Comic Con 2011: Zack Stentz Talks TV, Movies and More
Comic Con 2011: Zack Stentz Talks TV, Movies and More
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
As the Comic-Con countdown continues, our next interview is with Zack Stentz, a writer who has worked on the TV series Fringe and Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles, as well as on some recent movies you may have heard of: Thor and X-Men: First Class.

Stentz will be one of the panelists appearing at BuddyTV's "Obsession: "How TV and Movies Go from Fascination to Phenomenon" panel at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. He talked to us about his various projects, and you will definitely have the chance to hear more if you can make it to the panel itself (Thursday, July 21 at 11am in Room 23ABC).

What are you working on now?
Zack Stentz: Ash [writer Ashley Miller] and I have just wrapped up a draft of The Fall Guy, an action movie based on the TV series of the same name, for Parkes-MacDonald. We're also starting working on a heist film for Skydance Productions (the people who did True Grit and are currently financing Mission Impossible 4 and World War Z), developing a TV series at Fox, and writing the last two chapters of a young adult novel.

Why do you think that some shows with passionate fan bases get canceled (like The Sarah Connor Chronicles) while others survive (like Fringe)?
Zack Stentz: I wasn't privy to the behind-the-scenes stuff behind TSCC and Fringe's cancellation and renewal so I can't speak specifically to them. But in more general terms obviously ratings play a big role in deciding what gets renewed and what doesn't, but you also can have other considerations as well come into play, like who's making the money from overseas sales and DVDs, how powerful is the production company behind the show, how well-liked and supported is the show by the network, and how is it doing in its timeslot. And while I'm still disappointed that the Sarah Connor Chronicles is no longer on the air, I'm delighted to see Fox give Fringe another season and let them tell more of the wonderful story they've been spooling out for the past three years.

Of your various writing and producing projects, what are you the most proud of?
Zack Stentz: That's a bit like asking a parent which of his children he loves best! We love all of our babies, but some of my proudest moments in television actually come from episodes we didn't write, but were able to contribute to in the collaborative process that is TV. So I can point with pride to little things like putting Olivia through the windshield in the Fringe season two opener, or the jazz age Terminator looking at the stars to determine what time period he had been accidental thrown into in the Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Self Made Man."

In terms of this summer's movies that we contributed to, I love them both but I'm probably proudest of Thor, if only because there were so many ways to make a bad movie about a Viking space god with a magic hammer and very few ways to make a good one, and I feel that we played a role in helping Marvel and Kenneth Branagh find their way to a good one.

You have worked primarily in science fiction and fantasy. What is it that appeals to you about these genres?
Zack Stentz: I like all sorts of genres, but science fiction and fantasy allow you to use your imagination to take audiences to more places than more grounded genres. They're just more encompassing. So while you can do a police procedural within the context of a sci fi show, you can't really have science fiction break out in the middle of an otherwise grounded cop show. If writing is like playing a piano, sci fi and fantasy let you use all 88 keys instead of just the black ones or the white ones.

Why do you think fans of science fiction and fantasy are more likely to get more heavily invested in TV and film than fans of other genres?
Zack Stentz: Is that really true? I imagine there are some pretty ferociously devoted fans of soap operas, legal thrillers, and chick lit dramas. Though you're right, as far as I know, 125,000 Grisham fans don't descend on Oxford Mississippi every summer for GrishamCon 11.

I think it's the vividly imagined worlds of sci fi and fantasy that invite readers or viewers to live in them have a profound effect on a lot of people, who really enjoy exploring those worlds with their friends online or at cons or what have you.

Do you have any shows that you're obsessed with? What does a program need for it to be a "can't-miss" for you?
Zack Stentz: I'm actually having a great time with some of the USA series like White Collar and Royal Pains right now. I'm not sure why, but I'm enjoying some of the lighter, frothier stuff rather than the heavier fare that seems to dominate critically acclaimed genre television right now. That said, I've got Game of Thrones stacked up in my DVR buffer and I'm looking forward to digging into it as well (I've read the books so I know what to expect).

For me to really hook into a show, it's got to present a world and characters that engage me and get me emotionally involved without making me want to kill myself at the end of the hour. It's probably why I also enjoy Eureka and Warehouse 13 and am looking forward to Alphas premiering shortly.

Have you been to Comic Con before? What are you looking forward to the most this year?
Zack Stentz: Yes, I've been several times over the last eleven years or so. I have a difficult time with crowds, so I can only take the Con in small doses, and waiting in line for four hours to see a Hall H presentation sounds like the definition of hell to me. As always, I'm most looking forward to the people I meet there, be it fans, journalists, artists I've long admired, or creators of exciting new comic books or movies.

Are you a comic fan? What's your favorite?
Zack Stentz: I am a comic fan, though my enthusiasm has waxed and waned in cycles over the years. Right now I'm on a Grant Morrison kick, so I'm having a fun time going back and discovering some of his great work from the 90s and early 2000s that I missed the first time around. I'm very much looking forward to his take on the Action Comics relaunch.

Who was your favorite superhero growing up and why? How about now?
Zack Stentz: As a kid, I loved Batman for the usual reasons that most kids do -- the cool costume and gadgets, the vaguely dangerous and sinister aura in the service of doing good, etc. As an adult, though, I find myself drawn more and more toward the Superman character, precisely for his lack of dark, edgy moral ambiguity. The idea that a character really can embody the best human virtues while possessing almost unlimited power and strength is something that I find profoundly comforting for some reason.

We will be publishing interviews with our "Obsessions" panelists over the next several days, leading up to San Diego. Come back to hear what they have to say, and check out our Comic Con Top Picks in the meantime!

Click here to read our interview with Amy Berg of Eureka and Leverage.
Click here to read our interview with Mel Lowry of ChuckTV.net and True-Blood.net.
Click here to read our interview with Allison DuBois, the inspiration for Medium.

(Images courtesy of FOX)


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