Q&A du C-U: Ed Glaser

“Now, They’re Playing with (Micro-Budget) Power!”
An interview with Ed Glaser of PRESS START

by Jason Pankoke

While the consumer tools of this millennium have opened the floodgates for home-based movie production, it can be argued that the rendering of digital characters and environments in cobbled-together basement studios has a ways to go before measuring up to big-league work. Of course, it means that your friendly neighborhood money-impaired auteur must rely on traditional methods to get what he wants, for the most part. It also means that said auteur should not be afraid to embellish a little elbow grease on the low-cost factors that often get wiped away by that digitized Hollywood artifice – character, pacing, nuance, location, and story, story, story.

Champaign filmmaker Ed Glaser and his team have taken this truism to heart with their latest Dark Maze Studios project, PRESS START, stocking up on the aforementioned qualities while incorporating visuals that illustrate its videogame aesthetic without overdoing it. Yes, nods to famous titles of the Eighties and Nineties pile up over 100 minutes like a horde of space invaders eager to please, but PRESS START also holds its own as a micro-budget original which avoids the hairy pitfalls that have thwarted many a licensed mega-budget adaptation.

Although I rarely play today, my brother and I spent numerous adolescent hours parked in front of the early consoles and computers: Atari 2600, Apple IIe, TRS-80, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, Amiga, and a rinky-dink monochrome number from Sears – damn right, Sears! – that was our first. My favorite coin-ops included Tempest, Centipede, TRON, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Robotron 2084, and Time Pilot (even though I still can’t get past the first @%#*#&@ fleet of UFOs; ask Jeff at Exile on Main Street) while LED “table top” editions of Defender and Turtles came along on family trips. The last 2D time-waster I owned was an Asteroids clone called Maelström, installed on my Apple Performa from college. It’s been that long since I regularly tripped the pixel fantastic.

So, as the half-generation behind me overdoses on Nintendo, Sega, and Xbox, I fondly recall the old-school amusements even though the graphics weren’t sleek and the game play not too sophisticated. PRESS START is analogous to those early videogames with its colorful production design and amiable sense of adventure and humor, but it also lays down plenty of in-jokes for the converted and an archetypal quest for those simply looking for a good yarn. In other words, it’s pretty rad.

Think you can handle the many twists and turns of Dark Maze?

If so, then read on, McDuffee…


Jason Pankoke: We’re grateful that you could take some time out of your busy schedule to entertain this fifth-ever original interview for C-U Blogfidential. There’s really no other place to start than with PRESS START, the just-released project from your company, Dark Maze Studios. Given that your prior work has been in the thriller or horror genre, how did you settle on a videogame-inspired adventure for your first feature-length movie?

Ed Glaser: I had actually been interested in doing a videogame parody movie for several years. I think the idea hit me after rediscovering some of the games from my childhood in college and playing them again with friends. I thought it would be a lot of fun to make a movie in which an ordinary guy suddenly finds himself in a videogame world where every game convention, cliché, and absurdity is just daily life for its inhabitants. So I kept the idea on the back burner until I could find a writer who could turn my half-baked concept into an actual screenplay.

JP: The basic idea seems to reference two of the earliest video game-themed movies ever made, from my own Eighties childhood – TRON and THE LAST STARFIGHTER. What do you feel Kevin Folliard contributed that made your original idea workable as a screen story, and where might it differ from similar attempts that your audience might be familiar with?

EG: PRESS START is actually quite unlike TRON or, similarly, the CAPTAIN N cartoon series in that it’s not about someone who gets physically sucked into a videogame and we never say the word “videogame” or the names of real games. No one in the movie says or thinks, “Hey, this is just like that level in Super Mario Bros.!” because to them, there’s no such thing.

Imagine you’ve never played a videogame before. You put in your cartridge or disc for the first time, turn it on, and – if you’ll forgive me – press “start.” The character you control only has your knowledge, an understanding of how real life works but not how the game works. Now imagine you’re that protagonist. You’re suddenly dealing with a lot of very strange things: the ability to carry countless objects in your pockets, eating food off the ground to regain health, and the ethics of walking into a random person’s home and stealing their stuff. That’s the case with Zack, the main character in PRESS START. He’s just woken up to the weirdest day in his life, and in that respect it’s actually a little more like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

When I asked Kevin to write the screenplay, this really was the only guideline I gave him. From there, he created the story and all the characters in it. He’s a big fan of videogames as well, so he was great at taking all the logical absurdities of games and making them fodder for the script. He’s got a real love for the games that’s often lacking in other, more traditional videogame adaptations. And on top of that, he’s a very talented writer and an extremely funny guy.

JP: In the ongoing railing against Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy, one of the more current developments has been the wholesale substitution of pop culture references for actual humor, going so far as to spawn an entire subgenre of comedies dependent on it: SCARY MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, DATE MOVIE, etc. It sounds like the attempt with PRESS START is to tell an archetypal “stranger in a strange land” story where the strange land just happens to be fashioned with “videogame logic.” Would you consider the approach you took to the material as a loving nod or parody, as in your prior film NIGHT OF ANUBIS, or did you push it into absurdist territory?

EG: I’m not sure if any of those things are really exclusive of the others, although PRESS START isn’t really absurdist. It’s obviously a loving parody, and I think there’s a fair bit of winking at the audience, but it’s more than merely an excuse to string a bunch of videogame jokes together. It’s a smart screenplay with a real story and compelling, quirky characters.

Josh Stafford and Lauren Chambers star in PRESS START

JP: You winked at us right off the bat when you released the early publicity photos of your leads in costume. We easily recognize the characters from any number of digital adventures – the ninja, the space warrior, and the wild-haired Martial Arts expert – and hope that part of the enjoyment factor will come from how the movie plays with our expectations of them. Maybe we could talk more specifically about the scenario, which pits the trio against a sorcerer and other assorted ne’er-do-wells.

EG: The premise is classic videogame material. An evil warlord has conquered the world and it’s up to a young hero and his companions to defeat him. In our case, the warlord is the dastardly yet insecure Count Nefarious Vile. Zack, Lin-Ku the ninja, and Sam the space hero must collect three magic relics that will allow them to enter Vile’s fortress. Each relic is in its own “level,” guarded by one of Vile’s minions, a “boss.” If all goes well, they’ll ultimately confront the final boss – Vile himself.

JP: Your crew has gone to great lengths to capture this “videogame sense” in the physical world using standard production elements such as costumes, props, and lighting. You obviously don’t have the budget to go off the deep end with CGI as in SIN CITY, BEOWULF, or SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, but modest computer effects did creep into the show which is appropriate, given your concept. To what extent have you doctored up the movie digitally in post? You have gone so far as to create partial (the “arboreal foe” in the woods) and complete (the little yellow floating guy) characters for your actors to play off of…

EG: Well, I kept the green screen stuff to a bare minimum, as I didn’t have the resources to really do it as well as I’d like. However, we actually have a remarkable number of digital effects in the movie – more than you’d expect from something with a budget as small as ours. Our visual effects guru, Rod Contreras, managed to work miracles for us, creating the exterior of Count Vile’s mountainous lair, the talking tree, Zippy (the cute yellow familiar), a slew of blast and beam effects, and a whole lot more. [These elements were] key to achieving that fantastical videogame look.

JP: Did you have to come up with creative blocking for your actors so they knew how to move through a set or interact with characters that weren’t physically there?

EG: Not as much as you might think. The most important thing was that, for the most part, the camera couldn’t move, in order to make Rod’s job as straightforward as possible. Beyond that, it was mostly a matter of a little careful positioning – for example, making sure no one was blocking where the tree’s face would be – and some creative editing to make it seem as if there was more interaction then there really was. For many of Zippy’s scenes, we had a practical version of him for the actors to look at which was animated over later.

JP: The classic eye-line prop is the “monster-on-a-stick” they would use on the sets of Ray Harryhausen’s films, where they would just stick a monster face with eyes on a piece of cardboard and glue it to a stick. A (presumably bewildered) stage hand would then be asked to menace the actors when they’d roll film.

EG: The monster-on-a-stick is indeed a classic! Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the stick…

JP: So, we should probably introduce the main cast and crew of PRESS START to our readers. From what I can tell based on the prior Dark Maze/Mobled Queen productions that I’ve seen, you work with a unique group that hasn’t really mingled with other movie teams from the area.

EG: I think our group is a unique one in great part because of the demands of this kind of low-budget movie-making. Over my past few films, I’ve formed sort of a core group with the interest, availability, talent, and endurance to do this kind of thing. That being said, there are a lot of “new” faces in PRESS START. That’s actually been one of the really exciting things about this movie – working with a fantastic new bunch of people.

Joshua Stafford plays “Zack,” and I actually worked with him about six years ago on another comedy/parody project. He’s brilliantly funny and a very talented martial artist, which were key assets for the role. Plus, he’s a huge videogame fan, so there was truly no one better suited. Martial Arts ability was important for all the main heroes. That played a big part in casting Lauren Chambers as “Sam” and Al Morrison as “Lin-Ku” [who’ve] also done a fantastic job.

Lauren Chambers, Josh Stafford, and Al Morrison star in PRESS START

Our villain, “Count Nefarious Vile,” is played by the hilarious Peter Davis, a theatre professor at the University of Illinois who has done a great deal of professional acting on stage. In fact, he recently worked with Steppenwolf in Chicago, the theatre company co-founded by Gary Sinise. Peter is a brilliant actor and I was extremely fortunate to have him in PRESS START. I had the chance to direct him a couple of times on stage when I was a theater student, but those were much smaller, shorter projects.

Of course, writer Kevin Folliard and production designer Meagan Benz are familiar names to anyone who has seen my previous movies as are actors Andy Dallas and Ben McDuffee, both of whom have roles in PRESS START.

JP: It’s always a boon, I’d imagine, when you can count on a repertory company to be behind you on film projects. You also have a good sense for creative casting in key and minor roles, such as having professional magician Dallas play an evil mentalist in the DEAD BY DAWN duo and horror merchandise queen Jill Van Voorst play a cop in NIGHT OF ANUBIS.

This time, you’ve one-upped the concept of “cameo” to an amusing degree. Producers of direct-to-video movies are usually hard-pressed to hire B- and C-level actors for minimal roles so they have an excuse to put their (known) name and (semi) recognizable face on the video box art. PRESS START features a bunch of cameos by people who are better known for being heard rather than seen, or being seen in a highly digitized disguise. I guess that’s the blessing and/or curse of working in the videogame industry, huh?

EG: That may be true to some degree, though probably no more so than voice acting for cartoons. But, yes, I was very fortunate to get a number of videogame guest stars involved in PRESS START. We have Daniel and Carlos Pesina, who played “Johnny Cage/Scorpion/Sub-Zero” and “Raiden,” respectively, in the original Mortal Kombat games. In fact, they were pretty much the pioneers for digitizing real actors in videogames. It’s still a bit surreal for me that they’re in PRESS START; MK has always been one of my favorites and I never expected I’d actually be working with anyone involved, particularly the people who played my favorite characters!

Voicing the talking tree in the movie is Arin Hanson, who was the voice of “Bruce Banner” In Marvel Ultimate Alliance. He’s also a well-known videogame satirist himself. He’s created a number of animated parodies of games for MTV’s THE HOLE. Not only does he voice the tree in PRESS START, but he also did several characters for our animated Web cartoon series, PRESS START: BONUS LEVELS.

In fact, we’ve had several videogame guest stars in the BONUS LEVELS ‘toons, which has been a real thrill: John Turk, who played “Sub-Zero” in Mortal Kombat 3 and MK Mythologies; David Humphrey, who was the original voice of “Shadow the Hedgehog” in Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes; and Robert Belgrade, who was the voice of “Alucard” in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. What’s really exciting is that they’ve all had a lot of fun doing it!

Having all these actual videogame actors involved, who have been doing this just for the fun of it, really speaks volumes about the project, I think. Despite its miniscule budget, this isn’t just some haphazardly-made fan movie. It’s something truly unique and exciting.

Josh Stafford and Carlos Pesina star in PRESS START

JP: Part of that uniqueness is due to the BONUS LEVELS cartoons you just mentioned, a creative meld of movie promotion and original entertainment that presumably doesn’t rehash events from the live-action version. You’ve been posting these on-line for some time now; how were you able to turn out such a prolific amount of animation in short order?

EG: The short answer is that it was a combination of “division of labor” and “cut and paste.” We took a very Filmation-esque approach to the BONUS LEVELS cartoons, steadily building up a library of stock art and animation that could be reused in multiple episodes. [Filmation is best known for its early Eighties television series, including HE-MAN, SHE-RA, and FLASH GORDON. – ed.] Kevin’s drawing style was intentionally simplistic to make the process as fast as possible, since we had a schedule for releasing them.

We knew we couldn’t have the snazziest looking cartoons on the ‘net – and indeed, Kevin was teaching himself Flash as he went – so we had to excel in other areas. Kevin’s scripts were fantastic, and I can truly say that we have hands-down some of the best voice acting of any Flash cartoon or series.

Doing cartoons was completely new for us, but I was keen on approaching BONUS LEVELS as seriously as any other production. Kevin would write the episodes, we’d revise the scripts, and then I’d gather and/or hire the voice talent and direct the recording sessions. Then, I’d create the sound mix and send it off to Kevin to animate [in Chicago]. Kevin would send me the rough cuts, I’d make notes, and we’d keep tweaking until it was all set.

I say that Kevin’s artwork is simplistic, but it’s also very quirky and I think that’s what makes it work so well. The “cheapness” of the animation probably prepares people for the low-budget-ness of the live-action movie!

JP: I’d describe the animation quality with the more forgiving phrase, “rough around the edges,” since to me they play like “Fractured Fairy Tales” versions of the games on the early home systems like Atari 2600, Intellivision, and ColecoVision.

EG: Absolutely! And by simplistic, I certainly don’t mean “crude” or “childish.” But rather, when it came down to a choice between adding lots of detail and actually getting everything done in time, it had to be the latter.

JP: Before moving on, we can’t forget to mention one additional contributor – Jake Kaufman! His rousing score adds an epic sweep to PRESS START that many indie filmmakers would die for. Tell us what it was like working long-distance with a musician that made the leap from videogames to movies on your project.

EG: Jake is phenomenal. Working with him was a breeze, actually, because we were on the same page the whole time. Thanks to some modern Internet marvels, the distance was never really an issue. We went over a rough cut of the movie via Skype, one of those on-line voice-chat programs, using a video of the movie instead of a Webcam. That’s how we plotted out all the music cues. It was a blast because we’d often have the same ideas, or I’d suggest something and he’d try it out with his keyboard that was hooked up to the computer. It felt very high-tech. We’d keep each other posted via e-mail, instant messages, or Skype.

Jake was the perfect choice for scoring PRESS START. He’s a brilliant and versatile game composer with a great sense of humor. I became a huge fan of his after hearing his really clever remixes of existing game music, and I was floored by his original work. In fact, Contra 4 is worth checking out for his music alone. You’d never know Jake hadn’t done a film score before because he just nailed it from the get-go.

Peter Davis stars in PRESS START

JP: Jake recently visited C-U for the first time when Dark Maze double-premiered PRESS START with a DVD release in September and a big-screen event at Champaign’s Virginia Theatre in October. What has been the general consensus so far, and what kind of exposure are you hoping to give the movie in the coming months?

EG: The response has been amazing. The reviews have all been extremely positive, and even the people who bought [PRESS START] expecting it to be bad changed their minds after watching it. It’s been very rewarding.

We’ll continue to screen PRESS START at as many venues as we can, particularly gaming conventions. In fact, we’ll be showing it at MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) in Virginia in January. In the meantime, more BONUS LEVELS cartoons are coming!

JP: Sounds like a plan. Now, if I remember correctly, you folks originally had a horror story in mind for your first feature-length project before you settled upon PRESS START. What became of that?

EG: It was basically a priorities thing. The horror flick sort of got moved to the back burner once I discovered that PRESS START was finally doable. Plus, the horror movie wasn’t particularly feasible at the time. If it helps bridge the gap, though, PRESS START does have a few zombies!

JP: Didn’t NIGHT OF ANUBIS have a bit of non-mummy, living dead action as well? I remember Jill getting swarmed by … something … while the main characters escaped…

EG: Yep! That was my first attempt at a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-style zombie battle. The ones in PRESS START are much more cartoonish, though.

JP: Maybe it was a canny decision on your part to go with a project that had much less of a filmic legacy preceding it, which hopefully will call more attention to it. Besides, we’ve had enough zombies shuffling around here lately. Bloomington had its LATE AFTERNOON OF THE LIVING DEAD, Taylorville weathered a ZOMBIE MOVIE, and townies in the C-U “scene” have been working on an underground monster mash called DUCKMAN VS. ZOMBIE. Even THE TRANSIENT features a “tracker zombie” named “Spot.” Eek!

EG: That has a lot to do with it and it’s another reason I’ve gone away from the genre. It’s virtually impossible to make a low-budget horror movie that stands out these days; rental stores are flooded with awful direct-to-video horror titles. I may come back to it once I have something original to say.

Ben McDuffee stars in DEAD BY DAWN 2: THE MASK OF CONRAD

JP: Dark Maze has now produced a bunch of projects in relatively short order: PRESS START, NIGHT OF ANUBIS, the “Marathon of Fright” with DEAD BY DAWN 1 & 2, and some prior short films. How far do you think your micro-studio has come since you started, and what do you think the future holds for it?

EG: I can truly say, all modesty aside, that we now have a better camera.

Seriously, though, it’s come a long way. Each movie has been a big learning experience. I’m not sure if there’s really a good way to quantify our progress, but I think it says something when a few years ago, no one knew about us and now thousands of people are watching our cartoons and on-line message boards have topics about PRESS START. We’re certainly not in “the big time” yet, of course, but I think that PRESS START is by far my most exciting project to date and I’d like to do much more with it if there’s enough interest.

JP: At the least, you will probably have a bottomless well of funny titles to choose from for sequels: PRESS START AGAIN, PRESS START XIII: GAME OVER, PRESS START XX: ZIPPY’S REVENGE…

How did you get interested in filmmaking and what keeps you going, even on the proverbial micro-budget?

EG: I think my interest started with MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. I’d watch all the terrible movies on that show and think, “Geez, I could make better movies than that.” So, I picked up a video camera and gave it a shot. I fell in love with movie-making and just kept at it. It doesn’t earn me a living but I’m doing everything I can to change that.

JP: Casual surfers of the Dark Maze Web site might wonder, then, what exactly the original CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY are doing there. While the latter certainly has a dubious reputation as one of the cheaply dubbed Mexican programmers from the late Fifties, the former has a long-standing status as an early classic from German Expressionist cinema. You probably aren’t pulling an MST3K on them nor are you a public domain label, which means…

EG: Well, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI was part of the “Marathon of Fright” event/DVD we did a few years back. It’s a re-scored version that I put together with Steve “Acrylic Flames” Wentzel, who has done the music for a few of my movies. It’s an industrial soundtrack which I feel evokes a lot of the same emotions as the movie’s visuals and compliments the film really well. CALIGARI is one of my favorite films, so it was a fun project to do.

ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY was actually created as an episode of a local television show called THE NOCTURNAL JOURNAL, a sort of “Creature Features” show like Elvira or Svengoolie but, in this case, featuring a comedy trio [called] The Captain, Willy, and Chester. It’s not quite MST3K, but the movie breaks regularly for reactions and skits from the three poor souls subjected to it. AZTEC MUMMY premiered at the second “Marathon of Fright” in 2005 and never quite found its way to DVD. I’ll probably be finishing that up shortly.

JP: I remember going to the 2004 “Marathon of Fright” when you premiered DEAD BY DAWN 2 which, of course, references THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI in its storyline and the more contemporary EVIL DEAD 2 in its title. [DEAD BY DAWN was ED2’s original subtitle when it was first released in 1987. – ed.] I liked how MoF echoed the lost tradition of the “monster show,” where theaters would show double- or triple-bills of monster movies with cartoons and have real live people shambling about in costume.

EG: I’m fascinated by people like Sandy Frank, Joseph Levine, K. Gordon Murray, and all those folks who brought over foreign monster movies in the Fifties and Sixties. Even though it was before my time, I lament the loss of the way monster/horror movies were made and presented back then. That’s part of why I wanted to do a “monster show” thing with the DEAD BY DAWN movies.

Andy Dallas and Kevin Folliard star in NIGHT OF ANUBIS

JP: Although you guys didn’t break out a Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster, you at least had Andy Dallas in devious “Dr. Krauss” mode doing magic tricks which was still cool. Maybe that’s one thing we should talk about – your working relationship with Dallas. What does he bring to the Dark Maze table?

EG: Andy brings a great deal, actually. In addition to his acting and performing talents, he has frequently lent us his skills as a special make-up effects artist, assistance with set construction, and general business-savvy advice. He’s even used his talent as a magician to make a number of practical effects possible. Moreover, he graciously allowed us to use warehouse space at Dallas & Company to film key scenes in several of my movies. He’s been immensely generous and genuinely enjoys being a part of all this, which is a real thrill. Without him my last several films, including PRESS START, would not have been possible. I can’t thank him enough.

JP: Dallas is an interesting presence in local movies precisely because you don’t see him often in front of the camera. His poise gave some needed heft to the deviousness going on in the DEAD BY DAWN duo. You should seriously work up a project that places his interests in illusion and magic in the forefront and takes advantage of his innumerable props. Is it any mystery as to why he plays “the Shopkeeper” in PRESS START?

Since we’re back on the subject of technique, let’s talk a bit more regarding the tools of your low-budget trade. I’d like to learn about the basic equipment that your team used for the production and post-production of PRESS START. You haven’t mentioned “the workplace” as of yet, so I’m presuming that the “studio” component of Dark Maze Studios is completely established on the side.

EG: Well, the “studio” – at least, for post-production – is a 10-by-10 room in my apartment where I’ve crammed in a computer, studio monitor, microphone, mixer, production libraries, reference books, and much more than should really fit. However, thanks to the miracle of digital filmmaking, it’s not completely impossible. No towers of film cans, Movieola, tape decks, enormous mixers, or anything like that. It’s where I did all the editing, dubbing, and Foley work, plus all the recording for the BONUS LEVELS cartoons.

On the set, which was anything from Allerton Park [near Monticello] to a garage or warehouse with a set made of 8-by-4 Styrofoam walls, I used a Panasonic three-chip digital video camera, tripod or cheap rigged “steady-cam,” and a few cheap work lights with gels taped to them. It really doesn’t get any less fancy.

JP: The producers’ commentary track on the PRESS START DVD reveals a lot of the tricks that were necessary to make a shot happen, particularly in dealing with tight spaces or open areas with undesirable elements (houses, parking lots, etc.) lurking just out of camera view. I thought the funniest example had to do with the tent dialogue scenes, apparently the first ones shot for the movie…

EG: Yeah, those were all done in my apartment. It was winter, so there was no way it was going to be shot outdoors around a campfire as originally scripted. So, we pitched a tent in my living room and lit the scene by waving a light behind an orange gel to give the impression of a campfire. Many of those shots are framed so that if you moved the camera just a few degrees, you’d see my television set, sofa, and DVD collection. However, by adding some outdoor ambience and the crackle of the fire to the sound mix, you’d never know!

JP: The footage looks pretty good, no matter how spare the tools you used. Given the “computer culture” basis behind PRESS START, did you ever pause for a moment during production and wonder how in the world you were going to pull off this movie using blood, sweat, and duct tape?

EG: I think you just described virtually every moment of every day making the movie. I’m not sure there was a single aspect of it that wasn’t almost completely daunting. Everything from costumes and props to locations, music, and visual effects were a matter of, “How on earth are we going to do this?” The answer was that I was fortunate enough to have an absurdly dedicated group of people who shared my vision and were determined to make it work no matter the odds.


F I V E & O U T
Tell us, Smilin’ Ed:

• What you’ve made:

HUNTED (2002)
A 20-minute horror short loosely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

An admittedly poorly-done update of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. However, it was made with a lot of heart and a wonderfully evil performance by Andy Dallas.

DEAD BY DAWN 2 (2004)
An exponentially better sequel to the above, featuring an even more wonderfully evil performance by Andy Dallas.

Not my own film, of course, but a rescored version of the 1919 classic featuring a new industrial score.

A Roger Corman-esque mummy adventure movie set on a university campus.

Comedy trio The Captain, Willy, and Chester host the cheesy 1959 Mexi-horror “classic.”

My first feature film, a videogame parody.

• Which do you like best – film, video, or digital:

High-definition video; it’s wonderfully cheap and the quality is phenomenal these days. Even though I’m still working in standard definition…

• Where is your geographical preference –Champaign, Urbana, the UIUC campus, or beyond city limits:

For outdoor stuff, usually beyond city limits (e.g., Allerton Park) or campus (e.g., Japan House). There’s regrettably not a lot of really exciting architecture in Champaign-Urbana. Indoors is really whatever the script calls for, but for building sets from scratch I can’t beat the Dallas & Company warehouse in Champaign or a good garage…

• Who or what interests you in the realm of contemporary filmmaking:

Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY, GRINDHOUSE), for taking Roger Corman’s budget-conscious approach to filmmaking and making it an asset rather than a hindrance. And, because his films rock.

• Apart from your own movies, the one underappreciated gem that you think people should bend over backwards to check out is:

GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. Currently the last in the Godzilla franchise, it is perhaps the greatest action movie ever made. There’s not just giant monsters duking it out better than in any previous film, but also Kung-Fu fighting, Kung-Fu fighting on motorcycles, space battles, great characters, and Ultimate Fighting contestant Don Frye in a role that could make Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone jealous.


Interview conducted August-December 2007 via e-mail.

All photos courtesy of
Ed Glaser/Dark Maze Studios.

Web Source: Dark Maze Studios [http://www.darkmaze.com/]




CUBlog Interview No.5 © 2007 Jason Pankoke


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