Last night Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of the hit AMC television series The Walking Dead, stopped by the TIFF Lightbox courtesy of the CFC. She was interviewed by film critic Richard Crouse, who asked her about everything from the beginnings of the Walking Dead to how she started in the business. The CFC also aired the seventh episode of the season that aired last fall, followed by a clip of the second half of the second season that begins on February 12th.
Gale Anne Hurd started out as an assistant to Roger Corman after graduating from Stanford. It was while working with him that she met James Cameron, whom she later made several movies with including The Terminator, Aliens and the Abyss. She told the crowd that she was a geek before there was even a word for it, and if you look at the variety of projects she’s worked on you’ll see that she has a history with speculative fiction pieces. She’s even has a few comic books movies to her credit, including both Hulk movies and the two most recent Punisher flicks. It’s no wonder that she ended up working for the Walking Dead.
Mrs. Hurd told the crowd that before she was involved with the project the series had been pitched to NBC. Unfortunately a pilot was never made, and the series idea was left for dead. When she heard that Frank Darabont held the rights for the series she talked to him about it, and even though he said nothing was going to come of it, she was determined to make it happen. In comes AMC, who were looking for an original series to air during their Fright Fest in October. Mrs. Hurd pitched them the Walking Dead, who had all ready heard of the comic book series by Robert Kirkman. They green lit the series without a pilot every being made, and they signed on to make 6 episodes. According to Mrs. Hurd working with AMC has been great, and they’ve never told them to change anything in any of the episodes.
Each episode is shot in 8 days in a location about an hour south of Atlanta. Jon Bernthal (Shane) was the first of the male leads hired, while Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) was the last. Andrew was actually the last man to audition for the role of Rick. The only role that anyone had an actor in mind for was Dale, who Frank Darabont wanted to hire Jeffrey DeMunn for since he’d worked with him a couple of times previously. Mrs. Hurd talks about comic book fans being upset with the changes that are made from the comic book, such as the addition of new characters and plot changes, but in her view in order to keep things fresh and interesting they have to write for more than just comic book fans. They have a worldwide audience to write for. The most important thing in Mrs. Hurd’s mind for a successful series are the characters. Strong characters are what draw her in, and strong characters make the story.
If there is a theme to take from her question and answer session it’s to never give up. Mrs. Hurd says that she’s had plenty of doors slammed in her face, but she has never given up on a project and never will. She says even though 100 doors may close, the hundred and first may be the one that opens.
The Walking Dead returns February 12th on AMC.