Steven Sears

Former Swamp Thing Producer Steven Sears has been kind enough to share some of his Swamp Thing stories on the Swamp Thing mail list.   They are reprinted here for everyone to enjoy!  Be sure to keep an eye open for his new, upcoming tv series, Sheena.

True Swamp Thing story involving HEART OF THE MANTIS.  (quick synopsis: A old mentor of Arcane's is in the hospital, Arcane visits, trying to get the old man to tell him the secret of cold fusion, a secret he has protected by feigning senility.  The old man (Oilver) refuses.  Arcane comments on the heart monitor, that it makes an annoying "beep...beep" sound. When Arcane leaves, the man dies mysteriously, his heart monitor going from a BEEP BEEP to a solid BEEEEEEEEEEP tone.  Later, when Arcane tries to recover information from Oliver's home, he runs into Oliver's step daughter.  But, more importantly, whenever he's in the house, he continues to hear the BEEP BEEP of the monitor, which begins to drive him crazy...)  Anyway, when I finished the script, I told Tom Blomquist that the title was "YOU MAKE MY HEART SING", because of the heart monitor.  He said he it was really obscure, but I told him that anyone would get it once they read it.  When I finished the script, I distributed it.  As we center the name of the series over the title of the episode on the scripts front page, it read:

"SWAMP THING

You Make My Heart Sing"

Tom made me change the title.  He thought it was hysterical, but...  Oh, well.

Another story:  Tom Blomquist and I were driving toward St. Augustine for the day.  We were a little upset at some Network notes we had gotten (I forgot what they were) and we started commenting on what they thought they wanted to see in Swamp Thing and what we could really afford to do without sacrificing our characters.  In our anger, we started making up an opening to a Swamp Thing that they would want to see but we would never do.  Unfortunately, as we bandied back and forth, we started getting into it and, before you know it, we were so involved with this story that we had a completed outline by the time we got to St. Augustine.  That story was  REVELATIONS and turned out to be a pretty good episode.

When I first went to Florida for the shooting.  Understand the crew didn't know me at all, only that I was yet another in a line of producers to waltz into their lives.  There was a little bit of suspicion toward me and Tom and Jeff.  So, one of the first nights I'm there, it starts raining (in Florida, go figure).  I mean buckets.  And we were shooting outdoors next to the stage.  So everyone started grabbing things to pull inside.  We had a lot of moveable greens, fake trees and the like, so I grabbed a huge tree, tipped it on its side and dragged it into the stage.  One of our Teamster drivers saw me and yelled "Hey, a Producer doing work!  Go figure!"  I yelled back "A Teamster without a doughnut, who woulda' guessed?"  I had made my first friend on the set.

MISTDEMEANOR was the first script I wrote for Swampie.  The Studio hated the script.  Then second script was HOUSE OF MAYAN, which the studio LOVED.  When we finished filming, everyone pretty much hated MAYAN and LOVED MIST.  Walter Von Huene directed MAYAN and we couldn't figure it out.  The script was good, the individual days shooting was good, but the assembled episode was just sooooo disappointing.  At one point, Walter and I toyed with the idea of having him listed as Writer and me listed as Director.  We figured it was the only way the fans might forgive us!

I can't remember the episode, but it was one that I had co-written (I think it might have been THAT'S A WRAP) where Dick was about to shoot a scene and I happened to be on the set. I heard him call for someone to get me, so I sauntered over and asked him what the problem was.  He said "It's this line".  Dick was not one to argue about lines, to be honest, so I asked him what the problem was.  He said the line was fine, but the way it was written "I sound like Tony Bennett when I say it."  I asked him to give me a reading of the line as if we were shooting.  He did.  Tony Bennett.  I changed the line but I couldn't stop laughing the rest of the day because I kept picture Swamp Thing on stage in Vegas singing Tony Bennett songs.

During the time I was there, there were a few quips here and there, but no one rewrote a scene or did major changes to dialogue.  The reason this is an interesting area is because it touches on a big issue in film and television.  Let me give you another anecdote, something that  happened between Scott Garrison and myself.

I was heading to the set one day and decided to stop into the make-up trailer to say "hi".  Scott was sitting in the chair and he looked a little upset.  I cheerfully asked him how he was doing.  He told me that he was a little pissed.  He explained that he had seen an episode of Swampie that we had finished and he was upset that an ad-lib of his had been edited out.  The way he put it, here he was adding some creativity to the script and we just dropped it.  He went on and I listened calmly.  Then when he was done, I gently told him that he had just insulted me and he didn't even know it.  I went on to explain that the ad-lib was dropped because it made no sense and didn't work in the scene.  That our scripts are written very tightly, every line has a reason.  And, I went on, I found it hard to believe that he was upset I had dropped one of his spur-of-the-moment ad-libs when he apparently thought nothing of changing dialogue on a whim.  Dialogue that I, or some other Writer, had spent hours, days or weeks trying to craft.  And that was the insult.  I walked out of the trailer and went to my office.  Now, Scott is a great guy and I would certainly consider him a friend.  True to his nature, he came to my office two hours later and apologised, telling me that he had never considered it from that point of view.

So, you see, ad-libs, while fun for the fans at times, are a topic of much debate in production.  Generally, as a producer, I tell my actors to make the words fit their mouths, but don't try to solve problems that they see in the script.  That's my job.  Or the Writer's job.  It is my experience that if an Actor senses something off in a scene, nine out of ten times they are right.  HOWEVER, nine out of ten times their solutions are WRONG.  That's why I try to maintain constant communication with the cast at all times.  The story I told about Dick thinking his line made him sound like Tony Bennett is a good example.  Dick knew their was a problem, but also knew that it wasn't his place to try and fix it, so he called for me.

We had a lot of fun on the set, so I know a lot of it ended up on the film. And despite the previous story about Scott, he was actually one of the funniest when we supposedly "weren't rolling".

Hey, a trivia question. I actually appear in one episode. Which was it and where am I?

[Answer: "What goes around comes around" -- check the first scene -- Arcane is hunting down Raymond with Arcane.  the lacky  that drags Raymond away is Steven. Sears.]

Actually... TECHNICALLY... I'm in another scene in the same episode.  But you can't see me.  It's the scene where Tressa is talking to the sheriff as she waits for her friend.  Behind him, in the background, you can barely make out a truck. I was standing next to it when the director yelled "Action!" so I ducked inside it.  I had to stay in there with one of the drivers during that whole shoot.  That was also one of the coldest nights we shot.  Carrel was shivering her poor soul out but as soon as they said "action" she went right into character.  You can't even tell it was more than a soft summer night.

And, yes, THAT'S A WRAP was where we just let loose and dug out ourselves.  There are so many "in" jokes that it would take anhour to list them all.

And, maybe, some day I will.  :)
 

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