Exclusive Interview with Stitchers’ creator Jeff Schechter

jeff-schecter_creatorI recently had the opportunity to interview Stitchers’ creator Jeff Schechter. Jeff, who most often interacts with fans in the middle of night, sat down while it was still daylight out with me (a huge fan) to discuss everything from how the stitching technology could actually work to what fans can expect from season two (which airs tonight at 10 pm EST on Freeform). Read his wisdom below:

How did you come up with the overall idea of Stitching and the science behind it?

“The overall idea of stitching was a creative evolution of a bunch of different ideas. The original pilot, the script that I wrote of Stitchers, was going to be basically what we have but instead of going into the memories of the dead, they were going into this worldwide collective of security camera videos. The idea that all of these videos get uploaded to the cloud, and people take pictures, there actually was this technology to do this. Microsoft pioneered a number of years ago, in late 2008-2009, and the idea is actually pretty crazy. There’s something like 500 million pictures uploaded a day, because everyone is taking selfies with their cell phone cameras. So imagine how many pictures a day are taken just at the base of the Eiffel Tower? On a daily basis and everybody uploads them to the cloud servers.

What if the Government got in and pieced together all of those pictures and created a 3-D walk through of the base of the Eiffel Tower? By Stitching in to get those pictures, now let’s say there’s a mugging or a crime happens at the base of the Eiffel Tower, you know the Government has the access to all these pictures. Piece together these pictures, create the 3-D walk through, and our investigators can put their consciousness into that 3-D space and look for clues that otherwise could have gotten missed. That was actual real technology, and it’s just putting a consciousness in. So, that’s where stitching came from, they Stitch the pictures together.

The first pilot that I wrote had basically what we had, just instead of going into the memories of the dead, we would just go into security cameras. So I showed it to a producer who was really intrigued by the original idea, and he read the script and said, “I really like it except you know the security camera thing feels done. It felt old. But I’ve always tried to figure out how to do something about the memories of the dead.” I went, “ohhh, (laughs) that’s a much better idea.” And it was a shockingly fast adjustment to go from security cameras to memories of the dead while still keeping the same stitching, but to stitch into dead memories.

It really just turned into much more of an intriguing idea. Then he kind of went into this “how do you preserve them?” Because if you get into the body fast enough, you start a protocol, and preserve those memories for a while. So I pieced together that technology from my understanding. I am not a doctor, but I watch plenty on television, so I put on my television doctor hat, (laughs) and I came up with this technology.

Funny thing, though, after the pilot sold and we’re developing the series, I get a call from a friend of mine, who used to be a neuroscientist for the Centers for Disease Control. He asks me, ‘what are you working on?’ So I say, ‘oh you might be interested in this,’  and then I told him it’s going through the memories of the dead, and preserving a body fast enough, and he goes ‘oh, well, you can actually do that.’ And I go, ‘what?!’ He starts describing to me all the technology behind what you would need. There’s certain time, protocols you’ll need, chemicals, temperature, and so that’s basically the stuff that we put in. We like to say that we’re 20 minutes into the future on Stitchers.”  

How does the stitching technology work? Because we often hear things like ‘well, she’s not hooked up to electrodes’ or ‘why is she submerged in water?’ Are we going to learn how it all works together?

“All you have to do when somebody asks you that is to go into your bathroom and look at your electric shaver. Most of them now sit on these conductive chargers, there’s no actual wire. That’s what we tried to explain about the stitch suit. That it’s a conductive suit and so it works inside the water (which works as a coolant). Since stitching creates brain heat, we don’t want the stitchers’ brain to fry and we’ve talked about that a couple of times. So on one hand it’s a coolant and on the other it’s a conductive liquid. All the sensors are built into the bench. Same thing with the deceased, that’s why they’re on the metal table and covered in this metal mesh ‘modesty blanket’. Because it’s all part of the conductivity.”

We learn that Kirsten’s Temporal Dysplasia has disappeared; it’s gone. Which caused quite an ‘uproar’ in the fandom…

“Why? Why do you think that was?”

I think it’s because it was a central part of who she was. Or who she is. And having that go away, a lot of people I think are nervous or scared about how they’re going to see this Kirsten.

“Hmmm, interesting..”

So, will her lack of Temporal Dysplasia hurt or help her ability to stitch in the future? 

“Well it turns out it doesn’t really hurt her ability to stitch. We (fans) thought that because she has Temporal Dysplasia that that’s what makes her a good Stitcher. The reality is that the Temporal Dysplasia was an unfortunate side effect of the experiment that the father did on her. It was like an artifact of that experiment and wasn’t really the key to her ability to be such a good Stitcher.

The real key is Kristen herslef. When dad stitched into mom using Kirsten as the pilot, back when she was a little kid, and it blows out Kirsten’s mind and gives her Temporal Dysplasia, all of those computers in dad’s lab are recording all this data on the Stitch. Dad then abandons Kirsten, thinking he had damned her forever, and all of this technology is laying around and the government wants this technology. They want to keep developing the Stitchers program.

They used the data that they have on the program (from that failed experiment that dad did) and they base this whole stitch lab on those algorithms. The ones that were compiled at the time of this failed experiment, so what we find out is that it’s not the Temporal Dysplasia that makes Kirsten such a great Stitcher, it’s the fact that the lab is built on her brain algorithms. They used her brain patterns when they were building all the algorithms to make stitching possible.”

Now that she has emotions, how does that affect her when the truths behind the program start to surface?

“It’s more about the relationships. In my ‘multi-year plan’ for what I was thinking each season was, the first season is, you’ve got all these people who are basically orphans. Kirsten’s certainly like a real orphan, she doesn’t have a mom, doesn’t have a dad. Maggie is like this rogue person. She has this son but they don’t have this real relationship. And Camille is from Bakersfield and she’s out on her own. She has been on her own since she was sixteen. Even Cameron, his mom doesn’t even recognize his voice. Mom didn’t even recognize his voice when he calls her up in episode 8 of the last season.

So you have all of these people that don’t really have families. Season one is all about these orphans all coming together and creating a family, including Fisher. Season two is all about ‘Okay now that we’ve created a family together, now we’ve got to deal with being family and that family is really kind of messy and everybody has got their stuff going on, and what are you willing to put up with and what aren’t you willing to put up with.’ Season two is all about how do I deal with the family now that I’ve got one?

For Kirsten it’s less about the technology and more about the people around her and then it’s sort of the bigger mystery and now that she feels these emotions, she’s got to learn how to handle them. How to deal with this? Then it becomes, her obsessive drive to find dad and just how far down the rabbit hole with that obsession does she go? How do her friends deal with that? So that becomes a big drive for her, emotionally for the season. It’s less playful than it was in season one and it’s a bit more real now. It’s ‘2.0’, it really is. (laughs). It’s the next step in their evolution as people and as friends.” 

How does the Camsten dynamic change going into s2 with Cameron’s new life perspective and Kirsten’s newfound emotions?

“We had a lot of fun thinking about this role reversal that happens between Kirsten and Cameron. Kirsten, because of the Temporal Dysplasia in season one has no filter. She’s breaking down walls with fire extinguishers, she’s standing in the middle of the alleyway as vans are barreling down on her, etc. She’s this fearless thing because she has no sense of time because she has this ‘well now I’m alive, so I guess I’ll always be alive.’ That’s kind of like the underlying thing.

Once that Temporal Dysplasia goes away, and she starts having these real emotions, she becomes, I don’t want to say ‘less cautious’, but she certainly acts out these feelings and has these normal hesitations and obsessions and questions and fears and all the other natural things that people would feel. Cameron, because of his near death experience takes on the other way. He’s now going to live life to the fullest. So they kind of flip roles in a way.

Cameron is climbing upside buildings and he’s chasing down bad guys. And it’s kind of like ‘what’s gotten into you?’ But it’s a little bit of a fun role reversal there and they have to deal with that. But they also have to deal with Kirsten’s obsession to find her father and figure out if this guy is a murderer. Emotionally, it’s the right thing to do. Based on the job as an NSA agent it’s the right thing to do. She gets very sucked into that and wants to deal with that and she still has the support of Cameron, but as far as Camsten goes, can that survive both his new desire to live life to the fullest and can it survive her single minded obsession to bring some closure to her own backstory?

That’s really where the Camsten relationship gets tested and challenged, but to also bring them together. So we will continue to feel the push and pull between Cameron and Kirsten throughout the season.” 

Who was the most difficult character to develop?

“I think it was Linus in a way, because he is going from a place of comfort, a comfortable youngish sort of experience. His bedroom probably has movie posters in it, it probably looks like my office (laughs) so we know that he’s a child. He’s got to go from boy-man to man-man. He’s got to grow into the man that Camille, who you know has been taking care of herself since she was sixteen, that she deserves and that she wants.

At some point she doesn’t just want to be with some boy who is just a hook up, she is going to want a man in her life. So he is kind of trying to pull himself to be more of a man in a way. And that was kind of hard to develop because we don’t want to, that kind of journey, personally, just from a storytelling perspective as soon as somebody goes on a journey of self discovery, I’m like, ‘oh God no, really?’

Journey of self discoveries are boring, they’re not fun. (laughs). So we didn’t want Linus (who is really fun and this comic lighter touch in the group) to have to go on this journey of self discovery and become as serious as everybody else. That was the balancing act with him as far as development goes. How do we age him up appropriately and make the audience feel like he is evolving as a person without losing that spark and that lightness of touch that everybody really responds to about him?”  

Can you tell us a little bit more about what’s ahead for Camille?

“She does realize that as she is stepping up and becoming more than just the girl who holds the IPad in the lab that she needs to be more active and needs to step up her own game. So that whole thing with Fisher, is he going to train her to take care of herself…We are going to see the evolution of Camille and not just a friend and an emotional force in the lab, but her evolution as an agent for the Stitchers’ program and for the NSA.”  

So, you mentioned Fisher. What can we see and expect out of him during season 2? 

“He becomes much more of an active member of the lab. Outside and inside the lab, he comes a bit of a big brother, a mentor to everybody. He’s the one who has been carrying the badge the longest. He takes a more active and sort of personal interest in the characters. He seems less of the outsider that he was in season one and more of an insider and part of the team in season two.” 

Maggie seemed to hold a lot of knowledge and secrets about the program and it’s genesis during season 1, will any of that come to light in season 2?

“Season two is, I don’t want to say crisis of conscious, but Maggie says ‘well on one hand I’m an employee and a sworn agent for the NSA on the other hand I’ve got these people who have become my family and I feel protective of them.’ So it’s a question of, how does she balance those two things out? How big of a stick does she have to wield against these people? Now that she has been taking orders from these people on whose agendas we aren’t clear on, how much of a loyal soldier is she going to be? We are going to see her really tussle with that at various points throughout the season.  

In 1×08 we found out that she has a son and that he’s deployed. He’s overseas and they’re on the outs. They haven’t spoken to each other much and he might not even be taking her phone call as she’s dying, so you know that this is a woman who has got this hole in her emotional being that these people around her are helping to fill. Her life is less empty because of these people who are now kind of her kids.” 
So Liam seemed pretty sketchy last season. Any chance he’ll be making a reappearance in s2?

“The end of episode nine last season was Liam saying, ‘yeah, I can stick around for awhile.’ So we know that he’s asking ‘what’s plan B?’ We know that there is a ‘Plan B’, and we suspect that he was put up to proposing to Kirsten and I feel like I would be a very bad citizen if we didn’t somehow help pay that off in season two. (laughs).” 
Knowing what you guys know now, from the feedback of season one, how much did that effect where you took the road in season two?

“We had the appropriate amount of attention to those comments. You know, you can just ask all of the writers, ‘hey does Jeff believe in a democracy, creatively?’ and everybody will tell you ‘no.’ (laughs). So, I had a very clear agenda for the program, but that being said, you also want to be attentive to the people who are watching. And they say, ‘oh we really like this relationship’ or ‘I don’t like that relationship’, or ‘where is this going?’ or ‘oh that was interesting.’ Those are people like me. I like to work on shows and create shows that I, myself would like to watch and I don’t want to watch stuff alone. So all of those people I want to watch the show with, what do all those people want to watch tonight?

You kind of pay attention to those comments. Such things like, making Kirsten a little more emotionally accessible. You know making sure that Cameron feels more heroic. The characters feel more relatable in their lives and the things that they are going through. It’s things like that we really try to pay attention to.”

What advice do you have for viewers who are on the fence about tuning in tonight?

“(laughs) I say ‘get off the fence.’ I’m a father and I think it’s dangerous to be on the fence. If you’re a fan of the genre and you watched the show in season one and thought ‘ehhh it was okay’, I would say to give it another shot. Because like any T.V. show made by well meaning semi intelligent people, you learn a lot of things from season one and season two is very often where you’ll find a vision and how it plays out very strong. It certainly warrants a second look. And if you absolutely hated it in season one then I really hope you enjoy Teen Wolf and iZombie.” 
What would you like to say to the fans who are here now?

“I’m talking to one right now, who has really embraced the show as it was in season one. For those people who already love the show, you’re going to love it even more. We’ve sort of amped up all the really good stuff and kind of got rid of the stuff that was getting in the way of the storytelling.”

If you’re as excited about seeing the season premiere as I am, make sure to spread the word! Follow #Stitchers on TwitterTumblr, or Facebook. Plus, make sure you’re following the man himself @JeffASchechter on Twitter!

And if you want to catch up on season one, the episodes are available right now on the Freeform app or at Freeform.com

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