Thursday, 22 June 2017

Author Jack Croxall on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

I love post-apocalyptic fiction, especially those books aimed at the young adult market. Wye is one of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read and I gave it a glowing five-star review last year. Naturally I was thrilled when Wye author Jack Croxall offered to write a guest post on his love of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Why I Love Post-Apocalyptic Fiction – Jack Croxall

Jack Croxall Landscape Photo

Our world will end. This is not conjecture, this is a stark and unavoidable fact. Unless we can master interstellar space travel, the sun’s evolution into a planet-engulfing red giant will ultimately spell the end for humanity. Fortunately, it’s a few billion years before we have to worry about that. Unfortunately, there are several other things – asteroid strikes, catastrophic climate change, pandemics – which could easily finish us off long before the sun boils our planet alive.

When humanity begins to fall, it’s easy to imagine that civilisation’s rules will go out of the window. Resources will be limited, and those who are left will have to tussle against one another just to ensure survival from one day to the next. In a world like that, any person would surely show their true colours. This is why I love post-apocalyptic fiction so much. There is no pretence, a post-apocalyptic protagonist will act true to who and what they are. As a reader, this makes it easy to connect with them and their plight.

Knowing that civilisation will end (but not how) also generates lots of wonderful opportunities for storytelling. So many excellent novels have imagined the end in different ways, The Road, Runners and The Walking Dead to name just a few. For both reader and writer, it’s kind of morbidly exciting to imagine how you would act if you ever found yourself in a particular book’s situation – to consider just who YOU really are.

It’s also kind of refreshing. We were born into a society full of rules, rules we mostly weren’t around to help draw up. It’s interesting to imagine a world where all of that is reset. Of course, we First World-ers were also born into a society of medicine, education, technology and (relative) justice. It’s fascinating to wonder whether we would have it in us to survive radically different circumstances. Would we even want to survive them?

Wye (Jack Croxall) Cover

Jack Croxall is an author/scriptwriter living in Nottinghamshire. You can view his post-apocalyptic novel Wye and his other books by clicking here.

Website: Jack Croxall | Twitter: @JackCroxall


Monday, 19 June 2017

Interview: Ryan Bellgardt, director of Gremlin (2017)

Gremlin (2017) shotgun scene

The fabulously fun new horror romp Gremlin is out this July from Uncork’d Entertainment. We caught up with director and writer Ryan Bellgardt on NBA aspirations, the CGI effects for Gremlin and his new project The Jurassic Games.

Where do you hail from, sir?

I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb just north of Oklahoma City.

Did you grow up with supportive parents – ones who encouraged your journey into filmmaking?

Yes they were always very supportive, but I really didn't start making movies until I was out of the house. I grew up wanting to be an NBA basketball player and they supported that even though they must have known I never had a chance to make the NBA! They are both very creative people and encouraged creativity. I never felt like me making movies instead of becoming a lawyer would disappoint them or anything like that.

What was your first project?

My first project on a bigger scale was a pilot for a TV series for children that I had written called Big Magic Book.

How did it go?

I had never done anything like that before and it was film school for me. It was a puppet show in the vein of Mister Rogers. I spent a year working on it and it eventually landed me in the office of the Disney Channel, pitching the show to them. I was really hooked after that. You can see and hear little parts of it in Gremlin. It's the show that Charlie is watching.

Did you do anything different on the new film, Gremlin, from what you did on that first one?

We did a lot of things differently. For one, I wanted to tighten the story and make a shorter, more concise movie. I also wanted to change the tone from goofy and campy (Army of Frankensteins) to dark and desperate. We tried to make a movie that builds tension and suspense. Those are all things I really wanted to see if we could pull off.

Did you use the same crew?

For the most part, yes. Producer/Director of Photography Josh McKamie and Prodicer/Editor Andy Swanson are the core members of the team and Producer Chris Hoyt's contributions really became even more invaluable during Gremlin. Nate Bright and Jenna Green were also back on special effects makeup and they did an amazing job. Also, returning are Composer David S. Hamilton and Sound Designer Ando Johnson. We added Stephanie Roach, our creature animator, to animate the CGI Gremlin. We could not have finished the movie without her amazing work. I really try to surround myself with amazing people and then stick with them. We're growing as filmmakers together and that's exciting.

What about distribution? Same distributor?

Scream Factory released Army of Frankensteins in the US and Gremlin will be released domestically by Uncork'd Entertainment.

You’ve clearly got a background in special effects, by the looks of the film. How was the ‘Gremlin’ created?

We acquired the Gremlin creature model from a CG artist who told us that the model was a reject concept for the remake of the "The Thing". We thought that was very awesome and went right to work rigging it up for animation. Stephanie animated about 150 shots of the Gremlin running around and then I rendered the scenes out of Maya and composited the shots in After Effects.

I've been doing CGI work as a hobby for about 10 years and finally decided I had enough skill to try to tackle a movie. It was pretty exhausting, taking about 6 months for Stephanie and I to complete all the shots for the movie.

How long ago did the journey begin for you on the movie?

I wrote the script in January 2016.

Did it take long to write the script?

I spent maybe a month in the notecard and outline phase and then wrote the first draft of the screenplay really quickly. I remember setting a goal of 10 pages a day for 10 days. I'm pretty sure I hit that.

Once the first draft was complete, I consulted our sales agent (Galen Christy with High Octane Pictures) and we worked together to polish it up and make it attractive as possible to distributors.

Adam Hampton in Gremlin (2017)

Were the cast attached from the outset?

The part of Adam Thatcher was written for my friend and great Writer/Director/Actor Adam Hampton. In retrospect, I maybe should have named him differently because nobody knew if I was talking about him or his character half the time!

How much have those positive reviews helped the film?

I'm not sure yet to be honest, but it's always nice to hear good feedback on your work. What matters to me is that we are able to use what we've learned making these movies and do it better the next time.

Are you working on anything new?

Yes we are! We just finished shooting our third feature film, The Jurassic Games. It's dinosaurs meets death row inmates in a fight to the death!

Gremlin (2017) poster

Emmy Award winning director, Ryan Bellgardt’s (Army of Frankenstein) highly anticipated creature feature Gremlin hits VOD July 11 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Godzilla meets The Ring in a thrilling, uniquely-scripted horror jaunt that boasts amazing computer-generated effects and from some of the best in the game.

Adam receives a mysterious box from a relative containing a creature that will kill everyone he cares about. The only way to be rid of the curse is to give the box to someone he loves. As the ominous timer on the box counts down to its end, he can only imagine the horrors that await. Does he give the box away to save his family, or unleash a monster upon humanity? He can’t destroy it. He can’t escape it. He can only give it to someone he loves…

Adam Hampton, Kristy K. Boone, Catcher Stair, Katie Burgess, Mike Waugh and Caleb Milby star in Gremlin, available everywhere on digital 7/11.


Friday, 16 June 2017

New Music Friday: Mackenzie Shivers Returns with "Names" Video

Mackenzie Shivers

Long time readers of this blog will be no stranger to Mackenzie Shivers, a New York-based artist featured as part of my New Music Friday series last year. 2017 has been quite a year for Mackenzie and earlier this year she embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, making us jealous with her amazing travel pics.


Lake Wanaka, NZ, Wednesday afternoon #nofilter

A post shared by Mackenzie Shivers (@nykenzie) on

It turns out that it wasn't all play for Mackenzie and she returns this month with a brand new music video for her track "Names" off the Living in My Head EP.

Mackenzie told me a bit more about her experience and the inspiration for the track:

The video was shot in Australia's Blue Mountains - an incredible experience that came about after I met Aussie actress and filmmaker Lâle Teoman at NYC's own Rockwood Music Hall!  I have family living in Sydney and decided to make a trip out of it.

"Names" was written after a trip to Washington DC and finding the name of a family friend etched in stone at the Vietnam Memorial.  There was something very stirring about seeing all the beautiful cherry blossoms in the same vicinity as thousands upon thousands of names carved into the memorial.  As the lyrics developed, "Names" turned into a love song - one of the few love songs I've written.

Lâle and I wanted to capture the dream-like state being in love and utilize the beauty of the Blue Mountains to their fullest.  Lyrics "You by any other name would stay just as kind, you by any other name would be my love" are sung with both whimsy and certainty, birds and an epic Australian sunset floating between frames.  The Blue Mountains were the perfect backdrop.

I'm so proud of this video, and working with Lâle in Australia was in itself a dream come true.  I hope you enjoy it.

I have to be honest, I think it would be impossible not to like the video. The cinematography is beautiful as is the track itself. Take a look below and let me know what you think.

The Living In My Head EP is availble to buy from Bandcamp

Links: Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Official Website

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes, London

The Art of the Brick - The Flash

One of the best things about growing up in my house is that my mum let me follow my own interests which is why at a very young age I had a very impressive Lego and Matchbox car collection. Although it is entirely possible that I stole these things from my long-suffering baby brother, five years my junior, I tend to blur on the details.

One thing that was entirely my own was my fascination with Batman and I bunked school on the day Tim Burton’s Batman came out just so that I could catch the first showing at the theatre.

Imagine my joy when Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes came to London. Combining two of my childhood loves, I was absolutely guaranteed of a good day out.

The Art of the Brick - Batman and Robin

Most people have heard of Nathan Sawaya before and indeed, nearly everyone I have spoken to saw the first Art of the Brick show when it showed at Brick Lane. Nathan makes art from Lego and most of his pieces take several days if not weeks to complete. If you’re wondering how hard it can be to make Lego sculptures then you’ve obviously never tried to build a giant Lego airport after throwing away the instructions.

The Art of the Brick - Superman

I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with DC. I simply don’t get why they felt the need to reboot Superman (or why Marvel have rebooted Spiderman more times than I can even bother to count anymore). I also completely lost my appetite for Christopher Nolan’s reboot of Batman after The Dark Knight. I like dark films and have a healthy fascination with horror but there was something beyond horrifying about the film that destroyed Heath Ledger. I digress.

The Art of the Brick - Wonder Woman

There is something for everyone at The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes whether you’re a fan of CW’s The Flash and Arrow, a true Tim Burton fanatic like me or firmly dedicated to the very dark turn DC has taken in recent years.


One aspect of the exhibition that I did not expect was how inspirational and uplifting it was. In amongst all the truly impressive Lego models were inspirational quotes from a variety of authors including JK Rowling. It sounds hackneyed but I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one.

The Art of the Brick - The Joker

My second favourite part of the exhibition was the entire room dedicated to villains from The Joker to The Riddler to Catwoman. There were several models of the Joker and I might have taken altogether too many photos of all of them.

The Art of the Brick - The Joker

The Art of the Brick - Gotham

It was the room dedicated to Gotham that stole my heart though. Complete with its very own Bat Signal, this is the room that took us back to Detective Comics roots and to the very deconstruction of Batman himself and I loved it.

The Art of the Brick - Batman

The Art of the Brick - Batman

I have but one word of warning about the exhibition – do not under any circumstances stop to shop in the store at the end of your visit. I have never seen such rip off prices in my life and the extortionate gift shop prices are the number one complaint on Google and Tripadvisor reviews. You’d be better off bribing your child with a year’s supply of ice cream than letting them browse in that store.

The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes is open until 3 September 2017 on London’s Southbank. Tickets are available on the Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes website and remember, tickets are available on Mondays for just £10. Normal tickets are £16.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions and £11 for children. Family tickets and discounts are available.

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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