On a seemingly normal Tuesday afternoon I took a break from sorting through press releases and screening upcoming episodes of cable comedies to dial into a conference call style interview with the writers, directors, and stars of the upcoming Ghostfacers web series, AJ Buckley and Travis Wester. All was going well as we introduced ourselves to each other, but all of a sudden and out of the blue, our voices began to echo in an eerie and screechy sound.
I logged myself out of the call and dialed back in, and the guys were laughing and chatting jovially but neither of them had any idea what had occurred. I offered a theory, though: one of the ghosts or other worldly spirits (maybe even that of their deceased intern, Corbett!) must have tried to infiltrate the call, considering itself the true star and creator of the show and wanting its fair fifteen minutes.
It was an interesting thing to occur to a reporter, considering their characters have a tendency to see a ghost but fumble around and somehow miss capturing the moment, in all of its glory, on camera. But as Buckley laughed and pointed out, they're doing something right these days because now I've "bared witness."
Once the spirits settled down, though, the guys and I had some fun joking about tantrums and diva behavior on set, what to expect from their new spin-off web series, and what they really think of the fan conventions they have attended.
It's been a few years since the "Ghostfacers" episode on Supernatural, and you guys have done some originals on the internet since then, so have your characters of Harry and Ed reached a new level of expertise when we "re-meet" them, so to speak, in the web series? Or are they still kind of bumbling, making mistakes and learning as they go?
T.W: I think you kind of hit the nail on the head with "learning as they go." I mean, they've definitely learned some stuff over the past couple of years. The thing about the Ghostfacers is that they're not stupid. They're not going to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. When they encounter new elements of the supernatural, they do learn, they just might not learn the right thing or the right lessons...We did a spot in season four where we've done our research and we've achieved a certain level of how to deal spirits and ghosts specifically and maybe the supernatural in general. And I think with the web series, what we're looking to do, is kind of explore how maybe someone without the steely-jawed courage needed to be a hunter can still go about having an effect and an impact when it comes to the battle with evil.
A.J.B: I think Ed and Harry have kind of been on this mission...and I don't think they really fully understand why they're on this mission or what the bigger picture is. I think there's this overall arc of where they're going. It's sort of when a Jedi starts to learn his powers at the beginning; he doesn't know it's inside him, but when he touches on it, greatness happens. Underneath the comedy and their sort of learning curve, there will be a bigger picture of why is it these guys-- out of all of the ghost hunter, paranormal experience reality type shows-- actually encounter the supernatural and have experiences with them? And where will the road take them, while being able to kind of sit back and laugh and enjoy the ride.
Harry and Ed aren't the professionals Dean and Sam were when we first met them. It's almost as if we're getting a glimpse into being trained on the job when we see them hunt down a ghost. How much of the web series is going to feature elements or spirits or lore that aren't what your characters were expecting to find?
A.J.B: I think it's always going to be something within the ghost world but not what we thought it would be. We're involved in a lot bigger of a picture than we really know. The great thing about the show is that we'll be able to mix it up.
Now as "hybrids," writing and directing and acting, how much of the web series is what is on the page, played out beat by beat, and how much of it is you guys coming up with an idea or an outline or sketch and then improving as you go?
T.W: If it's not 100% of what we write, I go absolutely ballistic!
A.J.B: Travis does...Travis does.
T.W: If someone says "he" instead of the character's actual name, which is on the page, I will absolutely go apesh*t.
A.J.B: [Laughing] Did you ever see the Christian Bale set [rant]?
T.W: Multiple that by about fifty!
Okay, so that will be on the DVD release, I'm sure.
T.W: You can ask our producers this. I think [the footage] was about fifty percent of us shooting and fifty percent of me just screaming.
That makes for interesting footage as well, so I'm sure you can get some use out of that!
T.W: Oh yeah, just talk to our producer; he was on set every day with us!
A.J.B: Going back to the first day that Eric [Kripke] pulled us in the office and said 'So we want to do this spin-off,' and he approached it as 'Would you guys be interested in writing it?' And we waited until we were in the hallway-- we played it cool like 'Oh sure, no problem'-- but when we got in the hallway, we were jumping up in the air. Travis and I d idn't know each other before Supernatural at all, so our ability as a writing team, and how we compliment each other in different areas is one of those things that you look back, and you're like 'Well how the hell did that happen!?'
Do you split the scripts up pretty evenly in terms of episode by episode, or do you find that one of you prefers to write the comedy elements, and one of you prefers the supernatural elements? How do you go about tackling the writing?
T.W: Well, number one we don't talk.
Sure. Why would you talk? You need to be typing!
T.W: If AJ has an idea we get it out in a quick game of charades.
A.J.B: Between Patrick [Doody], Chris [Valenziano], Travis, and I, we kind of sit in a room to break the stories, and then it's kind of a niche writing experience anyway. I think he took five episodes, and I took five episodes. And then on his first pass, character dynamic between the Ghostfacers guys took a little longer than what it was supposed to be, but over the course of the years, being with these characters for such a long time and seeing reruns of the show and putting them up on the internet, we really tried to understand the ins and outs of each character and how they affect each other. It was a pretty enjoyable experience; I had a blast, and even when we got into it, and the first girl came in to audition for [this new role of] Amber, Travis and I just looked at each other and were like 'Holy sh*t, someone just said our words!'
This Amber you mention, is she a candidate to replace Corbett?
A.J.B: Corbett is irreplaceable! He is dearly missed, and I don't think anybody can fill [his] shoes...We're hoping he makes a return!
What is the major difference you guys have found to shooting a web series versus television?
T.W: I think for me the major difference is...when you're doing a TV show, you know, they're a major production, and they have a much larger crew than we had for the web series. So when we were working on the web series, there were a couple of restrictions placed on us creatively, but there were also some areas that opened up creatively, as well.
A.J.B: The beauty about this show is that we don't need a big crew for it [being a web series]. When we shot Supernatural, the crew guys loved when we were on the show because they were just chilling. You light the set for three hundred and sixty degrees; there's no crew on the set when cameras roll because everywhere is working...I think during that "Hell House" episode really gave us an idea of how it would be and how it would sort of flow out; it's when we really first saw what the show was and how it could work so well in this type of environment.
[The web series] was almost like doing an independent film. You have to wear so many different hats, and the experience was different for us, as well, because we were [juggling] writing, directing, and acting. And for both Travis and I, we got to kind of look out for each other. If I was doing something on the set acting-wise, Travis would be behind the camera giving direction, and that's kind of a cool thing for an actor because it's rare that one gives another direction. But it was a very free, open, creative space, which is why I think it was such a fun job and space to work.
So your first season is made up of ten episodes that are three minutes each, but have you already given thought to where you want it to go if Warner Brothers says "let's keep it going?"
A.J.B: Well, we kind of have a general idea of where we want to take the show...if anything, it's just the characters evolving. They'll always be themselves in that they'll make mistakes, and their vulnerabilities, and their demeanor, and everything that will go towards making them become better paranormal investigators...It's pretty open where the show could actually go.
I know you guys don't have a launch date for the series yet, but I hope you'll keep me posted. I've already gotten a few comments asking if it will air prior to your appearance Creation Entertainment's fan convention in March.
A.J.B: The last convention which we did-- it was kind of mind-blowing actually-- the Ghostfacers had their own. It wasn't a Supernatural convention; it was just for the Ghostfacers, and we were all flown out to London, which was absolutely insane!
Oh wow, I wish I had known about that while it was happening!
T.W: Yeah, we were out there, and AJ brought some cameras from his production company, and we shot some stuff. We had, I think it was about seven minutes, that we wrote and submitted to Kripke, and we shot it. The fans seemed to really enjoy it; it was a really cool experience. I think the web series might be out before the [March] convention, but hopefully we'll have something to show off.
Yeah, I've gotten emails from some fans who are already super psyched about it and want to bring props to take pictures with you guys and stuff. It seems like it will be a very, very interesting weekend.
A.J.B: The one thing that we found with our characters is that they're so approachable at the cons and stuff because our characters are them in a sense, and there's nothing intimidating about us. [Laughs] And what we found when we were shooting at the con was that they were the best extras we ever had! We explained a few things about what was going on and how we would shoot it, and they just went full-on. It was a really special experience to see their love and intensity for [the characters].
I think it also goes back to Kripke's initial "tell a friend to tell a friend" campaign when Supernatural first premiered. The fans of the show, and therefore of you guys, are just used to that whole hit-the-ground-running on the message boards and get others excited about it.
A.J.B: We've always believed in the project, but [the fans] have really helped to show the studio that there's already this kind of excitement about it. They're literally the best fans ever! They're so committed and, like, really good people that are really supportive. Both Travis and I are always saying, the more you guys talk about this stuff, the more you guys blog about it, the more we get to do to show you we're listening.
Awesome. Well, I, for one, am very excited about meeting you guys in March! Do you have plans to go back to Supernatural and do pieces in any upcoming episodes, especially now that we know the show will return for a sixth season?
A.J.B: We keep hearing that Kripke is wanting us to come back, so it's just when we get the call, but we would be there with bells on!