A Chat with Comic Book Documentarian Patrick Meaney!

patrick meaney

Patrick Meaney is an American born award-winning film director, screenwriter, producer, comic book writer and editor.  He is best known for his work as a director/producer of documentaries about the world of comics books, including Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, She Makes Comics, An Image Revolution and Neil Gainman: Dream Dangerously.

Being a writer himself, he has also wrote his own comic book series in 2014, titled Last Born, with artist Eric Zawadzki, which was published by Black Mask Studios and had a 4 issue limited run.

Patrick’s films have played in over thirty festivals around the world, won awards and received critical acclaim from outlets like Wired, Variety, The New York Times and his film She Makes Comics, received the Best Documentary award at the Comic-Con International Film Festival.

Most recently he has completed work on his first narrative film as a writer/director called Trip House.

We spoke with Patrick about sharing the stage with giants like creators Rob Liefeld and George RR Martin, meeting celebrities, surviving Grant Morrison and the current state of comic books.

Hello Patrick, thanks for taking time and speaking with us today!

Yeah, of course, no problem.

You of course directed the great documentary An Image Revolution, so I wanted to get your thoughts on Todd McFarlane coming out the other day and saying a SPAWN film was dead in the water again, but first let’s talk about your new movie.  Tell me all about Trip House? It sounds like a really cool concept and has a great cast that people should be familiar with.

Trip-House-Poster-Small2

Trip House is kinda of a trippy, dark, psychedelic drama.  If you’re a comics fan it would kinda be like a Vertigo comics from the heyday of Vertigo comics from the 90s.   A lot of very strange concepts trippy stuff but its focused on characters and focused on the relatable emotional thing.  So I developed the script while I was working  on all these documentaries and was influenced by what I sort of heard from people like Grant (Morrison) and Neil (Gainman) talking about how they were able to bring real world stuff into the fantasy realm and use that to make everything bit more total.  So that was kind of the intention.  I shot the movie almost 2 years ago now and it’s coming out  most likely in October, so we have a distributor and it just hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t say with 100% certainty when it will be out but it’s looking like October.  For fans of the comics and fandom there’s a lot of people your likely familiar with like Amber Benson who’s in Buffy (Vampire Slayer) or Tiffany Smith and Whitney Moore who now hosts the DC All Access YouTube show, Chloe Dykstra (Heroes of Cosplay) and Taliesin Jaffe who’s on the show Critical Role and been involved in fandom for many years.  Both Jaffe and Chloe have been involved with Cosplay before it was cool.  So these are people who love this stuff (fandom) so it was cool when dealing with heavy concepts, it was great to have people who are very comfortable with the ideas behind alternate reality or time travel motifs.  These aren’t Tom Hanks but who are great actors, and a lot people know them more for personalities so I think its cool that it gives them a chance to really show they can act and bring it on that level as well.

How did you fund the film?  Self-funded or campaigned?

I got some investors, pretty much, it was a long hard process.  That’s always the hardest part for me, I like to be, it’s fun on set, it’s fun editing, it’s fun writing, it’s just always stressful thinking how are we going to do this, how are we going to do this cheap, how are we going to be able to do this without going broke, myself.  So that’s the challenge but I was lucky enough to make it happen and then once it looked like we had enough money to shoot it was like, alright, lets just do this and hope everything comes together in time, and it did.  So, now the movies done and that’s great.

You happy with the final product?  How it turned out?

Yeah, I’m really happy, it was a tough, there’s definitely lessons I learned but I think I would not change anything, I think the movie turned out great.  I think it’s a unique piece and I think people especially who come from comics, you know we’ve seen a million superhero movies at this point, it’s not going to shock you to see a superhero but there’s a lot of stuff in comics that have never been on the screen.  Things like Grant (Morrison) does or Neil Gainman does or even going back to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, just this very causal strangeness of the universe.  So that was something I tried to get across and have this very subjective universe and hopefully that resonates for people.

Yes, that was really the gist of my Image article, they have so many great books, but how many translate onto screen and do people even want to see it.  East and West and Saga and all these great books with great writing  but its hard to imagine being on-screen sometimes.  So I’m glad to hear your going down that road and bringing these subversive Vertigo like stories to the screen.  It sounds great, lets’ touch base again when you’ve nailed down the release date.

That’d be great.  Should be very soon, the distributor we have is very excited, I was very happy.  For a movie this small it’s going to get out there and be available for people to see.

You mentioned him earlier and one of the things I wanted to ask you about was surviving your experience with Grant Morrison?  Having seen the film, I can imagine it was a unique experience spending time with him?

It was pretty amazing because I had never made a feature film before so I was kind of going into the deep end but Grant is such a great subject.  He had a lot of faith in that I understood his work and trusted me to make this movie.  He’s very open which I think is very cool because some creators you meet are very much on brand and will very much just say stuff that suits the brand but he’ll talk about anything.  You could talk to him for an hour about, you know, Donald Trump or you could talk to him for an hour about the fourth dimension, all kinds of crazy stuff.  You almost have such an abundance of material to talk about and go into so many directions, so the challenge I think was just figuring out how do we make this feel like a cohesive story and how do we make this feel like a singular journey rather than just a bunch of cool different ideas, or a bunch of anecdotes and stories.  For me it was incredibly exciting since he’s been my favorite writer and a huge inspiration so it was wild to go to his house and go to Scotland and meet all these people he’s worked with.  It was just a very unique and very amazing and kind of inspiring experience for me and I hope that came across in the movie is that they get a sense of getting to know him as a person as opposed to the myth that people had built up as a crazy guy or whatever.  Both relatable but still very out there and unique.

I thought it came across quite well and I really got the sense you probably have a 1000 hours of unused footage of him just talking sitting around somewhere?

Yeah, I have a couple of hard drives full of stuff, there’s a bunch that came out on the 2-disc DVD we released a while ago but there’s still tons left.

Too much can be a problem to though right?  I remember speaking with documentarian Derik Murray famous for the “I Am…” series of films, he toils in found footage and home movies and at some point you spend more time pouring over footage then making the actual film.  It’s a good problem to have but you have to engage time management at some point right?

Absolutely, for sure, with Image there wasn’t a ton of footage from the nineties so its like, you want to see more of that era but it just doesn’t exist that much.  But if you’re talking to or interviewing the subject himself there’s so much material there and you have to make choices.  The whole process of making the movie is basically taking a billion different movies that could exist and just narrowing down to the one thing you want to make.

You have the enviable job of filming and interviewing people you’ve admired and been inspired by.  Do you still geek out at all, are you over the celebrity thing?  You’ve gotten to spend time with George RR Martin, Rob Liefeld, Grant Morrison and Jim Lee, heavyweights in this industry, are you over that now?  Are you able to step back once in a while and say, “hey, this is awesome.”?

It’s still always exciting, you know I think sometimes very creative people or people who you really admire have a certain energy about them.  So it’s always exciting to see people like Grant or see Neil or getting to do the screening with George RR Martin was amazing just because, it’s kind of a strange feeling because at once this is the person that came up with all this amazing stuff that I love but also ordinary people just like the rest of us.  They become more mythic in a way once you understand them as ordinary people.

So now that you’ve done narrative film do you have a preference yet?  Are you going to go back to documentaries?  What are you feeling right now?

I’m working on more narrative and doc stuff, having done so much in comics, I don’t really see a topic that excites me or that I’m as into to.  I’m talking to a few people about a couple of  ideas that I have and we’re trying to figure out if I can make it happen.  I think after doing so many (comic docs) I would kinda love to just do narrative but really I’ve made so many docs I could make some fast so I’d be happy to do both and bounce back and forth.

There’s certainly an endless amount of interesting creators, artists and writers that you could spend a lifetime doing short form documentaries.

For sure, the challenge comes from figuring out how to get the stuff financed, figuring out to get just enough money to kind of cover your cost of living while your working on the thing.  There’s not usually huge up front costs, it’s just more being able to dive in there for six months and having enough money to cover whatever you’re doing so you’re not sinking into debt while working on something.

Absolutely.  So, you’re a writer, your comic Last Born came out in 2014 on Black Mask Studios with a 4 issue run and was received very well.  Any chance you get back into books or are you now just full steam ahead on film?

lastborn1

Last Born came out when Black Mask was still sort of finding its place in the market so its been awesome to see how much the company has grown and found much more of an audience.  But I think for me, I wanted to make a name for myself in film first then come back to comic books.  Comics is hard to market and stand out amidst so many other books.  Gerrard Way wanted to get into comics, he went off to become a rock star, then came back strategically to comics to find his place in the market.  I think you can either choose to go 100% all in on comics and a lot of people do that and they are successful, but for me it felt like I wanted to do the movie, it made more sense to try to get a little bit of a reputation there and then come back into comics.  There are a lot of ideas that are more suited to comics and that aren’t viable with the kind of budgets I would get in movies so I’m keeping that stuff going in the background.  The cool thing about film for me is that I get to control all the aspects including the visuals and the finished product.  With comics, it’s a collaboration which is both really exciting because you get something you never imagined in the process but it’s also kind of, you’re handing it over to the artist after you’ve written the script and I don’t want to step on their toes too much.   So it’s a different process and it’s definitely something I would love to do again and its been awesome to see Erik (Zawadazki) the artist on the book do The Dregs with Black Mask and gets a ton of acclaim and take his work to another level, it’s very cool.

I’ll let you go on this one.  You became known as the “comic book documentarian”, so I guess it’s only fair to ask since those docs have spanned a few years.  What’s changed the most for you in that world either from an artistic or business stand point?  And has making these movies and talking to these people who are directly involved in the industry turned you off?  Have you been disenfranchised at all? Have you reached that point at all, are you still just as passionate about comic books?

I think it can be hard sometimes.  When I was reading Vertigo books in the nineties, when I was in high school and a teenager, the people felt very mythic like Warren Ellis and Grant and Neil, which is part of why I wanted to do those movies in the first place.  These people seemed so cool and sort of all had this mystique about them.  The newer generation of people, maybe because I know some of them personally or you’ve seem them at an empty convention table before they became a star but I think there’s a lot of sense of myth building or sort of rock star vibe that Neil and Grant have.  The business is a little more driven by film which make sense considering where we’re at when you look at what books sell versus what movies can do for you.  But we’re seeing books that are a little more concept focused on things that would be good for movies where as something like Sandman or The Invisibles are so sprawling and huge there’s a reason they haven’t been adapted yet.  But I think it has also been really cool to see comics themselves, I mean 8 years ago when I did the Grant Morrison doc it was still very an underground thing and it has become much more mainstream and the just the idea of people caring about comics has become much more prevalent.  It’s been cool to see the major media change, when the Grant movie came out we were like, where are people going to watch this?  Are they going buy the DVD?  There wasn’t as many outlets.  Now The Image Revolution is on Amazon Prime, Neil Gainman is on STARZ and Grant was on HULU for a while, so there’s all these different outlets now.  More people watch these types of docs there rather them seek them out, I see a lot of people talking on Twitter about The Image Revolution because it was on Amazon Prime, they never saw it or talked about it when it came out on DVD or digital.  But the fact that the market exists means a lot more people are watching it and provides a path for us to get people to see it.  This didn’t really quite exist that much when the Grant movie came out so its been exciting to be part of that and see the media landscape change as each movie came out.

No, it’s a great time to be alive in that regard, if I want to watch your movie I just go watch it, it’s that simple now where 10 or 20 years ago, forget it.  There’s just no way, where as now I can simply watch it 100 times and be no problem at all.

Yeah, you likely would have never heard of it before, without google or twitter, it might have broken through and slip through the cracks but likely not.

Patrick, listen, thanks so much for doing this and we’ll talk more in October when Trip House comes out!

Thanks for reaching out.  Cheers.

So there you go!  Patrick was great to talk to and very generous with his time.  If you’re a comic book fan I highly recommend checking out his work, you won’t regret it.

Till next time…

Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts is available on iTunes and will be screened at this year’s San Diego Comic Con with Patrick in attendance!  Go say hello!

She Makes Comics is now available on Amazon and iTunes

If you’d like to get a hold of Patrick, here’s how!

http://www.patrickmeaney.com

patrick@respectfilms.com

Twitter: @patrickmeaney

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Author: gizmorubiks

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

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