|Yet another reason to hate clowns...|
An Interview with Joseph Nathan Weisman Or And now for Something Completely different…
I have come to view Facebook as a mixed blessing these days. On one hand, it is slowly turning into a mimetic machine, seeking to pound our internet presence into one cohesive mass of conformity.
|"Freedom is the freedom to say that your internet name is BuffaloWarlock69. If that is granted, all else follows."|
On the other hand, however, you get to meet some awesome people who add you because you’ve added a guy they know. Case in point, Joseph Nathan Weisman.
I knew Mr. Weisman through his work, as I was clicking my way through the bad parts of youtube one wonderful August evening, where I watched his horror short, Jim in the Box.
|As you can see, it made no impression on me whatsoever.|
So when Joseph added me on Facebook, I jumped at the chance to get a better look at his work and to get him to share with me his ideas and opinions on his work, both regarding Jim in the Box, as well as a whole.
For those of you among the uninitiated, Joseph was the Editor and Co-Owner of a comic book miniseries/Graphic Novel, titled LILLIM (published by Image Comics and Distributed Digitally by Graphicly)
|Where he tackles a number of mythologies at the same time and comes out (miraculously) unscathed.|
And is currently in the process of releasing his first series, Zombie Family:
|Click here for zombie-based social commentary|
With that in mind, let’s move on to the actual interview:
Kostas: Let's start off with something easy: At which point in your life did you discover you wanted to make movies and write comic books more than anything else ever?
JNW: Movies came first. I was a Junior in college at Michigan State (3rd year in school), 8 credits away from a degree in Hospitality Business, when I took “Intro to Film” as an elective. We watched “Casablanca” (as cliché as it might be) and I went home, dropped all my other classes and added Film as a major. I received my BA in English with a concentration in Film Studies, still 8 credits short of a second degree in HB…all within 4 years of college. What I thought would be a lax year of partying turned into an intense education on writing, criticism and Mise-en-scène. Comics came later as my former business partner (Ian) and I would do extra work to make money on the side, all while starting our company…it also gave me a lot of time in “Holding” to read scripts and when I didn’t have a script to read, I began borrowing Ian’s comics to kill time; however the more comics I read, the more I was amazed with the adult content and dense storylines. From there I was hooked.
Kostas: What would you consider to be the main focus of your work, both in film as well as in comic books?
JNW: It’s always about story telling for me. I love good stories and I want to tell good stories. I like working with other storytellers; whether it’s producers, directors, writers, editors or artists. For “LILLIM” which I was the Editor, which is much like a Producer when it comes to Indie books. I really enjoyed working with writers (Ian and Shaun), the amazingly talented artist from China known as “Matrix” (who I discovered), as well as publisher Image Comics (and later, through digital, Graphicly). It was a great experience and definitely helped my development skills as a Literary Manager and Creative Producer.
Kostas: And speaking of comic books, how did you break into the business?
Kostas: And speaking of comic books, how did you break into the business?
JNW: Since moving to LA I’ve been to 10 San Diego Comic-Cons and counting. Not to mention numerous other genre and comic book conventions/events. Honestly, it’s all about networking and being persistent…at least it was back then. Now, with digital distribution anyone can get anything they want out there…the hard part is still getting someone to give it some attention and share the work with others. It’s very hard to make money in comics, but it’s a great way to SHOW your story as a means to an end (TV/Film adaptation). Sadly for “LILLIM” at the time “Thor” was green-lit and the Studio that was looking at “LILLIM” came on to distribute “Thor”, which killed the project. Hopefully in time “LILLIM” will get another shot at the big-screen, It’s not just a Norse Mythology story…it’s a deconstruction of all human Mythos, focusing more on Biblical mythologies, rather than Norse.
Kostas: Which part of the creative process of making a movie, do you consider being the most fun part to do?
JNW: Directing is the most gratifying. I was hooked once I made “Jim in the Box” and reconfirmed my love for it while making “Zombie Family.” There’s just nothing like envisioning something in your mind, committing it to paper, sharing that paper with others, building that envisioned world in the real world (sets, to casting talent, to special effects, to music, etc.), and then seeing it all come to life on screen…exactly (if not pretty damn close to exactly) as you originally envisioned it. It’s absolutely an amazing thing. If I could draw or paint or sculpt or sing or play music, I would…but for some reason, I seem to be able to direct. Now, all that said, it all starts with the idea and turning that idea into a story. So, if I can’t direct or I’m not the right director for the project (which is most of the time), I’d say the development process is the most fun part…and definitely a lot less stressful!
Kostas: Which part of moviemaking is it that actually makes you wish you didn't want to have to do it in the first place and would rather force someone else to do it for you, even if it meant dragging them from their hair kicking and screaming across the street?
JNW: Raising money independently or even trying to set up a Studio movie. You go from being an earnest storyteller to an elixir salesman. That aside, Post-Production is tedious work from encoding to editing to VFX to sound to delivery…it’s a bitch, but someone’s got to do it. I commend those with the patience for Post.
Kostas: Now, on to some actual questions concerning your work: Zombie Family is a sign of the pop culture of our times and its morbid fascination with zombies. Why do you think we're so obsessed with zombies in our video games, our literature, our movies, even? What is it about zombies that makes them so damn popular, in your opinion?
JNW: Zombies have always been a platform for social commentary. Zombie Family is no different. I wanted to get this weird family into a world where they would obviously stand out, but no one can quite put their finger on why they stood out. They kill when they feel their identity is threatened (i.e. being called a Zombie), but the irony is that sometimes (if not often) it’s done innocently, which reverses the commentary further as to suggest that even those of us who are sensitive to prejudice may be overact from time to time in the face of ignorance or miscommunication. The hope is to have an outlet to mirror society in a humorous manner, all while delivering positive themes. The web-series sets up these characters for an old-school style of humor that has something to say about morality, societal functions and human moments.
Kostas: If there was one thing-great or small-that you could change about the zombie mythos in general, what would that be?
JNW: I don’t think it’s my place to necessarily change anything or even suggest such a notion. It’s important that people get to say what they want to say without fitting into a box…even if that box is Zombies. There’s room for all expression through art and that includes Zombie stories and worlds. Monster stories in general are usually about the things within ourselves we find terrifying projected onto something physically horrifying and how everyone in that world reacts to seeing that horror embodied.
Kostas: And now for a look back to one of your earlier works: how would you describe your experience as a producer in Red & Blue Marbles?
JNW: R&BM unfortunately was a heartbreaker for me. Ian (writer/producer) and Shaun (writer/director) had another script called “Mildew” that we all loved and wanted to get made. When that project fell through, Ian and Shaun wrote R&BM to do on a much smaller budget. Still the project was very ambitious in scale. Ian and I began to have discrepancies over our partnership contracts and as “Red & Blue Marbles” moved into Production, Ian and I moved apart. I helped with development as well as getting some talent involved and working with the casting directors to cast the leads. Meanwhile, Ian and I were barely on speaking terms. I was only on set for a few days during the shoot and had no involvement with post-production. Now, I’m back involved to shop “R&BM” with my relationships in Hollywood, but things between my best friend of 15+ years was lost, so this movie still harnesses a lot of personal emotion for me. It ended up coming out well, after a lot of personal sacrifice from all of us, maybe most of all from Shaun (he was left to finish the film more or less on his own). I hope “R&BM” finds a home soon, it deserves to be seen. It’s a good story.
Kostas: So I watched Jim in the Box, went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night in the middle of a nightmare with clowns force-feeding me insects. Not that that's a bad thing. What was the most awkward/extreme response you received, regarding this movie?
JNW: Heh, there’s been a lot of them. People really are freaked out by clowns! I think the funniest was when I had gone on a couple dates with this girl and for our third date we were going to a concert about an hour outside of LA. I picked her up and during the entire ride she was barely talking and distant. We got to the show and she slowly loosened up. Later, after we had been going out for a while, she told me that that night, before I picked her up, she Googled my full name and found “Jim in the Box.” She was horrified that I was going to kidnap her and torture her once I got her in my car. I guess once we got to the concert, she felt more comfortable. I asked her why she didn’t cancel the date and just not get in the car, if she was so worried. She said with a smile, “because I kinda liked it…and you’re a good kisser.”
Kostas: The entire world is swarming with zombies! You only get to pick one weapon, one movie and one book to take with you inside the super-secure bunker you set up just before this! Which ones do you pick?
JNW: This sounds like a question I’d ask on my pod-cast (quick plug for JNWBUZZCAST coming soon!). Hmm, let me see. I’m a second degree black belt and pretty good with a Katana, so I think that would be my weapon of choice. For a movie, if I were locked up alone…I’d want to take “Casablanca.” If I haven’t gotten sick of it after well over fifty viewings, I probably never will. Lastly, one book…of course it would be a Graphic Novel and definitely “Watchmen”. A true masterpiece.
Wanna see more Weisman? Why not visit his facebook page and bug him when the next Zombie Family episode is coming out?
Or maybe you’d rather listen to his podcast which will be available in the Fall of 2012 at: www.JNWFILMS.com.
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