‘Threat Level Midnight’ Q&A with B.J. Novak

Threat Level Midnight

The Office’s writer/producer B.J. Novak provides a Q&A as epic as the episode ‘Threat Level Midnight’ itself.

What happened to David Wallace? Who sang the rap at the end? Which character did they want to bring back but couldn’t?

History. Regret. Exploding heads. It’s all in there.

Steve: How did you go about mapping out the scenes in the movie to make sure they fit chronologically within the timeframe of the show’s events?

B.J.: I made my very best effort to get those details right when writing it. Then David Rogers, our most veteran editor, and Veda Semarne, our script supervisor, both turned a very specific eye on it and mapped out when everything would have been filmed, looking out for anything that wouldn’t have been possible.

soup snake: What made you decide to pick the NHL all star game? Is it because Steve played hockey? Why wasn’t Erin in the movie?

B.J.: As far as major sporting events go, all-star games are a little flashy and silly and insignificant, compared to championship games, but I could see Michael Scott falling for their appeal and mistaking them for something gravely important.

So I liked that Goldenface had a thing for All-Star Games, and was thwarted at all of them by Michael Scott, but then blew up the WNBA All-Star Game (which Catherine Zeta-Scarn was playing in, and which Michael Scarn missed to run a charity race with his friend Robin Williams) and consequently sent Scarn into depressed retirement.

Michael would have chosen hockey because he can skate and would want to show off.

Erin wasn’t in the movie because we figured that Michael finished filming quite some time ago, and had been editing and procrastinating since then.

MuckMallard: How did Michael convince Angela, Oscar, Karen, and Helene to appear in his movie?

B.J.: Most of the movie was filmed years ago, back when people acted somewhat differently towards Michael as their boss. It could have been out of personal kindness, or a sense of professional ambition or responsibility, or for some people a combination.

I didn’t find it hard to believe that any of these people would be persuaded, after great pressure, to give up a night or a weekend afternoon to work on a movie project that meant everything in the world to their boss.

In terms of specific characters, it’s important to point out the the movie was filmed over the course of many years, as Michael explains in the beginning of the episode; so there would be different answers in different scenes, since the characters are in different states in their relationships with Michael.

The bar scene featuring “The Scarn” would have been filmed right after Karen transferred to Scranton, so she would have a brand new employee in a new city, eager to fit in; you can even see her going the extra mile to play along pretending to “learn” the Scarn dance the first time Michael demonstrates it.

Angela has some professional ambition and acted out of more respect for Michael all those years ago; still, in the completed movie, you can see her mixed feelings by the contempt by which she delivers her line.

Stanley got a big kick out of seeing himself onscreen in “Local Ad,” and combined with the fact that he was only doing voiceover work, it seemed completely plausible that Michael would have persuaded him to do it on a lunch break.

Helene would have shot her scene when Michael was dating her.


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