|Posted by MissNanse-SSI on June 7, 2010 at 11:05 AM|
Today I have the honor of interviewing Martha Byrne the beautiful As The World Turns only Lily and creator of Gotham the hugely successful Gotham web series. Ms Byrne is also a hugely successful fund raiser for St. Judes and is one of the nicest people on soaps or anywhere for that matter.
SSI:: You know we all miss you on ATWT and now we have lost Helen Wagner. How do you feel about ATWT now?
MB: It is an odd feeling, that I can't quite put into words. I'm sad for the fans and the people who work on ATWT who will be saying good-bye to something which has meant so much to them, personally and professionally. As far as how I feel, I said good-bye to the working aspect of my role with the show two years ago. Thankfully when I was working on ATWT during some of the most successful years, I appreciated every second, so I have no regrets regarding my time spent there. I wish some things could be different for the current people who make ATWT their second home, but sadly the time has run out.
SSI: Do you think it is time for it to end or is there still life left?
MB: There would have to be some major changes as far as the way the show.functions for it to be a viable product for advertisers. I think the spending on soaps went so far that when these cuts began to happen it felt very drastic. Truth be told they probably should have started a long time ago. But, where and who you cut should come from what the viewers need to see to keep the value of the show at a premium. As any viewer, and I guarantee they would rather see two people have a beautiful scene at a table for two then see anything, literally, explode. In this case, talk is cheap.
SSI: What are your feelings on the state of soaps today and how would you save them if you could?
MB: There are many things I would do to save soaps. My main reason for doing Gotham was to see if the viewers still wanted a certain kind of story telling. In that process I learned first hand what did and did not work, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. It is a safe place to make mistakes before you are responsible for a televised show. I loved it.
SE: Do you think there is still hope for the genre on television?
MB: Absolutely! Some have said the genre needs to go away to re-invent itself, but I disagree. I think steps need to be taken now to insure their future, and the moves have to drastic. First, the desire to save it must be real, then you can move on from there.
SSI: Where did the idea for Gotham come from?
MB: I shopped the show as an hour pilot first. I wrote the script with Alexandra Verner Roalsvig from ATWT. We were both feeling like the genre needed to go back to simple, character driven, story telling. We sat at her kitchen table and cranked it out. With everything that was going on with the industry, soaps were not at the top of people's lists of shows to produce. Although, we did get very close to it being done. When things fell through, a Fox executive suggested we shoot it for the web. Alex had left ATWT and moved to Long Lake NY to become the Director of Tourism, so Lisa Brown and I started to write the webisodes.
SSI: How long had you been planning this? It is so together and well done it seems it was in your mind for a long time.
MB: Thanks. We actually wrote the pilot over 2 years ago.
SSI: Gotham is such a great web soap and it is a soap at it's best. Do you think the web is the future of the soap genre since the networks are so fast to give up on them?
MB: I think the web is a part of what soaps will be in the future. Everyone loves TV, but I think the web will give viewers other ways to see their favorite shows. My feeling is the next step will be major production companies coming to the web to test shows then bring them to TV. It's a much cheaper way to test something with minimum risk.
SSI: You have built a really solid cast and you all seem to work beautifully together. Any new additions in mind from the other soaps.
MB: I have a role for Maura West, Marj Dusay, and many others in my mind. Hopefully all my dreams will come true.
SSI: The Daytime Emmy's are being held in Las Vegas this year and televised on CBS. Do you feel there is any hypocrisy by CBS since they are famous for killing off the longest running soaps and now they are invoved in honoring them?
MB: It is a business decision. Period. It's very hard as a fan to take your emotions out of what transpires, but if you can, you'll see it comes down to dollars and cents, these days more than ever. As I said before, you have to want to continue these shows first, then can you start to come up with solutions to make that happen.
SSI: SE:Seeing how you have made such a success of Gotham how would you save the soaps on television?
MB: I have a business model to do just that. Ultimately if the fans watch the product, that's all that matters. They decide if it works or not. I believe it can be done in a way that pleases everyone.
SSI: Some Guiding Light actors have come together to form 9 after 7 Productions and will be selling a DVD of a movie called La Lumiere. This will be financed by pre-sales. What are your thoughts on this idea?
MB: I applaud anyone who wants to try and keep this genre alive in any fashion. In my world, I would be more comfortable having the product before I asked people to pay, but I get it, and I think it's a great idea. This is how indie films are produced, by investors, so to me it's a legit and smart way to produce your projects. I love that the fans support the actors and the shows. These GL appearances around the country prove there is still such a big audience who are missing their favorite people
SSI: How can web soaps become profitable? Venice charges for the season is this something you might do in the future?
MB: I think the subscription model only works for some shows based on their following. If you're trying to build an audience by word of mouth, which most web shows are doing, you limit your audience by asking them to pay initially. I see some webseries have a DONATE button. I think that's a great idea. So if you like the show and want it to continue, you can be a part of it's success. I feel I was blessed to have had a very successful career and that success came directly from the fans supporting me over two decades. I just can't ask for money to watch the show.
SSI: Lastly I would like to congratulate you on raising almost a quarter of a million dollars from your most recent charity event for St Judes/ You are a truly wonderful and generous woman and we all are indebted to you.
MB: It was a great event! A wonderful charity. Because of the fans and their support, they have helped me raise millions for the hospital. That is the best gift I've been given, so thank you!
SSI: Martha thanks for your time and your spirit and your loveliness, Nanci