Holy cats, my creeps, did ya hear the news? William Control’s dark thriller of a novel REVELATOR: THE NEUROMANCER is getting the ol’ sin-ematic treatment [now in the casting phase and tentatively set to go before cameras around early fall in Montreal], courtesy of writer/die-rector Jacob Johnston! And as the ol’ fickle finger o’ fate would have it, both William and Jacob have joined me today in the ol’ Crypt o’ XIII!
Famous Monsters. So let’s get down to brass tacks, gentlemen! Let’s kick things off with an overview of the challenges present in adapting REVELATOR to screenplay format!
Jacob Johnston. The thing is, the book is told by a narrator in first person omnipresent … everything is kind of in the narrator’s head for the most part, which is beautiful when you are reading it because it’s poetic and so interesting. When you’re translating that to something you can see on screen, you have to figure out how you can break those internal monologues up into conversations and such. The crux of the story hasn’t changed, with the character of drug dealer William, who’s kind of like a burnout and f—ked up, who gets a chance meeting with this girl who saves his life in an alleyway. It’s kind of the chronicle of their relationship after this traumatic event. There are changes as to what happens along that journey, but the crux of the story hasn’t changed too much.
William Control. Like Jacob said, the book is just kind of train of thought; it’s kind of word diarrhea floating around in my head as I go through these experiences dealing with love and death and the Devil and God and all this stuff. The whole book is just me thinking; there really isn’t much dialogue at all … a couple of conversations here and there, a conversation with the Devil, and pretty much everything else is description. So I think the biggest challenge was putting that all out as watchable scenes. You can’t watch someone thinking for two hours [laughs].
JJ. The good thing about having so much description is that it gives me a lot to play with. There’s so much happening in all of these scenes; two lines of description can turn into an entire sequence. You just have to figure out, what is this stream of consciousness trying to say; what is the point of this scene? Finding that and capitalizing on it; expanding upon it … which was kind of a fun thing to do, as these characters and this story were written to be so authentic and interesting. The thing that is compelling about film are memorable characters, and what William did was create memorable characters; so then it was just me taking them and putting them in situations and creating a compelling through-line.
FM. Jacob, this is your first feature gig; can ya give the ol’ Coffin Club some deets on how you came to be where you are?
JJ. I’ve been working at Marvel Studios for the last six and a half years, and I met with William last year in May, I think.
JJ. We just started talking about the REVELATOR series. He sent me the PDFs and I read them. He said he had a producer involved [Archer Sierra], and that I should talk to them; and we started a three-way conversation. I volunteered to write an adaptation for free; this is something I’m interested in … take it or leave it. You don’t turn down someone doing it for free! It ended up being pretty good, I guess? [laughs] We went back and forth and had some notes, did some adjustments and took the next few months. I asked when I was doing the writing, “If the screenplay is great, and you’re happy with it, could I be considered to direct the project as well?” At that point it just made sense for it to happen. I had done some short films; I had been working in the industry and had some experience; and while I hadn’t directed a feature, I was attached to the subject matter and we were working together as a solid group.
FM. What do you feel will be your biggest challenge in die-recting REVELATOR?
WC. Showing it to your mother who lives in the Midwest? [laughs]
JJ. No, she wants to come to set; she’s jazzed! It’s what all moviemaking is; it’s time and money. It’s a high-concept film, there’s a lot of action … we aren’t working with a hundred million dollar studio budget … all of those things are very daunting. But that being said, I think that’s part of why we got into this. The challenge is finding how to make things work the best they can and capitalizing on that … which is equally terrifying as it is exciting!
FM. How hard core are you plannin’ to get with this baby?
JJ. We reeled in a few things from the book, simply for commercial [reasons]. It’s still an R rating; it’s not gratuitous and it’s not exploitative. It’s intense …
WC. It’s not FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.
JJ. It doesn’t rely on gratuitous sex or gratuitous violence. … Like William and I were saying earlier, it’s so focused on these characters and really reeling the audience in on as authentic of a journey as we can create, while still pushing the envelope on things that are genre specific. Even when you have something like S&M material, you can treat it in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s over the top or it’s bad. It’s finding a way to lift a veil on a taboo and make it compelling and interesting and visually intriguing. That’s something we really want to do on the project.
FM. William, since you and the main character of the tale share the same name, how much of you is represented in him?
WC. Aside from the obvious fiction of God and the Devil, there’s quite a bit that’s pretty authentic. They always say write something from experience, so I’d say that’s a majority of it.
FM. Speakin’ of puttin’ yourself into the whole thing, how hands on are you going to be with the production of the film?
WC. This is the first time that I’m involved in the production of a film, so it’s definitely going to be a learning process, right? I think that I’m going to do as much as I can. I’m going to work with Jacob to help him create this vision of what he sees when he reads this book. I’m up for anything, honestly; whatever anyone wants me to do, I’ll f—king do! [laughs]
FM. Are you going to use any material from the William Control albums for the flick’s score?
WC. I honestly at this point don’t know what music is going to be in it. I do know that I’ve got ownership now of all of the William Control music back from Victory [Records], so I’m free to use whatever I want, write whatever I want … do whatever the f—k I want!
FM. Are any elements from the second book, THE HATE CULTURE, gonna creep into this one like they are doing with King’s DARK TOWER film?
WC. We hope to do it as a trilogy of movies, so it’ll just focus on the first book, the first act, the prelude to HATE CULTURE.
FM. Has it been surreal to see a version of what you laid down in prose begin to manifest through a combined shared vision?
WC. Oh, yeah, definitely! I wrote the books as cinematically as possible, because I’m not a writer. … I’m not trained, but I watch a lot of movies! I wrote the books like I was watching a film and to see that in a format of a screenplay was f—king nuts; to be able to visualize it even more than when I wrote it.
FM. This bein’ Famous Monsters and all, I gotta ask: How much do you guys enjoy the horror biz, and what are some of your faves?
WC. I’ve always loved horror and horror films, skeletons and monsters. … I played in a band called Aiden for a long time, and that’s cemetery punk rock. Rather than horror movies, my favorites are more thrillers; like THE SHINING is one of my favorite movies. I’m less into hacking up virgins in tents and more into psychological drama.
JJ. Growing up I never really liked horror movies too much, and then something happened when I was 15 years old and I became obsessed! Big influences for me are Argento; I really love SUSPIRIA, TENEBRE … OPERA; the original 1963 THE HAUNTING was a huge inspiration … because they’re horror films, but they are psychological thrillers, too. To me they defined the genre before we got into the ’80s with sicko slasher films and stuff. It was framing shots and building tension through music … like what Carpenter did with HALLOWEEN; a great blend of visual and music. But I’m also a big fan of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, and SCREAM. To me it’s a blend of really compelling characters, and really interesting, bold storytelling that really draws me to the genre. [REVELATOR] functions in that way; I think what’s great with working with William is that he created this really heightened world, and bringing it to life is something we’ve been on the same page on from the beginning. When you see that onscreen, you can tell that the creator and director lined up on what they wanted!
FM. Fangs, guys, I really appreciate you payin’ us a lil’ visit, and we’ll keep our putrid peepers open for REVELATOR!
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