JMS had a few good things to say about focus groups
. Not many, but some:
He Who's Name is Unspellable wrote: ------------
Category 18, Topic 22
Message 17 Fri Dec 13, 1991
STRACZYNSKI at 03:00 EST
Yeah, we're trying to come up with new ways of doing stuff. Makes it
Quite a day today for B-5...exhausting. First in come the color
portfolios at last, then we have THE FOCUS GROUP!
I know, I know...you're wondering what a focus group is.
The studio pays lotsa bucks to engage a research group to bring in two
groups, one group of women, one group of men. They are then given synopses of
the movie, the series episodes, the characters, all the stuff that for now
can't be posted here. And they get to react, giving us some parameters in
terms of marketing and, to a smaller extent, the story and presentation.
Going in, we were told how it would probably break down: "The women will
love the character stuff, the relationships, and hate the action, and the men
will love the action, but hate the character stuff and the relationships as
Sonuvagun, but that's how it turned out. And after having worked for so
long to convince studio heads that SF fans want other than EFX, there were
these guys saying, "Oh, yeah, special effects is the most important thing to
me...and action, heck, science fiction MEANS action, fights and stuff." I'm
surprised they couldn't hear me banging my head against the wall through the 2-
way observation mirror.
That stuff aside, though, we tested VERY positively, and even got some
good ideas out of it. It was strange, as the person who created all this, to
look out through a 2-way mirror and see, for the first time, "civilians"
discussing the characters and situations of Babylon 5.
One more step on the long road set before us....
Category 18, Topic 22
Message 18 Fri Dec 13, 1991
STRACZYNSKI at 20:51 EST
Believe me, I have no patience with or interest in focus groups or
research or anything of that nature. My feeling is quite simple: in the early
stages of a project, you should be willing to at least *listen* to anyone.
Because sometimes good ideas come from the damndest places. But you can't
WRITE that way. You take all the input, but finally you as the writer have to
sit down and use what makes SENSE in the story. The day I abdicte that
responsibility is the day I get out of the business.
I've never seen a project that was Made by research or studio suits. If it
works, it's because the project stems from one clear vision, and one clear
Just as one example...while I didn't agree with many reactions of the
"civilians" -- especially since they were working off a summary, not the
complete script -- the one point that *did* strike home was that it takes a
while to get going. We set up suspense, and a lot of time introducing the
characters. But a nice little hook at the beginning, I realized, just a
little fillip, would be a good idea to goose things a bit. Now, I may change
my mind when I get behind the keyboard to revise the script over the Christmas
break (mainly for myself, and my own desire to strengthen the script, which
has been around, after all, for quite some time, and I've learned a lot since
that initial draft), I may decide to jettison that notion, I don't know. But
it's worth considering at the very least.
Fundamentally, if you're going to create a series, write and produce it,
you've got to follow your instincts. Besides, the whole POINT of the exercise
is so that you won't have anyone making decisions for you anymore, you do
what YOU want to do with it, and let the chips fall as they may. To do
otherwise, given the angst involved in getting a series this far, is dirt-
As for SyFy, they've always been a combination of dumb and brilliant. Canceling a bunch of promising shows (like Mission Genesis) after half a season was dumb. Then Farscape somehow fell through the cracks and became great. Then they canceled Farscape and replaced it with Tremers, which was similar to being great, except the exact opposite. Then they redeemed themselves with Battlestar Galactica.
So I guess we'll see what Caprica does. They've surprised me before after doing a lot of dumb moves.
I do not agree with the beer you drink, but will defend to the death your right to drink it