• Dave Polsky Panel At BUCKcon 2014

    A panel writeup by Blueshift
    The BUCK crowd breaks into applause as Dave Polsky takes to the stage. This is it, the big panel. The veteran show writer who has flown halfway around the world to meet the Bronies of Britain. Hopefully they will give him a warm, respectful British welcome with plenty of insightful questions and be very polite about everything. 

    I asked Arcanium to take photos for me. Sorry. I won’t do that again.
    Hands shoot up. The questions begin! The audience no longer needs to hold back, and can finally ask Dave Polsky, writer, questions to which he is uniquely suited to answering…

    The first burning question of the night – who did the voice of Little Strongheart? 
    Polsky, who is a writer, does not know the answer to this as he does not attend the voice recording. Thankfully someone in the audience has Google and gets the answer.

    Will the MLP characters age as the show progresses?  
    The writer generally just pitches story ideas. They don’t always get a sense of what happens in the season. The big decisions such as that tend to be corporate decisions, ie by Hasbro and then the writers write to this. Even though some characters such as the CMCs are drawn the same, they do organically ‘mature’ as they gain experiences. Whether the characters will physically age is a question of whether Hasbro will want to sell different toys.

    Polsky brings up a slide of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Will he be some sort of wolf for season 5? Sadly not! This is a point about needing a critical audience for the creative process, and making sure you evaluate what the author was trying to achieve before then judging it. Unfortunately as we shall soon see, Goethe did not also provide advice about giving criticism when precious headcanon is disrupted.

    His favourite episode? 
    Too Many Pinkie Pies. He is proudest of Rarity Takes Manehatten, with For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls a close second. He has a special place in his heart for Equestria Games. He liked Keep Calm and Flutter On for its exploration of Fluttershy.

    Did he have any particular ideas or frame of mind for season 4 episodes? 
    He wanted to challenge himself to break out of the comedy box and write some more emotional and darker stories. He didn’t want to lean too heavily on being the comedy/slapstick guy. For season 4 they had more time to develop and explore the episodes as opposed to season 3.

    What was the thinking behind the Daring Do episode where we meet her as a real person? How does Ahuizotl control the sun when Celestia can do it?
    The bad guy is delusional and can’t actually control the sun, but there is the concern he could make bad stuff happen. Celestia has it covered via Daring Do, but clearly she would back Daring Do up. He asks that we don’t write letters to Hasbro about this.

    The questioner continues! But why would the mane six stand aside and leave it to Daring Do? 
    The mane six are too busy being in awe of Daring Do, and this is why they don’t jump in right away. It seemed fun and different to make Daring Do a ‘real’ person rather than the obvious plot to follow. It was a risk, some liked it, some didn’t, but that’s the name of the game with creation.

    The BUCK audience got quite animated about Daring Do after this point.

    Who is his favourite character to write for? 
    He’s a big Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy fan.

    “One of the worst episodes is Twilight Time,” says one of the audience members. Everyone immediately sinks their head into their hands as Polsky is confronted with a long, long tirade against this episode. Polsky is speechless. Security run forwards, but they are too slow
    Polsky says he is not a fan of having to defend his work, especially against confrontational questions from people who didn’t like it. People are entitled not to like things.

    The same guy asks if Equestria Girls 2 is going to be shown in England. 
    Polsky, who is a writer and not an employee of the UK cinema/television scheduling industry, doesn’t know. As before, he doesn’t have Google handy. The questioner is quickly moved away.

    There is a big queue of people to ask questions. There does not seem to be anyone vetting them. Help help help.

    How does he come up with the background ‘legends’ about Equestria?
    For episodes such as ‘Two Many Pinkie Pies’, it was the premise that came first, the mirror pool came later as the justification for this premise. A big part of writing is about asking good questions that your intuition wants to answer.

    If he could write about anything, what would it be? 
    He’s not going to answer it, because then he couldn’t actually do it!

    Someone else steps up to tell Polsky they disliked the Daring Do episode. Security are quicker this time.

    Did he want to do more Equestria Games as the backdrop to episodes? 
    At the end of the day, MLP is a character show rather than an action show. For a character show, the surprising choice would be to make the Games episode a character based one, which may be why some people were disappointed. They want to satisfy everyone, but as episodes are 22 minutes long you have to frustrate some expectations, and character based stories are more important than watching racing, and he’s glad they did it that way.

    What is the best way to deal with writers block?
    Writers block is a problem that exacerbates itself. If you start to focus on writers block, you get it more. It is more important to be positive and concentrate on what can make you more interested in writing than dwell on why you can’t write.

    How does he feel when writing a Pony episode in relation to some of his more adult work, such as Scary Movie 2?
    One of the things he enjoys with MLP is the ability to tell a certain type of story. He wanted to be part of something that built things up rather than tore them down.

    Someone steps up to say they liked Twilight Time. Polsky smiles. It is a nice moment.

    Has there ever been a premise or scene that didn’t make it into the show but he wishes it did?
    There are certain episodes that were originally written longer where things got cut out to fit the time constraints that helped pace it better. It is always difficult to know how the pacing of an episode will fit, even within the page constraints.

    Does he have any control over the songs in episodes? 
    He writes lyrics and will propose a style for the music, but generally this gets redone. In Over A Barrel, the lyrics were the same. In Rarity Takes Manehattan, most of the lyrics were redone.

    Are there any plans to do an episode about Starswirl the Bearded? 
    It is on the table to explore the character further, but he doesn’t know to what degree that is happening in season 5. He’s not heard that they’re not going to.

    How has the internet transformed his role as a writer in terms of audience interaction? 
    Polsky goes online, he sees what people says and has learnt to do it less! It is awesome to get immediate feedback, even if sometimes there is negativity. It is liberating to write to what the fans care about rather than have to try and guess.

    Has he ever wanted to write an episode without a lesson? 
    His natural instinct is to have the lesson be implicit and that arises out of the drama. There is something cool about having to tell a lesson as it makes you think carefully about what it is.

    How did he get into the writing business? 
    In college he was involved in an improvisational comedy troupe. He left college and went to work for an investment bank, but kept writing poetry and taking acting lessons. Then he went into social working and telesales but kept writing poetry. Meanwhile his old college roommate contacted him to help out writing for a television show he was involved with.

    Did he feel any pressure from the fandom when writing anticipated episodes? 
    As a writer he likes challenges. The more challenging the idea and the higher the stakes, the more attractive it is.

    Does Polsky want to return to more adult shows? 
    There is something that attracts him to comedy that speaks to more adult audiences, but he likes the opportunity to write affirming stories, and it is challenging to write material that is both affirming and satirical.

    How has his writing changed during the four years he’s been on the show? 
    He feels he has allowed himself to tell more complex and emotional stories, and grown in his capacity to do this. Comedy is still the main thing he finds attractive, but is growing in his ability to add other elements to this.

    I have noticed that the staff have started to filter questions.

    Despite this, the next question starts with “I don’t want to be aggressive, but…”

    …So what DID Polsky want to do with ‘Feeling Pinkie Keen’? 
    His intention was certainly not to do anything about religion, but it was an exploration of faith (though not in a religious sense). Pinkie has an ability, wouldn’t it be interesting if Twilight didn’t believe in it because it doesn’t sit within her worldview. Twilight approaches the problem by wanting to disprove it, rather than explore it fairly. If the idea people could read it as religion had occurred to them, they would have handled it differently, as it was categorically not about that.

    The show writers don’t set out to write a lesson, they set out to explore an idea and reach a conclusion, and the lessons come out of that. It’s important not to try and push morals down an audience’s throat, but cynicism is equally destructive. Reflecting the real world and coming to a conclusion from that is the best way to create a good moral.

    How does he approach writing Spike, given all the differences between him and the rest of the cast? 
    He brings the same process as to the rest of the characters, but there are specific things you can and can’t do with him. For Equestria Games specifically, what made it attractive to him was that Spike was a hero in the Crystal Kingdom, but as a character was generally more comfortable in a ‘servant’ role. What was specific about Spike helped to create an opportunity to tell this story.

    A man dressed as Star Swirl the Bearded approaches. Polsky gets worried that this is God here to tell him his time is up. Instead he asks about how much creative freedom the show staff gets. Are there any decisions that only the show staff get to make? 
    There isn’t a word written that doesn’t get vetted by Hasbro or the Hub, but the show staff have influence. They need at least the tacit approval from Hasbro and the Hub, and this is a normal creative process in the business. Nothing about this process has changed since Lauren Faust left. 

    Will there be more use of background characters? 
    There are new characters being created for episodes, whether these will be newly created or use background designs is out of Polsky’s hands. It may or may not happen depending on the storytelling requirements.

    The last question is about the interaction between Luna and the CMC. Will we get an Apple Bloom episode? 
    Polsky says maybe!

    As a bonus piece of content, during the closing guest roundup panel, a few more questions were aimed in Polsky’s direction!

    Were all the Pinkie Pies at the end of Too Many Pinkie Pies sentient, and did Twilight murder them? 
    Polsky says no, of course not! They were magical constructs akin to robots. The episode was not designed to be a cutting edge analysis into the ethics of cloning, but instead a funny episode about lots of Pinkie Pies.

    Another Daring Do question! How can the inconsistency between the show and comic book be reconciled? Is this the death of My Little Pony? Perhaps we should all pack up and go home now! 
    Fear not, friends, for apparently the award Twilight’s mum had was simply named after Daring Do, not because she wrote it! You can sleep safe in your beds now knowing that is all okay.

    More Coco Pommel? 

    More Trixie? 
    Polsky certainly hasn’t pitched any Trixie episodes (sorry Seth!)

    And there we have the Dave Polsky experience. He came across as a genuinely insightful writer with a lot to say about the processes and theories of criticism, as well as honest reflection on his past work and where it might go in future. It’s just a shame that his panel had to come with a critical disclaimer, and that there were quite a few (lets be fair) impolite questions.

    I now fear for the fate of Britain in any future Pony episodes.