BACKSTAGE with Author Michael Brachman

5 02 2014

Today on CSReview, Michael Brachman is talking about his novels and his love for the genre of science fiction, and the craft of writing.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Michael. Why do you write sci-fi?

profileMichael Brachman: For me writing is almost a cross between reading and writing. While I have a general idea of how the story is supposed to go, I cannot tell you how many times the characters surprise me with plot twists or observations that come out of nowhere. I am not a big fan of fantasy because of my scientific background. That leaves science fiction as the only genre where there are literally no limits. So, the simple answer is I love science fiction and writing it is just an extension of that love.

CS: I see we have this one in common. Who would you say is your ideal reader?

Michael Brachman: My ideal reader is one who is looking for some science in their science fiction. I have put in countless hours of meticulous research to make sure that every fact that can be checked will check out. I once spent several hours using an astronomy program which showed the alignment of stars in the future to find the exact right date (January 24th, 2067 AD)  just so I could one character point to the Moon and a particular star was just off to its right.

CS: I can tell you did your homework, your novels are written with a spectacular attention to every detail. Back to your readers, do you have a special message you want to share?

Michael Brachman: I write hard science fiction. No zombie apocalypse or YA vampires for me. If you are looking for action, adventure, romance and even a hint of humor within the confines of hard science fiction, these books are for you.

CS: Hear, hear… Are aliens creepy?

Michael Brachman: Certainly some of the ones I have met in real life are, sure. In my books, I don’t have any little green men yet.  That is coming in the next book. So far my aliens are titanic Dyson spheres which eat stars, “falling blankets” which can suffocate you, Piranha rats and so on. No really intelligent ones, yet. I think when the aliens come (and they will come), the people that encounter will be emotionally ready to handle their differences in form, function and motivation. Not Alien or Predator type creatures, just different from us.

CS: If aliens were to land on Earth today, would they want to stay and why?

Michael Brachman: Sure. If they came all this way, they’d have a reason. Whether it is to meet us or conquer us or eat us or just to study our world, the distance between stars is just so vast that if they went through the effort of coming here, they’d stick around for while. I’m kind of hoping that when it happens, it isn’t the eating or conquering thing.

CS: I have to ask this one – how do you come up with science stuff in your novels?

TAL_CoverMichael Brachman: As I mentioned before, because of my scientific background, I research every bit of speculation until I am satisfied that nobody could prove they weren’t true. I researched and invented two forms of interstellar travel. I quantified “legal” time travel. I invented a lens-less camera. My first novel, Rome’s Revolution, takes place 14 centuries in the future so I wrote computer software to generate a brand new language. I also wrote a computer simulation of two moons orbiting a distant planet just so the characters could look up in the sky and the phases would be right. The stories build themselves and I just make sure the science behind them is sound.

CS: Is there any hope for the human race or are we doomed?

Michael Brachman: There is always hope.

CS: What’s next in store, what are you currently working on?

Michael Brachman: My next novel entitled The Milk Run is already underway.  In a strange way, even though it is science fiction, it sort of has a religious framework.  I also write a Goodreads blog entitled Tales of the Vuduri which is only 14 entries away from a full year, 365 entry, sequence. I must admit I did miss posting one day. As soon as that is done, I am going to package it up as a single volume and sell it for free.  It will be called Tales of the Vuduri: Year One and I should have it ready in about three weeks. Right after that will be The Vuduri Companion which will be a collection of short stories, deleted scenes, some prequel-type stuff and so on that don’t fit in anywhere else. Beyond that, I have two more novels planned.

Oh yeah, the book trailer for my second novel The Ark Lords should being going up on YouTube this week as well.

CS: As a matter of fact, here it is! Michael, thank you for stepping by. Know that we’re enjoying your work and want to see more.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with J. Gabriel Gates

12 10 2012

Today on CSReview we welcome an actor and a prolific writer in the horror genre J. Gabriel Gates, author of a sci fi thriller Blood Zero Sky.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jake. When did you decide to become a writer? Did you feel like you had a story in you and it needed to come out?

J. Gabriel Gates: Like many creative kids, I started young.  After reading The Hobbit in third grade, I remember walking around with the first thirty pages of a fantasy novel I’d written in a dog-eared D.A.R.E. folder.  I’ve taken some detours since then, but I really never wavered from wanting to write books.  If I didn’t have lots of stories I needed to tell, I’d be in some easier profession.

CS: What is the difference between an actor and a writer? How do you manage to balance your career in both fields?

J. Gabriel Gates: There are probably more similarities than differences. Both disciplines involve acts of creation that are wonderfully fun to participate in, and both are miserably difficult and heart wrenching fields in which to make a living.  The advantage of writing over acting is that, in acting, you require someone else’s permission to practice your art.  You have to find an audition and win the role.  You need a theater or a movie camera, a cast, a set, and—generally—a budget.   Basically, you need the sanction of a director or producer to do what you love.  There are gate-keepers for writers, too: you need a decent publisher to get your books marketed and distributed into the hands of readers, and you probably need a decent agent to get a decent publisher, but the great thing about writing is that it lasts.  I wrote the first draft of my most recent book, Blood Zero Sky, seven years ago, and it just came out last week.  Unlike an acting performance that’s so ephemeral it disappears the moment it’s happened (unless it’s captured on film, which costs money) once you write a book it exists forever.  No one can take it away from you (as long as you back up your files!) and somewhere, some time, if you’re lucky, it can find its way to readers.  It’s that feeling of creating something relatively permanent that can give a writer a feeling of satisfaction even if they haven’t managed to get published yet, and actors don’t get that.

As for balance between the two fields, right now I’m concentrating much more on my writing than my acting.  When I was younger and living in Los Angeles and trying to get some life experience under my belt, I concentrated more on acting, but the scales have gradually tipped to the point where now 99% of my energy is devoted to writing, simply because it’s the craft that I’m best at and that I love the most.  I did, however, just start teaching an acting class once a week in the evenings, and I’ve found it to be a lot of fun.

CS: Do you ever cast yourself for the role of any of your characters?

J. Gabriel Gates:  As I’m writing I inhabit the bodies and souls of all my characters—even the girliest or the nastiest of them!  As for actually playing any of my characters on TV or in film, I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.  Right now there’s a deal coming together to make a Web series based on my teen urban fantasy series The Tracks, and there’s a small role for a young theater teacher named Mr. Brighton that would be fun to play.  We’ll see if it happens.

CS: Your sci fi novel has already drawn much attention. What is the message of Blood Zero Sky and why should we care about the story?

J. Gabriel Gates: At its core, Blood Zero Sky is a patriotic American story meant to cause readers to examine some of the systems of thought that, I feel, are limiting and endangering our way of life.  Specifically, it examines the relationship between corporations and the government and poses the question “can we trust corporations, which are basically systematic engines of greed, with the responsibility of governing people?”  You can guess what the answer is, but I think it’s a question that bears some serious exploration, particularly given the current political climate and the influence of money in politics.  Because of its themes, Publisher’s Weekly called Blood Zero SkyA Brave New World with a consumerist edge.”  I think that sums it up pretty well.

CS: What is your source of inspiration? Do you have a muse?

J. Gabriel Gates:  I believe in taking my inspiration wherever I can get it, so I can’t say that I have any single source.  I listen to NPR a lot, read as much as possible, watch the news, and try to stay conscious of my own life experiences and relationships.  Spirituality and metaphysics are also important to me, so I read up on those things whenever I have the chance.  But when you’re creating whole worlds, as one does when writing a novel, you can’t afford to be one-dimensional.  I just try to suck everything I see and experience into my subconscious, and hope that when it comes out again in my work, it has a coherence and a resonance that will affect people.

CS: Tell us one superstition common in the acting profession. And one common among writers?

J. Gabriel Gates:  Most of the superstitions among the acting community are pretty well known. You say “break a leg” instead of “good luck,” for example.  For people who are acting in productions of Macbeth, it’s also supposedly bad luck to say the name of the play.  Actors usually call it The Scottish Play instead.  I haven’t run across any pervasive superstitions like that among writers, but there is definitely a great deal of nervous hand-wringing in both professions.  The common thread in both is that preparation, hard work and professionalism go a long way toward creating success—and reducing anxiety.  In writing, the main thing is to make sure you’ve revised your story to the point where it’s as polished as you can possibly make it—then revise it again. After a certain point, though, you’re invariably just sitting there wishing and hoping for a phone call from that agent or editor who has your fate in her hands.  For that, I’d recommend some stress-reducing remedies like exercise, prayer, meditation, and the occasional brimming glass of wine.  That’s about as close as I come to superstition.

CS: Most interesting observations, Jake. What are your future plans, projects?

J. Gabriel Gates:  I’m currently writing the third and probably final installment of my teen series featuring magic, kung fu and star-crossed love in a gang-torn small town, The Tracks. It’s called Shadow Train, and it will be coming out in the spring from HCI books.  I’m also doing some final polishing on a new teen horror novel in the vein of my popular horror book The Sleepwalkers. It’s a project that I’m very excited about, so I’m hoping to get it published and into readers’ hands soon.  Stay tuned!

CS: Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jake. I wish you all the luck in the world fulfilling your dreams.

J. Gabriel Gates is the author of the teen fantasy series The Tracks (Book 1: Dark Territory, Book 2: Ghost Crown), horror novel The Sleepwalkers and the newly-released sci-fi thriller Blood Zero Sky. For more information on him and his work, please visit his website:

You can also “like” him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @JGabrielGates.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Director Donald Flaherty and Actor Morgan Benoit

6 09 2012

Today on CSReview, we’re talking to film director Donald Flaherty and actor Morgan Benoit, and the highlight  of our conversation is the newest and very promising science fiction movie project BRUTAL.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Donald and Morgan. I am glad to see you both here. Donald, my first question is for you – why science fiction? What appeals to you in this genre?

Donald Flaherty: Science fiction allows you to heighten reality and tell stories that might not necessarily work in any other genre. Sci-fi also allows you to make bold statements and do things that are often impossible at this moment in time. It really allows you push the creative envelope.

CS: Morgan, how does it feel to be on a set of a sci fi movie? Is it any different from any other set?

Morgan Benoit: It feels great! I am a big science fiction fan, I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction (George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, C.S. Lewis), so having the opportunity to do a science fiction film was a real pleasure. The Brutal set was quite different from other sets I have worked on. My scenes take place in a cage and in a cell; because of the lighting and how they are set up both sets have a very otherworldly feel to them so that helped me get into character and it was a lot of fun to work in that environment.

CS: What I always wanted to know – is it harder to shoot a sci fi film? Why?

Donald Flaherty: Yes and no. I believe the best sci-fi works when it’s based in reality that the audience can relate to. Creating a world that is both believable and somehow unique and exciting for the audience to discover is the real challenge of the genre. Sci-fi allows for a tremendous amount of freedom when creating your own screen world, unlike a period film where you are constrained by the time period of the story. You can’t have a tank roll through Gone With The Wind. But if you did Gone With The Wind as a sci-fi film, that tank might just be the perfect device to help tell your story.

CS: Interesting perspective there, Donald. I love Gone With The Wind… don’t know if a tank will make it better, but I do hear you about using whatever devices necessary to further the story, to ensure it’s clarity for the audience’s sake. What was the ultimate challenge in producing Brutal? What makes Brutal different from any other sci fi production?

Donald Flaherty: The challenge of producing Brutal was creating and executing the fight sequences in a believable, exciting, and fresh way. Colin Follenweider, the second unit director, and Chris Torres, the stunt coordinator, did an amazing job bringing the fights to the screen. Morgan Benoit and Jeff Hatch, the two lead actors also put blood, sweat and tears into making the fights happen on screen. I can’t express how exciting these sequences are going to be. I think the whole team has raised the bar on fight footage in a film.

CS: I can’t wait to see! Morgan, you have to film against a green screen, does it make you uncomfortable? How do you get past that?

Morgan Benoit: I have never had a problem working with a green screen, I’ve always had a very over active imagination, I think that helps when there isn’t any scenery or props to work with.

CS: It’s great to be able to channel your natural abilities into your profession, Morgan. Donald, are you nervous about Brutal’s upcoming screening? Does it feel like you’re about to set a baby into the world?

Donald Flaherty: I think whenever you do creative work, be it film, painting, music, etc., it is always nerve-racking to put it out in the world. But it’s part of the process and dealing with both the positive and negative reviews is something artists must contend and come to terms with. To be honest, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe someday it will get easier, but right now it still gives me big butterflies.

CS: I’ll be certainly holding my fists for Brutal. OK, tell me this – what was the most remarkable, most memorable event on the set?

Donald Flaherty: The most memorable event, believe it or not, was how easy it was to shoot this film. The team from the top down was amazing. Everyone showed up everyday and brought their “A” game. It was the most trouble-free, low-stress production I’ve ever been associated with. Great people doing great work. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

CS: Morgan, you worked with Jackie Chan and David Carradine. What did you learn from these ultimate martial arts masters?

Morgan Benoit: What I’ve learned from Jackie is to be humble, be grateful, never forget where you come from and to work very, very hard. Jackie is always the first one up, he is never late to set even though he could get away with it because he is such a big star and when there is down time you will never find him idle. When he is not in front of the camera he is either working out, or working on the project in some other way. I’ve always tried to emulate Jackie’s work ethic when it comes to establishing my career. David Carradine was also a very talented and hard working individual but it was Jackie who really made a lasting impression on me.

CS: Special lessons come from special people… Having spent so much time in China, what would you say was your ultimate lesson there, what did you take with you when you left?

Morgan Benoit: The most important thing I learned in China is perseverance. When I first started training martial arts in China I couldn’t find a teacher, coaches said I was too tall, too inflexible, started too late, but I worked really hard, I fought through the pain and molded my body and mind into what I wanted to become. I proved to them – and to myself – that I could succeed in Wushu. It was the same when I moved from Beijing to Los Angeles, it was during the writers’ strike, it was difficult to find an agent, a manager, to get any kind of audition at all, but instead of giving up and returning to China I stuck it out, worked hard and found a way forward.

CS: Kung-Fu is am amazing discipline. I am only amateur, but I love every part of it, I think it brings the best of the person who practices it genuinely. Tell me about doing martial arts stunts on the set. Do you always remember where the camera is? Do you get carried away?

Morgan Benoit: I have been doing it so long that I have a good understanding of camera angles, after a while you start to sense the camera and you instinctively know what direction is best and how to angel your body. At first it can be a daunting process, but like anything the more you do it the more familiar it becomes. I have never gotten carried away while working, it’s not a fight, it’s choreography, it’s more like a dance. The choreography has to flow, it has to have rhythm, and intention. I look at fight choreography like a professional pianist playing Beethoven or Mozart, the tempo is always changing, fast, then slow, too hard – then soft. Compare that to someone who isn’t trained just banging on the keys. If that gets carried away and is just fast and hard without rhythm, it doesn’t translate to screen well, and ends up looking slow and awkward.

CS: Where do you envision yourself in five years after Brutal?

Morgan Benoit: In five years I see myself as an extremely successful action actor who can also cross over into serious drama.

CS: And Donald, would you do a sci fi film again?

Donald Flaherty: In a heartbeat. I love the genre.

CS: Thank you for stepping by and talking about Brutal, Donald and Morgan. Wishing you best of luck rounding up production and successful screening!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Traci Dinwiddie

5 07 2012

Today’s guest on CSReview is a Hollywood science fiction actress and a woman of many talents with an amazing professional record – Traci Dinwiddie

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Traci. I am truly honored to have you here. You are an award winning actress, now also a screenwriter and a singer. Does wearing many hats wear you out, or, perhaps on the contrary, gives you an extra boost and inspiration to create something new and exciting?

Traci: Thank you so much for your interest in my work! Wear me out? Oh, quite the contrary! I’m a multi-hat wearing kind of woman.  It’s extraordinary to live a rich, full life.  Being busy doing what I love titillates me.

CS: From one sci fi fan to another – Han Solo rocks! And so do Star Wars. I really do not know what we’d do without them… do you imagine your life could turn out differently if not your early exposure to science fiction? What are the ultimate lessons of science fiction that you carry with you through life?

Traci: I hear ya.  Love me some Han Solo. The ultimate lesson in sci-fi would be that anything IS possible!

CS: Who is your Yoda, your Grand Master? What would you like to learn that’s missing in your professional career today?

Traci: My Yoda is my yoga. On the simple side, I’d like to learn French.  I’m also really flirting with the idea of going back to college and finishing just because I can and I love to learn.  The only real thing missing in my career today is a series regular role in a new badass sci-fi TV series! Come on, Universe! Bring it!

CS: You know what they say…  if you want something really badly, Universe will move with you to deliver. If you’re determined, things will happen! What is most special and most hard thing to do when acting in a science fiction film? Does it differ from anything else you’ve done on screen?

Traci: Sci-fi is my heart’s love.  It’s always mind-bending.  I must give a deep bow to the sci-fi fandom.  We are a special breed.  Hardest thing: keeping my eyes open after they were ‘burned out of my skull’ while crying in Bobby Singer’s (played by Jim Beaver) arms in episode 401 of  “Supernatural”.

CS: If you were a Star Trek character, who would you be? Why? I think Star Trek 2009 was absolutely brilliant. Do you want to see another Star Trek sequel, if yes – would you want to be a part of it?

Traci: Loved it, too.  I’m eager to work with J.J. Abrams.  I would have played Spock’s mama, Amanda Greyson, hands down.  Sorry, Winona.  Ya haven’t anything on MY eyebrows! Yes, I would dive into some Star Trek sequel action without hesitation.

CS: You’re on your way to creating a new web series. This is a new medium that continues to win the audience. What are the key components of producing an ultimately great web series?

Traci: I hope I have the ingredients right.  I’m a huge social media participant.  Web Series need quick, exciting story lines to follow, brilliant editing, and unique style.  These are designed for those who’ve busy lives.  I want to leave my audience inspired and eager for more.

CS: How does trying yourself in a new, more technical role of a producer, reflect on your acting?

Traci: It’s empowering to produce films in which I act.  I dig knowing that I’m creating work for myself, and I hope it inspires others to manifest their own desired work. As one of my mentors, Marianne Williamson says, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” While producing and acting does require a bit of a juggle, it’s completely do-able.  When I’m on the set as an actress, I delegate producer responsibilities appropriately, so I can simply focus on my craft.  It takes a good instinct for hiring your team.  I’d like to think I’ve got that instinct.

CS: If you had to go through a Stargate, which planet would you pick for your destination, and what would you find there?

Traci: Ah, yes.  My Stargate would take me to Neptune where the atmosphere is pure water in which one can breathe.  All movement would be lyrical in its effect simply by the fact that the local beings are living in a water world.  It’s a dreamy place with the essence of poetry, light, and dance where a person can restore after working their buns off on Earth.  I’m a bit of a romantic, I admit.

CS: I love alien planets! Well, Traci, thanks for a great sci fi chat! I’m glad you stepped by and I wish you all the best and all the greatest achievements in life and on screen!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Click to watch ANHEDONIA Trailer


29 10 2011


‘Please forgive me…’

When watching a science fiction movie, I look for elements that inspire my fantasy, entertain my intellect and invoke an intense thought process. For a good sci fi movie script, it’s essential to have action set in space; without it there wouldn’t be science fiction at all. An A-list science fiction movie will also be incomplete without faster-than-light travel (FTL), slipstream or hyperspace engines and subspace. When examining a particular movie in its entirety, I am interested in a hard core futuristic science and technology, artificial intelligence and robotic constructions, and an exploration of human relationship with that technology through a good proper acting. Dialogues containing explanations of processes in starships’ drives, quick fixes to sudden technical problems, system failures and collapses that require the crew’s ultimate performance… I pay attention to the futuristic language and the use of words; it pleases my linguistic brain.

An integral component of a good sci fi movie is an alien presence, an exotic planet or other celestial object, a life form (known or unknown, hostile or friendly) and human emotional and intellectual response to all that. If aliens are sentient, it’s very interesting to discover how humans might interact with them. I am curious to find out whether the movie will establish ethics and norms of social and personal behavior and study human-alien equation. If there’s a conflict around an alien presence, I’d like to learn how humans might work that out in the future.

Absence of aliens doesn’t necessarily make a science fiction film boring or unfit for the genre. Much depends on the time line and a reasonable possibility of the first contact. One might argue that in sci fi, anything goes. With that, I beg to differ. It’s all about connections, reliable and recognizable associations build from blocks of the actual reality, something viewers can draw from, something that causes the blood circulate quicker and the mind sweat harder.  A disaster movie in a futuristic setting with a prediction scenario, serving the role of a drill for the possible development of events in the future, is just as good. A well thought through catastrophe, a planet wide medical emergency or an eminent threat from outer space does it for me.

Of course I want to find out how our future society will change, evolve or degrade, will our attitude to things that matter change as well, will we be a recognizable human species, or will we become monsters we do not want to see in the mirror? I find that and more in a good science fiction movie. Just like Solar Crisis. Take my advice, go back in time and watch how a team of brave hearts saves the Earth. A bit of nostalgia for good old days when science fiction  in the film idustry wasn’t yet completely overtaken by high-tech digital software, fantastic special effects and fine acting will make it worth while.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

View Solar Crisis trailer

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26 10 2011

Interview with Actor Dave Vescio

CS: Nice to have you back on CSReview, Dave. We’ll be talking about some hard issues today. You have stated in your previous interviews that you always try to live the character as much as is humanly possible. Does playing dark individuals affect you on a deep intimate level and do you then need time to recover, get out of your character and get back to your normal self? If so, what does it take to do that?

Dave Vescio: Nice to be back. Thank you! To answer your question, it actually depends on the character. The child molester roles are the ones that affect me the most. I mean I have to trick myself into believing that this is right, when it actually isn’t. So, that takes a while to get out of my head. I love playing these antagonists and villains because they all justify what they do, but, in the end, is it morally right? And I think that is the question of art – to raise awareness of today’s morality. And let the audience decide for themselves.

CS: Your nomination for the hero of the week by KNX 1070 Newsradio for making a citizen arrest reveals a side of you that testifies of your high ethical standards, but you know what they say about not making it in Hollywood without budging and bending one’s integrity. Is there any truth in it for you? Are you able to remain faithful to values while working roles that seem to go in line with so many things we consider socially challenging, unacceptable, immoral and even criminal?

Dave Vescio: That’s a tough question. Yes and no. It’s my job to play my characters as truthfully as possible. Meaning, I have to think and do what they think and do which is definitely taking me in directions that I would not choose to go in real life. But, the reason I choose to play these antagonists and villains for the paying audience is because they do exist in real life. And I do feel if I play them as honestly as possible, it may veer the audience members from making mistakes in their own life that may bring them harm in some way. Meaning, always be on the look out for people who want to prey on you; because they are everywhere, and they are definitely preying on you; from child molesters, to rapists, to murderers, to con men, to etc., etc. It’s a dangerous world that we all live in, but, if you know the signs of what to look out for, then we may be fine. That’s why I choose to play the characters that I play. It’s my job to warn the world of their actual existence. Because they do exist, and they are definitely preying on us as we speak.

CS: Would you play any villain or, let me re-phrase, how far would you go in accepting anti-social roles? Would you play Adolph Hitler?

Dave Vescio: I would love to play Adolph Hitler. I mean, what would cause a young Jewish man turn against his own kind? That’s a mentality that I would love to understand and want to express to the world; because it may happen again. History does tend to repeat itself, over and over again.

CS: Your role in ‘The Custom Mary’  falls under the category of controversial, provocative. Who are you playing and what can you tell our audience about your character?

Dave Vescio: I play the character named Pat, an amateur scientist who finally figures out how to clone Jesus Christ from his DNA. It’s a feature film about the cloning of Christ in an age where cloning human beings is possible.

CS: Aren’t you concerned about a possible negative resonance?

Dave Vescio: I didn’t mind being Pat at all. He believed that it was right for him to clone Jesus Christ because he wanted a new order in the world again. He had all the right intentions to do this. But, in the end, is it the right thing to do? The film is not meant to offend anyone in any way, but what if we did have his DNA? Meaning, what if? What if we were able to pull the DNA from The Shroud? What if we were able to pull the DNA from the spear that gutted him? Would humans clone Jesus Christ? And if so, what would he actually look like? The paintings that have been painted of him over the centuries… would he belong to an ethnic group entirely different from what is seen on those paintings and the sculptures of his likeness? That’s the story of ‘The Custom Mary’ and my character. Should we or should we not clone Jesus Christ, and if we do choose to clone him, what would he finally look like? All of this is told in a dark comedy sci fi type of way. It’s just meant to raise serious questions of cloning human beings in the near future. And if we do choose to clone people, then how far are we willing to take it?

CS: How did you land this part? Were you specifically sought for the role or was it agented?
Dave Vescio: I actually auditioned for it. And I honestly cannot remember if I submitted myself or if my agent submitted me instead; probably both. Yeah, we shot this in the Fall of 2008 I think. And it wasn’t until this past August that a film festival would actually screen it for the paying audience; which was HBO’s film festival in NYC. And there’s talk that it may get picked up by HBO Latino, or by another distribution company in the coming months. Nothing is in stone just yet.

CS: Every actor has a dream they wish to fulfill on stage, an ultimate legendary role that demands a peak performance. Straight comic actors wishing to play a dramatic character, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby; actors who generally play only positive roles wanting to try their craft on parts of deeply conflicted and negative characters. What’s yours?

Dave Vescio: Honestly, I just want to help create great art that makes you think about life and death, and everything in between; to truly question it all, to see if your own point of view is actually correct or not. To get you to experience something that you’ve never experienced before, but, from the safety of your own home or at the movie theater. I just really love creating controversial or provocative art that invades the audience’s comfort zones. I want to get better at this though, to truly push the limits of our current art form. To take it to a whole new place that it has never been taken too. So, I’m constantly learning how to be truthful in these imaginary fictional circumstances.

CS: Thank you for talking to CSReview, Dave; always a time worth spending.

Dave Vescio: Thank you as well Camilla! I totally do appreciate it! And if you get the chance definitely follow me on twitter @DaveVescio.

 Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

CSReview and Camilla Stein do not support ideas expressed in ‘The Custom Mary’.

 C A M I L L A  S T E I N  S C I E N C E  F I C T I O N 


1 07 2011

Gemini Rising (2011)

Gemini Rising poster design by Camilla Stein

Image Courtesy: Gemini Rising. Poster Design by Camilla Stein

Gemini Rising  is an exciting new science fiction action feature film currently in post-production in Hollywood, with a set of complex characters who are being confronted with an extraordinary situation that puts to test their integrity and everything they are.

The story begins when NASA, while on its deep space mission, discovers an alien spacecraft with a barely alive alien inside. The technology is startling and human logic dictates that a chance like that cannot be missed. The spacecraft is brought on Earth, and on a remote Pacific island, in a military installation, some horrific things start happening…

Image Courtesy: Gemini Rising. Production Design: Madla Hruza.

The movie is being produced in an innovative fashion, which was the crew’s concious choice, calling global community of artists to contribute their skills and passion to the project.  Seeking to unravel several mysteries behind its production, Camilla Stein talked to members of the Gemini Rising  crew-Dana Schroeder, film director/producer at Pathfinder Productions, and Dave Vescio, actor playing a malicious MD in Gemini Rising.

CS: Welcome to Camilla Stein Review, Dana and Dave. It’s great having you two share about your awesome work on Gemini Rising. Some aspects of the movie have been kept under a tight lid, which is understandable. Perhaps you could shed a little more light onto what has been done so far and what is being planned. Dana, you worked in different genres, from drama to comedy. Gemini Rising is your recent science fiction project. Given the movie’s objectives, what was the most demanding part to film?

Dana Schoeder: Probably the greatest challenge of film making is taking a vision and getting it into the “can”. We spend 12 to 14 hour days, working with diverse crew of production design, camera and lighting departments to collaboratively create scenes that will speak to the visual message we wish to send to the audience. It sometimes feels like organized chaos, but when the shot works, it’s like magic. I think any genre of film making suffers the same challenges, but sci-fi adds the complexity of an actor creating relationship and reaction to a green screen, where a visual effects element will be added later.

CS: What makes Gemini Rising unique? Do you stay consistent with the canon of the genre here, or do you experiment with new forms of expression?

Dana Schroeder: I think every genre has a core demographic of committed followers, like horror, sci-fi, action, comedy, romantic dramas, etc. Take Blade Runner, for instance, a core sci-fi demographic, then add an action element, strong dramatic theme, a romantic subplot, and it creates an expanded demographic and larger audience. So, to answer your question, I built the plot to fulfill the canon of the demographic sci-fi audience, and then added elements of stronger character arcs with very capable actors, action sequences, and even a romantic subplot to create more layers to the story. Hopefully that will make it more interesting to a larger audience.

CS: Your approach sounds very involving indeed, no doubt the result will be absolutely worthy. Gemini Rising has a great cast. If you could describe working on the set in one word, what would it be?

Dana Schroeder: Challenging.

CS: That says a lot. What’s the most memorable thing that happened during shooting? Most funny?

Dana Schroeder: John Savage, singing opera backstage… Lance Henriksen in character on and off camera, chomping on his cigar and being the Alpha leader of his band of elite marines, Brian Krause being a bubbly boyish jokester, then hitting his mark with outstanding professionalism when the cameras rolled, Amy Hathaway’s intense determination on and off camera especially when she was beating on the stunt performers, Dave Vescio’s method style as he evolved into the twisted, brilliant and socially inept chief scientist.

CS: Gemini Rising has a most intriguing plot. Knowing that in action movies the story often risks getting overshadowed by the action, how does Gemini Rising deal with this side effect?

Dana Schroeder: I think a plot should evolve like a roller coaster ride. There should be moments of hard pounding action, intrigue teetering on horror, touching romantic interplay, intense drama, etc. If this all works, we give the audience a great ride.

CS: There’s no science fiction without an extraterrestrial element. How much of the human-alien interaction can we expect in Gemini Rising?

Dana Schroeder: There are touching moments. There are terrifying moments. There are intense action moments.

CS: When having aliens on the set, what’s the biggest challenge? Say, a communication problem, or do they tend to dictate their terms and undermine the authority of an Earthling? That last one is a joke. Seriously though, we’ve seen these very cute alien model-hands and are eager to discover what Gemini Rising aliens are like. Are they evil or benign, or are they controversial and are here to stay?

Dana Schroeder: Time will tell. That is part of the ride the audience will experience.

CS: Sounds like you are preparing quite a surprise. Speaking of software, Blender has been chosen for this production. How would you evaluate your experience with this program? Are you planning on using it again for your future projects?

Dana Schroeder: So far, the progress is working out well. We have artists participating from around the world, France, Germany, England, Spain, Eastern Europe, USA, Asia, and the Middle East. We use Blender as the main modeling software, giving all of the participants a way to collaborate with one another. We have 300 blender artists signed up on the web site, over 25,000 views to date, over a 1000 submissions, between 50-100 posts to the site every day. This is definitely a paradigm shift from the normal way of putting visual effects into movies. As far as I know, this has never been done this way before. Will I use this approach again? Darn right!

CS: That’s an incredible pioneer thing you’ve got going there! Thank you for lifting up the veil of secrecy around such an awesome movie project, Dana. Wishing you all the luck with Gemini Rising post-production work and release.

Dave Vescio was cast as Gemini Rising main antagonist. Dave, you have an impressive record of roles and a most intriguing trademark, exploring dark side of human nature. Let’s talk about your villain in Gemini Rising, Dr. Bainbridge. Who is he?

Dave Vescio: Thank you! Well, my character Dr. Brainbridge is one of the top medical scientists in the world (and was actually bred this way by his father), and he’s currently working on a secret military base in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for the U.S. government. And his mission is to figure out how to control combat soldiers telepathically, to create ‘the perfect soldier’.

CS: You’ve previously stated in your interviews that your purpose in portraying bad guys is to create a real-life experience for viewers, a documentary-like effect. How does that reflect on your playing Dr. Bainbridge?

Dave Vescio: Wow, that’s a good question. Well, my goal as an actor is to become my characters for real. And to bring in as many elements of Dave Vescio into these characters as I humanly can, but, at the same time, be the characters as well. And Dr. Bainbridge is an anti-social, tortured, sex driven scientist, which is definitely not me in anyway. I had to do certain things to myself to make this happen for real on set, such as being anti-social towards certain actors on set, causing real life pain to myself (so I can feel tortured in certain scenes), and to seeing women as sex objects because I’m driven to have sex with them and that’s it. Basically, this guy is morally incorrect in so many ways, so I had to make myself morally incorrect as well.

CS: Playing that sounds like quite a challenge. So, how bad your bad guy in Gemini Rising really is? Does he follow a certain code of conduct, or is he a ‘go for it at all costs’ kind of a persona?

Dave Vescio: Let’s say that he has no quam killing another human being. He likes to have sex with a comatose woman (actress Cortney Palm). And he has no regard for anyone’s personal space at all. Basically, he’ll do whatever he has to do, to get what he wants in life. But, the reason he does this screwed up stuff is because he was tortured as a young child by his own father. His father was Dr. Bainbridge back in the day, and he would use his son as a guinea pig in all his scientific studies. So, basically, my character was injected with LSD, electrocuted, and pushed to the limits physically, mentally, and definitely emotionally as a child. That’s why he is who he is.

CS: That is quite horrible! Playing such a complex and dark individual with such a painful history is not a walk in the park. When you first read the script for Gemini Rising, what was your initial impression? Did you know right away that you could do it, be this character?

Dave Vescio: I actually don’t think that I can do any character justice when I first read the script. That’s why I became an actor in the first place, because this stuff really scares the grass out of me. But, I was trained to break down a script and really figure out why this character says what he says and does what he does to the other characters in the story. That’s when the fun stuff begins and I start seeing who these guys are by repeating the dialogue over and over again, and figuring out why they’re saying this or that versus anything else. Plus I’ll do my own research on the side and find out how the other actors will play their scenes as well, and I’ll also talk to the director about the character (if the director likes to direct), and then see what actually happens while we are on set. It’s always a process, which is one of the reasons why I love to act!

CS: While practicing the secrets of your craft and doing all that hard work to make things happen on screen, what in Dr. Bainbridge can you mostly relate to, and what not?

Dave Vescio: I’m not anti-social in anyway. I definitely don’t like to have sex with comatose women; that’s for sure. And I’m not some of Dr. Bainbridge’s other traits as well. For everything else I have a real life sense memory to play off of. As for the anti-social aspect, getting sexually aroused by a comatose woman and so on, I just had to figure out how to do all of that stuff either at home or on set.

CS: There’s a brilliant, in my opinion, torture scene where you are left at the mercy of Colonel Stephen Cencula (Lance Henriksen). It’s been said that doing horror scenes always causes lots of excitement for actors and the entire crew. How would you describe working with Lance and doing this particular act?

Dave Vescio: This scene was a lot of fun. When it comes to doing my own stunts, I’m always the first one in, thinking how to make it look as real as possible; basically doing it for real. I pretty much told the stunt guys that I was working with to just do whatever they had to do to get me down into that medical chair and to strap me down, because I was going to fight them all the way. And when it came time for me to be in horrible pain, I was actually causing myself pain on set as well, to the point, where I was crying for real. As you said before I really do like to make my acting performances look as realistic as possible. That’s what I’m always trying to do on set, making it look and feel like real life. And Lance was great! He’s a pro. And I definitely learned a lot from him.

CS:The alien hands animation I’ve seen is so much fun. In its form before the final wrap-up it seems a bit inconsistent with the perhaps intended image of a creepy alien attached to these hands. Many shots for this movie are done against the green screen. While working on Gemini Rising, what presented the biggest challenge? Did you have any difficulties applying your imagination, placing yourself in the setting?

Dave Vescio: Yes and no. Imagining something is there when it isn’t is really hard for me. But I know some tricks of the trade to making it seem real, like placing a real-life human being in front of me when I’m talking to an imaginary object. That way I’m actually talking to someone. And then, when the camera angle has to show my character as well as the alien one, which is in reality a green screen, I just have a human being stand on the edges of the camera frame. That way I’m still talking to someone even though you don’t see them in the camera shot at all.

CS: That was a very impressive walk through the set, Dave. Thank you for talking to CSReview. It was great having you.

Dave Vescio: And thank you as well, Camilla. I totally had fun!

Trailer Gemini Rising is out! Click here

Courtesy Gemini Rising.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

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