Day Nine: Informant's Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In 2003, Informant wrote a virtual eighth season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in the form of 28 (!!!) PDF screenplays. http://someplacethatiselse.net/newandfa … eason8.htm
For so long, I thought that Tracy Torme was the first one to really seize upon the screenplay, not as a shooting script to be read (like the MILLENNIUM fanfic scripts), but as a narrative format. A hybrid medium to take the immediacy of scripts and the descriptive elements of novels and combine them.
It would have been unlike the prose of most fan fiction projects. It's what Torme wanted to do for his 2009 project: to write a 'fanfic,' a PDF document that would serve as a SLIDERS series finale. He never finished it, but his 2009 story was set in 1996, it would have had the sliders going backwards through the interdimension to revisit every Earth they'd ever seen -- so he was clearly thinking in terms of a novel unrestricted by any budget or any questions of actor availability.
I followed in Torme's aborted footsteps with my own PDF screenplays and made it to the end. I thought I was the first to follow through.
I was mistaken. When working on Informant's Top Ten list here, I discovered that Informant got into PDF scripts first with writing 22 scripts for his eighth season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER followed by a six part mini-series finale. And while I have quibbles with Informant's narrative choices and his perception of the characters, Informant capitalized on the screenplay medium magnificently. Informant laid out a future for zero budget SLIDERS projects and didn't even know it.
Scripts are generally meant to be shot, not read. In TV production, my SLIDERS REBORN scripts would be excessive because I wrote in all the acting whereas real scripts leave that to the actors.
Informant aimed closer to a real script than a narrative one for his BUFFY series, but within it, he offered characterization and individuality. Characters are defined by their actions and the content of their words rather than speech patterns and mannerisms. Informant's Buffy doesn't sound like Sarah Michelle Gellar, but she sounds like a version Buffy made for the page. Informant created an approximation of Joss Whedon's style although emphasizing Whedon's horror over Whedon's comedy. Informant is not as funny as Joss Whedon (but who is?).
However, Informant is more disturbing and frightening than Whedon. His writing summons the visual atmosphere and pacing of the show and on top of this darker representation of BUFFY, Informant page-friendly versions of the cast.
Showing further restraint, Informant also restricted his own mental budget, insisting on staying within the limitations of what might be filmed and aired on a CW or UPN budget.
Most fanfic writers who dive into the screenplay as fan fiction medium will go to one of two extremes. Like the MILLENNIUM fanfic screenplays, they will focus on creating a document for a film production that doesn't exist, creating work that seems to very plausibly be a scriptbook for a season of the show but isn't as captivating to read as a novel or a comic book. The MILLENNIUM screenplays seem more like prestige collectables. They demand to be printed and bound and flipped through -- while watching the actual filmed and aired episodes if they actually existed.
At the other end of the spectrum is the BUFFY comic books which show writers enamoured with capturing the voices of the actors and letting that serve as their primary force of verisimilitude and making no effort to recreate the restrictions of the TV show. In the BUFFY comic books, Buffy battles armies of vampires on the streets of Japan, engages in orbital warfare against the US Air Force, travels to a BLADE RUNNER-esque future and explores the city. This would have been well beyond the WB and UPN budget.
Informant refuses such excess. Informant's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is scaled to a TV show: it's girls with sharp sticks facing stuntmen in makeup. The BUFFY comics got away with its extravagances because the voices of the characters sounded so genuine that the insanity around them seemed plausible by association.
In contrast, Informant doesn't seek to pastiche the actors; instead, he tries to recreate how BUFFY made him feel and presents a low key indie horror film with the characters being less exaggerated than the comics or the TV show and more suited to Informant's grounded writing.
Informant didn't write Cleavant Derricks in "29.7," he wrote a troubled, bereft man without agency whose name was Rembrandt Brown. And Informant doesn't write Sarah Michelle Gellar or Nicholas Brendon or Anthony Stewart Head; he writes two young people named Buffy and Xander who have had to incrementally rise to face each threat each year, and he writes a punk-turned-librarian named Rupert Giles who has gotten stuck in his librarian persona.
The thing that's striking about Informant's writing: it's very much Informant writing for himself, writing the product he wanted to see, giving himself the closure he sought out -- while presenting a readable, professional, produceable, filmable product that could actually be made as a TV show.
Informant's aesthetic is completely separate from most fanfic writers who, being unaccountable to accountants, write as though computer generated imagery and location filming are free. The MILLENNIUM scripts are more of a technical document and I've never written a single SLIDERS script that could be filmed as "Slide Effects" called for a 2011 SLIDERS cast to play their 1996 ages and SLIDERS REBORN uses the actors at their current ages but would cost as much as AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
Informant's scripts provide a good reading experience and you could imagine them being filmed and aired.
And despite BUFFY having a canonical eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh season in comic books, Informant's scripts still stand. He confessed that he didn't care for the widescreen summer blockbuster style of BUFFY and vastly preferred a smaller scale for the character.
The comics having official sanction and Informant's scripts have none. As far as the world is concerned, the BUFFY comic books are the real continuation and no one really thinks about Informant's writing.
Like BUFFY, SLIDERS has had many post-show stories and varying paths. Unlike BUFFY, SLIDERS exists in a peculiar situation where technically, all SLIDERS stories are canonical, all fanfic is part of the show and exists on the same multidimensional axis as the aired episodes, and we ourselves exist within the continuity of the SLIDERS television show.
And yet, Informant's scripts never needed canonicity or pastiches of the actors to justify their own existence. He wrote them because he wanted something he would like to read and that was reason enough. He wasn't the only word, he wasn't the only game in town. He just liked BUFFY and wanted to try writing INFORMANT'S BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and he proved that the PDF screenplay format was a good hybrid of the language of a TV series and the format that a zero budget fan production could produce.
BUFFY was a significantly easier prospect for virtual fan seasons than SLIDERS, but with format and style, Informant proved himself one step ahead of the rest.
Next: Day 10 - Last Man Standing