‘The Walking Dead’: Why Frank Darabont Was Fired & The Chaotic Aftermath

Published 3 years ago by , Updated August 6th, 2013 at 2:00 pm,

The news of Frank Darabont stepping down from AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead took everyone by surprise. This feeling grew even more when it was revealed that Darabont didn’t step down, but was actually fired.

With fans seeking to find out why the man who championed last year’s television phenomenon was unceremoniously fired days after appearing at Comic-Con 2011, The Hollywood Reporter is presenting the facts as they know them – including the chaotic mess in which The Walking Dead season 2 currently finds itself.

Shortly after his appearance at Comic-Con, Darabont returned to Los Angeles to work on editing an episode of the upcoming second season of The Walking Dead. With the cast in Atlanta to continue filming, Ben Davis, AMC vice-president of scripted programming, gathered the cast together for a lunch meeting. In this meeting, he broke the news that Darabont had been fired. With a simple explanation of “This isn’t working,” sources close to the series said that “It’s a crushing blow” and that “Even when you have a hit, they can still destroy you.”

Even though The Walking Dead proved to be a hit – and it is the only series that AMC owns completely – the network had already announced to the producers that they would not only be cutting the budget of the series from $3.4 million to $2.7 million, but that they would also want 13 episodes produced instead of 6 episodes that made up its first season. To make matters worse, AMC also told the producers that the 30% tax credit that the series receives from filming in Georgia would go directly to the network, and not make up for some of the money that was taken out of the production budget.

The Walking Dead @ Comic-Con

AMC’s fiscal irresponsibility and their lack of appreciation for those who make The Walking Dead is largely what led to Darabont being fired. Originally taking the announcement of a second season budget cut in stride, the producers of the series decided to wait until the first season premiered. After The Walking Dead began breaking ratings records for the network, the producers assumed their budget wouldn’t be cut as much as originally thought.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened – and Darabont wasn’t too happy about it. Known as a man who fights for what he believes in, a confrontation between AMC and The Walking Dead producers occurred. With the head of original programming for AMC, Joel Stillerman, sticking to the cut budget, the network than began to overstep their bounds and attempt to tell Darabont how to produce the series.

Instead of long, sprawling outdoor scenes, the network wanted the second season of The Walking Dead to occur 50% outdoors and 50% indoors (indoors being cheaper to film). Another note asked whether or not the audience had to always see the zombies – couldn’t they simply hear them sometimes.

Head of Original Production for AMC Jack Stillerman (on the right)

It’s been said that Darabont was involved in constant battles with the network to maintain the creative vision that drew so many fans to the series in the first place. On top of that, sources say that Darabont “doesn’t like to see the cast and crew overworked and underpaid.” Even with record ratings on their side, Darabont would repeatedly enter meetings with Stillerman where he would simply say, “Ratings have no bearing on this conversation.” Stillerman is somewhat known for not being the “best person” to deal with. With rumors persisting that he has poor relationships with most of AMC’s series creators, insiders have begun to say that “Joel [Stillerman] thinks he is responsible for the success of shows on AMC, and not the creators.”

With AMC making a leap into the forefront of scripted television, there’s always been a sense of the network going through growing pains. Not only is AMC doing it on their own (they have no parent company to support them), but they’re also trying to maintain a quality which rivals that of their pay-cable counterparts, HBO and Showtime.

Unfortunately, AMC only makes 60 cents for each cable subscriber, which isn’t enough to maintain the level of quality they were once able to do when they weren’t expected to pay the same amount as the other networks for programming. That being said, it’s hard to really stand up for a network that’s being championed by someone who’s a complete contrarian to the creative process.

walking dead comic cast The Walking Dead: Why Frank Darabont Was Fired & The Chaotic AftermathThe cast of The Walking Dead

Even if AMC was trying to do what’s best for the network (without having to operate at a loss – something that HBO does, but is evened out by HBO being owned by Time Warner), there comes a point when taking a loss for the quality of the product is more important for the long term.

As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”

AMC has been waiting a long time to make it this far. Jumping from simply replaying old movies to creating original content – this all comes with a price. While not everything will make the financial return that you’re hoping for, it rarely does when you’re first starting out. And for AMC, they’re most certainly starting out.

Hopefully AMC will make it through these growing pains intact. If not, you can sure bet that there are many other cable networks willing to take over in the place (and have the money to do it).

Now that Glen Mazzara is taking over for Frank Darabont, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when The Walking Dead season 2 premieres.

Fingers crossed.

-

The Walking Dead season 2 premieres October 19 on AMC

Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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TAGS: the walking dead

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  1. HBO operates at a loss? I thought they made significant profits. I looked it up and they had a billion in profit from 45 billion in revenue in a recent year. Genuinely curious, am I missing something?

  2. This guy Stillerman is completely inept. He should be fired. We always want to see the zombies and lets face it these people are going to have to leave the farm eventually. Maybe anorher network could offer to buy the series?

  3. They completely ruined the show. It has gone from one about survival and th Apocalypse to some Days of Our zombie lives soap opera with stupid, insipid story lines and increasingly unlikable characters that all deserve to be eaten (with the lousy writers). The show lost its edge.

    • I agree with you completely.

  4. i was wondering why the show was ok the first season then turned into shiiit complete shiiiitt the second season the jew stillerman wants to make a profit and turn the show into what i beleive its equal in quality is jersey shore now what an jerk

    • What a tastless, ignorant comment.

  5. I can’t believe what I just read regarding the firing of one of the creative geniuses behind the Walking Dead and AMC’s penny-wise, pound-foolish decision to cut the budget of this excellent show.
    AMC has a huge ratings hit BECAUSE of the high quality of the show’s production values, scripts, characters, and the aforementioned creative geniuses behind the scenes. The firing seems like a classic case of cutting off their nose to spite their face. They can’t really, seriously, be that stupid…..or can they? (Apparently the answer to that is, unfortunately, yes).
    If the show’s quality suffers they’ll lose their audience, period, then just think of all the money they’ll save!

  6. Season 2 was a horrid disappoint, especially held against Season 1. AMC raped this show. Here’s hoping another network returns and can get Frank back on board.

    Season 2 would’ve been 100% more enjoyable for me if there was at LEAST ONE other narrative following characters out in the thick of things and not locked into the idle soap opera at the farm.

    What about Merle? Morgan and his son? The Morales family? This would’ve made the drudging purgatory the main cast’s been locked into at least tolerable and forced us to only get the good bits.

    Instead, we’re chained to increasingly unlikable characters with nothing to do but monologue and search for a character none of us even noticed before she went missing. Abysmal.

  7. I am not going to mention any names but someone should be banned from AMC for their seriously stupid mistake. Season 1 was very exciting to say the least. I have watched all of Season 2 and have seen a dramatic change in quality. If I wanted a soap opera I would turn to CBS. Needless to say with all of the crappy changes and the loss of the original concept I will not watch Season 3. Hire back Daramont and fire the idiot.

  8. I haven’t read the comic book, so I can’t comment on how closely the show sticks to it – and I’ve only just read about the firing of Darabont (Typical Network moronics) and the budget cut too – as I live in the UK. But I loved the second series – Comics are a niche market and to transfer them to screen directly sounds a bit risky to me – as TV needs to appeal to a broader audience than just comic book/graphic novel fans. A TV series needs to have good character development which series two did well for me – the shock of Dale and Shane dying was a big hit for me because of this.
    I think the creators did a great job of making over double the episodes on a smaller budget for S2, credit where it’s due. Having said that though Stillerman is obviously a kretin, he wants 2 cakes and he wants to eat them both. I say the TWD should stick them both in his face and move to the home of Dexter too.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  9. The first 5 episodes really had me disappointed. It did feel more like a Soap Opera. However, when episode 6 aired it shocked me and I’m sure it shocked a lot of viewers. I enjoyed the remaining episodes of Season 2 after that. With that said, YES WE WANT TO SEE THE ZOMBIES! I will watch Season 3. I didn’t realize AMC was having so many problems. I vote the show get picked up by another network before AMC runs it into the ground with budget cuts. Even if this show eventually goes under, I don’t think it will be the last time we will see a zombie series.

    • That’s really interesting because I read that Frank Darabont had worked through half of season 2 before he left so he can be credited for the first half of season 2.

  10. Season 1 dragged a bit, but picked up at the end. Season 2 was much better in my opinion. Got me hooked. But each to their own.
    Frank getting fired is utter rubbish, though. 19 eps for the next season? Bring it.

  11. AMC must have some sort of lengthy contract with the producers of TWD, because I really can’t imagine why a show with such a huge following and potential for profit would operate under these ridiculous constraints. The producers could easily move to a different network and effectively screw AMC out of one of the greatest shows on television. I’d sure as hell follow them to whichever network they choose, I’d even subscribe to HBO if they chose to go there. Screw AMC and it’s greedy executives.

  12. I didn’t notice the budget cuts, and thought Season 2 was excellent. Didn’t see any drop in quality. Were there more zombies, explosions, landscapes etc in Season 1? No idea, so couldn’t have been key.

    The Season 2 finale was one of the most memorable TV episodes produced in the last decade. Genuinely shocking…

    • Well, you sir, are a f****** retard

  13. never watched the Walking Dead, never cared to. The whole zombie thing has been done to death (or undeath?) in movies for the past 20 years, and video games for the past decade. It gets really old. After Sean of the Dead came out that should have been the end of the zombie genre for at least a generation or two. It’s so stupid, a bunch of no-wits slow moving zombies are a threat? Really? I’d raid every military installation and get a tank and some missles, plenty of rocket launchers and guns n ammunition and just go on a rampage. Problem solved.

    But anyway, AMC has been going downhill lately, wasting space with junk like CSI: Miami reruns for 3 hours straight in the late afternoons, reality shows like The Pitch and now Small Town Security, stretching 110 minute movies into 3 and a half hour long ordeals with all the damn commercials, not to mention ruining prime time movies with that “Pop up Video” story notes garbage constantly on the bottom of the screen, sometimes even being displayed right over the top of subtitles from non-english speaking characters in the movies so you can’t even see what they are saying.

    The same people that own AMC also own IFC (Independent Film Channel, they ruined it), the Sundance Channel (they ruined that too), and WE (Women’s Entertainment, which is just junk TV on steroids). AMC is becoming like every other regular cable and free TV broadcast station. Garbage. When Breaking Bad and Mad Men are over, AMC is over. And let’s not forget that AMC used to stand for American Movie Classics, and used to play actual classic movies that were older than 10 years ago, now it’s turning into crappy reruns of CSI shows, recently released movies, and reality TV. First it was MTV, then VH1, then Bravo and A&E, then Discovery Channel, then History Channel, etc etc, now AMC is the next one to go. I can’t wait until cable television becomes a la carte, so we don’t have to pay for garbage channels we don’t want just because they are part of a particular package or tier.

  14. oh and 2 things I forgot to mention,

    the damn “Can’t get enough of -insert title here-” thing AMC does like every time you turn around. That must be killing ratings, and I don’t get why AMC would do something like that. Does anyone honestly want to watch the Matrix every damned night of the week, even if there is nothing else on TV? It’s as bad if not worse than the cable stations that broadcast the same reruns every 6 hours all day long.

    The second thing is how they butcher up the Three Stooges with all the commercials. A ten minute short subject film takes 20 to 30 minutes to watch, and they’re edited on top of that! It’s a shame because the picture and sound quality is better for the Stooges on AMC than on Rich Koz’s Stoogapalooza, but his show actually shows the whole film without the damn commercial interruptions, and he still shows episodes you won’t see on AMC or that new Antenna TV station, which has also gone downhill since the beginning of it’s second year of broadcasting (they cut the Stooges back to 1 hour at 2 am on Saturday mornings from 3 hours on Friday nights, same with Benny Hill >_<).

    • actually you are wrong, a bunch of slow moving zombies is a huge threat. you can’t run forever, and they will eventually catch up and overrun you with shear numbers

  15. So much hate for the Second season here. Personally i enjoyed it, it was a bit slow to start but came through in the end. Im more worried about S3 having a lot of indoor boring visuals. Some questions are valid, but then the story isnt over yet and you cant have answers to everything instantly. That aside it does seem like AMC made a horrible decision to cut somebody out who has a clear passion and principles just because they did not roll over in the face of insane budget cuts. And that when the show is such a hit. To bad they cant just “move” to a different network that respects creativity.

  16. I watched the first season of the show. I didn’t care for it, but thought it had promise, so I hung in there. I had reasonably high hopes for the second season, and it got worse. To a point where I simply took it off my auto-record about 2/3rds of the way through the season. I caught some of the last episode by chance. I have little interest in watching season 3. I’ve been baited and switched enough. The promos look good, and then you tune in and you get 41 minutes out of 44 that is yacking and emoting and crying and feeling and fighting etc etc etc. So that’s 41 minutes of soap opera, 16 minutes of commercial for 3 minutes of standard zombie action that’s not all that scary. When the speed of the zombies is proportionate to the means of escape, it become phony and contrived and you can tell who’s going to get away and who isn’t for the continuity of the show.

  17. Oh, and it’s not all the shows fault, watching AMC is such a torture. 10 minute commercial breaks every 5 minutes. AMC can make a 3 hour “movie” out of an old I Love Lucy episode. “No Lucy,” {commercial break} “you can’t be” {commercial break} “in the show” {commercial break}{bumper}{bumper}{dish put down} “Oh Ric” {commercial break} “ky” {commercial break} “waaaahhhhhh” {bumper} {commercial break}{bumper}{commercial break}.

    • R.O.T.F.G.L.M.A.O!!!! That was funny

  18. Season 3 is more of the same… this show needs to go to another network. I agree with many comments here… GREEDY AMC.

  19. We’re a few episodes into the third season and there is just a completely noticeable CHANGE to the entire series. It really has become like another soap opera. Most of it consists of very, VERY loooooong drawn out scenes where NOTHING happens. Then, “let’s kill us some zombies”. OK, DONE! another long…. draaaaaaawn out scene later… super, over the top, drama and over acting that is to cheesy to even comprehend.

    And I couldn’t put my finger on it, but now that it was pointed out…
    the way it is filmed has completely changed too. The long, beautiful shots have been scraped for bland inside shots of the farm house, prison, the governors bedroom, or focused on a LOOOOONNNNGGGG soap opera conversation about “should we stay or should we go?”.

    The episode I just watched was so boring I had to keep fighting the urge to go clean the microwave or clip my toe nails…

    You know the best way to “increase your bottom line”? Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. You can sell a few pounds of goose meat and your profits will be up for the day… As for the next day… well. Good luck finding another goose that lays golden eggs for a while.

    • Rick Grimes – “Let me be clear, this is no longer a democracy.” Walking Dead (2012)
      Walter White – “I’m in the empire business.” Breaking Bad (2012)

      Breaking Bad also went downhill this season. The show should have ended (and a great ending) after the last season.

      These lines echo (if not intentional) Joel Stillerman and what is going on behind the scenes at the top of the network. I would not expect anything quality to come out of AMC… the network has problems.

  20. Crap…

    just read AMC has ordered a new “Idol” competition series as well as a reality show “Small Town Security”…. Yeah, this network is down the gutter. Just when they had something great, it all goes to s***.

  21. I was a late comer to Walking Dead. My wife and I started watching season 1 and season 2 on DVD. We were totally hooked. I can’t relate to them being bad at all. Although, of the 2 seasons, I can say that season number 1 was amazing. That’s what hooked us both into watching season 2. My wife hates this type of genre too, but that’s how good it was.

    Now season 3 comes. I watch intently, with hope, and fully ready for the feeling to come back. However, from the beginning it just looked wrong. I won’t beat around the bush…it flat out sucks. This night’s episode was heart wrenching to sit through. I was going to shoot my television to death for fear it would turn back on after unplugging it. This cable channel in itself has become like the walkers it portrays; successfully infecting their own show and making it just another boring azz cable drag. You know when it got ridiculous? When they added that staged Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome arena scene at the Governor’s fortress O’leisure. Get some common sense. Do you honestly think while the world around you has recently gone to hell that you are going to be doing that?

    Thanks AMC, thanks owner of AMC, and thanks 2 new writers. You guys suck. When you see passion and true talent, reward it, don’t remove it.

    So depressing…can’t wait to watch Land of the Dead next Sunday and turn my set off right after.

    • Quote: ” This night’s episode was heart wrenching to sit through. I was going to shoot my television to death for fear it would turn back on after unplugging it.”

      Hysterical!

    • The fights are from the comic book.

  22. I love how so many of you say you like the first season but hate the rest because of drama. Did you read the comics? Also in a real life event there would be drama within a group of people emotions would rise like crazy. Quit complaining. Survival won’t just be from zombies but each other as well.

    • RE: “Survival won’t just be from zombies but each other as well.”

      Especially each other.

      Yeah, Nate. I co-sign your commments.

  23. Let me start by saying the comment left here referring to Stillerman as “the jew” was tasteless and has no business being on a board where so many other comments were thoughtful and about the actual production follies of the show – not the religous beliefs of one of AMC’s executives.

    Bigotry wouldn’t exist without stupidty administering constant life support.

    Anyway, this show, which had all the potential, is slowly imploding. We all know it. Leave it up to Stillerman to be part of a homerun…only to not WANT to touch 2ndbase…and then fire the ump for telling him he has to. Know what I mean? This is the case of a network trying to play in a league where they obviously have no business.

    When you tally up the commercials, the infantile editing of theatre-released movies, the CONSTANT self promotion and now decesions such as this??

    AMC will NEVER be a network in the same class as HBO or Showtime.

    By the way…does Frank Darabont have personal relationships with Melissa McBride, Jeffery Demunn and Laurie Holden?? I only started watching TWD a few weeks ago, and the first thing I noticed was all of these people were in his movie The Mist. Kinda like James Cameron movies always having a part for Jeanette Goldstein.

    Just curious. Cheers!

  24. Spoiler Alert For those not caught up with 2
    They should not have fired Darabont. The comic book is a great gudeline, but there are infinite ways you could have turned it inot a telvision show, and Darbont did it fantastically, not to mention creating the most popular character of the series, Daryl. The second season was good for a while, my favorite, but IDK I’m assuming around the 9th or tenth episode is where Darabont’s influence wasn’t as strong(yes its true he wasn’t credited with writing a single episode but that doesn’t mean s***). They made a radical change from Darabon’t vision of the season (killing off dale,whoch I still maintain as a stupid move) and the third season is very different from the previous two. Like I said earlier, it is true they have the guideline of the comics, but the there are a million different ways to execute it, and with no help from Darabont this season, the show can go in a radically different direction in the long term. Ultimately, it’s been more about sensational zombie killings, and the writing is not nearly as good. RIP Potential second season finale and third and onward seasons

  25. You guys who are all saying the first season was great and second season+ sucks didn’t read the comics huh ? The quality did go down some I suppose if you liked giant CGI explosions and CGI shots of thousands of zombies in Atlanta’s streets..but honestly the second season did follow the comic book pretty close..there is a ton of drama in the comic if you didn’t know..the series isn’t about wacking zombies in the head..its about surviving in a horrible world and how people act in this new world, if you honestly hate the second season of TWD you should just stop watching now because its gets far more dramatized in later storylines in the comic book then the farm ever was..wait til Negan storyline..thats prob the most graphic and bloody of them all thus far if you crave death and destruction so much

    • I agree with your post.

  26. I never read the comic books, not a big comic book fan anyway, and never heard of this show until I was browsing through Netflix for something to watch and came across this. I started watching and was hooked immediately! I have watched all of season 1 and 2 in rapid succession between last night and tonight.

    I never knew about Frank Darabont until now, but I can honestly say I could tell a difference in season 1 and 2 but I really liked both. Some people have mentioned how we are locked with characters no one likes, but I feel the exact opposite. I think it makes sense that you get closer to characters the longer you are “with” them. Daryl is a good example of this. When I fist saw him, I was hoping he was just seconds away from being torn apart by walkers, now he’s one of my fav’s. Shane was the opposite, I liked him from the start but, as was intended I guess, I started to despise him late in season 2. Carl too. He went from no even on my radar to, I hope they write this kid off somehow with out killing him. He’s soooo annoying. Lori too. Especially after the way she acted towards Rick in the season 2 finale when he told her what he did.

    I think the people at AMC don’t know how to handle success. To fire someone so talented and who cared about the cast and crew so much. I mean lets face it, if someone feels like they are under paid or undervalued somehow, they’ll quit and then either be killed off or these idiots will hire a completely different actor and force us to accept this new person is the same ol’ character we’ve been following this whole time. Worst thing they can do imo. And if anyone from AMC ever gets bored enough to research what people are saying about this show- yes we need to see the zombies. They look freaking awesome. Not cheap or cheesy at all imo. Also how much could it possible cost to film woods and streams that are already there, vs building prop buildings and making them look like they’ve been thru hell? Seems like the indoor filming would be more expensive, especially when they break windows and doors ect.

    Overall, I loved season 2 and I can’t wait for season 3 to pop up on Netflix. If it doesn’t happen soon, I guess I’ll just have to buy it. Really wish I had known about this show all this time and could have been watching it on AMC.

    • Yes i totally agree I LOVE CHANDLER RIGGS

  27. I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. If Zombies (Walkers) we’re to come I would go to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and im only 12 . I LOVE CARL (Chandler Riggs) I hate SHANE (Jon Berthnal).

  28. Oh if you ask me I would leave AMC to The Walking Dead
    not only doe’s The Walking Dead need Frank I need The Walking Dead
    they are the reason why I want to be A actor. I LOVE CHANDLER
    RIGGS. WoW I think I love this show to much cause it is really
    Awesome. AND SO IS CHANDLER RIGGS

  29. Wow Anthony. I just creeped upon this article about Frank getting fired & now Glen is OUT. Who are these yahoo’s at AMC (Stillerman & Davis) & why do they still have jobs? Not to mention this Stillerman dude has a complex. Some nerve thinking he’s responsible when the opposite has occurred. This negative press is leaving a bad taste in viewers minds. I’ve had it since Mad Men & now the drama is BACK. And who’s running their Marketing department, managing their commercials advertisements ($)? With so many annoying commercials ever 5 mins, why aren’t they making MORE revenue for the show? Are they a bunch of interns to save on salaries? I now see why Season 2 had me falling asleep at times. It was that whole, 50% indoors & 50% outdoors, eh? Wow …