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My Painful XBox Experience

I came across this by chance yesterday, a bit from the G4 channel on my XBox show, SPARKY & MIKAELA, which stars Mikaela Hoover, Gregg Henry, Joe Fria, and Sean Gunn.  It was part of the HORROR DOES COMEDY series on XBox, where myself and other horror directors like James Wan, David Slade, Adam Green, and Lucky McKee direct horror shorts. Check it out:


I wasn’t too happy with the version of S&M that was shown on XBox, as they cut the living shit out of it.  Shortly after I signed on to produce the HORROR GOES COMEDY series, as well as write and direct my own, XBox became pain in the asses about content. They started by promising us directors complete creative freedom — that’s the whole reason we agreed to do it for, essentially, no money.  We were told that anything goes. So I shot the most balls-out, fucked up thing I’ve ever shot:  HUMANZEE! 

XBox saw it and freaked out.  There wasn’t even a way to cut it down to make it acceptable.  So they offered me the chance to do something else, and to take the rights to Humanzee myself, which I gladly did.  That’s when I came up with the idea for SPARKY & MIKAELA.  As long as it was PG-13, with no sex, they said it would be all right.  So that’s what I shot.  But they saw it and, again, freaked out.  Obviously they had no fucking idea what PG-13 was, as they wanted me to cut the words "penis" and "vagina."  They made me cut a piece of very fake poop and a bunch of other stuff.  And then, when they were done making me cut things, they took the final cut and cut it up themselves even more before airing it.

To sum things up, Warner Bros was a bastion of creative freedom on SCOOBY DOO 2 in comparison.  I’m not exaggerating or being facetious.  Microsoft/XBox was by far the most dreadful, non-talent friendly company I’ve ever worked for.  And if you think I had it bad, some of the other directors (most specifically, SAW director James Wan, who just happens to be one of my favorite people in the world) had it even worse. 

I still love XBox gaming, but I think their original content plans are DOA, precisely because of situations like the experience I and some of the other directors had on the Horror Goes Comedy series.  People on XBox are playing Grand Theft Auto 4, getting blowjobs from hookers and shooting them in the heads afterwards!  The top downloaded content on XBox is South Park!  But Microsoft wouldn’t let us get close to the extremity of that material, so I don’t know how in the world they planned to create their own successful original content.  People didn’t want to see our shows, which were barely a half-step removed from something you’d see on the Disney Channel.  It’s a shame.  I really think XBox could have been their own Network, as well as a gaming console, DVR, and way to buy movies.  I saw them as the future.  But because of the small-mindedness of the Microsoft executives, who preemptively censored a lot of our scenes for fear of freaking out stockholders, they crushed the potential for something that would have kept them relevant for a long time to come.  It seems, instead, the visionaries have landed at other companies.

I also realize this means I was lying in the above G4 interview.  And I was, a little.  But, a couple of things — this interview was shot before they started cutting up Sparky, and I truly did have a lot of freedom when I was on set.  I shot exactly what I wanted to, and had a lot of freedom.

In fact, I really like the original, uncut version of Sparky & Mikaela, which was done the way I intended.  And you’ll be able to see it soon on the internet, and in other media, along with James Wan’s DOGGIE TALES, and all the uncensored, uncut shorts.

And, until then, you can watch JAMES GUNN’S PG PORN: HIGH POON, with Alan Tudyk, Belladonna, Ted Stryker, and Roxy Deville, this Tuesday, April 28 on Spike.com/pgporn.  I’m happy to share that Spike.com didn’t cut a fucking thing.  I’ve had my ups and downs with Spike, but the difference between Spike and XBox is that there are more "ups" than "downs" and, in fact, that there are any "ups" at all!



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  • my question is what is being done with the footage you shot? will the episodes every air? I dont mean the way they were on xbox i mean, the original James Gunn glory. I was recently shown your site and its one of the best things i have seen in a long time. Heck, you could show your videos on our xbox community or we would gladly link to you from 360junkies.com I think you are doing something amazing here. It is insane that they show stuff like GTA4 and get away with it. Why can’t you show PG-13 stuff? Xbox has ratings and parental controls, the parents just need to be more involved. slap a “MATURE AUDIENCE” tag on it, don’t make the rest of us suffer because of lack of parenting? sorry for the rant, maybe that should be on xbox :p keep it up james, if you ever release the videos let me know, the show looks like an AMAZING concept and i would love to see them as i am sure a lot of us would. Heck, i’d pay money for entertainment like that!

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  • huston

    Thank GOD you still have the rights to everything, I’ll try to bribe Vincent into showing me Humanzee

  • Bill Pardys Doppelganger

    I remember they cut out Leigh Whannell getting raped by a dog in James Wan’s short, and that wasn’t cool because there is nothing funnier than an Australian getting raped by an animal, there just isn’t.

  • Tee Spreck

    I had a painful XBox experience too. My nephews XBox fell on my head when I was cleaning out his closet. Not quite the same thing, but betting if it had been the Sony Playstation the lump would have been smaller.

  • What a bunch of cocksuckers. You should have an Xbox beat down party like that scene for Office Space with Humanzee, Sparky & Mikaela.

  • lefreke

    Oh quit the fucking whining and get back on the bicycle and keep riding. You know you like it. I thought those shorts were genius and definitely over censored when I watched them. Microsoft is definitely in league with Satan.

  • James — True, our sensibilities on sexual innuendo may differ, although I think the fact that I’m a fan of your work and love PG Porn, Sparky & Mikaela and look forward to the day I can finally see Humanzee all show our sensibilities aren’t too far apart.

    This topic is freaking me out a bit because my producing partners and I finally got a contact at XBox Live and are waiting to hear if they want to talk to us about our comedy web series, “The Crusader” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRRlct7BaPA). The first two episodes we put up are TV clean but I plan on making part of the story center around a pretty raunchy joke starting in episode 3.

  • Well, fuck ’em then. When are WE gonna get to see S+M? If at all?

  • Well, it isn’t set up financially like a normal job, Phil. We already had our money and deal. There would be nothing to gain from that. If they wanted that, they wouldn’t give us any notes, just take what they had and never air it. But it was just continual notes, all the fucking time. And XBox was on the line — it had to be done, because of their deal with the Air Force, who was the sponsor.

  • I get ya. Well, I’m glad you’re stickin’ to your guns.

  • James – I should also mention when folks start getting nitpicky then they’re typically looking for excuses to make it so uncomfortable that you’ll say, “fuck it” and leave. That way you quit and they didn’t fire you. If there are other Xbox series not getting shafted for similar content, but my series would be singled out, I would start to think that. I’m not saying that’s how it is/was, but I’m a cynical fucker like that.

  • Phil – No, they were just afraid their stockholders were going to freak out. A lot of people — MOST people — run their careers based on fear. This is how you get to a good middle management position but no further.
    Kelly – It might be a difference in what you consider sexual innuendo and what I do. In terms of violence, they weren’t too crazy. Being typical Americans, they freaked out on anything that reeked even the slightest of sexuality.

  • James — The Guild is free on XBox Live. It’s first season was a straight web series on YouTube / watchtheguild.com but its second season was just on XBox Live and sponsored by Sprint. They’re working on their third season, also for XBox, sometime later this year. The Guild contains lots of sexual innuendo and would qualify as PG-13 certainly and sometimes R. It’s also pretty damn funny.

  • “But ‘excuses to get rid of it’? I don’t know where you’d get that from.”

    I guess if someone’s gonna complain about “penises” and “vaginas” then it sounds like they’re being nitpicky. But fuck if I know. It’s just what it sounds like.

  • Huston – It’s already been suggested I take this down – it might come down tomorrow. We’ll see.

    Phil – The powers that be definitely weren’t looking for excuses to get rid of it, they just didn’t give a shit about it. When you’re talking about Microsoft as a whole, they didn’t care about XBox Live original content one way or the other – they money they currently make there is nothing compared to the overall Microsoft corporation. The XBox Live staff were a different story – they cared, but just didn’t know what the hell they were doing and were, in the end, suckasses and not visionaries (and the one person I know who had some vision there left the company part way through this process). But “excuses to get rid of it”? I don’t know where you’d get that from.

  • Man! This totally sucks. It’s fucked up when other folks have to decided what’s appropriate or offensive. But honestly, what it sounds like is that the powers that be didn’t like the series and were looking for excuses to get rid of it.

    But on the other hand, fuck ’em all. Start your own network here on James Gunn.com. Let all the videos be exclusive to this site and you can charge advertisers if you want. Or doesn’t it work like that? Dude, you could be an Internet pioneer much like Lloyd Kaufman, Roger Corman or Russ Meyer were for movies.

  • huston

    I sooooooooooooooooooooo completely respect your honesty, candor and most of all integrity. Here’s hoping your lawyer, agent, manager and rabbi don’t have you take this down…

  • Dog Brother/Kelly – It was the executives as well as the XBox Live folks. It was one of the problems. Often times one of the XBox Live folks would say something was perfectly okay – they’d okay a cut of a film, for instance. We’d sound mix, get it ready, and they’d come back in a couple of days and say, “Um, well, the Microsoft execs saw it and want you to cut A, B, and C…” This would happen nine or ten times, starting with them okaying a script that was later not okay at all.
    As for the Guild, I’ve never seen it, so can’t say. Is it for free on XBox? Or for paid download? One of our problems was that because it was actual XBox content, they thought they’d be on the line with stockholders if there was an upset.
    Mondofrink – Absolutely agree.

  • mondofrink

    Companies that throw their hat into the entertainment business always seem start out going, “we’re going to be edgy, we’re going to have balls!” Then reality sets in and their balls shrink up. Shockwave was starting a channel 10 years ago. They signed a huge contract with Matt Stone and Trey Parker to do “whatever they wanted” Matt and Trey had total control, no limits. They made this:


    After these first 2 episodes Shockwave ate the contract and never aired the episodes.

    We had the same problem when Happy Tree Friends aired on G4 a few years back. They wanted us to change things. We changed some stuff, but in the end they realized we would never change it to what they wanted. They didn’t want to just eat the contact so they dumped us after midnight with very little promotion.

  • dirtyseven

    I saw an episode of ‘GREEK’ and all they talked about was sex and STD’s as they got drunk… and this was on ABC Family! Those XBOX execs sound like complete douches. I agree with you on that they could have started/had something valuable regarding original entertainment which could only be viewed by XBOX LIVE members. I can’t believe they would fuck up a potential outlet like this. I guess they could stand behind the ‘ratings’ thing that all video games have now… not that it ever stops anyone from buying those ‘Rated M’ products. Which is probably the reason why Spike.com is so cool… cause it’s online and anything goes online. Oh well. fuck em! Here’s hoping I win that signed script!

  • Bunny

    Look pumpkin pie face, it’s like this: Everything that happens, you learn. Good, Bad, whatever it’s all learning. I had a genius idea for the First commercial I ever made but when I got in the studio I had to use ‘comp’ status. The client was too cheap to pay for anything. So I had to make this great com from crap nothing. And it turned out to be a horrid experience. To this day some of the folks that still work at the clear channel studio where it got made still poke fun because it came out so badly. Sometimes your vision gets squished by budget, censorship, too many cooks, etc etc. Just put the ordeal on the shelf and lable it under ‘experience’. Everybody has those experiences. Some hide them better than others. xoxo’s Bun.

  • Too bad they didn’t hire Takashi Miike to direct one. The would have killed themselves upon viewing it. Then XBox could have hired cooler employees to oversee this stuff.

  • I worked at Microsoft over 11 years and left in 2004.

    They aren’t what I would call edgy. Take a look at the commercial they did with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates:


    Steve is sensitive to the whole monkey/chimp boy thing:


    Humanzee probably made them shit their pants.

  • They say “penis” and “vagina” on “Scrubs,” on ABC (Disney owned) at 7pm Central. Way to stay edgy, M$.

    “The Guild” already existed in a lot of places before M$ and was not created for them. Maybe that’s why they could get away with a bit more.

  • ThatGermanGuy

    I’m not trying to pretend to exactly know the trouble that you faced with the Xbox people, but reading about this gave me some seriously bad flashbacks from the time, when I was editing commercials. Some companies are just impossible to work with, because even the nice guys are idiots. They tell you what they want, just to want something completely different in the end. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Sparkasse!)

  • Do you think all Microsoft execs involved in XBox Live were like that, or just the Horror Goes Comedy people? I ask because, although they had to bleep a few things, The Guild on XBox Live managed to stay a bit edgy.