Phoenix Comicon 2013

The first guest announcement for Phoenix Comicon 2013 (May 23-26, 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center) is a Babylon 5 20th Anniversary Celebration with

  • J Michael Straczynski
  • Walter Koenig
  • Jerry Doyle
  • Stephen Furst
  • Pat Tallman
  • Claudia Christian
  • Bill Mumy
  • Bruce Boxleitner (Appearing courtesy of Galactic Productions)
  • Julie Caitlin Brown (Friday Only)
  • Mira Furlan
  • Stephen Furst

Details on the Phoenix Comicon Facebook page and Lightning Octopus.

Hotel bookings and Memberships are now available at the Phoenix Comicon web site.

Discussions about the Babylon 5 Anniversary will be taking place on the jmsnews forums

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Babylon 5 20th Anniversary in 2013

2013 will see the 20th Anniversary of the first airing of the Babylon 5 pilot on PTEN.  I hope to keep track of significant dates related to the beginnings of Babylon 5 on this blog and also make fans aware of any special events and appearances related to Babylon 5.   If you have any suggestions for links or other updates, please email them to me at leewsftv at gmail dot com.

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LosCon, Now and Then

This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend, which means the annual LosCon convention in Los Angeles, which has been held at the LAX Marriott hotel for more than 20 years running (after moving from the Burbank Airport Hilton).  This year’s convention does see jms appearing on a couple of panels, one on writing for Genre TV on Friday, and a Writing Workshop Q&A on Saturday.  He’ll probably be hanging around a bit as well.   If you are in the Los Angeles area, best to go check it out.  Other B5 related guests include Marc Scott Zicree, doing a presentation on Space Command, and David Gerrold, who will be on several panels through the weekend.

Twenty years ago at LosCon, fans got a preview of the full Babylon 5 pilot, and had some of the actors there as well.  jms didn’t really post at length about it, though, but did answer a question about the actor’s reaction to the appearance:

Well, Pat had been to other cons before, so it wasn’t that new an experience for her, ditto for Mojo (Pat’s connection came via her work on Romero films). It was Jerry’s first experience, though, and he did seem quite astonished by it all (as much as Jerry is astonished by anything, which ain’t much). But they all seemed pleased and gratified by the reaction.

jms

Surprisingly, a search on Google Groups doesn’t turn up any reports on the screening.  There were likely posts on GEnie and Compuserve about it,  but those have not been archived anywhere that I am aware of.

 

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Resuming Transmission….

November of 1992 saw two major presentations at conventions by jms about the upcoming Babylon 5 pilot movie.

In early November, he went to WishCon and got a very good reaction from the audience, however, getting to the presentation he encountered some Trekish interference:

Prior to the B5 presentation, someone mentioned to me that Majel [Barret] was furious that B5 was being given any exposure there, and that something would be done about it. I dismissed this upon hearing it, figuring it was the usual rumor-stuff that invariably encircles cons like this.

The progression was a panel by Wil, a panel by Majel, then the B5 presentation. Wil ran about 5-10 minutes over. Majel went 5 over. Then 10. Then 15. Then 20. The con organizers were indicating to her to wrap it up. She refused, saying that she wasn’t going to give up the microphone. 25 minutes. She noted my presence, commented upon it, but kept on going. 30 minutes plus, and finally she surrendered the stage.

What happened next comes to me from people who were there. One of the con organizers apparently went to Majel, who was signing autographs outside, and asked point-blank if she’d done that on purpose to try and foul up the B5 presentation. She smiled, very satisfied, and refused to comment. “What did you think we’d do?” he asked her. “Cut the presentation off? Or in half? Won’t happen. All you’ve done is to cut into the auction, and all that does is hurt the kids.” (Wishcon is part of a fundraiser for the Oak Hill School for the Blind and the Make a Wish Foundation, for terminally ill children.)

She still only smiled and didn’t answer…and the auction lost 15-20 minutes of fundraising time. It would have lost more, but I cut my own comments short at the end, even though I wanted to say more to the large group, and instead moved to a smaller room. (I would’ve originally had 15-20 minutes in the big room before moving over, if the schedule had been kept.) Better that I should have a little less time than cut further into the fundraising efforts.

Obviously, Majel came around later, but definitely an incident of Trek vs. B5 that was common at the time.

As for the presentation, when it did finally happen:

That incident pales, though, before the reaction to the B5 presentation. One of the con organizers told me subsequently that in the con’s history, including showing “Unification” prior to broadcast, no such preview has ever gotten a standing ovation. It left me utterly flummoxed, and pleased, and grateful. It was at that point that I began to think that maybe, just maybe we had something here.

For the full post from November 8th, 1992, visit jmsnews.com

 

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Another August 10th…..

August 10th also happens to be Claudia Christian’s birthday as well as mine. 

Back in 1995, I got to visit the Babylon 5 set on my birthday, thanks to Joe.  They were filming for the third season episode A Day in the Strife and I got to watch a bit of filming with Claudia, Bruce and Jerry in Sheridan’s office.  Nothing overly spoilerly that I saw being filmed, but it was definitely neat to see it happening.

I got to see most of the main sets including the main corridor and sleeping quarters configured for Garibaldi’s room (with lots of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes stuff that was never that visible on screen).  I also got to peek into the makeup trailer where they were putting the finishing touches (adding a few spots) on G’Kar’s makeup.  Andreas was very impressive looking and intimidating in full makeup.

I didn’t really get a chance to chat with any of the cast, but as we were finishing the tour and heading back towards the offices, I did get to say hi to Claudia and wish her a happy birthday as she was working on getting the soda machine to dispense what she’d asked for (she had to kick it a couple of times to get it to comply).

After touring the set with Joe’s assistant, I got to spend some time chatting in his office (which had a couple of Superman statues in addition to some other fannish things on display such as a signed photo by Joel from MST3K).  At the time, the UK was getting to see the last four episodes of the season before the US and the season two finale, The Fall of Night, would screen a few days later in the UK, but wouldn’t air in the US until November.  In those days, if you didn’t want to wait, you had to arrange for someone in the UK to tape something you wanted to see and wait for the postal service to deliver it and then arrange for a conversion from PAL to NTSC (unless you had a multi standard VCR).  Joe just happened to have a Super VHS tape of that episode and popped it in the VCR so I got to see the Kosh revelation early(!).

So, Happy Birthday to Babylon 5 and Claudia (and me).

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August 10, 1992

August 10th is an important day in Babylon 5 History, in 1992 filming started on the pilot….

From: STRACZYNSKI [Joe]

Subject: I’m sure that at some time in the…

To: GENIE

Date: 8/10/1992 7:25:00 PM << Newer : List : Older >>

I’m sure that at some time in the past, I have been more tired than I am right now, but I’m darned if I can think of it.

Got zip sleep last night. Would wake up almost every ten minutes, my brain chewing on something or other, wondering if everything’s in place, worrying over the hair on one of the characters (honest), if it was too extreme…constant bedspins.

Dragged my butt out early this morning and down to the studio by an ungodly hour of the morning. Makeup and prosthetics took their usual time, and some time was taken up re-rigging some of the video in the set we were using today, adjusting some other stuff along the way. (Richard Compton, our director, picked one of the most visually difficult scenes to start with, figuring that if we could get past this one, the rest would be a piece of cake, except for the one big scene toward the end of the shoot.)

We pulled the trigger and got off the first shot on-camera at about 9:30 a.m. I tried, where possible, to stay out of the line of fire, since by this time I was vibrating enough to slide into another dimension, and didn’t want to infect anybody else. Went off perfectly.

The main thing, for me, was that today the whole world came alive at the same time (the world of B5). Up until now, it’s been pieces…we see the actors. We see the sets. We see the costumes. We see the actors in the sets but not in costume. We see the actors in costume but not on the sets.

Finally, there it was at last…all of our characters, in full costume or uniform (and the uniforms look DYNAMITE!), on the sets. It was finally, fully, completely *real* at last.

Andreas Katsulas took a great approach to Ambassador G’Kar, which is a VERY dynamic looking alien, very intimidating…giving him an educated, mellifluous voice, a wonderful counterpoint to his appearance. Peter Jurasik was terrific as Londo Mollari, playing even the Advisory Council scenes as though half in the bag and trying not to show it. Delenn was exotic and mysterious, Tamlyn Tomita was senSATIONAL at Laurel, great strength of character and presence…and I cannot begin to tell you what star material we’ve found in Michael O’Hare. He’s got a voice and a presence that could give Sean Connery or Clint Eastwood a run for their money. Jerry Doyle was great as Garibaldi, as was Johnny Sekka as Dr. Kyle. (We’ve cast two strong leading men in Doyle and O’Hare, and they are dynamite together…and there’s a *very* nice chemistry emerging between Sekka and O’Hare as well.)

Our Warners liaison came by today for the first time to the set, and he couldn’t believe the sets, how much we’ve done, the details, the elaborate stuff we’ve pulled off. He was absolutely blown away.

Long story short…it went *great*, better than I’d hoped. Richard was magnificent behind the camera, coming up with some very difficult and challenging shots, great angles…it’s going to look wonderful. Very cinematic, almost film-noir in its use of textures and shadows.

Later in the day, I had some friends come over, whose opinion I trust, and who are very well versed in SF for television and film. (These included Marv Wolfman and Len Wein, known to the comics fans here, and Craig (Mr. SF) Miller, who was involved with the first STAR WARS, and is not generally easily impressed.) They knew of B5 only peripherally, and were in NO way prepared for what they saw on the set. Add to that the new EFX that I showed them today…their eyes melted right out of their sockets.

Got back just a little while ago (it’s now about 11:30 p.m. as I type this). Got some M,SW work to do before I can crash for the night, and begin the whole thing again tomorrow (where I’ll finally see the dailies from today’s filming).

Day One finished. On time, on schedule, on budget. And it looks spiffy.

I am a happy man. Exhausted, right down to the marrow, but happy.

jms

Message content © by Synthetic Worlds  and J. Michael Straczynski

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August 8, 1992

From a post on August 8th, 1992.  Including news of the Minbari Ambassador casting….

It is now just a tick over T-minus one and counting. We’ll hit that as soon as the second hand clicks past midnight. Spent all day today at the soundstage, checking, trying not to get in the way, watching and giving suggestions when asked. (Funny sight…a newly painted set outside which someone had posted a sign, “Wipe Your Feet Before Entering! (Especially Aliens!)”) They’re doing lighting checks, finishing painting some of the
sets, setting up dolly tracks and doing camera checks for angles and lighting.

Not really that much for me to do anymore; it has now reached terminal velocity, having gathered its own momentum over time, and there’s a certain point where you just have to stand back or impede the process. So I spent a little time with the wardrobe guys, making the logical progression of rank
insignia we’ll be using.

(For those who know of “Captain Power,” Sven Thorson, who played Tank in that show, came by the stage to say hello and inquire about where the babes were, and to ask where the hell his part is…he’ll play an alien, a fern, whatever…as long as the part calls for a Danish accent.)

On Monday, we (in directorial terminology) “pull the trigger.” I won’t be at the studio Sunday…at that point I know I’m going to be just a little twitchy, and better to take that time to rest, knowing what’s ahead of us…lots of long days and longer nights.

What’s nice is that, where you normally get a still photographer for only a few days out of a shoot, at most half, we’re going to have one on set for every day of the shoot, to chronicle the whole thing for the archives.  Warners, as with us, has come to the realization that this is going to be something different, and they want to record it.

The actors are gearing up, reading lines together, getting ready for the first scenes to be filmed (two meetings of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council, at which someone’s fate is decided, and a bunch of stuff in the central corridor set). They’re primed and ready to go.

The kind of lighting we’re using, by the way, has never before been used to this extent on any other television series. It’s going to look quite dramatic.

And then there’s Ambassador Delenn. He, as you know, is the Minbari ambassador assigned to B5. His makeup/prosthetics has taken the longest to work out, but now we’re happy with his look. And the performer who will play Ambassador Delenn is Mira Furlan, whose work is extremely well known in Europe. A native Yuglosavian who has appeared in such highly regarded films as “When Father Was Away On Business” (which received the Palme D’Or at Cannes, as well as an Oscar nomination), “Three For Happiness” (which took the Grand Prix at the Valencia Film Festival), “Dear Video,” “Southbound,” “The
Condemned,” “The Beauty of Sin,” and nearly a dozen others, ALL of them starring roles. There have also been starring roles in major European productions and half a dozen major film awards. BABYLON 5 will be Mira Furlan’s entry into American television.

(pausing, waiting as the brain cells work….)

T-minus one and counting.

jms

Message content © by Synthetic Worlds  and J. Michael Straczynski

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August 6, 1992

One of the things I plan to do here is to spotlight posts by jms as the show filmed and got ready to debut.  He primarily posted on the GEnie online service (and occasionally on Compuserve) back then and the majority of those posts have been archived at JMSnews.com.  Today’s post is a few days before the start of filming:

August 6, 1992

It has been a long, and very astonishing day, first with meetings, than at the soundstage all day for makeup and wardrobe and camera tests. First,just to let y’all know, the E! channel will be doing a half-hour “Making of Babylon 5″ documentary (which will also air on the commercial stations
carrying B5 prior to broadcast). We went over the territory today, decided which days they’d be on-set to cover, and showed them some of the new EFX (and they were amazed…commenting that it looks like a high-budget feature film).

Went to the stage after that. Oh, man…the place is really buzzing now, this close to filming. Carpenters and painters finishing up their work, costume and makeup people running around, and for the first time that I’ve seen it there (though it was there yesterday when I was busy at MURDER)…a *camera*. The green screen is up, the massive main corridor is almost finished (and I do mean *massive*, almost 120 feet long), the council chambers are virtually finished…and to try variations with the look of the lighting, they pumped in a little haze to see what happened. (Looks cool.)

And today…I saw aliens. An actor in full Narn wardrobe AND
prosthetics…the first time I’d seen it. The narn is absolutely dynamite. Major prosthetics work. And the costume is *gorgeous*, rich and textured.
Also saw Delenn today, and at first, it wasn’t quite right, and we had to try some variations in coloration and texture before finally deciding on a look. Now I think we’re all happy with it.

Kosh also came in today. Peered out at us through his iris. We liked it. He left. Kosh doesn’t say much. Kosh doesn’t have to.

Also saw the wardrobe and make up test on Lyta Alexander, and she looks terrific. Ditto for the tests (which were on dailies…our first dailies!) on Garibaldi, Sinclair and Carolyn Sykes. Looks great.

One other casting piece now to announce…the role of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. The actor cast in that role is Michael O’Hare, who we discovered while casting out of New York, and who we have flown out to L.A. for this role. He’s a classically trained actor, a graduate of Juliard, who just
knocked us out when he came in to audition. He has a tremendous presence, and a voice vaguely reminiscent of Clint Eastwood at times. His face has a curiously haunted look, but at the same time is (I’m told by the women who go “yum” whenever he enters the room) quite appealing.

Michael has appeared in such films as “By a Thread,” “Short Term Bonds,” “Into Thin Air,” “Pursuit,” “The Promise,” and others, as well as on television in “Blue Revolution,” “Case of Deadly Force,” “Rage of Angels,” “The Adams Chronicles,” and in such episodic television shows as “The Equalizer,” “L.A. Law,” “Kate and Allie” and others.

He is also a VERY accomplished stage actor, having appeared on Broadway to tremendous reviews in “A Few Good Men,” “Players,” “Man and Superman” and “Galileo,” among many, many others.

The one thing we did NOT want, which we knew from the start, was one more pretty-boy TV actor…we wanted someone with character in his face, with a broad dramatic range. And we got all of it in Michael O’Hare.

Only one more piece of casting to announce _ Ambassador Delenn _ and when that happens in a few days, I think you’ll be most…intrigued.

jms

Message content copyright by Synthetic Worlds/J. Michael Straczynski.

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