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An Interview with Mark Kochinski, Director of Lost Hero: The Search for Dr. Obsidian

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2013

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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?


I 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 there.


Lost 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?


Part 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.


Your 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 Trek 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?


Well, we're 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 subject?


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 most?


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 Star Trek 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?


Spielberg. 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.


Your favourite movies?


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x-rated  find Mark Kochinski at

King Kong (1933). North by Northwest. Jaws. Lawrence of Arabia. Mark of Zorro. Robin 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 deplored?


… 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) -

Facebook is here ("like" it!) -

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…


Thanks for the interview!


Thank YOU for the opportunity.


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD