Jane Holds the Gun

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With Sci Fi Channel’s Painkiller Jane TV series in full swing, BF turned to heroine creator Jimmy Palmiotti and show producer & director Matt Hastings for some comments.

BROKEN FRONTIER: With such a specific power (amazingly quick healing), how will you keep Jane from becoming a “one trick pony” as the season progresses? After all, Wolverine has quick healing AND those freaky claws ... and a really bad temper…

JIMMY PALMIOTTI: Painkiller Jane has never been about just her powers as is Logan, so I am really not concerned with that so much. Jane, for me is more about the experience from being a mortal to sort of becoming something else she can’t ever hope to understand. The character is infinitely more interesting than the powers and it’s how she should always be written—both on TV and in comics.

MATT HASTINGS: Jane is an emotionally complex character on a serious journey of self-discovery.  Although she does only have the power to heal, we will see an evolution of her ability over the course of the season combined with sweet, new discoveries.  Besides all of that… Jane doesn’t need “claws”… she kicks ass just fine without them.

BF: How do you deal with the fact that many of the online postings about the show are not highly complimentary, often because the posters are fans of the original PKJ comic, or of the original PKJ TV movie?

PALMIOTTI: I deal with it by keeping the comic the best written book that I can produce each and every month for Dynamite Entertainment and keeping the character 100% loyal to her roots. The posting for the TV show I let the people that created the show deal with it.

Remember, the internet is a funny thing and usually only the people that do not like things post and the people who do enjoy the show usually don’t. It’s the same with comics…when someone doesn’t like a book I do they feel the need to go online and be heard, but when they like it the same energy isn’t there so it’s a slightly skewed idea that posters are of the majority. To me, the negative posters are usually the loudest.

HASTINGS: In any new series there are going to be people who simply don’t dig what we’re doing.  We expect it.  The internet gives these folks a voice and they deserve to be heard.  If the criticism is constructive, we listen to it and sometimes make adjustments to the creative path.  The fans should be respected, but there also has to be one vision of the show and that’s left in the very capable hands of our show-runner. 

In the end, there are tons of other people (millions) who dig the show and don’t bother posting anything positive or negative.  As far as the film version is concerned, it had its host of critics too.  You can’t please everyone.

BF: What were the biggest challenges in creating a world that is familiar enough for audiences to relate to it while unique enough to stand up on its own?

PALMIOTTI: That’s a writer’s question. I personally just think that Jane Vasko is the unique thing about the show and the world around her is seen through her eyes. It’s not really a sci fi show in the fact that they aren’t writing or creating anything in this world that is over the top or even futuristic except for the neuro concept.

There are a few city shots here and there and street scenes that try to define the time which is only a few years in the future, but it’s not much when it comes down to the actually technology. There are no flying cars and trains still look like trains and cars , cars…the interior headquarters, other than Seth’s lab,  It’s still the same equipment I have in my studio…monitors, light tables and so on. If I have one thing I would change it would be them actually sitting down and defining the tech, defining where the main headquarters is located and how they fit into the levels of security.

The perimeters of the show need some work in my eyes, but each week we are seeing a little more and revealing a little more about the world around them. I do think that the main focus should always be the character development.

HASTINGS: The series is very tightly budgeted and our creative is very ambitious.  It’s difficult to deliver a series week after week with more than a handful of restrictions.  But that being said, we are blessed with a talented, enthusiastic group of filmmakers who really care about the product and will give everything they have to do the best job possible.  Sure, we’re challenged every day, but it’s in this challenging environment that true creativity flourishes.

BF: And how did you create that world under budget? Specifically, there are usually sequences shot out of the studio, such as the train wreck sequence in Piece of Mind, that are meant to give the production a bigger than studio feel. How do you justify the sequences you plan and shoot vs. the cost?

PALMIOTTI: Well, I noticed we see the train moving, then we cut to the wreck, so I am guessing showing the wreck happening would put the show over budget. It’s common sense things that experienced film people know how to do. I call them creative shortcuts. I use them in storytelling as well.

HASTINGS: In every episode we plan on delivering moments that we hope will be entertaining and memorable to the audience: gunfights, fire effects, high falls, car gags, etc… We have to be smart about where we focus our money.  For example, we won’t do 100 visual effect shots because we can’t afford to do all of them well.  We WILL, however, do less of them and take the time and care it takes to knock those specific ones out of the park.

BF: What is the biggest worry from episode to episode from a production standpoint? Is it script development? Art/set direction? Continuity? Or something I haven’t even possibly thought of?

HASTINGS: Making sure that all sides of the production/post production are collaborating, and communicating effectively.

PALMIOTTI: For me, the biggest thing I noticed is the worry of money and time…and this is common on all TV shows I hear—too much for a certain scene/shot/location and too little time to shoot it right. Because of insane schedules post work is so limited it visually can hurt the look of the show as well on any show.

That said, this crew hustles to make it the best show they can in the limited time frame and really limited budget. They are all doing a great job within the perimeters given to them. 

BF: With such a large cast is it a challenge week to week to give everyone enough screen time while keeping Kristanna Loken’s Jane part from being whittled down to the size of a postage stamp?

PALMIOTTI: Again, the name of the show is PAINKILLER JANE, and should revolve around her. It’s not a huge cast if you look at it from the point of view of a csi or law and order point of view, but like 24, the focus should always be around the main character and her experience first.

HASTINGS: Kristinna is in just about everything.  She’s the star and finds herself working 5 14-hour days each week at minimum.  She is never in jeopardy of being whittled down.  As far as the other leads are concerned, we often feature a different character every week and often have b-stories that are quite interesting involving one or more of these folks to keep the show peppered with a variety of storylines.

BF: Now that you’re four shows into the schedule, how do you feel about the decision to leave nearly all of the neuro creation back-story as a reveal?  Is it asking too much of the show’s fan base to hold them at arms length for such meaty developments?

PALMIOTTI: I think people are smart enough to figure out things as they go along.

HASTINGS: I think most people will be intrigued by the lead characters and their development as a team.  If we give too much information, the audience will be left with nothing to figure out on their own.  We know that the folks watching our show are smart.  The writers simply would prefer not to reveal the whole deck a few episodes in.  Mystery is good. 

As far as the Neuros are concerned, there are new, creepy, evil, fascinating and funny characters that show up each week.  That being said, through-lines will evolve and many mysteries will be unravelled over the course of the first season.

BF: Is there a time where you wish that the show was on a venue where you could push various aspects of the character development (and more so violence) toward the edge?

PALMIOTTI: Every single day, every single scene.

HASTINGS: I think violence is a punctuation mark to drama.  It’s not essential that we ramp the violence up. Right now we’re kicking ass pretty well and happy to be at home on SCI-FI.

BF: The pacing of Piece of Mind was very moderate, with relatively few uptempo action sequences. Was it the cerebral nature of the story that prompted this?

HASTINGS: Every show will have its own tempo and is its own unique entity unto itself.  We kind of look at them as children:  the favorite, the middle child, the youngest, the problematic teenage daughter, etc…  With so many different types of stories, it’s cool to create a film in seven days that ties in relatable characters and fresh perspectives. 

It kind of reminds me of Outer Limits in a way.  Every episode was a new challenge and had its own personality.  Ultimately, you will ALWAYS recognize our show, but the dramatic flourishes will vary.

BF: How is Ms. Loken responding to the challenges and duties of being the show’s co-executive producer? And what are the duties of a co-executive producer, anyway?

PALMIOTTI: Kristinna is awesome on so many levels in my eyes and really understands the character. Personally I think she should make herself heard more because she has some good ideas.

As far as what her duties should be, I’m not 100% sure to tell the truth, but she has a say in what goes on and that’s a good thing in my eyes. I’m a big fan of hers.

HASTINGS: She’s doing a hell of a job and shows up every morning ready to greet the challenges ahead with a feisty spirit and a passion for the character.  She’s involved in everything from the schedule, to the writing, to numerous other elements of the production. 

In some cases this in a vanity credit, but not in this one.  She’s earning her stripes every day.

The fifth episode of Painkiller Jane, Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself, airs this Friday on the Sci-Fi channel http://www.scifi.com/painkillerjane

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