SDCC 2010: The Visionaries – Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams; Whedon Officially Directing THE AVENGERS

by     Posted 4 years, 100 days ago

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At San Diego Comic Con 2009, the best thing that happened in Hall H was two men just talking on stage. Those two men just happened to be film legends Peter Jackson and James Cameron. This year, a similar panel was held. The Entertainment Weekly Visionaries panel featured geek gods J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. With a collected resume that includes Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible, Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe, Mission: Impossible, Cloverfield and Star Trek, it certainly lived up to the expectations set last year.

So much was talked about in this panel, it was ridiculous. Like, 9 pages of notes ridiculous. Read all about it after the jump including tidbits on The Avengers and Super 8.

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Whedon and Abrams met while they were both working at the WB — Abrams on Felicity and Whedon on Buffy and Angel.

The most extreme fanboy thing J.J has ever done was write a fan letter to Stan Smith, who did makeup on The Exorcist. In return, Smith sent him the actual tongue used in the film.  Whedon has an egg from Alien but said “I had to bury the franchise to get it.”

Whedon always wanted to be a storyteller and had universes in his head, but it wasn’t until he had to make money that he realized writing, and then filmmaking, was the way to do it. Abrams loved creating illusions and would perform magic for friends and family, since he didn’t want to become a magician, filmmaking was the natural progression.

“I’m directing The Avengers,” Whedon said just to make it official. And he’s a huge fan, it’s one of the books he read as a kid and dropped a bunch of geeky Avenger references.

Whedon’s dad was the head writer on Electric Company and when they were going to do an episode on Spider-Man, he brought home a bunch of comic books and that was it.  He added that his favorite comic story of all time was an Avengers annual featuring the death of Warlock.

At 15, Abrams got a job at a comic book shop in L.A. and while working there he began reading comics but he was always more into TV and movies. He’d love to do a superhero movies.

Whedon is still outlining and reworking The Avengers. What really drew him to the story is that it’s totally counter intuitive for all of these characters to be in the same room let alone on the same team and “that, to me, is family.”

Super 8 is a dream come true and has many of its roots in the fact that Abrams and Matt Reeves were asked to repair some of Steven Spielberg’s 8mm films when they were 16. They had both entered a super 8 film festival, which got wrote up in the newspaper. Spielberg’s assistant — now mega-producer Kathleen Kennedy — called them and asked if they wanted to repair Steven’s old movies Firelight and Escape to Nowhere. They said “yes” and and said it felt like a joke, which it kind of was at only $300. But they did it and loved it.

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They start shooting Super 8 in September and hopes that someone walks into a movie theater, sees the trailer, thinks it’s awesome and doesn’t realize they are the star of that movie (meaning, he’s looking for an unknown). It has been awesome working with Spielberg and it’s very much in the spirit of the Ambin films. It will NOT be in 3D.

As for 3D, Whedon really enjoys it while Abrams says that, eventually, he becomes used to it but thinks it screws with the image too much. Whedon said he doesn’t write specifically for 3D but the tropes of it — depth of field and long takes — are what he likes anyway.

Cabin in the Woods, a movie Whedon is a part of, he doesn’t know when people are going to see it because MGM is kind of in flux. And it still might be in 3D.

Abrams isn’t sure if 3D is here to stay but thinks the technology will get better so it has a good chance. Whedon agrees that it’s definitely not a fad but won’t take over completely.

Dr. Horrible made money for everyone, proved that the internet is a viable way to do that and Whedon is proud of that model. However the studios are very old fashioned.

Whedon was working on an internet movie called Wastelanders with Warren Ellis when he got the call to do Avengers so that got put on hold.

Bad Robot, J.J’s company, has a bunch of stuff in production that will follow the Dr. Horrible internet model. He thinks that cameras like the Canon 5D Mark 2 have totally revolutionized filmmaking and that friends can just make things that are cheap and passionate and awesome.

Whedon and his partners have a great idea for Dr. Horrible 2, even a few songs written, but it’s in “turnaround,” meaning he just doesn’t have the time or ability to get it all together.

Jeff Doc Jensen, from EW, who was moderating the panel, asked Whedon about Dollhouse. “It was a square peg into a round hole.” He and Abrams both benefited from the WB and their openness a long time ago but that doesn’t exist anymore. There was an “incompatibility” at Fox and Whedon didn’t realize he had such a cable mentality. He felt that Dollhouse should have been sexier and suggested that Fox curbed that a lot. However, he’s very happy at Marvel.

Abrams doesn’t think TV wants serialized stories anymore because they can’t repeat or syndicate as easily. But he prefers that kind of show because of the investment and anticipation. Undercovers, his new show, is more self contained but has an underlying story.

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Whedon said that even when Lost was at its peak, most of the studios didn’t want to make shows like that. But even in the serialized shows, people remember the long stories — like in Cheers with Jack and Diane. “They see the cash cow,” he said. “It’s all about the bottom line.”

There are a lot of people out right now that both of them look up to. Abrams mentioned Edgar Wright and comic artist Chris Ware. Whedon countered that Star Trek is so good it makes him throw up.

Both of them love coming to Comic-Con because it’s like their second home.

It’s hard to compare TV and movies, according to Whedon. Movies actually end and can usually be bigger, which he likes. But TV allows to make a longer story “even if they are aired out of order,” he joked. He also said that his trademark dialogue comes very early in the process.

Abrams said that he loved the ending that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wrote for Lost.

Though he doesn’t want to become a hoarder, Abrams loves collecting things from his movies. He has stuff from Alias, Star Trek and M:I3. Whedon  doesn’t care as much but has all of the Dr. Horrible stuff.

the_avengersThe Avengers has a very set tone and Whedon himself has a very set tone, so how is he going to balance the two? Well, Whedon said that there will be plenty of him in there but he’s always been very influenced by reading comic books so he’s not worried.

Whedon feels that comic books, for a long time, got too nihilistic and killed too many characters.

Abrams didn’t go to film school and doesn’t think it’s necessary with all the technology and books out there now. His father told him, “Go to college and learn what to make movies about, not how to make them.” Whedon did go to film school and said that it’s a crap shoot. It comes down to the teachers you have, but both agreed that you get inspired by the environment and people around you. The community is more important than the knowledge.

Getting notes after writing is a razor’s edge. You need to be able to take criticism, but also be confident enough to know when you are wrong. You should be able to defend your idea and if you can’t, then maybe it’s not a good idea.

Wow, there was so much to digest and inspire in this panel. It was a whole lot of fun and very entertaining to sit though. A certain 2010 Comic-Con highlight for sure.

For more Comic-Con coverage, click here.




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  • clawcarver

    schweet!

  • Hunter

    Cool.

  • guest

    Don't know why so many ppl consider Whedon a genius, he destroyed Alien franchise with crappy Resurrection. Buffy, Angel were obnoxious. The other series about some cowboys in space which name I don't even want to mention, was waste of good TV time.

  • Tunaforbreakfast

    Yeah. That's why Buffy is considered one of the best shows ever on television. And Firefly? When it came out on DVD it shot up to one of the high grossing tv-on-dvd sales ever. It still is. Joss Whedon is not only an excellent story-teller, he also revolutionized the movie business with Dr. Horrible. He proved that you could make a substantial amount of money of a movie using ONLY the internet.

    Why don't you save your trolling opinions for someone who gives a crap.

  • Miss Thing

    I think guest down there is being a little harsh – but it would be nice to see people get off Whedon's cock. I mean for crying out loud – the man can write, but his writing isn't perfect, and honestly, Dollhouse was nothing at all to write home about. His directing skills leave no impression with me whatsoever, the last two seasons of Buffy were really not that great, and he overuses character death as a plot/character device way too often; it doesn't even hurt anymore, it's expected.

  • Paolor I Tommasini

    I agree you just cannot compare J.J. with Whedon !

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  • dunga doball

    i don't know what the fuck your problem is you little prick but the alien franchise started to suck after part 2, Whedon just wrote Resurrection, maybe if he directed the shit it would not have been a shitty movie. Now Buffy/Angel, maybe you did not get but that twilight crap, i bet you got pretty fuckin well. I think the cowboys in space show you are talking about is called Firefly which got made into a movie called Serenity which you probably also didn't know because obviously you don't know jack shit.I hate you ! I hope you die I hate everything about stupid little comment. Go back to watching reality shows and the Disney channel you cocky mother fucker. If i sound mad its because i am tired of people commenting on shit they know nothing about. Noochies

  • Sheldon Cooper

    yeah but jj made felicity

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  • http://www.buzzabit.com/aaron Aaron Sullivan

    Dollhouse had almost an entire first season with the critical flaw that whatever the main character did she could have NO internal struggle. A main character with no growth or experience that an audience can relate to. The second season story should have started in the third or fourth episode of the first season. It would have been far more interesting. The second season of Dollhouse was pretty awesome. The “future” episodes could have been an entire season. Whedon had some great ideas in there.

    Firefly was fantastic entertainment. Anyone who says differently hasn't seen the first season on DVD or is mostly dead inside — maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. IMO, it's easily the best thing Whedon has done — maybe his work on Toy Story beats it. It's a shame it was so mishandled by Fox. Serenity was disjointed and mostly effective only for fans of TV show (like The Last Airbender movie). It had its moments, though.

    The basic story line for Alien Resurrection has potential. I think that one was produced to death and misunderstood/twisted by the director. Alien was never a slasher movie. It's own brand of horror really didn't match up with the final scenes of Resurrection at all.

    JJ Abrams has grown tremendously with just 2 feature films — the Alias and Lost pilot almost boost him up to 4 features — and I can't wait to see what he's up to next. He can really pull a story together and hold on to the character throughlines. I like how he gives actors room to breathe and he's developing a bit of a visual style, too.

  • Nickula11

    Isn't it Dick Smith?

  • Tx

    first of all i am not little :) and you are prick. Alien didn't start sucking after part 2, but completely opposite Aliens was the best part of the whole franchise, and if Cameron hadn't done it Alien franchise probably wouldn't have so many followers as it has today. Part 3 was terrible, and Resurrection with its stupid storyline was nail in the coffin. Buffy/Angel for me is exactly as this Twilight crap you are talking about – crap :) Where Buffy targets geeky males, and Twilight girls. I never watched reality shows nor Disney channel. But I did watch series like Star Trek, old and new Battlestar Galacitica or X-Files. And if you tell me that either of those series is worse than Buffy/Angel then you really are total jerk to whom is worthless trying to explain something. And I guess you sound mad cause someone actually guessed what's Whedons really about :)

  • Guest

    Technically “after part 2″ means part 3. >.>

  • Bethann

    AWESOME!

  • Sheldon Cooper

    no I still think your a little prick. You dont think i have not see star trek, battlestar new and old or the x-files. I think everyone has, dude you're nothing special, in fact i think it makes you a poser for bringing up these shows and no buffy/angel is not better or worse then these shows. NO shit buffy is aimed geeky males you turd! BE A PROPER NERD AND SHOW SOME RESPECT!!! now go back to suckin your mama's titty. oh yeah using these :) are so fuckin gay!

  • Sheldon Cooper

    SHUT THE FUCK UP! GUEST!

  • taylordubose

    lulz

  • Cfairley91

    calm down mate, lets face it buffy nd angel compared 2 programmes like the wire just look like horse shit. but i agree, twilight is truly fuking pish

  • Dwk

    “like in Cheers with Jack and Diane” – ummm, you mean Sam and Diane? Jack and Diane were the 'two American kids' in the John Cougar (Mellencamp) song.

  • Chupacabra27

    It's really admirable to see everyone supporting their opinions by rationally dividing stylistic invention from trope, balancing finely-tuned arguments regarding observed tendencies in narrative structure, and – best of all – comparing how each storyteller draws differently from Antiquities-era mythology. Bravo on such a well-argued post. Tx, Sheldon, have either of you thought about writing critically?

  • Aqueryan

    Well, at the expense of proving yourself an asshole, I'd say you made your point!

  • Ryan

    “the last two seasons of Buffy were really not that great.”

    Oh, you mean the two seasons he wasn't involved with Buffy, because he was doing Firefly? Those two seasons? (Yes, you do.)

    Dollhouse was okay, it had a lot more good in it than the first few episodes would have made you thought, but it really needed an actress to lead the thing that was more diverse in talent than Eliza Dushku… and let's not pretend that Fox didn't have its nefarious tentacles in it (which I won't complain about too much, because at least they did give it the second season, which allowed it to have a finished storyline… unlike Firefly).

  • Makeupyourmind82

    Yes it is Dick Smith, NOT Stan Smith. Get your facts straight before you print something.

  • Illyria

    Hey jerk face never ever !! compare BTVS with that sack of shit that even Stephen King thinks a load of bull. Who the hell cares what you like, beside all those shows are prerequisites, trying naming something new. Anyway Alien blows after two, Whedon has nothing to do with the final results dumb ass he only wrote it. Oh FYI I'm a girl and would set the cast and author of twilight on fire for their crimes against humanity. Why don't you go back and blog about ur feelings to ur other lame republican capitalistic friends at this is for true geeks which u r not. Your nothing but a mainstream poser who thinks he knows shit. Ur not really pissing anyone off with ur stupidity, we just feel sorry that u think ur crap matters. so go FUCK UR Self which u probably do ;)

  • Jyanynmc

    Oh this for Stupid TX not my friend SC love that show he's the shit

  • Illyria

    U suck !!!!!!

  • Illyria

    thinks a load of bull. Who the hell cares what you like, beside all those shows are prerequisites, trying naming something new. Anyway Alien blows after two, Whedon has nothing to do with the final results dumb ass he only wrote it. Oh FYI I'm a girl and would set the cast and author of twilight on fire for their crimes against humanity. Why don't you go back and blog about ur feelings to ur other lame republican capitalistic friends at this is for true geeks which u r not. Your nothing but a mainstream poser who thinks he knows shit. Ur not really pissing anyone off with ur stupidity, we just feel sorry that u think ur crap matters. so go FUCK UR Self which u probably do ;)

  • Tug

    you are a scrotum. a living, air-wasting scrotum. joss whedon made firefly which, while far from perfect, is possibly the finest single season of television ever made. And Serenity kicked ass.

    Objectively, it is like Jesus said to himself

    “Fuckin' ER reruns, AGAIN?! Why don't I just whip together an odd ensemble of loveable characters together with some engaging plotlines and give people something good to watch?”

    And that's what happened, right up until Fox, aka SATAN, thought

    “What? Intelligent, charming hourly installments of TV excellence? Not while Rupert lives and breathes…”

    Sheldon. How do I say this… You are wrong.

    Yet another balanced, rational argument that furthers our polite discussion. I hope this will end with us resolving our disagreements amicably. You fucking tard.

  • Shadowfax723

    Thank God I wasn't the only one to notice that glaring mistake. Not making a trollish smartass retort, but that was a forehead-thumper of an error for anyone who was alive in the 80s (yes there are still some of us).

  • Guest

    Dr. Horrible revolutionized the movie business? So are you the type of unconditional fanboy who doesn't accept that Whedon can ever do anything bad that people like to make fun of?

  • http://dlf.myopenid.com/ DLF

    This Visionaries thing is why I'm going to have to go to Comic Con 2011.

  • http://dlf.myopenid.com/ DLF

    Well put, Sullivan. I saw the first episode of Firefly that Fox chose the air and also dismissed it as a silly, “cowboys in space” thing. But after I saw the pilot and first episode as Whedon intended, I began to realize how unique a TV series he'd made. As for JJ, since the pilot for Fringe cost $10 million to make, that also counts as a feature in my mind. That's five, until we see what Undercovers is going to be like.

  • http://dlf.myopenid.com/ DLF

    And God, did that song suck. Just ask Mellencamp, he'll tell you.

  • http://www.buzzabit.com/aaron Aaron Sullivan

    FYI, JJ didn't direct the pilot episode of Fringe. I like Fringe, which does have some flashes of brilliance, but the pilot was not that great, IMO.

    Previews for Undercovers just aren't doing it for me. Looks like JJ is directing the pilot, so there must be something special there. :)

    Honestly, –and this is not really on topic– my favorite TV is Avatar the Last Airbender. Watching that with my 5-year-old daughter all the way through for the 3rd time. :P

  • Maven

    It's like Battling Five-Year-Olds in here.

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