On February 14th, Hulu launches their first original scripted series, called Battleground. Executive produced by J.D. Walsh, Hagai Shaham and Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, 500 Days of Summer), the 30-minute episodes are set in the world of political campaigns in the battleground state of Wisconsin. Shot in faux documentary-style, the workplace dramedy explores the behind-the-scenes chaos of a group of campaign workers and volunteers who leave their ordinary lives for life on the campaign trail.
While at the TCA Winter Press Tour, EP Marc Webb talked about how he got involved with this project, the opportunities available in producing programming for Hulu, the similarities with independent filmmaking, how he enjoys telling stories that are fun and interesting, and his desire to direct episodes for Season 2. He also talked about shooting The Amazing Spider-Man with 3eality 3D rigs, and said that people can expect to see a new trailer within the next month. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: With Battleground being Hulu’s first foray into scripted programming, how did this come about for you?
MARC WEBB: I’m really excited to be here with Battleground, and it’s been a fun journey. A couple years ago, my friend J.D. Walsh, who I’ve known for many, many years, started talking about this idea about doing a show about campaigns. He had this whole arc worked out, over several seasons. We talked about it, and it was a very, very interesting idea. Then, I started talking about it with some of my other friends, and there was always this concern about, “Well, you can’t really do a show about politics. Politics doesn’t really play on TV.” And, J.D. and I talked about it, and he said something that stuck with me. He was like, “It’s not about politics. It’s about elections. People hate politics, but they love elections.” There is an inherent drama that you see during elections because it’s that showdown that is incredibly compelling, simple human drama. J.D. has volunteered on a lot of campaigns, so he brought a lot of that expertise and insight into the creation of this show. So, I’m really excited that it’s come to fruition in this way, and Hulu has been really fantastic.
As an indie filmmaker, how do you see the opportunities to produce new content, on something like Hulu?
WEBB: Well, Hulu is great. A lot of good drama has moved to TV, rather than the cinema. All they can do is make superhero movies. I don’t know how that worked out, but there’s a real appetite for interesting, different, experimental and adventurous shows, and Hulu is on the forefront of a different way to extend and offer content to the world. That’s really exciting. This show is a half-hour, single-camera show, which typically leans towards really funny, quirky, comedy stuff that you see on Curb Your Enthusiasm and New Girl. What J.D. did was try to create something that felt more real and that leaned into the drama a little bit, and tone was a bit part of it.
Did you find this process similar to independent filmmaking?
WEBB: Yeah. There was a real sense of that ethos, in the creation of this. It was a very personal thing, and it was a lot of people who really were committed to it, in a way that you don’t often see. That was really exciting.
Are you going to direct any episodes of this?
WEBB: I was finishing up [The Amazing Spider-Man] during this season, so I didn’t get to direct anything. J.D. did all of that.
Would you want to, for next season?
WEBB: The possibility is really exciting. I hope that will work out. That would be really great.
Were you involved with the casting?
WEBB: Yeah, we talked about it. I would consult with J.D., and we talked about the tones of the performances. But, really J.D. was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
You’ve talked about how people hate politics and like elections, but don’t elections only matter because of the policy fights and positions?
WEBB: On the small scale, I can’t tell you what Rick Perry’s view on education is, or what Santorum’s policy of financial regulation is, but I can tell you some weird stuff about them. I think that that’s unfortunately what campaigns are about now. So, we wanted to delve into that. We have a candidate who wants to talk about education, and wants to talk about issues that matter. But really, it’s all about the show. What we’re doing right now is basically a campaign, and we’re trying to show it in the best possible way.
How do you reflect on your career, at this point, having had this wonderful little indie movie, 500 Days of Summer, spawn a studio movie career and an executive producing TV career?
WEBB: It’s really wonderful to be able to tell the stories that you’ve always cared about. I think 500 Days of Summer being received in a certain way allowed me access to certain people, and people trusted my input. I’ve known J.D. since first grade. We were in the same class in first grade. I’ve always really appreciated his sensibilities, and he knows what he’s talking about. The opportunity to help him, in any way, was really great. I hope to do more of that, in the future.
Have you always had the desire to help tell other people’s stories, aside from just telling your own?
WEBB: I don’t think I had ever thought about it, in that way. It’s not mine or anybody’s, in particular. It just seemed like a good opportunity, and it was that simple. But, I will gladly hitch my caboose to J.D.’s train. That sounds really weird. I think he’s somebody that’s really, really talented, and I love to be associated with him. We’ve been friends for so long. J.D.’s mind works in a way that is really pretty extraordinary, and he’s been doing improv in Westwood for years. I was like, “Why is J.D. not doing TV, when all these other people are doing TV?” He came up with an idea and, to me, it was a no-brainer to help him along with that. J.D. has a really sophisticated understanding of media culture, but also human behavior, and he understands nuance, which is a wonderful characteristic for a director and a writer. I’m really excited for him to keep doing that.
Why did Fox turn Battleground down?
WEBB: Hulu just seemed like a better partner. They didn’t turn it down. Ultimately, they just had a full schedule.
500 Days of Summer broke so many rules. Are you now more interested in telling more traditional stories?
WEBB: Oh, no. It’s whatever is fun and interesting, in the moment. That’s the stories that get told. I just want to do everything. I’m schizophrenic, when it comes to that.
You joked about too many superhero movies. Do you feel like you’re part of the problem now?
WEBB: No, I’m really excited for The Amazing Spider-Man to come out.
When can we expect to see a new trailer?
WEBB: Soon. Within the next month.
Up until the last minute, you were going to have to post-convert. How wonderful was it to have the technology from 3eality to shoot with?
WEBB: We shot with the 3eality rigs. It was great. It’s a different format, but it was really, really wonderful. And for Spider-Man, I think that’s an important thing.