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spacer.gif (836 bytes)caps.gif (1301 bytes)tu Phillips is remembered by BG fans as the composer of the series’ music. He also has written music for other Glen Larson series, including Quincy, Buck Rogers, and The Fall Guy. In January of 1989 ANOMALY had the opportunity to ask Stu Phillips a few questions about his work on BG.
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Asked whether the music for BG ran over budget, as had been rumored, Mr. Phillips replied, “Studios have a peculiar way of budgeting things. Generally every one-hour show will come out of a meeting at the beginning of the year with the same basic budget. At the time I did Galactica, some things like The Rockford Files had anywhere from six to eight minutes of music a week, and Galactica had anywhere from twenty five to thirty, and yet our budget was the same. So obviously we were over-budget for the very first episode. But the studio would rather operate in the red, over-budget, because if they change the budget for one one-hour show, the producers of the other shows would say, ‘Hey, how come I can’t get that much money?’ They have these problems.” I commented in response that that sounded like a competition, and Mr. Phillips confirmed, “It is, it is...it’s very funny, producers are always looking to have an edge on everybody else, especially when you’re working in-house, on the lot at major studios. The other idea is, when you operate in the red and you’re losing money, supposedly, on paper, then when the show gets picked up the following year they can try to get more money from the network. So if they start out with a reasonable budget on Galactica, if they were to say, ‘Well, let’s face it, the shows run twenty five to thirty minutes of music and they run it with a twenty eight to thirty four piece orchestra and Mike Post is using sixteen or eighteen pieces on his show,’ they say, ‘all right, let’s up the budget by double-x dollars.’ But if they did that and I stayed within the budget, then come next year it would be difficult for them to get more money.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)There were stories that BG’s budget went down as the series went on, so I asked Mr. Phillips if the budget for music had been cut. He replied, “No, I was never told that my budget was any less. As far as I was concerned, the studio would occasionally say to me, ‘Uh, do you really need that much music in this show?’ and I would say, ‘Call the producer, he asked for it,’ and of course they wouldn’t even bother to call the producer, they’d say, ‘All right.’ But no, they never informed me at any particular point that you were going to get less money to do the show. Now as for the other operational parts, I have no idea. You have to understand that the moneys in television is very weird. There is a license fee paid by the network that is running the show, and sometimes the license fee from the network is like the edge of a cliff, there is no way you can get five cents more from them. If they negotiated for you to do twenty two episodes a season, they’re going to pay you, say, $500,000 per episode, there is no way you can get $500,000 and fifty cents. Then there are times where networks make deals for $500,000 per episode, with an open end provided that they approve of the extra shooting, or the extra this, or sometimes somebody wants to put a particular star who won’t settle for the amount that’s in the budget for the guest starring role that week, so you go to the network and say, ‘Well, we’d like to have Lloyd Bridges, but Lloyd wants $50,000 more than we’re willing to spend.’ And the network says, ‘Great, we want him, go ahead and spend the fifty,’ and the network pays it. You have to understand that the rumors you hear from people who haven’t worked in the studios themselves are sometimes just that, they’re not knowledgeable about how things work. So you may have heard somebody say that they cut back on it, that might have been one of two things. That might have been Universal Pictures said to Larson, ‘We will not pay any more,’ because, you see, if the network doesn’t want to put their money up, the next thing the producer says, is he goes to Universal Pictures and he says to them, ‘Hey, we want Lloyd Bridges, but the network won’t pay the extra $50,000, how about you paying it,’ see? Then the studio will sometimes say, ‘Well, you know, really I think it’s worthwhile. Yeah, we’ll pick up the $50,000.’ Sometimes Universal or the film company will say, ‘No, we don’t want to pick it up either.’ Now the producer is left with either he picks it up personally, which means he then takes it out of his pocket, or he takes it from another area. In other words, there might be $200,000 for cast, and $150,000 for sets. Now he may be able to say, ‘OK, I want $50,000 less in sets, ’cause I want to give $50,000 to Lloyd, so we’re going to switch the money from that category to this one (I should note at this point that I asked Mr. Phillips if Lloyd Bridges really had wanted $50,000 extra for his role in BG, but he hastily assured me that he was merely using Bridges’ name as one familiar to BG fans and not because such a situation had actually arisen). Now when I used to do the music, what happened was, every week $5000, $10,000, or $6000 would be taken from costumes, in other words these people would lose a few bucks out of their budget to pay for the music budget. Because the studio said, ‘We don’t wanna pay for it, we’re not asking for 48 piece orchestras, the producer is.’ The network would say to them, ‘Hell, we don’t care if you do it with 20 men.’ And that’s how it works. I know personally that a lot of the money I was using was coming from other departments, from costumes or extras or the film editor, from different areas.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Asked whether ABC interference in BG was the worst he ever encountered in his years of television work, Mr. Phillips said, “I’ve done 400 episodes of television and networks will do everything they can to get input. I sat in enough things where I had enough...I will say that several very young, immature people, obviously just out of school, sat in the meeting room looking at something for the first time and making suggestions to a man who had already done 300 episodes of TV (i.e. Glen Larson) and they proceeded to tell him what they thought was wrong and how it ought to be fixed. And it’s very discouraging on the part of a producer to do that and know he has to sit and compromise with people who he really doesn’t respect. He always had long lists of things the networks wanted changed. And if they didn’t mean a lot, he’d change them just to keep peace.” I commented that it seems strange that networks interfere so much when nearly all of their series fail to last a single season and Mr. Phillips vehemently agreed, “If you took the percentage of shows that they put on every year and say, ‘How much success do they have, what right do they have to tell anyone anything?’ They are without a doubt the worst people at guessing or predicting what’s good or bad.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)In a Galactic Journal interview with Mr. Phillips, he was quoted as saying that ABC had wanted him to use humorous music in serious scenes, and I asked him about that. He said, “I have been asked to do the most ridiculous things. And sometimes I have been read a memo, by the associate producer, he will sit down and say, ‘Stu, before we spot the show, I have a memo from ABC that says in the scene where so-and-so goes down the stairway, or whatever it is, they want comical music.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I don’t know, that’s what it says.’ ‘OK, fine, I’ll give them what they asked for.’ Of course it’s my name on there, and then everyone else has to think Jesus, why in the world would Stu write funny music going down the stairs?! Well, that’s life...that’s what’s called compromise.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Music kept recurring in ensuing episodes and I asked Mr. Phillips about that. He replied, “It was used for two reasons. One reason it was used was because the producer said to me, ‘Don’t kill yourself on that stuff, I told you the five or six cues that I really love and would love to keep hearing as part of the structure of the show.’ That was one reason there was never any fear about repeating some of the music all the way through the episodes. It kind of helped tie the series together. Secondly, a lot of times I was given four days to do the entire score, and there wasn’t sufficient time to compose all the music so we would just out of panic use old music. Sometimes it was artistically done, and sometimes it was done because of no choice. It was impossible to do the amount of music in the four days I was given.” When asked what the usual amount of time given to compose the score for a one-hour TV episode was, he revealed that it was eight to ten days—and BG was a show with far more music than most series. “Most TV shows will run sixteen to twenty minutes for shows with a lot of music. This was unusual in that there was anywhere from twenty five, we’ve had as much as thirty five minutes of music in the episodes.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Asked about the pervasive rumors of BG revivals, Mr. Phillips confirmed, “I’ve heard those rumors too. I even heard Glen say that somebody had approached him about doing something on Galactica in the future and I said, ‘What are you thinking about it?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, I’m thinking about it.’ That’s as far as he could talk about it. Then, a year later I said to him, ‘You been thinking about the Galactica thing?’ and he said to me, ‘To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t know what direction to take it in, what to do with it. I don’t know, I’ve got other things on my mind.’ And that’s the last I heard about it.” I commented that I knew some people Glen Larson could call for ideas, and he replied, “Believe me, that’s not his problem. His problem is other things. After all, you have to remember it ended up with that horrible Galactica 1980. Aside from the last episode, where they took an old script and shot it, Starbuck’s Last Voyage....” I quickly interrupted to ask if that was indeed based on a script written for the original series and Mr. Phillips confirmed, “It didn’t belong because it was a script that had been written for the earlier thing and never got shot. And when they cancelled the show, they still owed the network several episodes, so rather than spend any money writing one they pulled out this old episode that had been written and they shot that episode even though it had nothing whatsoever to do with Galactica 1980. And Ron Satlof directed that, I believe. One of the better episodes, in my opinion, of both Galacticas.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)I asked Mr. Phillips how BG is regarded in Hollywood. “Well, it all depends who you talk to, honestly. I’ve had a lot of people show great admiration that I had done Galactica. I’ve had a lot of other people give me a look as though, like, Oh shit, you got caught up in that piece of crap?! You know, that kind of thing. So I’d have to say it’s split. Some people consider it an absolute fiasco, other people think it was really a brilliant attempt to do something. My own personal opinion is that the original concept, in the original script, the way it was originally shot, it was a wonderful piece of film. But unfortunately it got cut down...there were six hours of film in the first cut and that had to go down to three hours less commercials.” I said that that was interesting, since the script was a three-hour script. He explained, “That doesn’t mean anything. That’s not that unusual. All the pans were left in, all the endings of things. The first cut ran six hours, now out of that there was probably an hour and a half of superfluous junk. Not only that, they had to cut it down to two hours to make a movie out of it, because it went out to Canada and Europe as a movie. So they had to cut four hours out of the original to make a movie. So I think that, unfortunately, the thing did not hold up with the strong relationships that were originally in the thing, when you had to cut it down. It was just unfortunate. I can tell you that the scenes with the starving people in the ship, where they go to see the people who didn’t have any food, that was so much longer and it was almost poetic.” Asked what had happened to the excess footage, Mr. Phillips said, “It’s sitting around in the vaults at Universal. I don’t know what will happen to it.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Asked what he is doing now, Mr. Phillips replied, “Not a thing. I’m in sort of a semi-retirement situation. I right now am only interested in projects that have a challenge or that I really want to do or that excite me. If it doesn’t, I’m just not interested in doing any more episodes of another show of another show of another show. I just finished five years of Fall Guy, ninety six episodes, that was enough. I’m waiting for something exciting to happen, and if it doesn’t happen, then so be it.” Asked if he’d like to do film music instead of TV, he said, “Well, I’ve done twenty seven films, only thing, twenty six of them I wouldn’t show to my worst enemy. In fact, I started doing films long before...no, I did televison first. I did the Donna Reed Show and The Monkees, a couple of Gidgets, things like that. But then for about four years I did mostly films. Yes, of course I’d rather do films. Which is very difficult to do after you’ve done television for fourteen years. It’s difficult to get motion picture producers to understand that you are a composer for all mediums.” I commented that movie producers don’t seem to take TV people seriously and he agreed, “Yeah, even though I’ve done all these movies. Unfortunately, none of them were the type of classic where a guy says, ‘You did that?!’ You know! Galactica is still considered a television show, Buck Rogers is still a televsion show, no matter what it seems like. Right now I’m enjoying my life. Enjoying all those years of working, and all that stuff.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Finally, I remarked that the music for BG stands up very well, rushed and over-budget or not. Mr. Phillips concluded philosophically, “I’m happy with it. I enjoyed writing every one of those things because it was something I enjoyed doing. I wish I could have composed a full score for every one of them and didn’t have four days for some of them. There’s a lot of things I wish, but that’s life.”

1999 Susan J. Paxton

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