Q & A Session w/ Glenn Slater
By: Jennifer Phares
For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in the behind the scenes world of Hollywood. I believe that my family could attest to how much I annoyed them by watching and re watching the behind the scenes features of our favorite movies. With that being said, there is a lot of work and man power that are poured into making our favorite forms of entertainment. Regardless the medium in which it is delivered, (film, stage, television, and radio), the same general outline applies.
One of the most crucial components of any production rests in the trusted hands of its music department. This primarily consists of composers, lyricists, musicians, sound engineers, the list is virtually endless. This past week, I had the privilege of interviewing one of main lyricists from the ABC show, Galavant. For those of you not familiar with awesome show, it basically boils down to this:
Galavant is a musical comedy produced by the American Broadcasting Company, which follows the life of Galavant, a handsome knight who soon finds life turned upside down. In the beginning of his story, Galavant has the perfect life with the perfect girl, Madalena. One day, an evil yet slightly misunderstood monarch named King Richard kidnaps Galavant’s one true love. The race is then on to save his beloved and vanquish the evil king. Interestingly enough, things do not go as planned and Galavant is left trying to figure out what to do next.
Mr. Glenn Slater serves as an executive producer and lyricist for this brilliant show. I just have to say that I am very grateful for getting a sneak peek into the making of this show!
Question #1: How do you come up with these amazing lyrics?
Answer #1: “Aww, thanks! Basically, here’s how the process works: 1) We start with an outline of the whole season, created by our show runners. 2) Alan and I go through the outline and pick three or four moments for each episode that feel like they could be musicalized. 3) We meet with the writers’ room, and flesh out each of those ideas – lots of jokes, one-liners, and fun details just bouncing around the room, over the course of a week. 4) Alan and I go back to NY, and start on a schedule during which we meet in person every other day. On odd days, we sit together at his piano and hash out a melody, usually trying to find a fun and unique musical style (tango! Motown! rap battle!) for each one. Once we’ve settled on a melody, I take it home with me and spend the even days writing the lyrics. 5) That process involves pulling ideas from the notes we took during the writers’ room meetings, knowing what kind of comedy each of our actors is particular good with, and just wildly improvising. The trick is to keep it loose – go for ridiculous rhymes, non-sequiturs, and break-the-fourth-wall comedy wherever possible. I usually work through the night, and then 6) bring the finished lyric to Alan the next morning. We work on a demo together, threading the dialogue into the song, and getting all the timing to work correctly. We then send the finished demo to the show runners, and immediately start on the next one. 7) Over the next couple of days, we’ll get notes – can we cut 15 seconds? is there a clearer way to express a certain idea? is there a “clean” alternative if ABC censors force us to cut something? We make those changes as quickly as possible, and then 8) once a month, have the actors record as many as we can. Once they’re recorded, the lyrics are “frozen” – and hopefully, “amazing”!”
Question #2: How did the lyrics, “Genocidal war” slip past the ABC censors?
Answer #2: “When we shot the pilot, we were under the impression that we were going into a later time slot, so the ABC powers-that-be encouraged us to go edgy. Once they put us into the 8pm-on-Sunday slot, we went back and “cleaned up” whatever we could – but for “She’ll Be Mine”, we didn’t have any shots we could use on the “genocidal war” line that didn’t clearly show Tim Omundson’s lips moving, so we didn’t really have a choice.
They’re being much stricter with us this season. We actually had to cut an entire mini-operetta for Gareth called “Your Mother Is A Whore” because…well, the title was the cleanest line in the whole thing.”
There you have it folks, a behind the scenes glimpse into Galavant. Season one is currently on Hulu and available for digital download through Amazon.com. On behalf of the staff here at We Love TV, I would like to thank Mr. Glenn Slater for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions.