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 Message
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/18/1996 8:10:00 AM  

Message 1 in thread 

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There's been a fair amount of speculation and concern about the fifth
season, and how the story is laying out to handle the possibilities of
renewal vs. no renewal. Though the ratings have continued to improve
despite the shifts and changes in the syndication marketplace -- it's a
very different market than it was when we first debuted -- nothing is
certain yet about a fifth season. Some at WB say yes, some say no. My
job is to pick my way through this minefield and make it all work, and
assure the story ending where is was meant to end. So how does one do
this?

Here's the skinny.

First, you have to understand that writing is a *process*, and that
process is constantly changing. Ask any writer, and they'll tell you
that many times they've been working on a short story, or a novel, and
they have to edit for space. This applies to both fiction and
nonfiction writers. Sometimes it's done by the writer, sometimes by
the editor. On my second novel, the editor told me at the halfway mark
that we'd have to keep the book down to 100,000 words, which was about
75-100 pages less than I'd been planning on, so the story had to be
adjusted to fit. As a journalist, I've often walked into the office
with a story in hand and been told, "Okay, you've got 15 column
inches," or 25 column inches, or 10 column inches...and you just learn
to write to fit. Every writer goes through this.

And in most cases, the average person never knows. Done properly, it
should be seamless. Look at Stephen King's The Stand, cut by almost
25% by the editors at first, then later released with all the ancillary
material replaced. I've read both, and the latter is not appreciably
better than the former...if you didn't know the material was there, you
would never have missed it.

This also happens on a per-episode basis. At LosCon, I showed a
finished scene from 405, and the daily of the master shot of the same
scene, which had another minute or so of material cut from the finished
scene. We cut material all the time; if you added up all the material
cut from the third season, you'd have enough for almost two episodes.
And we often slide material from one episode into another; we slid
Ivanova's scenes in 402 into 403, and another scene from 405 into
406...we've done that in prior seasons as well. Sometimes you go back
and you *add* material. Again, it's all part of the process.

(Interestingly enough, I just bought the new laserdisk of "Young
Frankenstein," which has about 15 minutes of material cut from the
movie for time. I watched it the other night, and of those 15 minutes,
13 were easily expendable...only one scene was fairly interesting, but
not really necessary.)

Okay, so how does all this relate to B5?

My obligation as a storyteller is to get to the end of the story in a
satisfying way. So after we got the year 4 renewal, and knowing that
the PTEN business situation had the potential to impact us (when the
network that supports you is no longer there, so now your entire
structure is shot out from under you...you've got a problem), I looked
at the structure for the story, and began planning adjustments so that
it could go either way without padding anything, and without
shortchanging the story.

First thing I did was to flip out the stand-alones, which
traditionally have taken up the first 6 or so episodes of each season;
between two years, that's 12 episodes, over half a season right there.
Then you would usually get a fair number of additional stand-alones
scattered across the course of the season. So figure another 3-4 per
season, say 8, that's 20 out of 44. So now you're left with basically
24 episodes to fill out the main arc of the story.

Now, that arc is very intensive, and has three primary threads: the
resolution of the Shadow war, the situation regarding Earth, and a
series of smaller sub-threads that feed off those main threads. But if
you charge right from one to the other, it's going to feel rushed,
you're going to need some breathing room between major movements,
particularly after the shadow war. Not so much stand-alones as episodes
that let you begin to rearrange your pieces for the next major
movement. So now you're back up to about 27.

Okay, so *now* what do you do? The solution to that came in several
unassociated pieces.

First came the word of the two B5 TV movies for TNT, which were
envisioned as taking place within the arc of our main story. Suddenly
I had 4 hours into which I could slide some of this material. One
sub-thread I'd been planning on was a 3-episode arc that would look at
how the Earth/Minbari War started, and Delenn's situation at the start
of the war, joining the Council, that sort of thing. Now I was able to
split that out. So in the series I can, in an episode, get into
Delenn's role in the war and go into the background of how she got to
know Dukhat, how she got into the Grey Council, and so on...all the
stuff you'd need to see prior to the war. Then the two hours covering
the rest, the progress of the war itself, could be covered in the
two-hour movie.

With the *benefit* that we'd have a little more money for the movie
than we would for two conventional hours, so we could do *more* in the
way of EFX, production value, and so on, which you're going to need to
really sell the E/M war. So strangely enough, and as tends to happen,
this has put us in the position of doing it *better* than if I'd
dropped it into two standard-budget episodes, as was my original plan.

Another sub-thread wouldn't have been introduced until late in year 5,
in part to set up the possibility of a sequel (which, as I've stated
from the very earliest days of the show, was always in the back of my
head) and which would stand on its own in any event; a thread designed
to illustrate the notion that the duration tends to be a lot longer
than the war. (You'll understand that one later.) That sub-thread
would've filled about 3-4 episodes.

Now, again, having the second 2-hour movie lets me slide that piece of
story into that category and cover nearly all of that ground in doing
so. The remaining material could (and will, one hopes) be covered in
the actual sequel itself. (If the sequel never ends up going, the
material will be sufficiently stand-alone to still work on its own.)

Then, finally, you take the stand-alones you pulled out earlier (which
nobody would miss, not knowing what was in them), and the final couple
of sub-threads (not yet introduced or implied in the main series) and
slide them into the sequel series, CRUSADE.

So if we *had* to collapse everything into a fourth year, it would all
fit perfectly. If word came that there *was* going to be a fifth year,
you commission some scripts early, drop some of the stand-alones back
into the slot, and bring up the sub-threads that would otherwise have
been transferred into the sequel.

Bottom line is...you're covered either way. You end up where you
wanted to end up, the main threads get dealt with, secondary or
tertiary threads have other venues in which they can be dealt
with...you're solid.

There's nothing particularly extraordinary or amazing in this...this
is how all writers work, since there are always going to be varying
constraints in length or venue. Writing is a process, and that process
is such that it is infinitely variable while still proceeding where you
want it to go.

So that's where I am currently. If I know the fate of the fifth year
by late February or early March, I can then flip either way and get out
cleanly. Worst case scenario is that I might have to write alternate
scenes or alternate endings for scenes in the last few episodes if the
word comes much later than that, just to give me the flexibility to
adjust the story in editing, which would definitely take place after we
wrapped, at which time we have to have word by contract.

None of this could've been done in three seasons...we had to have a
minimum of four to give us the flexibility of cutting either way.
There's no point to reading a book that leaves you hanging for an
ending, and B5 was meant to have an ending. At this juncture,
finishing off script 15, I feel very comfortable with the way all this
is laying out. The flow is there, and I know we'll get where we need
to. No matter what happens, we're covered. We can handle year 5
without padding, and handle year 4 without shortchanging the
storyline. Granted it took only slightly less planning than the
invasion of Normandy, but it works, and that's the crucial thing.

Anyway...I've gone on for longer than I'd intended. I hope that this
will answer some of the questions and concerns raised about the
situation, and explains how you do some of the planning for this kind
of thing. Again, this online experiment is about letting people
understand the process of telling a story like this, and of making a TV
show in general. As I've noted before, telling a story of this nature
for television, with all the exigencies and real-life surprises
involved, is like doing an elaborate step-dance while people are
throwing live chickens and chainsaws at you...but I knew that would be
the situation going in, and it was only a matter of whether or not the
story was worth the grief involved in telling it.

And it most definitely has been.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/18/1996 3:55:00 PM  

Message 2 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

Thanks. I think the impact of the show will only continue to
grow with time. In a few years, we'll be discovered, as though
suddenly we materialized on TeeVee...but that's okay. It's the doing
that matters.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/18/1996 3:55:00 PM  

Message 3 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

Yes, the two TNT two-hours are confirmed.

And the regular series will start on TNT right after the main
run is finished, starting with season one. (So if we finish new
episodes in any given November, the show begins reruns on TNT the
following January.)

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/19/1996 3:13:00 PM  

Message 4 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Thanks, and I'm glad the book is turning out to be useful.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/19/1996 3:13:00 PM  

Message 5 in thread 

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(blocked) asks:
> Are there any plans to eventually release the B5 episodes (and
> potential upcoming TV movies) on video tape for the home market?

In the fullness of time....

jms
    From: Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 12/31/1996 2:17:00 AM  

Message 6 in thread 

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Why weren't others willing to take a chance with B5? Because it was
something new and different, or because you wanted to tell your story
your way and they didn't like that?

--Scott
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/1/1997 10:40:00 AM  

Message 7 in thread 

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Two primary reasons why it was a hard sell: 1) SF has *always*
gone way over budget. The "V" series singlehandedly nearly destroyed
Warner Bros. Television. Producers always said they could do it, and
they lied, and the studios and networks were very skittish.

2) They're skittish about SF in general, and space stuff in
particular. We were told, repeatedly, in verbatim terms, "No space
series other than ST has ever survived more than a couple of sesaons.
There is no market for space SF other than Star Trek. The market won't
sustain it, isn't big enough to sustain it." That was, hands down, our
single biggest stumbling block.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/1/1997 10:40:00 AM  

Message 8 in thread 

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Actually, I was in the shower...and I don't usually have a
computer there, as it's rather dangerous.

"I wondered if you know what you'll be doing after (B5 is) all
over."

Depends. WB is very interested in the sequel series, and we
hope to have some info on that by the end of the month. That I'd
definitely want to do. Barring that, I'd like to find a show or a
structure where I could push the envelope again but in a different way.
If I can't find a show like that, or create one, I'll go back to prose.

jms
    From: Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/1/1997 10:36:00 PM  

Message 9 in thread 

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> I saw most of it all at once, and spent the better part of a year
> getting it all down on paper.

The entire 1000+ years at once? What were you doing when that
happened? So I am assuming the details have come as you've written the
episodes and it was the overall scheme of things that came to you?

When did you see the end of the story?

Thanks for taking the time with these questions.

--Scott
    From: Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/1/1997 11:26:00 PM  

Message 10 in thread 

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> Two primary reasons why it was a hard sell: 1) SF has *always* gone
> way over budget. The "V" series singlehandedly nearly destroyed
> Warner Bros. Television. Producers always said they could do it, and
> they lied, and the studios and networks were very skittish.

Ok, now you got me really curious, what is your budget and do you ever
run over?

> 2) They're skittish about SF in general, and space stuff in
> particular. We were told, repeatedly, in verbatim terms, "No space
> series other than ST has ever survived more than a couple of sesaons.
> There is no market for space SF other than Star Trek. The market
> won't sustain it, isn't big enough to sustain it." That was, hands
> down, our single biggest stumbling block.

So what finally convinced WB to do B5, especially after V?

--Scott
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/2/1997 7:20:00 AM  

Message 11 in thread 

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Our budget is under $1 million per episode, and we have run
slightly UNDER budget every season, which I think is a first for any SF
series.

To convince WB we first had to make the pilot, show we could do
it responsibly, and get the ratings, THEN we got the series order.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/2/1997 7:20:00 AM  

Message 12 in thread 

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I saw mainly the multi-year storyline of B5. The rest I filled
in as I went, in terms of the backstory and forestory of the B5
universe.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/8/1997 4:40:00 PM  

Message 13 in thread 

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Two novels, DEMON NIGHT and OTHERSYDE, an anthology, TALES FROM
THE TWILIGHT ZONE, all out of print, and short stories in AMAZING SF,
PULPHOUSE and others.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/12/1997 7:29:00 AM  

Message 14 in thread 

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(blocked) asks:
> Does the audience NEED to be as big for a syndicated show
> compared to a network show in order to survive? I think you
> mentioned in your "Quick Requests from JMS" message something to
> the effect B5 has about 10-15 million viewers -- would that be
> enough to sustain it on one of the big three or even the little
> two (UPN, WB)?

It doesn't need to be a BIG audience, but it does need to be big
enough to make a profit. And that's what they didn't know. Since
then, they have made a very tidy profit on B5 already.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/13/1997 10:41:00 AM  

Message 15 in thread 

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Sue Wachowski <74743.3703@compuserve.com> asks:
> The whole concept of knowing that the show has a beginning,
> middle and end, and that's it, makes it more exciting as a
> viewer...has this ever been done before? I know some shows produce
> endings when they aren't renewed or are choosing to go off the
> air, but are there any shows that knew the ending from the
> beginning<g>? If the spin-offs of B5 aren't done the same way,
> will there be that same thrill? Will you continue this way of
> structuring a TV series? I find that I don't watch pointless TV
> anymore...and if a series has no ending in mind, how can they
> work towards a goal, except within episodes and scenes? I guess
> what I want to know is, why hasn't this been done before? Why
> doesn't TV produce more structured series like this? Will you
> continue to create shows in this way? A TV novel, is there a term
> for it? How about *Noveries*?
> Is this enough of an introduction to myself?

"Why hasn't this been done before?"

To which the only answer is...because nobody's done it before.
(At least, here in the US...in the UK similar things have been done for
some time, a la The Prisoner.)

I guess mostly it's because in TV, the question is always "are
we going to last 9 weeks?" and nobody thinks that far ahead. To set
things up that you won't pay off for *years* takes someone a little
insane, a) to believe you'll be on the air that long, and b) to count
on the audience to be patient enough to wait for things to unfold.

And over time, I do think you're more likely to see more of
this sort of thing as B5's impact grows over the coming years.

My general sense for what comes next for me...assuming the B5
sequel goes...I've done a hard-linked and extremely intense drama with
an adventure component...and now, having done that, and proved that it
*could* be done, despite many who said it couldn't, my feeling now is,
"Okay, we've done that, how can we tweak it so that the sequel has a
different feel to it?" So I'm looking at something that's a little more
in the adventurous mode, with a serious underpinning, with an arc to it
that's not quite as intense in tone, but is still good drama.
Characters that grow and change, a definite ending, several mysteries
enclosed inside other mysteries, with a much larger canvas, and an even
stronger sense of wonder. B5 I did to prove a point, to some extent;
now I'd like to try something where, having achieved that, I can sit
back and, knowing the format now, have some fun with it. Maybe turn
it on its head in a few places.

As with everything else I do, I try to find what I'd enjoy as a
viewer, and take it from there. That was how B5 came about, and that's
how the new show would come about, should it happen.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/13/1997 10:41:00 AM  

Message 16 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> How do they make a profit?
> From syndication fees?
> Or is there other evenue streams?
> And, if I may ask, how do you get paid?

They get their money from commercial advertising and foreign
sales. I get a piece of the *net* profit, and since the numbers are
always jigged so that no TV show or movie ever shows a profit, we know
how much that will result in...zilch.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/14/1997 4:45:00 AM  

Message 17 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

No, that's the standard practice in town. Actors have sued for
their net of shows that have been in syndication for 25-30 years, and
been told that it's "still in the red."

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/14/1997 4:45:00 AM  

Message 18 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Yeah, it did *really* well, and they're aware of that.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/14/1997 4:45:00 AM  

Message 19 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

No idea.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 4:49:00 AM  

Message 20 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> So I assume that you get paid a salary as well as the
> (non-existant) net? Is there anyway you can get a better deal?

Yes, I do get a per-epsode producing fee, and script fees.

No, no chance of changing the deal, it is what it is...and no,
I do not personally own B5 in any way, not in copyright, licensing, any
of that. WB owns all rights.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 21 in thread 

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Ray Pelzer <70475.1263@compuserve.com> asks:
> A piece of the NET profit?
> Gadzooks, so you and James Garner will be spending a lot of time
> together at the accountants' offices, eh?

Bingo.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 22 in thread 

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(blocked) asks:
> But you have some kind of influence when it comes to
> merchandising arrangements, right?

I have approval over what gets licensed, and the form it takes.
I work closely with all our licensees.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 23 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Our visibility is increasing, no mistake, but we still haven't
hit critical mass, and most viewers/reviewers are still largely unaware
of us. But that's okay, I went into this figuring this would be a long
haul. Once the show is done, it's done, and nothing will ever change
that; the only thing that will change is the size of the audience.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 24 in thread 

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Sue Wachowski <74743.3703@compuserve.com> asks:
> Isn't it also a question of how TV views its audience?
> What IQ do they assume we all have?
> What grade level reading do we understand?
> I guess that's not fair, but how mindless do we want our
> entertainment to be? Also, what about the TV executives that have
> to like a show first? Are executives changing?
> Are their attitudes toward what they like swinging towards TV of
> a higher level? So, are there things you would change about B5,
> knowing how it's done? Is it more like, those who grew up on good
> SF Literature are now in a position to influence the creation of
> today's SF shows and movies?

Yes, more writers and folks at the studio/network levels do know
a little from SF, but not as much as should be. I think that will
continue to change with time. Now that B5 has broken the strangle hold
of "no other SF than Star Trek has ever been profitable on TV," I think
maybe it'll have a positive effect.

RE: how the networks view viewers...lemme quote something to you
a suit at one of the networks said: "Our sense is that most of the
viewers with money or an education have cable, VCRs, laserdisks, and
they watch those instead of the networks. Our programming more and
more will have to turn to those who don't have any real education or
money for other programming options."

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 25 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> So when you pitched it to them and they agreed to make the show,
> did you get paid for the rights, or do they get the rights in
> exchange for making the show?

They get the rights for financing and distributing the show; we
make the show.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 26 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> So I take it this is an industry standard set up?
> So how would you, in the future, get a bigger piece of the pie
> you've created (such as with Crusades)?

Yep, that's how they get you, and yes, I hope that the success
of B5 will allow for a slightly better deal on the new show, though
again the definition of net profits will almost certainly still be such
that it adds up to oh...about zip....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/15/1997 6:07:00 PM  

Message 27 in thread 

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Carl Cantarella <105030.3700@compuserve.com> asks:
> Joe, If they're out of print, then how might we get them?

Some libraries and SF oriented bookstores still carry them.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/16/1997 6:06:00 AM  

Message 28 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Exactly. And of course what they tell the advertisers is
likely a very different story. I just about fell down when I heard
this one.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/16/1997 2:01:00 PM  

Message 29 in thread 

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John M. Graham <74166.3727@compuserve.com> asks:
> I am curious of whether my friend's view is prevalent in the
> industry, whether it is technically accurate, and whether such a
> view has hampered (or maybe helped?) to some extent your ability
> to market B5 accross the country?

All I know is that in 4 years, I've never heard anyone in the
industry refer to B5 as a soap. So that may answer your question.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/16/1997 2:01:00 PM  

Message 30 in thread 

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Michael R. Brehmer <75303.2242@compuserve.com> asks:
> Do you believe that "network suites" are following that
> philosophy to a certain degree? Or is that many people's
> perception that network TV used to be better mere nostalgia? Even
> with your busy schedule, do you ever get a chance to watch any
> network TV?

I don't get much chance to watch TV these days, for obvious
reasons. I try to carve out room for X-Files, Simpsons, 60 Minutes,
The Tick, the Larry Sanders Show, Dateline, Nightline and a couple of
others, but that's about it for the week.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/16/1997 2:01:00 PM  

Message 31 in thread 

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John Ordover-Trek Editor <72674.1362@compuserve.com> asks:
> You ever feel that all the networks (and many companies) would
> run better if they "inverted" the company every once in a while,
> ie, put the people currently on the front lines in the back
> office, and vice versa?

I dunno...sometimes I think that's the *problem*. It used to be
the case that network suits stayed in one place for a long time, and
held sway for years...now you've got kids coming in who know nothing
BUT TV running the show. The median age at the networks is very low
these days, and the turnover is quite high. The longer you can stay at
the job (within common sense limits) the more confident you can get and
start taking some chances (until you get TOO comfortable, natch). Now
the rule seems to be "cover your ass and don't make trouble" competing
with "I've gotta do something big to make a splash so I can get a
better deal with I go to another network."

Very few people make decisions based on what they think will
work, it's all based on research now, focus groups and other means of
being able to point to someone else and say, "I did my job, research
said it was a good show, it's not my fault."

Most of the really imaginative work being done in TV these days
is happening in cable, frankly.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 7:02:00 AM  

Message 32 in thread 

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John Ordover-Trek Editor <72674.1362@compuserve.com> asks:
> Finally one Viacombot said "Well, how do you know the fans even
> want an Encyclopedia? Did you do a focus group?"
> Our producer relpied "How about the 750,000 people who bought the
> book version?

Back at you:

WB did a focus group for B5. Peeled of 20 folks for an in-room
review, the rest of us watching through mirrored glass. One guy hates
the show vehemently, keeps saying it's not science fiction. Finally
the guy running the group says, "Could you tell us what you feel is an
example of good science fiction?"

And the guy says, "Power Rangers."

I damn near went through the glass at him.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 10:05:00 AM  

Message 33 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

You never know...it's a mug's game, TeeVee....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 10:05:00 AM  

Message 34 in thread 

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John Ordover-Trek Editor <72674.1362@compuserve.com> asks:
> Thing is, they're talking about the -same- book.<G> That ever
> happen to you on episodes, getting "too thin" from one person and
> "too fat" from another, when they are talking about the same
> episode?

Yeah, that's common...one person wants more EFX, another more
character, another more arc...and if it doesn't have one of those
things, that which works for them best, sometimes it gets written off.
That's one of the things you learn in workshops...that you didn't like
it doesn't mean it's bad, only that it didn't work for *you*. But on
many occasions I've seen a note from someone who felt that, because it
had no CGI in it, it was perforce bad.

Which is why, in the final analysis, one must listen to the
small voice in the back of one's head when writing. If networks
comprise one sort of committee, fandom -- well-intentioned as they all
are, and as sharp as they all tend to be -- is still another (and
larger) committee, even more diverse. As you say, there's no one thing
the fans want...they're not some monolithic group...they're a diverse
and fasacinating group.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 5:36:00 PM  

Message 35 in thread 

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Sanjiv S. Purba <102735.1770@compuserve.com> asks:
> Who does the licencing for B5 novels?

Dell has thus far licensed the right to do the books; the
current three books under contract are all filled.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 5:37:00 PM  

Message 36 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

I think it may have had something to do with the three guys who
tackled me....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 5:37:00 PM  

Message 37 in thread 

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Tom Knudsen <72347.1626@compuserve.com> asks:
> Has there ever, in the history of television that you know of,
> been a hit show (a big hit, not just a show that stuck around a
> couple of years) that was instigated/designed based upon this
> research??

Not that I know of.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/17/1997 5:37:00 PM  

Message 38 in thread 

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ben dibble <105430.3170@compuserve.com> asks:
> Joe, do you ever wonder if your doing ever so many episodes for
> B5 is going to make any others following in your footsteps have
> second thoughts about "the arc thing?"

I think a *lot* of people wonder about me.

And it doesn't have to be done by one person; the third year it
came about because so much was changing, so much was happening, it made
it hard to bring in anyone...in year four, I've had to structure this
extremely elaborate tree so I can flip either way depending on whether
or not we get a fifth year, and again you just can't farm that out in
any realistic way.

I'm *very* much looking forward to never, ever doing this
(writing an entire season or two singlehanded) again for the rest of my
natural life....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/18/1997 12:27:00 PM  

Message 39 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

You don't skew the group ahead of time; you get a random sample,
some who like it, are neutral, or don't like it. That's the public
opinion measurement biz.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/18/1997 12:27:00 PM  

Message 40 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Typical...and saddst of all to know that your story is not at
all uncommon.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/19/1997 8:05:00 AM  

Message 41 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

No, the figures are correct. DS9 does rate higher than B5,
though it's lost about 18% of its ratings over the last year, according
to the trades, while B5 has been gaining over the same period of time.
Interestingly, on a head-to-head basis with new episodes, we're
generally only about half a point behind Voyager. DS9 averages a
couple of points ahead of us.

BTW, I found out the other day that apparently when Scott Adams
had done the Dilbert cover story, he'd intended for B5 to get the
cover, but the folks at TV Guide put Star Trek on at the last minute
because they felt it would sell more copies.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/20/1997 5:57:00 AM  

Message 42 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> Do you actually have this entire thing drawn out on paper so to
> speak?

I figure they'll probably bury the darned thing with me...and
I'll still be laying there and revising it....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/20/1997 5:57:00 AM  

Message 43 in thread 

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Hugh Kennedy <70042.710@compuserve.com> asks:
> And WB still don't want to release B5 on tape in the US?

It's got nothing to do with making money...if you look around,
aside from the cartoon stuff, NO WB series are out on disk or tape,
because that division prefers to deal with guaranteed big sellers
(Batman, etc) than with TV, which they feel is kinda below them.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/20/1997 5:57:00 AM  

Message 44 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> How do you keep from becoming ensnared in what THEY want the show
> to be?

Fortunately, most studios don't know what they want...they only
get into it if whatever it is, isn't working. B5 is working, so they
leave it alone. Also, I think they know by now that if a project I care
about is going to be bastardized...I walk. I've done it many times
before, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/21/1997 5:46:00 AM  

Message 45 in thread 

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(blocked) asks:
> Is your life natural?

You can never burn out as long as you're doing what you enjoy.
When it stops being fun, then you burn out. And I'm still having fun.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/21/1997 5:46:00 AM  

Message 46 in thread 

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MrsPeel <103112.2040@compuserve.com> asks:
> Someone in Hollywood with artistic integrity?

There are lots of folks out here with integrity; they're just
not as colorful to write about, and they don't fit in with accepted
cliche.

Mainly, I'm genetically a pain in the butt.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/21/1997 5:46:00 AM  

Message 47 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> But would most studios care in other situations?
> Where else have you walked from?
> And, if I may ask, why do you do all of this (make the show, talk
> with us, deal with the studio, etc)?

I walked off THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS when they decided to soften
the characters and turn Janine into a mommy figure, off CAPTAIN POWER
when they decided to give the sponsor (Mattel) more control over
stories...and others.

Why do I stay on the nets? I was here before B5, and I'll be
here after, to one degree or another. I see no reason to change.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/21/1997 5:46:00 AM  

Message 48 in thread 

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Scott Baker <76072.1744@compuserve.com> asks:
> So how big is this thing?
> And what do you put on it?

It's about as big as my life these days....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/21/1997 5:49:00 PM  

Message 49 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

"So in other words, you like it here (the Nets) and you do what you do
(make great stories) because you're having fun, and you don't
compromise on principle. That must be hard in the town you're in."

Not really. Not as long as you know what you're in the business
for. I'm a storyteller. The rest is superfluous. And it's not really
that hard because I live a sensible life...if they take it all away, I
should still be okay, and I can go back to writing books, or teaching.
A story is a story, doesn't matter to me which venue it is. Where this
town gets you is if you're in it for the money. Money's nice, but
doesn't really mean that much to me...you can only sleep in one bed at
a time, drive one car at a time, eat one meal at a time...how much do
you *need*?

"Joe, you are a truly remarkable man, much like the ancient Bards of
old. In my humble opinion, you are Shakespere and Homer wrapped up in
one."

Not a chance. If I work hard and write my brains out, then in
20 years *maybe* I'll be fit to carry their pencil cases, but no more
than that.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/22/1997 5:25:00 AM  

Message 50 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

The amazing thing about TV Guide is that here we are, doing
this show for 4 years, with 2 Emmy awards, a Hugo award, a bunch of
other awards, the fifth highest rated syndicated drama series...and in
those 4 years we have never, ever had a B5 cover on TV Guide.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/22/1997 5:32:00 AM  

Message 51 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

So, like, you're saying I should stay away from boats....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/22/1997 5:46:00 PM  

Message 52 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

My credits list is very long and very dull and very boring...can
there be anything less interesting than somebody reciting their work
history?

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/23/1997 2:09:00 PM  

Message 53 in thread 

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Ed Brandt <100274.2672@compuserve.com> asks:
> True or false?

3 to four OTHER spinoffs?!

The thud you just heard was me fainting.

No...definitely not the case. Yikes....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/23/1997 2:16:00 PM  

Message 54 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

If it's just shows, then there's also He-Man, She-Ra, Jayce and
the Wheeled Warriors, Real Ghostbusters (animation all)...then the live
stuff with Captain Power, the new Twilight Zone, Murder She Wrote,
Nightmare Classics, Jake and the Fatman, Walker Texas Ranger and B5.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/25/1997 4:44:00 PM  

Message 55 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

"Less than unbiased" didn't even BEGIN to cover it.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 1/26/1997 10:36:00 AM  

Message 56 in thread 

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Sanjiv S. Purba <102735.1770@compuserve.com> asks:
> How does one get to bid on a book contract that needs to be
> filled? Is it possible to submit a book proposal?
> How do you submit ideas for other types of licences?

You need to write an outline and submit it, though lately we've
been assigning books to published authors based on a premise from
in-house. You can't just submit ideas for licenses...a company has to
approach WB with an offer and a business plan.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 2/4/1997 7:19:00 AM  

Message 57 in thread 

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{original post had no questions}

Thanks, and I hope you're right, and the show endures.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 5/13/1997 7:52:00 AM  

Message 58 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

If there were anything I could say, that I knew, I would say
it. I don't. Knowing, I would say. Do not know. So cannot say, as
someone once commented.

And thanks for the continued support.

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 5/16/1997 5:49:00 PM  

Message 59 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

"could there be 10 _Joes_?"

Would certainly go a long way toward explaining things....

jms
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: From jms re: yr 4/5
      To: CIS  
    Date: 6/24/1997 6:29:00 AM  

Message 60 in thread 

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{original post unavailable}

It's all in the hands of the network gods now....

jms

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