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Q & A with Tim Minear: January 2000

Posted on January 30, 2000

"I make it point never to argue with a man with a chainsaw."

Why did you want to be a screenwriter?
I love movies. And television. I would say that TV influenced me more growing up than even feature films. I was weaned on re-runs of the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone. I was one of those Southern California kids who grew up with a Super 8 movie camera. I made films in my home town of Whittier from the time I was about eight years old. I always knew I wanted to make movies and when I graduated to sound films (back in the 80s sound film was expensive, so we made lots of silent action films) I started writing scripts. The writing was always just part of the whole movie making thing.

Did you choose television or did it just work out that way? If you chose it, why?
It just worked out that way. But now that I'm in it, I find that writers have much more power in television than in features. Also, television *gets* *made*. I have something like fifty hours of produced film under my belt. More than most feature writers my age could boast.

Do you have any advice for aspiring screenwriters on both what to do and what NOT to do?
There's no road map. I'll keep my remarks centered on television writing. The best thing to do is to get to know the show you want to write (to work as a TV writer one must have samples. One must write spec TV scripts.) by watching it, then by reading the actual scripts of the show. Finally, write what amuses you. Of course there's an element of trying to write what you think the Powers That Be might want to read, but in the end -- write what *you* would want to see as the audience.

What's the one piece of advice do you wish you had been given when you were first starting out as a screenwriter?
It's something I already knew, but it's good to hear -- there is no competition. Save oneself, really. If you have a talent for this thing, and the ambition, you'll succeed.

Do you have any horror stories about the business?
Yes, but they involve fairly powerful people, so I'll just keep 'em to myself, thanks.

How did you get your job on Angel?
David Greenwalt knew of me through a few mutual friends and colleagues. He was familiar with my work and we met. He offered me the job. I took it.

What do you bring to the Angel staff that's unique?
I suppose my own perspective and accumulated style. Having worked on shows like "Lois and Clark" and "The X-Files," I think I have a pretty good handle on marrying the dark with the light.

You are a Producer on Angel. What are your responsibilities as a producer?
I break stories with the staff, write scripts, cast episodes, oversee production in the pre production phase and I'm involved in the cutting room with episodes in post production. And I get David coffee.

How does an episode get from a basic idea to a full blown script? And once a script is "done" and you start shooting, are script changes made as you shoot or is that rare?
Someone will pitch an idea, Joss and David either like it or they don't. If they do, then the staff works together to beat out the story points. We use a big white board and chart out the scenes in single, incomplete sentences. We tell each other the story. Then the writer of that particular episode will go off and fill out the details in an 8 to 10 page story outline. We'll get notes from David, Joss and the staff on that outline. Then we'll go to script. We'll get notes from David, Joss, the staff, the network and the studio. We'll do revisions. Assuming we haven't run into the prep date (8 days before the shooting of the episode), we'll make final changes.

I've noticed that David and Joss don't do a lot of revisions once prep and shooting begins. I am so the opposite. I love to noodle with the thing right through shooting, sometimes on the set. My scripts are every color of the rainbow (with each revised page comes a new page color). It's never right for me.

Do you have any rituals for when you are writing?
I procrastinate, I'm afraid. I also seem to consume mass quantities of ice cream and cereal.

When you are writing an episode do you prefer the comedy or the angst? Are the two hard to balance?
To me it's all story telling. I like them both. And I don't find it hard to balance.

If you were to have a cameo in the show, who would you be and why?
I'd probably be a Wolfram and Hart lawyer because they're cool.

"Adolescence is hell" was the metaphor for Buffy. "LA is a demon infested cesspool of debauchery" seems to be Angel's. What experiences have you had that qualify you to write for the show?
I'm not sure that's our metaphor. I think we're part an addiction recovery metaphor (for which I do have the qualifications), and part the young-male-as-self-censoring-beast-metaphor.

Given that in 240 years Angel claims to have only loved one person, can you see a day when he might fall in love with someone other than Buffy? If so, how far down the road do you think that might be?
I think at least by the time he's 480 he should start dating again, don't you?

David Boreanaz gets a little too deep into character and takes Joss and David hostage with a chainsaw, placing you in charge of the show. What would you do?
David Boreanaz placed me in the charge of the show? Well, I mean, he's the guy with the chainsaw. I guess I'd run the show. I make it point never to argue with a man with a chainsaw.

If you could spin off one Buffy or Angel character, who would it be and what would you like to do?
Faith. She'd be out of her coma and roaming the world being anti-hero gal.

What 2 people, living or dead would you like to have lunch with? (Assume that if the person is dead they won't show up as a rotting corpse, but as they were when they were still alive.)
Camille Paglia and Ayn Rand.

Favorite Books-Movies-TV Shows (other than Buffy/Angel)
Vertigo, Psycho, Seven, Matrix, Some Like It Hot, X-Files, thirtysomething, I, Claudius, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Explaining Hitler

Boxers or Briefs? (Yes, I'm conducting a survey.)

Describe Joss Whedon in ten words.
Talented, generous, moody, focused, scattered, honest, sentimental, passionate, funny, funny, funny, funny. Oh, and funny.

Describe David Greenwalt in as many words as you like since little seems to be known about him.
David is hilariously funny, talented, self assure, sometimes oblivious and always generous. He's one of the few executive producers who is very quick to give credit where it is due. He loves it when those who work for him succeed. And he just cracks me up.

Is there any rivalry between the Buffy and Angel staffs? And in a fight, who do you think would win?
Not really. They've helped us out a lot this year and I have to say I've never seen such a talented group of writers, very strong writers, on one staff. Any one of them would be the breakout star writer on any other staff.

And they'd win by sheer numbers.

Bonus Question: Is there anything deeply personal you would like to share with your Minearketeers? Anything you feel we should know about you?
I left out my favorite show from question 18 and I'm afraid it's Judge Judy. Also, I have not, so far as I can recall, ever been convicted of a felony.

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