Host Matt Hentges travels the neighborhoods of Kansas City, talking with Star Wars fans about their collections of memorabilia — action figures to figurines, costumes to cookie jars, and everything in between. Every other Sunday at 6p, Matt will interview a collector and take cameras into their personal Rancho Obi-Wans and see just what’s tucked away in the closet, or under the bed, or in the garage…
This week, Matt visits friend Dylan, who’s got a fairly impressive collection of original and later-model action figures. Plus: a STAR WARS themed room! But it’s not the one you’d expect…
[Header photo courtesy Marco Beltrami’s Facebook page.]
Episode 21: Logan Composer Marco Beltrami
Marco Beltrami is no stranger to composing movies in the sci fi and superhero world. His first major breakthrough was doing the score for Wes Craven’s Scream, and you may recognize his music from such genre favorites as Hellboy, Mimic, The Faculty, and even worked with Philip Glass for the 2015 version of Fantastic Four. He’s been nominated for an Oscar for his scores for both 3:10 to Yuma and The Hurt Locker.
In early March, I had the opportunity to interview him over the phone about his latest project Logan, the latest — and possibly last — Wolverine movie starring Hugh Jackman.
Basic show notes:
Running time is 16 minutes, 55 seconds.
The main interview was recorded on March 8, 2017.
For more information about Marco Beltrami, visit his website.
Logan opened March 3, and the soundtrack is available to stream via Spotify (see playlist below).
Star Wars Cribs will take you on a tour of some of Kansas City’s most interesting collections, with host Matt Hentges tracking down those treasure troves of all shapes and sizes. Action figures to figurines, costumes to cookie jars, and everything in between. Every other Sunday at 6p, Matt will interview a collector and take cameras into their personal Rancho Obi-Wans and see just what’s tucked away in the closet, or under the bed, or in the garage…
And to kick things off, Matt brings us into his collection:
H2O #151: In Which We Discuss the Biggest Lightsaber Battle in the World
The battle is about to begin!
This week: an extended episode in which we have guests! Stefan White and Steven Fuller from Kansas City’s Friends of the River join us to talk about the upcoming attempt to set the world record for the “Largest Lightsaber Battle in the World” — complete with representatives from Guiness World Records! On May 6th, over ten thousand people will gather on the shores of the Mighty Mo, the Missouri River, to wage the largest lightsaber battle ever. Many groups have been large, but this is the first attempt to set a world record.
More importantly, it’s a chance to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital here in Kansas City. May is also Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, and this is a chance to raise money for ongoing research to help kids live long enough to receive lung transplants so that they can live into adulthood.
[photos by Michael Hanna Photography for SciFi4Me]
It’s 6pm on a Tuesday at the Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica, CA and the cast and creative team of the new sci-fi thriller film, Mindgamers, has just finish a panel and press junket. The film follows a group of brilliant young students, lead by The Walking Dead’s Tom Payne, who create a wireless neural network capable of transferring motor-skills from one brain to another, anywhere in the world, via a quantum computer. Though they hope the technology will change humanity for the better, they soon find out that darker forces, perhaps, the trailer hints, led by the great Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), threaten to use it as a means of mass mind control.
Amidst the new wave tech office furniture, giant posters of extreme sports stars, and hors d’oeuvres, Tom and I find a little time to chat about his geeky side and the not so sci-fi elements of his new film.
Ayla Glass: How did you learn about this project, and what attracted you to the script initially?
Tom Payne: It was like any other project that you audition for. It was a script that came to me and the part seemed really interesting. I’m a bit sci-fi nerd myself. I love Flatliners and movies like that, and I thought this had a similar kind of vibe, and the subject matter really interested me. And I needed a job (he laughs). So I got offered this one and I thought it would be really fun. It’s gotten much bigger and more interesting and more exciting than I could of thought it could have been. I have been amazed at Red Bull’s investment in pushing things forward and tackling difficult subjects. And making a movie that isn’t like any other. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this before.
AG: So during the panel you touched a little on that you got really into quantum science after reading the script and getting involved in the movie. Was that a passion ahead of time?
TP: No I hadn’t really thought about it before. I had my own ideas about life, and death, and what happens, what doesn’t happen, and I knew they didn’t involve religion, so I was always looking for something else. So when we started the movie, and we started having these conversations within the cast, and with the writers and director about existence and about quantum physics and the connection between people, it really chimed with me and gave me a new direction to go in with my understanding of how things work. But it’s such an enormous subject. I’ve never really been a scientist. I feel like if something interests you then you follow that and there was parts of science that interested me, but I just knew that it wasn’t my direction. But at the same time I am a very quite a geeky person and into sci-fi. One of the things that made me do the movie was that I wanted to do a sci-fi movie and this one had some really interesting themes and really interesting questions. So it was great to get involved in that.
AG: So would you do a sci-fi movie again?
TP: Absolutely. I’ve been telling my agent I want to be in the new Predator movie or the new Alien movies. I love sci-fi. I think it’s really exciting and asks questions and it just… looks really cool!
AG: Yes! You get to wear cool outfits, shot cool guns… So you want to be in an alien invasion movie next if possible?
AG: Nice! How was it working with Sam Neill. He’s such a renowned veteran actor. How was that relationship dynamic on set?
TP: Sam has been around for a long time now, and he does so much work and such different performances. At the end of it, he’s just a working actor, and that very much comes across with him. He has an ease to his work and to himself that puts you at ease. I take my job seriously but my energy isn’t really too intense. And Sam’s isn’t too, so when you meet actors who are doing it in a way that you do it and in a way you aspire to do it. Then it gives you confidence that you don’t have to be too method, or too crazy, or too whatever, because I’ve seen this person do amazing performances. I don’t want to change the way that I work because that’s the way an “amazing actor does it,” and I know that you don’t have to. Generally, I come to work really invigorated and excited and I did on this movie.
AG: If you could describe this film in one word, what would it be?
AG: Amazing. Is there anything specific you would like audiences to take away from the film?
TP: I think the main thing is just that it opens the conversation. I think that’s the most important thing. The movie is not linear in a way that a regular movie is. I’ve watched the movie twice now and the second time I got more out of it. Honestly, I left the movie and I was like, “I don’t know if that was a good movie, but I also don’t know if it’s a bad movie” because it doesn’t fit the narrative of a regular movie. It doesn’t go, this is the beginning, this is the middle, this is the end. A lot of things happen simultaneously, and it’s not constructed in a “normal” way. So you come out of it having had an experience, and asking questions about the movie but also everything to do with the movies and all the things it brought up. And that was different for me. I’m used to leaving a movie and going “ah, okay that was nice,” and this movie I was like, I need to go away and think about that. So that was really cool, it’s a whole new thing. And with the experiment that’s happening… there is a lot of great music in the movie and a lot of great visuals and ideas. It’s definitely a stimulating project, so I’m excited to see the results of the experiment.
AG: Do you think you’re going to jump in there in the back maybe?
TP: Yeah, if I’m here I will I think.
AG: Okay. Final question: any hints as to what the second half of season 7 holds for you on The Walking Dead?
TP: (laughs) I can’t say…
AG: No?! Do you make it?
TP: I can’t even tell you that. I can say that, first episode back, Jesus takes everyone to meet the Kingdom in Ezekiel, and we start the long journey to building the resistance… And that’s all I can say. MindGamers: One Thousand Minds Connected Live (also known as DxM) takes place on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT and is produced by Fathom Events and Terra Mater Film Studios. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.fathomevents.com/event/mindgamers
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Cast Talks Challenges, Rituals, and Cake!
[Header image by Matthew Murphy, all other photos taken by me]
Phantom of the Opera is Broadway’s longest running play at over 12,000 performances as of November 2016. Created by Andrew Lloyd Weber, it’s arguably the best musical (okay, I’m biased because it’s my favorite!), and is just one of the countless adaptations of the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel of the same name (translated). The story has taken many forms, including several movies like the 2004 film based on Lloyd Weber’s play and starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum.
Though the book itself is a horror novel, some adaptions have taken a more romantic twist, and others have turned the tale into a comedy. The current musical leans heavily on the romantic notions, but still incorporates many elements of horror into the story.
The show is about a disfigured man who lives under the Paris Opera House. Shrouded in shadow and feared by the residence, the Phantom forms a deep love for Christine, whom he’s secretly trained since she was a young girl. When her childhood friend, Raoul, steps back in the picture, jealousy and tempers flare, culminating in a dark, emotional finale.
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with two of the touring production’s current stars: Derrick Davis, who plays the iconic Phantom, and Katie Travis, who plays his obsession/love interest Christine Daaé. While at the Music Hall, I also got the chance to see some of the fabulous costumes up close, including the Phantom’s beloved cape, as well as the breathtaking chandelier featured in the show. I also spoke with Mitch Hodges, the stage manager for the production, about his role.
Hodges got his start as a production assistant and worked on the original version of Phantom on an earlier tour. According to Hodges, he got started through a friend of a friend of a friend. He became stage manager of the new tour about six months ago, so with some experience behind him, I was curious what his favorite part of his job is.
“Working with these fantastic folks,” he said. Of course, he motioned to the wonderful Derrick Davis and Katie Travis to emphasize whom he was talking about. He added, “I like traveling a lot. Getting to be in every city is awesome.” It sounds about perfect to me, as well! Hodges was super nice and very accommodating. He even let one of the other press members wear the Phantom’s cape (color me jealous!!)!
The stage manager is in charge of coordinating basically every aspect of the production, including the rehearsals, actors, props, and costumes, so he was a busy guy. While he bustled back and forth between the front of house with us and the stage, I got to spend some time with Davis and Travis, as well.
Katie Travis has been a fan of Phantom since she was a girl and has been in the production for over two years now. When asked what her favorite role she’s played is, she noted, “In college, I played Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella, and I loved doing that, but actually, to be honest, Christine, for sure!” She is extremely sweet and has a lovely voice, even just in conversation. I saw her portray Christine in Omaha, NE last year, so I know her singing is just as beautiful.
She gets herself ready for each performance with an extensive routine including meditation, vocal warmups, physical warmups, and makeup. Music and a coffee (or two!) are also involved, and “about a half an hour till [the show], someone comes and does my wig. Then at 5 till, my dresser, Erin [Haney], helps me get my costume on, and then we go do the show.”
Something that not many people usually think or ask about is the challenge that comes specifically from doing an enduring show. “Before I did this long running show that is so vocally demanding, I didn’t really know [the long-term challenges]. When you see someone on a Tuesday night, they’re also a human, and that’s where they’re at on a Tuesday. They may have gone through a breakup, and they may have been getting over a cold, and so your job is to try to calm whatever that is down, whatever you’re going through in your life. I think there is a spiritual grounding component of this, whatever your spirituality is, to keep yourself together even when you’re going through whatever it is that you’re going through in your day.”
Adding to that, Travis also mentioned that “you can’t really coast. You have to really be present, so it’s a challenge to kind of keep yourself there, but it’s a beautiful challenge because you have to force yourself to work through whatever it is you’re dealing with in your life to do your job the best.”
After Travis flitted away to go begin her performance routine for the 2:00pm show, I got some 1-on-1 time with Derrick Davis. He’s a newcomer to the cast, having just done his first performance in October of last year, replacing The Voice’s Chris Mann. He’s been Mufasa and Scar in the The Lion King and played Curtis Taylor Jr. in Dreamgirls. Now he stars at the Phantom himself.
There have been many Phantoms, so I’m always curious who a person’s favorite is. “Davis Gaines would probably have to be the one,” he told me. “He was the first one that I saw, and you kind of get a connection with the first one that you see. Everyone has been different, everyone has been amazing in their own right, but he was my first.” I completely understand the sentiment. I was introduced to Phantom via the 2004 movie, so Gerard Butler has always been my standard by which I compare other Phantoms.
Because he’s worked on other touring shows, I was also wondering what the most surprisingly challenging thing about Phantom has been for him. It was fun listening to his answers to questions. His voice, like Travis’s, is wonderful to listen to, and he speaks so sweetly. “The most surprisingly challenging thing is the stamina that you need to get through the show and to get through the work week,” he answered in response to my question. “It’s a very emotional show, and in order to be that emotional, I just hold that emotion in my entire body, so there’s a lot of tension that’s held in my muscles. It gets exhausting.”
The show is definitely an emotional one from the audience perspective, too, so I can only imagine what it would be like playing such a trying character. There’s more to the role than just the popularity and emotion of the Phantom, though, which adds to some of the pressure on Davis. He is only the third African-American to play the role, and he’s the first to take the Phantom on a national tour. Robert Guillaume was the first African-American to take the lead role in the Los Angeles production, and Norm Lewis was the first to do so on Broadway.
Following in their footsteps, and still paving the way for future performers to break boundaries, Davis mentioned that “the role itself puts pressure because you don’t want to mess up such an iconic role. But I feel like the country, the world, the theater world is watching, and I don’t want to make a bad name for people of color or for people to be non-traditionally cast in a role. We’ve made great strides in the past few years, and I’d love for it to continue to move in that direction.”
Down to my last minute to talk with Davis before he had to go back to prepare for his upcoming performance, I wanted to ask one last, very important question. I had read in a previous interview that he is a self-proclaimed cakeaholic, with carrot cake being his favorite. I wanted to know, though, if there was any cake that he actually didn’t like. The question garnered a hearty laugh and led to a quick discussion on the fact that he gets so much cake from fans now that he’s afraid he won’t be able to fit into his costume. His answer, by the way, is dry cake. He hasn’t found a flavor he doesn’t like, and he may be persuaded to try a cake that is purposefully on the drier side, but a slice that is not supposed to be dry is not fun. “Let them eat cake!” he said, gleefully, before graciously taking one last picture with me and saying goodbye to our group.
After all of the interviews were wrapped up, I got to go into the theater for a view of the legendary chandelier, which is featured in one of my favorite parts of the show. Though it was lowered so it could be worked on, we weren’t allowed to get close as they were loading some pyrotechnics into it. The whole thing weighs over a ton and travels in one giant piece, always put together. The design is beautiful, and the sheer size of it is breathtaking.
The Phantom of the Opera is currently in Kansas City through February 19th. It’s performing at the Music Hall, and if you’re in the area I highly recommend seeing this darker, fantastic production while it’s here! You can get tickets and more information through Theater League.
In my last G33K Out podcast, I brought out my interviews from one of the panels at WonderCon 2016, “High Scorers Panel: Star Composers of the Video Game World”. While at the press room for that, I also had the chance to talk with some of the people at another panel, “Streaming Success: Behind-the-Scenes of Your Favorite Binge Worthy Shows”.
The panel discussed the original content of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and some of the people that work on the various shows produced by them. My associate Hope Donoghue and I first talked to James (“Jimmy”) Levine and Sean Callery, composers of American Horror Story and Marvel’s Jessica Jones respectively. Since it was with the High Scorers Panel, I first assumed they were on that panel and asked about their work composing for video games. We then talked to David Van Dyke, VFX producer and (at the time) vice president of Shade VFX (he’s now president), where he’s worked on a variety of genre media, but most notably Marvel’s Daredevil.
As with the last interview, due to the press set up, any time I talked, the mic was not in front of me most of the time.
Basic show notes:
Running time is 23 minutes.
The main interview was recorded on March 25, 2016.
To see all of our coverage of WonderCon 2016, visit this link.
Mid-show plug is from Jimmy Matlosz, cinematographer and guest on episode.
I was fortunate enough to get to talk a bit with Steven Sanders not long ago. Steven is a local Kansas City artist who has been working in the comics industry for quite a while and has produced a lot of original comics such as Five Fists of Science with Matt Fraction, Throwaways with Caitlin Kittredge, and his independent work on Symbiosis. Steven was great to talk with and shared a great deal out his processes. In this production I’ll play the role of DB: and Steven plays an uncanny SS. I sprinkled some of Steven’s original art throughout the interview. Let’s get to it.
DB: Getting these things rolling can be tricky (I heard it through the grapevine), so let’s kick this off with an easy one. If you could be any well-known scientist from history, who would it be and why? (Is it leading the witness if I say Tesla was my favorite?)
SS: Ha! I definitely understand the Tesla angle, and if it were 6 or so years ago I’d be tempted to go with him, as I had been the worlds biggest Tesla fanboy since high school. But I ran across a site that made a compelling argument that his work was not unique, and had been based on prior art or at the very least others came up with the same ideas before or around the same time he did. That he was basically an excellent engineer with some quirks (or mental disorders or whatever one would care to call them). The popular image of Tesla is quite compelling, though, and he was a fascinating person in general, even if he likely wasn’t as great of an inventor as people like to say he was.
But, Tesla aside, hm. If I could somehow be him without suffering from a racist culture, I’d pick George Washington Carver. I’ve always been amazed and inspired by people who can take very limited materials and turn it into a cornucopia of new things. Or James Lovelock because I’m a big fan of the Gaia Hypothesis, or … well, you only asked for one, I should stop at two and/or before I say Hedy Lamarr. Haha.
DB: Seriously though, what got you into drawing? Was it something you started as a kid on your own?
SS: Yeah, I just always drew as far back as I could remember, and it was something that I would easily get praise for as a kid, so that definitely spurred doing more and more of it. But I also liked it because I could use the paper to make little words to escape into/visit. A friend of mine and I in grade school used to use graph paper to make these “dungeons” with various traps, treasures, etc. etc., and then we’d each go through the other’s dungeon. I think we always died due to some filled in square that was actually an acid pit or something like that. A lot of my conceptual work like the Symbiosis Kickstarter is fueled by that same desire to make and visit unexplored places using pencil and paper.
DB: Oh man, I used to make graph paper mazes in my chemistry class! Totally forgot about that, thanks for excavating that, Steven the Memory Archaeologist. In Throwaways #2 you had a map in the background of a flashback. What inspired you to use that?
SS: That double-page splash scene was pretty much all Caitlin. I just did my best to do it justice.
DB: What sort of things do you enjoy drawing the most? If you were to become independently wealthy tonight, what would you draw tomorrow, Science Fiction, Fantasy, or something you pluck from the spider web of your own mind?
SS: I’d definitely finish and continue on with my Symbiosis project. There’s enough there to keep me occupied for quite a long time, quite likely, however long I have left on this planet. Ah, barring that, I’d be doing more world building, and maybe see about some sci-fi projects with some writers that had been talked about but never got off the ground.
Now that I think about it, if I had the money, getting a studio together to help make all the comics I’ve wanted to draw for people but couldn’t due to time and/or money would be pretty great.
DB: I was looking back through Throwaways and was pouring over the art. The book has a VERY hand-crafted feel to it visually. Was it a look that was inspired by the story or did you have some techniques you wanted to try and felt this was a good fit?
SS: It was mostly me just trying to do “gritty realism” for the first time to any significant degree. As far as I know, drawing technique didn’t change that much, it was adapted to use of more photo reference… It might have to do with the conscious decision to not use any rulers except in the layouts, so all lines are hand drawn without guides.
DB: Can you break down the creation of a page from say, sketching to making the final coloring choices?
SS: Sure! I do everything in Manga Studio, and my “template page” has a number of layers already set up for blue-line, pencils, inks, colors, etc. I’ll read the page of that script, check it against the prior page and what is going on there, and figure out what panels seem to be the most important. Generally, I tend to be pretty plain with my use of grids, versus fancy angled panels and whatnot, and most layouts will fit in some way into a 3×3 grid, where each “beat” gets clustered onto a one of the 3 horizontal areas. From there it’s deciding how each panel feels in term of emotion, and determining camera angle from that, then roughing the backgrounds in, and then the figures.
From there, depending on a number of things, I’ll find or shoot photo reference or find 3D models for places, persons and things. Even if I think I have a good mental image of something real, looking at the actual object gives you all kinds of little visual landmarks one is likely to miss unless they are just super familiar with what’s being drawn.
I’ll do pencils and inks from there. Due to a combination of not wanting to take the time to master traditional inking, and the love of how pencil looks, I’ve ended up with a hybrid pencil/ink style that lets me get the softness of pencil and the graphic weight of ink when I want it.
Coloring is basically me painting with a digital oil brush underneath the linework. I like it, but it’s also very time intensive if I give it the attention I want to. So I’m trying to find ways to speed up that process, like using flats to easily select/mask off each area. I’ll often try and give each “scene” its own unifying color, and use the “Photo Filter” process in Photoshop for that. It works out a lot like the natural media painting method of working some of a chosen color into every mixed color you use in a painting.
DB: Do you like having more than one project going, so you have things to bounce between when you hit a sticking point on one?
SS: Yeah, Symbiosis has been my main side project for a while, but before (and after) that I’d either have other jobs, or I’d take breaks to do non-2D arts and crafts. Like homebrewing, carving/turning stones like alabaster/soapstone, making electronics projects, building computers (when I had more money than sense I was working on making a hackintosh inside of an old NeXT cube as a super nerdy in-joke. OSX is kind of OpenSTEP… 5? 6? I forget at the moment.), wildcrafting herbs and fruits/nuts (yay acorn cake!), and just trying to learn as much about everything as I could.
DB: Are there any tips/tricks/advice you would like give aspiring illustrators?
SS: There’s no substitute for practice, don’t be precious with/attach your ego to your work, and learn how to market yourself online and make friends in the industry you want to get into.
Don’t “network,” it turns people away. Just make friends. It’s win/win that way.
Don’t skimp on the business end of things. Or at least find someone to delegate it to. (I learned that one the hard way.)
Be like a dog with a bone. If you think you have the ability to be a pro, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.
Be a good, kind person; help out your peers and others looking to work as illustrators. What goes around comes around.
And if you have social anxiety like I do, nobody ever died from it, so get out there and be social anyway. Meditation can help. I like the Headspace app/website, but that’s just me.
DB: And finally, what can we possibly see from you in the future? Are you planning to continue in comics? Do you have stuff in the works that needs a Level 10 clearance to discuss or any teasers you could share?
SS: Yeah, I plan on continuing in comics, I have another creator owned book in the works, but can’t talk about it, unfortunately. It’s pretty fun, though. Alt-history sci-fi stuff. I’m going to be putting out a PDF/CBZ Symbiosis Chapbook as a way to get Symbiosis backers something while waiting for me to finish getting the time and money to finish and print the book.
That wraps it up for this session people. Steven was a blast to talk to, was quite accommodating, and would make a formidable pugilist. LITERALLY everyone in KC who goes to Planet Comicon should find his booth and stop by, chat him up, pick up a print, or…I dunno maybe just loiter about it for hours? Make everyone else at The Con wonder just what is going on over THERE?! A mass of people gathered about his table fueled by CONSTRUCTIVE INTERFERENCE!
LIVE FROM THE BUNKER: Donald F. Glut Talks ESB, Dinosaurs, and More
[featured image: DonGlutsDinosaurs.com]
Earlier this week, we posted part one of our interview with Donald F. Glut, who has had a long career as an author, screenwriter, filmmaker, and amateur paleontologist. The focus of the earlier piece was his Tales of Frankenstein project. Now, part two opens up the rest of Glut’s career, with insights into The Empire Strikes Back and his opinion of the Jurassic Park movies.
On His Last Amateur Movie:
“As far as I know, that was the first amateur Spider-Man movie ever made. Possibly, people made them before me, but it’s the only one I ever heard of, and there was somebody else who made one approximately the same time or shortly after. I was at a New York comic convention in 1973, and they ran his Spider-Man movie. And all I remember, Kraven the Hunter was the villain.
On Writing The Empire Strikes Back:
“That’s one of three questions I hate answering, because I’ve answered it so many times, and it comes out — you know the Abraham Lincoln robot at Disneyland? It says the same thing over and over … It was just a simple thing. They asked me to do it, and they made me an offer, and I did it.”
“The ending kept changing, I don’t know, on a weekly basis. And I knew what the ending was from the very get-go, but I couldn’t write the ending. I had to write the fake pages. I had to write the ending based on the fake pages they kept giving me because they were so paranoid about anybody finding out the great revelation at the end, that they kept it a secret. It was not a pleasant experience.”
On Not Liking Star Wars:
“It sort of became this thing that everybody worships now, and it just never pushed the buttons on me. I saw in it a lot of cliches that I’d seen earlier, you know, in old movie serials and things. I thought the acting, with the exception of Peter Cushing and James Earl Jones, was pretty bad in that first movie. I thought the dialogue was pretty bad. Clunky.”
On Liking Jurassic Park:
“I love those movies. There’s a lot of scientific inaccuracies in them, you know, which … I have to sort of bite the bullet. I keep telling myself it’s not a scientific educational documentary I’m watching. This is a monster movie. And I love Godzilla, and I love Ray Harryhausen films. But these are fantasy movies, these are science fiction movies, and once I get beyond that I think they’re great.”
“I’ve always wanted to make a Frankenstein movie. I’ve made a number of other movies, but they’ve all been kind of cheesy B-films and T&A movies, and I didn’t really want to make a Frankenstein movie like that because I just love the Frankenstein concept and the theme, and the original novel and the old movie so much. I didn’t want to cheap it out. I wanted to wait until I was in a position where I could do it right.”
To many genre fans, especially those circling around Star Wars, the name Donald F. Glut brings to mind the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, which to date has sold over 3.5 million copies.
But Glut is also a filmmaker, comic book writer, television and film screenwriter, fan film producer, and amateur paleontologist. His production company, Pecosborn Productions, is in the midst of producing a feature-length anthology of short films called Tales of Frankenstein, in honor of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel. Framed within a wraparound story featuring the creation of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the four films are “My Creation, My Beloved” starring Buddy Daniels Friedman and Lilian Lev, “Crawler From the Grave” starring Tatiana DeKhytar, “Madhouse of Death” starring Mel Novak, and “Dr. Karnstein’s Creation” starring James Tavaré.
It’s this final segment that’s currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The rest of the film has been shot, and Glut plans to start shooting in late February or early March.
It’s Alive… Almost
It’s not the first time Karnstein has been considered for film. Originally a short story included in Michele Parry’s Rivals of Frankenstein anthology. “I think what inspired that, there was a Rivals of Sherlock Holmes that was very popular. So Corgi Books in London was putting out this paperback, Rivals of Frankenstein, and he wanted to know if I would like to write a Frankenstein story, an original story, and I came up with this idea of — I’m trying not to give away the surprise ending by telling you, by talking about it — but it involves Frankenstein’s monster and vampires.”
The anthology also included stories by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Ambrose Bierce, Fritz Lieber, and more. At one point, it was being considered for a film adaptation by Amicus Productions chief Milton Subotsky. “Subotsky really liked Doctor Karnstein’s Creation. So, in the late 1970s, they announced a Rivals of Frankenstein movie, which was going to include my story. But then Subotsky never made that movie, and then eventually he died, so it just became a dead issue.”
It’s Alive… Again
But don’t look for Glut’s Frankenstein film to be anything like the plethora of others that are sure to be hitting screens in the next few years. “Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man are iconic. The Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Mummy, they’re iconic. You still see lunch boxes and things with those creatures on them.” The challenge, Glut sees, is that the people in charge of the studios, some of whom may have grown up watching these iconic characters, don’t quite understand the characters.
Glut sees it as a symptom of another potential issue facing Hollywood: the seemingly endless supply of remakes and reboots over original material. “When they’re remaking sitcoms from television, like The Honeymooners, and making movies out of those, and making movies based on video games, that to me is lack of ideas.” But for the classic creatures, it’s less a question of whether the films should be remade, and more an issue of how.
“Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing the classic monster characters turned into superheroes, which is pretty much what I think Universal plans to do. They’re kind of emulating the Avengers movies, the Marvel movies, that kind of thing. I don’t really like those movies. I’ve seen some of the recent Frankenstein movies, and they’re nothing but CGI effects. There’s no story, no plot. My movie is very traditional. It’s got all the elements you want to see in a Frankenstein movie, except there’s no Igor and there’s nobody yelling, ‘It’s alive!’
“I stayed away from those because those are just a little bit too clichéd. It’s got things you want to see. It’s got practical make-up, it’s got castles, it’s got villagers – if they’ll let me light fire in the studio, we’ll have villagers with torches – Mine is very traditional, which is what I think people miss. So I’m hoping that’s going to make it stand out among a sea of CGI movies that are going to be coming out.”
She Started It
Glut’s fascination with the Frankenstein story began in his childhood. “It started with a Western, actually. I was in a movie theater when I was a little boy. It was my mother and my grandmother, we were there watching a movie called Tap Roots (Universal 1948), in which Boris Karloff played an Indian, a Native American. And we were in the theater, and my mother whispered into my ear when Karloff came on, she said ‘Oh, that’s the actor who played Frankenstein’ And I’d never heard that name before. I didn’t know who that was, and we were walking home from the theater and I asked “What’s Frankenstein?” and then she told me there was a man who was brought back from the dead. And that was so intriguing to me.”
That initial intrigue led to a continuous search for more information about Frankenstein and his creation. Glut went on a self-described “quest” to discover what he could, limited in those days because there wasn’t the proliferation of media like what’s available now. “There were no pictures anywhere. The only thing I found was the Dick Briefer comic books that were being sold, and this is the early 1950s, the horror comics. And he sort of looked like what they were talking about.”
His search continued until he was about thirteen, when a nearby theater ran a triple bill: House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and The Mummy. “There was just something about the atmosphere of those movies and everything. The continuity from one to the next. It just hooked me. And I’ve been a Frankenstein fan ever since.”
Show Him the Money
Tales of Frankenstein was originally going to be a film project a number of years ago, but the pieces never quite came together just right to make it work. But Glut held onto the idea as he formed Pecosborn Productions; his first film under the new shingle was a werewolf story, Dancing with Werewolves, to be followed by Tales of Frankenstein. “I took the five stories that I thought were the most ‘filmable’, and those are the ones I selected, and we’ve shot now three of them, plus a wrap-around that sort of ties them all together. And this one I’m trying to raise money for, is the fourth and final.”
The original set of five has since been pared down to four, mainly because in the editing process, there was a lot more story material that could be used for each segment, taking them from the initial fifteen minutes each to around twenty-five.
It actually works out for the project, as that fifth segment “…would have been fairly expensive because I had a castle location and I was trying to get another star name in there. A mainstream star name, and all those things add up, so if the first Tales of Frankenstein does well, and since it’s based on a book, then I would probably follow it up with Tales of Frankenstein Volume Two, instead of calling it Part Two, just call it Volume Two like the book. And then I could incorporate the one we didn’t shoot into that one. And then I would pick three other stories that I think might work.”
But at the moment, Glut’s eye is on the tally at the Indiegogo project, which isn’t going as well as he’d like.
“This is my fourth or fifth attempt at raising money with crowdfunding, and they’ve all been disasters. I figured – my original plan, my original belief was – that I could raise the money on Facebook. I have five thousand Facebook friends. And they’re always, ‘Oh, your work inspired me’ and ‘You wrote my favorite episode that I saw as a kid’ and yadda yadda – all this adulation I get from people on Facebook. So I have five thousand fans, who all know me from different areas, from different things I’ve done. So I thought if every one of them sent me one dollar (laughing), well that would be five thousand dollars. For five thousand dollars, I could rent some good equipment, I could pay a few of the actors off, I could get some meals. That could go a long way, and when you’re making a low-budget independent movie you know how to make those dollars stretch. So I figured that would be no problem.”
“All I get are ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, ‘Oh, we can’t wait to see this movie’ and smiley faces and all this kind of stuff. But nobody’s sending me one dollar. I figured everybody could afford a dollar. But nobody is! So I’ve only raised a very tiny percentage of the money I need. It’s just so frustrating. Close friends of mine say ‘We’re going to help you promote this thing,’ you know? ‘We are going to make sure twenty thousand people see this,’ but they won’t give me a dollar! I don’t understand it.
“I don’t know. I must be doing something wrong.”
The Show Must Go On
“We’re still going to make the movie,” Glut continues. “This’ll be a bit tougher putting the money together, but it would be nice if I could, in those last few days, raise a thousand dollars or a couple thousand dollars. I could stretch that a long way.”
“Dr. Karnstein’s Creation” will star Jim Tavaré (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chuck) as Karnstein. Other segments have included Jerry Lacy (Dark Shadows), Ann Robinson (War of the Worlds), Beverly Washburn (Superman and the Mole Men), Mel Novak (Game of Death), John Blyth Barrymore, T.J. Storm (Deadpool), and even Swamp Thing and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein.
“When I was a kid living in Chicago, and I loved movies, if I had the opportunity to participate in some way in the making of a movie, that would be thrilling for me. But people just don’t seem to care, I guess.”
Filipino Writers Unite at FilAm Creative TV Writers Panel
Attendees gathered at Filipino Workers Center to engage with a panel of some of the biggest writers in television for a fundraiser for FilAm Creative to talk diversity, how to get into the writing business and what to do when you’re the only non-white person in the room.
Writers Michael Golamco (Grimm), Rene Gube (who also plays “Father Brah” on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Ray Utarnachitt (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) joined editor Dexter Adriano (Marvel’s Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D.) who served as Moderator for an illuminating panel discussion. After the discussion, the writers took questions from the crowd and the evening ended with a 50/50 fundraising raffle in which the lucky audience member won a gift bag with comics and the panel all were given the same gift for attending. Theirs included Red Horse, a Filipino beer. There was an after party at Kapistahan Grill not too far away from the Pilipino Workers Center.
In addition to the FilAm Creative TV Writers Panel, I was able to get a sit down interview with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer and actor Rene Gube. You can hear the audio below.
This is Elle Latham for SciFi4Me.com. So Rene. Tell me a little bit how you got into the industry.
I…was a…very bad History teacher in Downtown LA and then…I found out that I was a pretty good improviser by studying at the Upright Citizens Brigade. And…my initial intention was to be an actor… and then as…I went along in the program at Upright Citizens Brigade, I learned that there were, for every acting job there were eight writing jobs…so like learn to write if you want to work. (laughter) So I learned how to write. I bought a book. (laughter) I bought one of those formula books and…learned how to write with my…writing partner and then that’s how I got my first manager and my first job.
That’s great. So a little bit about the writing process on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, how it works and the collaborative nature…
Um…very collaborative. …We break stories as a group, we then turn those stories into outlines as a group. …And then that outline will be taken off…by a single writer for like a week and that writer will turn that outline into a draft and then once that draft is finished, it returns to the room and it…and then it becomes again a collective writing process where the original writer of the first draft is sort of like captain of like the Soul Team. Like ‘remember like the spirit of the story is this. (laughter) Remember we promised ourselves we were gonna try to do this,’ you know? So like that’s like their, their job is to…because they’ve been closest to the story from the beginning, is to remind the group who, who’d by that point been discussing eight other stories that like there was something interesting at the core of the break that we need to try to execute because it was special at some point.
Are there…any specific musical performances that you enjoyed the most?
Um..(laughter) Well, I would say…yeah. I think recently like I think it was last week…Vincent Rodriguez (“Josh Chan”) had a song that was like a sendup of like a Jason Mraz type of song.
The song was called, I believe it’s called “Thought Bubbles.“ Um.
I love “Thought Bubbles.”
(Here’s a link)
I…man…it was written. It was spearheaded by one of our writers Jack Dolgen and then…again, that writing process is very collective with Adam Schlesinger and Rachel Bloom and…he just-he just nailed it. It-It’s one of those perfect numbers on the show where it-it fits in perfectly with the-the emotion…emotional point of the story but you can also lift that bit and it can live on the internet and it makes…it’s funny on its own and…it’s a perfect sendup of the genre…and I just think he killed it. And then Vinny just like destroyed that number like there’s-I can just…he’s literally sitting at a desk and the camera’s panning left and right and he’s like filling that frame with like really specific stuff. He did a great job.
Since I’m working for SciFi4Me, is there anything coming up that’s sci-fi oriented?
Um…I mean…you know…if you watch the show, you know that like a good portion of the show exists in-
…Rachel’s brain. So uh…yeah. I mean like-anything is possible. You know. Like…yeah. So yes. The answer is ‘yes.’ Yeah.
Make sure to support the work of Filipino writers in TV by watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Marvel’s Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D., Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Grimm. If you want to help FilAm Creative in their efforts to advance Filipino talent in entertainment and media, please visit their website and become a volunteer.
LIVE FROM THE BUNKER: Unlocking Recursor.TV with E.J. Kavounas
In this day and age of segmented audiences, some perceive a benefit to drilling down to a very narrow niche in programming. E.J. Kavounas, Edouard de Lachomette, and Steve Tao have developed a new web site that does just that: Recursor.TV — a site for “hard science fiction” that concentrates on indie fare. With the flagship web series Nina_Unlocked in place, the site is set to deliver original short films, web series, and news content on what they call an “immersive platform”.
Co-founder Kavounas called in to discuss the site, plans for the future, and how Nina will unlock further potential for Recursor.
I sat down in The Bunker and with the magic of the internet talked to Peadar O’ Guilin, author of The Call. I enjoyed the book so much I couldn’t resist an opportunity to talk to O’ Guilin again. I interviewed him at Worldcon here in Kansas City. That was just before The Call was released. He was excited about its release but none of us had read it. Without knowing anything about the book my questions had to be more general.
Now I’ve read it, reviewed the book and I had more questions. Which is why I reached out to talk to him again. Maybe you have some of the same questions.
Find out more about Peadar O’Guilin, The Call and a couple of teasers on the sequel that should be released winter 2017.
STAN AGAINST EVIL Premiere Sweeps Horror-Com Fans Off Their Feet
On a dark and foggy night at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, thousands of horror comedy fans gathered to view the Stan Against Evil premiere. I hit the red carpet (grave grass) to get up close and personal with the stars before the screening.
The premiere was a very light and easygoing affair despite being set in a cemetery. We all got a little caught up in a fly storm which gave me some horror ideas of my own. All said and done, it was an incredible night. Side note: don’t lose your way in a cemetery after dark. Or at least have a light to guide you.
After the premiere, there was a Q and A panel with the cast and creator Dana Gould (The Simpsons and Parks and Recreation). Legendary critic Leonard Maltin moderated it. They talked about their characters and the process of filming the show.
For the uninitiated, Stan Against Evil is an intriguing and hilarious horror-sitcom starring John C. McGinley (Scrubs) as former sheriff Stan Miller, who finds out his wife of 30 years has died in the first episode and not long after, discovers she has cursed him and the sleepy town of Willard’s Mill with the presence of creatures ranging from witches to demons. It doesn’t help that the town was built on the site of a 17th century witch burning.
If you like Ash vs. Evil Dead, you’re gonna love this show. It’s a fast, funny, completely messed up rollicking good time.
Stan Against Evil premieres on November 2nd at 10pm with two back-to-back episodes that will surely take you by pleasant surprise with its subversive charm and some lived-in characters brought to startling life by Nate Mooney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). He plays “Deputy Leon Drinkwater,” a “Barney Fife” type doofus who’s unhelpful to new sheriff “Evie Barret” played by Janet Varney (You’re the Worst). Evie wants to get to the bottom of the curse and keep her young daughter “Grace” out of harm’s way. Then, there’s Stan’s daughter “Denise Miller” played by Deborah Baker, Jr. as a plucky and determined young foil to her grumpy old man.
In addition to the screening, I had the opportunity to geek out as I interviewed the cast and Dana Gould. Hint: I’m very familiar with Dana’s work-ing.
Be sure to tune into the premiere and catch the remaining 6 episodes as they air on IFC. You won’t regret it.
On September 7, I had the opportunity to attend the red carpet for the world premiere of the parody science fiction film Unbelievable!!!!! Written and directed by Steven L. Fawcette, the movie stars or has cameos from 40 Star Trek actors, and follows the adventures of four astronauts, one of which is a marionette.
I had the opportunity to interview several of the cast and crew of both the movie, as well as the Star Trek universe. I interviewed:
Tommy Morgan (the composer from the original series)
Erika Escamez (sound designer for Unbelievable!!!!!)
Kaley Victoria Rose (who plays Laura Luzair) and Thor Wixom (the cinematographer)
Angelique Fawcette (producer) & Steven L Fawcette (writer and director)
Celeste Yarnall (who was in the original series of Star Trek, and the executive producer of this movie)
Michael Madsen (who plays President Ben Dover)
Jasmine Anthony (who plays his daughter, Eileen Dover)
Katarina Van Derham (who plays Captain Cheryl Stillwood)
Dina Meyer (who plays Moesha)
Anne McDaniels (who plays Ann Droid)
Michael Westmore (the makeup supervisor on Star Trek)