Thursday, April 25, 2013

Filmmaker Jo Custer

Jo is a New Orleans film community writer / director / producer, a playwright and theatre director, a journalist, a photographer, an actress and a scrappy cab driver.Since 2009 Jo has been whittling away at a short story collection as Jules Alder. In 2010 The History Press published her personal essay, Chopsticks, in the journal collection Western Pennsylvania Reflections: Stories from the Alleghenies to Lake Erie. 
Jo’s 19 minute neo-noir film HOTCAKES (2012) represents the first of the “Short Stack Series,” a set of short film challenges the director has identified for herself en route to making her first feature. SONUVABITCH, the second entry in the series and a comedic Western about the illusion of the American Cowboy spirit, has been cast and crewed and is now pending funding on Kickstarter.Jo holds a B.A. in Journalism from the Pennsylvania State University and hopes to someday make a documentary as an environmental and social justice advocate. Her “Cab Fare” writing entries can be followed by subscribing to her blog, by following her @Sonuvab or via the #cabfare hashtag or by adding her on Facebook.

What is the current project you are working on?

Sonuvabitch, a postmodern Western about what I consider to be the last real cowboy theme on earth -- the loss of independence with the loss of the frontier. Frank Hooey wants to be a real Old West cowboy, but he's too much of a fuck-up to pull anything off and even if he were, he can't.

Ain't that a sonuvabitch?

Why did you decide to make a trilogy?

It's about challenges. Independent filmmakers can get so pigeon-holed by cost concerns that I wanted to focus on what I felt like I really needed to learn before I made that first feature. So I chose a trilogy with shifting characters and protagonists so that the writing wouldn't become too dependent upon existing properties, but left room for development and greater understanding of costuming, set design & ensemble directing.

Where can people watch "Hotcakes"?

Vimeo. Here's the link:

What is your opinion on crowdfunding?

It's a lot of work for one person, so I recommend getting a tech savvy team who is up on their social media skills, for sure. But it's totally worth the effort, even if it means educating your team first. As a filmmaker currently based in Louisiana, this is a challenge, but not going into debt to fund a film and having a captive audience when you release outweighs those hardships, certainly. Angel investors can and will come later. For now, crowdfunding.

How has making "Hotcakes" prepared you to make "Sonuvabitch"?

This time around, I've learned to avoid the sand traps. No hiring crew members without vetting them first. No writing parts for actors who won't be dedicated or hard working enough to show up to an audition. No backbending to make a location work when there will almost certainly be a better one around the corner. You have to learn what to take on faith and what to be totalitarian about. I now fire people who aren't dedicated. The work is too hard for half-assedness and it brings the bar down on everyone else's work when others don't manage their time or lose heart. Also, while I was glad to shoot Hotcakes New Wave style, I don't think I'd ever like to shoot again without solid pre-production. It's too maddening in post.

What is the indie film scene like in Louisiana?

Too industry-dependent right now. A fair amount of us see that and get what that means, especially since the tax credit has been threatened, and we're working on making it stronger.

What is your favorite western?

I'm a fan of so many. In the modern era, probably Unforgiven. In the days of yore, probably Stagecoach or Yojimbo, if you'll count Yojimbo. I do.

What is the casting process like?

I definitely prefer to have a dedicated casting director to deal with all the confusion and personalities. I'm more of the show up on the day and decide who I like then type. I don't spend hours gazing at head shots, though I do like to look at resumes. I sort of go on my gut sense of talent, my aftertaste on their handshake and what their resumes tell me about them. We have a lot of hustlers in this town who like to splash their names everywhere but aren't necessarily team players. I'm wary of that. Louisiana is a very wild place, not unlike the Old West. With the tax credits bringing so many studio films into town, the whole place has a goldrush vibe to it. Avoiding hustlers is priority number one some days.

When & where are you choosing to release "Sonuvabitch"?

We wanted to release it over Labor Day weekend here in New Orleans and just keep showing it for weeks and months. But if we don't make the goal on Kickstarter by Sunday night, we'll have to push that back.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Just that you're a peach for fitting me in. I know you're busy, John. Thank you for your time and attention.


Thanks for doing the interview Jo. You're a classy lady and I'd be happy to interview you again when you ready to make the conclusion to the trilogy. All The Best.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Actor Dave Vescio


Born in Somerset, Pennsylvania in 1970, Dave Vescio began making his own way through life at a very young age, joining the U.S. Army (25th Infantry Division) when he was 18-years old as a combat light infantry soldier with a specialty in jungle warfare. He studied Broadcast Journalism at Virginia Tech after his service, and Vescio soon found himself working as a TV Photojournalist for CBS News.

Performing on screen was always a natural medium, and it was only a matter of time before Vescio was accepted as a full-time student at the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC led by an impressive ensemble, the likes of writer/director David Mamet and actor William H. Macy (Fargo). Dave quickly found his passion for playing the villain in theater plays and feature films.

For ten years Vescio has meticulously perfected his craft, focusing on the antagonist and offbeat roles and developing his own unique style of acting. With his stunning ability to step into the mind of the character, and a preference of provocative and controversial roles, Vescio offers a performance that invades audience’s comfort zone.

Always attracted to the darker side of life, Dave Vescio has performed in over 40 horror and science fiction films, including Syfy’s Gemini Rising, and the thriller Lost Soul. A rapidly rising star, Vescio takes the helm of the villainous role in the blockbuster Hick (2012) alongside a star-studded ensemble including Alec Baldwin, Blake Lively, Juliette Lewis, and Chloe Moretz.  

Other credits include The Millionaire Tour with Dominic Monaghan with upcoming movies in the works that include The Trials of Cate McCall with Kate Beckinsale & Nick Nolte; and The Odd Way Home with Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce Willis & Demi Moore).

What is the current project you are working on?

I’m actually co-producing and co-writing a feature film script that I’m going to star in.  Now, I actually can’t talk about.  But, let’s just say that it’s going to be very controversial; and if you know anything about me, I LOVE doing controversial and provocative movies.  I just love getting underneath the skin of the audience, and fucking with their head. :)

But, I also have a lot of different movies coming out in 2012 and 2013.  I have an end of times movie coming out this summer called ‘Revelation Road 2’ (starring Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth, & Sting the wrestler).  And at the end of the year or the beginning of 2013, my movie with Kate Beckinsale and Nick Nolte will come to movie theater near you, and it’s called ‘The Trials of Cate McCall’.  And sometime later on in 2013, my Rumer Willis (the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) movie will come out as well; it’s called ‘The Odd Way Home’.  Plus, I have a lot of different straight to DVD movies coming out as well, from horror to sci-fi to crime thrillers.

What was it like on the set of "Hick"?

Man; that was the best set that I ever had the privilege to work on.  Everyone brought their A-game to that movie.  My god, it was definitely a great set to work on, and the cast & crew were just phenomenal.  And the director and the writer were the best of the best.  Man, I miss working on a set like that.  That was a great movie shoot for sure.

Why did you become an actor?

Good question.  Umm, for a lot of different reasons… It makes me feel like that I’m still a child again, and that I’m playing all the time.  Plus, it’s so emotional and so real (if you allow it to be), and that definitely gets my blood going.  To turn an imaginary circumstance into an actual truth for not only my self but for the audience as well.  And I just love being able to do that! :)   And it’s truly a challenge like no other.  So much to know, so much to learn, and so much to do to have a career that lasts from decade to decade.  It’s truly competitive, and probably one of the most competitive businesses in the world.   And plus, I have an actual life before acting, because I started acting at the age of 32, so, I’m always trying to incorporate that into my art as well.  As you know, I’m the only ex-con method actor in the world.  So, I’m always trying to bring the truth of the criminal world to each and every one of my characters, and show the younger generations that crime just does not pay.  You will get caught or you will get killed / horribly maimed.

How has David Mamet influenced you?

So much…  I still read his acting book called “True and False” at least once every single year for the past eleven years, and I trained at his acting conservatory in NYC.  I don’t know; the way he teaches acting is just unreal.  It’s all about making the character you, that there is no character, it’s just you up on stage or on the film/TV set.  But, I’m also a Method actor, so, I’m always combining the two techniques and making them as one.  And I will always be in debt to David Mamet.  Always!

What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

The best advice that I can honestly give to any actor on this planet is that: Applied Knowledge is POWER!  The more you know, the more you apply, the more power / success that you’ll have in the end.  So, read every single acting book, business of acting book, business book, and leadership book that you can.  And we’re called Lead Actors for a reason.  It’s our job to not only lead the audience to the story, but, to also lead them through the story.  And it’s called Show Business for a reason as well.  We have to *show* our art to the audience and to the industry by using *business tactics*.  But, the other thing that I truly recommend is that you have to start making your own movies, TV shows, webisodes, theatrical plays, or whatever.  Because once you do that, you’ll then have full control over your art form.  And you won’t just be an actor for hire anymore.  You’ll actually be creating Art that you personally care for, versus what the industry cares for.  And to me, that’s the whole point of being an artist in the first place; to show our own unique truths to the world.

What is your dream role?

I just love creating art that connects with the world’s audience.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a smaller project or a bigger project.  As long as it affects them, and it gets them to want to share it with their friends & family members.  And that’s what ‘Hick’ is doing right now across the world.  Every single day, dozens on dozens of people are Tweeting about the movie and the performances that they just saw.  And my movie ‘The Millionaire Tour’ is slowly doing that as well.  It stars Dominic Monaghan and it’s currently playing everywhere overseas right now; it just has not been released in North America.

If you could arm wrestle anyone who would it be and why?

That’s a funny question! :)   Hmm, most likely a female; I got to have fun you know! :)  Now, I would probably say one of the Playboy Playmates that works at Playboy Radio.  I’ve been interviewed by that radio station twice in the past two years (in person), and I honestly had so much fun on those shows. :)  These Playboy Playmates are great, fun, adorable young women, and super smart, and so, so playful.  They definitely know how to have fun! :)  So, one of them for sure!  And if I had to choose, probably Nikki Leigh; she is so beautiful and such a blast to talk to.  She’s an awesome interviewer!

What's your favorite quote?

That’s a tough one.  I actually like Dr. Scholl’s quote: “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.”  So, that’s probably my most favorite one.  But, I also like the one that I learned in the U.S. Army when I was a combat infantry soldier.  And that’s “Failure is just NOT an option!  Do or die.  There is no try.”  So, as you can see, my two favorite quotes deal with competing and out winning your competition at all costs.  And that’s how I see my life these days.  Always competing and always outsmarting my competition.  Or at least trying to! :)

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Yeah, that anything and everything is possible in life.  You just got to figure out how to exactly do it.  And then do it.  But, EVERYTHING is possible in life.  Just don’t ever quit.  And I mean NEVER.


Thanks for doing the interview Dave. You really creeped me out as "the stranger" in 'Hick'. I'll be on the look out for you in 'Revelation Road 2', 'The Trials of Cate McCall', and 'The Odd Way Home'.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Filmmaker John Shackleton

 John co-wrote and Produced PANIC BUTTON and now WE ARE MONSTERS, which he will also direct. John has directed a number of short films and TV documentaries. Broadcasters include BBC1&2, ITV, Channel 4, Discovery, Sky One, Sky Sports, Extreme Sports Channel, S4C, MTV & CNBC. Short films include BALANCE, ONE OF THE CROWD, FIXED PENALTY, SLEEP TRACKS and GHOSTS OF ABERCWMBOI.

Follow @MovieMogulLtd to keep up with John's latest projects.

Why did you decide to create Movie Mogul Ltd?

I was a freelance producer/director in Cardiff when I hit upon the idea of creating a ‘community generated film fund’. This was before filmmaking had entered the crowd-sourcing arena in the early days of Sellaband. MM was set-up on the back of a Technium award to help pilot the idea. Movie Mogul Fund (MMF), garnered much press interest and support, but sadly failed to generate sufficient funds to take the winning film into production. This was a film called RETREAT, which later went into production on a much higher budget with Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton & Jamie Bell.

MMF’s commercial failure cost me personally and facing bankruptcy, I was forced to review the direction of my company. Re-aligning my own personal filmmaking career with the objectives of MM, and with the help of a modest injection of private equity, MM became a film production company. The business plan was simple – to make commercially oriented feature films for the lowest possible price point. Everything turned around with PANIC BUTTON.

How has the horror genre changed since you started your company?

The Horror genre is becoming increasingly hard to categorise. There are so many sub, sub-genres and widely differing takes on exactly what constitutes horror that just about anything within the low-budget realm with the odd scare, token reference, or splash of blood seems to qualify nowadays. This is a good thing, you only have to look at the diverse range of emerging films that Film4 Frightfest showcase each year to understand that horror is more a place where you can have fun and let your imagination run riot - without fear of too many reprisals!

What is the current project you are working on?

Our next film is a Sci-Fi / Action movie called WE ARE MONSTERS. It nods to many of the horror sub genres, such as vampires, werewolves, alien invasion, mutants, survivalist, but it is also a hearty rites of passage of tale with a pertinent hook, surrounding the difficult financial times in which we now find ourselves.

How did making "Panic Button" prepare you for making "We Are Monsters"?

Panic Button was always a very ambitious, concept-driven project. With the exception of making TV programmes and numerous short films, making PB was my first personal opportunity to test the theory behind filmmaking, and to see if I really did have a grasp over what it takes to make a commercially successful film.

It wasn’t a simple or straightforward process by any stretch, but as a company, myself and producer Gareth I Davies took great reassurance from the fact that the company knowledge and business approach wasn’t too far off the mark, and we chalked the rest up to experience. This gave us confidence as a company to remain concept driven and to keep punching hard above our weight, safe in the knowledge that provided we have the passion project – we can and will make great things happen.

Why do you think the crowdfunding goal for WAM was tripled?

I guess it was kind of inevitable that at some point MM should have a dabble in crowd-funding, now that it has become more established as a viable, alternative means of audience building and fundraising. The truth is that nobody knows or fully understands the mechanics of crowdfunding - who exactly is backing and why? So it’s very much a ‘spray and pray’ tactic that you must undertake, staying on your toes and reacting as you go, it’s hard work for sure.

We actually ran two campaigns – the first was very optimistic with a £100k target. Using the Kickstarter ‘all or nothing’ platform really added to the stress of the 60 day campaign, which closed at around £35k – meaning we received absolutely nothing, despite the masses of support and interest WE ARE MONSTERS garnered. The toughest aspect of this is that the project then carries an ‘unsuccessful’ stigma, which feels counter-productive to all PR efforts!

We rebooted with a sure-fire strategy for success, with a 30-day campaign and a £5k target – which we smashed within 24 hours. We raised a further £5k over the next 27 days, and the final £5k came in largely within the very exciting final 24hrs. We clearly lost the interest of several of our early backers, but 300% funded did wonders for the films image, not least company morale. It wasn’t just the people and project however, a lot of the campaign success  was attributable to the relentless efforts of our campaign/social media manager - Justin Tagg.

Why do some campaigns fail?

Most campaigns succeed when they can appeal directly to an existing fanbase, take Veronica Mars or the BBC Micro Elite video game reboot as prime examples. Most independent films seeking finance however, are new and (hopefully) original ideas, so they have to work a lot harder to convince people to take a punt of them.

Named cast and crew of course can help with this, but not always to huge effect. The old saying that people invest in people is proving to be very true, so filmmakers who cower behind glossy showreels are less likely to find crowdfunding success than those who really put themselves out there and try to infect others with their genuine passion for their project. This is counter-intuitive to many of us, who made a firm decision to stand BEHIND the camera (many with good reason) a long time ago. Unfortunately it’s all part of the process now, so this is no time to be shy!

How did Doug Jones and Maisie Williams become attached to the film?

We’ve taken a conventional approach to casting and have a wonderful agency in Jeremy Zimmermann’s, who love to embrace a bit of lateral thinking as we do. So both Doug Jones and Maisie Williams responded brilliantly to the screenplay and the key antagonist and protagonist roles respectively offered to them. We’re really thrilled to have them onboard, and we have more cast members shaping up now too. WE ARE MONSTERS is becoming a very exciting property!

What is the independent film industry like where you live?

There’s a thriving independent film scene going on in Cardiff right now, and people just seem to be going out there and getting on with it. A few years ago this wasn’t so much the case but the indie ‘get out there and do it’ ethos seems to be riding strong now. You only need to attend nights like Cardiff Mini Film Festival to see how popular the scene is.

Who are your favorite up and coming filmmakers?

Gareth Evans is a really exciting talent to watch, THE RAID just blew me away. In the US, Evan Glodell and the BELLFLOWER guys I find exciting too.

But there’s so much UK talent out there at the moment struggling to break out of their local film scenes that it’s difficult to point at anyone in particular, safe to say that we’re living in exciting times where more and more filmmakers can, and do come from nowhere and achieve a decent level of commercial success.

That’s mainly why we got the short film challenge ‘666 Short Cuts To Hell’ off the ground with Horror Channel and Frightfest. There’s £6,666 prize money up for grabs, Horror Channel, Frighfest and professional jury exposure and a mentorship with us here at Movie Mogul to be won.

Filmmaking competitions like these can be a real leveler that help so many people progress in their careers - not just the competition winners. We’re all very interested to see if this will introduce even more sub-genres to the world of horror too, mix things up and murky the waters that bit more!


Thanks for doing the interview John. I look forward to seeing WAM.  Let me know if WAM and the Movie Mogul crew ever come to Boston.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Actress Libby Pierson

[caption id="attachment_3068" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Libby Pierson-Photo by Clyde Blunt[/caption]

Libby has a real passion for writing and acting--for storytelling in general.  Love of the craft bought her to Los Angeles to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy.  Her mantra has always been that hard work and persistence pay dividends in time.

Her other interests include fashion, modeling, reading, French New Wave cinema, supporting independent movie theaters, and walking.

Click on the links below to find out more about Libby:

What is the current project you are working on?

I'm working on a short script that I'm adapting from a Chekhov play. Also, I just worked on a Cold War Kids music video for the song "Miracle Mile" which should be coming out in the next month or so.

How do you define success?

Making the life one has the reality one wants it to be.

How do you handle rejection?

I try to remember that it's not personal, move on, and focus on the next thing.

Did you always want to be an actress?

Yes, it was always my favorite daydream as a child.

 What inspired you to become an actress?

Definitely classic films and reenacting them with my friends.

 What is the best thing about being one?

Having a reason to be someone else for a little bit.

 What is the worst thing about being one?

Rejection.  Ageism.

 Who is is your favorite actress?

Carey Mulligan, Michelle Williams, Kristen Wiig, Marilyn Monroe, Tuesday Welds

 How has your life changed since you became an actress?

I have a better understanding of who I am because of acting.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to
make it in the movie business?

Don't be scared to do your own projects.

What do you like to do besides acting?

Write, read, troll blogs, watch old movies in theaters.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become an actress?

I'm also a make-up artist.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Breathless, The Misfits, Some Like It Hot, A Woman Is A Woman, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, The Royal Tenebaums, Community, Awake, How I Met Your Mother, 90210, Annie Hall, Chinatown, The Virgin Suicides.

 How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

I live in Los Angeles so it's everywhere, ranging from the largest scales to the smallest units of independent artistry.

How has social media changed the independent film industry?

It's much easier to get the word out about one's projects.  On the other hand, you have to enhance your marketing skills--be good at updating, communicating, and having finished products to show.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

It can be more creative and open-minded.  People are freer to be strange.

 If you could go back in time and see and film being made. Which film
would it be and why?

There are SO many I would choose but if I had to pick one it would be The Misfits.

Do you believe in life on other planets?

haha most definitely

 What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

I'm not really wild about remakes..Why would you want to recreate magic over and over? If someone has executed a movie beautifully already, leave it alone and think of something new.

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?

If it's adapted well, go for it.


Thanks for a wonderful interview Libby.  I wish you all the best with your script. I'll be sure to check out Cold War Kids video for "Miracle Mile." If you get a chance check out an episode of "Doctor Who" called "Blink". It features a great performance (IMHO) by Carey Mulligan.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Writer Liz Shannon Miller

A versatile and experienced writer, with experience including live television and sketch comedy (G4's "Attack of the Show"), online video news and analysis (the tech blog GigaOM) and theater (including the critically acclaimed "Lights Off, Eyes Closed").

Liz knows how to use a semi-colon and has an in-depth understanding of the web content world dating back to 2006. She is hoping to find an opportunity that makes use of at least one of those things.

To find out more about Liz go to

What is the current project you are working on right now?

Right now, I'm working on a number of freelance projects, mostly playing to my understanding of the online video world. I've been writing about YouTube and web series and whatnot since 2006, and observing this industry evolve over the past several years has been fascinating, and has also left me capable of everything from serious journalism to profanity-filled rants to actual scripted content.

I am also (just like every other writer in Hollywood) developing more traditional material, sitcom pilots and screenplays and the like. As Avon Barksdale says, "The game is the game. Always."

What is your favorite film of all time?

If they could figure out a way to combine "The Matrix" and "Casablanca" into one movie, I'd be a happy happy dame.  This question is kind of impossible, though.

What was it like writing for "Attack Of The Show"?

Hilarious and weird in equal measure. You'd come in every morning with no clue what the day would hold -- what ridiculous sketch you'd end up seeing on the air at 4 PM Pacific time -- and we were lucky to work with an incredible roster of talent who made everything we wrote better.

I think my major takeaway was a real love for live television; going live brings a level of spontaneity to the proceedings that made magical things happen. (It also occasionally led to less-than-magical things happening, but such is live television.)

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The same advice I'm trying to follow myself: Always be writing. It doesn't necessarily matter what, as long as writing is happening.

These days, I feel like my job isn't writing -- my job is coaxing myself to the keyboard, by whatever means necessary. Sometimes, this means bribery ("Finish responding to this email interview, and you can watch that British miniseries you downloaded two months ago!"). Sometimes, this means self-denial ("If you don't finish responding to that email interview, then you don't get any coffee"). A lot of times, this means deadlines ("Seriously, Liz, get off your ass and finish responding to that email interview TONIGHT").

Also, breaking big projects down into small pieces makes them much less daunting. A screenplay is hard to write. A fun scene from Act 2? That's easy. Write the fun scene from Act 2, and then the next scene, and the next scene, and eventually et voila -- screenplay.

I do find it really helpful to have a bunch of different projects going on, because there will be days when that book of essays is your enemy, and that sketch idea sounds like a fun thing to play with, and days when the reverse is true. I try to be gentle with myself when the work's not coming, and celebrate the days when the words pour out of me. But above all else, I try to write every day, because a day without writing isn't much of a day at all.

Are you a fan of paradoxes?

I like them when they're well thought out -- which is rare of paradoxes.  My favorite kind of paradoxes are predestination paradoxes, where everything falls into place because of what's come before and after.

What are you most excited to see when "Doctor Who" comes back on the air?

Something new! I love the show, but after two and a half seasons of Amy and Rory, I'm really enjoying what a fresh companion brings to the proceedings. New companions always make "Who" work a little harder, and I think Clara, the new girl, is just what the show needs.

Who is your favorite doctor from the series?

Always will love Eccleston, but the 10th Doctor really does rock that suit.

Are you more a a fan of Kirk or Picard?

Kirk belonged to my mother, so I'm probably more a Picard girl. That said, I love Chris Pine's interpretation of ol' James Tiberius.

Can you explain what exactly is "LizTellsFrank"?

Can and will!  "Liz Tells Frank What Happened In..." ( is a project that began several years ago, when my friend Frank asked me to tell him what happened during the first season of "Bones," and I complied by writing him long letters for a message board we both belonged to.

A couple of years ago, I started telling Frank about films, TV shows and books unrelated to "Bones," and "Liz Tells Frank" has become a blog of nearly 150 posts, the web's number one resource for which "Doctor Who" and "Farscape" episodes to skip and/or watch, and a book.  Actually, TWO books!

It's essentially an opportunity for me to make fun of various pop culture standards, while also providing a valuable public service in preventing Frank and others from having to watch stuff like "Showgirls" or "Madea's Family Reunion." I have never made a profit from "Liz Tells Frank," but I'm having too much fun to care.

How awesome is Michele Martin?

SUPER-AWESOME. That much talent and heart in one person ought to be illegal.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Just that I'm pleased to have been included in this interview series! Thank you for having me.


Thank you doing the interview Liz.   I'm glad we agree Michele Martin is awesome. She's a super classy lady and I'd like to thank her for introducing me to all the greatness that is Liz Shannon Miller.

We'll have to disagree on Doctors. I think Eccleston is great. However, Tom Baker will always be my favorite.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ben Hock Lead Artist Unsinkable Studio

Ben Hock

Ben was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, where he first cultivated his love for drawing and cartooning. Ben spent his childhood and adolescence doodling and soon wound up earning a BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Shortly after graduating, he started Unsinkable Studio, a multi-media animation studio that specializes in advertisements and explainer videos for businesses. Ben loves experimenting with all forms of animation, including paper cut-outs, paint on glass, 2D, 3D, stop-motion and pixilation.


What is "Mile High"?

"Mile High" is an animated web series about 2 friends who are struggling to get things right in high school, a time in their lives when pretty much everything goes wrong. The episodes are based on stuff that actually happened to me or a friend at that time in our lives. I think as you get older you realize that everybody was awkward at that time, even the jocks and prom queens, so everyone should be able to relate to it. The show is called "Mile High" because I grew up in Denver, the "Mile High City," and it just seemed to fit with the high school vibe.

Why did you decide you create this animated web series?

I graduated a couple years ago from art school and since then I've watched myself and friends struggle to find fulfilling work in the animation industry. There are next to no jobs out there, and budgets are tight. It's hard to see really talented people being forced to give up on their dream because the industry is so closed off. Since graduating, I've wanted to start my own little studio that could eventually get bigger. The idea was always to support each other as artists and join forces to make great work. "Mile High" is the first step toward that goal.

Who will be animating and voicing the characters?

I've wrangled a couple of my friends and former classmates to help out with the show, and they both bring a lot of talent to the table. I've designed the style and characters for the show, but I'll be animating each episode with the help of Jean Yi and Kody Roman. Jean will be helping with the character animation, while Kody is our After Effects master. I'm pulling a Seth MacFarlane and voicing most of the characters myself, but I've brought in a few actor friends to voice a bunch of characters too.

What is the key to a successful crowdfunding campaign?

I think the key to having a successful crowdfunding campaign is to have a lot of generous friends, especially if your idea is new. You see a lot of campaigns getting a ton of attention because it's an existing property that people are familiar with and love. It's a little harder when you're asking people to jump on board and give you money for an idea that's new to them. It's harder for people to visualize the project's success. It helped that we had the opening of the show for people to see, but most of the pledges we got were from friends. Since the show is about me and a friend from high school, I used Facebook to let all my high school connections know about it, and we got a huge response. I'm still kind of flattered by how many people that I haven't talked to in years gave money to the show. Then again, maybe they just wanted to see how much of an awkward mess I really was in high school... Either way...

What is your favorite animated series of all time?

It's hard to pick a favorite animated series because there are so many that I love in so many different genres. "Batman the Animated Series" from the early 90's stands out. "King of the Hill" and "Spongebob" are also favorites. I think the one that always gets me, though, is "South Park." The animation is rough, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone would probably be the first to tell you that, but the writing and characterization are just so spot on. I love it because they are never afraid to make fun of absolutely everyone. The show might seem totally crude to some people, but it's incredible how honest it is about what's going on in the world. Plus, there are always bonus jokes that only a Coloradan would get. Friends who watch the show are always flabbergasted when I tell them that Casa Bonita is real and I used to go there all the time as a kid. I love pretty much everything about that show.

Why did you name your company "Unsinkable  Studio"?

I named my company Unsinkable Studio for a couple reasons. I wanted a name that felt strong and hopeful. Kind of like an outcry, "We aren't going to fail and you can't stop us!" The other part of it is to pay homage to my home. The "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, the Titanic survivor, was from Denver and has a museum named after her and everything. It seemed like a more subtle way of reminding myself of where I'm from. Are you starting to see a theme here?

If you could animate any celebrity who would it be and why?

If I could animate any celebrity I'd choose Rex Ryan, the coach of the New York Jets. I know it's kind of a weird answer, but really I'd love to animate any celebrity I just can't stand. Bill O'Reilly and any of the Fox "News" crew, Ann Coulter, Kanye West, Ke$ha... They all stand out. Animation is all about the subtleties of movement that are specific to certain characters and pointing those out. I think because I dislike all of these people so much, I notice all of the annoying things they do that others might miss. They all make my blood boil. On the flip side, there are some celebrities that I love who are so quirky that they are a blast to animate. Last summer I spent a few weeks doing an animated sports show for fun featuring Charles Barkley, who I voiced and animated. His voice and the stuff that comes out of his mouth kills me! I love Sir Charles.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Thanks a lot for your interest in the show! I can't wait for people to see it! The first episode comes out mid-May and will be on our YouTube channel.


Thanks a lot for doing the interview Ben. "Mile High seems like a funny series. I can't wait to see the show. I think you are right I think people will relate to the characters. I know I can.