Hi everyone. Welcome back to THE HORROR Q&A. Today, my guests are TANYA KLEIN and JIM CIRILE, the team from COVERAGE Ink. The team that's currently working on the finishing touches on the highly anticipated Horror film: Malevolent.
In early April, 2016, I was still pretty wet behind the ears when it came to crowdfunding. I had been checking out the assorted Horror campaigns, when MALEVOLENT, caught my attention. I mean, an animated Horror film?
That immediately received my attention, especially with the A+ genre star power involved. So, I ended up choosing the NAME OF DOOM perk, which in turn intertwined me into the film, briefly. It's an unbelievable opportunity for any Horror fan, such as myself. How cool is that??? Which now brings me to the real stars of the film, Jim and Tanya...
- Thomas Otterman
Thomas Otterman: Hi Jim and Tanya, could you please take a moment to talk about Coverage Ink? What is Coverage Ink? And how did it become to be?
TANYA KLEIN: Coverage, Ink is our screenplay development company and Coverage, Ink Films is the production off-shoot of that. With Coverage, Ink, we help screenwriters, producers, and production companies to polish their scripts by providing screenplay analysis and development help. With Coverage, Ink Films we take writer empowerment one step further by putting writers in control of their material.
T.O. What can you tell us about MALEVOLENT, without revealing any spoilers? How did the concept of the film come together? And are there any social issues being addressed in the film?
JIM CIRILE: We like to describe MALEVOLENT as SAW meets GROUNDHOG DAY. Our original idea came about because we wanted to subvert things a bit. One horror cliché is at the end of the movie, the “final girl” works her way out of the crisis all banged up but victorious after defeating whatever horror haunted her. So we thought, why don’t we start where those movies end: let’s have the lone survivor, our final girl, crawl away from a horrendous night of terror at the beginning of the movie instead of the end. And let’s then send her back to do it all over again.
T.K.: There is some subtle social commentary. Our bad guy is an industrialized warmonger and our heroine is a peace activist. In everything we do, we always try to add an extra level to it that reflects on the messed-up world we live in.
T.O. How long have you worked with animation? What are some of the challenges or difficulties of making an animated film? And how did you address them?
T.K.: The most challenging aspect of an independent animated film, well, this one at least, is making it happen with a tiny budget. We’re not Pixar or Disney. We could not afford to just hire an animation house for example. Essentially, we had to build our own pipeline by looking far and wide for the right people. At one point, we had people on every continent (except Antarctica) working on this movie. The line art took the most time, followed by color. The actual animation phase (in comparison) went rather quickly. We were in production for over three years and have been in post-production since last December, but the end is finally in sight.
J.C.: Because we did have to find and assemble our own international team, there was a fair amount of wheel reinvention and an awful lot of recruiting and testing hundreds of artists, colorists, etc., over a 3-year period. We found most of our people through searching places like deviantart.com, scouring the world for undiscovered talent. Now we do actually have our own animation production studio and after some trial and error, a pretty streamlined workflow process. Took a while to get there though!
T.O. You guys have an amazing cast involved in MALEVOLENT. Can you tell us who is starring in it? And their reaction to the film’s concept? What was it like to work with so many film legends?
T.K.: We have William Shatner (Star Trek) as The Overseer, who acts as our Rod Serling and comments on the action. It’s an interesting role for Shatner – he goes a bit dark here, something we’re not really used to, so that was a lot of fun. He plays it with quiet, charming menace. Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Robocop, Fresh off the Boat) is our warmongering industrialist, the patriarch of the DeKalb family who schemes revenge against his children whom he believes wronged him. Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Deadpool, Gotham) is the Gamemaster, who conducts our horrific games. And Bill Moseley (Devil’s Rejects, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II) plays one of our terrifying henchmen who still sees himself as a lothario despite an acid-burned face and somewhat tweaked personality. We were positively giddy when we had all of these people in the studio recording our script.
J.C.: Working with the captain of the Enterprise, I mean, come on. We’re both huge classic Star Trek fans. Shatner himself was really fun, taking the time to joke around with the team beforehand and then hanging out having coffee and a bagel with us after. We filmed a bit of that and will be releasing it as a DVD extra. It’s a small but crucial role. Honestly, we could not believe it when he agreed to do it! Really, everyone was really friendly and gracious. Morena told us it was the darkness of her character that really appealed to her. Come on, how can you not love this woman? Her role is key to the whole premise – her character is a mysterious otherworldly being who stages and referees bloody conflicts as sport for intergalactic gamblers to wager on – and she has the power to stop the clock, move the players on the field, etc., and screw people over as she sees fit.
T.O. Are you guys horror film fans? What was the first horror film you have viewed at the theatre? What was the first film to give you the shivers?
J.C.: Growing up, I watched a steady diet of Gamera and King Kong and friends on the ABC 4:30 movie, so horror and monsters were imprinted in my brain. I subscribed to Fangoria all through my teen years. I remember at 16 going to see DAY OF THE DEAD with my buddies at the theatre, and despite a pretty high tolerance for gore, that film literally made me lose my lunch. But the movies I’ve always found the scariest are ones that are believable in some way. For example, I found JACOB’S LADDER and FATAL ATTRACTION scarier than a lot of monster movies, because they seems palpable and real. So we always try to keep things somewhat grounded to maintain that element – keep the characters and the world real, so that we empathize. But mainly I love horror/sci-fi – John Carpenter’s THE THING, ALIEN, I mean, you can’t beat that stuff.
T.K.: I’m more of a literary horror fan, having absorbed all the greats – King, Lovecraft, etc., but on the cinematic side, while I’m a big fan of some contemporary horror movies like THE BABADOOK, I find others to be formulaic and just not really scary or captivating. I have to give it to Guillermo Del Toro and his incredible cinematic vision in movies like PAN’S LABYRINTH. Of course, there’s something to be said for the over-the-top insanity of Ash Williams as well.
T.O. Who have been some of your influences? And how did they inspire you?
J.C.: For MALEVOLENT specifically, as Tanya alluded to, we both love EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS, and that outrageous horror comedy tone – there’s perhaps a tiny bit of that in MALEVOLENT. Now our movie is not a comedy at all, but there are some moments where we let the absurdity shine through, to great effect. We looked to things like ARCHER and METALOCALPYSE to see what could be done within our animation style. But also one big influence was things that we’ve seen in horror movies that were just kind of cheesy and sucked, so we tried to stay away from all that crap. Hopefully we succeeded. We’ll see…
T.K.: Two big influences for me on this are Pixar and BABYLON 5, in oddly similar ways. Pixar movies, up until a few years back anyway, were brilliant without exception. And while we are not anywhere close to a Pixar movie in terms of budget or animation quality or anything, the thing that makes their movies work are dimensional, relatable characters, no matter how outrageous a world they may be in. And Straczynski’s writing on B5 was just exquisite – every character so well-drawn and dimensional – same thing, it makes us care, despite the cheap sets, no matter how alien the culture. These are things that set a high bar for us as writers. It’s one reason we did I think 25 drafts over a 18-month period of time before we began pre-production.
T.O. Can we expect to see more animated horror from Coverage, Ink in the near future? Perhaps there is a future project you would like to share?
T.K.: We currently have a few projects in the pipeline. Which comes next and when hasn’t been decided. Right now, we are mainly focused on finishing MALEVOLENT and getting it in front of people. Once that is done, we can assess where we’re at and which way to jump. The next project might not necessarily be animated. It’s been a long road with MALEVOLENT and we might want to take a bit of a break from animation (which takes a long time to complete).
T.O. Will you be participating in any horror conventions in the future? And if so which ones do you plan on attending?
J.C.: No doubt we’ll be out there though in some way. We don’t have a firm release plan for the movie yet or for any sort of panels yet. We’ve only done two panels so far, at Stan Lee’s Comicaze/LA Comic-Con and HawaiiCon, in which we presented some scenes-in-progress.
T.O. What has your experience been so far using Indiegogo? Do you plan on running any future campaigns on the platform? For fans that still want to contribute, how long will MALEVOLENT be on demand for on Indiegogo?
T.K.: Crowdfunding is always quite exhausting. Essentially, if we can get away without a crowdfund, we’ll do so. MALEVOLENT should be up on Indiegogo until this summer.
J.C.: It was a great tool, but you really need to be realistic about the amount of time it’s going to take, not just for the crowdfund itself, but the prep, the team meetings, shooting videos, delivering awards, follow-up notifications and so forth. And then you need to realize you only get about 50 cents on every dollar after taxes, Indiegogo’s cut, and the rewards.
T.O. What has been the reaction to MALEVOLENT on social media so far? When would you guesstimate that MALEVOLENT will be ready for release? And how will someone be able to view it once it is completed? Is there a festival run planned?
T.K.: There’s been lots of positivity coming towards us from the social media sphere. People really seem to spark to the concept and like the artwork. That’s been very gratifying. Currently, the composer and sound designer are doing their thing. And then there will be a bit of a polish. We’ll be ready with a cut by the end of summer/beginning of fall. Everything else really hinges on exactly what our lock date is. If we finish in time for some of the bigger festivals (Sundance, Toronto, SXSW) then we will approach them. If not, we might go straight to distributors.
J.C.: It will be out there soon, we just honestly don’t know exactly what shape that will take yet.
T.O. I am personally also intrigued about Oh The Horror-Larity, how did that come to be? Whose idea was it?
J.C.: You’re referring to our Indiegogo award, in which we’ll be presenting a short version of the movie (around 20 minutes) in which we replace all the characters’ voices with well-known cartoon characters, Muppets, etc. I think that was my stupid idea. I can do most of the Sesame Street Muppets spot-on. Then we found out our director Jason Axinn does a damn great Homer Simpson. And so on.
T.K.: When the movie is done, we’ll have a little get together with our team and after a couple bottles of wine, we’ll roll tape!
T.O. Is there any advice that you would like to pass on to future filmmakers?
T.K. Make sure your script is airtight BEFORE going into pre-production. With Coverage, Ink, we see that way too often. We get a script in that’s easily ten drafts away from being good. Yet the people behind it have already started the casting process and are scouting locations because they think all they need is a polish. It often takes time and many drafts to get something right. Just ask Jordan Peele.
T.O. If you could choose someone to collaborate with on a future project who would it be? And why?
J.C.: It depends on what the project is, but since our mandate is to make ‘elevated geek’ movies, that means we will often get to work with our idols. On our last short movie LIBERATOR, we got to work with Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk,) Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita,) Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG) and Ed Asner (Up.) The one before that, SHOWDOWN OF THE GODZ, the outstanding George Takei played the archivist from Toho Studios whom our hero had to trivia-battle in order to win the job of world’s reining Godzilla expert. We’ll always create opportunities to work with our idols.
T.K.: We tried to get Bruce Campbell for MALEVOLENT, but unfortunately he wasn’t available. He was super nice about it though. Next time!
T.O. What are your top 5 Horror Films? And what makes them so special?
J.C.: THE THING. ALIEN. KING KONG (the original.) ALIENS. EVIL DEAD II. THE FLY remake. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, original and ‘70s. How many is that?
T.K.: SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. CABIN IN THE WOODS. PAN’S LABYRINTH. THE EXORCIST. THE CONJURING.
J.C. All great movies. Plus hey, gotta give it up for SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
T.O. Are you a fan of horror film remakes? And why or why not?
T.K. In theory they should work, but they seldom do. Why? I mean, lots of films could be improved through contemporary filmmaking techniques and special effects, right? But I don’t think I’ve seen many that were very good, except those ones Jim just mentioned.
J.C.: There are certain things you just do not mess with. AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. CARPENTER’S THE THING. EVIL DEAD. PSYCHO. These are movies that should never have been remade. I mean, Raimi already remade Evil Dead once and it was a horror-comedy classic. So now you’re going to remake it and play it straight again? Meh. It’s just hard to recapture that lightning in a bottle, but Hollywood keeps trying.
T.O. What in your opinion makes a good horror Film? What is your favorite horror sub genre?
J.C. As we’ve said, no matter how crazy things are getting, your characters need to be dimensional, relatable. If your characters are paper-thin, we’re not going to care, even if the effects are brilliant.
T.K.: I do love horror fantasy as well as psychological horror. Of course, horror comedy. They don’t make many of them, but when you get it right, they can become beloved and iconic, like RE-ANIMATOR, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
T.O Is there anything else that you like to share at this time with the Horror fans or general fans of cinema?
T.K. The great thing is that all of us can now make movies. The barrier for entry is super low. You don’t need a great camera and equipment anymore. Sure, it helps, but really, you can shoot on an iPhone – just look at TANGERINE. If you’re passionate about something and you’ve written a great script, you don’t have to wait around for someone else to buy it and maybe (or maybe not) make it. Just DIY. Take a filmmaking class, meet some like-minded people and workshop that script until it is tight. Then come up with some money by hook or by crook and just do it.
J.C: Yeah, there are a million make-up effects and CG tutorials online, so you can teach yourself this stuff – of just hire someone great. There are amazing, talented people out there, and you can find them 10,000 miles away in seconds via the interwebs. Just please stay away from stuff that’s played out – right now that’s vampires and zombies, unless you can find a really new, fresh angle.
I would at this time like to thank both Tanya and Jim for their time with the HORROR Q&A, and for all their hard work and dedication on the film.
I can look back and can honestly say that because of Jim and Tanya's consistent supply of updates and the dedication that they have put into MALEVOLENT, it has helped give me the extra push to help out other campaigns and get more involved with crowdfunding.
Malevolent is high up on my list of films I am eager to watch. I would definitely recommend Malevolent to all you fans of Horror and Animation, with the direction that the film has taken it's surely not to disappoint.