Melbourne Writers Festival: Rob Thomas

The Melbourne Writers Festival is one of my favourite annual Melbourne traditions. I haven’t been to a bad event, and I only really discovered that ‘writers’ includes television writers last year, when I saw Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker tweet about speaking in Melbourne. I was so annoyed that I managed to miss the fact that one of my favourite television critics was speaking in my city. Luckily there was another event the next day, so I wasn’t too put out. I took ten pages of notes in a tiny notebook, and I still haven’t typed them up. Around mid-July this year, I deciphered from Rob Thomas’ tweets that he would be in Melbourne during late August, that he was going to be at the Festival. So when the programme was announced two days later, I bought a five event pass and booked his two events. I have no regrets

The first event on Thursday night was a talk called “Veronica Mars to iZombie“, which was hosted by Veronica Mars super fan and critic Clementine Ford. I love all of Rob Thomas’ shows (admittedly I haven’t seen Cupid or any of Dawson’s Creek), but I am in no way a super fan. My favourite is Party Down, which I’ve written about previously, and is the one of the few shows that perfectly captures what it’s like to be stuck doing that job while you’re trying to break into an industry in which you really want to work. Unsurprisingly, most of the questions were Veronica Mars focused.

I love Veronica Mars so much that I gave my best friend the first season on DVD for Christmas a couple of years ago just so that I’d have someone to talk to about it. The third season was definitely flawed, and I enjoyed the movie but it doesn’t reach the heights of that first season. One of the great things about the event was the fan involvement. I submitted a question about how much the Veronica Mars film was influenced by the Kickstarter campaign, and even though that question wasn’t asked, an audience member asked something Kickstarter related and I got my answer. Rob Thomas said that because the film was crowdfunded, he was going to “give the people what they want”. If he had a chance to make another Veronica Mars film, he’d focus more on the plot and setting up a good mystery. I didn’t dislike the film, but it was so obviously fan service that it doesn’t have the rewatchability of the first or even second seasons of the show.

On Friday (after spending many hours driving for Reasons), I went to Veronica Mars: The Pilot, which I assumed would be Rob Thomas speaking for 20 minutes before we watched the pilot, but I was so happy to be wrong. It was a 90 minute extravaganza of Rob showing clips from the pilot and talking about casting and locations and the nitty gritty of productions. This is the stuff I really want to know – I don’t care about shipping on this particular show, because the film went exactly where I expected it to. It turns out the dog who played Backup was a terrible actor, so they had to replace him. I like knowing that Francis Capra was really worried about Weevil calling Wallace a “negro”. I love hearing about the weird pilot casting process, which involves choosing five people (Kristen Bell was the first person Rob saw read for the part of Veronica) and hoping that the studio and the network likes them as much as you do. I love that Amanda Seyfried’s part was expanded because she was so good. I took something like 13 pages of notes (it was a small notebook) on this session, and it was fascinating. I would go to an event like that for every episode of the first season, it’s like a DVD commentary but better. Until iZombie returns, I guess I’m just going to have to rewatch Party Down over and over again.

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