Dr. Larry Lewis, our good friend and colleague, passed away at the end of January this year. I first knew Dr. Lewis as my therapist as he helped me navigate the turmoil of television and film work in the early 2000s. More recently, Melissa McQueen (my wife) and I shot the web series Hero Therapy with him. Dr. Lewis had such a presence of humor, wisdom and understanding. He’ll be sorely missed.
Category - Sci-Fi
Hosts is a parody of the Alien franchise and a satire of showbusiness in general. We originally did it as part of a pilot for EscapistMagazine.com, but they allowed us to air it on our YouTube channel Dorks of Yore. It was a long, tough day of shooting, with us four actors contorted behind the walls and heads sticking out above our false bodies. I’m putting together a behind-the-scenes video of it now.
We had a mini-viral event with its release in October, and got coverage from Huffington Post and The Hollywood Reporter, along with a number of respected science-fiction sites. Here’s my favorite review.
Having grown up in the ’70s and ’80s, Roger Moore was always my 007, and Richard Kiel as “Jaws” was always my quintessential Bond villain. Richard was signing autographs at Fangoria’s LA show back when I was doing promotion for Day of the Dead. I was happy to get this picture from him featuring his character from “To Serve Man,” one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. He was a sweetheart of a guy – friendly and generous (especially for an oral-aggressive spy killer). That’s one of the great things about those conventions – you can fulfull adolescent mini-dreams, interacting with screen stars who were larger than life during your younger years. Thanks, Richard!
Emile Castelle: Superhero Fashion Designer was part of The Pat Kilbane Show pilot of early 2003. It’s a mash-up of comic book culture and the old show Fashion File from the Style Network. I did the voice of the announcer in addition to playing Emile. Rodney Munoz, our costumer, really had his hands full having to create so many outfits on such a tiny budget, but he did a great job. It doesn’t surprise me that he went on to win an Emmy. Looking back, the sketch seems to be ahead of its time, coming out years before Project Runway, Who Wants to Be a Superhero? and even The Incredibles, which had superhero fashion character of its own.
Most discussions about surviving a zombie apocalypse center around gearing up wisely and staying on the move. But what about the idea of buttoning up and hiding? For those with the resources and foresight to have a well-stocked underground shelter, staying put for a while may be the most sensible thing to do. Here are three reasons why… Read More
In “The Walking Dead” and other zombie fiction, survivors often stress the importance of weapons that kill quietly. After all, when facing so many challenges in a broken civilization, why make your life tougher by firing a gun and announcing yourself to a mob of undead cannibals? For me, this begs a more probing question: just how many zombies would your gunfire attract? For your post-apocalyptic convenience, I have created a table that gives you a rough idea. Read More
(An interesting post I wrote in December 2011 for Military.com)
Well thought out equipment is huge for me in the enjoyment of science-fiction fare, so I wanted to take a moment to praise this awesome piece of sci-fi gear. Named for the electrical pulses that ignite the primers on its caseless cartridges, the M41A Pulse Rifle was the standard issue weapon of the U.S. Colonial Marines in the 1986 actioner Aliens. And when you consider that James Cameron, the movie’s director, was both an avid shooter and a stickler for detail, it’s no surprise that the M41A seemed so plausible in a near-future setting.
It supposedly fired 10mm caseless HEAP rounds, of which it held 95 in its high-tech magazine. But the real appeal was its under-barrel, pump-action 30mm grenade launcher that was said to hold three rounds in the tube. Seeing that every rifleman in the movie was also a multi-shot grenadier made one think “Why aren’t we doing this now?”
Cut to a few years later when our real military’s OICW program called for exactly such a weapon. I have no evidence that the directive was inspired by the movie Aliens, but it’s not unreasonable to think it might have been. Life has imitated art under less likely circumstances.
Check out this video of a live-ammo-firing M41A built by Lage Manufacturing. The “rifle” portion fires 9mm Parabellum ammunition from a 50-round Suomi magazine, while the “grenade launcher” fires 12-gauge from a two-round tube.
When you’re a kid, playing with dolls and action figures is a great world-building exercise. The toys provide a nice jumping-off point, leaving it up to your imagination to create the characters, story, weather and terrain. Your living room becomes a massive green screen where amazing vistas can be mentally painted in.
When I see clever animations like this featuring toys from my childhood, it strikes something in my creative core. It realizes the fantasy I had that my toy figures would come to life and embark on extraordinary adventures.
The human skull is an iconic symbol of horror and can be used to great effect if you’re building a macabre world. I made this distressed cranium on the cheap from a $35 plastic model kit. After assembling it, I filled the seams with Magic-Sculpt and sanded them, then stippled the skull’s surface with MMD Green Putty to give it a crusty texture. Finally, I painted it an orange-brown to simulate the protective coating used by archaeologists to preserve bone.
I like this particular kit (which is hard to find nowadays but appears to be available here) because the teeth are cast individually. There are a couple of human skull kits available from Lindberg that you can get at any local hobby store, but their teeth are lumped together in pieces like a dental bridge and don’t look as real.
I’m pretty happy with the final product; it’s a little small at eight inches in length, but it has a nice, lived-in look that movie props often lack.
Rod Serling had quite an influence on me as a young fan of science-fiction. I was eleven when I first discovered his show The Twilight Zone and became borderline obsessed with it. I scoured the TV listings looking for Twilight Zone reruns and even started clipping out the plot synopses so I would know which episodes I had already seen. I wanted to be Rod Serling; a mysterious, eloquent man in a black suit; an omniscient, foreboding guide to a dimension of imagination.
As an eleven year-old, the last thing I thought about when watching TV shows was who wrote and produced them, so it wasn’t until adulthood that I understood just how amazing Serling was. He wrote seventy of the first one hundred Twilight Zone episodes himself – an absurdly prolific feat – and still managed to deliver poetic dialogue and darkly innovative themes. He had final say on all aspects of production, and his unwillingness to compromise on quality drove him to work 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week.
More amazing still, in retrospect, is the incredible gamble Serling was taking by doing a science-fiction series at all. In 1959, when Twilight Zone began, he had already won three Emmys for writing critically acclaimed ninety-minute dramas, like “Patterns” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. He was respected as a television artiste, and science-fiction at the time was considered a trashy, pedestrian genre. Most of the world thought he was selling out.
In the end, Serling was vindicated for following his creative instincts. Twilight Zone was a commercial and critical success that ran for five years, garnering him two additional Emmy wins for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama. Though executive producer Buck Houghton deserves much of the credit for the timeless look and feel of The Twilight Zone, it was Serling’s creative vision that ultimately brought the show to life. His story settings were gritty and recognizable to us but were instilled with a powerful surreality. Viewers got the eerie feeling that at any time, by simply looking into a mirror, boarding a train, or answering a telephone, they could be transported to a place “beyond that which is known to man.” With his thoughtfulness and respect for the genre, Serling elevated science-fiction on television to a full-fledged art form.
Rod Serling was a man’s man; masculine and charismatic, but self-effacing, and with an insecure streak that always pushed him to do better and better work. He had the moral foundation of a small town boy and the unflinching realism of a soldier who won a Bronze Star fighting in the Pacific. He was a fearless opponent of censorship, an engaging college teacher and a builder of compelling worlds that would stir imaginations for generations to come.