In this exclusive interview courtesy of Cinema Spy, Executive producer Robert C Cooper talks about his 12 years on the Stargate Franchise, the future of Stargate Universe and all importantly how he feels the show is progressing.
You can read an excerpt of the interview below
The affable Cooper told us that one of the big lessons learned from the previous two Stargate series was the importance of budget. Not simply the size of the budget, but how that budget gets spent.
In the production of SG-1 and Atlantis, Cooper said that the budgets often weren’t large enough to realize the creative vision intended. “We tried, in many cases, to make a little movie every week, and we didn’t really have the resources to do what a big-budget science fiction movie does. We sometimes reached a little too far.”
Cooper, who directed the direct to DVD feature Stargate: The Ark of Truth said that he didn’t want to try and make a feature film on a television budget. “I wanted to make 20 great episodes of television every season,” he said. “And television’s strengths are in telling extended stories about characters you want to learn about every week … Some of the greatest characters that I’ve fallen in love with over the past 10 years have come from television, not the movies.”
Case in point, SGU’s ensemble cast is anchored by veteran screen actor Robert Carlyle.
Television, said Cooper, provides writers, directors and actors with an opportunity to tell stories over a longer span of time, and with a creative freedom that is lacking from much of the feature world where “everything is about the size of the budget and whether it’s justified … The movies are much more about spectacle now.”
Cooper said SGU places story first, visual effects and setting second. “It’s something I hope will allow people who aren’t necessarily hardcore science fiction fans to embrace our show … This show is less about technobabble and the hardcore spaceship tech stuff that tends to turn certain audiences off … It’s not about antiseptic people from the future or the past or another galaxy far, far away. It’s about us in this incredible situation … We wanted this show to embody our audience a little more. To be about people that you can identify with.”
SGU, Cooper explained, is more of a human drama. “It’s about a community of people who are stranded aboard this ship,” he said, and like all good science fiction it’s a microcosm of our own existence. “We’ve tried very hard to reflect a lot of the things that we are all going through. And that will, hopefully, touch people in some way when they watch.”
“We’re taking a shot at doing something that we hope is going to be a breakout hit,” Cooper said, “not something that is a marginal success within the sci-fi world.”
SGU is intentionally different from its predecessors, and that includes what the new series would look like and how it would be filmed. Cooper explained that they are using the veritÃ© style that was popularized by previous television programs such as Homicide and Firefly. In addition to creating a “voyeuristic pleasure” in the audience, Cooper said that they are “creating a situation where magic can happen.”
In the past, he said, shots would be set up, and lit perfectly, and the actors would dropped in to rehearse, and when it came time for the camera to roll “it’s very hard to get that magic to happen.” With the veritÃ© style, though, where the cameras are back, moving around the periphery of a scene, and the lighting is more natural and built into the environment, “you’re freeing the situation to have that magic happen naturally.”
The actors, he said, “seem to come alive” when working this way. “I just find that in every scene you don’t always get what you were imagining,” said Cooper, “but you do get those moments that come out of nowhere that you capture that are these little gold nuggets, either a visual or a performance that was unexpected.”
“We’ve tried to learn from our mistakes,” Cooper admitted, “and if people want to accuse us of reaching higher, I’ll take that criticism