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Friday, December 12, 2014


Brad Abraham, somewhere in his 'hood, NYC 2014

BRAD ABRAHAM is best known as a screenwriter whose best work includes the films FRESH MEAT, STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE. and miniseries ROBOCOP PRIME DIRECTIVES.  He is also writer and creator of the acclaimed comic, MIXTAPE.  His current and upcoming film-TV work includes the Sci-Fi thriller THE PICCO INCIDENT and the TVO kids series NOW YOU KNOW.  He's also been a prolific journalist, most famously as a long-time writer for Rue Morgue Magazine, and his work has also appeared in Fangoria, Starburst, and Dreamwatch magazines.  A  graduate of the prestigious Image Arts program at Ryerson University, he makes his home in New York City.

What was the process of thought that brought you to the MIXTAPE concept and format?

BA: There’s two answers to that. The first can be found on page one panel one of Mixtape #1. It was while packing up my things to move to NYC that I found an old box full of mementoes from my teenage years. There were yearbooks, there were copies of SPIN and Rolling Stone magazine, there were letters from friends, photo albums ... and mixtapes.  Lots of mixtapes.

These were tapes that I’d made, or friends had made for me. I hadn’t listened to them in 15 years but I dug out my dusty old boom-box, popped a tape in and it was like travelling through time. The memories just listening to those songs in the order they were recorded onto the mixtape unlocked all these memories I’d forgotten I’d had. Parties, cruising the main street of my town, road trips, concerts – everything was there. I just needed the music to pull it out.

The second answer is what format. Listening to those mixtapes, looking through old photos and yearbooks and letters I knew I wanted to write a coming of age story set in the late 80s or early 90s that prominently featured music and that sort of shared love you and your friends have at that pivotal age; on the cusp of adulthood. Fortunately I unearthed another box, this one with comic books. So there I was, in my basement, listening to mixtapes and looking through comic books and saying “maybe ... a comic book?”

How did your MIXTAPE team come together, and what was the creative process like, collaborating with your artists, MARCO GERVASIO and JOK?

BA: I connected with Jok and Gervasio through Space Goat productions, based in Bellingham WA, who act as agents representing international comic book artists. I’d given them an overview of Mixtape and the script for the first issue, and they forwarded me Jok’s portfolio. And even though I really dug his art style, which is very reminiscent of Mike Mignola and Guy Davis, it wasn’t quite what I envisioned for Mixtape. Plus, given he was based in Buenos Aires I wasn’t sure the experiences detailed in mixtape would translate from small-town Canada to bustling Argentine metropolis.  But Jok was very keen to do it, and without asking did some character designs and rough artwork for the look he’d bring to it.

That sold me; his enthusiasm for the project. And his enthusiasm has not waned at all. He got the aesthetic I wanted – a very 90's xeroxed black and white “zine” look, with thick lines, and dark shadows. And he contributes a lot to the book beyond the art. I’m pretty laid back when it comes to art and script – for me a comic book script, like a movie one, is really the first step. I always tell Jok “This is my take on it but I’m more interested in yours." And he comes up with amazing stuff – most evident in issue #5 which is flashback heavy. The idea to have the styles of each character flashback was his idea, not mine, and I think that choice made #5 the best issue yet.

STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE…how was that production experience for you?

BA: Stonehenge Apocalypse wasn’t really an experience; more like my life for a year and a half, from the first moment I was approached to pitch a take on a pre-existing concept, to when I delivered my final draft. It was heavily rewritten so not much of my work remains on screen. But the core concept – the hero being a conspiracy theorist/underground podcaster, the aspect of an evil doomsday cult – was nascent to my story. But as your standard work-for-hire job it was pretty typical. People seemed to dig the end result – ratings-wise it’s been a big hit for SyFy and it does quite well internationally – though my original take was a little more tongue in cheek. And what I was paid on Stonehenge helped finance the beginnings of Mixtape so I have nothing but goodwill toward the producers and cast of that film.

It is apparent that the music playlist was key in your comic book’s atmosphere…what do you have to say about the bands who inspired you?

BA: The bands that inspired Mixtape have been inspiring me my entire life. The Pixies, The Replacements, U2, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Beastie Boys – they were the soundtrack to my life at that time, and writing Mixtape led me to delve back into that world. But what’s been really great about doing Mixtape is it let me to rediscover that love of music, and to discover new bands that I’m a big fan of now – The Kills, Of Monsters and Men, The White Stripes, Arcade Fire. 

I always listen to music when writing, to the point where I actually will create a playlist in iTunes or Spotify centered on whatever project I’m at work on.  I’ll listen to this playlist when reading the day’s work, and listen to it when I’m writing. For me it’s a great way to get my head straight – one project I’m writing has a 60s British invasion vibe so I listen to that music. Another is more 70s NYC punk, so there’s that playlist. And it also helps me get my head into the story, which is a challenge when you’re working on concurrent projects.

You were a staff writer on the original ROBOCOP TV series…how did that situation come together and what did you learn from the experience as a writer?

BA: I wasn’t quite a staff writer – it was really just me and Joe O’Brien as writers, along with producer/director Julian Grant and a development person at Fireworks Entertainment. But Robo was part of my life – actually my entire life for a year and a half – and one of those opportunities that come along only once in a lifetime. It was my first professional gig – I was able to quit my crappy minimum wage slave job and write full time because of it.  

It came together basically because the stars aligned. Julian was approached by Fireworks, the rights holder, about a Robocop miniseries. He’d read and liked mine and Joe’s screenplay Hell For Breakfast (more on that below), and he gave us an opportunity to pitch the project. We pitched our version, he liked it, Fireworks liked it, and after some development and back and forth we were hired to write it – an 8 hour miniseries ... in 7 months. That’s an incredibly tight schedule for one movie let alone for, but it taught me the one lesson in writing for film and TV that’s remained true – it takes as much time as they’re willing to give you.

What comic books influenced your creative writer’s imagination and why?  Are there any current titles you follow now?

BA: With Mixtape it was definitely the “indie” side of things. Books like Local, Box Office Poison, DMZ – but also “genre” stuff like Y: The Last Man and Astro City (the latter of which was actually a big Mixtapeinfluence). Those are all fairly recent titles, but when I knew I wanted to make Mixtape a comic book I needed to do my research, and was pleased to find that while there were books out there similar to what I wanted to do with mixtape none of them were doing the exact same thing I wanted to.

That said, comic books have influenced me my entire career, from high school thru college to now. I’ve actually been re-discovering some books I haven’t read in well over twenty years. Stuff like Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis’ run on Hellblazer and the Andy Helfer-Bill Senkewicz-Kyle Baker take on The Shadow in the late 80's all had a real influence on my formative years, as a fan and as a writer. Also Kyle Baker’sWhy I Hate Saturn is something I re-read for the first time since it first came out almost 25 years ago, and realized it influenced a lot of Mixtape.

As far as current ongoing titles, I’m reading Saga, Fables, The Walking Dead, and the odd indie one-shot (I’m actually more of a fan of comics that tell a single story than ongoing ones – I like an endpoint, andMixtape definitely has one). The downside of doing a monthly book like Mixtape is most of my comic book money goes into the production of it so I actually have less money and time to read comics. But they’ve long been a constant part of my creative life.

I have caught snippets over the years regarding the HELL FOR BREAKFAST journey to production. What happened there?

BA: Well it took a journey half-way around the globe from Toronto, Ontario (where it was first written) to Wellington NZ where it was produced and released in 2012 under the title “Fresh Meat”. I saw it when it had its North American premiere here in NYC at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s pretty good too; very much the story Joe and I first drafted way back in 1996, only different. 

Another writer – Kiwi playwright Briar Grace-Smith rewrote our screenplay, it was directed by Danny Mulheron, and it starred Temuera Morrison – “Jango Fett” from Star Wars Episode Two – though more astute film viewers will recognize him from the NZ classic Once Were Warriors. As far as what happened ... it got made. That’s what happened. And what’s more important is I’m pretty happy with how it all came out. In this business that’s very, very rare.

Would you like to shout-out to any indie/traditionally published writer/authors or film peers who have creative works you are excited by?  What is it about their works that spark you?

BA: There’s so many I could choose from it’s tough to narrow down, but for me it’s rarely been about a specific writer or artist – it’s always about the story. There’s writers I’ve been reading for for decades like James Ellroy, Joe Lansdale, Stephen King where I’ve pretty much read everything I can get my hands on. And there’s filmmakers whose careers I follow like David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Darren Aranofsky – but even then I’ve liked some of their films and not been crazy about others.

I’m always seeking out books by authors I’m unfamiliar with. Inspired by some recent travels of mine I’ve just started into Dan Simmons’ doorstop of a novel The Terror – about the doomed Franklin Expedition – and am really enjoying it. I’m also circling David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas but have yet to take the plunge. But I’m always interested in new stories, and new voices, and try to read and watch as wide a range of things as possible.

What ticks you off about writing for the Film & TV industry, and what are you thankful for?

BA: I celebrate 16 years as an industry professional this January and I’m thankful every day I’ve been able to make a career of it. It is incredibly difficult to do that without having people in your corner, and I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of people pulling for me, taking meetings with me, and showing up to watch what I’ve made. I’m one of those rare ones who’ve been able to find something they love doing and make a living at the same time.

If anything can be said to tick me off, it’s that it’s difficult to work outside of “formula”  -- at least it is if you expect to have any sort of sustainable career. Especially in mainstream storytelling; everything needs to happen a certain way at a certain time. If you’re at all aware of story structure you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen. I’m happy to work within that structure because it does present its own set of challenges, but what’s been liberating about the whole Mixtape experience is how I’ve been able to explore stories and characters in a less structured way than film or TV will allow you to.

If anything, what’s happening in TV is much more exciting to me than film. They’ve kind of flipped, where movies are more fomulaic than ever, but TV is more adventurous, and willing to take risks. Stuff like True Detective, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders – all the best new storytelling is happening on television. And with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon generating their own projects it’s an exciting time to be a writer in that medium.

What’s coming down the creative pipeline for Brad Abraham in the near future…no spoilers expected…what genres and formats will you be working in?  Mysterious hints…

BA: I must continue to remain cryptic if only because of this writing I can’t really talk much about any of the big projects I’m involved in. Generally I don’t like talking about works in progress – which admittedly makes me the outlier in the world of social media where everybody shares everything about everything –but lots of cool things are happening right now so I’m hoping that 2015 will be my biggest year yet.

Will your recent travels abroad figure as research into anything you are creating or was the journey simply for pleasure?  Anything interesting that you’d like to share about your recent trip?

BA: Ah yes, the world traveller. I just got back from 10 days traipsing around Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It was a vacation in the true sense of the word, but for me travel is like refilling the creative tank and I’m surpised more people with the means to do so don’t travel. Getting away from your desk and your work is, in my mind, the most important thing any creative person can do. To me writing isn’t about the number of words you write – it’s about what those words mean; to your reader or audience, to you.

Seeing the world, experiencing other cultures, and stepping outside your comfort zone – that’s where you get your best ideas. Just being in a totally new city, not knowing what’s around the next corner or down the next street – that’s exciting to me, and that gives you material even if you don’t realize it. A trip I took to Paris a few years back provided me with boatloads of material I’m using in one of the projects I’m currently engaged on. If you spend all your time at your desk staring at a blank page or a blank screen, pretty soon you will run out of things to write about. Get out into the world. See things. Do stuff.

Why are you a writer at all, or what does it mean to you, this thing you do?

BA: Why am I a writer? Because I really don't know how to do anything else.

To discover Brad Abraham's MIXTAPE Volume #1 / issues #1-5 further, click here:

or visit your local comic book store and request the physical copies to be ordered in...I did.

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