Tag: interview

Talking ‘Ghost Radio’ With Author Leopoldo Gout

Leopoldo Gout is graphic novelist, director, producer, composer and the author.  His first novel, Ghost Radio (read our review here) builds on Gout’s already-expansive creative universe by taking a step into the unknown territory of the supernatural. Taking time out from his current project, producing an animated picture with Curious Pictures and NBC,  Leopoldo agreed to take some questions from Pop Culture Zoo about this paranormal thriller.

PCZ: I know that you must get this question with great frequency, so let me get it out of the way. Are the ghost stories interjected throughout your book personal in nature, the result of research or purely from your imagination?

LG: They are a combination of personal stories, research, ideas, nightmares and dreams.

PCZ: As the story evolves you frequently change point of view and voice, while moving backwards and forwards in time. How important were these elements to the story?

LG: I have experienced in the past at least three major life and death situations where my view of life changed. In addition to those personal situations I created the central character – Joaquin. The only way to depict his supernatural experiences was to stay true to what happened to him as these phenomena affected his past, present and future simultaneously. I realized that the way that I could get closer to his extraordinary experience was to write the novel in that manner. I love the idea that the supernatural forces that affect Joaquin haunt him in a metaphysical as well as physical way as it manifests itself both viscerally and through the conduit of his memories.

PCZ: Were these techniques that you set out to employ or did they come about as you wrote the book?

LG: The technique is made out of the same fabric as the supernatural experience that my characters live.

PCZ: Speaking of how you write, are you an outline writer or do you start with an idea and just start typing?

LG: I actually start by drawing. Its weird process but I studied art in Saint Martins School in London and I have being drawing since I was a kid. The images are compressed stories.

“I love the idea that the supernatural forces that affect Joaquin haunt him in a metaphysical as well as physical way as it manifests itself both viscerally and through the conduit of his memories.”

PCZ: Among your other talents and pursuits, you are an artist and a composer. What influences, if any, do you feel these have on your writing?

LG: Everything is based on experience and storytelling: on the observation and the objectivity of the ideas, characters and stories that survive my process.

PCZ: Each chapter in your book begins with a picture, something you normally don’t see in books anymore. Considering the additional production costs and the general state of the publishing industry, was this a difficult concept to sell to your publisher? How important to you was the inclusion of the artwork?

LG: The publisher was easy. I just showed them my images and they wanted them. I am a huge fan of old books like Byron’s works published in the 1800’s where they would add incredible engravings at the start of each chapter. I miss those books so I am trying to continue with that tradition. I am always drawing and I’m a partner at Curious Pictures, a big animation and film studio in New York, so I have many resources to create and develop my artwork.

PCZ: Are any aspects of the book autobiographical in nature? I understand that you emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, as did Joaquin, your main character. Did this and other experience translate to the page?

LG: Absolutely. I came here following an interest in the art world but then I fell in love and I stayed. Mexico, with all its traditions connected to the supernatural, is a huge influence on all my work.

PCZ: Some writers find great pleasure and vast rewards in writing while others agonize over each word while feeling compelled to tell a story. How is writing for you personally?

LG: Hard, Very hard because English is my second language. So I work with it like a sculptor chiseling and hacking away.

PCZ: With your first book released in hardcover, what is next for you? Can we expect more books or are you focusing more on your art or your work in film?

LG: I have a graphic novel being published this month, called Daniel X, co-written with James Patterson, which will be on the front of all Barnes and Noble stores. We set it up at New Regency / Fox to be adapted into a film. I have also begun my next graphic novel, edited by the amazing Karen Berger from Vertigo, and William Morrow / Harper Collins have just offered me a 2 book deal.

On the film side I have recently directed and produced my first fully CGI animated film starring Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu and Brian Williams called “Little Spirit”, which will air this December 10 at 8 pm on NBC. We are also preparing a film in Mexico that my brother will direct, and are producing the first ever Michel Gondry animated film… SO we have our plates full.

PCZ: Finally, I always like to finish off my interviews with writers by asking if there is any advice they would like to share with those trying to get their writing published. Your personal story is inspirational in itself. Are there any lessons you learned or advice you could pass on to others?

LG: Don’t take yourself too seriously but at the same time, work and put everything you’ve got into the process. I enjoy every day that I work, even when it’s hard and rocky: I am invigorated by the process, not the destination.

We’d like to thank Leopoldo Gout for taking the time to share some of his insights and inspirations on Ghost Radio with us.  You can learn more about this book at the official Ghost Radio Website.  To find out what Leopoldo is up to when he’s not writing about the supernatural, check out his work with Curious Pictures.

Talking with ‘Janitor’ Director John Clisham

Online film creator John Clisham absolutely loves 80’s slasher films. Want to know how you can tell? Check out his short film, Janitor on Xbox Live. This short film embraces all the standard cliches of the slasher-horror genre.  Twenty-something hot chick pretending to be an innocent high school student… check. Creepy teacher who you just know is going to meet a horrible death… present. Uber-powerful, impossible to stop, supernatural bad guy… definitely. Last second save by good guy cop… you betcha.

Bottom line, if you dig old-school slasher flick action, you are definitely going to want to watch Janitor. For those of you that think the current plague of “torture porn” is real horror, find out how it used to be done much more effectively. Check out Janitor, playing now via free download on an Xbox near you.

We caught up with John Clisham, creator and director of Janitor and asked him a few questions about his influences, what it was like working on a project for Xbox and what it is like working in the horror genre.

PCZ: How did you get involved in doing a horror film for Xbox Live?

JC: Back in 2005, I worked at a small production company in Santa Monica. On nights and weekends I’d make short horror movies for my website – usually with a DVX100 or anything I could get my hands on. Microsoft did a lot of business in the same building and noticed me. They asked me to pitch – I did – and somehow they said yes.

PCZ: Janitor was originally announced as part of an anthology series, Assorted Nightmares. What can we expect for future installments in this series?

JC: You’ll see a wide variety of horror – the next episode is modeled after the 70’s horror films (Exorcist, Shining) whereas the third episode takes a tone that’s a little more in tune with the horror flicks of today (Saw, Hostel). The idea is that each episode, in its own way, is an homage to a certain style in the genre.

PCZ: Your background is in filming online content. Was the Xbox Live film familiar territory or were there new things you needed to take into consideration?

JC: There were a number of things I had to consider. Most importantly, Xbox Live is an HD medium – and a really good one at that. So my camera work, the visual effects, the prosthetics – all had to be on a level of which I’ve never worked before. The entire team had to up their game, because when the content is viewed in 720p, you see everything. We approached Janitor as if it were a feature film.

PCZ: Janitor draws inspiration from 80’s slasher films. Will you be doing further films that will pay tribute to other eras of horror?

JC: Absolutely. The Assorted Nightmares series is about honoring the genre. Janitor had many elements from the 80’s (comedy, monster, style) and my team is really excited about the second episode, where we see a more internal horror, a more restrained fear. I think The Shining is a good example of where we’d all like to see episode two go.

PCZ: In your opinion, what are the essential elements of a good horror flick?

JC: Everyone always says story, story, story… and they’re right. I also think great sound is a very integral part of a horror movie. Without the texture, without the sound effects, without the music – it’s just an image. The sound takes the story and makes it real. On Janitor, when I was cutting the first version, no one was scared. Microsoft looked at it – and I think they were starting to wonder where I was taking this. But once they watched the final cut – the screening room, with the sound blasted – they were scared senseless.

PCZ: Which horror film scared you the most?

JC: This is a tie – Exorcist for a long time scared me in ways that I can barely understand. But Fire in the Sky, even though it’s not a horror movie, scared the living crap out of me. I saw it when I was home from school, alone, it was dark and rainy out – and somehow, it felt real. aliens were in the sky, waiting…. it messed me up for a long time.

PCZ: Outside horror, what film genres are you most interested in exploring?

JC: I’m interested in comedy – but that’s a tough genre.

PCZ: What types of themes would you be most interested incorporating in to a feature length horror film?

JC: The idea of aging has been a recurring theme in my stories. Whether it’s the idea of the inevitability of it all, I’m not sure – but time passing by and the aging process are elements I’m sure you’ll see throughout Assorted Nightmares.

We’d like to thank Mr. Clisham for taking the time to give us a bit of background into his horror influences. You can catch Janitor now via the Xbox Live Marketplace.

The PCZ Interview with Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping: Part Two

In Part Two of our interview with Amanda Tapping, we talk about the relationships on Sanctuary, some things that are coming up on the show and her other work, including Stargate. Part One can be found here.

PCZ:  I noticed you are playing up in the early episodes the easy-going relationship between Helen and her daughter Ashley, which is obviously leading up to Ashley finding out who her dad is, and I’m assuming a fairly big falling out. Is that something we get to see before the end of the season?

AT: Oh, definitely. There’s an episode coming up called “The Five” (airing 11/14 – ed) that actually explains a huge part of the mythology of the show and a lot of things are blown wide open. There’s a cool twist with one of the featured characters [and] Ashley finds out a lot of information. It ties together a lot of the mythology that we’re weaving right now and the relationship between Ashley and Magnus is so interesting both before and after. It’s a mother-daughter dynamic in the truest sense in so many ways, but then it’s also completely off the map when it comes to how they deal with each other. There’s real discord and it’s tied together by incredible respect for each other.

You get the sense that it’s a tenuous hold and Helen’s made a really weird choice to bring this child into the world probably knowing that Ashley will in all likelihood die before she does. You’re bringing a child into the world where you’re going to watch her grow old and die, which is just a crazy choice for a woman, for a mother to make. So that tempers a huge amount of their relationship. So, you’ve got this sidekick in this woman, this young woman who she [Helen] totally respects and enjoys working with, and at times she’s the mom. It’s such a bizarre dynamic for me as an actress. It’s one of the more difficult and interesting relationships I get to play. But it does change through the course of the show for sure.

PCZ: I do like what Will Zimmerman brings to the whole proceedings. I speculated before that Helen is surrounding herself and Ashley with people that could be a family and not just a team. In that respect, in the episodes so far Will is at first reluctant to go into any supernatural territory, but he is like “If you can prove it to me then I’m willing to buy it.” At the same time he also keeps Helen honest and not just jumping to conclusions either. It’s a really interesting dynamic.

AT: Absolutely, it’s very cool. He’s trying to be everyman with a weird connective mind. He brings the audience with him on this journey, but he’s also got this very skewed way of looking at things. So, yeah, it is a very cool dynamic and what I love about the relationships on this show is that they are organic. The way they’ve developed between the actors, the way we’ve developed our characters, the way the writers have allowed it to play out, it’s so organic. The relationship between Helen and Will, there was nothing about it that felt forced. It’s the most important relationship in the show in so many ways because he’s bringing the audience into her world and she has to explain her world.

There’s an episode coming up called “Requiem” (airing 12/07 – ed) that we’ve talked about before that is defining for this relationship. The episode called “Kush”, which [was] our fifth episode, that again is a beautiful organic development between these two. That’s the thing I’m sort of most proud of. Nothing ever felt like we were forcing issues between the mother and daughter, between Henry and the team, between Will and Magnus. All of it felt really natural. It’s a treat as an actor because sometimes you don’t get this, sometimes we want to shoot so the audience understands the relationship between the characters. Kind of fitting a square peg in a round hole… we don’t do that. The audience is wondering about the relationship as much as we are.

“There’s an episode coming up called ‘Requiem’ that we’ve talked about before that is such a definer for this relationship…”

PCZ: Did the webisodes give you the chance to feel out early on how the characters were going to interact?

AT: Yeah, they did. It was a great stomping ground for us. I think we tried to pack so much into that two hours. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but it certainly gave us a feel of where we could go with it.

PCZ: We also talked at Comic Con that you did a movie called Dancing Trees.

AT: Yeah, I shot that around this time last year.

PCZ: Sounds like a powerful film and a powerful role for you.

AT: I don’t have a huge part in the film but it’s sort of pivotal in that I play the mother of an autistic savant, who’s a remarkable young woman played by Katie Boland, a really cool actress. And for me having played Sam Carter and now Helen, there’s just something that was so different. She’s so soft and she’s struggled to raise this special needs child by herself. She has a quirky sister she has to deal with and at the heart of it all she’s trying to run this small business and trying to raise her daughter in a really difficult world. So it’s a very soft character. She’s very fierce and protective, but she also has this incredible warmth about her and is totally vulnerable and I loved it because it was just so different than what I normally get to play. She’s in pain a lot because she’s struggling. Not to say she isn’t strong, but she’s not afraid of her weakness whereas Helen is afraid to show her weakness and Sam didn’t always have the opportunity to show it.

The reason I did this film wholeheartedly was because Anne Wheeler directed it. Anne Wheeler is this Canadian director who I’ve wanted to work with for years. I just think she’s brilliant and a very cool woman and someone as a woman in this industry I look up to for a lot of different reasons… as a director, producer and actor. But she’s also just a really amazing lady to hang out with. So when I got asked “Would you do this part, it’s not a huge part, but it’s in an Anne Wheeler’s movie?” I was like “Whatever! I’ll do it, I don’t care!” Then they sent me the script after I said yes, I loved the script and got to work with some really cool actors. Anne Wheeler was the reason I took that role and I’d work with her again in a heartbeat.

PCZ: Are you still finding time to do things with your comedy troupe [Random Acts]?

AT: No! My god, we’re sort of at the four winds right now. Two of us actually live in Vancouver and one is in Halifax. we got together over the summer and we all have daughters, one child each, so we figure they might be Random Acts 2. (laughter)

PCZ: Just start training them now!

AT: Exactly! “Sit together in a room and be funny!” (laughter) I miss that. for me it was such an incredibly creative time with those women and at a juncture in my career and in my life where being around really strong, really smart, funny women was hugely important for all us. We were in our twenties and we were still trying to figure ourselves out and figure out this industry and we banded together with this crazy little sense of humor. It was just a really important, creative time for me. I would get together with them again in a heartbeat because I think we just have so much more to bring to the table.

PCZ: With your comedy background, I’ve noticed quite a bit on Stargate with the other actors there are always moments of easy levity to break up some of the tension. Being self-deprecating in acknowledging that some of the things you are doing on the show are absurd.

AT: (laughter) I think that one of the major selling points of Stargate was the fact that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. There was a sense of humor that came from a real warmth and from a real connection between the characters, but also that we all kind of have this crazy sense of humor and we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. That helps Stargate work. We have that on Sanctuary, but it’s a lot different. Helen is not a particularly funny woman. She can be, she has her moments where she’s wicked funny, but it’s because she’s really smart and she’ll say something very dry and very quick. She bears the weight of running the Sanctuary on her shoulders and that’s a huge burden. She lets people like Henry be the funny guy, which is hard because my default mechanism is to always say something funny. Off camera I think I’m quite humorous. Actually, Robin Dunne is one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.

PCZ: Yeah, when I talked to him at Comic Con he was cracking me up. Also, I do see in Helen’s conversations with Ashley there will be these quips at the end that are very dry, but very funny.

AT: Good!

“I would never say no to ‘Stargate’, it gave me so much and it’s honestly just so much fun to go back to that playground.”

PCZ: Going back to Stargate, it seems like it’s a case of just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. You did the finale episode of Atlantis and it sounds like you guys will be shooting an SG-1 and Atlantis movie at the same time next year.

AT: That’s what I’m hearing, yeah. I haven’t gotten anything concrete about it, but I have been asked about availability. My understanding is that they will be [shooting both] in late spring/early summer. The timing of that might be interesting for me as hopefully Sanctuary will be picked up and I’ll just have to tear myself away. I would never say no to Stargate, it gave me so much and it’s honestly just so much fun to go back to that playground. When we shot Continuum, it especially just felt like a team episode and there were moments where I just looked at he guys and was like “Oh my god it’s like we’ve been doing this our whole lives!” And we have for a big portion of our lives. It’s just so comfortable. It’s like going home and sitting down with your family at the table for dinner, then the quips start and there’s peas flying across the table. It’s so natural.

PCZ: I mentioned to you at Comic Con that I thought the biggest part of Stargate is the characters. What’s great about you guys having done it for so long is that you are so at ease with your characters and each other. The dialog and interactions are very natural. I see that already on Sanctuary and I’m assuming that’s because you guys have been doing this for over a year now .

AT: There’s an ease to this cast. Sometimes it hits [on shows] and sometimes it doesn’t. I was lucky enough that it happened on Stargate and it’s now happened again on Sanctuary. There’s just an ease to us all working together. The cool thing about Sanctuary is to have guest stars come up and say “I had so much fun working on your show, what a great show to work on.” To me that is the biggest compliment ever and it happened on SG-1 too. It’s so nice.

PCZ: Do you have any other side projects coming up or are you mired down in Sanctuary?

AT: I’m mired down in Sanctuary-land. I just got offered a film yesterday I had to say no to just because we’re in post-production and if we do get picked up for a second season we’ll start prep, we’ll start breaking stories. Hopefully we’ll get a twenty episode order, which has been talked about, and we really need to have at least six scripts before we start shooting in January. It’s going to be an incredibly busy time. I’m also taking some time in the middle of it all to go away with my family.

PCZ: That’s very important. Ok, that’s all I have for now. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me a call and talk to me.

AT: My pleasure, Joe. It was really nice to talk to you again.

PCZ: And good luck on getting picked up for a second season!

AT: Thank you!

Thank you gain to Amanda Tapping for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to us! Sanctuary airs Friday nights at 10PM on the SCI FI Channel.

The PCZ Interview with Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping: Part One

Amanda Tapping is easily one of the nicest people in entertainment. Her humor and natural ease at speaking are traits that serve her well in the comedy troupe Random Acts, which she co-founded. Amanda is very generous with her time and is a supporter of several charities, such as The Canadian Cancer Society and the Waterkeeper Alliance. She has appeared on several TV shows and a few films over the years. For ten seasons, Tapping starred in the television series Stargate SG-1 as Samantha Carter, a role she continued over to sister show Stargate Atlantis. Currently she is both the star and Executive Producer for Sanctuary on the SCI FI Channel. I previously spoke to Amanda and her co-star Robin Dunne at San Diego Comic Con back in July. More recently I talked to Amanda by phone about Sanctuary and her other projects. In Part One of this interview we talk about some of the technical aspects of shooting in front of a green screen, the style of the show and a little bit about one of its more mysterious characters. Check out Part Two where we talk a little bit about what’s to come on Sanctuary as well as what else Amanda has going on in her very busy career.

AT: Hey Joe, this is Amanda Tapping calling.

PCZ: Hi, how are you?

AT: I’m good, how are you doing?

PCZ: I’m doing great. Thanks for taking the time to call and talk to me today.

AT: Absolutely, it’s nice to talk to you again.

PCZ: So, to start off, I think there’s big congratulations in order for the success of Sanctuary on SCI FI.

AT: Thank you, yeah. Fingers crossed, every week we’re like “Ok, let’s watch the ratings.” Never a relaxation moment for us.

PCZ: I’m sure. The premiere was a huge smash so that’s gotta be…

AT: It did very well. We knew there would be a drop the second week, but we were actually really happy with the numbers. The thing with SCI FI, too, that’s good to know is that it’s one of the most TIVO-ed or DVR-ed networks and their Friday nights are traditionally heavily taped. So they add a lot more to our ratings after the fact knowing that and that helps. We hope to find out in the next couple of weeks whether or not we get a pick up [for a second season].

“We hope to find out in the next couple of weeks whether or not we get a pick up [for a second season].”

PCZ: They’re going to decide that early?

AT: Yeah, we have a twenty-nine week lead time for delivery of the show, from when we start production – when we actually start shooting it – which is a long time. And if they want us to deliver in July then they need to give us the heads up a lot sooner.

PCZ: It’s got to feel pretty good after the webisodes – those were a huge deal and to really persevere and push through and make it to TV – now it’s a success on [TV] too it’s got to be doubly exciting

AT: It feels good, yeah, I mean the webisodes were a great experiment for us and served to put us on TV, which is great. It wasn’t our intention, but it is kind of a relief that we’ve actually gotten somewhere with it

PCZ: Now, knowing that it does well on the Internet is there any idea of maybe between seasons doing any Internet shorts or webisodes?

AT: At this point no, we’re just really heavily focused on getting the TV series made. I just left our sound post-production company. We’re in post literally until January and then we’d start shooting the next season so there really isn’t any amount time between to shoot new footage. In my perfect world what would happen eventually is we would start to integrate the show into the web and do things like – I don’t know if I talked to you about this before, but the idea of Magnus walking down a hallway and the fans could click on a door that she passes. That kind of thing would be awesome, if we had the opportunity to do something like that. But at this stage making the TV show is as daunting as can be, so we’re sort of focusing all of our efforts on that! (laughter)

PCZ: You’ve finished the live action filming on all 13 episodes?

AT: We finished shooting September 12th. Now we’re just in the post-production pipeline

PCZ: So, it sounds like that even though you guys are doing this primarily in front of green screens and you don’t have a lot of setups as far as locations, with all the post work, do you really save any time shooting each episode?

AT: No, not really at all. In the actually shooting of it, it’s the same as a regular practical set shoot. Seven days per episode, same number of hours in the day, so it’s sort of the same hours I was working on Stargate and number of days per episode. And I think the post production is actually – we could use a lot more post production time than we have because our viz effects team is just going full guns. But it doesn’t really save you any time, no.

PCZ: I asked Robin (Dunne) this at Comic Con. Being in front of a green screen frees you up to concentrate on the characters a little bit more. You’re not distracted by what’s around you and can really focus on the characters, do you find that to be the case?

AT: You’re absolutely right, yes. To me, shooting on the green screen feels a lot more like doing theater than anything else. Often times in theater you don’t have the full set, you don’t have the fourth wall with the audience there and the green screen feels a lot like that. It feels like you said, you’re exactly right, you concentrate more on the character and what’s actually happening between the characters and their relationship in the scene. It feels a little more immediate. We have one practical set that we shoot on a bit which is Magnus’ office. It still has green screen elements to it and it’s always fun for the actors to sort of go and play in there. When you’re sitting in front of the green screen it’s just us and the words. It’s fun, I’m starting to appreciate the green screen a lot more.

“To me, shooting on the green screen feels a lot more like doing theater than anything else.”

PCZ: There are scenes where I’ve noticed, like in the episode [right after the pilot] with the three witches where, for instance, in their flashbacks to where they’re remembering what happened to them, and they’re walking through the encampment killing the guys, that almost had a theatrical look to it in that it was almost a Shakespearian set. It really brings more of an atmosphere to it

AT: Well, we almost have the luxury of being able to play in the world’s biggest graphic novel. We can make it look like anything and we’ve chosen to go with that kind of style to it. So, like you said, we can have this very Shakespearian feel to it with the women running across the battlefield and this incredibly intimate, askew view of things like a graphic novel does. We have that luxury and it’s really fun. Part of the thing for us too is we don’t always know necessarily what it’s going to look like exactly at the end. For the actors there’s great joy when we get the script and go “Where are we going to go this week? Oooh, I wonder what this is going to look like!” which is why when we get the final viz effects it’s so cool. It’s a great playground. It’s like I said, the world’s biggest graphic novel to play in.

PCZ: I think it’s a definite credit to the team that’s doing all the post and fills in all the green screens because I find myself watching the episode again to see if I can tell what is and isn’t real. It’s not often easy to tell.

AT: Which is very cool. Lee and Lisa Wilson, who run Anthem [Visual Effects Inc.], our viz effects house, that’s a source of great pride for them. We’ve often said if you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not then that’s very cool. With Sanctuary we also have it where it’s very much not real because it’s not quite photo realistic to the eye. We kind of like that aspect of it too because it gives it a sort of edgier, different kind of look. So we play with that and play with the audience with that and the audience seems to thus far be enjoying that ride.

PCZ: You can do these sweeping pull backs that wouldn’t be possible if it was a real set that are just like “Wow!”

AT: Exactly, exactly. Unless we had a lot of helicopters.(laughs)

PCZ: I have to say I think one of the standout characters and performances on the show is Ryan Robbins. My background being a computer geek, it’s just great seeing the cool, wisecracking computer guy.

AT: (laughter) He’s awesome. I was just watching a mix of one of our upcoming shows and he’s got amazing comic timing and just sort of this wry view on things. You ‘ll see a lot more of the Henry [Foss] character and lot more of Ryan as the show progresses.

PCZ: I don’t know if this is intentional, but one of the mysteries outside of the show is who plays Bigfoot? I can’t find anything anywhere on the actor who plays Bigfoot. I know who he sounds like, if that’s his actual voice. Is that something you guys are intentionally playing up?

AT: It’s something where Bigfoot asked us to not say that it was actually him, so we’re honoring his wishes. He’s very reclusive as you probably well know, it’s hard to get footage on him, so it’s good that he actually has come up here to shoot.

“It’s something where Bigfoot asked us to not say that it was actually him, so we’re honoring his wishes.”

PCZ: This is probably the most footage anyone has ever had up close on Bigfoot so that’s…

AT: It’s close to home for him, we’re in the Pacific Northwest rain forest and that’s kind of where he hangs out.

PCZ: So he doesn’t have to commute back and forth to L.A. or anything like that?

AT: No, we didn’t have to pay him a per diem or location fee.

PCZ: (laughter) Fair enough.

Part Two of our interview with Amanda Tapping is available here. Sanctuary airs Friday nights at 10PM on the SCI FI Channel.

Exclusive Interview With ‘Allison’ Creator Juan2.0

A career in comics has been the dream of many a Spidey underoo-clad youngster. Like many of those who imagined their futures laid out in the monthly exploits of Doc Ock, Cap and Batman, Juan2.0 grew up with the certainty that he too would one day see his creations become a tangible reality. With the recent release of his creator-owned book Allision, Juan2.0 is now realizing the fulfillment of those dreams. In the first issue of this comic, Allison is thrown into an unfamiliar and fantastical world, with only a robotic rabbit to save her from what can only be described as an altogether surreal and frightening fate. We caught up with Juan2.0 and asked him to talk about his journey in comics so far and what is in store with Allison as she ventures deeper down the rabbit hole.

PCZ: Give me a history on the genesis of your artwork and how Allison came to be.

Juan2.0: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a comic book artist since I was five years old. My father and I went to the local grocery store for something or other and I happened across a spinner rack full of comic books. I remember he bought me an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man and Merc issue 5. That is what began my whole love/hate relationship with comic books and wanting to do this for a career choice. After I got those first two issues, I read and collected every comic book I could get my hands on.

I remember one time, when I was around 11, my mom had surprised me with a bunch of comics that she had bought from a local comic shop to help me pass the time on a bus field trip we were taking. In that stack, was Amazing Spider-Man issue 318 and 319 where Spidey fights the Scorpion and the Rhino. I was in awe as I flipped through those books. I had never seen anyone draw comics like that before and Todd McFarlane changed my life that day. He made me want to draw… and draw I did. After that, every chance I got, I would spend hours in my room with a pencil and printer paper trying to draw my own comic books. I mostly did it for fun… just something to do to pass the time away while growing up on a farm out in the middle of nowhere.

But at sixteen, I decided that after collecting comics and trying to learn to draw them for so many years, I was done. I don’t know why it happened, but I woke up one day, packed all my comic book boxes in the car, drove to the nearest comic shop and sold all of them for ten cents a book. I gave them away for next to nothing because I didn’t want anything to do with drawing or comics for as long as I lived. And I was serious too… I didn’t pick up a pencil again from then on until after I had turned 18 years old.

What changed my mind when I was 18 was this. My then girlfriend at the time had come over to my parents house to see me and while she was there, she saw some of my old drawings in my room. She said they were great and asked if I had anymore. I told her that I didn’t draw anymore and that those were just old ones I still had and I switched the subject to something else. I didn’t think anything of it… and then a week or so later, we went to a Dairy Queen for lunch and she’d brought up the comic thing again. I think I mentioned something about there being a local shop still in town, so we decided to check it out and see what they had to offer.

“I had never seen a drawing or a comic book done as beautifully as that before. Michael Turner changed my life that day.”

I hadn’t been in a comic book shop since I sold all those books and I went in not really expecting much to have changed, which it hadn’t. Spider-Man and Superman were still doing their thing. Batman was still around… everything was pretty much the same. But as I was walking down the aisle looking at the new release shelf, my eyes happened upon a copy of Witchblade issue 8 by Michael Turner. There was only one copy left and the shot of Sara on the cover with the Witchblade wrapped around her naked body blew me away. I had never seen a drawing or a comic book done as beautifully as that before. Michael Turner changed my life that day. I was back to drawing and buying comics full force again. I would spend countless hours staying up late into the mornings trying to learn to draw like him. I bought every comic book of his I could get my hands on. Just looking at his art was breathtaking and I couldn’t get enough of it. The fever was back with a vengeance and I knew from that day on that no matter what happened in this life, I would never again give up my dream of illustrating comic books for a living. This is what I was meant to do, it’s always what I was meant to do. I could just feel it in my heart and I’ve always believed that if you follow your heart it will never lead you wrong. I’ve been doing so ever since that day.

As for Allison, she didn’t come along until around 2004 or 2005. At the time I had been doing several eBay commissions to keep money flowing into my pockets for food and bills and a guy had approached me about doing my own full comic book series. He was willing to pay for the majority of the production fees while I focused on the art aspects of the endeavor. But without going into detail, things just didn’t work out. At that time in my life, I just wasn’t ready. Allison just wasn’t what I pictured her as being and as time passed, she died and was buried in the past and I moved on with my life.

Then in 2007, when I was completely fed up with my artwork and just about to throw in the towel and give up for good again, I called my mama one night and talked to her about how I was feeling. My heart wasn’t in anything that I was producing and every day I felt like a failure. But all she said was that it had to be my choice on what I wanted to do with my life and my art. Either I could stick with it and make it somehow or I could give up and get a different job working for a company somewhere. I told her that all I wanted to do was be a comic book artist, but that no matter what I did when it came to my artwork it just wasn’t good enough. None of it was ever good enough in my eyes. I would draw for eight hours a day and then at the end of the day, rip up everything that I had done. It was a vicious cycle and one that went on for a very long time. Eventually, a good friend, Adrian Sularyo, pointed me in a different direction with my artwork. He introduced me to the world of Ashley Wood and after that, my life and Allison’s were changed forever.

All I could think about from then on was Allison. How I needed to bring her to life and that now was the time. Not tomorrow, not next month, not next year… but NOW. So I got to work on reviving her. It’s been a very slow process. It’s taken me almost a year to get issue one out, but at the time I started doing this, I had no clue what I was doing or even how I wanted Allison’s book to look. None whatsoever. So it’s been a long nine months of trial and error and learning from my mistakes one step at a time.

PCZ: What inspired you to create your first published work in the form of a comic book instead of another medium?

Juan2.0: I love comic books. I’m very passionate about them and seeing as how I’ve studied them and how they are created for several years of my life, it was just natural that I should choose to bring Allison to life in that form over anything else.

PCZ: The book seems to be drawn on a number of inspirations, both through the art and storytelling. What artists or writers most influenced your work with Allison?

Juan2.0: Hands down, Ashley Wood and Lewis Carroll.

Ashley Wood is one hell of a great teacher. I’ve learned so much from him in such a short time period about what art is and what it can be. Gone are my days of perfectionism with pencils only. Life is so much better now. I feel like I have freedom with my art again and everyone who has come into contact with my artwork lately is really reacting to it, so I guess I must be doing something right.

But I’m not just an Ashley Wood clone either. I draw my influences and inspirations from a wide variety of others… I’ve always had this belief that you can learn something from every new piece of art you encounter, even if it’s what not to do. Art is everywhere, so I’m constantly studying new ideas and techniques to bring into my own work from every piece of art I encounter. Hell, just the other day I was studying a postcard that had come into the place I work. I really liked the design work on the lettering and image placement so I scribbled out a rough sketch on a post it note and brought it home to hodge-podge it with my other ideas for Allison.

As for writers, I chose Lewis Carroll because I’ve always loved his work on Alice in Wonderland, which obviously plays a major influence with my Allison book. But again my influences are far reaching, I never draw from just one pool. I read new books (actual books, not comic books) on an almost weekly basis and a lot of my storytelling comes from always wanting to be a writer as much as I’ve always wanted to become an artist. More of which you will all see in my Snippets art book coming out later this month. It’s more of a storybook than anything and really gives me a chance to improve upon my writing skills. If you like stories that deal with the end of civilization as we know it and zombies… definitely check it out.

PCZ: If you were to draw comparisons, what will this series most closely resemble once you are completed with it?

Juan2.0: It would closely resemble nothing. I don’t want my book to be like anything else out there on the stands… nor like anything else that has ever been offered. Allison is a hodge-podge of a lot of different things and I can’t think of anything else out there today that she is even remotely like. She’s very unique in her own right. A lot of people will read the first issue and think, ” Yeah, this is kind of like Allison in Wonderland”, but once they get farther into it they’ll see that it is much, much more than that. Not everything is as it appears and everything in Allison’s world has double or triple meanings to it. Keep that in mind as you follow her journey.

PCZ: This first book ends with a number of unanswered questions. Who is Allison? Where is she? Why is the android rabbit trying to help her? Why is she the only one who doesn’t seem to know what’s going on? Without giving too much away, tell us what we can expect from the next few issues.

Juan2.0: Probably more unanswered questions. Right now with the first few issues, I’m laying out the groundwork for what is to come. You’ll see and read a lot of things that you won’t understand in the first few issues. This might put some people off, but I am a fan of not spoon feeding people when it comes to storytelling. I’ve always felt the best books/movies are the ones where you get a tidbit here and there and by the end you’ve figured out exactly why such and such happened when and where it did.  It’s all part of the bigger picture, the one that you don’t see or realize until later on through the story.

Allison is a hodge-podge of a lot of different things and I can’t think of anything else out there today that she is even remotely like.

In this next issue, you’ll get to meet the Nit Nam. A very evil character in the Allison world… one that is going to do some serious damage to our heroine.

PCZ: Why did you decide to create this story with four panels per page? Was this a stylistic choice (to separate it from more mainstream comics) or did the story naturally lend itself to this larger canvas?

Juan2.0: All of my favorite artists over the years have used the basic formula of 3 – 5 panels per page, so I guess subconsciously I just followed suit. I tend to like the larger panels. I’m not a fan of the claustrophobic pages some artists do with a million tiny panels on the page. In fact, I absolutely hate having to draw tiny panels.  I need room when I work.

PCZ: Describe the process of self-publishing this book. What were some of the challenges you faced and how will this affect the way you publish future issues?

Juan2.0: Self-publishing this book has been a great challenge for me. Going into it, I honestly had no clue what I was doing. I had to teach myself everything from the coloring, to the lettering, the art style, layouts, design work… everything. It’s all been months and months of trial and error. Would I do it over again if given the chance? You bet your ass I would! Nothing beats good old fashioned trial and error to teach you what to do and what not to do. When you make a mistake on your own without anyone else giving you a helping hand, it’s a mistake that you will never forget and I, being the hardheaded stubborn mule that I am, tend to make many mistakes, but I learn from each and every one of them…so in that aspect my future issues should go a lot smoother. They always say your hardest challenge is getting through the first issue, because that’s where you learn your biggest mistakes from… and they are definitely right about that.

PCZ: What advice can you offer to artists or writers who are looking for a venue to publish their work?

Juan2.0: Honestly, I don’t know. With me, I just set out with the goal to get Allison off the ground this year and now that it’s finally happening, all the sleepless nights full of hard work (blood, sweat and tears) has been worth it. I guess the best advice I can give anyone is to just get out there and do it. There is all kinds of online publishing companies out there nowadays to get your work printed. You just have to be willing to put in the hard work and dedication to see things through no matter what the cost. If you don’t believe in yourself and your work, how can you expect anyone else to?

Thanks to Juan2.0 for taking the time to share answer our questions about Allison and how she came to be. You can pick up your own copy of Allison #1 over at Juan’s Original Art. Also, you can follow Juan2.0’s exploits on his blog as he gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at Allison, Insomniac and his other works-in-progress.