'Walking Dead' Producer Talks Spinoff, "Guns on the Street" and Killing Off Characters (Q&A)
"It's the hardest part of the show," Gale Anne Hurd said about giving castmembers the boot.
Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd said she is more worried about gun culture than the violence in her AMC series The Walking Dead.
"I worry more about the fact that we have guns on the street here," she said Feb. 11, speaking at Loyola Marymount University's School of Film & Television, where she took part in the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series. "I mean, in Australia, countries around the world where they have the same entertainment, and they don't have the homicide rates that we do here, it's clear that there's another reason for it. [In] all my films, the antagonists are monsters or cyborgs, or you name it. The Walking Dead is the one [that's] different, and I found that it's inspired a debate about what does it mean to be human and can you justify resorting to this kind of brutality?"
Hurd, the producer of such films as The Terminator and Aliens and a recent recipient of the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America, spoke about the challenges of the show — not least telling actors that their characters are being killed, especially Madison Lintz (playing Sophia Peletier).
"It's the hardest part of the whole show, honestly," she said. "It's much harder than saying goodbye to an actor. But the only person that I had to tell [directly] was the little girl that came out of the barn as a zombie at the end of the second season. I told her mother. The year before, she wasn't sure she wanted to be an actress. So we thought we were doing her a favor. And you don't want a kid to be showing up and doing something they don't want to do. Well, we didn't realize that over the summer she decided she really wanted to be an actress."
Hurd also said she would not have remained as Dead's executive producer without the approval of the show's creator, Frank Darabont, who exited after a conflict with AMC. "We're still friends," she said. "And, in fact, I wouldn't have stayed on the show if he didn't tell me that he wanted me to." The producer added that she only learned of his departure from the network. "I didn't even know," she said. "The thing to know, though, is that showrunners generally only have a two-year contract. And it was the second-year negotiation that also featured in."
Hurd noted that she had just finished the pilot to a Dead spinoff on Feb. 6, but, "We haven't been picked up to series yet." By contrast, "The next series that I'm doing was picked up to 13 episodes. It's called Hunters, at Syfy, and it's based on the Whitley Strieber novel Alien Hunter."
Discussing some of her classic films, she recalled the sexism she faced as a young producer in her 20s, which she says is now "less" than it was before — for producers but not directors.
She also described having to deal with a crew mutiny while making Aliens. "The first assistant director had directed second unit before, and he really felt that Jim [Cameron] didn't know what he was doing," she said. "He would make nasty references all the time over the walkie-talkies, and he would roll his eyes. I mean, whenever Jim would say something, he was incredibly disruptive. And at a certain point, the last shot of the day was a close-up, and it was an incredibly emotional sequence. It was actually Sigourney [Weaver]'s close-up, and the camera crew wanted to get back to watch a soccer match. And so they start wrapping. And Jim's like, 'Wait a minute. We have to finish Sigourney's close up.' And they said, 'Sorry, governor, we're going home now.' And the first AD said, 'Yep, sorry.' And Jim lost it, and he said: 'That guy's not coming back tomorrow.' And we did find out that he had sort of led this mutiny. And the crew walked off and didn't want to come back ever."
Other guests in this season's Hollywood Masters include Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Ken Burns and Ethan Hawke.
A full, lightly edited transcript follows.
GALLOWAY: Thank you. Thanks, thank you. Hi, everyone. Welcome back. I'm Stephen Galloway and welcome to the Hollywood Masters, filmed on the campus of Loyola Marymount University. Our guest today is not just an important producer, not just one of the governors of the Academy, not just a very influential player in the Producers Guild, but also somebody's who's really defined some of the big pop culture moments of the past quarter century starting with The Terminator, moving on to Abyss, Aliens, the Hulk. And most recently, as you know, The Walking Dead. I'm really delighted to welcome the David O. Selznick award winner of this year from the Producers Guild, Gale Anne Hurd. You are from California.
HURD: Fourth generation, Los Angeles.
GALLOWAY: Oh really?
GALLOWAY: How did the first generation come here?
HURD: From Mexico, from the state of Senora, from Hermosillo. I don't know. I assume they walked. [LAUGH] I'm not sure. And they came in 1868.
GALLOWAY: You went to Stanford.
GALLOWAY: You didn't stick around in L.A. Why Stanford?
HURD: I thought it was on the East Coast. I thought it was in the Ivy League.
GALLOWAY: Is that true?
HURD: That's true. I mixed up Stamford and Stanford. That's the world that we had back before the Internet. Honestly, I did.
GALLOWAY: Was it a good experience?
HURD: Because it's a school that's very elitist and I identify mostly with the [INAUDIBLE] film, you know, below-the-line. And I mean, it was really difficult for me, because we'd play schools like UCLA, and UCLA would chant at the football games, you know, Stanford, why aren't you cheering? And their response would be, "We don't talk to public schools." And that wasn't like a joke. It really was the sensibility, and I'm not sure that it's changed.
GALLOWAY: Did you study film? There was a documentary film program.
HURD: When I was there, I was really lucky. I was lucky because the communications dean was on sabbatical. And instead, the man who became my advisor, Julian Blaustein, was responsible. He was a producer. He produced The Day The Earth Stood Still, he Produced Broken Arrow, Storm Center. And I was initially a psychology major and then an economics major. I wasn't even thinking about going into film, and my junior year I went to study abroad in the one campus that spoke the language that I spoke, which is English, 'cause I wasn't fluent enough in another language. And so the program at Stanford in Britain was primarily focused on British film and broadcasting, as well as economics.
GALLOWAY: In London or?
HURD: It was at Cliveden.
GALLOWAY: Oh, wow.
HURD: Yes, if you don't know, Cliveden now is a very posh country house. At the time, it was a very run-down national trust property that had been most famously the Astor estate where the Profumo affair occurred.
GALLOWAY: Which they wouldn't know. By the way, I lived..I grew up five miles from Cliveden. So, I would cycle there.
HURD: So Taplow Maidenhead.
GALLOWAY: Clieveden Palace in Taplow, just outside my hometown Maidenhead, was the most beautiful estate.
HURD: I was on the Maidenhead High Street every week.
HURD: Yeah, we could have run into each other.
GALLOWAY: I knew I met you somewhere.
HURD: Yes, [LAUGH] that's it.
GALLOWAY: The Profumo scandal was a huge scandal where is where a British cabinet member had an affair with a call girl.
HURD: Two. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies.
GALLOWAY: Right, and it was a huge scandal.
HURD: Well, one of them was also sleeping with a Russian spy.
GALLOWAY: This happens in England every now and again.
HURD: I think it probably happens here too.
GALLOWAY: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make at that point in your life?
HURD: To follow my dreams and pursue a career in entertainment, just like many of you may be facing soon.
GALLOWAY: Why was that tough?
HURD: Well at the time, this was 1977. There weren't a lot of female role models. I couldn't look and say, you know, I want to be like her. So at that time, my ambition was, I could be someone's secretary, and that would be my job. My mother had been a secretary. My mother is one of five sisters. Four of them worked at MGM and my mother was the secretary to Jack Dawn who was the head of the makeup department. So you know, that was my nepotism, you know, following in the footsteps of my mother and becoming a secretary.
GALLOWAY: Were your parents concerned that you'd be going into the entertainment business?
HURD: Well, my father thought that it was a waste of a good and expensive education. And they were really broken-hearted when I said that I actually wanted to pursue a career in this business. Which considering my father was Jewish, it's not profession, per se. I mean, I'm not a medical doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, an engineer. I mean, he didn't quite know what it meant.
GALLOWAY: What did he do?
HURD: He was in real estate.
GALLOWAY: What had you thought of doing? I read you thought of becoming a lawyer once.
HURD: Yes, yes. Well I was really pushed. I was pushed to pursue law, and the only thing that I could think of doing was not take the LSAT. [LAUGH] So I didn't take the LSAT.
GALLOWAY: What kind of lawyer would you have been?
HURD: A bad one.
GALLOWAY: In what field? Had you thought of that?
HURD: No, no. All I thought of was I don't want to spend another three years in university. I want to get on with my life, and I want to do something hands on that isn't this white ivory tower existence. Because when I was at Stanford in Britain, Julian Blaustein, having been a real working producer, made sure that we were taught by people who were employed in the business. We were taught documentaries. Since you mentioned, documentary is really the focus at Stanford as opposed to narrative filmmaking. You know, Basil Wright, who was one of the cofounders of the Forum at the National Film Board of Canada, taught documentary filmmaking. You know, he founded it with John Grierson. It was amazing, and that's really where I got hooked.
GALLOWAY: Have you ever made a documentary?
HURD: I'm about to make my third.
GALLOWAY: Which one?
HURD: I make short documentaries about Native American subjects. As far as I'm concerned, the most underserved community in the United States and the one most overlooked and we [LAUGH] obviously owe the most to. We took the most from.
GALLOWAY: How did you come to that?
HURD: At the Motion Picture Academy at the time that I was the Chair of the Nicholl Screenwriting Committee, which Julian Blaustein had started the Nicholl at
GALLOWAY: Kind of nice.
HURD: I know. I read a script and it was about Native Americans who served as code talkers in World War II. It was not Windtalkers. And it had a Native American protagonist. It was really told from the Native American point of view. And I optioned it, realized it was impossible to get financing for unless it was about, you know, a white American lead, which was not the story that I felt was important to tell. But the story so captivated me, that I decided that we had to tell it through the documentary, though the real men who served. So I partnered with three Native American women and it was about a three-year process, and we finally got the funding together through ITVS, which is a component of PBS. And it aired on PBS. And then we were contacted by the Choctaw Tribe who said, "Wait a minute. Our tribal members actually created a code during World War I and no one's told that story." So that's our second one. And our new one, which we're about to start a kickstarter campaign, because right now that's the best way to get people interested in and to finance. We've got half the budget from Native American public television, and so we're going to be going out on kickstarter for the second half. Has anyone here heard the name "Wilma Mankiller?" Yes, fantastic. We're gonna tell Wilma Mankiller's story.
GALLOWAY: Who is Wilma Mankiller?
HURD: Wilma Mankiller passed away, but in modern times, the first elected chief of a major American tribe. She was elected more than once, the Cherokee. And it was a matrilineal culture that was changed because of the U.S. patriarchy into believing that only men should lead. And she was the best leader that they had in many years.
GALLOWAY: Does it have a title?
GALLOWAY: What's the budget for something like that?
HURD: About $150,000.
GALLOWAY: So, is it easier or harder when you got a 150 thousand vs 150 million?
GALLOWAY: It is?
HURD: Yeah. But, that's okay. You know, I'm not averse to challenges. And as far as I'm concerned if it's a story worth telling, I'll find a way to do it regardless of the budget or how many obstacles I have to overcome.
GALLOWAY: Who's the person at Stanford who shaped you the most and what was the one thing someone said to you that stuck the most?
HURD: Julian Blaustein, absolutely. Because he's the one who inspired me to pursue a career. He's had one, you know? There was the first role model. And he said, "You know what? You really have the goods. I think you can have a career." And then the person who actually helped connect me with Hollywood was another professor that I had up there, GALLOWAY Kovacs.
GALLOWAY: And he introduced you to Roger Corman [PH]?
HURD: Yes. He'd gone to work for Roger Corman.
GALLOWAY: Roger Corman had been at Stanford, hadn't he?
HURD: He graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.
GALLOWAY: A perfect education for film.
HURD: I'm sure his parents were very happy that he had an engineering degree.
GALLOWAY: How did you meet him and tell us about the first meeting with Corman.
HURD: I met him when I got a letter in the mail from Steven Kovacs saying we have an opening at New World Pictures, which is the company that Roger ran at the time. And we'd like you to come in for an interview. My friends were all going to work for, you know, Boston Consulting Group and they were being flown everywhere for meetings and put up. So I assumed [LAUGH] there'd be a plane and there'll be a chauffeur at the airport. And I was basically told, well, just show up. You know, there's no ticket, there's no reimbursement for gas money. So I drove to Los Angeles and had an interview with Roger.
GALLOWAY: Tell us about the interview.
HURD: Well, I was prepared to answer questions like, "how fast can you type" and this is, you know, the way back machine, and "how quickly can you take shorthand", and "what's your phone manner?" And instead what he asked me was, what career path did I want to pursue? I had not prepared for that question.
GALLOWAY: And your answer was?
HURD: My answer was after a very long pause that hopefully wasn't as long as I thought it was, and I really thought, you know, is this the trick question where I'm gonna lose the job because I'm aiming too high? Or does he really want to know? 'Cause you don't know when you go in for an interview. And I said, "Roger, I want to be a producer like you." And I got the job.
GALLOWAY: But I think, from what I'd heard, you made demands saying I'm not gonna do this, I'm gonna do this job for six months and then I'll go do something else.
HURD: No, that was later.
GALLOWAY: And what happened then?
HURD: Roger came to me and he said the marketing department at New World had to quit because of personal emergency, and he wanted me to take over. At the time, we were releasing three to six movies a month, and the marketing department had to prepare all the materials. So there were two brothers who ran the department and an assistant, and Roger figured that I could do it all on my own with no experience whatsoever. So I realized that I was walking into a situation that was going to guarantee that I was going to get fired. So I said, "Roger, I doubt that I'm gonna be very good at this. So I'm telling you, you know, in advance, 'cause I'm gonna have to learn on the job, and you're not even giving me an assistant. So if we agree that after six months, during that time we'll start looking for someone who's actually qualified to do the job, and then you'll transition me to working on the set." And he agreed to that. And I was terrible.
GALLOWAY: Did you learn to be good?
HURD: I learned to be adequate. But it was very important. I mean, you know, one thing regardless of what you do, you know, everything that you do in the business whether it's writing, directing producing, any of the crafts, you have to know how to market not only what you're making, but yourself.
GALLOWAY: Why did he hire you in the first place you think?
HURD: Well, it was the only time that it ever mattered to graduate at the top of my class. I was in the top one and a half percent of my class at Stanford. I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. I didn't think that I was necessarily very smart. I still don't think I'm necessarily very smart. I'm clearly very good at that. And he always looks for people who have academic credentials.
GALLOWAY: What do you look for when you hire somebody? All these guys are going to be looking for a job at some point.
HURD: What do I look for?
GALLOWAY: Three things you want.
HURD: First is an understanding that you may think you know a lot, you actually know nothing. So humility. And an understanding that an entry level job is really the most important. It was the most important for me to do whatever was necessary. Whether it was babysit Roger's kids, arrange for sprinklers at his house, pick up his dry cleaning, or cast a film all in the same day, everything was equally important for Roger to be able to do his job. So that was really important. Work ethic, absolutely. And to be able to read and write well. The number of people who send me cover letters when I'm looking for employees that have 13 typos on them and aren't formatted properly, right in the trash can or in the delete button. If that's as good as you get when you're applying for the job, you're gonna be worse once I hire you. So that's probably 95 percent of the applicants who apply for jobs, don't even think that's important. You know, anyone who works for me can tell you that it's absolutely critical how you present yourself, and the fact that you care about these things. Because if you're gonna let that slide, you're gonna let something far more important and far more costly to your employer slide.
GALLOWAY: While working for Corman, you met a young guy who became pretty important in your life whose name was James Cameron.
HURD: I became pretty important in his life.
GALLOWAY: Yes, both, very well put.
HURD: But see, it shows you that in this culture somehow a guy is going to be more important in a woman's life than a woman is in his life.
SPEPHEN: No, I think if he were sitting in that chair I would have said exactly the same thing to him.
GALLOWAY: Tell us about the first time you met him.
HURD: I'd fulfilled my obligations to Roger in the marketing department. I'd gone, worked on set, come back in between films and I was about to go off on my second film for Roger. My first one was Humanoids from the Deep. They hunt human women not for killing, but for mating. Really elevated. And the second one was actually a reach. It was Battle Beyond the Stars, screenplay by John Sayles, who also got his start from Roger Corman. And Roger said, "I want you to go down and see how the model department is coming along building spaceship models." So I drove down. It was at 1920 Main Street, I remember, in Venice, which was low rent at the time. The least expensive place you could rent, which is hilarious now when you think about it. And there was this tall, blond gentleman, who I walked in the door and he immediately came over and he said, you know, "Did Roger send you?" And I said, "Absolutely." And he said, "Well, I'm here to give you the tour of the model department." You know, and was incredibly professional. Showed me everything, explained the reason behind the design for each of the spaceships that were built. They were ahead of schedule. I'm not sure that they were under budget, but they were ahead of schedule.
GALLOWAY: He's not not known to be under budget.
HURD: And well, we were on budget for Terminator and Aliens. So I went back and reported to Roger that the head of the model department had been fantastic. We were in great shape. And he said, oh, you mean so-and-so? And I said, no, that wasn't his name. His name was Jim Cameron. And he said, "That's not the head of the model department." I said, "Well he should be." So Jim actually went from a model builder to art director of the film. That was his next step on the same film. That's how impressive he was, and how talent could be rewarded in a system like Roger Corman's.
GALLOWAY: At what point did you think this guy's gonna be a really good director?
HURD: Well, when I went to work on set, I was the assistant production coordinator and I was responsible for the art department. Which meant that I was responsible for it staying on schedule and on budget.
GALLOWAY: You were his boss.
HURD: I was. And so we spent [LAUGH] a lot of time together trying to make sure we were on schedule and on budget.
GALLOWAY: Were you a good boss?
GALLOWAY: Are you a good boss?
HURD: No. Now, no.
GALLOWAY: Oh, really? Why not?
HURD: No, I'm much tougher now.
HURD: Because I learned what to tolerate and what not to tolerate. And I just don't have the time to tolerate people who are incompetent. And I had to when I was working for Roger Corman, 'cause none of us knew what we were doing.
GALLOWAY: At one point Corman sold you the rights to something for one dollar, and you know what that became.
GALLOWAY: How did that film come about? Cameron had a dream. He was shooting Piranha 2?
HURD: He was in post-production
in Rome on Piranha 2, and he was very, very ill. He had a very high fever and he dreamed not of anything in this sequence, but of the endoskeleton of the Terminator emerging from the flames. And from that central image, we crafted a story.
GALLOWAY: I know you worked on the writing with him. How did that happen? What did each of you contribute?
HURD: Well first of all, we talked about the script before anything was put down on paper, which back then was longhand on a yellow legal pad. [LAUGH] And then he wrote a 48-page single-spaced, typed what we call "scriptment", which was a treatment but with certain dialogue exchanges, some of the key lines, including I think, "I'll be back" in it. And then went to a screenplay from there.
GALLOWAY: It was hard to get off the ground.
HURD: Well, it was not easy. [LAUGH] Which just goes to show you that if the door slams in your face 99 times, knock on the 100th, because maybe that one will be the "yes" you were looking for.
GALLOWAY: How many no's did you have?
HURD: Probably 99. But the people who embraced it first, surprisingly, or maybe not, and I'm trying to remember the name of the woman. It was women who came through for us. That's the interesting. There was a woman at HBO who purchased the Pay TV rights in advance for 500,000 which was huge, because our budget was six point four. And then we sent the script to Barbara Boyle. Barbara Boyle had been at Roger Corman's and was a very high-ranking woman there and also a mentor of mine. And she was working at Orion. So she read it, as did Francis Doyle who'd been the story editor at Corman's, and then the story editor at Orion. And they both said we love this, you know, who's gonna direct? And I said, "Well, Jim's directing and I'm producing." And they were probably the only two people who understood after Piranha 2, which is probably not on anyone's 10 best list for a number of reasons, mostly because a lot of it was directed by the producer Ovidio Assonitis and not Jim, but that's another long story. And she backed it, and she took it to Ernst Goldschmidt. Ernst Goldschmidt was the head of Orion Foreign. So Orion Foreign was in for money. So I think they were gonna put up a million and a half. And Orion Domestic, Mike Medavoy loved it, but he couldn't get his partners to embrace it because they were making, and they're right, Academy-Award winning films like Amadeus, and that was their focus. And this, as they called it, was a down and dirty exploitation film. So, but they said if you can get the rest of the financing, we want first look when it's finished. And so do you want to know?
HURD: OK. Very quickly. We had to get the rest of the money, so literally everybody that I knew who had a lead to someone who might have money, I went, knocked on their door, gave them the script. And then finally a friend of a friend said, there's this new company called Hemdale, and they have a three picture financing deal with Orion, and they're looking for their third picture. Unfortunately, their first two films had been really forgettable, awful films. One was Sunburn, which I think starred Farrah Fawcett, and another was a really forgettable sci-fi film called Jupiter 3, I think. But they had to fulfill this commitment. So I got the number of a gentleman by the name of Barry Plumley, and I started calling and he wouldn't return my phone calls. And then I found out that he was selling a desk. He was selling a partner's desk, and I figured if I called up and said I was interested in the partner's desk, maybe he would take my call. He took my call. And I didn't tell him I was actually flogging a project. I said I wanted to look at his desk. [LAUGH] So we went down to this warehouse in a very bad area of town at about 5 o'clock, and it was a $400 desk, which is a lot more money than I could afford. But I did feel guilty that I was really only meeting him there to give him the treatment for the script. And I bought the desk and gave him the treatment, hoping that he would feel enough guilt that he had taken my money, that he would read it. And he did, and he called the next day and said he wanted to have a meeting.
GALLOWAY: How old were you then?
HURD: 27, I think.
GALLOWAY: How difficult was it as a young woman to go and say that you were the producer?
HURD: Have you noticed that I am not really shy? [LAUGH] That hasn't changed.
GALLOWAY: But the times have changed.
HURD: I was like that then. But it's because I had role models like Barbara Boyle, and Barbara wouldn't back down. You know, you have to have enough confidence in yourself, because as the producer, you're the general. And if people don't trust that you can move the army forward and win the battle, you're not gonna get your project going.
GALLOWAY: At one point I think there were two Terminators?
HURD: No, never. No, the script never changed.
GALLOWAY: Even of the script?
HURD: Never changed.
GALLOWAY: I think Orion had wanted you to have a cyborg dog at one point?
HURD: Oh, they wanted a cyborg dog, yes.
GALLOWAY: That would be kind of funny.
HURD: Yes. There were a few things that even back then we said no to.
GALLOWAY: How easy was it to say no to them?
HURD: It was really hard. Honestly, I think the big thing that I've learned and it's true to this day, is that filmmaking is the art of compromise. You have to compromise. You're always going to have to compromise. You know, Martin Scorsese has to compromise, Jim Cameron has to compromise, everybody has to compromise. You have to know which are the ones that will ruin your project.
GALLOWAY: Name one compromise you regret.
HURD: Just one?
GALLOWAY: I'm sure there are many.
HURD: Let me see. One that I regret. You know, I tend to not harbor those kinds of things, 'cause you have to get past them. Well, there was a movie that I did called Downtown, and it was fantastic director, fantastic actors. Paramount did not know how to market it at all. And I should have known. Actually, no, it was Fox. It was Fox. Fox didn't know how to market it, and I should have known from the very first marketing meeting that they weren't going to market it properly. And especially since I came from a marketing background, but I basically said, "Okay, fine." And you know, you learn not to make the same mistake twice. And, you know, as everyone will tell you, you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. And that's completely true and it's why I don't regret any of the mistakes. I regret, because very talented people were hurt by them. But not the learning experience.
GALLOWAY: When you did Terminator I think Orion had suggested Schwarzenegger. They also suggested OJ Simpson.
HURD: They did.
GALLOWAY: Did you meet with him?
HURD: No. They wanted Arnold to play the Michael Biehn role, with all of the dialogue and the monologues... and it was the freedom fighter from the future. Still, I mean it's a little odd that the cyborg has an Austrian accent, but people went with it.
GALLOWAY: But he only has 100 words.
HURD: And that didn't change either. That's another, you know, urban myth, that we changed the script to reduce the number of lines. That's not true. It was exactly the way it was scripted. But no, they did want OJ Simpson to play the Terminator.
GALLOWAY: Was it a hard film to shoot?
HURD: You know, I was young and eager back then, so it didn't seem all that hard. Now, every time I face a night shoot, I just... and you know, the shoot was almost all nights. And it was very difficult. But you know, we were able to shoot it in L.A. and I think we were able to create a great look. But, you know, the hardest part really was getting people to believe in it when it was finished.
GALLOWAY: You know, it's such an incredible film. I love it. It's so visceral. It's almost like a purely filmic film. But it's also a very violent film and you've done a lot of work with violence and I wonder if you worry about violence on the screen and its impact on society?
HURD: I worry more about the fact that we have guns on the street here. I mean, you know, in Australia, countries around the world where they have the same entertainment, and they don't have the homicide rates that we do here, it's clear that there's another reason for it. And you know, but all my films, the antagonists are monsters or cyborgs, or you name it. You know, The Walking Dead is the one different, and I found that it's inspired a debate about what does it mean to be human and, you know, can you justify resorting to this kind of brutality?
GALLOWAY: It seems this season of The Walking Dead has less gore. Is that deliberate?
HURD: You must not have seen 509. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: So it's not deliberate.
HURD: No. No, it's about the storytelling and it's about not doing it just gratuitously.
GALLOWAY: The Terminator pretty directly led to Aliens. Let's look at the clip from that, and then we'll talk about it. [MOVIE CLIP] I remember when the original Alien came out and talking my bike to the train station and taking the train to London.
HURD: The same train I took to London. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: You mean the Paddington line?
HURD: Yes. To the Odeon Leicester Square.
GALLOWAY: The first Aliens was just incredible. You'd never seen a film like that. So, Here you are. You've done terminator and Fox reads the Terminator script and says, we want you to do the sequel.
HURD: That's not the way it happened at all. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: What happened?
HURD: So we were all set to shoot the Terminator in 1983 in Toronto. They had agreed, if you know Toronto at all, to close down lanes of the 401 Freeway there. I mean, like huge. So we were gonna have the best freeway chase in the history of movies. And then Dino De Laurentiis preempted Arnold to star in the sequel to Conan and the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, and then we ended up going from shooting in summer, which'd be a great time to shoot in Toronto, to starting [..] in March. Well, during that time, we had to support ourselves because we weren't getting paid. So, Jim took on two screenwriting jobs. One was sequel to Alien and the other was First Blood Part II. Not bad. And he got 90 pages into the sequel to Alien draft. He was I think beginning the second act, which is not typically where you are in 90 pages. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: Ninety Pages in? Wow.
HURD: Yeah, but it was gonna need some judicious editing and he went to the executive producers, Walter Hill, David Giler and Gordon Carroll and to Fox and said, "Listen, I'm sorry, I've got this little movie that I've got to do in the meantime. Will you wait?" Well, today they wouldn't have waited. They said sure. Not only that, but sequels back then were not the way they are now. They were pretty rare. In fact, that he ended up writing two of them that got made is remarkable. So the script actually was mostly written before we went off to do the Terminator. The difference was, that after the film was done, Jim went in and said, "Okay, what I really want to do is direct this." And Fox was eager to do that. They didn't want me to produce.
HURD: The quote was, "How can a little girl like you produce a big movie like this?"
HURD: And by the way, the budget for the film was 14 million, and we came in on budget.
GALLOWAY: For Aliens?
GALLOWAY: Who said that to you?
HURD: I'm not gonna tell you.
GALLOWAY: How did you react to that?
HURD: You know, I realized that if I was in that person's position, I probably would have asked the same thing. So you know, the count to 10, which I don't always do, but the count to 10 was really smart. And I literally thought the way that I did that question for Roger, when he said, you know, what career path do you want to pursue, I thought, you know, that's not a bad question. How many women are producing films like this? It's more than double the budget of the Terminator. It's in the studio system, and I said, "You know what? Check my references." So I said you can call Lindsley Parsons, who was at the completion bond company, Finances, who'd been a huge supporter. You can call Roger Corman. You know, you call Mike Medavoy. Call and see if I know what I'm doing. And then I called my friend, the fantastic, the late Debra Hill, who was an inspiration to me, and I said, "Debra, what should I do?" And if you don't know her, she co-wrote and produced Halloween and, you know, all the early John Carpenter films, and many, many others. Fisher King, you name it. And she said, "You know what? You'll get it and then you'll prove to them that it was the right decision." And what a loss it was to have her pass away. Same with Dawn Steel and Laura Ziskin.
GALLOWAY: Do you still think there's that kind of sexism?
HURD: Now? Less so. Less so for producers, but equally so for directors.
HURD: Women directors. Because the perception is that we live in a culture outside of television where the producer is the most important position. Director, it's still the auteur philosophy of the most important person on a film is the director. And there's a great deal of reticence giving a woman a chance. And the statistics support the fact.
GALLOWAY: They've barely changed in 10 or 15 years.
GALLOWAY: What could be done to change that?
HURD: The good news is, look at the number of women who won awards at the DGA Awards. I mean, in television primarily, but Michelle MacLaren, who's directed in The Walking Dead. She was the producing director on Breaking Bad, is now doing a new Marvel movie. And I think it will change. Obviously, Kathryn Bigelow. So it now becomes, you know, we can give this woman a chance because she's proven that it's a good bet. You know, it's a business run by fear, where executives are concerned, you know. They want to be able to on the Monday morning after a film has opened, to be able to explain why their decision to green light a film and to hire a particular director and a particular cast was worth taking a risk on. So each time you step out of the safe zone, you have to do that as an executive.
GALLOWAY: You had a lot of problems with the crew on Aliens in London. They didn't like Jim.
HURD: No, they kept calling me "Yank" and he's a Canadian. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: I think they rebelled at one point. He fired the cinematographer, replaced another one. How did you handle that?
HURD: Well actually, the firing of the cinematographer was hard, but I did it. [LAUGH] So they couldn't blame him.
GALLOWAY: How do you do that?
HURD: No, the truth is that Jim literally can do everyone's job better than most people on a set. He really was lighting the film. But Dick Berg, I think I forget his name.
GALLOWAY: Dick Bush.
HURD: Dick Bush, sorry, thank you, who'd done like Victor Victoria and was very well-respected in England, was a typical lighting cameraman. And he was lighting. He didn't want to hear what Jim had to say. And you know, if Jim wanted something backlit, he'd front light it. If Jim wanted something cool, he's make it warm. And the friction was just killing us. And not only that, it was ruining the look of the film. And you didn't have the kind of timing that you do now, digital color timing, to change things. There was a really limited range of what you could change. So anyway, we found a fantastic young cinematographer, Adrian Biddle.
GALLOWAY: How do you go to someone and fire them? Do you call their agent?
HURD: Well back then, you know, the heads of heads of department, crew members didn't have agents. So no, I took him aside and I said, "Look, it's entirely up to you. If you want to continue on the film, Jim is your creative partner and you are there to carry out the look that he wants. If that is something you cannot do, the best thing for everyone would be if we parted ways." And he agreed. [LAUGH] He agreed that, you know, he wasn't going to be, you know, the director's, you know, sort of, you know...
HURD: Exactly. But the mutiny was not over that. The mutiny was that the first assistant director had directed a film, had directed second unit before, and he really felt that Jim didn't know what he was doing. And he would make nasty references all the time over the walkie-talkies, and he would roll his eyes. I mean whenever Jim would say something, and he was incredibly disruptive. And at a certain point, the last shot of the day was a close up. And so it was an incredibly emotional sequence. And we were in the close up. It was actually Sigourney's close up, and the camera crew, I didn't realize how important soccer was at the time, but they wanted to get back to watch a soccer match. And so they start wrapping. And Jim's like, "wait a minute. We have to finish Sigourney's close up." And they said, "Sorry governor, we're, you know, going home now." And he looked at the first AD and he said, "Yep, sorry." And Jim lost it, and he said, "That guy's not coming back tomorrow." And we did find out that he had sort of led this mutiny. And the crew walked off and didn't want to come back ever.
GALLOWAY: Wow. Did they?
HURD: Yes, and so did the AD.
HURD: Well, that's when you have to really as a producer realize that you are not only the person who has to say no but you're the person who has to build bridges when that bridge has just been blown up.
GALLOWAY: What's the most important quality a producer needs?
HURD: Hmm, there are just so many. I don't think there's just one that you need to have.
GALLOWAY: Name one or two.
HURD: I would say the ability to share a creative vision with the director. I think that's absolutely essential and knowing when the compromise is too great. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no.
GALLOWAY: And what's the difference between a good producer and a great producer?
HURD: A good producer can deliver a film or a TV series on schedule and on budget and a great producer knows the difference between something that's good and something that's remarkable.
GALLOWAY: Is there one producer that you've most admired in the history of film?
HURD: Wow. There's so many. I think that, you know, the greats, the Darryl Zanucks, the David O. Selznicks the Stanley Kramers. Stanley Kramer, I mean remarkable the films he was able to make and the social commentary at a time when it was very difficult to do that, really remarkable.
GALLOWAY: Before we move on, let's take a look at clip from The Abyss. [MOVIE CLIP][CLAPPING] I've always heard that her character was modeled on you.
HURD: [LAUGH] You'd have to ask Jim that.
GALLOWAY: What do you think?
HURD: I know that Mary Elizabeth told me that she modeled how she portrayed the character on me. So, [LAUGH] you know, so I suppose that's splitting hairs.
GALLOWAY: Do you have fond memories of the shoot? It was very difficult.
HURD: It was difficult. It was difficult for a number of reasons. And the most surprising thing is Jim and I were getting [LAUGH] divorced...
GALLOWAY: Oh wow.
HURD: ...as we made the film. And that's the most surprising thing is that we stayed really good friends throughout the whole, you know, time before we dated, when we dated and married, got divorced since then. And it's because we respect each other so much.
GALLOWAY: Do you have any other plans to collaborate on anything?
HURD: You know, he's exclusive to Fox. He's making three more or two more Avatars. I think he's a little busy.
GALLOWAY: Doesn't he have the rights to The Terminator after 2019?
HURD: You know what, people keep saying that but I can't find any, where they're coming up with that. So I don't know.
GALLOWAY: But you have the [copyrights?]?
HURD: Who knows?
GALLOWAY: What went wrong with this film? Because at some point Ed Harris doesn't talk about it. did
HURD: Well, you know, Ed Harris and I are good buddies too. It was probably up until Titanic or whatever's got the record now, the most difficult shoot ever. We shot underwater six days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. Jim was in the water the entire time directing. You know, the helmet, the suit that Ed Harris is wearing? He wore one of those and directed. You know, he'd have to decompress at night for up to two hours a day so that he wouldn't get decompression sickness. So whatever the actors went through, it was even harder for him.
GALLOWAY: When the actors sort of rebel and complain, how did you deal with that?
HURD: You know what, the truth is I don't think any really fine actor, once you get past the, you know, and I've never worked one who did this but I hear that there are people out there who do this. You know, who go out there and measure their motor home and make sure that theirs is, you know, the same length or equal to their co-star. Which I hear apparently happens. Mostly they're afraid. They're afraid that they're not being listened to. They're afraid that they're not, for whatever reason the conditions aren't right for them to give their best possible performance. So it's not, you know, it's really not egotistical. It's really about their craft and the tools that they need to deliver the best possible performance. So I've been lucky enough to work with actors who care only about that. And when you go in and you talk with them and you realize that that's their concern, you can always come up with a solution.
GALLOWAY: And did you on this film? Because this was unbelievably difficult. I mean you had a water tank that burst at one point, you had the actors throwing couches around in the dressing room. How did you as a producer handle that?
HURD: Once again, you don't look at anyone on your set who's competent, who's trying to do their best work as an adversary. They are part of your team. They're an essential member of the team. What do they need? What is getting in the way? Why are they reacting like this? And I, there's always a solution.
GALLOWAY: You've done a lot of big films for other studios too. Armageddon, the Hulk films. How do you deal with a studio? How do you convince them to make the film that you want? How do you deal with the issues of final cut and what's the biggest challenge working with the studio system?
HURD: With, once again, when you accept that the studios are also driven by the same thing, which is fear, and you get on the same page with what they're afraid of. In each case it's something different. In one case it may be, you know, fear that if you don't go with a major star, that's less so these days because the tent pole films are often the stars. But back before then, you know, I won't green light this film unless you get, you know, one of these five stars. But you realize once again it's because they don't want to lose their job. They don't want the person that they're reporting to to say, "Why didn't you hire whoever one of those top five stars was that year?" You know, that's the one job I wouldn't want to have is the heard of a studio or the...
GALLOWAY: Have you been offered a studio job?
HURD: I've been, someone has asked me if I'd be interested and my no was so fast it, there was not a, there's not a further discussion.
GALLOWAY: Do you have fear?
HURD: Do I have fear? Let me see. I have fear that I'm, when I have to compromise that I have crossed the line to something that might be detrimental. But, you know, if you, you have to believe in the partnership that you have with the director and the rapport that you have with the cast and the crew. You have to believe that. And you have to trust them.
GALLOWAY: The Ang Lee partnership was interesting because he's so different from some of those other...
HURD: More exuberant? [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: He's very quiet and gentle.
GALLOWAY: Not your classic director.
HURD: But that's my job. The, your job as a producer is to figure out how to get on the same wavelength as your director.
GALLOWAY: Did you bring him in or was he there when you came in?
HURD: I had the rights so we brought him in.
GALLOWAY: What was the thinking behind that?
HURD: You know, he had, he directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And everyone thought, wow, before he was this, you know, he did these little artistic sort of slice of life movies. And then he had done a civil war film and he had done Crouching Tiger and, well he, now he's, now he can do action. He can do visual effects. And we wanted to have an Indie sensibility for the film. So, and the great thing also was that he has a team, a partner, James Schamus, who wrote the screenplay and came on as a producer. But, you know, he wears a lot of hats. At the time he was also head of focus and he's a professor at Columbia. So he was not on set very much.
GALLOWAY: Not your average producer. [LAUGH]
HURD: Right. But I was able to understand, with Ang it was reading his body language. I could tell exactly what he was thinking without having him tell me by his body language. So, you know, so you really have to be incredibly nimble and you have to be very perceptive in this job.
GALLOWAY: Do you still love film as much as you did?
HURD: I love film. I love TV. I love filmed entertainment in whatever form it takes.
GALLOWAY: What film that you've seen has most marked you? I don't mean that you've made. You've seen.
HURD: I'd say two films. I would say Star Wars and also 2001.
GALLOWAY: Where were you when you saw 2001?
HURD: I was in college. Or was I in college? No. Well, I saw, I know I saw it at the Cinerama Dome. And I saw Star Wars at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.
GALLOWAY: It's amazing that the films that you see at this age and slightly younger stay with you in a way that others don't.
HURD: And what are yours? What are the life-changing films that you saw? I'm sorry.
GALLOWAY: I'm the interviewer, HURD. [LAUGH]
HURD: I understand that but you can't lead me, can't lead us all...
GALLOWAY: You will hate me if I answer that question.
GALLOWAY: Because they're obscure. I love Grand Illusion, I adore The Leopard.
HURD: I also love The Red Shoes and Lawrence of Arabia.
GALLOWAY: But what's also interesting is that I'm not a television lover. I never quite made that switch. You not only made that switch but astoundingly. Let's take a look at The Walking Dead. And it's an amazing thing to me, you know, having followed your career for such a long time, it's amazing to me that people probably will remember you for...
HURD: Oh yeah. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: ...The Terminator and The Walking Dead. [MOVIE CLIP][CLAPPING]
HURD: Out of context, if you don't know what led to that, that looks a little strange. I don't know if you know what led to it.
GALLOWAY: There are 15 million Walking Dead fans.
HURD: Yeah, but do you know what led to that?
GALLOWAY: I've read about it.
GALLOWAY: Tell me.
HURD: So the little girl, Lizzie, it turns out she's essentially a sociopath. She believes that when you become a walker...
GALLOWAY: That some are good.
HURD: ...that there's nothing wrong with them. They're like playmates and she kills her sister.
GALLOWAY: Well I did know that. [LAUGH]
HURD: And so in this world of The Walking Dead, you can't, it's not like you can send the kid to a child therapist who's going to, you know, help them out and they have a little baby, Judith, that they're taking care of. So...
GALLOWAY: How did this come about? Did Frank Darabont come to you?
GALLOWAY: Did you want to go to television?
HURD: ...I had read The Walking Dead when it first started publishing in 2003. I thought it was fantastic. Fantastic, character driven genre which I love and I called and the rights were taken. I didn't actually try to find out it turns out then. And then seven years ago now, maybe six and a half, I decided to check on them again because I hadn't seen a Walking Dead film or TV series. And it turned out that I was told, well, Frank Darabont has the rights. Well Frank Darabont's one of my husband's closest friends and we see, we at the time saw him all the time. And so I called him and I said, "Frank. The Walking Dead." He said, "Don't mention those words." He's probably saying that again now. [LAUGH] And we're still friends.
GALLOWAY: You are still friends?
HURD: We are still friends. And, in fact, I wouldn't have stayed on the show if he didn't tell me that he wanted me to. But he said he had an overall deal at NBC and that NBC had commissioned a script. Can you imagine the show [LAUGH] on NBC?
GALLOWAY: That's fascinating. What would it have been like? You weren't involved at the NBC stage?
HURD: You know, I wouldn't be...No, I wasn't. I wouldn't have been surprised. It was the, well it's got two sort of police guys. Maybe they can solve a zombie crime every week.
GALLOWAY: (To the audience) Did you guys know this was in development at NBC at one point?
HURD: So yeah, he wrote a script and then that script was sent to every place you would expect would be interested in, you know, a genre project. They'd all passed. And, you know, so fast forward a few years. I call Frank and I said, "Well, you know, there's got to be, you know, every year there are new places, new cable..." now there's, you know, Internet, but at the time I said, "You know, I've been speaking to AMC," at the time only known for, really for Mad Men at that time and only soon thereafter Breaking Bad "and they're looking for genre show." He said, "They're never gonna make this." "Well, why don't we see?" And it turns out that their most successful block of programming back then, which was even more successful than Mad Men and Breaking Bad was Fear Fest, which is programming of classic genre films the two weeks leading up to Halloween. And they wanted to launch an elevated genre show during that window. So, in the fastest turn around ever. We pitched in October. Frank had a script in December. They asked us to then put together, to, for him to write another script. He turned that in in January. In February we had a writers' room and we started shooting in June. And we were on the air in October.
GALLOWAY: Then you had the problem of him leaving the show. As a producer how do you deal with that kind of situation?
HURD: The thing about television is that you've got a team and you have a writers' room. And you, everyone gets, embraces the same sort of sensibility. Now it would probably be more difficult if we weren't based on a comic book series that's ongoing. And Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book, is one of the writers in the writers' room. So he's breaking the stories. He's been there since the very beginning but he's got a media empire to run so a show running job is incredibly difficult and, you know, you have to make sure you have someone who shares the same sensibility. And Scott Gimple had, who is our show runner now, going into his third season, has been there since the second season.
GALLOWAY: But are you the one who has the conversation with Frank?
HURD: No. I didn't even know.
GALLOWAY: Did the network then tell you?
HURD: Yes. The thing to know though is that show runners generally only have a two-year contract. And in both cases it was the second year negotiation that also featured in too.
GALLOWAY: How long do you think the series will run?
HURD: I'm looking to beat The Simpson's record. [LAUGH]
GALLOWAY: Are you really?
HURD: Gotta dream big, right? I mean...
GALLOWAY: You've killed off a couple of the series regulars.
HURD: You know the, but the thing to know is that if you, if, those of you who read, you know, the comic sites, know that Kirkman, Robert, has mapped out at least 250 issues. And then that was when we started shooting six years ago. And now he's got at least 250 more. So we have plenty of story and plenty of characters to go through.
GALLOWAY: Do the actors know when they sign up for the season that they're going to be gone?
GALLOWAY: Who has to tell them?
HURD: I actually had to...
GALLOWAY: What was the reaction this season to the ones that you bumped off? [LAUGH]
HURD: It's, you know, it's hard. It's the hardest part of the whole show honestly. I mean it's brutal shooting in the heat of and the humidity of Georgia. It's much harder saying goodbye to an actor. But the only person that I had to tell, I had to tell Madison, the girl who played Madison, who was the little girl that came out of the barn as a zombie at the end of the second season. And believe me, telling a little kid...
GALLOWAY: How did you...
HURD: ...but the show runner has to do that.
GALLOWAY: How did you tell her?
HURD: I told her mother. And that's the other thing with kids is that the year before she wasn't sure she wanted to be an actress. So we thought we're doing her a favor because maybe she's feeling obligated. And you don't want a kid to be showing up and doing something they don't want to do. Well what we didn't realize that over the summer she decided she really wanted to be an actress.
GALLOWAY: Oh my goodness.
HURD: So it was a double whammy. It was, yes.
GALLOWAY: You are doing a spin-ff. Where does that stand?
HURD: We just finished the pilot on Friday.
GALLOWAY: Do you know when it will air?
HURD: No because we haven't been picked up to series yet.
GALLOWAY: And there's a Swedish television show that you're turning into an American one?
HURD: Well yes. We're pitching that. In fact I have to run from this to our first pitch.
GALLOWAY: Oh that's the next pitch.
HURD: Right, but the next series that I'm doing was picked up to 13 episodes. It's called Hunters at SyFy and it's based on Whitley Strieber novel Alien Hunter and there is a fantastic woman show runner, Natalie Chaidez [PH].
GALLOWAY: Do you like television more than the film business at the moment?
HURD: You know, when we think about it in the same amount of time it takes me to make one two and a half hour film I've told more than 16 hours of television and no one is telling me in television; cut the character, have more special effects. The notes that we get from AMC are, you know, make it character driven, you know, challenge us, challenge the audience and don't be afraid of the pauses, don't be afraid of those quiet moments.
GALLOWAY: Do they come to you and say okay you've got to tone down the violence?
GALLOWAY: Do you watch television too?
GALLOWAY: What do you like?
HURD: There's so much great television on now. I mean I think that's why the feature film industry has suffered a bit because there's so much…
GALLOWAY: What do you watch?
HURD: I love The Americans, love Breaking Bad, and I like Bates Motel. I like Masters of Sex; Orange is the New Black, House of Cards.
GALLOWAY: Wow I'm amazed that you find the time…
HURD: That's the great thing about binge watching right? I mean honestly when you think, I mean you guys already know this but the reason this is the golden age of serialized storytelling is because now we have the ability if you miss an episode to catch up. The reason it wasn't possible before was if you missed an episode you probably missed something incredibly important. You had no opportunity to catch up so even with us being off the air since early December we had a marathon on AMC where people could catch up. There's Netflix. There's iTunes. You name it.
GALLOWAY: Let's get some questions.
Q: Hi I'm Destiny. Thank you so much for coming. My question is actually about the Walking Dead so.
GALLOWAY: Are you production or what do you do?
Q: I'm a production senior so going into the real world next. So I'm glad you had a space after that clip because that's one of the most emotional scenes that I've seen in the show and my question is about the mid-series premier, how it was so emotional and in-depth. Are there gonna be more episodes like that?
HURD: I can't talk about the future, but I can say that it's really important to us to delve more deeply into character and we've got such a large cast that you'll be seeing us delve into different characters in the upcoming episodes. And that's what as I said that's what I love about television. You know, we can tell an hour-long story about two characters and not that much really has to happen but when it does happen like in The Grove, like in 414 it just is a gut punch. And that's what the other thing I love about television is that you know, everyone in the audience is inviting that programming into their living room, you know, on to their whatever screen their watching it on and you have an intimate connection with the actors that are portraying the characters and with the story and that's what I love.
GALLOWAY: Next question please.
Q: Hi I'm Christian Haynes and I am a senior production major here. I was pretty much raised on sci-fi by some of the films that you mentioned that you worked on all shape me so I definitely want to write, direct sc-fi films for a living. So I'm just curious and obviously especially when you're starting out the sci-fi genre's a very male-dominated field so I was just wondering if you had any serious struggles with that and how you kind of overcame those struggles?
HURD: Well see that's the perception is actually misguided because when you think about it Debra Hill started before I did in science fiction and horror. Laura Ziskin, the late Laura Ziskin produced the Spider-Man films. Lauren Shuler Donner produces all of the Fantastic Four and X-Men films. Kathy Kennedy. It's actually in a way almost dominated by women. You know, Christopher Nolan's partner produces…
GALLOWAY: Emma Thomas.
HURD: Emma Thomas produces his films. When you actually think about it we really are the producers of these big films so it's really not something that is an impossible dream. It's just a perception possibly because most of the credit goes to the director. So go for it, you know, just make sure that you've done your homework. That's what I had to do. You know, that I was prepared when I got the next opportunity that I didn't blow it [LAUGH].
GALLOWAY: Do your homework means what?
HURD: That means, you know, people want to start out at the top. If you're not prepared to be at the top, I really believe in paying your dues. I went from being head of marketing at New World. I thought my first job on the set would be as an associate producer. You know, I'd been running an entire department. Well a department of one but still. And I started out as a PA and I made coffee and I literally learned every job. I wrapped grip cable. The second AD was dyslexic so I did the call sheets. And it was so important, you know so I really believe that doing your homework and, you know and earning your stripes in a real world setting will help you immeasurably.
Q: That's good advice, thank you.
GALLOWAY: Next question.
Q: Hello I'm Anna and I'm a screenwriting alum so I graduated last year and my question is a Walking Dead question so how do balance between pleasing the fans of the show while also sticking true to the creative vision when you do have to kill off major characters because there is gonna be a time where unfortunately Rick, Daryl and Michonne are gonna be killed off.
HURD: Let's not talk about that [LAUGH]. Oh God, you know you have to maintain the creative focus. You've heard the expression jumping the shark? Jumping the shark is when you think okay, you know, we're getting criticism from the audience. They want us to do something different. They want us to speed things up, slow things down. You know, have dream sequences, bring characters back, whatever it is. The minute that you start thinking about what the audience is going to think first you're no longer true to the creative vision of the evolution of those characters to [OVERLAP].
GALLOWAY: Do you get like hate mail and stuff from people saying…?
HURD: Oh yeah.
GALLOWAY: How do you deal with that?
HURD: Well a lot of my colleagues have gone off Twitter [LAUGH].
HURD: Oh yeah.
GALLOWAY: Are you on Twitter?
HURD: Yes @Gunnergale on Twitter because as you know I'm an Arsenal fan. That's why I went on Twitter to begin with was to follow Arsenal action. But anyway I think it's really important to stick to the storytelling. What advances the story and what is going to create a situation that the actors and those characters can respond to? So that you're essentially you're not telling the same story over and over again, you know, and that's the most difficult thing is. It's really easy in the procedural because they are telling the same story over again, they're just solving a different mystery but serialized storytelling we're just lucky that we have Robert Kirkman's comic book to follow.
Q: Well thank you.
GALLOWAY: Next question please.
Q: Hi thank you for coming.
Q: My name is Elsie I'm a graduate student in the film production program. My question for you is what was the driving force that motivated you to start you're production company and advice would you give to somebody looking to jump into entrepreneurship?
HURD: The motivating force was that no one was gonna hire me [LAUGH] and I didn't want to be an executive. I had been one at Roger Corman's and even though after heading the marketing department I went back to being his assistant. It was as at an elevated level so that I was location scouting for films and casting films and, you know, doing everything leading up to the production. So I felt that as a production company what that really meant was me and an assistant it was not a production company. It was having a sign on the door, a phone number and two phones. And that didn't cost a great deal of money. The problem though is that the first one had to work and luckily the first one was The Terminator. It's different now and I would suggest that rather than starting your production company I would not have been able to continue that if The Terminator hadn't gotten started quickly. It's why Jim had to take two writing gigs to support himself in between. But I think the most important thing now is to build a network, learn as much as you can and I don't think that means starting your production company. I would've done things very differently in this environment than I did back then.
GALLOWAY: Is it easier today or harder do you think?
HURD: Well I think it's harder. I think it's harder because you don't have as many revenue sources. There are fewer films being released than when I started out?
GALLOWAY: But there's so much more television.
HURD: Yes but were you talking about film or TV?
GALLOWAY: Both, yeah.
HURD: But you know in television you, you know, back when I was producing it's very different from starting out now. You actually got paid a development fee as a producer so if I set something up at a studio they'd pay me 25,000 dollars to oversee the writer. You don't get that anymore. It's all, everything's on spec for a producer and the same thing with TV. In TV as a producer you don't get paid a dime to develop anything. You only get paid if it's picked up to pilot and then to series. So it's really, it's tough but it just means that, you know, there's so many more development jobs now. There's so many more production jobs I really encourage people not to start out as a producer to really start out learning your craft from someone that has a lot to teach you.
Q: My name is Brett and I'm a writing and producing for TV graduate student in the MFA program. First thanks for coming. You've opened up a lot of doors for science fiction. Not necessarily for women but in opening a genre up making it very popular so talk about the things we can do as graduate students, as writers to work in the science fiction television field?
HURD: The first thing that I would do… I'd do two things. First I'd write a spec script for whatever television series you imagine yourself having the right voice for. I think that's really helpful. And the second thing is writing your own original because there are more, there's so many TV series now that it's almost impossible to staff them and it's a fantastic time to be a writer, especially in television. But, you know, you need a calling card. A friend of mine wrote, she loved Downton Abbey, she wrote a Downton Abbey spec. She sent it in. She got into the ABC diversity program and she's now staffing on her third show.
GALLOWAY: Wow based on one script.
HURD: Based on that and a spec she wrote. And the spec she wrote was a contemporary thriller.
GALLOWAY: Feature spec or TV spec?
HURD: No it was also a TV, she wanted to be a TV writer so she wrote that and now she's staffing?
GALLOWAY: Next question please.
Q: Hi I am Jatori . It's great to have you here. I'm a big sci-fi fan. In the Walking Dead comic book Judith doesn't survive her death and what was behind the decision to keep her alive in the…?
HURD: Oh, you mean when Laurie dies?
HURD: Yeah. Because we don't like to follow the comic book exactly and we felt it was very important to have that innocence and that hope. It's a very, very bleak world. We've seen that and as long as there's an innocent child, a baby that they can all care for we thought that that was keeping hope alive. The same way that the romantic relationship between Glen and Maggie you can still have love. You can still find your soul mate in this apocalypse so that was really an important message of hope that we felt, you know, we see in every episode.
Q: Thank you.
GALLOWAY: Last question I think.
HURD: Last person too.
GALLOWAY: Yeah perfectly timed.
Q: Hi there.
GALLOWAY: I told you it'd be one hour thirty minutes it's one hour twenty-nine. Go ahead.
Q: I'm David Offenberg [PH] I teach our Entertainment Finance class in the College of Business. You keep telling us about how this is a great time for television but the film business is hurting a little but the film business a little bit. There are in fact so many places to watch content now, filmed entertainment beyond Netflix and Amazon and You Tube now we even see Overstock.com is getting into buying content.
HURD: Which, isn't that hilarious?
Q: So from my perspective as a finance guy it looks to me like a content bubble not all that different from a dot.com bubble or a real estate bubble. Do you think we're in a content bubble and if so how do you think it shakes out of not what [OVERLAP]?
HURD: Yeah we are in a content bubble. I think you're absolutely right. I don't think it's sustainable. I love it while it lasts but you have to be a realist and part of it is piracy. Piracy is growing. People don't want to pay necessarily for content. You need, there needs to be, you know people need to pay for content in order for the content creators to develop it so some of the analyst that look at Netflix stock are concerned about the amount of money they're putting into original content.
GALLOWAY: And you've been pretty badly hit by piracy haven't you? How's that affected you?
HURD: You know the good news is that most people do pay to watch the show however it is that they access it. You know but we have to accept. I mean, you know, I won't BitTorrent anything. I won't. You know, you just can't do that. If you want to be on this business you have to proselytize and explain to people why they can't pirate because you won't have a job. There will not be a job for you ultimately. You know and the paradigm is constantly shifting. We saw what it did to the music business and initially the studios thought they were immune because, you know, the file were so large and everyone kept saying no, people will be able to download it instantaneously and honestly they were such dinosaurs they thought that they thought that day would never come. But you know, at the same time people want, the sustainable models I do think are… you know we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens with the slingboxes. I think that's an interesting thing where people don't want to pay, you know, a hundred and some odd dollars a month for cable for a number of channels they're not watching.
HURD: It does seem, I mean that's a lot of money.
GALLOWAY: You think that model's gonna go, do you?
HURD: I do.
HURD: I think that anything that sounds like it doesn't make sense that there are so much a reaction against is not sustainable. I mean it's not like gasoline where you have to pay for it regardless or, you know, if you have an electric car you still have to pay for the electricity, you know, when you charge it. You don't have to pay for content unless you think it's a reasonable fee, which is why Netflix makes sense and Hulu makes sense. You know Amazon has made sense and you know iTunes makes sense so at the right price this is a sustainable business.
Q: Thank you.
HURD: Is that what you think?
Q: At the right price yes.
GALLOWAY: Thank you. Gail, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you all for being here. Thank you all for being here. [CLAPPING] We have a very brief reception with a photo and then…
HURD: And then I have to go sell more TV.
GALLOWAY: Thank you. [NON-INTERVIEW]