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An Interview with Todd Kniss, Creator of For Blood Or Justice

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2021

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Your new audio drama For Blood Or Jusice - in a few word what's it about?

 

It’s the summer of 1977, and a Texas lawman is on the hunt for two killers that brutally murdered his family. With little left to live for, he forsakes his badge and heads south in pursuit.

 

The hunt ends in a deserted Mexican town, where the killers take shelter inside a seemingly abandoned factory. Except the facility isn’t abandoned. Deep within a fugitive Nazi doctor is performing monstrous human experiments under the guidance of an unscrupulous US General and his tight-knit cabal of spies.

 

For Blood Or Jusice has been described as "horror noir" - care to elaborate on that genre combination, and are these genres particularly dear to you?

 

In short, it’s primarily a mash up of two of my favorite genres, horror and noir. The story’s vibe and the essence of its characters were inspired and molded by all of the movies and novels I loved growing up. The horror films of John Carpenter, George A. Romero and Brian DePalma, et al, and the novels of Stephen King, Peter Straub and Thomas Harris to name but a few.

 

The noir part comes primarily from the gritty action films of the 70s like Dirty Harry, Death Wish, The French Connection, and the novels of Elmore Leonard, Robert Ludlum and James Ellroy.

 

What if you could take all of those classic movies, and hard-boiled characters, and have them inhabit the same world? I felt that if I were going to make something truly original I would need to combine numerous genres into something new. It’s horror, action, espionage and the supernatural all rolled into one.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing For Blood Or Jusice?

 

In addition to the horror and action genres, I absolutely had to throw in a heavy dose of spy and espionage themes. I’ve always loved, and still do, movies like 3 Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, and The Parallax View. At first, I was uncertain if anyone would dig me adding in this additional element, or if I was just doing it for my own gratification… but it turns out that everyone loves the spy stuff!

 

You have co-written For Blood Or Jusice with the podcast's director Scotty Weil - so what can you tell us about him and your collaboration on the show?

 

I started creating the For Blood Or Jusice universe about 10 years ago. At the time it was merely a graphic novel work-in-progress I was developing with two friends, Eduardo Lopez and Brian Wright, who are still involved with the project. But when I met Scott via a mutual friend about 4 years ago, he immediately saw the story’s potential as something more. Scott is also an indie filmmaker, but with a deep background in the voice over world. We hit it off and started simultaneously developing the project as both a graphic novel and a narrative podcast.

 

Scott’s been a great sounding board, bringing lots of ideas to the project, and keeping me in check when I stray too far off course with my crazy ideas. He also did a fantastic job directing the first season, bringing out the innumerable nuances of the 60 plus characters, their relationships with one another, and the multiple storylines all going on at one time.

 

What can you tell us about the writing process as such?

 

It took a long time, with lots and lots of rewrites. The entire time I was developing the project I was working a full time job, so most of the writing took place early in the morning, late at night, or even during my lunch breaks. It’s not the ideal situation, making for an extremely slow process, but it eventually worked.

 

The biggest adjustment was learning to write both a graphic novel and a podcast. At the time I started creating For Blood Or Jusice all of my experience had been in writing feature film scripts. In a movie a character is largely developed by showing his actions and reactions, but in a graphic novel, where you’re only illustrating a portion of the actual action, you really need to ‘tell’ the reader a great deal about what’s going on. That was a real learning curve. Or un-learning curve if you will.

 

And then I again had to learn to write for another new medium in creating the podcast. Early on we decided we were not going to use a narrator to help guide the listener, so we had to be extra creative in immersing the listener in the story. In a podcast you can’t exactly have a character ‘give a sly glance at the killer while quietly reaching for his gun,’ so we had to come up with some creative ways to show these things to the listeners.

 

Do talk about For Blood Or Jusice's approach to horror?

 

I was obviously heavily influenced by movies like Halloween, Alien, The Thing, Dawn of the Dead and Carrie, but probably also saw every slasher film put out in the 80s. They are all dear to my heart, but I’ll always lean more heavily toward the films where ‘less is more’. Where the audience only gets brief glimpses of the monster until the very end. Films like Jaws, Alien, and The Fog. And I’ve always been more drawn to stories that are more realistic in regard to their theme and antagonist(s). The ghost stories and paranormal killers never held as much interest for me (except perhaps The Devil’s Backbone!). I love stories about the human monster, human-created monsters, or just straight up monsters that feel as if they might actually exist. It’s much more visceral, cathartic and entertaining to me as both a fan and a writer.

 

For Blood Or Jusice boasts quite a stellar cast - so what can you tell us about your talent on the show, and as creator and executive producer, how much say did you have when it came to casting?

 

We’re really delighted with the cast we assembled. I mean with 30 plus actors portraying over 60 characters it is deep with talent. Most of that is due to Scott’s tireless networking and extensive professional and personal contacts. Years earlier, when we were only dreaming of For Blood or Justice becoming something more than just a graphic novel, we all dreamed of casting Danny Trejo, but little did we know that it would come true.

 

During the casting process Scott would continually throw me names of people he thought he might be able to wrangle into the project, then we would kick around which characters we felt they might best play. And not only did Scott pull in an amazing cast of not only seasoned film actors, but also numerous television veterans, and some of the biggest names in the voice over world. Not only was it important to have amazing actors, but it was essential that they all have different and unique voice qualities. They are all very distinctive.

 

Do talk about the recording process as such!

 

As luck would have it, we had just locked the scripts for all of season one when the pandemic lockdown struck. Scott called me shortly thereafter and said, “We have to record now. Every actor in the world is sitting at home right now, not working.” So we did. Once we cast the project we looked into which actors had access to professional recording equipment, and which ones didn’t. A surprising amount of the actors already had some manner of gear to record, and the ones who didn’t we set up with a friend who had a professional recording studio attached to his home. We had all of the actors record themselves during a Zoom session, where Scott directed while playing many of the counterparts, and I occasionally gave notes. We recorded each session for an hour or so at a time, a couple of days a week, over a span of about two months. It was a huge undertaking, but it worked out surprisingly well I think.

 

The $64-question of course, where can For Blood Or Jusice be heard?

 

For Blood Or Justice can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Stitcher and just about anywhere you listen to your podcasts. We’re distributed by reVolver Podcasts, and we can also be found on their website. You can also go to our website www.forbloodorjustice.com and download the first 7 issues of the graphic novel for free.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of For Blood Or Jusice?

 

We’re still busily trying to promote For Blood Or Justice, so that we might reach a bigger audience, but thus far our reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve personally had teenagers listen and tell me how much they dig it, and 70 year-olds as well. It resonates for a wide variety of people, younger, older, male and female.

 

Will there ever be a second season of For Blood Or Jusice - and/or other future projects you'd like to share?

 

I sure hope so. Season 2 is in the early writing stages as we speak. And we’d love for it to go on for 7 or 8 seasons, with several spin-offs to follow. I already have an additional 14 issues of the graphic novel written and ready to illustrate as well. And, ultimately, we’d love to see it adapted into a television series. We think it’d make a tremendous multi-season series for some cable channel or streamer.

 

You do have a background in filmmaking - so what got you into making an audio drama in the first place? And how does making movies compare to doing audio?

 

Good question. For Blood Or Justice actually started off as a feature film script, but I realized pretty quickly during the writing process that I had much more story to tell than would fit in a two hour movie. At that point I either needed to make it into a movie trilogy or do something unconventional. As an indie filmmaker I always had hopes of finding financing and making this story myself, but I knew that would never happen with a story so big, and me with so few industry connections. At some point I realized I could create the entire For Blood Or Justice universe, as big and as crazy as my heart desired, if I adapted it into a graphic novel. It took several years to finish, from inception to completion, but it got done. Adapting the story again, this time into an audio drama, was a challenge, but slightly easier due to the fact it more closely resembles a film.

 

Scott and I really wanted the podcast to feel cinematic. And when I say that I mean we want the listeners to ‘see’ their way through it, to follow the action as it moves from one location to another, one sequence to the next. Scott detailed this idea to the cast as he directed, and I tried to make that work as I edited and created the sound design. I think my background in film helped me work my through the post process and end up with as filmic an audio drama as we could have hoped.

 

What can you tell us about your education as a filmmaker?

 


I attended Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) for Film and Video production and had some great professors there. My primary professor was extremely experienced and also taught in the MFA program at UCLA, so we all received a pretty thorough undergrad education. He expected a lot from us, expected us to be professionals, and I think it paid off. When my time there was coming to an end I realized I wanted to learn more about the art of film, so I applied and was accepted to the American Film Institute. While at AFI I worked with a ton of incredibly talented students (they call us ‘fellows’ at AFI) while being taught by a large number of working professionals. It was an amazing experience, and I learned so very much about the intricacies of visual storytelling. On a side note, I made a low-budget feature film almost immediately after I graduated from AFI. It was basically a student film on steroids, with almost the entire crew made up of fellow students and friends, none of us really knowing what to do. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but suffice it say that I consider that undertaking my post graduate education. It was brutal, but a serious learning experience.

 

Do talk about your creative work prior to For Blood Or Jusice, in whatever medium?

 

I’ve spent most of my time since graduation writing scripts and working on For Blood Or Justice. I do have a feature film that I wrote, directed and edited that is currently available on Amazon Prime and for free on Tubi called Homecoming. It’s not a great film but considering what I had to go through to get it done, it’s not half bad. I was still learning a great deal of things about my craft when I made it, and at times it shows, but the cast and crew did some amazing work, and it looks and feels like a solid indie film. I did write and direct another feature film, but it’ll never see the light of day. We lost our location the night before shooting was scheduled to start, and subsequently lost our producer, editor and cinematographer. It was a miracle we actually finished it, but it’s not worthy of human consumption.

 

Since this is first and foremost a film site, your favourite movies?

 

In no particular order my favorite films are Jaws, Halloween, Alien, Shawshank Redemption, The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original), Used Cars, Star Wars, Heat, North by Northwest, This is Spinal Tap, The Thing, 3 Days of the Condor, and The Bourne Identity. And so many more…

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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Oh man. I don’t know that I really deplore any movies. I know how incredibly difficult it is to make movies, so I usually give most filmmaker’s the benefit of the doubt. There are certain genres I will stay away from though. And there are trite or dimwitted movies that I won’t bother to watch, but I figure they weren’t made with me in mind anyway. I enjoy horror, action, thrillers, dramas, comedies, documentaries… almost anything made with passion, creativity and intelligence.

 

Your/your show's website, social media, whatever else?

 

www.forbloodorjustice.com

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/for-blood-or-justice/id1570909229

@bloodorjustice on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

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written by
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