When it was recently announced that my favorite web comic, Eric Trautmann’s and Brandon Jerwa’s Wide Awake had been optioned for a film I confess that I knew nothing about the production company attached, Do-Over Productions. Nevertheless, I jumped at the opportunity to ask a few questions of the screenwriters/producers for the movie version, Jarrod Feliciano and Mirjana Novkovic. Any concerns I had about Wide Awake getting respectable treatment from the two scribes and the production company have been put to rest by the following interview and I am eagerly anticipating the resulting theatrical presentation almost as much as the web series itself. After you read the the Q & A below, you can continue to follow Wide Awake at the official site, it’s Facebook Page and get updates via Twitter. Likewise, keep track of Do-Over at their website, newly created Facebook Fan Page and get the latest updates on Twitter. As always, keep checking back right here at Pop Culture Zoo for all the latest news concerning Wide Awake as we get it!
What did you see in the Wide Awake story that made it a project you wanted to translate to the silver screen?
Jarrod Feliciano: Wide Awake first came to our attention via last year’s Popgun Anthology. It was, to us, the standout piece of the book. We were already fans of Eric and Brandon’s comic work and when the Issue #0 teaser for “Wide Awake” went live for Free Comic Book Day we were blown away by its moody narrative and Mirco and David’s inspired artwork. We just knew it was something special.
Mirjana Novkovic: We love strong female protagonists, and after Brandon and Eric shared the full story arc with us we knew we needed to bring Amanda Carter to life on the big screen. She’s sexy, strong, witty, and kicks serious ass. Really, the stuff they’ve got in store is amazing – dark, stylized, and really kind of scary.
How far into the script are you both?
MN: We won’t start the screenplay until Eric and Brandon have got most of the comic scripting done, so it will be a few months, but we’ve already started developing other aspects of the project.
JF: We’re really looking forward to getting underway with the script though. The guys need to hurry up! I’m just kidding guys. (No seriously, hurry up.)
How different will the movie script be compared to the comic script?
MN: We obviously want to stay as true to the comic as possible so we plan on working closely with Eric and Brandon to insure that we maintain their vision, but also create a product that uses the film medium to its fullest extent. Of course, the demands and necessities of the two mediums vary, so there will need to be some accommodations made. But we firmly believe that you can faithfully adapt a comic to film and not butcher it in the process.
JF: We’ve also had some discussions about developing a unique synergy between the comic and film, so that perhaps there might be a clue or question layered in the background of the comic that is paid off or answered fully in the film. Obviously, nothing that would affect or diminish the comic narrative – just a little extra flavor to discover about Amanda or the story on screen in the film. Cinematic Easter eggs, if you will.
Any thoughts yet on who would be the perfect casting choice for Amanda Carter?
JF: There are a great many actresses who’d excel at playing Amanda and we’ve already had some discussions, but it’s a bit too early to start tossing names around.
MN: Although we can say that everyone involved thus far has a personal favorite, and if we’re lucky enough to get any of the amazing actresses we’re thinking of, we’ll be very, very happy.
Ok, given the “unique dynamic” that is the Brandon Jerwa-Eric Trautmann writing partnership, how has it been working with those two in developing the movie?
MN: Brandon and Eric are incredibly talented, yet so modest, which is always a great combination. Jarrod and I are strong collaborators, and we only like to work with people who are willing to be a part of the collaboration. They vibed the right way with us from the start.
JF: And working with them is a pleasure – although trying to keep up with the sheer volume of raw intelligence and clever barbs between them can leave you questioning your sanity from time to time…
MN: It’s true. My head hurts.
Will Mirco Pierfederici’s artwork for the series and David Messina’s art direction have any influence on the look and tone of the film?
MN: Absolutely. We can’t be true to the comic without respecting the art as well as the story. Plus, the art is just so flippin’ gorgeous. Mirco and David have amazing things in the works for the series.
JF: And it lends itself so clearly to film. We’re not strict fans of comic panels being used as a poor man’s storyboard – again, they are different mediums – but we do feel that the original style and artwork of the comic should totally inspire and influence the look and tone of the film based upon it.
As scriptwriters and filmmakers, what are you influences?
MN: Writers who have made an impact on me over the years are Ayn Rand, Sylvia Plath and John Patrick Shanley. I’m drawn to darker, more dramatic scenes that explore humanity gone awry or aspects of social commentary and philosophy as with Rand’s work. As far as film influences go, some of my perennial favorites are Shawshank Redemption, Seven, American Beauty and Bridges of Madison County. But overall it truly is the full spectrum of the medium – good and bad films alike – that have inspired my passion. I’ve watched as many bad films as good and have always loved dissecting elements of the acting, the story, the tempo. Every film I have ever watched has fascinated me, even if the most fascinating quality was the fact that such crap gets made!
JF: Bad movies are important. They teach you what not to do. Obviously, our influences, like most people, span far beyond the film world proper. I actually share a lot of the same influences with Mirjana, although, for me a few other names come to mind as well: David Mamet, Pablo Neruda, and Charles Bukowksi. David Webb Peoples’ work is legendary – especially Unforgiven which, to me, is one of the greatest screenplays ever written. And I certainly cannot forget Mr. E. Gary Gygax, who was most definitely an influence on me as a writer – and perhaps more importantly the single greatest influence on my imagination.
Tell us about Fallen Moon and how that is progressing.
MN: Fallen Moon is a noir crime drama that follows a father who discovers that his estranged daughter was brutally murdered, but more importantly we see him coming to terms with his past regrets and finding redemption. The father is the central character, but his journey involves other entwined storylines, and through these unique relationships we see how people can go from relative strangers to one another’s saviors in the blink of an eye. The absolutely brilliant Peter Medak (Romeo is Bleeding, The Krays) is directing.
JF: Peter is a legend in film and for good reason. He excels at both drawing subtle, evocative performances from his actors and also at masterfully executing intricate camera work through complex scenes. And the script has both of those in spades: complicated characters stumbling through byzantine relationships, and multilayered composite scenes that would make a lesser man shudder. We can’t wait to see what he does with them, how he helps bring the performances to life.
MN: We are casting now and there will be some announcements from Do-Over very soon. Exciting things are afoot.
What is the philosophy behind Do-Over Productions and what lead to the creation of the company?
JF: Do-Over was born from a conversation we had about the children’s concept of the “do-over” and what do-overs we would make if we could. Starting a production company built to our own specifications was on the list for both of us. We’ve both been involved with various projects and partners in the past, but there was never quite the dynamic synergy that we have with each other. But the actual philosophy behind the company came about from realizing how we didn’t want to do business.
MN: So, we decided to do it over. We actually have a list of precepts that pretty much sum up our thinking and serve to maintain a creative balance – and each of them is birthed from unfortunate professional experiences that we didn’t ever want to have to deal with again. For example, collaboration is an important principle for us – a Do-Over project is a community and we want everyone we bring on board to know that it’s their project as much as ours. Which is why we’re pretty selective about who we work with – all it takes is one bad seed and suddenly our carefully structured ecosystem is thrown off balance.
What else can we look forward to from Do-Over Productions?
MN: Like we said, we love strong female protagonists. We have a project in development called Prey that has an amazing female lead named Salesian. She’s deadly at what she does, but completely conflicted, flawed and human. But her entire existence is built on a foundation of lies and when those lies start to collapse in on themselves, things get very complicated.
JF: We also have a sci-fi thriller set in the jungles of South America and we have our eye on acquiring another property or two, which we can’t mention at this point.
MN: And our social conscience will rear its head at some point with at least one documentary, or more. But the future looks bright and busy.