Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview with Marti Noxon

This week's interview is with writer/producer Marti Noxon.

A versatile writer/producer who works fluidly through genres and mediums, Marti Noxon's feature film credits include I am Number Four, Dreamworks/Disney’s Fright Night, The Defenders with filmmaker Jon Hamburg for Kurtzman Orci Paper Products and Masi Oka. She is also adapting Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for Lionsgate, Ouija for Platinum Dunes and Hasbro, and writing Tink for Disney and Elizabeth Banks.

Noxon has written and executive produced for many critically acclaimed shows including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Brothers & Sisters, Point Pleasant, and Still Life. She has also acted as consulting producer for Mad Men, Prison Break, and Angel. She is a consulting writer/producer on the third season of the hit Fox series Glee

Under her Grady Twins Productions banner that she co-runs with longtime collaborator and friend Dawn Olmstead, Noxon proves to be an all-around talent building a thriving production company. She is currently producing projects for Lifetime, FX, the CW, and NBC.

Our interview questions come from Austin Film Festival Office Manager Marcie Mayhorn and Amanda Keach Martin, Austin Film Festival's "On-Story" Development Director.

AFF: What is the biggest difference between writing for film and writing for television?

Marti: Television is a collaborative medium. You work out story with other writers and sometimes write scripts together. Writing features is more solitary. But it can also be very gratifying because I'm not as much of a slave to demands of ongoing production. I get to take more time with it and really disappear into another world. Also, I can tell a complete story from start to finish. A TV show can get cancelled mid-story and you never get closure with your characters. One big upside of TV, however, when you're on a show that's on the air, is that you get to MAKE what you write. That's less often the case in the movie world. I've written way more scripts that never see the light of day, no matter how well the material was received.

AFF: Glee and Mad Men are two totally different story lines. Do you find it challenging to jump back and forth between concepts (i.e. going from music/teenage issues to 1960’s adult drama)

Marti: That's what's so fun about being a writer. I get to explore different worlds, tones and parts of myself. I think it's really exciting to move from genre to genre, and I believe every experience keeps me more fluid -- I don't get "stuck" writing just one way. I almost always have a few projects going at once that are very different. Personally, I like the challenge of doing things outside of my comfort zone and actively seek those kinds of projects out.

AFF: For shows like Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy, how much outside research did you have to do (particularly in medicine)?

Marti: We had doctors who were on the writing staffs of both shows. They helped us enormously with medical research. We also had people come and speak to the writers from different specialties. And, of course, there was lots of time spent on the internet, although it's limited in how much you can trust the information and there's always more nuance when you speak to a real person or visit a real place. I do a fair amount of research on the things I write that are based on any kind of fact. Then there are projects that are more personal, and the "research" is just dumb things I've done and said in my life... Lots of material available there.

AFF: In it's 8 year of airing Grey's Anatomy is facing the possibility of losing its two main character, Meredith Grey played Ellen Pompeo and Derek Shepherd played by Patrick Dempsey. As a past writer for the show what is the thought process that goes into writing this large transition without losing audience appeal?

It's always hard for an audience to let go of a character they love. Some shows get through it, and some shows kind of die on the vine. I think the key is casting and preparation. If you know somebody is leaving the show, you lay the groundwork by developing the supporting characters, bringing in some new blood and great storylines. And you try to find a really exciting piece of casting to replace the outgoing person. That softens the blow. Sometimes.

Do you contribute to the song writing (or song suggestions) for Glee?

Marti: We all pitch song ideas all the time. Ryan Murphy has the final say on what goes in the show. I've had a few suggestions get through and it is really exciting to see "your" number come to life. I feel a bit of ownership, even though I've done absolutely none of the hard work. Like the arranging, the clearances, the choreography, the recording, the performing. I just said "hey, what about -- XX?" So that sense of ownership is completely unearned. But you take what you can get.

Thanks, Marti!

As we gear up for the 2012 Festival & Conference, we're posting interviews with our incoming panelists here, on our blog. The questions come from our registrants, fellow panelists, facebook fans, etc., so if you have questions for any of our incoming (or past) speakers, just send them to our Conference Director Maya Perez at you just might see your interview on here!

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