Man, I sure was nervous when I started to do background on this week’s interviewee. Brad Abraham and I had a similar experience with an arc from film school to Indie comic creator. Only his rise was amazingly successful in both fields, where I’ve just plugged along in obscurity. It’s intimidating to interview someone who not only writes Hollywood films but also is a journalist. He made the process relaxing and fun though. I think you’ll enjoy this weeks edition of Cosmic Mutiny.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Brad Abraham, and I live in NYC by way of Toronto, Canada.
Now, I know that you’ve had a long and interesting career as a writer. As a kid, did you always want to write?
No, as a kid I wanted to be a marine biologist (after seeing JAWS), an archaeologist (after seeing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), an astronaut (after seeing THE RIGHT STUFF) and a fighter pilot (after seeing TOP GUN). But after reading a bio of George Lucas in 1987 I realized what I REALLY wanted to be was a story-teller, in particular a filmmaker.
Yeah, my background is as a DP so I totally understand the desire to be a filmmaker. However, you were pretty successful as a screenplay writer penning the Robocop reboot. Tell us a little bit about that journey?
What I discovered soon after graduating Film School was a Film Degree was worth about the same as the paper it was printed on, and that the real work was just getting started. And for a couple years after graduation I worked a succession of minimum wage jobs, knocking on doors and having people slam them in my face. But I kept on writing and beating that drum. In 1998 (and I can’t believe this was 14 years ago) my then writing partner and I volunteered at the FantAsia Fest in Toronto. It was being run by a prolific producer-director that we both knew, and he knew us, so we used that opportunity to ingratiate ourselves with him, letting him see some of our work, because you never know … and what we didn’t know at the time was he’d been approached about rebooting RoboCop for the small screen and was looking for writers with knowledge of the original film, sequels and TV series, and enough of our own ideas to bring to the table. In early 1999 he invited us to furnish our take based on some loglines he’d given us, and we pitched it for him. A month later we were writing all four movies, and by September ’99 we were rolling film on them. It was a real crash-course lesson in filmmaking and writing, and I probably learned more in those 7 months than I did in four years of college (not to slag my education, because if not for it I wouldn’t have met my writing partner, and that producer).
Man, that’s quite an inspirational story for unknown filmmakers. So you did the Robocop thing, did you continue to work in television and when did you have the time to become a freelance journalist?
Well another lesson learned in the wake of RoboCop was while I’d gotten my foot in the door, it was another thing entirely to keep it in there. You’re only as good as your next project, and a project like Robo — fully financed, with a hard start date — was a rare thing indeed. And so I found myself working on a series of projects that for one reason or another never got the green light. Some did — I was a writer on a Canadian children’s TV series called “I Love Mummy”, and a screenplat I wrote with my RoboCop partner was optioned by a company in New Zealand — but getting back to the “funding” and “start date” thing, it didn’t go to camera until last year, some 8 years after we optioned it. I’m actually coming off a pretty busy period for film and TV work — the NZ film, a Sci-Fi thriller called THE PICCO INCIDENT just wrapped, and I was writer of the legendary SyFy Original “Stonehenge Apocalypse” — the Citizen Kane of Apocalyptic Stonehenge Movies.
The journalism thing happened as a result of the FantAsia experience, same as Robo, which shows how important it is for an aspiring writer or filmmaker to get off their ass and DO stuff. Back in 1998 Rue Morgue magazine was just getting started, and the guys behind it — Marco Pecota and Rod Gudino were selling the magazine at the festival. We bonded over drinks and movies and they ended up asking if I wanted to write for the magazine, and I leapt at the chance. And even when the screenwriting career was taking off I stuck with it. because I got to go to film festivals and see movies, because I got to meet and interview people like Roger Corman, Ray Harryhausen, Don Coscarelli — people whose films I was and remain a huge fan of. And with RM branching out into films, we’re developing a project together, which is kind of a dark fantasy. Like, “if HP Lovecraft wrote children’s books.”
You are a working freelance writer, that’s terrific. Lets get to Mixtape. First, was this your first foray into comic book writing? I love to concept, I had a very similar experience in the early 90′s.
How so? The experience, I mean?
The relationship with the music and moving into young adulthood.
That’s a common experience, as I’ve been finding, and the one that really gave me the idea for Mixtape. It is my first foray into comics, although I’ve long been a comic book fan and always wanted to write them — I was just stuck for what I felt was a good idea, and different from everything else out there. When I started thinking more seriously about writing a comic book, I tried to decide what it would be based on more for what I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want it to be “genre” I didn’t want it to be some old TV or movie idea or script I’d had little luck selling. I wanted it to be a comic book conceived as a comic book.
Smart man. There are too many “old screenplays turned into a comic” ideas running around. Few are done well. Its hard to make that adaptation. Don’t mind me, I’m just disgruntled.
A lot are done well, and a lot I’ve enjoyed. But I wanted my first crack at a comic book to be something that wouldn’t necessarily work in a format other than the comic book one.
So Mixtape has been wildly successful for you. Having sold out its initial print run thru Diamond is a great accomplishment for a first time Comic scribe. Do you have any advice for other newbies?
You know, I’m such a newbie at it I wouldn’t know what advice I could have. But one thing I find is it helps to engage with your readers as much as possible, and be as genuine as you can. You see a lot of creators, either on Facebook or Twitter who are there to just push their book, pimp it out even, and not actually engage with the people you’re trying to reach. It’s not that hard to talk about stuff not specifically about the book. On the Mixtape FB page we post old music videos from Youtube, link to articles about the era MIXTAPE is set in, and ask our readers what they’re interested in seeing. You can tell pretty quickly who’s there just to sell books and who’s there to interact. We’ve been successful in hooking up fans with copies of MIXTAPE #1 who couldn’t find it in stores, and hope to do the same with #2, #3 and beyond.
Do you have any other plans for the comic book market besides Mixtape?
Now that I’ve been “bitten by the radioactive bug”? Absolutely. Currently MIXTAPE is the focus as it’s still a new book and we’re trying to build the fan-base and readership, which is a full-time job in itself. We’re competing with books about superheroes, books about zombies, and magic — all the stuff that MIXTAPE is decidedly not. But I think (and others have told me) that what makes MIXTAPE unique among the field is the experiences it speaks to are common ones we’ve all shared — that age in your life where your friends and the music you listen to and bond over is as important as it ever will be. But I’d love to do more comics — one project in particular has been under my skin for a good 10-12 years that I think would make a GREAT comic book or stand-alone graphic novel.
Of course, it’s also Top Secret, so I can’t spill anything else.
Well man, its been good chatting with you. Lastly, where can the fans contact you and find Mixtape?
Best place to follow the book and interact with other fans is the Mixtape FB page. It’s where we make the bulk of announcements. My website www.bradabraham.com is also out there for people not on FB, and I try and update my Twitter feed (@notbradabraham) with the same info so everyone who wants to know gets to know. And as far as finding the book in stores, solicits are out right now for #2 (Diamond Code AUG120816) — since we had a sell-out of #1, people who want to check out the book can request their local store order it for them. We’re very big supporters of local comic shops — we don’t want to see them go the way of the local record shop!
Seriously. Well thanks for your time, it was an interesting and informative chat.
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!