Interview with Jay Edwards

Jay Edwards is currently editor and producer of the television series “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” on Adult Swim. Jay also served as supervising editor and producer on the feature film “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters.” Outside of Adult Swim, Jay also wrote, produced, directed and edited “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” a beach party rock and roll monster movie.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jay about working on “Aqua Teen” and also his live-action work.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with “Aqua Teen” and Adult Swim?
Jay Edwards: I went to college at Auburn University. I majored in Public Relations because I wasn’t really a “business” guy and I wasn’t really an “engineering” guy, which is really all that’s there at Auburn! And I went in one Sunday morning and I took an editing class. That first day I edited for twelve hours straight. I forgot to eat. I forgot to pee. Time just disappeared. So the next day I changed my major to communications and decided I should be an editor for a living. And I’ve been doing it ever since. When I graduated in 1991 I came to Atlanta and got a job with a small post-production house. I was the gopher. I picked up a lot of lunches. I made a lot of dubs. And while I was there I trained on the first non-linear editor that was becoming the standard in post production. So I learned that system and became sort of the “night manager” guy. I would load the footage into the computer overnight for the next days editing sessions. And after doing that…doing a little bit of everything…for three and a half years I got a job at Turner Broadcasting. They had two editing suites but they really didn’t know how to manage them. So I came in and got them cleaned up and organized and started editing full time. And within about a year “Space Ghost From Coast to Coast” was in production and they were looking for editors. I thought I was getting on the bandwagon really late but I ended up editing episode seventeen or eighteen with Carrot Top, which was pretty early in the run. That was the first episode I edited. It was a really difficult show to edit. Number one, you’re trying to tell this really weird, timed, broad comedy. Technically it’s a really difficult show to put together. They do the interview first and someone pretends to be Space Ghost. Then they transcribe the interview and intentionally rewrite all of the questions for comedic effect. You’re trying to edit based on the voice over by George Lowe, who’s the voice of Space Ghost and this kind of finite interview. You’re trying to make it sound like a natural conversation and there’s nothing natural about it. You have to have comedic timing but it’s also very complicated. The background of “Space Ghost” are composites on top of one another. So we animate Space Ghost by using a series of two frame edits…back to back to back to back. Technically it’s very complicated but for some reason I was able to do it and I stuck around. We burned through a lot of editors that tried and didn’t want to do it…it was too hard of work for them…or they weren’t right. But I stuck around and over the next four or five years I edited over thirty “Space Ghost” episodes. Then in 2000, when Adult Swim was just an idea, Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro were creating a new show…kind of a spin off based on an unused “Space Ghost” script. At the time it was called “Master Shake.” But we ended up changing the title because the Cartoon Network had a show called “Master Flake,” a show about the world of cereal mascots. So “Master Shake” became “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” I left my staff job at Turner and started editing the pilot for “Aqua Teen.” That was the summer of 2000. Nobody thought it was a good idea. “You’re leaving this really cushy good job to go do WHAT?” (laughs) But it worked out. I went free lance haven’t looked back. I’ve been full time free lance for nearly eleven years now. I do work in different departments. I edit and produce “Aqua Teen” but I also produce extra content for the DVDs. I stay free lance so I can do as much work as I can. If I was on staff I wouldn’t be able to do that. And we’re still going. The show is entering season eleven and a DVD, volume eight, comes out in the fall. It’s a two disc set. One disc is “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” – Final Season and the other disc is “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad” – Season One.

MG: Is there a different feeling working on this season with the new title or do things feel the same?
JE: It’s exactly the same. The only thing that’s different are the opening credits. The credits are different but the show itself is written and produced exactly the same.

MG: I spoke with Dave Willis and he told me you guys were thinking of possibly changing the credits again?
JE: I wouldn’t be surprised. (laughed) Yes, we’re been green-lit for another ten-twelve episodes for 2012. And please note this: “I AM JAY EDWARDS…FREE LANCER. I AM NOT SPEAKING FOR CARTOON NETWORK IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM.” It’s not that it’s off the record, I’m just not speaking as a representative for Cartoon Network or Time Warner. (laughs)

MG: Your primary focus on the show has been producing and editing. Do you find one more difficult then the other?
JE: That’s interesting. I get a producer credit but I mainly just edit the show. But the show has been going on for so long. And Dave and Matt trusted me in the beginning. They write the scripts and do the voice overs. Writing the script is the hardest part in the whole process. I don’t want to belittle that but I’m not involved so I can’t talk about what is involved. But that is usually the hardest part and I want to give them all of the credit in the world. But after they write the scripts, all of the voice characters are recorded separately. So I might get eight or ten or fifteen reads of every line in the script. Plus they take a lot of different detours between what they come up with in the script because they also do a lot of the voices themselves. Then they had it to me and I go to work for two weeks. Two weeks later they come back and want to see something put together. So they hired me and they use me because I think they’re funny and I get what they’re going for. The scripts are pretty loose. They might read: INTERIOR – AQUA TEEN HOUSE and then have three pages of dialogue. Not a lot of scene descriptions. So I either have to give them some busy work or pull out of the dialogue and ad-libs what the action is that they’re doing and try to come up with a visual that isn’t too complicated and can be done on our limited budget and time but also isn’t so static that it’s visually boring. So that’s my job…to take the first path to directing the show essentially. Dave and Matt actually direct it…they give notes and it becomes their vision of what the show should be. But I get first crack at it. So that’s really where I get my producer credit. I keep the machine moving.

MG: You also worked on the “Aqua Teen” feature film. Was that a different experience for you?
JE: During that process we had to go from Standard Definition to High Definition to get it on to film and make it look good. So we essentially had to recreate all of the elements. Getting all of the backgrounds redrawn…characters essentially redrawn and re-scanned to an HD resolution. Just doing that was it’s own process. Then we had to figure out how to get it from inside a computer to film that could be distributed to theatres. We basically made an HD master and then transferred that to film. There are all kinds of variables about what kind of film stock you can use based on what kind of look you want. It gets really, really complicated. Showing a film in a theatre is really a part of 100 year old technology. It’s all chemical and analog as opposed to digital. That was complicated. There was also the storytelling…telling a story that was much longer then twelve minutes. I actually worked on the “Aqua Teen” movie pretty much full time, if not overtime, for two and a half years. And at the same time, currently, I produced and directed “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” and it premiered. Personally, I got divorced. It was a really stressful period of my life. My body fell apart. I’m super proud. I think that this past season of “Aqua Teen” was awesome. But I think the “Aqua Teen” movie was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

MG: Do you think you guys will do another “Aqua Teen” feature?
JE: I don’t think they would ever let us do another one (laughs). We would do another movie in a heartbeat! We think it’s a no brainer money maker to do another one! But it was pretty clear going through that painful process…we didn’t know how to distribute it to movie theatres…we didn’t know anything about that. We were all on a very steep learning curve. As soon as it was in theatres it was decided that we are a television company not a movie company. We know how to make television shows. I think it was a good experience for everybody to go through. The movie made money. Not a lot but it was definitely in the black. Especially when you consider DVD sales. I think the “Venture Brothers” has a long format project in the works as part of their next season but I don’t know if it’s going to be more then a T V special and a DVD. They may have some select screenings. Who knows how they’ll market it? I don’t think they’ll try to distribute it in theatres.

MG: With the success of “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” do you have any plans to direct in the future?
JE: Of course! That’s what I’ve been working towards ever since I finished “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” It premiered five or six years ago and I’ve been very actively taking it to film festivals…trying to market it and get it seen…trying to get a distribution deal. But that’s like a whole ‘nother full time job. Even after your film premieres you’re only really half way done. It’s been a ton of work. It’s not something that I made because I thought I could make a ton of money off it. It’s something I had to do. I was able to make the movie I wanted to make based upon my abilities of the time. I’m very proud of it. I know it’s proud but I’m really proud of it. The film did get a distribution deal about two and half years ago by a group called Indican Pictures. Because it was an older title they re-branded it and gave it a new title. It’s available on Netflix and, supposedly, big box stores as “Monster Beach Party A Go-Go.” Indican didn’t do a whole lot to market it, and I was so out of energy that I didn’t do much either. I’m hoping to move on to my next screenplay that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s set in the early 1960s. It’s about a late night horror host. You get to see a lot of his on air bits as well as bits and pieces of the movies that he shows. But instead of licensing old clips I wrote original movie titles and the scenes that the audience will see I’ve actually started production on the film this year. I went out and shot all of those “B” movie scenes. It was super fun. I spent five days in the studio and shot fifteen scenes from fifteen different movies. In five days. I had miniatures. Sets. Night exteriors Ed Wood style…we literally had three lights and seventeen potted plants. It was a lot of fun. A producer friend of mine helped me put it together. The crew I had was incredible. I’m really excited about putting that stuff together. The script needs one more revision. That was going to be my summer but I’m a little behind on that. So I’m putting the script together with those “B” movie horror scenes. The late night horror host is kind of an endearing ass hole. Everybody loves him. Because back in the 60s shows like that were super rebellious. They would talk honestly. It was like Adult Swim. It talks plainly and honestly to their viewers, which was very rebellious at the time. I’ve already cast Dana Snyder, the voice of Master Shake, as the host. Because nobody mines the comedy of the ass hole more then Dana. In real life he’s one of my best friends. One of the nicest guys I know. The movie’s title is “The VanderGhoul Twist.” It’s got its own pop song, which is a version of “The Twist” but you dance with knives. The song is called “The VanderGhoul Chop!” My plan is to shoot Dana Snyder as VanderGhoul and put it together with the “B” movie stuff and try to raise money to get the script made. Hopefully that will happen this year.

Interview with LaMonte Edwards

LaMonte Edwards is the writer/director of the new film “King of Paper Chasin’”. The film is currently airing on The Movie Channel and is available to purchase in stores and rent on Redbox and Netflix. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with LaMonte about the movie and he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you tell us about your new film “King of Paper Chasin’”?
LaMonte Edwards: “King of Paper Chasin’” is about a character named Carter Blanche, who is like an American nightmare.  He is the guy who will do pretty much whatever he needs to do to make money, in the vein of Tony Soprano.  He takes advantage of all different aspects of capitalism, some legal and some illegal, to make money.  He is the lead character and that is basically the core of the story.

MG: What inspired the idea for the film?
LE: Actually I did the film with a gentlemen by the name of Dwayne “D.L.” Clark, who actually had the idea based on some of his own life experiences.  He called me up one day and said he had this idea for a movie.  He wanted to take a look at the script and make it more of an entertaining vehicle.  We sat down and he had some great ideas and I just ran with it.

MG: Can you describe the experience of working on your first full length film?
LE: It was very interesting.  I was able to surround myself with good talent and natured people.  The movie has some pretty dark subject matter.  The beauty of that is your able to balance it with some really great people on set.  We had to shoot it relatively fast because we had a very limited budget.  We shot it in 28 days and maybe in that time we took 4 days off.  It was brutal.  He had a lot of locations and characters also.  The good things is my cameraman and I have been friends since pre-school.  We created like a family-aspect on the set which made it easier to do a film like that in such a short period of time.

MG: In your opinion what was harder: writing , producing or directing?
LE: I would say that producing is the hardest.  The thing with producing, especially independent films, is you are really trying to make impossible things happen.  You are dealing with all the talent and trying to get them to perform on your schedule.  So that is definitely the toughest part.

MG: Can you tell us when and where people can see the film?
LE: The movie is currently on DVD.  It is in Walmart in stores and it is also online.  It is currently also in Redbox as of May 31st.  It is going to screen on The Movie Channel (TMC) July 1st at 8pm, which is a Friday.  There will be subsequent screenings all through the month on TMC and Showtime after that.

MG: Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
LE: I am working on my next project titled “Melvin the Magnificent”.  It is a fantasy drama.  It is currently shopping right now.  We trying to get a cast involved.  So that is next and we are actively doing it right now.

Gareth Edwards talks about directing his first film "Monsters"

Gareth Edwards is the director of the new sci-fi film “Monsters”. Gareth has worked as an visual effects artist before directing. He took advantage of that crafty and was able to take a micro-budget with “Monsters” and create an amazing film that everyone needs to see. “Monsters” follows what happens after alien life forms appeared on the U.S.-Mexico border region. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Gareth and discuss his new film “Monsters” and how he made this film on such a small budget.

Click here to watch “Monsters” right now on Video on Demand

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally come up with the idea for the film “Monsters”?
Gareth Edwards: Basically, I really wanted to do a monster movie. It is one of the film genres that I love. It felt like it would be a good start for a first film. I thought that some sort of horror was a good entry to make on a low budget. Basically, I tried to come up with a different spin for a monster movie. The fact is I did visual effects for a living, so that is my background. I only had access to crappy cheap camcorders. I thought if I was going to make a monster movie, I knew it would be really cheap YouTube style footage. I thought that good be interesting if we did an invasion film all shot on a camcorder. I was trying to set that up, write it up and do some tests. Right in the middle of this, one day my friend sent me a link to a trailer for a film called “Cloverfield” and I just said “Oh Shit!”. I then had to bring it to a new level. I wanted to think what would be a post “Cloverfield” movie. I was on holiday and I was watching these fisherman and they were just pulling this big net from the ocean. In my mind I was picturing this CG monster on the end of the net. It was interesting because for the fisherman it is just an everyday activity for them. Because they were behaving so normal, I thought it would be quite a surreal site to see some so fantastic as a giant creature and they are like acting like it happens everyday. I thought we could do something cheap and easy by going to another country and filming it there. The fact that the people in the background aren’t running around and screaming, they are just carrying on normally actually adds to the realism of the world. For me, the crude way to explain it would be if Godzilla or King Kong is kind of like September 11th. Our film is kind of like the war in Afghanistan years later. People have gotten used to the idea that this crazy stuff goes on.

MG: Alright lets talk about the budget of “Monsters”, tell us about how you made this film on such a low budget?
GE: It wasn’t as low as some of the internet sites suggest though. $15,000 dollars has been used a lot and that was a misunderstanding. Best Buy did a great video piece on us, they totaled up the equipment we were using came to about $15,000. We also had flights, motels and things like that. It is more than that but still very very low budget. I think the trick is that when you write a script you sort of dictate in your script all of these details of things that has to be in the movie. It could cost a fortune trying to recreate all that stuff. For me I didn’t want all those details. I didn’t want it to be that specific. It was more like lets go places and what happens or whatever we see, we will incorporate that into the film. It is very open minded. Since I could do my own computer graphics, I got to add helicopters in the air, tanks in the street and change the street signs to warning signs. There is a lot of production value that you can bring to it with being open minded and a bit of computer graphics. That is how we pulled it off for the tiny money we had.

MG: The visual effects in the film are fantastic, tell us about of process of creating the monsters?
GE: [Spoiler Warning] The monsters themselves were done in a 3D software called 3DS Max. The thing I struggled most with was getting the tentacles to work because I didn’t know how to make it look real. I wanted it to sort of be enchanting and feel like it was moving underwater. There was one part of the software that you could use to simulate rope. It doesn’t look good though since it looks like rope but there is one setting called gravity. I put the gravity on it, set it to zero and I animated it again. Suddenly I had this really complex looking motion. That was a breakthrough for me in figuring out how to do it. I was suppose to do two shots a day. I got to my first creature shot and it took months before I could do one, since it took forever to figure out how I wanted to do it. They are based on deep sea creature like bio-luminescent. It was literally something you have to evolve, you can’t just stick pieces together it would look like Frankenstein. You literally have to do what nature does, take something that exists and just push, pull and stretch them. You kind of evolve it into a slightly new looking shape.

MG: Can you believe the buzz that the film has been getting recently?
GE: Yeah, I really hope so. I am sort of blind to it. If I see anything on the internet, it is because I type “Monsters” in on Google. It is hard for me to grasp how much I would know about this movie if I wasn’t exposed to it. I can’t resist it now and again to type “Monsters” into Google and to see what people are saying. Maybe people will send around the “Monsters” trailer like my friend who sent me the link to “Cloverfield”.

MG: How did you find the great cast for the film, since the film is really focuses on its characters?
GE: We basically didn’t cast the film. Scoot (McNairy) and Whitney (Able) were the first people we ever met and the only people we ever spoke to. I watched a film that Scoot had been in called “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” and I was watching it more because it was made for like $25K dollars. Scoot really stood out. He has that good balance of being charismatic and likable but not in a Hollywood perfect model type way. He feels like a regular guy that could be you. So I really liked him but I actually wanted to genuine couple because the chemistry is so important. With ad-libbing it all, I thought it was too big a risk not to have two people that have something between them. Scoot sent me a picture of his girlfriend who is an actress. She was gorgeous. Whitney will tell you this but it put me off, I actually didn’t want her in the film because she was too good looking. I wanted it to feel really real and not like a film that Hollywood would make. But then I met her and realized how ugly she was without her makeup on [laughs]…I am kidding. She is absolutely beautiful and realized how friendly and down to earth she was. I ended up staying at their house for like five days and sleeping on their sofa. It was more about do we all get along, then lets talk about the movie. Because if we did this, we were going to end up in a van for like six weeks going through the jungle and stuff. We had to make sure we didn’t have any personality clashes. Thankfully, I do not have a personality so they were good with mine.

MG: Tell us about your next film with Timur Bekmambetov producing?
GE: Yeah I am trying to work on it now. It is amazing how you never really appreciate how busy promoting a film can get. I sort of thought, I finished this film and if I was lucky I could do on a holiday and then so straight on to the next one. But it has been non-stop since we had our would premiere about six months ago now. Basically Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian filmmaker, who is currently working on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” with Tim Burton. He was a big fan of the film and has been very supportive. Essentially what he has done is he is financing me to develop my next film so we can put it together on our own terms and get it going the way we want. It is always better to set it up yourself, that way it will be more likely to be the film you want to make and then try and offer it to a major studio. It will be science fiction and will be more ambitious than “Monsters”. I am pretty sure I will not get to do the effects myself next time. Our one liner that we have been giving out is: “An epic human story set in a futuristic world without humanity”. It is just of a contradiction but I kind of like that. We will keep it vague for now but their are only a few things we could mean.

Click here to watch “Monsters” right now on Video on Demand