What Buffy Taught Dorothy Booraem

I discovered Buffy in the early 2000’s. My first memory is trying to rent episodes on DVD at Blockbuster. They weren’t available. “Not enough interest” explained the bored blue shirt behind the counter. I gave in and bought the first season DVD set at a big box store. I had no idea that my life was about to change.

CUT TO: I’m watching the first episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The punk pop beats of the opening sequence have already hooked me. By the time the episode is over, I’m jonesing for the next. Twelve hours later, after calling in sick to work, I’ve watched all of Season One. And I need more.

FADE TO BLACK.
ON SCREEN TITLE: Three Years Later. FADE IN TO: Girl intently watching television

For three years I was submerged in the Buffyverse. I collected all the seasons and watched them obsessively. Often I was homesick for Buffy, Xander, and Willow, as though they were friends that had recently moved away. At some point Buffy stopped being an escape and became a powerful cocktail of longing, like an unrequited crush. I knew it was ridiculous to feel this way; that the show was just a made up world. And yet I so desperately, desperately wanted it to be real.

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This torture of real/not real went on for several months. Then one night I was watching Episode 6 of Season 4 (in which Oz betrays Willow with another werewolf) while listening to the DVD commentary. Joss Whedon, Seth Green and Marti Noxon were talking about creating the episode when, for the first time, I really SAW the people behind the curtain. Or the power behind the throne, or whatever you want to call the realization that the Buffy world was simply the result of creative action by other humans. The creators were just people. They had a plan, maybe a map, and they were moving forward with it. Buffy wasn’t a complicated, mysterious process. It was a series of steps.

The idea that Buffy didn’t spring, fully formed, from the head of Zeus, was astonishing to me.
I had known intellectually that it took a village to raise a Buffy. But I had never thought much about what the village people did to make it happen. (I blame this planet’s yellow sun for my extreme suspension-of-disbelief powers.) Now I was enlightened and what’s more, I knew what my first creative action would be. I would reverse engineer the Buffy process and create a 45 minute fantasy episode of my own.

Several years prior to Buffy I had a dream about a brother and sister who were powerful beings, sort of demi-gods The brother was a protector, the sister a killer. In my dream the sister, named Chaos, trapped her brother in hell and then went into the human world to kill his surrogate daughter. The daughter was, of course, a key player in a coming armageddon. If she was killed the human world would be destroyed. So the brother, Fortune, escaped his sister’s

trap and battled her before she could bring the ultimate destruction down on our universe.

Armageddon! Hell! Powerful Beings! My dream felt very “Buffy”. I decided to write it as a script and title it “Chaos & Fortune”. It would be filled with gore, magic, mystery, fantasy and fairy tale characters with names like “Broken Girl”.

Looking back, I can see that while I loved the writing in Buffy, none of its style had made its way into my subconscious. Chaos & Fortune had zero humor and was very focused on the complex details of its world. I had no grasp of story structure or an understanding of how elements needed to come together to create drama. All I really knew was “show, don’t tell”, which I kind of thought meant “imply, do not clarify”.

Once the script was written, I threw myself into planning the production. If Joss Whedon could make a Buffy episode in a week, I figured could make a 45 minute fantasy short in a week as well. I didn’t take into account his talented, hard working and paid production crew. But when you’re young, you don’t even know what you don’t know. I just moved forward assuming if someone else could do it, I could do it too. With enough planning I could do anything.

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DISSOLVE TO PRODUCTION MONTAGE:
a night shoot in a thunderstorm,
an alley running with corn syrup blood,
a kiddie pool filled with a mixture of spaghetti, coffee grounds and vegetable oil, a levitating stunt involving a rope, a tree and a pickup truck,

FADE TO BLACK.
ON SCREEN TITLE: That’s a Wrap

Chaos & Fortune was completed in 2005. My crew and I shot it in a week, then I took three months to edit it. We premiered it in a local theater that fall. It was so satisfying to have a finished project under my belt. But most importantly, I had taken action. Creative action that would sustain and propel me forward into other, bigger projects in years to come. All thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: By day Dorothy Booraem is a writer, shooter & editor of local cable commercials. By night she makes shorts, webisodics, and horror features. Check out her vimeo channel, her web series “On the Inside“ or her horror feature Wake the Witch on Netflix Streaming. Dorothy’s new horror feature, the giallo influenced Blood Rites, will be at AFM and the Cannes Film Market this year. She is also writing a new web series about witchcraft that will begin production in November 2012.

Dorothy Booraem

Dorothy Booraem

Dorothy Booraem

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