Movies & TV / Columns

Paul Feig On His New Sci-Fi Comedy Other Space Finding New Life on DUST

August 13, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Other Space

You might think you know everything there is to know about creator, director, and all around creative mind Paul Feig, all this works, but chances are you missed one of his undiscovered gems, Other Space. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 

The first season of Other Space premiered on Yahoo! Screen back in April of 2015. Running eight episodes, the show was celebrated by those who found it but, unfortunately, Yahoo! Screen shut down shortly after and the hugely underrated show went unwatched and unnoticed until it was picked up by DUST ( this year. The show is available now and if you’re in the mood for a smartly written sci-fi comedy with one of the impressive casts in recent memory, check it out. 

To be nice, I’m including the first episode here:

Mr. Feig was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to talk to me about Other Space. I will note that he said he’d ALWAYS make time to talk about the show so if you bump into him at a party, there’s your icebreaker.

Steve Gustafson: In interviews you rightfully said that Other Space has “never had its day in court”. I don’t usually use Rotten Tomatoes as a measuring stick but with a 91% approval rating, this show is ripe for a wider audience.  With the series finding new life on DUST, do you feel validated?

Paul Feig: Yeah, actually, I feel very humble that people will find it. We got really good reviews but we just didn’t get that many when we came out, to be quite honest. And the one, the most important one, which was the New York Times was a complete tear down, like panned so I was like, “Oh great!”

All the rest were quite glowing so what can you do? I’m utterly convinced that the kind of audience who like this kind of thing will really, really like it. It’s a very funny show and I have moments where I look that this was 5 years ago and if we had kept making shows, more people would have found it so maybe it’s a perfect time now and things happen for a reason.

So I’m hopeful and very grateful to DUST for taking the chance.

Steve Gustafson: I’d like to read a quote from you:

“I’m usually the guy who throws out passion projects. I think passion projects are dangerous, because as your career moves forward, sometimes you go back to a place that you’ve [since moved] beyond.”  

A couple of things. Do you still feel that way and do you have any more passion projects you’ve kept around because Other Space is pretty awesome?

Paul Feig: Thanks man! Yeah I still feel the same way about passion projects. I’m still very weary of them but I’m more weary of them as they are the “script that’s at the bottom of your drawer” state.

There are exceptions to the rule of course because Other Space is the very definition of passion project that I didn’t let go of. Because I first wrote it back in 2005 for NBC under a deal I had there and they really liked it but didn’t know what to pair it with so it went away. Then it became the one that got away and it went away for a reason but I was still obsessed with it.

It was really my old assistant that was going through old scripts and pulled me aside and said, “I just read that Other Space thing and I loved it! You got to make it! That’s really good!”

To me, it became not a passion project because someone else found it and became passionate about it. It passed a test. That kind of pushed me and opportunistically…that’s not the right word…ironically…no, fortuitously, that’s the word, what a writer I am, because right around that time Yahoo contacted us and if we would like to do show, do we had any ideas, I said, “Well, actually I got one right here.” It didn’t work out well but yes, I’m still nervous about passion projects in general.

Steve Gustafson: You wrote the first episode. How hard is it to turn over the rest of the season to others? I know these are people you picked but is there something inside of you saying, “Don’t mess this up”?

Paul Feig: (Laughs) You always think that when you hire people but then it’s really up to you to find the people that you know are going to do a good job.

When I met with Owen Ellickson we were immediately in sync. He was pitching stuff, talking about stuff and I was thinking exactly the same thing on this show so at that point it was very easy to turn it over to him.

I knew I would be overseeing everything and everything would be passed by me. But I had just finished shooting Spy so I was very heavy into post with that and I was also getting ready to go into Ghostbusters so I didn’t have the bandwidth to do it. What was great Owen would tell me ideas and I’d go, “That’s really funny! Try this or Try that. ” or “Just go ahead and do it” They’d send me outlines and I’c make notes on that so I was very, very involved in guiding it.

Owen and the writers were just so good and then when we found that cast, that’s my perfect kind of cast. They’re not only all great actors, but great comedic actors, great at improv, so they plus up anything we had, which was very good.

Then, how I like to do things is get the script, let them play around with it, let people experiment with it, ad lib, try different jokes, so when we go into the editing room we have plenty to work with. I’m heavily involved in the edit with all the episodes because that’s where the final cherry picking happens. And this show was so tough to edit because there was just so much to choose from.

Steve Gustafson: I wanted to talk about the cast, which is amazing. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, I like to use the term Moneyball casting. You take the strengths and weaknesses of the talent and pair it up in a way that maximizes the humor and the chemistry. This cast has it. How is it to see a cast come together like this one and nail your vision?

Paul Feig: It was so exciting. That’s my favorite part of it and I’m always very very heavily involved in casting for everything. I’ve got Allison Jones, the genius who did Freaks and Geeks and all my movies. She’s found every great comedy star for everybody the last twenty years. Plus! Going through those auditions and seeing people, I always have an improv element to the audition so not only are they doing the scripted scenes but I wrote a monologue for the show to give them a run at playing with the character.

I tell them to play with the character, make the words your own, what you want, so by the time we settle on the cast I’m so at ease that they are going to be great so I then can turn it over to someone else and let them run the day to day. I’m checking in, checking the dailies, overseeing the scripts. It was a thrill. When Karan Soni came in I was completely blown away by his audition. He was so funny and you know I sort of based his character on me in my 20s so when I saw what he did I thought, “This is a different way to go!” He’s such a genius and I’ve used him in so many other things. He’s a friend and amazing writer. I just can’t say enough good things about Karan.

Steve Gustafson: I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of sci-fi but I am a fan of well crafted ensemble shows. For me, personally, and I’m a comic book fan, I got a Fantastic Four vibe, with the family and friend dynamics, and a smarter Gilligans Island, with the stranded aspect, trying to get home. The show feels familiar yet totally unique. With new life on DUST, is there a plan in place for a second season or is it a wait and see?

Paul Feig: (Laughs) I love that! Yeah, it’s a wait and see for us financially. Look, there is nothing I want more than to do more seasons of this show. I’ve spent the last 5 years driving my agents crazy, trying to sell this show everywhere. At first I was like, “Let’s just put out the show so people could see it on a streamer.” I’m thinking, “What streamer wouldn’t want to get 8 episodes of a show?” But we couldn’t sell it anywhere. It was really frustrating!

I wanted to make more episodes so I was trying to get it picked up anywhere and, literally, we worked so hard for 5 years to make it happen. I never, never let up on it. You know, it drives me crazy when you do something you know is good because so many good people were involved and it just doesn’t get seen. It’s one thing if you put it out, people reject it but at least it got its day in court. We had a loyal but tiny fanbase and it never expanded beyond that because there was nowhere to see it.

I spent years pushing it on my Tumbler and had a url and then every so often a lovely journalist would come along and do an article about it, trying to keep it alive, give us a push. I even did a Star Trek podcast a few years ago, thinking that would help but if it’s not in a real destination it’s hard to get people to tune in in any kind of numbers. But if anyone out there wanted to make more episodes, we would do it in a heartbeat.

Steve Gustafson: With so many streaming options today, is it a good thing because more creative voices have more outlets for their vision or does it hinder shows because they get lost in the shuffle?

Paul Feig: I think it’s a really good thing. The more opportunities there are for creators to create content the better. I’m a firm believer that the cream will rise to the top. For us, it was just a problem that we were on Yahoo! Screen. Yahoo! originally was going to do very traditional marketing and then they decided to not to do that and do it all through the Yahoo! website and that was the moment I said, “Oh no, we might be in trouble.” Nothing against Yahoo! but I didn’t know what kind of reach they had. We never got that day in court because Yahoo! Screen came along and people didn’t take to it. I really thought it was a really good interface. I had the app and other people complained about it but I would bring it right up but it didn’t catch on. If it had been on Netflix and we were 1 of 10,000 on Netflix at least I could promote it more. I could point them there but people would ask where’s it at and I would say, “My Tumblr feed” and even that was work just to do that. But something that dies in its infancy, that’s the more upsetting part.”

Steve Gustafson: Hopefully now that DUST has it, it will find its rightful audience. Thank you again and all the best to you!

Paul Feig: Thank you so much!