From the writer of the upcoming film, THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, and the COLD BLOODED CHILLER series, Robert Heske talks to BelkisNYC about his experience creating comic books, getting a movie deal and what he did to make this happen.
BELKISNYC: Congratulations on The Night Projectionist coming to the big screen. How did you manage to get that deal without the first issue being release yet?
RHESKE: I was fortunate to pitch the original idea to Alex Leung, Managing Director at Studio 407 (www.studio-407.com). Studio 407 has a first-look deal with Myriad Pictures (Jeepers Creepers 2), and had previously optioned a sea monster comic called HYBRID from Studio 407 and co-creator Peter Kwong. Although issue #1 is releasing on February 25th, the rest of The Night Projectionist series is close to buttoned up. Alex has been keeping Myriad privy to the development of the story sharing not only the text, but the galleys as well. So they pretty much know what the “storyboard” is for the entire Night Projectionist series.
However, as we all know, what is on the page never is the same as what gets captured on film. Still, it’s a pretty exciting event – but I’m focused on reaction to the comic series first.
BelkisNYC: Tell us more about The Night Projectionist.
RHeske: It’s being pitched as “30 Days of Night” meets “Scream.”
Believe it or not, the idea was partially inspired by the Oscar-nominated film 12 Angry Men by Director Sidney Lumet (1957). Swap out the 12 jurors and the accused Puerto Rican juvenile accused of knifing his father with Dragos, the Night Projectionist (who happens to be a vampire) and his captive audience who play a pivotal role in the course of events about to unfold and, ultimately, change their belief about the existence of vampires.
I wanted to go back to the old school genre films where vampires are evil and not human love interests (Hello “Twilight”). And I was really intrigued with making the main vampire the night projectionist in a movie theater since that is the environment where most horror fans were introduced to vampires – at the movies.
Here’ the premise in a nutshell:
Crosstown Falls. Halloween Eve. It’s the last night of the condemned town theater, which is closing with an all night Draculathon. But the small group of moviegoers suddenly find themselves trapped inside when the theater is surrounded by a horde of vampires. A deadly siege begins, and the moviegoers soon make the terrifying discovery that the night projectionist is also a member of the coven. Is he friend or foe? The Night Projectionist is a no-holds-barred, bone-chilling tale of blood and revenge.
BelkisNYC: The third issue of your Cold Blooded Chillers anthology was just released. Tell us about this series and what to expect in the latest issue.
RHeske: The premise of the series is: Tales of suburban murder and malice. While horror is a genre (like vampires) that is grossly overdone, I felt that this was one sub genre that hadn’t been handled – at least not in quite a while. Several critics have echoed this same sentiment. The stories aren’t really “gross out” tales per se; they are just deeply disturbing. And a few have kind of a surprising dark justice at the finale.
Issue 3 is the best of the lot. Whereas issue one focused on femme fatales and issue two centered on “distrust thy neighbor,” this issue has a superatural bent. Man is still the worst kind of monster imaginable, but there is an “other-worldy” intervention within each of these stories. Several of the critics who responded well to issues one and two have found this last issue very satisfying.
BelkisNYC: Cold Blooded Chillers was self-published under Heske Horror. What made you decided to create your own publishing company?
RHeske: The truth? It was cheaper than self-producing a film short. I started as a screenwriter. After my short film script called THE WAITING ROOM (which is the main story in issue one, eerily illustrated by Preston Asevedo) was produced, I had kind of a mixed reaction. The final version on film was adapted quite a bit to meet the tastes of the talent and director. It was very well done – but just not the way I originally envisioned the story. (Side note: the short film, called WAITING, stars Richard Schiff, Izabella Miko, and Earl Brown and was directed and co-written by Lisa Demaine.)
From my experience working with Studio 407 on The Night Projectionist I developed a real appreciation of comics and graphic novels. I thought – why spend $20-$30 grand on a badly directed movie where I don’t know what I’m doing when I can spend a third of that to produce 3-4 comic books, tell more stories the way I want them to be told, and hopefully reach a broader audience than film festivals?
It seemed like a no-brainer. Eight months later I have three books under my belt and a perfect-bound anthology coming out in 2-3 weeks.
BelkisNYC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-publish his/her own comic book series?
RHeske: Do it. If you have an imagination and a computer with Internet access, there’s absolutely nothing that should stop you.
BelkisNYC: Tell us how online networking has helped you with your writing endeavors.
RHeske: It’s helped me every step of the way. To create a logo, I went to iFreelance and selected among 20+ bidders to create my brand at low cost. I now use this person for all my file pre-flight work so it’s worked out quite well.
To find artists, I went to comicspace.com, did a search for “horror noir” and previewed galleries of artists I wanted to work with. I “be-friended” them, then contacted them to see if they would be willing to work on a self-published horror series on the cheap. Having already worked on a comic with Studio 407 gave me some cachet, but mostly it was me being upfront and the artists really liking the stories I sent them. That and the flexbility of having 2-3 months to complete a 10-20 pages story.
I also used the Web to find a printer. I used Ka-blam and Comixpress, which are digital print on demand services who also host a website to promote indie comic publisher works. I have also connected with Shane Chesbey at Small Zone (a UK indie comic website) and hope to sell my anthology on HeavyInk.com.
BelkisNYC: Which social networking site is the most influential to you and why?
RHeske: Comicspace.com. That’s where the artists are, and where countless comic fans are too. You can create a web page that showcases your work, and post bulletins announcing when you have any news to share – whether it be an interview, new release, or just a new gallery with pages from a new comic story. I also used Comicspace to find reviewers and interviewers for my comic. I simply read any bulletin that said “Hey, read my review or interview” … and then contacted that publication or website to see if they would review my comic or interview me. It’s worked out great!
BelkisNYC: How do you keep your audience asking for more?
RHeske: That’s the $64,000 question. While I have had great reviews, building an audience of 1,000 true fans that will support my comic and enable me to keep producing, has been a tough obstacle. I’ve been trying several ways to get my brand out – banner ads on Project Wonderful, interviews and reviews at major sites, and I’m doing a trailer that will be posted on over 20 sites in the next 2-3 weeks. I’m also going to explore making the print comic available as a web download. There is a great new beta site out called myebook.com (Sy Whitehall is the mastermind) which will be creating subscription, advertising and POD platforms in the near future. I am going to ride this wave of technology!
BelkisNYC: What’s your biggest fear about the comic book industry?
RHeske: That is lasts. There’s so much talent out there and it is so saturated that finding an audience is a huge task. Literally, like making it to the World Series or the Super Bowl. The bad economy has sucked dry people’s entertainment budgets and the publishing industry is really taking it on the chin. My biggest hope is the Internet where, I believe, web comics will eventually rule the roost and print comics will become secondary income generators.
BelkisNYC: Any closing statements? Advice? Thoughts?
RHeske: I guess I’d just say that I’m late to the comic book craze – I spent my childhood collecting baseball cards (which I sold for a few hundred bucks before the collectibles market boomed – GAHHHH!!); however, I’m glad I stumbled upon it. It’s a great universe of artist, devoted fans, and tremendous story tellers. My favorite book form is now OGNs.
As for advice – support indie comics. That’s where the next Philip K. Dick, Steven King, and William Goldman will come from.
And buy my comics – you’ll get 36-40 pages of horror for only $3 a pop with a diverse range of up-and-coming horror talent behind the wheel. Go to http://www.coldbloodedchillers.com to preview the series, read reviews, and order online. And please call your local comic book store and ask them to order extra copies of The Night Projectionist (Order # DEC084241). Issue #1 of Night Projectionist hits stores on 2/25/09.