth year is currently looking pretty
good.) We'll either run it through Babylonian Productions, or set up a
separate company for it. (Note: NDE does not own the fan club, and I do
not work for NDE in any capacity whatsoever; it's a totally separate
entity, owned entirely by Doug Netter. Doug's company produced The Wild
West miniseries/documentary, is doing Hypernauts with Ron Thornton; I
have/had nothing to do with either. Because Netter Digital Entertainment
has a staff, whereas Synthetic Worlds Ltd. is mainly just me, NDE offered
to put out the release on this.)

Once the fan club is set up either way, as in-house BPI or as its own
company, the person hired to run it will report directly to me, and I will
share final authority of it with Doug, though as with most of the licensing
stuff, that generally gets deferred to me anyway. Our hope is that the
fan club will earn enough to break even its first year; if we do that,
we'll be doing great. On the boards are a newsletter, probably quarterly
to start, then monthly if the need is seen. (This is all still being
worked out in detail, so don't take any of this as canon yet. I'll be able
to be clearer after the first week of the year.)

We're going to get the same sub-companies and suppliers to produce
a small number of items that produce them for the show, so they're 100%
authentic. We're currently looking at doing links, EA badges, a selection
of patches, Sheridan's EAS AGAMEMNON cap from "Knives," some scripts,
maybe photos (we're still debating this)...and we're going to go back and
ask permission to do the videos on a limited edition basis. So it's not
going to be a lot of stuff, just enough so we hope it can pay for itself
after a while. None of the areas we're going to be doing are currently in
conflict with any other licensee of B5 material.

Similarly, we'll probably set up a B5 fan club web page, which will
not conflict with the AOL or WWW web pages since the plans are to design
it *specifically* for just the fan club members, which would be a fairly
modest portion of the online community. We mainly figure it'll be used
for signing onto the club, ordering one of the aforementioned items, or
linking off to other sites. (We hope to include information on stuff being
produced by other companies as well, to help folks find this stuff.)

We're told by the media sales folks at WB that the commercial spots
for B5 are sold out through the third quarter of 96, at extremely good
rates, which again encourages us for a fourth season. (We definitely
wouldn't be investing our own money in the fan club if we thought
otherwise.) As usual, though, we won't have any kind of final word on
next season until probably around April or May.

The Christmas hiatus ends after the 1st, so we're back at work on
the 2nd shooting "Ship of Tears," with Walter Koenig returning as
Bester. Expect some major revelations about Bester's background, and
where his character is going.

It's strange to think that by the time the next batch of new episodes
have finished airing, end of February, the last 5 remaining scripts will
be finished. (Sometimes I have to catch myself, thinking, "Oh, I can
mention this, since that happened *ages* ago..." then remember that yeah,
it was a while ago, in episode 7, which HASN'T aired yet.) Overall, in
terms of performances, story, the look of the show, and the music, this is
definitely our strongest season ever. For reasons too convoluted to go
into, I was watching "Midnight on the Firing Line" today, and it's amazing
how far the story has come, and how much it's changed. And you havent
even *seen* the really *major* changes yet, which start in the next batch
of episodes.

Oh, one final thing...if you want to avoid being spoiled, do NOT read
the current TV Zone's B5 coverate (with Jason's interview) until after the
next batch has aired...some very specific stuff is kinda given away. If
you don't mind being spoiled...go for it.

Anyway, that's it. It's now almost 4 a.m., and having worked out
the details of #318, I'm going to crash now. As I noted before, I don't
know when or how often I'll be able to post these; I'll try to get in
one more before the new batch starts up, if I can, at which time we
should have the fan club info more fully in hand.

jms









===========================================================================
| This text is compiled from posts by J. Michael Straczynski on the Usenet
| group alt.tv.babylon-5. This document contains material Copyright 1994
| J. Michael Straczynski. He has given permission for his words to be
| redistributed online, as long as they are marked as being copyright JMS.
| This document, as well as other Babylon-5 related material, is available
| by anonymous FTP at ftp.hyperion.com.
===========================================================================

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