Four on the Floor with Writer/Producer/Director Al Gough


Four on the Floor with Writer/Producer/Director Al Gough

Alfred Gough III (@TheRealAlGough) is half of the prolific Alfred Gough-Miles Millar writing/producing team. Having achieved success with properties as diverse as Spider-Man 2Lethal Weapon 4SmallvilleInto the Badlands, and The Shannara Chronicles, Al has ranged far from the quiet streets of his hometown of Leonardtown, Maryland.

I grew up in that same town and was lucky enough to spend a good portion of my childhood running elaborate Star Wars battles with Al, whose creative savvy was already coming to the fore.

A little known fact about both our lives is that Al gave me my first job, passing on his gig selling peaches outside the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store.

Al, you’ve come a hell of a long way! Now on to the interview:

You wear a lot of hats (creator/showrunner/executive producer/writer). Which is your favorite?

That’s a great question! When my partner and I are writing movies, we miss television, and vice versa when we are knee-deep in a new season. I would say creator and writer are my favorites because that’s the time when the idea and the story and the script are all yours. We don’t have to worry about budgets and network notes and production issues. It’s the time when the potential seems limitless.

What is your writing routine and what are the benefits and challenges of having a writing partner?

Miles Millar (my partner) and I have been writing together for 23 years. We’ve always treated it like a job—meaning we would write from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. And when we started out, we would write seven days a week. 

Now, as the years have gone by and we have families, we’ve amended that to five days a week. The last few years, with both The Shannara Chronicles and Into the Badlands shooting on opposite sides of the world (Auckland and Dublin, respectively), with our writers’ rooms in LA and post-production in Toronto, we have evolved our process. Thank God for the internet, Skype and email! 

I have only seen benefits in writing with a partner. First and foremost, we are friends who have always seen eye-to-eye creatively. It’s also nice to have someone who’s got your back in this crazy business!

How scary is it to jump into an already established franchise or series?

The challenges of tackling an established character or franchise are twofold—bringing a fresh point of view to the material and dealing with the fact that you can’t satisfy every fan of the source material (whether it is a comic book character or novel series). 

The important thing to remember is that you need to honor the spirit of the source material while bringing something new to the table. We certainly found this on Smallville, where we had fans of Superman who thought we’d gone too far. But now, 17 years later, the show is considered canon. I guess one generation’s heresy is another’s gospel!

Authors put faith in me to help cultivate their darlings. How protective are you of your work? At what point do you cede ownership of the work to other creative parties and to the audience?

The thing about film and television that you learn early—you can’t be precious. They are both team sports. Both require a large amount of people and a large financial investment to get off the ground. 

Again, the trick is being able to take good, constructive criticism while still sticking to your creative vision for the show.

Also, once a movie or TV show is out in the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the people who watch it and love it and put their own emotional stamp on it. They are your fans. They are the ones sitting around the proverbial campfire listening to your story and making it their own.  

That is actually a deeply satisfying part of doing this—when I hear from people that a show or movie we did helped get them through a tough time or was one of their favorites from childhood.

That experience is what makes it all worthwhile.

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