Maitri Erwin, Back of Town: Blogging Treme founder
Lolis Eric Elie, Treme/ex-Times-Picayune/documentarian
Becky Northcut, VirgoTex
Davis Rogan, musician/Treme
Dave Walker, Times-Picayune TV critic
Eric Overmeyer, playwright/TV writer/producer, “Treme” co-creator
ERWIN: Your connections to New Orleans? (ROGAN/ELIE natives)
NORTHCUT: dad a shrimper… only news that mattered was on the blogs.
WALKER: Chicago, came here for job at T-P. Heard Wild Tchoupitoulas on WXRT in Chicago.
OVERMEYER: Grew up in Seattle, dad came here on business, bought back Oscar “Papa” Celestine record back, plated “Marie Laveau” over and over and over. Also would put on the Wild Tchoupitoulas record and people would come over and say I don’t get it.
ROGAN: Can’t portray lives of N.O. musicians and chefs w/o cursing and smoking pot.
ELIE: Out of towners re: Carnival on St. Charles, locals their own thing, but truth is you see Carnival from where you live. Tells story without excluding folks.
Dumbest New Orleans show/movie?
ELIE: “Orleans” w/Larry Hagman–played a sitting judge; alligator common La. lawn pets, so no surprise this character had one. What reality is this from? Recently did a tribute to “Frank’s Place” (applause)
ROGAN: Thought “Panic in the Streets” was excellent.
WALKER: I wrote 1001 columns about “K-ville.” I think it was a noble effort to throw production dollars at New orleans. Eric wrote great two-part piece on nola.com about what the challenge was for K-Ville; hope you go back and read it because gives insight into TV production biz.
ELIE: Eric and David have done their homework… what I bring to it, Davis and Tom as well, is how best to reflect the scene.
ROGAN: We (locals on Treme) kind of fill in the color.
OVERMEYER: In a way, it’s a historical drama, it takes place 4 yrs in the past, try to be as accurate as we can; take some liberties, sometimes make mistakes, but always trying to bounce it off what happened in Feb. 2006. New Orleanians have diff recollections about what happened around certain events, so sometimes say, well we have to go with that version because we can’t nail it down definitively.
ERWIN:How do you nail it down before the show?
WALKER: Knew would have to find a ay to deal w/torrent of cultural refs that are not necessary for N.O. viewers. So came up with a way to basically drain all the enjoyment out of the viewing experience. (Laughter). Usually I would get an advance screener on Friday–spent a lot of nice spring weekends inside–but found a way to get other people to [resources] … who Smiley Lewis was, why it was funny when Davis didn’t hear the knock at the door.
NORTHCUT: Shared political sensibility also shared w/this room, failed institutions. Was originally about The Wire– I think Ray may have known about the show (in process) in N.O.–I’d ask Ray, and Ray would say ask Ashley, and he’d say ask Nancy, etc.
ELIE: Dawn Logsdon came up with idea of documentary about Treme. We grew up in Carrollton. Wanted to give some historical context to the builders, craftsmen, etc. who grew up in Treme. Dovetailed with her father’s work (the late historian). It’s been a big part of what I’ve been able to bring to the table, Great theme song too–thanks to John Boutte.
–Wil Treme be similar to The Wire: characters changing, or will it always be about post-K recovery?
OVERMEYER-Fall06-Spring 07. Fall 07-Spring 08 if it runs another season. Always going to be about the recovery in some way. Feel compelled to repeat what David and I have ad nauseam, which is this show is not The Wire. Blessing/curse: extraordinary success of The Wire allowed HBO to do Treme–without that success, we wouldn’t be sitting here in this room. OTOH, a lot of viewers of The Wire who tuned in looking for gun battles disappointed because they got a secondline and a guy playing trombone and a cook in a restaurant sauteeing crawfish–cdn’t be more ifferent. Also interested in big canvas–story of a city– and of characters. Some similarities, but they’re as different as N.O. and Baltimore are diff. I think we’ve driven away people who were interested in The Wire #2 and gotten people interested in Treme.
ROGAN: “The Wire is War and Peace; Treme is Anna Karenina.”
[The flashback was David Mills‘ idea–applause]
ELIE: I hope we can give people a sense of why as late as 2006, everything was not OK. (applause)
OVERMEYER: cleared uses of Ashley Morris’ FYYFF and etc.
ELIE: I think time will make it a lot easier for people to watch the show who can’t watch it now.
RAY SHEA: Lot of people in N.O. who have never been to a second line and probably will never go, who have this Katrina experience as well…will the community of characters expand?
OVERMEYER: Will have all chars but Creighton…adding some, dealing with return of crime, breakdown of criminal justice system, where did the $ go, the school system to some extent, mental health issues…the thing about 2nd season: 2nd year harder than first for some New Orleanians.
KIM MARSHAL: I want more Aunt Mimi and more Phyllis Montana Leblanc!
PFISTER SISTER HOLLY BENTSEN: LONG TESTIMONY ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AS FORMER NOPS SCHOLTEACHER.
(Will there be a schoolteacher in new season?)
ELIE: Trying to figure out how to address the charter school issue.
ROGAN: Think the whole ed system gives itself over to Overmeyer/Simon gray area that I would hope gets addressed.
ELIE: One of my complaints is that cultural development is primarily between Warehourse District and French Quarter, into Frenchman, but as it extends into other neighborhoods (Kermit Ruffins’, etc.), hope we can see that culture grow as well.
QUESTION: Diaspora thank you for show. Does racial harmony on show grow out of certain cultural scenes?
ROGAN: N.O. music scene more integrated–hope that is an accurate portrayal.
OVERMEYER: Getting into more difficult issues in Season 2.
ELIE: Not attempting toescape the hard q’s, but have to undertsand what gets in cluded in partic show in partic season. Crime issue not as significant in Fall 2005, therefore you don’t see it. Re: music, who plays w/whom, experiences folks have, try to look at various ways in which this music is made and by whom.
QUESTION: What are your guiding principles? What are the common principles that you might share as you strive to tell a certain type of story? Was shocked by Tulane professor who said, “Well! They’re keeping identity studies! Getting rid of engineering!” It kind of jarred.
OVERMEYER: That list was accurate. For Creihton we felt that this was accurate reflection of what his POV would be. You can’t confuse the staff with the characters…we have to serve the characters first That’s not to say–I’d be surprised if there’s a Republican on the staff–there are big disagreements–but it’s important not to use characters to make an (ideological) point–you need that (character development) for conflict and drama.
ELIE: I want to make it clear: We are free to write whatever we want to write. David and Eric are free to change whatever they want to change. A big one is to have a roundness of character, to have some sympathy to some of the things the characters do. An NOPD character: “you have no idea what it as like, I slept in the car for days,” etc. Give the character enough for you to disagree with the character. I hope it results in something approaching the truth.
ELIE: All the folks who came here to help rebuild the city are now ambassadors for the city…We do have viewers in other parts of the country who can see something that’s not totally contingent on being from here.
OVERMEYER: One of our concerns: can you convey New Orleans? Not entirely convinced it’s doable or possible.
WALKER: Early on, I think I wrote it was a challenging/difficult thing to do. Think interest is widespread–backed up by cumulative audience….I think it succeeds, but I know the subcultures better than someone coming completely cold to the show would. Interesting conversations with other TV critics in US–“don’t know but I’m going to find out”. Will have another audience with DVDs–think it has a long life and people will be discovering it years from now,