Saturday, February 13, 2016

Exploring The Value Of Sci-fi's Darkside: My Interview With "Shockwave: Darkside" Director Jay Weisman

Jay Weisman is a veritable force of talent and creativity when it comes to storytelling, bringing to life worlds and characters visually and descriptively. He has written and directed for Spike TV and the Syfy Channel, plus his talent extends beyond the medium of film and television into the field of music, having directed the music video 'Moon' for the band Fossil. Most recently Jay Weisman wrote and directed the sci-fi feature "Shockwave: Darkside", a futuristic saga in which mankind Battles for survival during humanity's most vulnerable period.

" Shockwave: Darkside " recently saw release digitally across on demand and digital download formats. The film stars Mei Melançon, Bill Sage, Sonequa Martin, Rich Ceraulo, and Alexander Cendese. The story follows the final tribes of humanity during the last great war. I had the opportunity to ask Weisman a few questions about "Shockwave: Darkside" and filmmaking. Read my interview with the talented storyteller below.

A Southern Life: Where did the idea for "Shockwave Darkside" come from?

Jay Weisman: It honestly came from a writing exercise.  In my downtime, I sometimes assign myself writing exercises - just to see what I can come up with.  One day I was brainstorming about a scenario where ordinary people are confronted with something not only extraordinary - but something that they were well beyond being equipped to handle.  How would they cope?  And what would happen to their belief systems along the way...?

Something about that notion really captured my attention, so I tried to put my characters into the worst place imaginable and have them cut off from all their support systems - which became fighting a war on the dark side of the moon.  I showed the outline to my managers Dan DeFilippo and Dave Market over at Pipeline, they not only gave me some constructive feedback but also decided to put some money into the project - and we were off to the races! 

A Southern Life: " Shockwave: Darkside" is special effects driven, when did you first realize you wanted to be a special effects artist?

Jay Weisman: My love of Special Effects really goes as far back as I can remember - even before I was old enough to see "Star Wars".  I was always captivated by the notion that things could happen on screen that couldn't really happen in real life.  I think maybe the original "King Kong" that I caught on television was the thing that really sparked my imagination.  It had monsters, planes and the Empire State building - it was perfect!

Of course shortly after that I was exposed to not only "Star Trek" and "Star Wars", but older movies like George Pal's "War of the Worlds" and the works of Ray Harryhausen.  My father was a big fan of classic science fiction films, so he really introduced that world to me.  I would eagerly gobble up magazines like Starlog, Cinefex and Cinefantastique to try and answer the eternal question – which always was; 'how'd they do that'?  

 Of course, "Shockwave Darkside" was made by many, many special effects artists - modellers, animators, compositors - and it was an incredible experience because we all had more or less the same frame of reference.  In fact, we were literally from all over the world, but we all read the same stuff and watched the same movies, so if I said a spaceship needed to maneuver more like the Eagle from “Space:1999” and less like the Millennium Falcon, then they knew exactly what I was talking about.  It was really wonderful to meet so many different people, from all walks of life who had similar dreams and passions.  

A Southern Life: We're you shocked at the positive reception you have received for your talent, you are now award winning?

Jay Weisman: It is a bit weird. My short film “Surveillances” won a few awards a while back, which was very, very rewarding - but then again, you can read one review who picks your film apart, and then another that praises it for the exact same reason - so you tend to take these things with a grain of salt.  It is my hope that all the reactions encourage like-minded people to give "Shockwave" a chance because everybody's time is valuable and the market place is so crowded.  

A Southern Life: How does "Shockwave: Darkside" differ from some of your other work, both in the music industry as well as television?
Jay Weisman: I've been fortunate enough to work in a variety of industries - which has been great professionally because it's been very rewarding.  I'd like to think I'm a curious person by nature, so it's always interesting for me to learn about how various businesses work and all the personalities that inhabit it.  I think it makes me a better writer because it's a constant tug of war between the universal and specific.  I think a job is a job is a job, but people are fascinated by all the details and nuances that make up that world - so I'm forever trying to absorb as much as I can because you never know where you find inspiration.  

That all said, "Shockwave Darkside" was a unique situation because it was something that I more or less thought up.  I remember when and where I had the original idea, so to see it through from all the incarnations of the script and then the shooting and the post process, it really was more than just a job to me - it was kind of a way of life.  So looking back on everything, that kind of seismic event is something that you can't really compare it to because it's all-encompassing.  

A Southern Life: When did you first realize you wanted to direct? 

Jay Weisman: Since I knew what a director was!  As I learned about making movies it seemed to me that the person who was having most fun on the set was the director.  It just looked like the coolest job - so I gravitated to it.  One of the things that always attracted me to filmmaking was that it is very multidisciplinary in that it truly takes such a multitude of talents to make a film.  Literally every art form in the history of man, from writing to painting to sculpture to music and photography is used to make a movie - and the director is at center of all that which is something that always appealed to me.  

A Southern Life: Seeing as how you are multi-talented, special effects - writing - directing, is there one that you prefer over the other?

Jay Weisman: I've produced more than I've directed at the point where we started making “Shockwave”, so I'd say that was in more of my comfort zone - but it really depends on the day and what's going on.  I love the act of writing and all the problem solving that you have to do on the page, but it can be a very lonely exercise.  Directing is almost the opposite where everybody is coming at you with a million questions all at once because the click is ticking.  

To be honest, it's really the balance of all three that I find rewarding because the reality is that there is such overlap anyways.  It's very rare where I just did 'one' thing.  I was either starting producing prep while finishing up a re-write, or tweaking dialogue with an actor in rehearsal while trying to work out logistics with the other producers - so it's really a mixed blessing of muti-tasking more than anything else.  

A Southern Life:  Back to "Shockwave: Darkside", what can sci-fi fans expect to see?
Jay Weisman: I'd like to think that "Shockwave Darkside" is more in the “Martian” or “Interstellar” school as it is a bit more character-driven.  We still have cool spaceships and firefights, but as I mentioned above, the original kernel of the idea was about ordinary people who have to confront the extraordinary, so there is more of a focus on our characters and what they go through.  

In a way, it is much more reminiscent of the original "Star Trek" or 'Twilight Zone".  Those stories were essentially morality plays that took the themes and struggles of the day and played them out through the lens of science fiction.  Of course this is what sci-fi does really well, so in a lot of ways our film was inspired by this kind of storytelling, which is something that I don't think we've seen in a while.  

A Southern Life: Have you always been a fan of science fiction? What are some of the film's that has influenced you?

Jay Weisman: Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" was always a source of inspiration while we were making the movie.  There was a depth and a really interesting austere quality that spoke to the story that we were trying to tell.  On the other side of the spectrum, we also thought of the movie as "Saving Private Ryan" on the Moon, so I think those two films represent the two poles that 'Shockwave Darkside" occupies; the sad humanity of a wartime tale eclipsed by the unfathomable cosmos.  

I've always been a huge fan of science fiction, so directors like Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Kubrick, Spielberg and Lucas has obviously been a influence on me.  I'm also a fan of older directors like Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges and David Lean because they make it all look so easy!

A Southern Life: "Shockwave: Darkside" premiered  at Fright Fest in London last year, were you nervous at all, and where do you go from there? More festivals or straight to distribution?
Jay Weisman: Fright Fest was a wild ride!  I didn't realize how nervous I was until I actually sat in the theater right before the first showing.  Leading up to the screening, I was more concerned about the logistics of actually getting to the venue then the actual screening itself. Only when I actually settled in at the back of the theater for the first screening did it hit me that people were actually filing in to see our movie!  It was a crazy kind of excitement that I'll never forget.  

Coming out of the festival we were able to secure a sales agent and, eventually, distribution - so that's been amazing as well.  We actually had a few screenings along the way and are now settling in to distribute the movie.  You can get it on VOD via iTunes and Google Play or on DVD when it comes out in March.  

A Southern Life: What other projects do you have in the works beyond "Shockwave: Darkside"?

Jay Weisman: It's been kind of an embarrassment of riches because It's been pretty much all "Shockwave" all the time since we sold the movie - so while I'm working on a new batch of projects, I'm not quite there yet in announcing them.  I will soon though!

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