Written by guest contributor Brian Roe
Creator and Director Douglas Monce is the award winning director of such films as The Pinup and the Poltergeist, Her Big Night, and the black and white film noir Blackout. Working in the film industry for over 20 years, Douglas is also an experienced director of photography, having photographed such projects as the steampunk web series Mantecoza. Douglas’ film credits include The Quick and the Dead, Fear, The Secret Agent Club, and Sworn to Justice.
He recently took the time to answer some questions from unrepentant bubble-helmet fancier Brian S. Roe about his upcoming series Space Rangers and other projects.
You can find more info about Atomic Age Pictures here.
Comic Bastards: How did you get your start making movies?
Douglas Monce: I got a hold of my dad's 8mm movie camera at the age of 11. My first movie was a stop motion animation of a leaf moving across our driveway. Soon after that I started making movies where we made up the story as we filmed it.
CB: Was there a eureka moment that made you decide to make movies?
DM: In 1977, again when I was 11, I saw two movies that year that changed my life. Star Wars (1977) got me thinking about how movies where made. Then 6 months later I saw Close Encounters (1977), and I realized from that film that there was one person who was driving the way the film looked and how it was paced. I didn't know at the time that person was called a Director.
CB: What previous work has influenced you?
DM: I think the biggest influence on me as a filmmaker was Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I saw the film at a sneak preview two weeks before it opened. I was 16 and just developing skills in photography and editing. That film was just firing on all cylinders. A finely crafted machine. Other films that really stuck with me are Lawrence of Arabia (1962) The Big Sleep (1946) Planet of the Apes (1968) Out of the Past (1947) Alien (1979) The Andromeda Strain (1971) Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). The original Star Trek TV show was also a huge thing for me.
CB: What are the parts of movie-making that you like least and like most?
DM: The thing I like least about making movies, is sitting at a blank computer screen, and trying to write the screen play. Starting those first few scenes is always the hardest.
The thing I like most is several things. Working with actors, and seeing the characters coming to life, sometimes in a way that I hadn't thought of and is better than what I had originally. I love starting to light the scene on the set, and developing the look of each scene. The most fun, and probably the hardest part is editing. That is where the movie is REALLY created. Where it comes alive.
CB: What is your dream project? (Imagine you have a massive budget and little studio oversight.)
DM: For a long time I've wanted to do a live action version of the 1964 Jonny Quest TV show. That's a project that would require a huge budget, and locations around the world I also have an idea for a hard science fiction film, about a murder that takes place on a colony on the moon.
CB: Any ideas for casting on your Jonny Quest movie?
DM: I think for Jonny and Hadji, I'd just look for some talented unknowns. For Race Bannon, I would lean toward someone like Bradly Cooper who I think could do both the action, and be believable as a tutor to the kids. For Dr. Quest, I'd love to see someone like Gary Sinise.
CB: What is your most current project?
DM: I have 2 projects at the moment. Blackout is a film-noir that takes place in 1953. That film is finished and we are looking for distribution. Space Rangers is a retro sci-fi web series that is in production at the moment. We hope to have it done to premiere at Phoenix Comicon in June.
CB: Can you tell us more about Space Rangers?
DM: Space Rangers is a retro sci-fi web series from Atomic Age Pictures. Amanda Lee, Lana Flynn, and Veronica Kelly, star as the Rangers, patrolling the outer reaches of known space, making it safe for settlers from Earth. Inspired by Sci-fi classics of the 1950’s, such as Destination Moon, and Forbidden Planet, Space Rangers is told in the manner of a Republic Serial, with a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. Space Rangers will be bringing action and adventure to a web enabled device near you!
After a mining robot goes haywire, killing the whole population of a mining colony, the Space Rangers are put on the case. The mystery deepens as robot after robot set off on murderous killing sprees, and the Rangers are set upon by unknown forces. Soon the Rangers realize that these aren’t just random malfunctions. Someone is committing murder by remote control.
Space Rangers is filmed entirely in Arizona, using local artists and talent. Our visual effects supervisor David Stipes has put together an amazing team of current and former students of the Art Institute of Phoenix. Mr. Stipes, who now calls Phoenix home, is a two-time Emmy award winner for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Voyager.
Our producer, Amber Nichols, has been involved in Arizona film for a number of years. She has produced book trailers, and music videos, as well as Space Rangers.
CB: Do you have any future projects planned?
DM: I'm working on the script for a suspense thriller in the Hitchcock style.
CB: It seems that you tend to respond to both science fiction and film noir/suspense. What is it about these two genres that you find interesting?
DM: What I like about both Science Fiction and Film Noir, is they take you to worlds that don't exist for real. Even though Film Noir is typically a historical genre, it's a world that never REALLY existed. I've always been fascinated with creating something in such detail that if feels absolutely real.
In the case of my first feature Blackout, not only is it Film Noir, and takes place in 1953, but it is also filmed like a movie made in 1953. It is in black and white, it's not wide-screen. We never used a steadicam or anything they couldn't have done with the cameras in ‘53. So not only were we trying to do a period film in front of the camera, we were trying to do it with the camera as well. I often refer to Blackout as a "counterfeit" movie. My hope was that if you just happened to switch channels and catch it on TV, you would just think it was an old B&W movie.
The fun of Space Rangers has been to create the world from scratch. From making up brands of liquor, and designing the money they use, to creating the back story of how people came to be out in this area of space. Even if not all that detail is obvious on the screen, it helps the world feel more real.
CB: If you could see one type of movie grow in popularity what would it be?
DM: I'm a sucker for Private Detective movies! But mostly I'd like to see better writing, more original stories and fewer reboots. I'll watch a well told story no matter what it's about.
CB: Why do you make movies?
DM: Because I must! I have this uncontrollable need to tell visual stories.