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Office Convention 07: The Writers Talk About Whedon And Branch Wars

There’s three reason’s why I’m really excited about this week’s episode of The Office. Reason 1: Joss Whedon directed it; Reason 2: Mindy Kaling wrote it; and Reason 3: We got to see a few clips of it at The Office Convention this weekend and from what we saw, it looks like a hilarious episode.

As a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, I’m always interested in Joss Whedon’s latest endeavors. While I cant say that Whedon’s direction in the “Business School” episode of The Office last season was all that identifiable as being particularly “Whedonish”, from what Office writer Michael Schur (who also plays Dwight’s cousin, Mose) and series co-creator Greg Daniels had to say about it, the directors can have a pretty huge impact on the outcome of the episodes they work on.

When we spoke with Greg Daniels briefly after a press conference this weekend, we asked him about his thoughts on Joss Whedon’s involvement in the episodes in terms of being the director, particularly with regards to this week’s “Branch Wars” episode. His response was, “[Whedon] just directs what Mindy has written but being such a good writer, he adds to it with his choices. It isn’t just about camera angles, it’s also about props – all of his choices are adding to the material. That’s true of all of the directors but he’s a particularly talented individual.”

Someone asked a similar question at the Writers Block event, to which Daniels and Schur both shared their thoughts on the directors’ contributions to the episodes. Daniels reiterated what he told us the day before, “It makes a huge difference. We just watched ‘Branch Wars.’ Joss Whedon directed that and it’s coming up on Thursday. He’s a really good comedy director. If there’s a lot of deleted scenes it’s because the director was really good and it’s really hard to get down the time and then sometimes it’s a stretch to get deleted scenes. The directors contribute a lot.”

Schur elaborated a bit more on what its like to work with Whedon, saying, “There are times when a director is just so straight up awesome that you just feel like you’re worthless because he’s just doing everything that you would do before you have a chance to know you would do it.

The first episode that Joss Whedon directed, which was “Business School” – he did a directors cut of the episode and we watched it and I just didn’t know what we would do to change it. There’s some directors who just love the show and know the visual style of the show and so that’s not a problem. They never try to do the things that we wouldn’t ordinarily do. They just set up really good shots and get really great performances out of people and that’s when the job is really easy – when the director’s really good.”

Spoiler Alert - At the end of the Writers Block event, we were shown the first few minutes of this week’s episode of The Office. I’m not going to give too much away because frankly, I don’t want to ruin it for you but I am going to mention a few things about the episode so if you don’t want to know anything about it before you see it, stop reading here.

Before I get into the goodies, I just want to mention that because we were seated up in the mezzanine with the rest of the press, we had a great view of the balcony-box, where Ed Helms and Andy Buckley were seated. When the writers Q&A portion ended and they were about to screen the beginning of “Branch Wars,” we noticed that a couple of the writers went up and stood in the box to watch the audience watch the episode. They seemed to really enjoy how much the fans responded to it.

Another thing I want to note - The Office should never be screened in theaters. Because it’s the kind of show that often includes a lot of quiet subtle humor (little one-liners and quiet responses by the characters), an audience that’s laughing hysterically at one line will often drown out the response that follows. For example, something happened in the clip we were watching that made everyone laugh and I wasn’t able to hear what Jim said in response.

In terms of the subject matter of the episode, it involves Stanley looking to transfer to the Utica, NY Dunder-Mifflin branch, which happens to be where Karen now works. Yes, Rashida Jones is back for this episode! Without giving much more of that away, I will just say that Michael doesn’t appreciate Karen trying to “poach” one of his salesmen.

Based on the portion of Branch Wars that we were shown, I’m thinking this is definitely going to be a great episode.

For more coverage of The Office convention, CLICK HERE!

Kelly West
Kelly West

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.