Monday, June 21, 2010


I really like the new job. In fact, I daresay I love it. I'm working in the warehouse at Paizo Publishing, a game publishing company that creates and sells products to the adventure gaming community -- the very community that buys my films. Yes, I am literally stocking my own movies.

I quite like owning a home. Strange how quickly it fills up. This last weekend, we emptied our storage locker, into which we had shoehorned half an apartment's worth of miscellany when we pulled up stakes for California five years ago. On Sunday we picked up a number of inherited heirlooms -- mostly dishes, things to put the dishes in, and things off of which to eat off of said dishes -- from Camille's father while we still had the truck. And in a month, my grandmother's giving us at least three pieces of furniture. Five if you count ottomans.

I'm very tired. It's a good tired. The routine of the days are rise, drive, work, drive, sleep. We eat somewhere in there. I also fail to write pretty much every day. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm okay with that. I'm okay with not writing.

In fact, I love it. I love not writing. I love not feeling like I have to write, like I'm failing at the one thing that justifies my existence as a human being, that justifies the space I've rented in this hirsute sack of organs and unauthored farts. Because I don't have to write it any more. Not if I don't want to, if I don't choose too. I have pretty much everything I've wanted and been working towards since undergraduate -- a home, a marriage, and work I enjoy and (key thing, here) am compensated for.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Disc One, Track 8

It's not often that I'm surprised by something I already know. So it was a matter of minor shock when The Proclaimers reached out, mid-playlist, and punched me in the ear with a song I'd listened to for years, but never really heard.
A minor digression. The Proclaimers are -- apart from my favorite band, and the subject of my very first blog post -- identical twin Scottish folk singers who belt the hell out of whatever passes their lips. When you can understand them through the brogue, and even when you can't, they weave tight harmonies of loss and longing, the joys and woes of marriage and drink, Scottish nationalism, and struggles with faith -- my bread and butter, minus the Scottish nationalism.
Anyway, so the twins are balladeering their way through their second-most recent album, Life With You -- not my personal favorite but near the top -- and they launch into Track 8 on Disc One -- also not my favorite, and a song I've never paid much attention to. And I continued not paying much attention to it until the final two verses, when Craig and Charlie interrupted my day of webseries-editing and box-packing with familiar lyrics that somehow, this time, drilled their way through my passive listening and rang bells in my brain:
So you need to take your hate and doubt and fear
Distill them through your work til they run clear
Till they run right through your art like highland rain
If you want to hold the flame
You harness pain, you harness pain
I set down the handful of CDs, perked my ears. You know how sometimes you vaguely know something, but aren't able to put it to words until someone else articulates it in front of you, at which point you blurt out "Yes, that's it exactly!"? It was kind of like that, except I knew what words were coming next. I braced myself, and let them wash over me.
Do you want to be the best or be well known?
Do you want to repeat lines or write your own?
Do you want to follow paths or blaze a trail?
When you try to succeed you'll mostly fail
And you're gonna lose and lose and lose again
If you want to hold the flame
You harness pain, you harness pain
I sat at the computer and replayed those verses a handful of times, and after that I wrote this. Such moments, unplanned and unassuming, have a tendency to jump out and punch you straight through the bullshit, leaving you "huh"-ing and sucking at the grains of wisdom stuck in your teeth.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An Indefinite Hiatus

Well, we got the house. We're officially homeowners. Our move date is tentatively set for June 11, and with all the frenzied packing and away-squaring surrounding that, I'm taking an indefinite hiatus from updating the blog. I don't know when I'll start posting (pseudo-) regularly again, but I expect it to be when we're in the new place, and at least squared enough away that we have internet again.

On a work note, I'm happy to say that I've got a few strong leads on jobs in Washington, and with luck I'll be starting one the Monday after we arrive. No, none of the leads have anything to do with writing or filmmaking, and frankly, I have no problem with that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return to PLU

Last week, I got to fly up to Washington to participate in a special Dead Gentlemen event at our alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University. The university was having us, its only filmmaker graduates -- this being a school with to film program -- back to discuss how we made three features as undergraduates, and where that led us career-wise.
The band? The band!
I can't remember the last time Don, Ben, Stevie and I were in the same place. It wasn't on the set of Dorkness Rising (2005), because Ben was living in Ohio. And it wasn't the last time I performed with the DG Improv Troupe (2004), because Don was (I think) living in Bellingham. It may have been a GenCon, either 2006 or 2008, but I can't say for sure. It very well may have been the filming of the DH Orientation Video (2007 or 2008), which was still hundreds of days ago.
We began our day at PLU by giving an interview in Red Square, where we slipped right back into constant riffing mode, making each other (and our onlookers) laugh while talking over one another and stacking comments which may or may not have had anything to do with our current topic. The reporter commented on such in her article for The PLU Experience, which just went up on the university website. (Correction: I am Director of Development for Epic Level Entertainment, not Epic Films.)
That evening, we held our feature event -- a retrospective on our films, our process, and a sneak peak at new and unreleased footage. It was eerie being back where it all began, in the lecture hall where we premiered Demon Hunters over a decade ago. Watching our old stuff was so painful that I had to step out a couple of times. Which struck me as funny, since I used to do the same thing when our films were playing for the first time.
Ten years of Demon Hunters ... who'd have thunk it?
The event itself was pretty sparsely attended. Only twenty people showed up, and most of them were folks we personally invited. Even so, our audience was enthusiastic and very curious about what we'd been up to. And the rough cut of JourneyQuest was very well received, which was a relief -- I hadn't realized until that moment that I'd been pretty worried about how it would play.
As much fun as the retrospective was, and as grand as it was to catch up with the friends and fans who attended, the highlight of my day was grabbing a post-interview drink with my two most influential undergraduate profs: Eric Nelson of Languages & Literatures, who taught me Latin and Greek and organized the event, and David Seal of English, my faculty mentor and own personal Yoda. Our conversation meandered from nostalgic reminiscences to advances in digital filmmaking technology to the unusually high talent yield in the crop that was our year to future productions and positions.
On the last subject, Eric led with "Hey, have you emailed those folks I sent you?" I had queried him previously about the possibility of teaching screenwriting at the university. And why not? I have a rare and unique skill set to offer, what with the years of work in Hollywood, the film school pedigree, the cross-media experience and having actually been produced multiple times. And universities love it when successful graduates return as instructors. He agreed, and sent me a list of university folk to contact, which I'm doing the moment I finish this. He also humbly submitted some suggestions for The Odyssey: A Musical (a DG backburner project forever) which were quite good. I may steal them.
Just screaming for a kickass musical adaptation
All in all, our return to PLU was alternately bizarre, nostalgic, and encouraging. It's nice to be remembered, and to know that our university thought enough of the handmade movies we put together to showcase us as an example of what its graduates can achieve. And the prospect of teaching what I learned during my California odyssey at my alma mater is just an added bonus.
To Eric and Giovanna and David, to Barbara and Kirk and Susan, and everyone who attended: Thank you. I had a blast, and got to skip down Memory Lane with my best friends. Frankly, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dead Gentlemen at PLU

A week from Friday, four of us Dead Gentlemen will be returning to our alma mater to talk all about how we got where we are and where we went once we got there.
Yes, that's me in the green, in costume for JourneyQuest.
The panel will be hosted by Dr. Eric Nelson, the man who taught me Latin, which I mostly forgot. The Latin, not Eric. We'll be showing clips of our work, new and old, and probably give a sneak peek of the latest project. The panel will be open to the public.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whither Must I Wander?

Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather;
Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust.
Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree.
The true word of welcome was spoken in the door -
Dear days of old, with the faces in the firelight,
Kind folks of old, you come again no more.
Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland;
Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.
Now, when day dawn on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.
Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and flowers;
Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley,
Soft flow the stream through the even-flowing hours;
Fair the day shine as it shone on my childhood -
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
Birds come and cry there and twitter in the chimney -
But I go for ever and come again no more.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson, Songs of Travel, 1895

Monday, April 12, 2010

JourneyQuest promo pics

As promised, here are some promotional pictures from the set of JourneyQuest. You may have already seen these on ZOE or Dead Gentlemen's facebook pages. The images have been color corrected and are indicative of what the finished look of the series will be.

The costumes were designed by Dameon Willich and JoAnne Kirley. The prosthetics -- the elf ears; orc foreheads, noses, and ears; and orc facial tattoos -- were designed and created by Shawn Shelton.

Christian Doyle as Superfluous (Perf)

Anne Kennedy as Nara

Brian Lewis as Carrow

Kevin Pitman as Glorion

Emilie Rommel Shimkus as Wren

Kevin Inouye as Kurn

Jeremy Spray as Grellnock

Saturday, April 10, 2010

JQ Preview at NorwesCon

A week ago, members of the JourneyQuest team attended the 33rd annual NorwesCon to offer the world the first glimpse of JQ footage. I arrived early in the morning, got my badge, and set about on some general, all-purpose meandering.
The art show was particularly spectacular. The sculpture work blew me away. On display were works of fairy tale fantasy,
otherworldly masks, and future-past/steampunk gadgetry. Along one wall was a costume piece we used in JourneyQuest: a wicked skull pauldron worn by our lascivious orc shaman, designed by freelance artist and Seattle Knight Douglas Herring.
Speaking of the Knights, I did a double take when I chanced upon a sketched portrait of their commander, Dameon Willich, who in addition to being
JourneyQuest's Production Designer and Fight Director is a tremendously accomplished artist in his own right. It was not a self-portrait, either. That guy's everywhere. It's starting to scare me ...
After the art show, I scored some $2 paperbacks in the exhibit hall and decided to sit in on a panel or to. I arrived just in time to attend a talk about writing for the gaming industry. On that panel was my good buddy Sean Reynolds, a prolific game designer who works for Paizo. He also played the Inquisitor in Dorkness Rising.
Sean K Reynolds, shown smiling
The panel was surprisingly informative, and gave me more than a few ideas for future projects. I got to catch up with him afterward, and he was as glad to see me as his picture above indicates. About that time, I bumped into con organizer Rob Stewart, who played the Innkeeper in Dorkness Rising (see a pattern?). He ushered me into the green room and gave me my "panelist" badge sticker, which, among other things, meant I got free coffee.
Rob Stewart, also thrilled to see me
After drinking all the coffee in the green room, I quivered and pulsated my way back among the panels. The JourneyQuest sneak peek wasn't until 10pm, so I still had some time to kill. Lo and behold, I found myself at a panel with the incomparable JoAnne Kirley, our costumer from JourneyQuest. She was teaching the numerous costumed attendees how to move in their magnificent attire without tripping themselves, and how to post for the camera without looking like someone had just drowned their cat. It occurred to me that I'd somehow managed to only attend panels with people I've worked with.
At 8pm, I and the rest of the JQ team at the con attended a show by A Little Knight Music, the Seattle Knights' choral group. It was a memorial concert for their fallen member, John Moore. The place was packed, the performance wonderful, alternately bawdy and hilarious, somber and bittersweet. Nobody wanted them to stop. A finer choir I have not seen in many a year.
When 10pm rolled around, we made our way into Evergreen 2 for the JourneyQuest panel. Fans packed the room. First, we showed a 13-minute documentary of behind-the-scenes footage shot by our producer, Corrie Moore of Kairos Productions. That we followed immediately with the 5-1/2 minute convention exclusive teaser trailer, the first time JQ footage had been shown to the public. They liked it so much, we showed it twice. And because it was (and is) a convention exclusive, I can't share it with you here. Long story short, they loved it and wanted more. Hooray, our audience likes the new show.
Congrats all around
So, by all appearances, the JQ sneak peek was a success. I will be posting promotional photos in the coming days; you may have seen some of them on facebook. There will likely be a non-exclusive teaser/trailer up on the site in the coming weeks as well. I'm keeping busy editing the first cut of the season. We are still set to release the first episodes in July, though we don't have a set date yet.
To everyone on the JourneyQuest and NorwesCon teams: thank you for a wonderful con experience. I can't wait to share more with you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Memoriam

There will be plenty of time to discuss how unlikely and remarkable it was that we pulled JourneyQuest off. Anecdotes will be shared, photos posted, trailers linked to. What we accomplished with all the roadblocks and setbacks in our way was, in all senses, astonishing. And I will share these things. But not yet, as I'm not ready.
We lost a dear friend during the production, who passed away during the filming: John Moore of the Seattle Knights, our Art Director, a maker of rare craft and skill, a builder of worlds for theater and opera and film, a man-at-arms, a troubadour, a sergeant in the Knights, a thespian, a gourmand, a man of great humor and greater humanity, who lived a life unbridled, a man free, happy, kind, and pure. The family of our crew will never be the same.
It is to John we will dedicate the show. And it was to honor him and finish his work, I believe, that we found the strength to rally and complete the project. In the days following the tragedy, when the production was shut down, everyone had the opportunity to leave. And many had reasons far more painful than mine to step away. Yet when we made the decision to continue, everyone came back. Everyone. In trickles and in waves, the cast and crew reassembled. We persevered. And we produced what I think you will agree is a rather amazing piece of cinema. And you have no idea how proud I am of everyone involved.

Honor is something we think lives in the past, that is antiquated and has no bearing in modern life. That's completely untrue. Honor is alive, though rare, and it is never easy and seldom painless. When you do witness it, it shines like blinding beacon, a lighthouse of resolve, and it was via that light that we steered this foundering ship into harbor. I am humbled and moved in ways I will not completely understand for quite some time.
This Saturday, April 3, at 8pm, the Seattle Knights' troupe of songsters, "A Little Knight Music," will be performing a concert at NorwesCon in memory of John, who was a member. Two hours later, at 10pm, we'll be screening the first trailer for JourneyQuest with many of the same people. I will be at both. You are invited to come celebrate John's life and work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Positioning the Bottle

So I'm sitting alone in the Kairos Productions office in downtown Seattle. An hour ago, Ben came out of the ZOE compartment, rests his hands on his hips, gunslinger style, and eyes me while I peel an orange.
"Matt, Kat, congratulations." I blinked at him. Was he complimenting my ability to flay citrus? Which, to be fair, is pretty badass. "Tomorrow, we head off to start filming our first feature-length production as ZOE. A production and a company that didn't exist just a few months ago."
I consumed my orange contemplatively. He was right. Neither Zombie Orpheus nor JourneyQuest were more than ideas a year ago. JQ started talking to me on the train ride back from Comic Con at the end of July. And Ben and Kat first grokked the concept for ZOE, or the company that it would become, in September. A couple months later, JQ morphed from an eenie weenie farce bound for YouTube to a genre-bending, high production value webseries that will introduce ZOE to the world. And it all happened in a whirlwind that continues to gather people and talent to it.
Honestly, I have no idea how JourneyQuest will do. I have no idea whether non-fantasy fans will find it accessible. Or if DG's amazing fanbase will embrace it, since it's not a Gamers film. Or if sales will allow us our second season, since the first one ends so abruptly. (Well, at least that's how it still feels to me -- several people I trust who've only read the 10-episode and not the 20-episode Season One have said there's no problem.)
The last weeks and months have all been prep and logistics. Tomorrow, we're off to the first location, which is the farthest removed, and the most remarkable. And that's where I'm most comfortable: on set, on location. Once we're on set, the worries and the fears melt away. Or at least recede to ebb tide. I'm surrounded by colleagues and allies, and against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful parts of the world, I get to tell a lovely and entertaining story with my friends. All the right components for magic.
Let's see if we can't catch lightning in a bottle twice. Got the same bottle, got the same team. Been studying this storm rather closely. That cloud overhead sure is a-roiling. Zap me, you bastard.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Support JourneyQuest by Seeing Company

If you're in the northwest and have this Thursday free, you can support indie film and local theater at the same time. Details, cross-posted from the Dead Gentlemen site:
Live in Washington? Want to hang out with members of Dead Gentlemen and ZOE? Want to catch a great show and help us get JourneyQuest made?

Seattle Musical Theatre has generously agreed to help us out with shop and construction space for our JourneyQuest spaces. Now we want to return the favor, so we’re arranging a group night to go see Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical “Company”. And we want you to join us!

So if you live within driving distance of Seattle, call their box office at (206) 363-2809 and mention JourneyQuest. They’ll give you a ten dollar discount, no questions asked. (Here’s a hint–the discount works all weekend. But we’ll only be at the Thursday show, if hanging out with us is important to you.)

See you this Thursday!

Need more convincing? Need to explain to your gaming buddies how musicals and gaming go hand-in-hand? Here are some bullet points to help you out:

  • Attending the show helps us get JourneyQuest built. Really!
  • We had to cut the big musical number from the first season of JourneyQuest, so here’s another place to get your musical fix.
  • Stephen Sondheim (who wrote “Company”) has been a huge creative influence on our stories and writing. The man knows fairy tales!
  • Small theater companies everywhere are struggling in this economy. The more we support our local performance scene, the better able we are to keep awesome actors in the area.
  • It will be fun. And the set is way cool.

So please, spread the word, bug your friends, call for tickets before they sell out, and we’ll see you Thursday!

(And as a reward for reading this whole post, here’s the secret link to the list of JourneyQuest lead actors: LINK)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fear the Boot

Last week I got to do an interview with the guys at Fear The Boot, an RPG podcast based in St. Lewis.

Fear it! Fear it, I say!

That interview is up on their site now. Check it out. It's about 55 minutes long, we talk Gamers and Dorkness Rising and JourneyQuest, and you can hear Camille heckle me not five minutes in.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


And I'm off to Washington to film JourneyQuest for the next seven weeks.

It's hard not to see parallels between this project and Dorkness Rising, and not just of subject matter and who all's involved. Five years ago, a month after wrapping photography on Dorkness, we moved to Los Angeles. And a month after JQ is done, if we've found a house -- and, honestly, even if we haven't -- we're moving back. Five years in LA bookended by fantasy-comedies.

I have nothing especially witty or insightful with which to close this. So I'll just say that I'm thoroughly excited to launch this project; I'm dreading being without Camille for almost two months; and I'm praying we'll be returning home sooner than later.

Anyway, to quote Glorion: "Onward!"

Friday, February 12, 2010

JourneyQuest Scout Pics

Hey, so remember that promise I made a couple of months ago? Better late than never.

So these are a bunch of pics taken on the JourneyQuest location scout back in November. Many of these locations will wind up in the first season, some in the second, and some not at all.

At the edge of the forest

Rolling coastal plains

The ghost coast of Oregon

Slipping between boulders

This would make a great profile pic, but I prefer the one of my feet

Young trees clawing their way out of the stump of another

Jen by another nurse stump

The dungeon's entrance

Staircase into the (near) darkness

Abandon traction all ye who enter here.

Jeremy Spray: Dungeon-Crawlin' Badass

A lovely, if chilly, place to picnic

Jeremy in a spooky coastal forest

Announcing I have to pee

A ruined church in a ruined outpost

An old, overgrown foundation, too cool not to use

A light, refreshing shower

Our final shot of the season?

Right back atcha, nature.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

McSterlingthong Interview, Part 2

He Who IS Fantasy speaks again, in part two of this remarkable interview. I can't wait to get my hands on his upcoming masterpiece, The Clock of Time. And I do hope he releases a cookbook -- the PBR Smoothie and Russian Van Winkle sound too good not to try.

Here there be brilliance.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Restructuring JourneyQuest

Forget my last post. We've managed to split one giant season of JourneyQuest into two seasons, pretty much right down the middle (with some minor tweaking). It's actually going to work out much better this way -- we won't be rushed or under the constant threat of running out of time -- and by splitting it so perfectly, our second season is already written. Plus, bisecting the project into two seasons allows us to keep all of our fabulously talented cast and crew -- both DG regulars you'll recognize, and some wonderful new folks as well.

Story-wise, the split will allow us to stay comedy-heavy in the first season, and explore the deeper and darker sides of the characters when the story continues in season two. Can't wait to get started -- it's going to be fantastic. It's going to be the next Gamers, I truly believe.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Today was supposed to be easy. I was going to put the last of the final touches on the JourneyQuest script: translating all the Orcish lines into Orcish, which I've spent the last couple of days developing. It was a recipe for a fun, lightweight day.

Instead, I got to spend the afternoon searching for a way to cut the first season of JourneyQuest in half without fatally crippling it. I don't think it can be done.

Fucking independent film.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009 in a Nutshell

I've already broken one of my resolutions, the one about blogging more often. Thing is -- and I've said this before -- when writing takes up the majority of my working day, the last thing I want to do in my free time is more writing.

I had these grandiose plans to do a really bang-up Year In Review for 2009, with a month by month summary of accomplishments and injuries suffered, with appropriate and/or ironic pictures with accompanying smartass captions. But I haven't made the time for that, so I'll just fire this out there shotgun-style.

2009 -- The Broad Strokes


I write three new feature-length projects: Grandmother Clock (dark children's fantasy), which was immediately optioned; Belly of the Beast (horror set on a 19th-century whaling ship), which immediately went nowhere; and JourneyQuest (fantasy/comedy web-released feature), which I'm directing in March.

The artwork for the Fred, Prince of Darkness pitch package comes in.

I write a webseries pilot, Earth Force 5, which Epic Level produces; it immediately bombs.

Cindi Rice and I pitch 21 geek-humor short films to G4 to use as bumper material; we might get to make some of those sometime this year.

Epic Level submits Pwned to Jim Henson Studios. They really like it -- they've never done a romantic comedy before -- but would like to see a rewrite. They promise to send detailed notes. Still eagerly awaiting those notes.

Anthem Pictures gets The Gamers: Dorkness Rising onto Netflix view-on-demand. The first week of release, it averages 1,000+ new views a day.

History of Demons, which I co-wrote with Nathan Atkinson, comes about two weeks away from full financing. Several months later, it remains about two weeks away from financing.

Ben invites me to partner with himself and Kat Ogden to create a new media production company, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. He hires me to do the world building and write the scripts Strowlers, the flagship project (previously called Cascadia). We decide that JourneyQuest is the perfect project to launch the company. In the course of a week, JQ goes from just an idea to fully financed. We hold auditions in the twilight of the year.


We move to Glendale and wind up two blocks away from a Zankou Chicken.

A close family member admits to a lifetime of alcoholism. I spend March in Washington helping get him into rehab, and stick around to help the family adjust during his absence. Extensive group therapy reveals the part I played in it all. My personal mythology about the history of my family permanently changes.

I become a member of the most open, welcoming Lutheran church I've ever encountered. For the first time in years, I'm part of a choir again -- an excellent choir.

My sister earns her degree in nursing and graduates near the top of her class from Hawaii Pacific University. We spend a week in Oahu helping her celebrate.

My parents move to Istanbul, where my father now teaches music at an international school. I fly home to help pack up the house I grew up in. For the first time in twenty years, I don't have a home base in Tacoma.

My grandfather dies at the age of 91. The family gathers -- including my expatriate parents -- to pay their respects. My 83-year-old grandmother makes plans to sell the family farm.

Camille and I have had enough of Los Angeles. We decide to move back to Washington and buy a house in Tacoma. We find the perfect house on Dec. 29. On Dec. 30, we get the financing in order, and on Dec. 31, we're ready to make an offer -- only to discover a real estate investor had sniped the house out on Dec. 29. Ah, well.

I realize that with my sister in Hawaii and my parents in Turkey, I'm the only member of my nuclear family left on the continent.