March 12, 2017
SXSW 2017

Seth Rogen on Adapting 'Preacher' From Comic to Series: 'There's No Line You Can't Cross'

Seth Rogen pitched a series based on the controversial comic for 10 years until he got the green light.

Sitting down for a session focused on the making of Preacher, Seth Rogen, showrunner Sam Catlin, and original comic creator Garth Ennis gave behind-the-scenes explanations about how to keep the show grounded while still exploring blood, blasphemy, and what everybody else considers way too f*cked up. No Film School sat in on it and compiled some of the best points from the talk. 

Be persistent—the industry might change

Rogen first recalled talking about how much he wanted to make this show on the set of Pineapple Express in 2006. "The project kept going to more qualified people, but we kept pursuing it. Eventually, we were the guys who were left. In that time, TV went from just a thing you watched on Thursday night, to a place where you could watch incredible things. In that decade, TV became the platform that could support something like this."

"TV went from just a thing you watched on Thursday night, to a place where you could watch incredible things."

Ennis concurred with this feeling wholeheartedly. "TV caught up with comics. You could finally do more. A lot of execs further down the ladder found themselves higher up the ladder, and they knew it would work." Now under AMC, according to the team, they are blown away by the profane, perverse, and profound material they get to explore on screen.

Ruth Negga, Dominic Cooper, and Joseph Gilgun in 'Preacher'.Credit: AMC

Be bold, but don't break boundaries just for the sake of it

"We wanted a show that's audacious," said Rogen. "That would be true to the comic, where you can't believe what you are reading and where you are seeing it go. We wanted that in the show. But when something goes on for years like a series, it has to have emotional grounding. It can't feel like you're doing something for the sake of doing something. There are a lot of great things on TV right now, but not a lot of great things you've never seen before. So we just tried to push it to most original place it could be, while keeping it grounded."

"...when something goes on for years like a series, it has to have emotional grounding."

If you're adapting, you still need to come up with new material

Ennis, who created the original comic and is one of the writers who adapted the series script, explained that a comic and a TV show are very different, and therefore need new material. "I look at it like, let the TV show be the TV show. It makes sense for things to be taken for granted in the comic. There are more coincidences in the comic. When I wrote it, I was trying to get things going as fast as I could. For the show to last, you have to use creativity. From the beginning, I told Sam and Seth, you're going to need 50-75 percent more material."

Follow your creative instincts, no matter where they take you

"You're talking to a guy that had food fuck each other, and almost started a war with North Korea," said Rogen about where to draw the line as a filmmaker. "Sometimes you only see it later, looking back. Oh, there's the line a thousand miles from here!"

Ennis emphatically agreed. "When it comes to creativity, start with where you want to get to. Worry about the rest later. You'll find out the limits later when you meet the publishers or distributors. Never limit yourself at the creative part." Catlin, the showrunner, described the only important limits as the tangible ones. "We have eight days to film an episode and x amount of money to do it. Those are our limitations, not something like, too bad we have to do the network version. We are doing our version."

"Anything is explorable, it's just up to your abilities to articulate it."

Finally, Rogen concluded, "We work hard to make our ideas be what we do. We don't have secret ideas we wish we could do, we work hard to make our ideas happen. We talk about, will the audience get this? Will it land? When we translate our ideas in our heads into something the audience is seeing and hearing, did we translate it right? Filmmaking is translation. Thinking about how they might be interpreting it wrong. The challenge is translating it right. Anything is explorable, it's just up to your abilities to articulate it."


For more, see our complete coverage of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival.

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No Film School's coverage of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Vimeo.   

 

Featured image: Dominic Cooper in 'Preacher'. Credit: AMC

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