From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-virginia-with-love-a-documentary/x/260537

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at http://aris.fm

and on social media at -

http://twitter.com/arisziagos

http://youtube.com/arisziagos

http://instagram.com/arisziagos

http://facebook.com/arismusic

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.

Aris Ziagos: CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT: MUSIC!

WISH WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT IT: TRUMP!

Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Help Derrick Ashong Take Back the Mic and be part of a Musical Movement

I’ve know Derrick Ashong through mutual friends for a few years now and have always enjoyed what he has to say, what he’s doing, and respected what he stands for. He is a perfect combination of activist, humanitarian, intellect, and soul. I’ve known him as a talk radio host as well as a musician and admired how he looks at the world. I recently found out that he was starting an Indiegogo campaign to change the game of hip hop and help artists get wider exposure. I did not hesitate at the chance to get involved. We’ve all read/heard/seen how music can transform lives, bridge gaps, and even aid in education. We’ve also watched as our culture has suffered due to lack of funding while artists struggle because they can’t catch that initial break they need.

Enter Take Back the Mic where you and I can help aspiring talent while having fun doing it! Think American Idol with the ease of an app where you can keep up with your favorite artists and vote for them to advance. No snarky judges, just FANS supporting their favorites and deciding what happens next. Please be sure to LIKE them on Facebook and FOLLOW them on Twitter, show your support, keep up with them, and share on your various social media platforms. 

I have to say that honored doesn’t begin to describe my feelings on being given the opportunity to interview Derrick or having the chance to be involved in this project in even a small way. I will let him explain it all further for you, enjoy!

Q: Tell me a little bit about what motivated you to start “Take Back the Mic?

Derrick Ashong: I was on a trip back to my hometown Accra, Ghana back in the early 2000′s and I noticed two significant things: first, unlike my previous trip a few years earlier where all the clubs & DJs were playing mostly American Hip Hop, the airwaves were now dominated by music with heavy, hybrid beats that supported lyrical flights in our indigenous languages.

This new style was called “Hip Life” – a hybrid between Hip Hop and Ghanaian Highlife, and the whole country, from little kids to my grandma were jamming to it.

The second thing that happened on that trip, is I got called a n*gger while walking down the street.  The guy who said it didn’t mean any harm, he was trying to be cool, colloquial and shout out the “American” in the way he thought Americans talk.  But it was the first term I’d ever heard that word in my homeland and it was a powerful reminder that US popular culture has a massive impact around the world.

Looking at those two factors – on the one hand we were taking Hip Hop and making it our own, and on the other, Hip Hop was reshaping us in “it’s own image” – made me really ask myself who decides what matters in our culture?  Who decides who “we” are?  And the more I thought about it the more I became obsessed with not so much what the answer was, but what it should be: “we do.”

That year, while walking the streets of Accra, I realized that not only was an entire generation worldwide using Hip Hop to define itself, but that definition could be empowering or degrading depending on whose voices spoke the loudest to the rest of the world.  I wondered what would we happen to global youth culture, if we did something as simple as amplify some new voices.  That was the birth of “Take Back the Mic.”

Q: How important do you think crowdfunding is for an artist today?

DA: I think crowdfunding is crucial for artists today, and as a creative I feel like I’m truly in the right place at the right time.  Go back a couple of decades and the cost of recording an album would have been prohibitive for most independent artists, and there was no reliable mechanism for harnessing the power of their networks to make those projects a reality.

Today it’s much cheaper to record, produce, shoot, edit, master, do FX, the whole nine.  For the first time in human history creatives of various stripes have the toolset to not only produce amazing, high-end works relatively cheaply, but they now have the ability to offer other people the opportunity to be a part of bringing beautiful and meaningful creations to life.

The power in crowdfunding is not only in the ability to harness capital towards a positive end, it’s in the opportunity to galvanize communities in collective actions to create art that reflects who we are.  It is the definition of taking back the mic.

Q: Hip Hop has become a language and a means of expression for many. What does music, and especially Hip Hop, mean to you on a personal level? For society as a whole?

DA: I’m an Afropolitan – a 21st Century product of a globalized world.  I grew up in Ghana, Brooklyn, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jersey.  As a kid I moved every four years until I was 20.  For me music was always more than entertainment, it was a through-current that helped me form and maintain my identity, while also creating a bridge to the different cultures I grew up around.

Hip Hop was particularly impactful for me, in part because I was living in New York around the time it was born.  I was too young to really understand what was going on around me – what a “break beat” was, when we were “breakdancing” to it – but I like a lot of people had this sense that this is truly “our” music.  There’s been a loud debate lately about cultural appropriation in Hip Hop.  If you look at music historically, though, cultural appropriation is a given for any music whose influence reaches beyond the confines of its origins.  The bigger the impact your sound makes, the more other people believe in and want to belong to it.

Music is culture in motion.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with many people drawing from and contributing to that evolving culture mix.  The trouble I see for our society is much more fundamental – what value do we place on the people who create our “culture”.  Everybody loooves to see boobs and bragadoccio in their Hip Hop artists, but we then we turn Black youth outsiders, people who’s lives are just…less than, despite the fact that their irrepressible creativity has helped to form ALL of our identities.

If you look at American Hip Hop today, frankly a lot of it has lost it’s soul.  In reality, that’s part of the lifecycle of any music.  Rather than blame the artists, the industry, the society etc., I believe we should channel our energies to supporting music that still makes us feel something.  And when you look at what artists are doing around the world you find that Hip Hop culture has far from run it’s course – in many ways it’s only now finding it’s voice.  And that is very much the voice of the global streets.

Q: You are a very busy man who is always one step ahead of the crowd. What else are you working on right now?

DA: To be honest this project is so big, for a team this small, that I can’t really do anything else.  With the exception of playing with my kids and my guitar, and periodically hitting the gym, I’m all-in on this.

Q: So many people are struggling to bring their dreams to life. What advice would you give to up and coming artists?

DA: Find a way to make money doing something you can believe in, that leaves room for you to build and develop your craft.  Artistry is like entrepreneurship, in that ultimately it’s not so much a sprint as a marathon.  You might not even get good at what you do for a decade or more.  Give yourself the time to become the artist you want to be.  And if you want to make $$ in a way that makes sense for your creativity – learn to do something hard, that other people can’t or won’t.  You’ll wind up getting paid more for less time, and the balance you can invest in yourself and your work.

Q: What would you say to those people who are at the end of their rope and ready to give up hope of ever making it work?

DA: Take a nap.  Get something to eat.  Watch a funny movie.  Get a day job, take a break for a couple of months.  Whatever you need to do to maintain your sanity and keep the lights on.  When you reach the end of your rope stop.  Find some more rope.  Then keep moving.

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without? What is one thing you wish we could all live without?

DA: The one thing I cannot live without are actually two – my little daughters who use my head for a treadmill and swear I was put on earth to be a living jungle-gym.  I guess God made them cute so they can get away with…everything.  Then again, if not for my wife these two would have killed me a long time ago so umm…yeah I’d have to say it’s her.

The one thing I wish we could all live without right now is Pete Carroll. 1 yard bro.  1 YARD!! Sorry…I’m not even a Seattle fan and it still hurts.

Q: Where can people find you, Derrick Ashong, online, so they can keep up with all that you do?

DA: The best place to connect with me is on Twitter: @DNAtv.  And of course peep www.takebackthemic.com to meet some phenomenal global talents as we build the first ever World Cup of Hip Hop!!  PEACE, D.N.A

I’d like to thank Derrick for taking time to talk to me! I encourage you to check out Take Back the Mic to find out how you can help! There are some pretty interesting PERKS:

Throuple is the Little Drama that Should and Could with your help

I have known James Townsend for a few years now as an artist and photographer but I was recently introduced to another side of him, Filmmaker. I came across some information about a film he is trying to fund called “Throuple” when I found a group he has on Facebook.
The concept of the “Throuple” is fascinating to me from a psychological standpoint because relationships have changed so much and continue to do so all the time. Traditional values may not work for some people while for others it is all they are comfortable with. Is there a right and wrong or does it depend on the individuals involved and the circumstances?
I was very happy to be able to interview James about it since this is the first time we have really gotten to talk in depth and I was interested to learn more about him as well as “Throuple”.
Q: Throuple was originally a 2007 project. Can you tell me a little about what happened that stalled it and why you decided to resurrect it?
JT: THROUPLE began in late 2007 as a small character drama centered on what attributes define, make and break a relationship. At the time, I had just wrapped production on another psychological-thriller, A SIREN IN THE DARK, and THROUPLE was to be a quick little project to stir some creative drive until a larger project would move forward. The original idea of THROUPLE had been there from the start. Some of the story was sparked from personal experiences with cheating boyfriends of the past and the conflict of having been in a long-term relationship previously with someone myself, but knowing I was still in love with someone else outside of things. While I had the basic plot in focus, there was still a lot to be explored by it. I wanted the film to be small, intimate and even claustrophobic, with its minimal locations and next-to-nothing list of characters… think Richard Linklater’s “TAPE”… or Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”– pieces that resulted in great tension and character breakdowns without much overall action… 

In trying to bring the story full circle, my friend Caleb Carter got involved. We had a lot of similar tastes in film and in turn, our storytelling meshed well. With Caleb, as a co-writer, the film started taking a darker twist, allowing it to meander from reality to dream, present to past and future, in a more philosophical yet nightmarish way…

Originally we had very little budget for THROUPLE… We had cast and crew working for meal/credit and hopefully deferred pay. We were filming it on nonconsecutive days in our spare time when we were able to get everyone together based on their work schedules, etc. We were paying for everything needed from our own pockets. Needless to say, it was a difficult task and wore people thin on patience. We were having to cut a lot of corners due to certain agreements falling through with locations originally offered for free, having people simply not show up to help out as promised for various reasons etc. It got to the point that we actually built the recurring “dive-bar” in the story, in my living room, since the location we had planned to use backed out… THROUPLE was really pulling at our creative drive and making us utilize what we had on mere pennies. 

We reached the point that we had about three days of filming left, and we found ourselves at a stand-still… People had left town for work or vacations, school had started back up again– I was moving to a new apartment, which became a huge obstacle, as 90% of the film took place in my current residence… With so many holes in our path, we decided to take a breather. 
With everyone being so busy with conflicting schedules, it was difficult to get back on track but we knew it had to be done. We were so close to being finished. Several months passed and I wound up calling Caleb specifically about the film and we brainstormed on how we could make it work, being that we no longer had access to the original apartment, etc. We decided to just utilize what we had, establish in the story that the characters had moved or whatnot– implement some lines and a scene or two to warrant such changes… We were going to make it work. Caleb seemed energized and ready to go. I immediately started putting word out to those involved, so that we could schedule things out… It never panned out.

About a week or so later, in February 2009, I logged onto Facebook one morning as I always do and stumbled upon some posts… Caleb had passed away. Over the next few days, more would come forward about his death… he had taken his own life. I instantly lost interest in the film. We had lost one of our lead actors, and more importantly a good friend…

Over the years, THROUPLE, has come in and out of my mind. At some point we did try to finish it by pulling a David Lynch type trick and having characters change identity so that we could finish their roles with new actors. It was a disaster and I shelved the project feeling that it would be unfair on too many levels to pull such an antic.

For the past year or so, the film hadn’t really crossed my mind much. But, recently I found an original hardcopy of the script in a box I was going through. It had all of our handwritten notes, doodles, inside jokes, etc. scribbled on its pages. I sat down to read it, following along with the notes included. I just had this huge urge to make it all come to reality… with a new cast and a few rewrites and needed updates. I hope to move forward… to make the film from start to finish with the budget and attention it deserves… while being able to show some of the original footage, behind the scenes moments, etc. to shed light on the history of the project and bring it to a close properly… That strong urge do to get it produced and released feels a lot like Caleb yelling at me to simply do so! 

Q: The concept of Throuple is about three people getting into a romantic relationship. Do you think that such a thing is possible without it getting complicated or someone getting hurt?
JT: Everyone is different on their ideas of love and relationships. I have known most people to believe that strictly one partner is the correct thing… Yet, others believe in open-relationships… And, I’ve even known some that believe in “sets” (whereas there are multiple partners all under one roof and everyone belongs to everyone). For me, I can’t say anything but one person at a time would work romantically. But, there are so many different forms of love and understanding when it comes to relationships, that some of these less common make-ups could definitely work better for others…
In THROUPLE you see these characters move forward with what seems to be one-on-one relationships… But, as the layers are pulled back, things are not quite what they seem. They sort of find themselves in this forced situation of “love” as they are unable to define what it is one or the other wants. There is a lot of compromise involved that leads to people getting hurt, going behind each others’ backs, manipulating events for their own attention, etc.
Every relationship has moments of hurt and jealousy and complication… Nothing is ever perfect. With THROUPLE, we see that from the one-on-one on into the “permanent threesome” (as some have called it) that occurs. However, how it pans out in the end– that is all up to the individual and their own personal beliefs and paths of love. 
Q: Do you think the theme of the film is more controversial because it is about three homosexual men? Do you think it would be less so if it were two men and one woman or two women and one man?
JT: We tend to only really see these sort of “threesome” relationships when it comes to comedy films. Even then, it is usually a case of trying to keep “so and so” a secret from one another… I really can’t think of a film that has explored such subject matter in a dark psychological way as THROUPLE attempts to do.
As for all male… or two women and one man… or vice versa… Hate to say it, but society is still more accepting of such a plot or relationship device if it is a mix of man-woman.
THROUPLE would be controversial on any level though as it does explore relationships with more than one person involved, cheating, addiction, abuse, and some other dark and twisted things we shall keep as a surprise! 
Q: Do you think we will ever see a day where art is not described as “gay themed”? Are we making strides in the direction where all films would be human stories?
JT: “Gay Themed” has basically become its own film genre. While there are so many facets to it– comedy, drama, horror and everything in between, it still seems that if you have gay characters or plot lines, a lot of people are still going to refer to it as “that gay movie”. I do think it is getting better though… the ‘gay themed’ tag doesnt seem to be as prevalent as it was a few years ago. Even despite all the critical and audience acclaim for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN the joke or reference of “that gay movie” was very strong… Today, you have films like THE NORMAL HEART sweeping the Emmy nominations and getting the same critical acclaim but the tag of “gay themed” has seemed to lesson. Perhaps people are starting to focus more on the actual storylines rather than just the sexuality of the characters. 
I think as long as “gay themed” films focus on creating well rounded characters, rather than stereotypes, and allow themselves to tell stories that could easily be told with a straight cast as well, we break out of that box of categorization that we were put into. For so long, it seemed that the gay character always had to be the closeted or flamboyant guy, trying on his best girl friends shoes and delivering every line with sass. Films are getting away from that… There are more and more films where the gay character are real life, well-rounded, everyday representations… The gay characters are slowly but surely being written and portrayed not as “characters” but as believable, real life people… 
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing Indie artists and projects today? Has it gotten easier as time has gone on and people have become more familiar with crowd-funding?
JT: Technology! The technological advancements have been amazing and yet at the same time, they have made the indie world of film so much more difficult on so many levels. As cameras and other equipment get smaller and more powerful, and even more inexpensive compared to years ago, it seems that anyone and everyone that has a camera is out there producing content. It has gotten very competitive because with so many positive attributes of today’s technological advancements, it is really easy to put together a web series, or get some friends together and make a film on limited funds, etc. The need to have huge trailers of equipment and large crews etc is diminishing in many levels for film. Another facet is distribution! DVD sales are far from being as successful as they were just a few short years ago. So many things are going digital and V.O.D.– people are not buying films in a tangible medium like they used to. So, profits are obviously down. And, with so many low budget films being made so quickly and easily, the options are much greater… Distributors are feeling the crunch too. Rather than invest to produce actual original content, they are relaying on pre-made films that they can scoop up from the festival circuit and license cheaply for distribution…
With crowd-funding, there seems to be an over saturation. Going onto social media, it seems everyone is crowdfunding for something these days. I admire the people that set out, do it and make it happen, for creative causes or things more important like health matters, etc. But, as crowdfunding becomes more and more popular, a lot of people are using it as a quick money maker and it is turning away a lot of people that have lost patience for it. For, now we have college kids funding their spring break vacations and people making $50,000 for raising funds for potato salad. It has become a joke, or sort of a competition in a way– like, what stupid idea can we do to make money?! It can be very frustrating to see some guy post a potato-salad joke and bring in endless cash… while you see struggling artists and people in even more important need, raking in a few pennies despite their drive, talent, and passion  or overall need. 
Q: Where can we find you, James Townsend, online?
JT: Oh, I am not hard to find. Simply google my name or “JTownsendPhotos” and I usually turn up a lot of pages… 
For photography, we my official site is down you can find me on Tumblr (http://jtownsendphotos.tumblr.com) as well as related sites such as ModelMayhem and OneModelPlace…
Facebook: facebook.com/jtownsendphotos
Q: Where can we find out more information about Throuple and donate to the campaign?
JT: THROUPLE’S official facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/ThroupleMovie
Our indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/throuple–4/x/33566 
Q: I know you have other projects going on and you are also into photography. Anything to share on those fronts? 
JT: The most recent project was a horror-comedy entitled KISSING DARKNESS. I wrote and directed the film and it starred Sean Paul Lockhart and Ronnie Kroell. It is newly available on Amazon. I hope to have more information on its overall distribution/release soon!
Aside from that, I am also in preproduction for a comedic webseries entitled DOG HAUS (
https://www.facebook.com/doghausseries ) . It is in association with LA Based clothing company WhiteyTighties.com and follows the antics of a gay couple that find themselves out of work unexpectedly. In a chain of comic events, they wind up launching a hot-dog company and things get even more complicated. It’s like THE ODD COUPLE meets 2 BROKE GIRLS! We are currently recasting a few roles and then hope to film our pilot and launch crowdfunding for the rest of the season, which we have planned at 10 episodes, within the next several weeks. 
While all this is happening, I am available for photographic needs!!! Check out some of my photography at:http://jtownsendphotos.tumblr.com and/or follow me on FB at: https://www.facebook.com/JTownsendPhotosPage (note the Tumblr gets updated almost daily, but it does contain some NSFW photographs!!!) 

Vampire Mob is Transforming Into a Graphic Novel and YOU can help!

I have had the pleasure of knowing Joe Wilson, creator of Vampire Mob and PlayShorts for a few years now and I know a few things about him FOR SURE. He is someone who has storytelling in his blood, he HAS to tell those stories, he knows how to tell a story, and he knows how to bring those stories to life.

Joe has navigated the ever changing world of entertainment with the most inspiring attitude and ingenious ideas. It isn’t always easy to stay afloat in a sea that is rough, cut throat, and sometimes just doesn’t make any sense. The atmosphere of television and movies has changed so much. After speaking with Joe, and others, I think it has changed for the good because it had changed for the bad and there was just no other way to make it in the business unless the players found ways to change the rules themselves.

This change created a whole new field where fans can benefit from being involved in projects, giving input, and having more access to the people telling stories and creating our entertainment. Of course, this also allows anyone with a camera and knowledge of the lingo a shot at breaking in now too but with the fans being more involved, I think we are seeing that we are a little smarter than the Hollywood executives give us credit for.

Joe knows this and utilizes social media to stay in touch with savvy fans from all over the world. He created Vampire Mob for the fans and was such a fan of the actors involved that the Graphic Novel was born from that admiration.  When Marcia Wallace passed away, Joe needed a way to continue to tell the story with her character still involved and a Graphic Novel was the way to do it!

You tell me what Hollywood execs would be that dedicated to their stars?

I have had the honor of interviewing Joe Wilson a few times and the joy of meeting him for coffee when I am in LA for some of the best conversations ever!

I hope you enjoy the interview and are inspired to visit the Indiegogo page to donate even just a little. Every bit helps but there are some awesome perks to check out that I am sure you will enjoy!

Click the image to see for yourself:

Q: How did the idea to turn Vampire Mob into a comic/graphic novel come about?

Joe Wilson:  I really love this story and wanted to continue telling it, but without Marcia Wallace I would either have to recast her character or rewrite the story, neither of which felt right.Creating a graphic novel of Vampire Mob would let us imagine it’s Marcia saying the words on the page and that feels like the right way to continue this story.

Q: Do you expect the comics/graphic novels to open Vampire Mob up to a whole new fan base?

JW: Anything is possible.

The people who are contributing to create the graphic novel (Like you! Thank YOU!) are some of the same audience members who helped created the live action series and the anthology series I started last year, PlayShorts (http://www.PlayShorts.com), but I’m definitely seeing a lot of new names, which is extremely cool.

Because the show started in June, 2010, there’s been time for more people to find it and that has been a lot of fun to watch happen.

Q: How has the reaction been from the existing fans? I know they are an extremely supportive and vocal group. 

JW: I have heard nothing but good things from the killer audience who helps make Vampire Mob.

As I’ve been leaking parts of the graphic novel, more people are getting an idea what the world will look like and the response has been like coffee for me to keep making it happen!

There would be no Vampire Mob without the Supporting Mob who helps me tell this story.

Q: What have you learned from the process of turning a show into a comic/graphic novel?

JW: I kinda had to go back to school to learn how to do this.

I was not familiar with any part of the process and spent a lot of time talking to people and reading and learning, something I am still doing.

A giant resource for this project is Scott McCloud’s three books on the art form of comics, starting with “Understanding Comics.” It took a long time to wrap my head around the ideas and, again, I’m still doing so with a lot of help. If you’re thinking a graphic novel or comic book is just a storyboard with words, you’re wrong. I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels. “Torso” bent my brain.

Corey Blake (http://www.comicbookresources.com/author/corey-blake) is the creative consultant on Vampire Mob, Issue 1 and he knows a fuckton more about the story-form than I do. Corey’s been giving notes on the script and all the drawings for each page.

Currently the cover of VMob Issue 1 and three pages have been drawn and inked by Artist JM Ringuet (jmringuet.com) and Letterer, Deron Bennett (http://andworlddesign.com/) is putting the words and sound on the pages.

We’re creating the graphic novel at the same time we’re raising the budget to create it.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced taking on this project?

JW: I can’t draw for shit.

When I’m normally the person who writes, directs, operates one of the cameras while we’re shooting and I do all the post-production, this has been quite the transition.

I love the work of JM Ringuet and Deron Bennett and they’re creating ways of telling the story I couldn’t come up with. The process is going really well and watching the story go from script to finished page is a tremendous amount of fun!

The big challenge at the moment is raising the budget to create the rest of the book.

Q: Will we see any new seasons of Vampire Mob, the show?

JW: I honestly don’t know.

Continuing the story as a graphic novel creates a lot of options I didn’t have shooting Vampire Mob as a live-action series.

There were some mistakes made creating VMob as a series and the biggest one I made was waiting instead of asking the audience for help.

Anything can happen, but at the moment, I don’t see the series returning to production any time soon.

There’s a lot of Vampire Mob written and waiting to be told and I think telling that story as a graphic novel is the best way to continue without Marcia Wallace.

I’ll be shooting the next episode of PlayShorts very soon and there are over 30 scripts for that series written and waiting, with me writing more episodes.

There’s also some more stories cooking!

 

Big thanks to Joe for doing the interview and for all the chats in LA over coffee. Also, look out for Issue #1 of the Vampire Mob graphic novel, you will see me in there too!!!

Rachel Dratch – Bullies Need Our Guidance

For those of us who have been victims of bullies, we know that one of the best remedies is to have a strong support system. Please check out Friend Movement and find out how you can help them to create the kind of support that will help those affected by bullying and the solution that could help to end it.  This is Rachel Dratch‘s  own story and below that is the Indiegogo campaign that ends in just a few days.  Check it out and see if you can help.