Tubefilter had the chance to sit down and talk with Joss Whedon, creator-writer-director of the highly anticipated Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris about his new ‘net venture, its beginnings, his experience during production, and his hopes for the future.
It might seem odd that Whedon, a successful and well-established presence in the tv and movie andustry (credits include Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Fox’s upcoming Dollhouse) would choose to make his foray into the new and seemingly unstable realm of web entertainment. But as he explains, “I’ve been leaning towards doing lower budget stuff for a while. I’ve been writing big budget movies that among other things weren’t getting made. And I had some ideas for some smaller things. I’ve always liked the littler movies–I love big movies, too, I love movies, I love TV, I’m a junkie–but I love the scrappy, ‘we just did this’ kind of aesthetic.”
In trying to accomplish this, Whedon explored the direct-to-DVD market, where “you can make movies that don’t have to have any giant opening weekend,” but can grow an audience organically. But even in the DVD market there were several hurdles to overcome to make something that Whedon could do his own way. “I was having meetings with a lot of people about how low does the budget have to be…and they were explaining the tiers of how many millions before you needed a star, and how many millions before you needed a studio.”
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When the writer’s strike hit, it became clear that the web presented Whedon “a chance to make things more simply, more quickly, to use the people that I love and trust.” And although it was conceived during the strike (just like Strike.TV) Dr. Horrible was “always meant to be a project of love that was just, ‘What could we do that’s gonna really make us excited, that’s gonna be our passion, and our ridiculousness?’ It was never meant to be the ‘bold experiment that will change Hollywood.’ It was meant to be, ‘we made a musical!’”
Whedon funded the project himself, and enjoyed the independence of acting as his own studio. “Freedom is glorious,” he comments. “And the fact is, I’ve had very good relationships with studios, and I’ve worked with a lot of smart executives. But there is a difference when you can just go ahead and do something.” As a web show, there were fewer constraints imposed on the project, and Whedon had the “freedom to just let the dictates of the story say how long it’s gonna be. We didn’t have to cram everything in–there is a lot in there–but we put in the amount of story that we wanted to and let the time work around that. We aimed for thirty minutes, we came out at forty two, and that’s not a problem.”
Whether we can count on seeing more Dr. Horrible or another Whedon web event in the near future, remains to be seen. “What we accomplished I do not believe I could accomplish again,” Whedon says. “I absolutely want to continue to work in [web] as a venue particularly. There are things I think that are absolutely made just for the internet and I’m excited by that I would love to continue to work at that level…with maybe one extra day of shooting.” The writer’s strike played an important role in getting Dr. Horrible off the ground–many favors were called in to help get it done–and Whedon intends to pay everyone back should the show make money off sales of the DVD (which will include special features not shown on the limited web release). “I obviously can’t afford to just to do this all the time and throw money down a sink but if it’s at all viable economically, it doesn’t have to be a cash cow for it to be worshiped by me.”
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog will be Whedon’s first foray into the web, though he had the help of web TV vet Felicia Day (The Guild), who also plays Dr. Horrible’s love interest. Still, he doesn’t yet consider himself savvy when it comes to the internet. “I’m only really just getting to know it, which is kind of how I kind of do everything–I didn’t actually watch that much TV before I started making it. And which means I often repeated a lot of other people’s cliches and think they’re really original but apart from that it’s kind of fresh and fun. And Dr. Horrible was really my first shot at doing something that was walking between two worlds: a longer format slightly more professional and glossy than what’s typically put on the internet but very much made for that medium and honoring the different experience.”
Although it was never his intention to make big bucks off of Dr. Horrible, Whedon does have high hopes for the project: “We would love to show that yes you can monetize the internet without being beholden to the Big Six. If it has success and it actually makes money or becomes a cult phenomenon at all or just finds devotees, then I’m thrilled, and I really do want to be able to send that message to the community.”
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog will release Act I of III tomorrow, July 15 at DrHorrible.com
UPDATE: The debut of the show was a server crashing success.