Your new webseries Dystopia: Capitol City - in a few words,
what is it about?
Itís a character driven dramatic sci-fi series that takes place in a
post apocalyptic future. It centers mostly around a small group of
survivors in a ruined city who have formed a resistance against the
Parliament who is ruling them and taking the wealth leaving them to die.
How did the project fall together in
the first place?
I wrote the original draft back in 2013
which turned into the short film which is now in essence the pilot to the
series. After the short film was released people were asking me what I was
planning to do with it since I left it on a cliff hanger. I quickly penned
the feature script which came in at around 116 pages, but then I realized
that these characters and this world is too big for a feature so I
scrapped that idea and in late 2014 I began writing the outline for the
series and focused on that now for the past year and a half.
With Dystopia: Capitol City
being a science fiction story of the post-apocalyptic variety - is that at
all a favourite genre of yours, and some of your genre favourites?
I would have to say sci-fi is my absolute favorite, being inspired and in
awe growing up with films like The Day The Earth Stood
Still, War of the
Worlds, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Aliens, Terminator,
Enemy Mine and even
ones that are looked at as silly like Flight of the Navigator and The Last
Starfighter. Iím not a huge horror fan actually, I like action and
comedies much more. But I will watch any film that has a strong storyline
and solid character development because if you donít feel anything for
the characters the whole film regardless of the budget falls flat.
sources of inspiration when writing Dystopia: Capitol City?
drew a lot from Joss Whedon actually. The way he creates strong characters
across the board is phenomenal especially in his show Firefly. Beyond that
I was inspired by Mad Max, Dishonored (video game), some elements of
practical steampunk and a world of things. Itís hard to pin point a
certain inspiration with the show because it has sort of become an organic
life form at this point. The show is evolving and developing in ways I
hadnít originally thought of before like making a certain character take
a different path than I first wrote because in developing the story I
realized that the character has changed from the original description I
wrote so I go with that. A lot of the time when I write I will listen to
music as well that will sort of guide me emotionally where I want to go
with the story. For instance, the episode Allies and Enemies - I
wrote that while listening to some film scores then Juno Reactor, VNV
Nation and Assemblage 23. For the final few episodes I would listen to
music from Hanzel und Gretyl, KMFDM, some dubstep (yes dubstep) and mixed
that with the 28 Days Later and
The Crow score to help me stay focused on
where I wanted to go with them.
choose the webseries format for Dystopia: Capitol City, and what
are the advantages and challenges of working in that format?
a web series was honestly the only way I knew how to tell this story
beyond scrapping it in the cinematic universe and turning it into a novel.
There are a ton of advantages for us to make Dystopia a series. We are
able to take our time fleshing out characters and arenít regulated by a
certain number of pages in one shot like a film. With that it can
continue, build an audience and explore more than a feature can. The
challenges are and will always be a budget. Regardless of how much you
have something always comes up that costs more and with a series itís
not as simple as blocking out a month or two to shoot and then it's
completely wrapped. We have season one, then God willing season two and
more. That means more time, more money, more planning, casting scheduling
etc. With every project you will always run into obstacles.
also had your hands in props and costume design on Dystopia: Capitol
City - so what look were you going for there?
tell you because I donít know hahaha. No honestly I just wanted
something unique. Going back to the practical steampunk influence. I drew
from that, the makeshift world of Mad Max and video games like Fallout,
then laid it out as if it were real life and thought for a spell. If
people had to create their own weapons and couldnít shop at the store
what would be at their disposal? Yes people would go back to being able to
create practical things but weapons for the most part won't be clean and
pretty, they would be rough, dirty but work and thatís all that matters.
As far as clothes the same deal applied. People wouldnít be able to go
to the store and have a closet full of nice clean clothes. They scavenge,
sew themselves and barter for what they can get.
from that and writing, you also had numerous other functions on the series
- care to elaborate?
Oh man haha. So yes, Iím also the director of
photography, editor and I create any propaganda within the
show or graphics online. Itís a lot of work and having my mind in so
many different places makes it a bit hard at times but once the momentum
picks up and I find my pocket itís easy to stay focused.
What can you tell us about your
director Janet Llavina, and what's your collaboration like?
it's literally my best experience working with a director, sheís also
the casting director as well. Iíve worked on a few projects in a number
of roles and though it hasnít been terrible (for the most part) there
were some moments where tension was very thick or the director was missing
important things they should have been focusing on. Janet is the most
focused one Iíve worked with. Off set she and I have very thorough
conversations about what each scene should look like, we break down the
shots together, write notes and really studies what she wants. On set she
keeps that same drive with the actors. She just knows how to talk with
them and give direction in such a way that our cast just gets it. One of
my favorite parts about her style is that she used to be an actress so she
understands that side of things. She lets our cast experiment and perform
scenes with improv and allows their creativity as actors to shine and then
makes adjustments but she always allows are cast to show their talent and
she has always said, I hired them for a reason, because theyíre talented
and I want them to be able to showcase that. If I donít allow them to
embrace the character but stand over them telling them to do things
exactly one way thereís no room for creativity and at that point I hired
robots not actors.
talk about the cast of Dystopia: Capitol City, and did you have any
say in that matter?
Yes, I have a lot of say but I also
trust Janetís casting decisions 100%. Iíll give an opinion or
suggestion but in the end of the day everyone you see on screen is a
result of her casting them and Iím incredibly proud of our cast. Iím
not sure what I can say about them other than theyíre truly gifted
individuals who were willing to take a chance on the show, my crazy vision
and they embraced it beautifully. Our cast is comprised of a great mix of
seasoned veterans and up and coming talent that are going to make huge
What can you tell us about the shoot
as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Our atmosphere on set
is a pretty crazy one. The best way I can say it is it feels like a family
reunion but not a batshit crazy one that end with the police showing up.
Everyone from our cast and crew is genuinely happy to see one another!
Thereís an energy there when we all step on set, regardless of how
serious, dramatic, horrific or otherwise the episode consists of, everyone
is smiling and happy. Iíve been on sets where thereís just that
awkward energy but ours feels warm and inviting. I know, it sounds foolish
but it's true. Now that being said, when it's time to work everyone puts on
their game face and deliver exceptional performances, everyone across the
board stays focused, we have a schedule and 9 times out of 10 we stick to
it, we may go over once in a while which will almost always happen on any
set but thereís no complaints. No groans from the corner, everyone is
there, focused and ready and that energy, professionalism and passion for
what they do, what we all do is what keeps our sets from getting uneasy.
The $64 question of
course, where can Dystopia: Capitol City be seen?
can view it in a couple different places! Weíre on the Entertainment
Experiment, hereís the link to our channel:
- and weíre on webTV on CrankIT-UP, hereís the link to our channel:
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of the series yet?
far the reception has been really great! Itís being received well and
thatís all I can hope for.
what does the future have in store for Dystopia: Capitol City, and
will there be a second season eventually?
absolutely the end goal. We want to make sure season one is done to the
very best it can be so that weíll have an even stronger chance to make
season two happen, with a bigger budget, bigger locations and be able to
show more of Capitol City and beyond.
projects you'd like to share?
Honestly until we wrap season
one Iím not even going to think about another project.
As far as I know, you
entered the filmworld as a musician - so what can you tell us about that
aspect of your career?
Yeah, I started writing music as a
solo artist back in 2003 after being in bands for a few years. I did a
couple jingles and TV spots for the local WB (now the CW) and wrote
darkwave, industrial tracks that led me to collaborate with DJs from
the UK, Australia, Canada and US. In 2007 I was introduced to a guy who
was doing low budget fan films. We met a couple times and he really liked
my music and asked if I would do the music for his films. I ended up
scoring some of his projects then branched out and began composing indie
films and doing sound design and in my off time I would work on scripts
and study the hell out of YouTube, watching tutorials on editing,
lighting, cinematography. Literally anything to do with film production.
In 2012 Janet and I decided that we wanted to make our own projects and
formed Neo Phoenix Studios and here we are.
What made you pick up writing
Iíve always been a ďwriterĒ. I would
write short stories, lyrics in my band, poems and took that to writing
books. Iíve yet to be published but my first endeavor was back in the
summer between 8th grade and freshman year I wrote a short story, about
100 pages of lined paper crammed into a notebook then in 2004 I began
writing a novel and it took me a few years to finish it and Iím still
not certain it's ďfinishedĒ. From there I began writing screenplays and
it took a little while to be able to adapt and be able to shift from novel
format to script format. Theyíre two entirely different worlds.
What can you tell us about your filmwork (in
whatever position) prior to Dystopia: Capitol City?
worked on a lot of no budget and shoestring films I found that saying
ďthatís not my departmentĒ isnít something that is ever said. I
like working on small budget films because thereís more of a team effort
there and a willingness to help someone else out. I still have the same
mindset today that regardless of the budget Iíll still help in any way I
can in any department. I directed twice. Iím shit with it, never want to
do it again. Iíve been a boom op, grip, assistant director, assistant
camera, composer, sound designer, editor, costumer, set dresser. You name
would you describe yourself as a writer?
Have you seen the
part in Wayne's World where Garth sits at the drums and says ďI like to
playĒ? I can say that Iím proud of my scripts and what Iíve been
able to achieve but Iím still very much a student.
musicians, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
ready for a corny lineÖ life. Honestly there are so many things that
have inspired me, driving down a back road and seeing a really cool tree
formation has inspired an entire story sometimes. I think my inability to
focus on one thing for too long has made everything an inspiration at one
point or another haha.
I already mentioned a few of them earlier
so Iíll try to be brief. The Count of Monte Cristo, The Crow,
Ghostbusters, Terminator 1 and 2, Amadeus, Shine,
Jacob's Ladder, In the
Mouth of Madness, Back to the Future-trilogy,
Indiana Jones (original 3),
The Room (yeah donít judge), Heís Just Not That Into You, A Nightmare
on Elm Street (original), The Goonies. Jesus thereís really too many to
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Anything by Paul Feig and Paul W.S Anderson (yes
even Mortal Kombat - itís nostalgic but it's not good) and most of Michael
Bay. Eli Roth and Rob Zombie are simply rubbish. I am not a fan at all of
David Fincherís work either, heís not rubbish but Iím not a fan of
his directing style and nearly all of his films fall in the vein of taking
themselves too seriously and thatís a huge turn off.
Your/your series' website, Facebook, whatever
Our Neo Phoenix Studios' Facebook is
Dystopia: Capitol Cityís Facebook is
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
No sir. I thank you very much, it
was a pleasure.
Thanks for the interview!