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Chats with Robbie Thompson


I still haven't watched last week's episode. I'll do that sometime today, promise.

The REASON that I haven't watched it is because I was at Emerald City Comic-Con since Thursday, and I literally haven't had the two hours minimum uninterrupted down-time that I would need to watch and post about an episode.

Emerald City Comic-Con was really fun! I don't go there for the celebs, so I can't tell you anything about Jeremy Renner or Millie Bobby Brown or Tom Felton - but I can tell you that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction remain awesome, that Johnnie Christmas is a great guy, that Ngozi Ukazu makes makes me smile by calling people "silly beans" much like I'd imagine Bitty would... and that there are tons of really creative people out there making super awesome things.

So, one guest at Emerald City Comic-Con this year was Robbie Thompson. I kept missing him on Thursday, but managed to find him on Friday. His booth wasn't that far from Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue's ... and he's just as great as I remember from when I got an apportunity to chat with him at VanCon in the summer between S8 and S9 (I think that's when it was anyway.) The first time I stopped by his table, I hadn't thought of any questions or anything - mainly because I was used to having to get things signed quickly and get out of the way, and also because I'm just not very good at coming up with questions on the spot or even being able to think of what to say to anyone. (For the most part, at ECCC, I follow my far more outgoing friend around and just listen while she talks to everyone.)

General Stuff

So, in that first visit, we just talked generally about the show and how much Robbie enjoyed working for it and how wonderful the crew and Jared and Jensen are - and how it's not like they fired him, it was his decision to leave, because he was getting too busy and something had to go, and he wanted to put his concentration into non-SPN things... which was a hard decision, but he thinks it was time, and although he misses it, he doesn't regret leaving.

Oh, also, I found out that his favourite episode he wrote was Pac-Man Fever (or at least, that's the one that's most special to him) because his parents also read him the Hobbit growing up, so Charlie's speech about how that decision made her who she is, and opened up her world to her, was basically Robbie's feelings and gratefulness towards his parents and The Hobbit. So, yeah, he's sentimental about that episode.

As we were leaving, he told me to stop by his table any time if I wanted to chat, so being me, I took that sincerely and the rest of the weekend, if I had some time to kill, I'd swing by his table and see if he was free to  chat - sometimes he wasn't, but I did manage to catch him two more times, those times with questions prepared.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THIS IS ME REMEMBERING OUR CONVERSATIONS... THIS IS NOT VERBRATIM. Even if I put something in quotes, it's just what Robbie said to my best recollection - but I'm probably not using the same words that he used. So, if you want any point clarified, or you take huge offence to something, please don't blame Robbie, blame my shitty reporting skills and then ask him the question yourself. I didn't even write any of this down at the time, this is just me remembering 1-3 days later.


Robbie was always aware they were 18-22 months in the futureCollapse )

Writing Assignments - How they Work

Nope, they don't get to pick which episodes they doCollapse )

How far ahead do they write an episode?

Even more timelines...Collapse )

And I think that's it!

Robbie is the nicest... and I told him I had wanted to buy Silk while I was there, but hadn't been able to find it yet, so he just GAVE me his last copy and signed it for me! So, yes, the absolute nicest.

Okay, now that's it. :)


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 11th, 2017 11:36 pm (UTC)
This had many interesting tidbits, so thank you so much for writing this up! It's awesome that you got to meet Robbie and chat with him. :)
Mar. 12th, 2017 02:37 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it!! :)

He was really awesome to chat with me so much.
Mar. 12th, 2017 06:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this! I think the more we know about the process of making the show, the more it informs our appreciation! So many fans are unaware of the timelag between conception, writing and airing. Particularly glad you got to talk timelines too!
Mar. 12th, 2017 07:06 am (UTC)
Yes, I find it really interesting - how far they have to plan ahead, and how prescient they are about possible response etc.

And yes, of course my go to first question is always going to be about timelines... I've been rewatching another older series with a friend (my first fandom) and timelining as I go. Who am I even timelining for? The series is over 20 years old! I just like timelines. :P

Mar. 12th, 2017 11:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post! Robbie Thompson is hands-down my favorite writer on the show, and I've been grieving (quietly) ever since he left :)

Thank you for asking him about the timeline discrepancies. They drive me crazy as a fan-fic writer, and I'm so glad one of the show writers feels that way too. It's nuts trying to decide whether to write a birthday party scene (is Dean turning 38 or 40?!) and then just leaving it out because it's not canon-compliant feels so restricting!

Anyway, fascinating insight into the show and the process from writer's room to filming to post-production. Interesting that shows gets smaller budgets as they age? I always thought the stars got bigger and bigger raises each year, so maybe that's why the rest of the budget shrinks? Of course, the J's were young and virtually unknown at the beginning, so they must have been fairly cheap.

Thanks again! So much to think about!
Mar. 13th, 2017 06:25 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed my recollections!

I'm right there with you grieving Robbie's departure. He was one of my absolute faves and I was so upset to see him go.

For my own fic, I tend to add the two years - but that's personal preference. I know some writers who, much like the writers of SPN, just decide what is most convenient for their idea and then use that timeline.

I didn't ask why the budget shrinks, but I have a feeling that it's a lot of factors - my guess is that probably it also has to do with the idea that shows, as they continue, probably traditionally need to build less sets and buy less wardrobe, etc. Except, SPN had no standing sets for years and was a different beast altogether. My other guess is that it's the network just seeing what they can get away with - "can you make the show with this much money? Oh, you did, what if you had less than that? Oh, you did that too... okay, what about even less?" But again, those are all guesses on my part. You could be right and it's also about having to stay competitive with salaries, but keeping the same operating budgets, so it's more about the distribution of wealth rather than the acquiring of it. Who knows... certainly not me! Haha, I suppose if I ever run into Jim Michaels around town, I can try to ask him. :P
Mar. 16th, 2017 06:11 pm (UTC)
They re-set the timeline in season 10, I think the last episode with Cole. So by now it's 2017 in the show.

Thanks for this write-up!
Mar. 16th, 2017 06:27 pm (UTC)
I'm well aware of how they keep time, but thanks! ;)

Glad you enjoyed the write-up!
Mar. 25th, 2017 12:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Those details are always very interesting!

I think I'm confused about dates though...

a) There's usually ~8 months between writing the script and episode airing. - but
b) the current season is being finished by March.

Shouldn't the season be finished in October or November according to a)?
Mar. 25th, 2017 05:20 pm (UTC)
That's why I mentioned re-writes, which we didn't talk about... also, it could be that the buffer closes as the series airs. I know that it does with production. In early July, they're filming an episode that won't air until late September or even October, but by the beginning of April, they're filming an episode that is going to air in May.

It could very well be the same with the writing, that as the season progresses, the time between writing and airing gets shorter. That's my best guess. I didn't include it in the post, because it's not something Robbie and I talked about - we just talked about the timeline using Baby as an example, and it was an early-in-the-season episode.
Mar. 25th, 2017 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Makes sense.

One of the fans suggests (I asked my friends the same question) that they can't finish writing earlier because they learn whether the show will be prolonged or not only in February and last episodes certainly depend on the fact.

Edited at 2017-03-25 06:04 pm (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2017 09:34 pm (UTC)
That makes sense too! :)
Mar. 26th, 2017 08:48 am (UTC)
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