Originally Posted on: July 3rd, 2013
Charlie JJ Kruger sits down with Brian Lubocki and Michael Hayes, the writers/producers of the horror film 'Fire City'.
H-P: This whole endeavor looks like it will me massively entertaining and engrossing... where did you come up with the idea?
BRIAN: We appreciate that, and thanks for talking with us. The short version is that the whole idea of Fire City came out of two screenwriters really wanting to make something. I’m more of a horror guy and Michael writes in the thriller/action genre. We extracted the things we love about movies and kind of squished them together. For me, it was movies like Hellraiser, Aliens, A Nightmare on Elm Street – really the combination of great creatures and great mythologies.
MICHAEL: I wrote, produced and directed a short film in 2008--
BRIAN: This would be the long version. Haha.
MICHAEL: The short film wasn't very good, but I went balls out making it: film permit, SAG, a restaurant/bar set I built myself in a photo studio I rented in Hollywood, long crane shot opener. It really gave me a good idea of what it takes to get from script to finished film. So when Brian and I got together to bitch about the fact that even our most successful screenwriting friends working for the studios not only were not getting their scripts made but also weren't getting paid for all the writing they were doing, I knew we could produce something small if we could find the right idea. We started with a web series idea and ended two-and-a-half years later with a huge film franchise we're producing independently.
BRIAN: So much for small. Literally, we came up with the idea during lunch, at our go to place in Santa Monica called Cha Cha Chicken after a networking coffee event our entertainment attorney hosts.
MICHAEL: Networking events are hotbeds of great dreams and disgruntled dreamers. So we were primed. Brian and I had been friends for years but not writing partners. We collaborated without hesitation and came up with a core concept we thought was original that combined our respective interests. Brian loves horror. I love thrillers, especially noir. Horror and noir can both be done at lower budgets so we stuck to that.
BRIAN: We decided rather than the standard mythology, Heaven-Hell, angels, sin, etc., we would create something new. A new world from the ground up, with a totally new origin and rules to this world no one has ever seen.
MICHAEL: The core idea was done by the end of lunch. The rest took two-and-a-half years.
H-P: How did you decide to involve comic books, tarot cards, and a short film all together with a full length film?
BRIAN: It’s simply that we worked out the world and the mythology first. What came naturally out of that were stories in every format, whether it was short stories, comic books, a demon compendium.
Michael: All we really want to do is show people this world we've created. Tarot cards, a comic book and a short film are ways to do that now in advance of the feature films.
H-P: How did the writing process move and flow? Did it come naturally?
MICHAEL: Writing is a bloodsport. It's always a battle between what you intend and what you can execute. The gap is often vast. But our collaboration has been magic in the end. We are very different writers but are different in just the right ways. We are also great friends, able to beat each other up on the creative front but still manage to get to FADE TO BLACK, which is huge. I tend to write quickly, so I take a lot of the first pass grunt work after we shape the initial story. Brian comes in and fixes all the garbage, clarifying the murky abstractions, chasing down the inconsistencies, false beats, unearned moments and really making sure we have something that is as entertaining as it is dense.
BRIAN: One of the hardest parts is adhering to the rules and mythology of the Fire City world. Every choice we make in the writing has to be consistent with everything that came before it in our world, and affects everything that comes after. It has reverberations for years to come, assuming we do this right.
MICHAEL: The studios once described our project as Harry Potter for adults. Hard to live up to, but we won't for lack of trying.
H-P: When in the production and how did you get Tom Woodruff Jr. involved?
BRIAN: Very early on, actually. We were taking a movie business proposal writing class and the instructor read our proposal and mentioned we might want to reach out to this special effects shop he knew. Needless to say, we were really intimidated reaching out to ADI, but they were great guys, very open to taking our call. They ended up making our 8 foot demon for the promotional footage we shot two years ago.
H-P: How far into the future do you have the plans for this franchise laid out?
BRIAN: We have the scripts for Fire City: The Interpreter of Signs and Fire City: A Demon In The Darkness. Interpreter of Signs is a prequel to a trilogy, all of which we have completely mapped out. Darkness is the first movie of the trilogy. We also have the Fire City Demon Compendium and several short stories from John Asher, the detective who is the focus of A Demon In The Darkness.
MICHAEL: Not only is the franchise mapped out for four movies, a prequel and trilogy, but we have content for TV series, graphic novels, video games, mobile apps. You name it, the story world of Fire City can support it.
H-P: Was it hard to find people to sign on to such an ambitious project, knowing that they could be devoting a large amount of their time and effort for quite some time to this multi-piece project?
MICHAEL: It was more difficult two years ago when we knew no one and had nothing but a first act of a script and an impassioned plea for help. But our poverty turned out to be our greatest asset. Because we had little money and a big idea, we were able to attract all the right people for all the right reasons. We now have a team we've worked with over multiple promo films who are ready to go the distance with the franchise.
H-P: What films or novels influenced your writing of this story?
BRIAN: For me, it was certainly a lot of Clive Barker novels and short stories, which I’ve been reading since Jr. High. I also love Jorge Louis Borges, the mystical aspect of it all. I’m drawn to the fantasy aspect of films – some specific films that were in my head when we were designing this world were Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, Hellraiser, The Matrix, HellBoy and Lord Of The Rings.
MICHAEL: A lot of noir and neo-noir: Blade Runner, Chinatown, Maltese Falcon, M for atmosphere and nuance. Leon the Professional for a more direct reference; Interpreter of Signs is about a demon who must go against his own nature to save a young human girl even though his world hangs in the balance.
H-P: When can we, the audience, expect to see/read/hear/touch/experience the different parts of this story?
BRIAN: You can see the short film, Fire City: King of Miseries, online (watch here), as well as its comic book companion, entitled The Interpreter of Signs. Both are the introduction to the world of Fire City and specifically the Interpreter, who is the focus of the first feature film, which we plan to shoot this January. You can also see the trailer and opening sequence we shot a couple years ago, for Fire City: A Demon In The Darkness.
H-P: Do you have a grand finale or conclusion planned for the characters and locations we will be introduced to or have you not figured that part out yet? In short, is this all pre-ordained?
MICHAEL: We do have a grand conclusion for the larger story of the feature films. It is world-changing, all-encompassing, Earth-shattering, as it should be. However, the short film and the comic book are parts of the world that exist at a different time frame and pace. The detective stories also inhabit a specific time frame outside the Grande Conclusion. So it is all pre-ordained, but, like life itself, you can willfully disregard the inevitable and just enjoy the moment!
H-P: Thank you for this interview, is there anything else you would like to say?
MICHAEL: One of the great benefits of creating an independent franchise is our accessibility to fans, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, check in, ask questions, and give feedback.
BRIAN: Constructive feedback, please.
MICHAEL: And check out all things Fire City on our website, FireCity.com. Thanks so much, Horror-Punks!
Get Fire City on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B0157757NK