Your upcoming webseries Incidentals - in a few words,
what is it about?
Incidentals weaves the stories of several people who
witness a pretty major celestial event. The prologue episode, which
we just finished. sets up this crazy event and the series will reveal how
each of these people deal with the changes it imposes on their lives. What if one day you all of a sudden were gifted with some super
power? Would you be good, evil, or a little bit of both? That's
what we'll see in this series.
How did the project fall together in
the first place, and how did it get off the ground?
like any aspiring director has to realize at some point, you have to be
your own backer. I've always wanted to direct and after a few years
of producing other companies' commercials, documentaries, shorts and other
projects, I made the decision to just do it. It's a genre that I had
always wanted to explore, but I had it in my mind that "someday, when
I can get the big budget I'll do it." I just got tired of
waiting, and since launching my production company, Black Mast Studios,
I've been lucky enough to have a great post-production team to collaborate
with. The advancement of technology is so incredible, it's an
amazing time to be a storyteller. The key for me was watching some
very talented pros do it first hand, while producing their material. I didn't go to school for this, so it was important to consider my
previous work as on-the-job training. I just knew it was time, and
when I pitched the idea to a few people whose opinions I trust, they
seemed to want this kind of story too.
being a tale about superheroes - is that a genre
you're at all fond of, and do you consider yourself a comicbook guy?
definitely not a pro collector, but I grew up collecting a few titles
religiously. I started collecting Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine when I
was like 11 and kept going all the way through high school into college.
There were some important Spider-man storylines I couldn't miss and
then I became a huge fan of Joe Madureira's work in high school when he
started drawing X-Men and branched off into his own fantasy adventure
title called Battle Chasers.
In college I collected some Batman - the big arcs and graphic novels like
Hush, The Killing Joke & The Long Halloween - but I would say that I
was more of a Marvel &
Image kid growing up. I definitely have
favorite artists and writers more than a favorite title, but I was an
X-Men fanatic growing up for sure.
do you think makes Incidentals stand out among all the
superhero films and series of late?
Recently what I've noticed about these tent pole feature films is that
we're starting to lose sight of some of the basics in favor of bigger
explosions and more massive action sequences. Don't get me wrong,
I love that shit too, who doesn't? But what I wanted to explore in
this project was the psychological effects that having super abilities
can have on a person. I mean, just because you can all of a sudden
read minds, you're not invincible. What I love about the classic Marvel
and DC heroes is that they are clearly BAD
MOTHERF-..., right? We
are introduced to them in their full glory, often with a hint at their
origin story. Or in Heroes or Misfits we see them at their
inception and sometimes it gets a little slow cause we want that
BadAss-ness and it's just too early... I want to reveal characters
with that balance.
The beauty of a web series is that there are still no rules. You're
not confined by a 3 act structure or a 30 minute conflict-resolution
arc. And with multiple-platforms you can supplement your story in
ways that you just can't while watching a movie in a theatre. The
best way to put it is I wanted to take my favorite elements from comics
and movies and combine them with what's compelling about superhero TV
How would you
describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?
are a few things critical to my approach for Incidentals. The number
one thing I said when I started writing this project is the acting MUST BE
GREAT. Number two, visual effects should enhance the story, not
distract you from it. And finally, but most equally important, the
characters must be compelling and feel real. If the audience can't
relate, you've wasted your time and money on a glorified home video.
I've seen so many superhero titles, and movies in general, that just miss
the mark on these three elements. That balance between character-driven story and visual effects is rarely there, unless you see something
like Chronicle, which I really enjoyed for that reason. The audience
is not stupid, and I never assume that. If I catch something that
doesn't feel right, I will not do it again, or do my best to fix it before
that final cut is released. It takes a lot of planning and preparation,
but thankfully filmmaking is a group effort. I love to hear what the
crew and actors think, and even though I don't always agree, I like to
listen and consider before moving on. As a director you have to see
the bigger picture and think about how you're going to cut shots together
or enhance a scene with VFX later. Not everyone on set can do that, but I
pick my crew for their expertise at their individual job, and I have to
adapt as we go.
stories most of the time involve lots of action and special effects - so
how do you go about this in Incidentals?
enough to have an amazing visual effects guy on board to help me
strategize how to maximize the effects for a minimal budget. We
definitely don't have a huge budget for this, but I still love the action
and effects that you get with superhero battles. My motto regarding
VFX is definitely that they should enhance the story, not distract from
it, so I'm not going over the top with too much CGI. On set we try
to shoot as much practically as we can and then make it look better in
post production. You can compare it to taking a photo and adding
hints of Photoshop for a "wow, cool"-effect, rather than trying
to create the whole thing from scratch and risking a disconnect from the
can you tell us about your cast, and why exactly these people?
Casting was a tough part of the process, but I was determined to find
people who really captured the essence of these characters. I was
lucky enough to have casting director Ramani Leah, who has experience
on some major TV shows and films, to help me set up the casting process,
and I learned a lot from her in that regard. I was very particular
about the diversity, because I wanted to capture stories from all walks
of life. In my own life I've had some pretty interesting
experiences with people from all over the US, and I firmly believe that
mainstream stories need just a little more texture, when it comes to
characters. Female, Gay, Black, Latino, Chinese... I want to really
challenge some of the stereotypes out there right now with these stories
and I think I've found some actors who have a fantastic range. I'm
not afraid to delve into the gritty reality that many Americans still
face without making this a political piece. At the core this is
still about people with super powers and that will be my focus, but
we'll get to see this through the eyes of a wide range of people, whose
perspectives many Americans might not have seen before.
it true that you want to branch out into comicbooks with Incidentals
Absolutely. I couldn't pass up the
opportunity. I am definitely collaborating with a talented guy,
Craig Yeung, who has worked for both Marvel and
DC as an inker. When
I saw his pencil work, I was blown away and knew he was the guy to bring
this story to life. I can't say much more than that yet, but my idea
is to supplement all that we see in the web series with a comic book
storyline that will enhance the story quite a bit. Who knows what
that will lead to ...
The $64 question of course:
When and where can Incidentals be seen?
That is the
question, but for now I'm obligated to keep my lips sealed on that one. It will be the web for sure, but we are working out the when right
now. As we navigate distribution, the important factor for me is
keeping creative control. I don't want someone to turn this thing
into something else, so you'll just have to wait for now. We will be
making some announcements at San Diego Comic Con 2013, and we might even
be showing some footage. Wink Wink.
future projects beyond Incidentals?
Oh yeah. By the
end of the summer, and probably before that, you'll see some more work
that crosses over into the comic book realm, but again, we are legally
obligated to keep quiet for now.
you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
education on the subject?
In truth, it was just the desire
to tell stories. I've always been a writer and when I was about
seven or eight I used to trace images from Disney books and comic books to
enhance my own written stories. Much to my mother's dismay, I would
take them to school and give them away. I never went to school to
study film, but when I was in college I spent my years sitting in on
elective classes that treated film as literature. We would watch
classic movies and analyze them like you would a good book. That
really helped to solidify my dream of directing. I made the decision
when I was in high school, though. When my friends and I were
assigned group presentation projects, we'd always ask if we could do a
video project instead, but when I read Joseph Campbell in 10th grade, my
heart was definitely set on making movies for a living one day.
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Incidentals?
I'm pretty new
to the filmmaking game. Without any formal training or connections
my first year in Hollywood were spent sleeping in my car, couch-surfing
and trying to figure out what I was gonna eat next. I won a couple of
screenwriting contests early on, which was validating, but I partied a lot
in the beginning. The last 3 years I've been writing and producing small
projects, some my own and some for other companies. I was finally
ready to take the reigns as director on something of my own and that's
what brings us to Incidentals. My last big project was an overseas
documentary that we shot in South America and Colorado, Ancient
about Nikola Tesla and an adventurer's search for evidence of ancient
technology. Took us 3 years to put that together, and I learned so
much through that process. It is actually almost finished and we're
negotiating distribution on that right now.
directors, heck, even superheroes who inspire you?
could talk for ages about this, but off the top of my head, my favorite
directors are Darren Aranofsky, Chris Nolan, Tarantino, Tony Scott, and
Kubrick. As for writing a series, I think Lost is an example of a
great show as far as writing compelling characters. The first two
seasons of Misfits and the first season of Heroes inspired
great deal too. Anyone who refuses to give in to the easy decision is a
hero in my eyes. The majority is often the wrong school to swim
with, in my opinion, so anyone who stands up for a belief that promotes
compassion, growth and understanding, even in the face of violence
That's a really tough one, but The
Princess Bride is up there as one of my all time favorites. It has
everything, but I still enjoy the action movies of the 80's and really
good sci-fi. Anything with a great story and great acting will
usually top my list. In this sandbox that we're discussing now, I
loved Memento, The Crow, Requiem for a Dream, Pulp
Fiction, The Dark
Knight, and Unbreakable. Based on the trailer, I am looking forward
to seeing Man of Steel. I hope it lives up to its potential.
... and of course, films you really
I hate to knock other people's work, since I think
it's kind of tactless and easy to do, but I will say there's only one
movie I've ever walked out of after about 5 minutes - Van
I do refuse to watch any more 80's reboots that Michael Bay has a hand in.
There I said it and it's forever on the intertubes... for better or
worse. Don't get me wrong, I loved his classics like The Rock with
Sean Connery, but Optimus Prime is a hero, not a war machine and the
Turtles are teenage mutant ninjas. Period. One of my pet peeves is
changing canon too much, which is why I'm still not happy with the X-Men
movies either. The ideas of - spoiler alert - 'Jean Grey killing
Professor X and then Wolverine and Storm crying about it' or 'Beast using
the mutant cure on Magneto' make me want to swallow glass and burn my
Your/your webseries' website, Facebook,
We won't have anything official up until we
work out our distribution deals, but you can stay updated on my personal
twitter and the Black Mast Studios Facebook Page.
Anything else you are dying to mention
and I have merely forgotten to ask?
We'll be floating around San Diego Comic Con 2013, and you might be able
to catch us at one of the booths, but again, it's hush hush until we can
make any official announcements, so
These were some great questions!
Thanks for the