Exclusive Interview: Mark Schwahn, Creator/Head Writer of One Tree Hill (Part 3)
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One Tree Hill has employed a creative chronology (two TV seasons per school year). Was this to simply maximize the hoops season, or were there other reasons? It was partly that. In the second TV season we didn't play any basketball, which was the rest of their junior year, and I felt that the show suffered a little bit. A lot of times the basketball games for us are like the crimes, or it's the courtroom, the police precinct, or the medical operating arena - it was like our home turf. And while in all those other shows, they're rarely about the actual case or medical issue they're dealing with, it's more about the people. For us, that's what basketball was. It was never about playing basketball, but it was about what was happening to the people when this game or tournament was approaching. So, I did it for that reason. Plus, our kids are pretty accelerated, there aren't a lot of adults around, so I wanted them driving cars and doing things upperclassmen would be doing. Lucas and Nathan were important players on the team, the most important, and I just couldn't see that happening to freshman. And, I also wanted to keep them in high school longer. I know a lot of the shows that we started with, the kids are out of high school now and into college and what have you, and I always thought that there was a loss of energy when that happened. It's hard to have everyone go to the same college and everyone stay together for whatever reason, or you lose some of your principles. Last question. After this year, your High school characters will be going off to college. How will you make the transition into your 5th season? I want to do something that's unprecedented. And, maybe it's unprecedented because it's a bad idea, or maybe it's unprecedented like the Nathan and Hailey marriage: just because nobody's ever done it and it's actually a very good idea. I want to skip college. And what I would do is graduate them at the end of season four and then we'll pick them up five years later to start season five. The reason that this compels me is, first of all, I can drop into a world that feels new and, yet, familiar. What I mean by that is this: you know the characters and you've been with them for four years, but you don't know what happened for the last four, and you can drop the audience into new situations. The kids can play closer to their age, and we've done a lot of what we would do in college in high school, in terms of that accelerated behavior. The other cool thing it does, and this was not by design, I'm not smart enough to design it this way, but the fact that Lucas and his mom and his dad, Dan, the fact that there was history, that we can always reach back and grab a piece of something over the last four years, like what happened with Dan and Karen, what happened before Lucas joined the team, etc. Like we dropped the audience into this world, but there was so much life before that, that you could always go back and grab a piece when you needed it. If Lucas is with a girl that we've never met, or with Peyton, or with Brooke, or living with Hailey and Nathan or whatever, how did that happen and what choices framed that? So, while you're advancing and learning about his new career and what he's doing after college, you're also allowed to go back and pick out that night in college when it could have gone either way and the decision he made that night and how it frames where he's at now. And I haven't ever seen anyone do it, but I think it's a great idea and, as a storyteller, the adrenaline I had in season one is increasingly difficult to find, but as a storyteller, to drop into a new world with all these characters that I love and tell new stories and yet be able to bounce back once in a while, it's incredibly invigorating for me and I would think it would be for an audience too, as opposed to skipping ahead to college and doing the same old stuff. It makes a hell of a lot of sense, college never works on high school shows. I agree with you. I'm a guy that's apt to tell you when I screwed up and when I'm wrong or what I could have done better, and try to learn from it. I really try to check my ego at the door, but I've got to tell you, jumping five years ahead, I think, is a great idea, and I'll be the first one to tell you if I was wrong about it. But when we, when I, step into my writer's room, we know when we feel the buzz of a great arc. When we wrote Psycho Derek, and talked about it as a group, we knew that it was a really cool storyline and that it was going to do great things for Peyton and make some great episodes and give us the flexibility to shake things up a little bit with her, and there's a buzz that you feel. There's a buzz that you feel when you write a great moment or when you come up with a great idea, you realize how it will inform all the characters in their journeys. And that's what this idea does for me and does for the writer's room. So, I'm hopeful we get the fifth season and, if we do, that's what I'm going to present to my studio and my network because I think it's the best thing for the show and for the actors that have been here for 90 episodes. I think it will be fun for them too. Thanks Mark. Thank you. I really appreciate you guys. And, by the way, tomorrow night's episode is the biggest episode we've ever made. It's great and I'm very proud of it. And then we have one more before we go into our hiatus, it's amazing too. So, the next two episodes, I'm as proud of them as any other episodes that we've made.
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This interview is the fourth in a series of BuddyTV interviews with the creators, writers, and producers behind many of TV's hit shows. Thus far, we've featured an interview with Hank Steinberg (creator of The Nine), an interview with David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik (the creators of The Class), and an interview with David S. Rosenthal (new Head Writer/Executive Producer of Gilmore Girls).
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