Thursday, December 24, 2009

McSterlingthong Interview, Part 1

Over the past seven years, I've taken Dead Gentlemen movies to fan and gaming conventions all across the country, and met several New York Times bestselling authors who I now call my friends. I find them urbane and witty, pleasant and cultured, all around nice people who don't take themselves too seriously. And then there's this guy:

I don't know why Dead Gentlemen chose to interview him, but I'm contractually obligated to link to the video.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

At Year's End

Been a while since I posted, and not for any lack of interest. Sunday was my first day off pretty much all month. I had just finished a rather extensive rewrite on JourneyQuest and was about to switch gears into Grandmother Clock, but wound up unconscious instead. Apparently my body overruled my brain's mandate that there would be no nap time.

Projects are coming along nicely. Momentum continues to surge on JourneyQuest -- we're in the process of juggling actor and location availability so we can lock down a shooting schedule. We're nearing the end of casting, and should have an announcement up early in the new year. Also may have a new office space next year -- Kat Ogden scouted out a startlingly lovely, surprisingly perfect potential workspace for Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. That's the new production company I'm founding with Kat and Ben Dobyns in January, the company releasing JourneyQuest and Strowlers (formerly called the Cascadia project). The office space is in one of the loveliest old buildings in downtown Tacoma.

Right, forgot to mention -- we're moving to Tacoma, potentially as early as February, when our lease in Glendale is up. Camille and I are house scouting and will be taking a first-time homebuyers' course while we're up for the holidays. We've been approved for loans and have our realtor; we only have yet to choose a lender and find a house. And then spend months and months in closing. A necessary evil. Still worth it if it brings us home.

Three days until Christmas. How does a holiday that starts marketing itself before Halloween sneak up on me? Our holiday letter will be late this year, as usual. Funny how time speeds up when you need it the most.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Follow the adventures of my parents -- the man who taught me my sense of humor, and the woman who taught me when it was appropriate to use my sense of humor -- as they start a new life teaching at an international school in Istanbul. The blog is Istanbullets.

Remarkably, they are not German

Enjoy the kebabs, you crazy kids.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"And Stay Down!"

I'll have a writeup of the JourneyQuest location scout up by the end of the week. In the meantime, enjoy this pic of me losing a fight.

"That's right, punk."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

DG and ZOE Announce JourneyQuest: Season One


28 November 2009


From Matt Vancil, writer and director of cult hits THE GAMERS and DORKNESS RISING, comes a new fantasy comedy web series, JOURNEYQUEST. Developed, produced, and distributed by Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (ZOE) and co-produced by Dead Gentlemen Productions and Kairos Productions, JOURNEYQUEST: SEASON ONE will begin production in March of 2010. Free episodes will be released online weekly beginning the following July.

Following a group of dysfunctional adventurers on a quest to discover and destroy the mythical Sword of Fighting, JOURNEYQUEST: SEASON ONE is a comedic adventure through the world of Fartherall, where intellectual orcs, seductive dwarves, lying gargoyles, and holy zombies form the living (and not-so-living) backdrop to an epic story of unrequited love, burning passions, and severely reluctant heroism. And running away. Lots of running away.

In addition to JOURNEYQUEST: SEASON ONE, Vancil will also direct a bonus featurette entitled JOURNEYQUEST: UNDERQUEST, which will be available exclusively on DVD and through several online digital download markets.

JOURNEYQUEST: SEASON ONE will be released online under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike license. Fans will be encouraged to play and create their own stories and art in the JOURNEYQUEST sandbox.

ZOE is partnering with Dead Gentlemen Productions (DGP) and Kairos Productions to create and promote JOURNEYQUEST: SEASON ONE. The show will be featured content at and throughout DGP’s online syndication network.

JOURNEYQUEST is executive produced by Ben Dobyns and Matt Vancil, produced by Jeremy Spray and Kat Ogden, co-produced by Cornelia D. Moore, and the Production Manager is Elizabeth Heile. It will be shot entirely in the Pacific Northwest.

More information is available at, on the Zombie Orpheus Facebook page, and via the contact information below.


ZOE develops and distributes original web content directly to fandom, including especially the fantasy, science fiction, and horror markets. By focusing on building long-term relationships with core fans, ZOE aims to establish a model of sustainable independent filmmaking outside of the studio system. The company is also developing a modern steampunk web series entitled STROWLERS.


Dead Gentlemen Productions is a group of filmmakers with roots in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Their recent film, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, is currently distributed by Anthem Pictures.

In addition to ongoing comedy sketches and short films, Dead Gentlemen recently produced the high definition feature The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, and co-produced the Demon Hunters Roleplaying Game with Margaret Weis Productions, which introduced the newly canonized world of their original Demon Hunters and a short film entitled: The Brotherhood Orientation Video. To this very day the Dead Gentlemen exercise their super power of unmatched collaboration to create projects together.


Kairos Productions is a reverently irreverent film development and production company based in Seattle, Washington. They are currently developing numerous book-to-film properties based on several works by Newbery Award-winning novelist Madeleine L’Engle. Kairos’ next project is a motion picture adaptation of L’Engle’s novel CAMILLA. Additionally, Kairos is working on HAIRSTORY, a documentary, and a feature entitled THE CURSE OF THE SCOTTISH PLAY.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dead Gentlemen Announces Zombie Orpheus Entertainment


28 November 2009


Dead Gentlemen Productions (THE GAMERS, DEMON HUNTERS) is proud to announce the formation of a new company, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (ZOE). Founded by Dead Gentlemen veterans Ben Dobyns and Matt Vancil and by Kat Ogden, formerly of Created By, ZOE will develop and distribute original web content directly to fandom, including especially the fantasy, science fiction, and horror markets.

The first ZOE project will be a fantasy comedy web series called JOURNEYQUEST, to be written and directed by Matt Vancil (THE GAMERS, THE GAMERS: DORKNESS RISING) and executive produced by Matt Vancil and Ben Dobyns. Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and Kairos Productions will present a Dead Gentlemen Production of a Matt Vancil film. JOURNEYQUEST is in preproduction and begins principle photography in March of 2010. Episodes will be released weekly beginning July of 2010. DVDs will be available for the 2010 fall/winter holiday season.

In addition to JOURNEYQUEST, ZOE is preparing an urban fantasy, STROWLERS, scheduled to shoot in September of 2010 for a web release in January of 2011. The project is written by Matt Vancil and directed by Ben Dobyns. STROWLERS is currently partially financed. Interested parties may contact producer’s representative Dawn Roscoe for more information about STROWLERS financing.

ZOE will also produce ongoing behind-the-scenes web content for these projects under the leadership of producer Kat Ogden, including special live interactive streaming events, ongoing opportunities for fan participation, and a wide variety of contests and polls. ZOE also plans to release all web-originated ZOE properties under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike license, which will allow fans not only to share and promote ZOE projects among their friends, but to create their own noncommercial, noncompetitive derivative works, including fan fiction, video remixes, and games.

Finally, ZOE will offer its distribution, syndication, and promotions services to select companies who produce high-quality media in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres, beginning with Dead Gentlemen Productions. In its new role ZOE looks forward to expanding the market for Dead Gentlemen’s brands, including THE GAMERS and DEMON HUNTERS.

More information is available at, on the Zombie Orpheus Facebook page, and via the contact information below.


Dead Gentlemen Productions is a group of filmmakers with roots in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Their recent film The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, is currently distributed by Anthem Pictures.

In addition to ongoing comedy sketches and short films, Dead Gentlemen recently produced the high definition feature The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, and co-produced the Demon Hunters Roleplaying Game with Margaret Weis Productions, which introduced the newly canonized world of their original Demon Hunters and a short film entitled: The Brotherhood Orientation Video. To this very day the Dead Gentlemen exercise their super power of unmatched collaboration to create projects together.


Kairos Productions is a reverently irreverent film development and production company based in Seattle, Washington. They are currently developing numerous book-to-film properties based on several works by Newbery Award-winning novelist Madeleine L’Engle. Kairos’ next project is a motion picture adaptation of L’Engle’s novel CAMILLA. Additionally, Kairos is working on HAIRSTORY, a documentary, and a feature entitled THE CURSE OF THE SCOTTISH PLAY.


DAWN ROSCOE: (206) 715-4182

Friday, November 13, 2009


Had a great table read of the rough draft in LA on Wednesday. And this morning, Jeremy and I fly up to Seattle for ten days of camera tests, location scouting, and auditions. We have somewhere in the realm of 200+ people auditioning. Holy crap, this is getting real.

Many thanks to Paige, Nathan, and Rian for hosting the read; to Matt for providing scripts; to Dan for hashing his voice reading action; and to everyone who participated. LA auditions will be in the first week of December.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Quest Begins

Many developments this last month. I didn't post at all during October. Much of that was out of respect for my grandfather. Part of it was that I just didn't have the time. One event dovetailed into another into another that scarcely left us room enough to breathe, let alone reflect and report on the events. Here's how it started: Camille and I were going to Oregon for our anniversary near the end of the month, and that trip combined with Grandpa's memorial and fused into an unexpected two-week journey to the Pacific Northwest, equal parts grief and business and celebration.

I've written about the grief, and Camille's written about the celebration. On to the business. I mentioned in a post after Comic Con (near the bottom, it's a long one) a new web project I'd been planning to work on: JourneyQuest, a fantasy/comedy webseries. The plan was to get back to my Gamers roots: shooting a no-budget passion project, running-and-gunning guerrilla style with a skeleton crew, begging and borrowing and stealing costumes and props and locations, and paying for it out of pocket. It would be more for fun than for profit, a welcome break from the grind of my other projects. A pallet-cleanser, a sorbet for the soul.

That was the plan. And that changed rather quickly. Ben and I (but mostly Ben) ran some numbers, just to see what JQ might do if it, say, matched the success of The Gamers. We discovered that JQ would be a viable project for investment. We could raise enough money -- not a lot, a drop in the bucket by industry standards -- to give it top of the line production value. And we wouldn't have to pay for it ourselves.

So we started to putting together an investment package ... and the opportunity was so lucrative that an investor bit before we'd finished the presentation materials.

Boom, JourneyQuest is fully funded. Just like that. And just like that, our shooting and roll-out schedule fell into place. We shoot in March. Which means we need to be cast before the end of the year. Which means casting is in mid-November. Which means we need a script immediately; I've spent the last two weeks on just that. Open auditions in Washington start next week.

Friday, Jeremy and I fly to Washington for a 10-day excursion of camera tests, location scouting, and auditions. Our casting director will be coming to LA in the first week of December to see talent and hold auditions down here. We're having a table read of the script on Wednesday. It's all coming together, at breakneck speed. The Dead Gentlemen serendipity factor seems to be at work again. Expect frequent updates in the weeks and months to come. 

Still haven't decided whether or not to capitalize the "Q" -- JourneyQuest or Journeyquest? I think I like the latter more, but I've always written it the other way. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dr. Richard O. Failor, 1918-2009

A month ago, on October 1, my grandfather died. He was 91. 

We knew it was coming, but the death hit me harder than I expected. When my dad's folks passed away in 2004, they'd had dementia and Alzheimer's for years.  In those final years, the Vancil grandparents didn't recognize me ; I would introduce myself every five minutes or so, and would tell Papa D.O. his favorite World War II joke (which he'd taught me), and hear him laugh and laugh because he'd never heard it before. And then he'd politely introduce himself. I'd been able to mourn them before they were gone, you see, and when they physically died there was as much relief as there was grief. And still, to this day, though I haven't been there in a decade, their little house in Longview is the place I go more frequently in my dreams than any other. I can remember every detail with stark, painful clarity. I believe it is because it's the first permanent place I ever lost. But that's a discussion for another time.

Grandpa Dick had also struggled for years with ailing health, but his mind stayed keen. The man was built like an iron goat, virtually indestructible with a fiercely stubborn constitution and will not just to live, but to stay able bodied. Everything he'd survived had tempered him to be so -- he survived the Great Depression, the death of both parents by age fourteen, two wars, three bypass surgeries and the replacement of both hips. And the only thing he would complain about -- this was in his late 80s, by the way -- was how he couldn't maintain the five-acre farm where he'd lived with Grandma for fifty years by himself anymore. He'd grouse about this to me -- me, in my 20s at the time, drenched in sweat and dirt and manure after only less than an hour outside, secretly wishing it would rain so I could go in without losing face -- about how he just couldn't do it all anymore. These last few years, he didn't spend much time outside. He couldn't. This last year, he could barely leave his chair.

I would call every week or two to check in, see how he was feeling. After exchanging pleasantries and laughs with my grandmother -- I've never met a woman quicker to laugh, though the one I married comes close -- she'd pass me off to Grandpa for about a ninety second conversation.

"Hi, Grandpa, it's Matt."

"Oh, hello there."

"How are you, sir?"

"Oh, you know.  Some days are good, some are bad." He'd give me the details of what was ailing him at the time, whether it was the pneumonia or his lungs or his heart or the cancer. "What have you been up to?"

"Well ..." and I'd give him a brief rundown of my projects, and how Camille was doing. He always appreciated brevity. 

"Well, thanks for calling," he'd say, whether I was through telling him what I was up to or not. "You take care. Bye bye, now." And he'd hang up. That was a long conversation , especially over the phone.

The way to get to know him was to work alongside him. I didn't really crack into that until I was in college, when I would spend some of each summer working on the farm under Grandpa's supervision. Under his mandatory supervision -- I am a terrible farmer. I can't till a straight line in the garden or uproot a rotten fence post without the foot breaking off or split wood without cracking an ax handle and sending every other piece of firewood pinwheeling off the cutting block. Dick would work alongside me, and when he'd tire (again, the man was in his 80s and still doing field word) would have me take over.  He'd watch me work, adjust me when I erred, and emit a single chuckle with a wry smile when I'd embarrass myself -- like by cracking an ax handle or tilling a row that resembled the flight pattern of a moth.

After a few hours, Grandma would bring us out some sandwiches and a jug of lemonade. And he'd start to talk. He'd tell me about growing up in Tacoma in the Depression, and how he would run seven miles to school every day, swim after school, and run back home (hence his legendary stamina). He would tell me about how he worked full time at night while he was studying Orthodontia, expressly forbidden by the university. He'd tell me about being stationed in the Aleutians during the War in the Pacific, and how it would get so cold that a man could grab the coal-burning stove in the tent with his bare hands and not be burned. He'd tell me about becoming the first orthodontist in the city of Olympia, and practicing full time while raising four children on a farm with a dozen head of cattle. He'd tell me about the first time he saw my grandmother, coming down the steps of the library in that city in Texas (I forget which), and he turned to his brother and said "That's the girl I'm gonna marry." Which he did, 63 years ago.

You didn't just get these stories from him.  You had to earn them. You had to spend time with him at work, in the trenches, in silent effort, and after that he would gift you with a pearl of family history you'd likely never heard before.

At the memorial service, I heard many stories I'd never heard before. My Uncle Jim spent a day scanning family photos, and put the slideshow on the TV on a loop. Family and friends dropped snippets of stories every time a new picture popped up. Many I recognized; more I did not. I saw sides of my grandfather I'd never seen (due mainly to my non-existence at the time they were taken), but that all informed the old man I had known.

The favorite picture -- indeed, the one that showed up on the program for his memorial -- is dated 1972. My Grandfather is standing on a dock somewhere on Vancouver Island. A solid curtain of trees conceals the horizon across obsidian water. He is holding up one end of a pipe supporting a 52-pound salmon he caught. The pipe in his teeth, held there despite the impish grin, is upside down. It fits him perfectly: his poise, his confidence, his sense of humor, his exuberance for the outdoors. His quiet nature, his eyes that saw everything, and were amused and moved by it all. It's pretty much the same expression in this picture, taken in July of 2008.

I miss you, Grandpa. Take care. Bye bye, now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nerd Venn Diagram

This is too good not to share. Buddy Tom Lommel found this on BuzzFeed. The next time you need to label some oddball weirdo, refer to this handy dandy chart.
Finally, an accurate, easy-to-understand guide that illustrates the differences between dorks, nerds, and the rest. Study up, people!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Computer Woes

It's been a rough couple of weeks for us, computer-wise. I blogged a couple posts ago about a rogue anti-virus program that tried to extract money from me by the insipid use of bad grammar.
What I didn't mention was that not two days later, my computer was sacked again, by a much stronger and far more insidious form of ransomware. This program locked me out of any and all of my other programs -- internet, spyware removal, word processing, everything. I literally could not use any program other than the ransomware , which kept prompting me to buy it. My options were 1) give in and pay off the spyware company, or 2) completely erase and reformat my hard drive. I went with option 2. Scorched earth, mothafucka.
Thankfully, my OCD extends to obsessively backing up all my files, so I didn't lose anything. And it's nice to have a speedy (circa 2005) laptop once again, now that it's not clogged with four plus years of excess programming. Though I do mourn for my lovely, handpicked stash of exotic porn, hidden in my program directory beyond all reckoning. Ah, well, probably for the best.
Additionally, between the two major spyware invasions, I also managed to destroy our printer. While trying to force-feed the printer blank paper -- paper the printer insisted was not there -- I managed to completely smash the printer's glass scanner plate. I've seen car wrecks with less broken glass. Now the printer only registers a constant error message.
On top of that, Camille's computer tower decided, for shits and giggles apparently, not to recognize her work hard drive. You know, the drive with all her software and files on it. I have to say, I never knew that woman could swear so effectively. It was impressive, and terrifying. My eyebrows have yet to grow back.
But eventually, we got everything worked out. We got Camille's work drive running after only a minor delay, and ordered a new, cost-effective printer. I've gotten all the updates installed for my laptop, and am running at full output once again, so I have to remove "broken laptop" from my list of Advanced Writing Avoidance Techniques.
Still, though, I miss my porn. If anyone has links to good clown, midget, and/or kung fu porn, send them my way.
DISCLAIMER: Mentions of pornography in the text do not mean the writer enjoys, views, indulges in, or has ever even heard of porn. Assertions to the contrary will be met with loud, panic-sweat induced denials and fumbling attempts to change the subject.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Midnight Chat with the Wife

I tend to wake up in the middle of the night. I also tend to wake my spouse up in the middle of the night, usually (but not always) by accident. And when I do, Camille most often grumbles something about how I'm always waking her up, rolls over, and goes back to sleep.
But sometimes she talks. And sometimes, when she does, the part of her brain that connects words and images is still asleep. And the messages she delivers, while never flagging in passion, make no kind of sense. I remember the first time it happened. She looked me dead in the eye and told me fervently about how I needed to finish the laundry for the stock market.
It's happened any number of times, and I usually forget what she said. Until now. Because last night I grabbed the mini tape recorder on my nightstand. Here's what transpired ...
Camille snoozes under a mound of cats. Matt treks in, tries to slip under the covers without waking his wife. As at most things, he fails.

Camille pushes herself up, stares intently at Matt.
CAMILLE: What letter do I wear?
MATT: I ... What?
CAMILLE: What letter do I wear? An "R" or a "B?"
MATT: ... an "R."
Camille nods, completely unimpressed.
CAMILLE: And where should I go?

MATT: I don't know. The post office.
CAMILLE: No, that's not what I ... just never mind.

Camille rolls over and goes to sleep. Matt reaches for his tape recorder.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Proper Grammar for Spyware Providers

I logged in this morning to find my laptop overrun with spyware. My desktop pic of the Oregon coast was gone. In its place was an unobtrusive "YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED!" jpeg. While I was puzzling that out, the first of hundreds of popups opened telling me my computer was overwhelmed with spyware, and if I'd just click here, Windows would download the latest, best, most up-to-datest antivirus spyware-throttling bit of digital badassery available.
My computer had been sacked by a rogue antivirus program, Advanced Virus Remover. It's a type of program invades and compromises any system it can get into, and then prevents you from doing anything -- like opening programs or trying to delete it -- until you agree to buy its services. It's essentially a digital mob protection racket. Attempts to remove the program or run my antispyware programs resulted in the Blue Screen of Death.
I managed to expunge the program from my laptop after about an hour -- big shout out to the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware folks -- but not before I'd carefully written down every popup message Advanced Virus Remover threw up at me. See, these rogue programs usually try to camouflage themselves as part of the Windows operating system, to blend in so their messages and prompts appear to be sent by the computer itself. But no one would ever fall for that, because the use of grammar in Advanced Virus Remover used was so stunningly, embarrassingly poor.
I copied down every popup and alert and emailed corrected versions back to the company. Here is the email I sent:
Hi there.
I woke up this morning to find your software buried in my operating system. It took me over an hour to remove it while your program kept offering to protect me from software just like yours. Here's a hint for your next upgraded version: If you're going to try to pass yourself off as a legitimate warning system that's part of Windows, please please please use correct grammar. As a writer by trade and a former English and writing tutor, I've taken the liberty to correct the grammar in your popups and alerts.
Here they are, in increasing degree of grammatical crime:
Proactive system found several active vulnerabilities on your computer.
Please read the following instructions before you continue.
Your system is at risk of being damaged by existing viruses- This can lead to PC freezes, crashes, erratic behavior, and data loss. Please run virus removal tool to protect your system.
"Vulnerables" is not a word. The noun version of "vulnerable" is "vulnerability." This wouldn't be so glaring a mistake if you hadn't used it correctly in the very next sentence.
The next sentence has no article. Which proactive system found the several active vulnerabilities? Was it one of many ("a"), or the only one ("the")? Or did you mean to say there was more than one system ("proactive systems"), which would preclude the need for an article?
Fourth sentence: you cannot end a sentence with a hyphen. Use a period or exclamation point. If you were trying to connect two independent clauses with a dash, use an em dash (--) instead of a hyphen (-), and don't capitalize the first letter of the second clause.
The last sentence also has no article. It should read "Please run a virus removal tool" or "Please run virus removal tools".
Click here to protect your computer from spyware!
Your computer is infected! Windows has detected spyware infection!It is recommended to use special antispyware tools to prevent data loss. Windows will now download and install the most up-to-date antispyware for you.
I'm detecting a pattern of article misuse. The third sentence should read "Windows has detected a spyware infection or "Windows has detected an infection of spyware." This is a situation where the definite article would not work -- you wouldn't say "Windows has detected the infection" unless it were the only spyware infection ever to have occurred.
Also, please note how I have just correctly demonstrated the correct way to separate independent clauses with a dash.
Put a space between "infection!" and "It". A basic proofread would have caught that. If your sales model is dependent on impersonating a Windows warning message, at least run Spell Check before you send it out.
Warning! New version of databases is available! Would you like to update them right now?
The second sentence should read "new versions of the databases are available." "A new version of the databases is available" does not work because the object of the third sentence, "them", is plural -- thus, the subject of the preceding sentence, "version", must also be plural. Otherwise the third sentence would read "Would you like to update it right now?".
Also ... why are you attracting my attention with "Warning!"? A warning is something that alerts people to danger. And yet you're using it to sell me an update of your program. That's like saying "Warning! The next ten shoppers will receive free ice cream!" You wouldn't be able to give away that ice cream, my friend.
Intercepting programs that may compromise your privacy and harm your systems have been detected on your PC. It` s highly recommended you scan your PC right now.
If you delete "intercepting," then the sentence works. But "intercepting" is a gerund -- a verbal noun with an -ing ending -- which makes the gerund phrase "Intercepting programs that may compromise your privacy and harm your systems" the subject of the sentence. That subject is singular, so if you change the rest of the sentence to "has been detected on your PC", the sentence technically will be grammatically correct, though it still won't make a lick of sense. That sentence essentially would mean "the act of intercepting programs ... has been detected on your PC."
Additionally, the sentence is passive. The programs, or the act of intercepting programs, has been detected. By whom? Passive sentences are used to disguise the agent, that is, the doer of the action. But wouldn't you want to make it clear that your program is the one doing the detecting? An active version of this sentence with the implied subject would read "Our software [subject] detects [active verb] programs [object] that may compromise your security blah blah blah."
As for the botching of "it's" ... Wow. Just wow. This ( ' ) is an apostrophe, which is sued either in contractions or to denote possession. This ( ` ) is an acute accent, a diacritic mark found in languages that use the Latin, Greek, or Cyrillic alphabets. It indicates pronunciation and stress on a given vowel. I assume you meant to use an apostrophe, since they look so similar, but I can't be certain, as they're pretty much on opposite ends of the keyboard.
And finally:
Timely update anti-virus databases helps you find and destroy a new viruses. Otherwise, you expose yourself to risks.
Your grammar makes baby Jesus cry.
What are you trying to tell me? "A timely update of your anti-virus database will help you find and destroy new viruses?" or "Timely updating anti-virus databases helps you find and destroy a new virus?" Or are you attempting an if/then conditional statement? "If you update your antivirus databases in a timely fashion, then it will help you find and destroy new viruses?" I get the gist of all of these, but your syntax makes my brain hurt. Hell yes, I'm exposing myself to risks -- risks like a bad grammar induced aneurysm.
Thank you for your time. I trust your next version of Advanced Virus Remover will be grammatically sound.

Matt Vancil
Feel free to send your own fan mail to the folks at Advanced Virus Remover: I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fred, PoD: Swurm and Block

Two more characters from Fred, Prince of Darkness: Swurm, Hell's own Jeeves, the long-suffering butler and executive assistant of the Prince of Darkness; and Mr. Block, the Cheney-esque CEO of Com Global, who won Hell from Satan in that fateful poker game.
Hates his job
.Hates your job

Friday, August 28, 2009

JourneyQuest Riddle

The characters in JourneyQuest come across a riddle they need to solve in the first episode. Here's what I've come up with. It's not particularly difficult, as riddles go; the characters get it immediately, as I assume you will.
Always running, stays in place,
Has a mouth but not a face.
Has a bed but never sleeps.
Has no eyes, forever weeps.
Has no lungs and yet can roar,
Passageway without a door.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Look at Earth Force 5

Check it out -- here's the opening animated sequence for Earth Force 5, the webseries I wrote and am producing with Epic Level. Animation is by Epic Level's roommate, Radical Axis, and music is by Karl Preusser. Here is the link:

Earth Force 5 Animated Intro
I think Don Early said it best: "That's nine kinds of awesome."
All three episodes of the series should/might be up in a month. We're in the color correction and effects stage of editing. Once it's done and the eps are up, we're off to hunt for a sponsor to take over the role of Great Corp (not an actual company). And if we find one, we get to make more. Which is okay with me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ALIVE or Dead?

Came across this last week, front page news in Variety. Yes, it was a bit of a gut punch:
AMC is venturing into zombie-drama territory with multi-hyphenate Frank Darabont.

Cabler is close to finalizing one of the richest development deals ever with Darabont to write and direct a series adaptation of the Image Comics graphic novel series "The Walking Dead," penned by Robert Kirkman. Gale Anne Hurd of Valhalla Motion Pictures and David Alpert of Circle of Confusion are also on board to exec produce.

Project is set among a group of zombie survivors of an apocalypse who are led by a police officer, Rick Grimes, in search of a safe place to live.
Full article is here.

If you'll recall, AMC is where ALIVE, the zombie survival TV show Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and I co-created with Epic Level, fell about one meeting short of a green light. So, ouch.

But Judy and Gar don't see this as a bad thing. Sure, this means ALIVE is permanently dead at AMC, but it already was. If anything, this shows that we had a good idea. This is proof of concept. In fact, they think this could breathe new life into the project. If there's one thing Hollywood loves, it's an idea someone else already had. If AMC's changed their mind about zombies on TV, who else might?

Also, they pointed out that any Walking Dead series is likely to be excessively expensive to make, considering the weight of the names attached and the ongoing royalties associated with a licensed property. So who knows if it will ever even make it out of development? It might die, but leave the ground fertile for another zombie show. Which is what I'm hoping for. Sorry, Frank. But not really.

Judy & Gar have a contact eager to take ALIVE to Fox and Sony, and other places as well. We'll keep our bony, rotting fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cascadia Gen Con Promo

Here's a first look at the Cascadia Project. This flyer is making the rounds at Gen Con this weekend. There's not enough here to call it a sneak peak. It's more like a nibble -- just enough to tease the appetite.
Check out the skyline of Seattle. That's my favorite part. That and the coat of arms. Though how we're going to shoot the castle ...
I will likely be starting the world building on this project sometime next week. Ah, to film in the northwest again!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fred, PoD: Celeste

Some new artwork by amazing Australian comic and pinup artist Martin Abel for the Fred, Prince of Darkness presentation package. Today we have Celeste, the new angelic ambassador to Hell, who replaces Uriel after he goes AWOL to spy on the newly out-of-a-job Satan. Celeste is as competent as Uriel was ineffective, and completes the romantic triangle between Fred and Minnie.
There's some wonderful alternate art with Celeste in a Charlie's Angels-esque orange jumpsuit, but we ultimately went with the toga and sandals look, which is becoming the standard angel uniform. One idea inspired by the artwork: the size of an angel's wings indicates his or her intelligence. Take another look at Uriel and you'll see how it works.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stumbling Through the Woods

At the beginning of every school year, PLU's Choir of the West goes on a less-than-one-day retreat to Camp Cispus in the foothills of Mount Rainier. It's a small camp surrounded by encroaching woods, a cluster of lodges and halls perfect for Capture the Flag. The Choir spends about twenty hours there, arriving Friday evening and departing Saturday noon. In between, there's friendly competition between the vocal sections in skits and genuine camaraderie-building at the candlelit Circle of Light. It's a tradition that delights the newbies, excites the returners, and bittersweetly reminds the seniors about how soon their time in the Choir will be over.
I had been to Cispus before. As a junior in high school, I had been a camp counselor there for a group of 5th graders from Lister Elementary for a week. I headed up Cabin 5, the Howlin' Wolves. My kids named me Birdman, which is still perhaps the favorite nickname I've ever been given. When the kids were in class, the counselors -- all 17 or 18 year olds -- had free reign of the camp to do whatever. While the others played Capture the Flag, I went exploring.
On the choir trip to Cispus, after the dinner and the skits and the Circle of Light, I took a flashlight down to the river, down a path I'd found as counselor. The trail was narrow and bumpy and flanked by walls of nettles and blackberries. It ended abruptly, dropping down a tiny dirt and gravel shelf to the water -- a hastening little river, not too deep but glacially cold, rippling like a silver ribbon under the stars. I walked across a short gravel plain, a dry riverbed choked with flung-aside logs and driftwood that would be drowned when the snow melt swelled the river. I stood at the edge and watched the water, and life was good.
And then the partiers showed up. A couple dozen of them, lugging 24-packs of Rainier they'd smuggled into the camp. We hailed each other. Much drinking ensued. After pounding a few, I woozily announced I was heading back to the camp. "You're going where?" asked one of the basses, slapping a Rainier into my hand. A few minutes later, after recycling my empty in an empty 24-pack case, I announced I was heading back. "You're going where?" the bass repeated. Suddenly there was another beer in my hand, which I properly disposed of. This went on for a while.
After some time, I announced again that I was heading back. No new beer appeared. I think it was because we'd drunk it all. Satisfied, I nodded and turned back towards the trail. "Don't you need a light?" someone shouted after me -- I'd given my flashlight to a couple who'd left earlier. "Nope," I replied smugly. "I've been here before. I know the way." I stumbled back across the dry riverbed and promptly got lost.
The narrow path was nowhere to be found. At least not in my state. So I went forward. I'd been here before. I knew the way, damn it. So through stinging nettles and slashing blackberries I pressed, tripping over fallen limbs and sinking ankle-deep into the mud. Knees and shins banged trunks, thorns caught and tore my ears, tangles pulled my shoes off and dropped my face into the mud. For a while I just lay there. How could I get lost? I knew the way. The alcohol wasn't helping, certainly. But this shouldn't be so difficult. I should not have gotten lost.
I looked up, and saw the light -- literally, the electric light at the edge of the trail down to the river. It hung on the edge of the campfire gathering place, a permanent pavilion with no walls. It was high up and far away. It provided enough light for me to see behind me, but not in front -- the glare prevented that. I could go back, through the same morass and try to find the trail head again, or I could go forward. I was pissed, in more ways than one. So I went forward.
Bang, smash, trip. Sink, sting, rip.
Nettle, thorn, branch, mud. Stumble towards the light.

I mention this story because I'm in a similar place, career-wise, stumbling along a path I thought I knew towards an endpoint that remains tantalizingly out of reach. This is a path I've walked before, a path I knew but lost, and now I'm struggling through a patch I used to walk with ease. I've forgotten the way, somehow. Forgotten how to do what I used to do without thought.
I shouldn't be much of a surprise that I've been rather depressed for well over a year. It started, I think, when AMC passed on ALIVE last summer. The show was within a meeting or two of a green light, and we kind of let ourselves count on that one; it hurt so much I never blogged about it. Then Dorkness Rising came out, and the five-year project finally ended. And despite all those years of work, no momentum from the release carried DG forward. I've gotten little moving since then. This year's been full of family crises and revelations, and forced reconceptualization of personal and family history, all of which is emotionally exhausting and tempts one to disconnect from everything. And just as a new equilibrium has been achieved, as things are settling into balance once again, my parents are moving across an ocean.
For the last year or so, the writing had gone from a pleasure to a chore to something I dreaded and despised. I didn't want to do it anymore. The well dried up. My daily page count went from a steady flow to a trickle to a drought; weeks went by where I did not write. I was actively looking for ways out, for jobs and careers that would take us away from this city. I didn't care anymore. What's the point when your fate is predetermined, if you have no influence over the destiny of your working life? Is there a reason to keep rowing against the current? Or do you reach a point where you say "fuck it" and throw the oars overboard?
I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I stopped watching movies and steered away from my favorite websites. I avoided any form of entertainment that gave me pleasure because I couldn't look at it without hating where I was, without feeling like a failure by comparison. Envy replaced passion. I had completely lost my ability to admire.
In June, we flew up to Washington for a few days. Camille spent the time in training with NWAG, and I spent it packing up the house I grew up in. The first day, we packed up all their books. I didn't have anything to read, so I checked my backpack for what I'd casually yanked out of my shelf pre-flight back home: Robert Bly's Iron John.
I hadn't read it for ten years, and hadn't fully understood it then. Reading it anew in my thirties, it spoke to me on a deeply resonant level, particularly the sections about fathers and sons, and deep-seated male grief. I could see where I was stuck in the fairy tale of Iron John, and what stages were yet to be faced. I can't say the book made everything better -- it didn't -- but it did even things out a bit. Stopped the downward spiral, at least. I felt something solid under my feet again.

And then we went to Comic Con. Secretly, I was worried about how I would react there. We went to the con to promote a movie made by a group of talented college friends, a movie that would be in theaters and would launch their Hollywood careers. Kind of hard not to compare your own situation and find yourself lacking. Also in attendance were group who had succeeded at the same sort of geek humor that fueled DG for years, but who'd eclipsed us in scope exponentially from the get go. It was a recipe for a disastrous weekend of "here's why you suck."
And yet, it was there, in that environment, surrounded by younger filmmakers who'd succeeded in the fields where I lay tangled, that I saw the electric light from the woods. I stopped stumbling forward, and steadied myself against the trees. There was a recipe here, a pattern I could study. I could learn from these guys if I paid attention. I did, and I could see where the forest ended. I could see the way out.
How to get there, though, was still in the dark. I used to know how to do this. I used to know this path. I know there's a way back. And in admitting that, I felt something I hadn't in a year and a half: admiration. I could enjoy other peoples' work again without obsessively comparing my own achievements and finding myself lacking. I enjoyed the hell out of that con.
It was on the train ride back from San Diego that I made a couple of realizations. When we moved down to L.A. in 2005, I knew how to make movies. Hell, I'd been doing it for years. I knew what worked, what was funny, and how to make something hilarious, with surprisingly strong production value, out of nothing. It was my hallmark.
Then I got to AFI and was promptly told everything I'd been doing was wrong. That's not how you make movies. That's not how you write movies. That's not the audience you should be targeting. Do this and this, don't do this, and for God's sake don't trust your instincts. I listened. Why shouldn't I? These are the industry professionals, the ones who've made a career doing what I'd like to. I should listen to them. So I moved to L.A. and forgot how to make movies. I lost the path.
I also realized, on that train ride home, how spoiled Dead Gentlemen had been by our early success. When we went to Gen Con in 2003 and sold hundreds of Gamers DVDs, we did not know what we had achieved. We had basically conquered the RPG community without trying. And what we learned from was a terribly wrong lesson that permanently stunted our growth: the fans will come to us. Which is why DG's never really broken out of the RPG crowd. We expected the fans would find us instead of the other way around. That was beneath us, because we're so awesome. And so we didn't follow up the Dorkness Rising release with any sort of push, and lost any and all momentum we'd built. And yet we lament our obscurity when it's entirely our own fault.
So there I sat on a crowded train to Los Angeles, my feet swollen and pounding from standing on unyielding concrete in bad shoes for three days, mulling over a pair of unpleasant truths. I suppose I would have expected myself to sink back into black depression. The opposite happened. My well filled up. Stories and characters started speaking to me again, with volume I hadn't had since before moving to Los Angeles. I remembered how I used to do things when I didn't know how things were supposed to be done. In sudden clarity, I saw what I could do with the resources at my disposal. I felt the path under my feet, and the woods parted.
Since I moved to L.A., I stopped making movies. I'm assured this is the way it's done, that it takes years of development and networking to get anything made. And even then, you have to -- have to! -- make something the industry says people want to see, not what you've got burning inside you. Don't trust your instincts.
Fuck that. You know how I got into film school? By not trying to get into film school. I am a fanboy. I made entertainment that I, as a fanboy, wanted to see. And, lo and behold, they found a fanboy audience, and that audience evangelized and swelled. The end result was a funded feature that got me into film school.
That is what I'm going back to. My roots, the zero-budget run-and-gun guerrilla filmmaking that got me here in the first place. I have an army of stymied filmmakers and actors, as frustrated as I am with not getting anything made, at my disposal. I know this path; I've been down it before. Hell, I've done it before, with great success. I just forgot that I knew how to do it.
Back to the lost-in-the-woods story. Eventually, I did find my way out of the forest. With that single electric light as my beacon, I powered forward, slamming my shins and tearing my clothes and scratching my skin and uttering truly blasphemous combinations of words with each step. Suddenly the woods gave way and I emerged onto the lawn around the campfire pavilion. A good portion of the forest was stuck to me; I'd unintentionally camouflaged myself on the quarter-mile trek through the muddy wilderness. I blinked in the light and sighed mightily.
Then I noticed the four girls staring at me from the benches around the campfire. I don't think there could have been a more embarrassing lineup of ladies: they were my ex-girlfriend, the girl I'd been in unrequited love with, a girl I was quite interested in, and the big sister of the choir. They blinked at me the way you'd blink at someone who looks like he'd just been dragged through a swamp.
"Hey," I said, because I had nothing else to say.
"And what have you been up to?" one of them asked. Her tone said they all knew I was drunk.
I don't recall what I said back, other than that I tried and failed to play sober. They dismissed me and went back to their girl talk. I trudged back to the barracks and tried to sleep while the tenors bullshitted with each other until the early morning hours.
Why mention the encounter with the girls, apart from its intrinsic humor value? Because the reaction I've gotten from many of my establishment filmmaker friends has been the same. "I'm going back to my roots," I tell them, "back to how I did things before coming down here." And they look at me like I'm drunk.
I don't blame them. Most of the producers in this town simply cannot think below a certain budget level. That's not how it's done! Nothing exists there! Nobody can survive below that line! Aside from the internet pioneers who've achieved industry success from the same guerrilla roots. I will join them. I know I can. I've done it before. I could launch into a long treatise about how the entertainment industry is contracting, and how the future of distribution lies in emerging new media, but this post is already long enough.
In the weeks since Comic Con, I've been incredibly busy. I'm knocking projects and goals off left and right, and am working with a stronger sense of purpose than I have since the original Gamers. Many exciting projects are in the works. Primary is a webseries helmed by my longtime friend and coleauge Ben Dobyns. He's created a model for internet distribution that, if successful -- and I have every reason to believe it will be -- will provide a platform with unparalleled potential for convergent storytelling. It could also see the rebirth of Demon Hunters and the resurrection of Hopjockey as webseries. And I have in the works a webseries of my own, a fantasy/comedy I hope to shoot as early as next year: JourneyQuest. I can't wait to tell you more about it.
So here I stand at the edge of the woods, bleeding and bruised, covered in sticks and mud, frowned at by people who think I'm out of my mind. Which is fine with me. Because it's not the people who stick to the path who find new ways through the forest.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Stole Their Furniture

There comes a time in every man's life when his parents move to Istanbul.

For the last twenty years, my father taught choir and art history at a Washington high school named after one of our less memorable presidents. Long story short, the environment was no longer welcoming -- something about the district bringing in bean-counting axe men to target the higher-paid employees, and what with dad having a doctorate ... -- so Dad resigned and he and Mom started looking for work elsewhere. And then the economy swallowed a turd and went tits up. But he did find work. At an international school in Istanbul.


Not Istanbul
Last week, right after Comic Con, I flew up to help my parents pack up the house I grew up in. During the hottest weather in recorded Washington history. It took several days, but we got it done, to my surprise. The house is now up for rent, and my parents' belongings are all in storage. And for the next two to four years, they'll be living and working in the heart of the former Byzantine Empire. And Ottoman Empire. And several other empires. That area got conquered a lot.

I don't have a pithy way to end this, so I'll conclude by saying we inherited a hide a bed sofa and overstuffed chair from my folks, along with some nice camping equipment and enough canned food to feed a small survivalist compound. And I've got my dad's rugby ball sitting on my external hard drive, within easy reach. My hand keeps drifting to it.

Good luck, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comic Con and Derrick Comedy

So Camille and I just found out we will be attending Comic Con this weekend. We're thrilled -- this is the only con we'll be attending this year. For a while there, it looked like we wouldn't be seeing any of our con buddies until 2010.

We'll be working Friday and Saturday at the Derrick Comedy booth. Derrick Comedy is a comedy/improv troupe whose videos have been viewed over 100 million times.

These guys = funny

In my opinion, they're the best comedy troupe on the web, and they're starting to reap the rewards of their talent. One of the members, Donald Glover, just won an Emmy writing for 30 Rock. They are definitely worth checking out, but be warned -- much of their material is definitely not safe for work. My fave is Girls Are Not To Be Trusted.

Camille's work, Roadside Attractions, is releasing Derrick Comedy's first feature, Mystery Team (link goes to trailer). We got a sneak peek at Roadside last week, and it's pretty damn entertaining, hilarious throughout and with an actual engaging mystery. I believe there's a Comic Con screening, but I don't have the dates. The film will be released in theaters this fall. We'll be pimping Mystery Team at the Derrick Comedy booth with the troupe members themselves. It's booth #4016 in the Exhibitors Hall.

So stop on by. From what I hear, the team's going to man the booth themselves, and we're there mostly as fillers for when they need a break. So we'll have a lot of free time, but constantly be on call.

Additional: My cell phone's still kaput, so your best bet to reach me away from the booth is on Camille's.

Update: Katy informs me that the screening of Mystery Team will be Thursday from 6 to 8pm at the Gaslight. Also, Derrick Comedy will be doing a panel on Sunday around noon, at which they will premiere a new sketch filmed exclusively for Comic Con.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shorts for TV?

Had my first non-pitch network meeting last week. Cindi and I met with a friend of hers, an exec at G4, to discuss producing some short comedy to air as part of one of their shows. If you don't know, G4 is the video gamer geek channel, and wants comedy in its programming, so it seems like a natural fit. So over the past couple weeks, I'd been writing quite a few geek comedy shorts and sketches, standalones and serials, to throw their way. Cindi sent the material to the exec and we got a meeting that week.

The meeting went well, though I couldn't tell at first. Cindi actually called me afterward to confirm that it was "not a bad meeting," because I apparently looked like someone had drowned my cat. No, the meeting wasn't a homerun -- initial meets usually ain't -- but the exec liked some of our ideas and despite development budget problems still wanted to make something. She promised to read the 21 shorts and sketches (had to go with a lucky number) over the holiday weekend -- which I wouldn't hold anyone to, not with family barbecues and random explosions all night long. With luck, me might soon be shooting something that will air on network TV. Which, I don't have to tell you, would land firmly in the "Nifty" column.
So here's hoping.