New Films from Joss Whedon, Bellwether Pictures

Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in "Much Ado About Nothing"

Whedonites everywhere have been rejoicing for the past couple weeks, as Joss Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole, announced the formation of a new “micro-studio”, Bellwether Pictures.

According to the press release posted on October 24th, Bellwether will be dedicated to “the production of small, independent narratives for all media” while “embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies.”

They have also announced the first two projects to be developed by Bellwether: A modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and a new, original film by Whedon called “In Your Eyes”.

Much Ado About Something: Joss Whedon + Shakespeare?

Tons of press has been coming in about Whedon’s version of “Much Ado About Nothing”, the first official production from Bellwether pictures, since they dropped the internet bomb on us. Here’s some of what we know so far:

  • It was filmed in 12 days at Whedon’s own home
  • It will maintain the original Shakespearean dialogue
  • It will be a black-and-white film
  • The costume designer dressed the actors in clothes from their own closets
  • New, original music has been composed for the film
  • The cast includes several alumni from Whedon’s past productions, including Amy Acker (“Angel”, “Dollhouse”) and Alexis Denisof (“Buffy”, “Angel”, “Dollhouse”) as Beatrice and Benedick (Full cast listing can be found on the film’s official site)

I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing how this venture turns out. In a lot of ways, the frenzy surrounding this whole ordeal reminds me of the lead up to the release of Joss’s now-infamous low-budget response to the writer’s strike, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”. While “Much Ado” is clearly more serious than “Dr. Horrible”, if it’s anywhere near as well-done, it will be awesome. Honestly, I’m just hoping it doesn’t turn out like that horrible “Romeo and Juliet” movie from the 90s with Leonardo DiCaprio. Yikes.

“In Your Eyes”

Far less has come to light about the second Bellwether project, partly because it isn’t as far along in production as “Much Ado”. All that is known, so far, is that it will be a supernatural romance with an original script penned by Whedon and that Brin Hill will direct.

At first, I read the words “supernatural romance” and rolled my eyes. Don’t we have enough of those floating around already? But then, I thought, that is what Joss does best, after all. From there, I quickly progressed into “Yeah! That’s right! Show ‘em how it’s done!” mode.

The biggest surprise, to me, is that Joss isn’t directing the film himself. That hasn’t happened since the very early days of “Buffy”. It should be interesting to see how this turns out. I also can’t help but feel sorry for Brin Hill. If  “In Your Eyes” doesn’t turn out as expected, he will get all of the blame.

Why I Really Love This Idea

I’ve already given my reasons for being excited about the individual films, but there is more to it than that.

The concept of Bellwether Pictures, in general, with it’s admitted DIY ethos, is reminiscent of the attitude of the underground punk scene in the 70s and 80s–minus the spiky hair and safety pins. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been one of those “Down with corporations!” types, but I’ve always been fascinated, and inspired, by the amazing things people manage to create on their own dime. Getting to watch one of my idols do it makes it all the sweeter.

New York Comic Con 2011

Last weekend, my friend Juliette and I ventured to New York City to attend New York Comic Con. For those of you who have never been to a convention before, they are basically composed of three types of activities:

  • Signings: autograph sessions with actors, writers, artists, etc
  • Panels: group discussions featuring either experts on a certain topic or the creators of a particular series. Often, these may include general announcements, preview screenings, and Q & A sessions
  • Show Floor: numerous publishers, retailers, and other companies set up booths where they display and sell products, give out free promo materials, hold contests, have demonstrations and more

Day One: Friday, 10/24

I overslept and missed my bus into the city, resulting in the two of us missing Felicia Day’s spotlight panel. However, after checking into the hotel and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we managed to make it to the Javits Convention Center just in time for the Dark Horse Comics panel at 1:30 p.m.

Featuring senior managing editor Scott Allie (who oversees the Buffy and Angel titles), director of Public Relations Jeremy Atkins, singer/guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), and writer Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo), among others, the hour-long panel showcased all the new titles that would be released on Dark Horse in the coming year, including Morello’s new original series Orchid, the on-going Conan the Barbarian series, and comic adaptations of the House of Night book series and Guillermo del Toro‘s novel The Strain.

I was only really concerned with Buffy: Season 9 and  its companion Angel & Faith series, which were only briefly mentioned here, the main focus given to the yet-to-be-released titles. I was also hoping for some news on the next installment of The Umbrella Academy and the first installment of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, both by Dark Horse’s other resident rock star/writer, Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance).

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one: One of our fellow audience members took advantage of the Q & A portion of the panel to ask about the progress on Umbrella and Killjoys, which have been delayed several times at this point, thanks to Way’s other career. I knew the answer before they even said it: We should expect to see Killjoys before Umbrella, and they weren’t sure yet when Killjoys would be finished because of Way’s schedule. It was the same answer they always gave, and I knew not to expect anything different when neither title was mentioned earlier. Dark Horse would never forget to mention a release date for one of their most popular books at a big promotional event like this. If they had anything new to tell us, they would have said it up front.

Why I Chose Writing on the Web

I am taking this course as part of the writing minor at GCU. Having already taken other courses in the field of writing and communications, one of my goals for this class is to learn more about the differences between writing for the web and writing for other forms of media. Similarly, I am interested to see what qualities set a blog apart from a typical news site and what goes into running something like this on a regular basis.

So, why Buffy the Vampire Slayer? For starters, I’ve been a fan of the show and its various spin-off properties since I was about 13 years old. I often refer to it as “my first obsession” because that’s really what it was for me at that point in my life: I watched the new episodes every week, along with the older, syndicated episodes every day; I read Buffy books; I collected trading cards and figurines and anything else you can imagine; I even dressed as Buffy, herself, for Halloween my freshman year of high school (I no longer have the costume, but it looked something like this).

No doubt about it, I was a complete and utter Buffy-nerd, as my sister liked to say. It was my life and my passion. Most importantly, it was my tenure in Buffy fandom that ultimately led me to pursue a career in writing (as strange as that sounds). What could be more appropriate of a topic than the thing that brought me here in the first place? Besides, vampires are “in” now, anyway. And with Season 9 starting up in comic book form and multiple TV stations running the old episodes in syndication, now seems as good a time as any to revisit the original object of my geeky affections.