Thursday, March 15, 2012

Talking to Robert Nelson: Brick Cave Media

Interviewed by PJ Hultstrand
for ConNotations NewsZine - April-May 2012 edition

PJ: Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself.
RN: My Name is Bob Nelson, and I stay busy in Mesa as the CEO of Brick Cave Media and the Executive Director of Anthology, Inc.. I have two beautiful daughters, have been married for 14 years, and I play board games and love
Macintosh computers, Star Trek, and poetry.

PJ: Tell us about your endeavors with the poetry group and publication?
RN: When I first moved to the valley in 1994, I was interested in creating a publishing company. It was in the middle of the desktop revolution, and the idea of publishing a magazine was attainable. I wasn’t sure I knew what I wanted to
publish, but I had always enjoyed poetry, and had written 3 chapter books of poetry
by that time. A Mutual friend introduced me to Joe Giunta, who had also been
publishing his own writing under the Anthology moniker. So, we endeavored to
create a new literary magazine, called it Anthology, and away we went for the
next 10 years. Joe moved on to other endeavors in 1996, and Sharon Skinner and I
continued to produce the magazine until 2004. We first tried to sell Anthology as a
pdf file in 1997, but soon found out we were a little ahead of ourselves. In 1999, I
started a webs casting show called, and again found I was a little
ahead of myself. In 2002, I opened the Anthology Café in Mesa as a way to try and
create a literary hub in the east valley. In 2008, Joe and I started working together
again, and I created Brick Cave Media to start to organize the various projects that
were exploding across my desk, and still are to this day.

PJ: You are producing not only books, but now also producing movies, tell us what you look for in a movie screenplay?
RN: The irony was that before the book, came the audio. In 2006, we started
offering MP3’s of our poetry performances for sale through iTunes, and that really
started the whole trail rolling, because we thought “Hey, if we can do this with
Audio, we should be able to do this with video and books too!”

The idea of producing movies was pretty much a snowball effect. I had it in my
head to create a short, a little quick film with a person in a monster suite stomping
on some scale buildings in my back yard- a Godzilla fan film really. I shared the
idea with a friend at work, and he asked if he could run the camera. That then lead
to the third person, who was an artist and agreed to do some art. Which then lead
to an actor friend that agreed to be in the movie. At that point, you don’t want to
make a crappy movie for these people that are all donating their time, so I wrote
a screenplay- and we all loved it. Decided to do a casting call and had 60+ people
show up in one day, and it just sort of snowballed from there, to weekend dedicated
shoots in Casa Grande to the helicopter....

We are very low key about our screenplays. As good as Sacrifice was as a
screenplay, it was a bigger movie that we should have done for our first project. So
we look at feasibility, is it reasonable to ask the audience to suspend their disbelief
because of this plot? Can we shoot this well enough with what we have, that we
as the production crew don’t become a hindrance to the enjoyment of the film. Is
the dialogue genuine? Are the plot actions reasonable under the circumstances? We
tend to keep our writing in house, although our authors are increasingly wanting to
write shorts for the film people, so it’s creating synergies across our projects, and I
think we are looking at stronger products because of it.

PJ: Any interesting quirks or stories you would like to share with us?
RN: I have a million. We had a star of Sacrifice that doused herself in gasoline
(accidentally) before a shoot, and still put in an entire days work. I took forty people
into 115 degree heat in the desert for close to 18 hours, and they lasted longer than
I did. I’ve gotten 250 people in Arizona at the same time and in the same place to
listen to poetry (you think that’s easy, you try it). I’ve worn a Cthulhu outfit with
a Hawaiian shirt, dressed as a red pimp and hosted a show with a giant stuffed
lobster, dressed as Sporty Spice. I once played Edgar Allen Poe trying to write
smutty romance. Last weekend I was the judge from Star trek VI. I decorate my
yard for Halloween bigger than anyone else does Christmas. I am FULL of quirks  :-)

PJ: Tell us about your writing - how it’s coming along?
RN: On the writing side, I am busier than I thought I would be. I have been working
on a new Story of Haven. Haven is a serialized set of “Comics as short stories” as we
like to call them. Haven started out as a section of the Anthology print magazine in
1994. In 2008, we were looking to start a new serialized story idea for Brick Cave,
and decided to license the Haven idea from Anthology and make it an independent
series. Unfortunately, in my latest effort, I got a little over zealous and destroyed
too much stuff, thus violating one of the Haven core rules (you can’t kill off another
writer’s character, or dismiss their work), so I am having to rewrite it.

Other than that, I just had a poetry book come out called Spectrum, it has a lot
of the poetry I performed on the 2006 spoken word album Boboratory and the just
released spoken word Album called Poems In The Key of Greed.
I’ll be having two additional stories coming out this year, one as an introduction
to some characters that will appear in a more complete Sci-Fi novel next year, and
one as a partnership with Sharon Skinner in the Steampunk genre.

PJ: Your wife also writes, how does that work out for the both of you?
RN: Sharon is a fantastic writer. One of the things that I admire the most about
her is that she never assumes that she is done learning how to write, she is always
working and practicing her craft. There is a humility in that effort and a lot of
strength to exhibit, and I think it makes her one of the best writers I’ve read by

Several years ago, we wrote a couple things together, and the collaboration
was a great success (at least, we had fun). Lately, we decided to work together on
a series surrounding one of her Steampunk character creations, Tavara Tinker, and
I am really excited by the first draft that I sent over to her to mold. It’s still pretty
early, but I think you’ll see a lot of the Tavara Tinker character from us, because she
is compelling, different and a lot of fun to play with.

PJ: What are your favorite genres to read?
RN: I am a big Sci-Fi Guy. Mostly comedic sic-fi, so Harry Harrison, Douglas Adams, that sort of thing. Science Fiction can take itself far too seriously sometimes, and I enjoy the juxtaposition that sometimes you can have a little Monty Python in space.

PJ: What do you think makes a compelling story?

RN: Sharon likes to suggest beating the living tar (I am paraphrasing) out of your characters, but I prefer something a little more subtle. To bring that into a different context, look at a movie like Godzilla. Godzilla is obviously an outlandish idea and requires you to use a lot of suspended disbelief- but everything that happens around him is perfectly within the idea of what we would think would happen in those circumstances- there is enough fiction to make it interesting and enough reality to make it believable, I think it’s a balance of the two that I think makes for a compelling story.  I do also subscribe to character based storytelling, I believe that you characters (beaten or not) again, need to be balanced with just enough fiction for us to believe we emulate their transcendence, and enough reality to make sure they are still believable as real people.

PJ: What advice would you have for an aspiring writer?
RN: Be humble in your willingness to learn and confident in your ability to execute. You will write crap, we all do- but don’t get rid of any of it, a less experienced person’s crap is a more experienced person’s starting point. What advice would you have for someone interested in taking their story to the screen?
When you write a book, it’s your rules- you write it the way you want, and if people don’t get it, too
bad on them (I’m looking at you, Frank Herbert). When you write a screenplay, you are taking your
concept, and trying to help other people to be able to emulate what was in your head when you wrote it.
You are, in essence, in a world other than your own. Be cognoscente of that, and try to learn the rules of the
road. Understand how a screenplay is written and organized, especially if your intent is to sell it. The screenplay format allows for an even playing field for studios, agents and others to really analyze a piece of work for it’s merits. Don’t get indignant about it, learn their rules, and use them or break them effectively. There is too much competition out there to allow a person’s unwillingness to properly format their story to prevent a good story from being turned to film.

PJ: My Special question: Now that you have successfully slain the dragon, how will you celebrate?
RN: Hopefully, I will have a quiet dinner with loved ones and a cigar, and I will reflect on what happened,
be grateful for the success and mindful of the fact that I had to take another creature’s life.

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