Interview by Daniel Robert Epstein, contributing editor
Hart Hanson is the creator of the new FOX series, Bones, a crime drama about the uneasy partnership of a forensic anthropologist (Emily Deschanel) and an FBI agent (David Boreanaz). Hart's writing credits include Joan of Arcadia, The Outer Limits and Stargate SG-1.
UGO: How many episodes of Bones have you done so far?
HART HANSON: We're shooting episode four and finding our feet. It's the usual growing pains of a show, finding a matching budget, stories, actors and all that stuff, but it's coming along pretty well. There are scripts done almost through episode eight.
UGO: What's been the writing process on this, is it any different?
HART: A little different. Instead of a room of all of the writers, we tend to break up into smaller groups and work out each outline. We storyboard the show and then the writers go off to write the outline on their own and then get through to a first draft. Because of the speed with which we're moving, the writers aren't getting to do as many drafts as I'd like before I have to take it away. It's always tricky figuring out the show while you're on the move.
UGO: What writers are on your show?
HART: We have Stephen Nathan as my second and then Dana Coen, Greg Ball, Laura Wolner, Steve Blackman, Liz Benjamin. We have a really good cross-section of writers, all of whom have written different kinds of shows. It's a very good mix because the show has to be half procedural and half character and humor.
UGO: How do you find your writers?
HART: Some I knew. Stephen Nathan I worked with on the first season of Joan of Arcadia. I was running the writing room on that show. Then when I left, I hired Stephen to replace me on that show. Luckily for me, not luckily for [Joan of Arcadia creator] Barbara Hall, Joan was cancelled about the same day that Bones was picked up. So I got Stephen Nathan. I knew Noah's writing from this other pilot I had done a year before called Expert Witness. Steve Blackman and Greg Ball are writers from a pilot that I supervised that was called Barely Legal, although that was never a title that was going to last into production. Too porny. Laura Wolner I'd only read and met with and the same with Liz Benjamin. Laura has a really quirky sense of humor and a very unique voice. Liz is a really good procedural writer, she worked on Law and Order and I liked her plays.
UGO: I would imagine that it wasn't a procedural play.
HART: It was not a procedural play. It was an artsy-fartsy one-act play. She came out from New York for this.
UGO: You have some science fiction television credits to your name. How did that experience help you?
HART: Since I worked in Canada, there you have to write everything to make a living so I wrote some Outer Limits, Stargate and Poltergeist. Those experiences were very good for me because they were very plot heavy. The other thing that was good about writing on those shows were that you had some sense of how special effects were used. On Bones, between the dead bodies and then the special effects with the holographic display, it gave me some sense of what could and could not be done. Although I immediately had to be reeducated when we were picked up because things change monthly.
UGO: Obviously you guys were going for a different look than other shows that have procedural elements. How do you decide what effects work best for you? Is it just trial and error?
HART: Yeah, one of the things we had was this holographic projector, which would show the crime. The idea was that as they accrued evidence through the show that they would feed more and more evidence into the holographic representation of the crime until it would lead to the solution. I thought that would prevent us from having to use flashbacks that the other procedural shows use. But I found out during the pilot that, although the holographic projector is really cool and it looks really good, it was not going to provide an emotional tie with the victims. We had to find more human ways to connect, but still the holographic projector is handy for a whole bunch of expositional things. Then the director of the pilot, Greg Yaitanes, has a really good visual style. He established the template of the look of the show along with Dermott Downs, the cinematographer.
NEXT: Page 2 of 2