Rockne S. O'Bannon
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|Rockne S. O'Bannon|
O'Bannon at the 2013 Comic-Con
|Born||Los Angeles, United States|
|Occupation||Screenwriter, executive producer, director, writer|
|Genre||Science fiction, fantasy|
|Notable works||Farscape, Alien Nation, seaQuest DSV Revolution, V|
|Notable awards||Saturn Award|
O'Bannon made his writing debut selling spec material to NBC's Amazing Stories (1985) and CBS's The Twilight Zone (1985), but first garnered critical attention for his film Alien Nation (1988) and its subsequent spinoff television show. His next notable achievement was his original series seaQuest DSV (1993) which ran for three seasons. O'Bannon's most critically acclaimed success was the space epic Farscape on Syfy (1999–2003) which ran for four seasons and spun off into a mini-series, a comic book series, and a rumored film. Since Farscape, he's created the hit TV show Defiance (2013) and CW's Cult (2013), the miniseries The Triangle (2005), along with helping to write the Warehouse 13 (2009) pilot. He's also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V among others.
O'Bannon prides himself on "delivering shows that truly are, in their own way, really unique" and pushing the boundaries of the science fiction genre. He's won multiple Saturn Awards (including best series for Farscape) and been nominated for other awards such as a Hugo Award and a WGA Award.
O'Bannon was born in Los Angeles. His father, Charles O'Bannon, was a career gaffer for over 30 years with Warner Bros, and his mother, Sheila, was a dancer for MGM. He grew up tailing his father around the Warner Brothers backlot and reading scripts his dad would bring home for him. From a very young age he knew that his dreams lay in writing.
"I'd been writing passionately since I was ten years old. My very first screenplay was a television pilot – how prophetic. I was a huge fan of the spy series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which had spawned a spin-off that year titled The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. So my first screenplay was the pilot for yet another spin-off titled The Boy from U.N.C.L.E."
O'Bannon never received any formal higher education as he chose to begin working right out of high school. He continued writing numerous spec scripts in his free time and started submitting them to anyone who would accept them. He sold his first material to NBC's Amazing Stories, and the first episode of television he wrote appeared on the CBS reboot of The Twilight Zone in the mid-1980s.
O'Bannon's career started in the mid 80's with an original script written for submission to ABC's Darkroom. However, the show was canceled before his material got read. He followed it up by submitting that script to both the CBS reboot of The Twilight Zone and NBC's new anthology series Amazing Stories, where it received good reviews from both. However, it was CBS and The Twilight Zone that asked O'Bannon to pitch his script to them. They liked his pitch and subsequent rewrite so much that they quickly hired him as a staff writer. During his time on The Twilight Zone he wrote four episodes, served as the story consultant on six episodes, and the story editor on eighteen episodes. One notable episode he wrote is "Wordplay", starring Robert Klein.
After the cancellation of The Twilight Zone, O'Bannon turned his efforts to a new project: Alien Nation (1988), his first feature film. Alien Nation gained moderate success by grossing over $32 million in its initial release from 20th Century Fox. Although O'Bannon moved on from the series, it's worth noting that Alien Nation developed a cult following which has resulted in a television series, five television films, comic books, and fictional novels.
He spent the end of the 80's writing another feature: Fear, which he also directed. The film was originally intended for a theatrical release, but it was released instead on Showtime on July 15, 1990.
O'Bannon's biggest success was his cult classic and fan favorite Farscape. Originally sold to SyFy (then called The Sci-Fi Channel), the head of the network told O'Bannon "Just make it as weird as you can, because I just don't want a kids show." In an interview with the Huffington Post, O'Bannon notes: “The greatest words I’ve ever heard were, ‘Just make it as weird as you can.’ It took all the restraints off!” And it was their decision to shoot in Australia that made Farscape a classic. “Australians are just incredibly wild individuals and they embraced the insanity of the show.”"
SyFy bought a 22 episode order from O'Bannon and Brian Henson. At the time, the SyFy network was known for airing older material and television movies. SyFy wanted a flagship show, and committed to shooting in Australia. Rockne noted that "Farscape was also the first full-fledged show for Sci-Fi Channel... They were looking for something to establish themselves as a unique purveyor in speculative fiction and plant their flag as a unique destination. I think we kind of did that for them." 
O'Bannon began the third decade of his career with Farscape in full swing. The second season was bought and aired to enthusiastic reviews, then a third season as well. O'Bannon then had a 4th and 5th season of Farscape bought simultaneously (it was planned to be a 5 season arc). However, the Jim Henson Company (the show's producer) was sold by the Henson family to EM.TV & Merchandising AG in 2000, and the new company decided Farscape was too expensive to produce. The 5th season was canceled right before the airing of the 4th season. Fans were wildly upset and began campaigning en-masse to the SyFy company. Due to fan outrage, the sets were put into storage rather than destroyed. Syfy then committed to making the three-hour mini-series Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars to wrap up the show. Brian Henson directed the mini-series with O'Bannon and his friend David Kemper writing. The cancellation of Farscape has been lamented and noted as a blunder for Syfy.
O'Bannon almost immediately then sold The Triangle to SyFy which he wrote and executive produced with Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin. The Triangle aired to stellar ratings and was a critical success. He then sold his pilot Cult to the WB, but the series was dropped when the WB was merged with UPN to become the CW. O'Bannon then spent the next four years working on spec pilots, non-aired material, and rewrites of other shows including on Warehouse 13 which helped get the show sold.
O'Bannon was brought onto ABC's reboot of V as a consulting producer and writer in late 2010 thorough early 2011. He worked in the writer's room for the second season but V wasn't renewed for a third, partially because of the show's high cost. Early in 2011, Syfy bought O'Bannon's pilot script for Defiance, and it went into production in June 2011. Part of Defiance's concept was combining a TV show with a massively multiplayer online developed by Trion Worlds Online. Beyond being the creator of the series, O'Bannon was originally slated to be the show-runner and executive producer. He stayed with the production for nearly 9 months, until it was announced the CW had placed a pilot order to make Cult in January 2012 nearly seven years after the network's predecessor had bought it. With both of his projects slated to go on the air, O'Bannon chose to follow his longtime passion project.
O'Bannon originally wrote Cult in the aftermath of Farscape and watching the legions of fans mobilize to save the show. "I saw this phenomenon with fans rallying around the show. Okay, what if there wasn't this wonderfully warm sci-fi adventure show, but it was something a little bit darker and edgier? What kind of fans would that bring in? That's what started me down the path of creating Cult." When asked about leaving Defiance for Cult, Rockne responded: "It was a difficult transition for me because I really did and do love “Defiance,” but “Cult” is really my baby."
Cult went into production shortly after in February 2012, and a season order was placed May 11, 2012. The entire 13 episode order was filmed at once. Cult initially aired on Tuesday nights, but only drew low ratings from the teen-centric network. The second half of the season was moved to Friday nights, where the ratings dipped further. CW canceled the series with 6 episodes remaining to air; they later aired them and the series is on Netflix. Still, Cult was a unique viewer experience designed to break the fourth wall. Rockne explained the appeal of the show, "The show, itself, is kind of invading your space, because it's not letting you just passively watch it. I'm watching a show called Cult about people watching a show called Cult... Cult was really an attempt to break down the fourth wall, to break the glass between you and the TV show." Meanwhile, on SyFy, Defiance ran for three seasons.
O'Bannon next began work on the second season of Revolution where he was brought on as the number two executive producer and writer (credited with 4 episodes). Despite praise for the revamped and grittier season, NBC declined to add a third season and canceled the show after 42 episodes. After Revolution, O'Bannon wrote on Constantine for a season (credited with 1 episode). Currently, he works on new material and possibly a Farscape movie. He's also had a pair of unproduced projects in development including Global Frequency.
O'Bannon currently resides in Los Angeles. He is married with a wife and trio of adult children.
|The Twilight Zone||1985||TV series||Story Editor (18 episodes), Story Consultant (6 episodes), Teleplay (4 episodes), Written By (4 episodes)|
|Amazing Stories||1985||TV series||Writer (1 episode)|
|Alien Nation||1989||TV Series||Writer (characters – 18 episodes) (character – 4 episodes)|
|SeaQuest 2032||1993||TV series||Creator (23 Episodes), Story/Teleplay (1 Episode)|
|Deadly Invasion||1995||TV movie||Director, writer|
|Farscape||1999–2004||TV series||Creator (81 Episodes), Executive Consultant (66 episodes), Executive Producer (22 Episodes)|
|The Triangle||2005||TV miniseries||Writer, Executive Producer|
|V||2009||TV series||Writer (1 episode: "Unholy Alliance"), Consulting Producer (10 episodes)|
|Cult||2013||TV series||Creator, writer, Executive Producer (12 episodes)|
|Defiance||2013||TV series||Developer, Writer (2 Episodes), Executive Producer (12 episodes)|
|Revolution||2013||TV series||Writer (4 Episodes), Executive Producer (17 episodes)|
|Constantine||2014||TV series||Writer (1 episode: "The Darkness Beneath"), Consulting Producer|
- "Sci-Fi Mastermind Rockne S. O'Bannon on Defiance, Farscape, Cult, and the Coming Revolution". www.iconicinterview.com. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "31st Annual Saturn Awards – Press Room Pictures | Getty Images". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "1989 Hugo Awards". July 26, 2007. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "Writers Guild of America, USA (1988)". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "Marv Wolfman – With Rockne S. O'Bannon".
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- Anders, Charlie Jane. "10 Actual Mistakes that Syfy Has Made Over the Years". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
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- "Bad News for the CW's 'Cult'". The Huffington Post. February 28, 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "So Long, 'Cult'". The Huffington Post. April 10, 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "Syfy's 'Defiance' Canceled After Three Seasons". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "'Revolution' Adds 'Cult's' Rockne S. O'Bannon for Season 2 (Exclusive)". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- Gonzalez, Robbie. "The Farscape Movie is Officially Happening". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- "Fox orders another DC Comics show based on Global Frequency". November 21, 2014. Retrieved 2016-08-07.