WES LOCHER: Tell us how you decided that The Image Revolution would be your next project.
PATRICK MEANEY: After completing Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, I was actually looking to take a little break from doing documentaries on comic book creators. But, I had a few stories I wanted to tell still, one of which was a doc on Chris Claremont, who developed X-Men into the massively successful property it is now.
But, I wasn’t sure if that doc would fit in with the same theatrical scale and feature length of the two previous docs, so I came up with the idea of the Comics in Focus series, shorter docs that focused more closely on topics that would be of interest to comics fans. After mentioning the idea for this series, Ales Kot, a comic book writer with several projects coming out from Image later this year, suggested doing the history of Image as the next Comics in Focus doc.
I thought about it and realized that was a pretty perfect story. Rob Liefeld called it “The Social Network of comics,” I think that’s kind of accurate, it’s about a bunch of young people bucking authority and creating something new. There’s a lot of great personalities involved, and it’s close enough in the past that everyone still remembers everything, but long enough ago that people are going to be honest about what happened.
From there, I contacted Eric Stephenson, the publisher of Image, and pitched the idea. The twentieth anniversary, and the recent resurgence of Image as a publisher, made it a great time to do the doc.
WL: Tell us about yourself – your story, your training, and your accomplishments.
PM: I started filmmaking when I was a kid, it was always what I wanted to do, and as I got older, I kept making stuff with my friends, including Jordan Rennert, who’s now my producing partner and the DP on all the documentaries. I went to college at Wesleyan, which has a great film program that produced people like Michael Bay, Joss Whedon and many more.
After graduating from Wesleyan, I went to work for a while at a post house in New York, while working on a webseries called The Third Age with Jordan. The Third Age is a psychedelic drama, which you can check out now at www.thethirdagebegins.com. The series was a great learning experience, and after I got laid off from my job, Jordan and I decided to form a production company and do more of our own projects, as well as for hire work.
At the same time, I was working on turning a series of blog posts about Grant Morrison’s comic book series, The Invisibles, into a book with a publisher of books about comics, Sequart. They had a contact with Grant, and we were planning to interview him for the book. I jumped to the idea of doing a documentary, and we wrote up a pitch, which we sent to Grant’s wife, who gave us the go ahead, and next thing I knew, I was out in California filming with Grant.
The Morrison doc was going well, and we were looking at other projects in comics that might be interesting, and jumped to Warren Ellis, and that became the next documentary we tackled. That one’s just coming out on DVD now.
WL: Why center your documentary on Image comics?
PM: As I mentioned earlier, it’s a great story. Seven young rebels taking on the establishment is pretty wild, and unprecedented in comics. Plus, these guys are all big personalities, and just watching them all on a panel at Image Expo, you could see that these are some visionary, and intense guys.
Beyond that, I think what Image represents is important in comics and outside. Image is a model for creator controlled content, and it’s remarkable that they’ve been able to succeed, and thrive for twenty years without being at all restrictive on their creators. It’s a story that comes out of years of mistreatment in comics, to people like Jack Kirby, and I think Image was a real turning point in the industry, and one I’m excited to explore in more depth.
WL: Will you be contacting any Image creators for this film?
PM: Yup, we’re going to try to interview all the relevant players from the formation years, and also talk to the next generation. I was shooting at Image Expo a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve already interviewed twelve people for the film. In the next couple of months, I’ll be going around and shooting with all the founders, and some other more contemporary creators.
I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to get all seven founders, which I’m really excited about. Comics doesn’t always do the best job of recording its history, so I like to do these docs and make sure that these stories are preserved in peoples’ own words.
WL: What do you hope to accomplish with this documentary?
PM: The major thing is just tell an entertaining story, and hopefully do justice to what the creation of Image meant for comics. I’m definitely wary of not making it a PR piece for Image, and showing all different sides of the story. One of the big things in all these documentaries is I just want to show what happened in the words of the people who were there, and hopefully the interviews will capture the conflicts, the triumphs and the feeling of what it was like to build this company, and see it grow over the past twenty years.
WL: You’re using Kickstarter to help fund the movie. Why go that route?
PM: Kickstarter’s a great tool for a film like this because it’s the kind of thing that’s difficult to find upfront funding for. I don’t really have the money to self finance a project, and because this is such a niche film, there’s not going to be a huge clamor of investors looking to get involved. But, Kickstarter gives you a direct line to the people who want to see the film and lets them ensure that the film gets made.
Media’s changing, and because of online piracy and legitimate streaming surfaces like Netflix and Hulu, you can find most content online for very little money. As the ‘value’ of a movie changes, revenue streams have to change to accompany that. So, Kickstarter gives you a chance to show your support for a project that wouldn’t otherwise exist, and is a great counter to piracy. I think we’ll see the Kickstarter model becoming more prevalent over the next few years.
WL: What other films have you worked on?
PM: As I mentioned, my two biggest projects have been Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts. Those are the only two features I’ve directed, the other big project has been the webseries The Third Age. I’ve worked on a wide variety of music videos, commercials, and other smaller projects which you can get more info on at my company’s site www.respectfilms.com.
WL: What is the most gratifying part of film making?
PM: That’s an interesting question, and one I was actually discussing the other day. There’s a lot of annoying things you go through making a film, and it’s not a situation where you go through all this hassle and then get a great relief from the finished film. It’s nice to see a movie with an audience and see people laugh or react in a strong way, but I think ultimately it’s just about the process of refining for me, those moments when you feel like, I got this right, this part of the story is there.
In the docs, editing is so integral, it’s pretty amazing to work through hours and hours of footage, and one day realize, you have a film here, to see all those disparate voices coalesce into something whole, and then you work on each chunk of the film until everything feels right. That’s pretty great.
WL: How did you get interested in comics?
PM: I had always liked superheroes, but never read that many comics as a kid. After seeing the X-Men movie in 2000, I got the first few Essential X-Men volumes, which had Chris Claremont’s classic run on the book, including stories like Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past, and I loved those. From there, I branched out to stuff like Watchmen, Sandman, Transmetropolitan, and eventually on to Grant Morrison’s stuff.
I was in high school at the time, and remember going on the Warren Ellis Forum at lunchtime, and getting more into comics, and going through the last twenty years of great books in a couple of years. I love a lot of DC and Marvel universe stuff now, but getting into comics, I was actually more on the creator owned Vertigo side.
I think what really drew me to comics was that the best comics were telling stories I wasn’t seeing in other media, longform, complex and imaginative stories. At that time, TV was just starting its new ‘Golden Age,’ so you could only get those stories in comics.
WL: What comics would you recommend to our readers?
PM: I’ve been reading a bunch of Image books to get ready for the doc, and I’d highly recommend ‘Morning Glories,’ which focuses on a group of new students trying to survive at a very mysterious and deadly prep school. It definitely gives you that Lost vibe of really exciting mysteries, only these actually pay off!
Going back to classics, I’d definitely recommend picking up Grant Morrison’s Flex Mentallo when it’s out in trade later this year. It’s one of the greatest superhero stories of all time, and the most personal story Grant’s ever written.
WL: Do you have any other projects in the works?
PM: I’m working now on a short film starring actress/comic book writer Brea Grant called The Viral Man. That will be filming later this month, and we’re hoping to premiere at a late summer or early Fall festival. It’s a big sci-fi post apocalyptic story, done on a small budget. But, hopefully it’ll be satisfying.
There’s also the Comics in Focus doc on Chris Claremont, which will be out sometime this summer. That project links quite nicely to the Image doc, and deals with some of the same issues of creator control and rights management.
I’m also developing a few scripts, including a feature version of my webseries The Third Age, which we’re going to be shopping to investors later this year.
And, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts will be out on DVD in April, so keep an eye out for that.
WL: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
PM: My biggest piece of advice would be just get out there and make stuff. With today’s technology, you can make a great looking film for not very much money, but I think even more important than worrying about making something perfect in the early going is just making a lot of content. I worked on a wide variety of projects in college, and learned a lot of tricks for what worked and didn’t along the way. Just like you wouldn’t expect to go in and record an amazing piece of music the first time you pick up an instrument, it takes a while to figure out how to create a coherent film.
I cringe a bit looking back at some early stuff I did, but it’s all been a learning process, and I hope that each project has gotten better. And, particularly early on, take any opportunity you have to get experience and meet people. I took a job on Craigslist editing a small feature for no money, the film never really went anywhere, but I met a client who wound up getting me the gigs that allowed me to buy all my equipment and start my company.
So, when you’re in the early going, do whatever you can, meet as many people as you can and get involved all over the place.
WL: Where can we find you online?
PM: I’m on Twitter at @patrickmeaney, that’s a good way to stay updated. You can also find more info at my production company website www.respectfilms.com.
FINAL FOUR (asked of all PaperDragonInk guests)
WL: When Zombies take over the world, where will you be?
PM: I’d try to get to an island that’s free of zombies, and spend my days out on the beach. I’ve never really seen zombies attack on a beach, and I imagine they couldn’t operate boats, so hopefully I’d be safe there.
WL: Pick one: Jedi, Ninja, Vampire, Werewolf, Pirate, Fairy or Spartan?
PM: I’d say Jedi, since you’d have the best supernatural powers. Vampire would be tempting, since you could live forever, but I really like being outside in the daytime, so that’s a no go. If I was one of those new style vampire who could go out in the sun, I’d go vamp.
WL: What one piece of art, be it music, book, film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
PM: The work that’s had the biggest impact on me, and what I would ultimately recommend to people is The Invisibles. It’s not for everyone, but the people it connects with are irrevocably altered. Reading The Invisibles made me realize that works of fiction make an impact on reality, and therefore are just as ‘real’ as anything in the world. Without The Invisibles, I definitely wouldn’t be making the films I am now, and I’ve never felt as connected and immersed in any work as I did in that series. Hence, writing a 300 page book about it and doing a documentary on its creator.
WL: Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?
PM: My producing partner on all the docs and in Respect Films Jordan Rennert and I met in Kindergarten and have been friends ever since! I didn’t imagine we’d one day run a company, but strangely enough it’s just worked out. And, we both went to school from elementary to high school with Janna O’Shea, aka @dreamyeyed, a big social media personality in comics who works at Marvel now. So, out of a graduating class of 70, three of us wound up working in comics.
Please consider supporting Patrick and his project, Comics in Focus: The Image Revolution at Kickstarter!
Wes Locher is a lover and writer of comics. Sometimes he’s surprised that Chris Claremont isn’t still writing the X-Men. weslocher.com