Your upcoming movie Lost Hero: The Search for Dr. Obsidian -
in a few words, what is it about?
Lost Hero is a documentary-style exploration of a pulp hero character
from the 1930's through today, and the influence he's had over Hollywood
and history – even though no one has heard of him!
How did the project
come together in the first place, and what's the philosophy behind it?
used to run and participate in a short film festival. I had the idea to do
a single chapter from a vintage serial. The idea sort of expanded from
Hero: The Search for Dr. Obsidian is of course hugely inspired by
vintage serials, pulp novels and comicbooks - so what can you tell us
about your fascination with those?
When I grew up in the pre-cable, pre-internet era, if you were a
genre fan, you were stuck with seeking out issues of Famous Monsters
of Filmland and Cinemagic for your Science Fiction/Fantasy/Superhero
movie fix. People were making super 8 fan films. Don Glut was making
superhero fan films. I did a super 8 Jaws parody.
Back then I would have killed to be able to see Phantom Empire
with Gene Autry. It sounded like the coolest thing on earth, and was
totally unavailable. Of course, a few years ago I picked it up on
DVD for a few bucks. My God, it's awful. In a wonderful way, of
course. How can you not love that?
Other sources of
inspiration when conceiving Lost Hero: The Search for Dr.
Obsidian - and what can you tell us about your co-writer Eric Wallace,
and your collaboration with him?
Eric and I go way back, having lived in the same apartment
complex in LA when we both moved here. I gave my girlfriend (now
wife) a (Neil Gaiman) Sandman T-shirt. He saw her wearing it, and
said: We have to talk. We've been friends ever since.
Back then we were both starting out, with relatively little
experience. We had similar histories, and both had directing
ambitions. He went into writing, and I found myself doing visual
effects. We've both achieved a certain amount of success. But I
wanted to get back to the core of where I started. And he is helping
me stay focused.
How will you tackle
your subject matter from a directorial point of view?
of the fun of this is that I get to direct in multiple styles. We'll be
highlighting the serials of the 30's, the campy pop culture of the 60's,
the gritty action of the 80's, and the current blockbuster mentality. Plus
a few more genres I want to keep as a surprise. We'll be hitting all of
those, with joy, respect and a certain tongue-in-cheek love.
film features an abundance of retro special effects - so what can you tell
us about them from the point of view of a visual effects artist, and how
much fun was it creating them?
As much as I've enjoyed my work in CGI (Babylon 5, Star
etc.), I still love models and miniatures. I love building things.
The coolest thing is to walk into an effects house and see the
actual models that were used in a film.
This film gives me an excuse to do both. I'm building props and
miniatures and overlapping them with CGI as well. I'm hoping to
achieve an invisible mix. There's something hilarious – to me at
least – in using state-of-the-art effects to emulate low-budget
opticals of a by-gone era.
What can you tell us
about your film's cast and interviewees yet?
interviewing quite a few people. Director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander,
The Shadow) is important, since he updated the pulp hero The Shadow back in
the 90's. We have the lovely Chase Masterson from Star Trek: Deep Space
Nine. The Mad Pulp Bastard, Bill Cunningham, is a tremendously important
source of pulp history information. Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman:Birthright) is a comic book icon, and a fan of
Dr. Obsidian. We
have more – visual effects experts, more actors and actresses, all of
whom are willing to discuss the influence of Dr. Obsidian.
As far as I
know, the film is still in its fundraising stages - so what can you tell
us about your fundraising efforts?
Originally, this was a
very leisurely project, and in between VFX jobs I would do a little
artwork here, a little writing there. At some point it caught some
attention, and I began getting requests to put it into a form that would
be more "pitch-able" to raise funds. Once I got a trailer into
shape, I thought that crowd funding might lead to, shall we say, fewer
creative alterations and a truer vision.
Once the funds are
raised, how do you plan to proceed, and any idea when the film might be
released onto the general public yet (and yes, I know it's probably waaay
too early to ask)?
Well, the funding will allow me to
spread the work around a little, and get away from begging friends to help
out. It will also allow the quality to be kicked up a bit – a better
sound mix, more VFX, a better film overall. And of course, it's always
best to follow union guidelines and do legal shoots… though I've done my
share of guerrilla filmmaking.
Any future projects beyond Lost
Hero: The Search for Dr. Obsidian?
I'm hoping for a
franchise, here! The Return of Dr. Obsidian! Actually, Eric and I have a
whole slate of ideas we'd like to bring to the table.
Let's go back to
the beginnings of your career: You have actually started out in the film
business as a visual effects artist. So what got you into the world of
visual effects, and did you receive any kind of formal training on the
I'm so old that there wasn't really much formal
training in film or VFX, at least not on the East Coast. I bought a
computer in the 80's and started to teach myself – with the realization
that you could make a whole movie by yourself with a computer. Almost,
anyway, at the time. When I got hired to work on Babylon 5, there were no
rules, we were making it up as we went. I give a huge amount of credit to
Ron Thornton (VFX supervisor on Babylon 5). He might not have invented
digital effects, but he figured out ways to make them work on a television
budget and schedule, which was crazy in 1993.
Please talk about some of the films and
TV-shows you've done effects work for, and in which genre do you enjoy to work the
Obviously, Babylon 5 was great, we had a tremendous
amount of creativity and freedom. We pitched a kid's show called
Hypernauts back then, and got it on the air for a few episodes. Working on
was a geek's dream come true, of course. I supervised a season
of Sliders, did some work on X-Files. More than the shows, I remember
working and meeting with some of my heroes, Ray Harryhausen, Doug
Trumball, Pete Kuran, Harrison Ellenshaw, Doug Beswick, Richard Taylor,
John Lasseter, Ed Catmull… I'm only pretending to be cool and
professional when I'm in the same room with these guys. Inside I'm
bouncing off the walls.
What kind of effects do you like to create the
best, and any you could do without?
I'm not a programmer – bless those guys, but I need an
interface. I'm from a filmmaking background, not a programming one.
I love the game, I love faking it. Tricks, gags. Physics simulations are
essential today, and fantastic… but they bore me.
Since the early 2000's, you have also tried your
hand on directing every now and again. Why, and what can you tell us about
your previous directorial work?
I started as a director.
That's my education. I also stage acted – not well or anything, mind
you. VFX was my way to get a foothold in the industry, and at some point
it took over. But I've always kept a hand in directing, even student films
and shorts, and the whole motivation behind the (no longer existing)
Extreme Filmmaker 48 Hour Film Festival was to force those of us who
wanted to direct to keep our focus.
Visual effects artists,
filmmakers, whatever else who inspire you?
Hitchcock. Harryhausen. The Lydecker Brothers. Irving Thalberg. Capra.
Hawks. Ford. Coppola and Lucas in the 70's. Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here] - oh Lord, I
could go on and on.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
King Kong (1933).
North by Northwest. Jaws. Lawrence of Arabia. Mark of
Hood. The Universal
Monsters. Aliens. What Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings was amazing.
I'm a sucker for Bond films.
OSS 117- Cairo, Nest of Spies.
... and of course, films you really
… let's just say I don't like movies that are
made solely because they conform to an equation that someone believes will
maximize profits while minimizing risk, appealing to the lowest common
denominator in every potential culture.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook,
Kickstarter, whatever else?
The Kickstarter link is here (the video is only 4 minutes) - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2056085136/lost-hero-the-search-for-dr-obsidian
Facebook is here ("like" it!) - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lost-Hero-The-Search-For-Dr-Obsidian/102116373218273
And I have a demo reel here - DemoReel
v12-2 on Vimeo
Anything else you are dying
to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I think I've
rambled on long enough…
for the interview!
Thank YOU for the opportunity.