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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director and Producer of The Man From Earth: Holocene

Image of the Main Character from The Man from Earth: Holocene

In this exclusive interview with Writer / Director Richard Schenkman and Producer Eric D. Wilkinson, we learn more about The Man from Earth: Holocene, the upcoming sequel to their cult classic science fiction film.

After getting in touch with The Man from Earth producer Eric D. Wilkinson, we arranged an interview both him and the director, Richard Schenkman, to discuss the finer details of The Man from Earth: Holocene, the long-awaited sequel to the beloved cult classic film. In addition to getting exclusive information on plot details and characters, the two men weigh in on Star Wars vs. Star Trek, the definition of science fiction, how they feel about Rogue One and the trend of remaking classic science fiction films.

Both Wilkinson and Schenkman worked together to nail down the story of The Man from Earth: Holocene and Schenkman spent the next two years writing the screenplay and meticulously building historically and scientifically accurate dialogue. Wilkinson, who’s seen the first cut of the film, applauds Schenkman’s skill in maintaining the voice and feel of Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth, saying it kept him on the edge of his seat.

This summer, fans can look forward to a remastered re-release of the original film for the 10th anniversary of The Man from Earth, and a possible fall commercial release of The Man from Earth: Holocene. 

How do you define science fiction?

Richard: Ooh. See, I knew I should have done some homework! I guess, to me, the difference between science fiction and fantasy, let’s say, is that there is meant to be some basis in scientific reality involved in the storytelling, whether it’s a projection into a possible future, or it’s a fictionalization of currently existing technology or science that’s used as a metaphor for the themes in the story that the author is trying to tell.

Eric: It’s almost like the difference between Ex Machina and Star Wars.

So you would consider Star Wars to be fantasy?

Richard: I’m with the people that call Star Wars fantasy because of the Force. Obviously, there’s a lot of science fiction in Star Wars, but at its heart, it’s probably more fantasy.

Eric: I’m on the same page with Richard in the sense that – I think there are different types of science fiction. I mentioned Ex Machina, where it’s a possible future where somebody invents an AI robot that becomes self-aware, versus Star Wars, or Superman, which is sort of science fiction in theory, but it’s more based in fantasy.

What are your favorite science fiction movies?

Richard: I really loved the original Matrix, Close Encounters. Certainly, I really loved Ex Machina. I know it’s recent but I do think it’s one of the best sci-fi films of all time. Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, Children of Mengosh I’m so not prepared for these questions!

Eric: Should I say what people think I should say? I wouldn’t even know how to answer that question! I mean, my movie collection is like 8,000 strong in terms of physical discs in my basement. It’s tough for me to look at any one of my children and decide which one I like better than the other. I hate admitting what movies I like because a lot of the ones that I like… like, okay, Strange Days. I loved Strange Days and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Richard: Me too!

For my money, Strange Days is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 1990s (if not all time). Sadly, it’s criminally underrated in all respects – its brilliant direction, outstanding performances, as well as its bold themes of racism and corruption. It deserves far more love than it currently receives, and damn it, I want to change that!

If you’ve never heard of Strange Days, you’re not alone. The film definitely [Click to read more…]

Eric: It was way ahead of its time. I loved Dark City. But, is that science fiction or is that fantasy? In terms of genres, the way my shelves are organized, science fiction and fantasy are all together.

Richard: In terms of The Man from Earth universe, especially when we were first trying to explain to people how we could make a science fiction movie on no money, effects and so forth, a movie that I always gave as an example was Shane Carruth‘s film Primer. That is a superb example of science fiction with no money.

Eric: When they say “science fiction of the mind,” it’s not about special effects. You know, it’s funny, when you say “science fiction” in terms of movies, people automatically think, “Star Wars and lasers and creatures,” when really, in terms of science fiction being a genre, it’s far more than that. And I think Primer is a great example of a movie that while sci-fi in theme, your imagination is part of it. And I think that’s why a lot of people loved The Man from Earth, it really tells a story, and you’re hanging on the edge of your seat, watching this thing unfold, and it’s grabbing ahold of your brain the way any science fiction movie would, because it’s challenging your mind, and keeping your attention! I don’t know, I’m rambling-

Richard: It’s engaging the imagination.

Eric: Thank you, Richard, see that’s why we work so well. It engages the imagination. Bigger budgets show you a little more, but we’re living proof that you don’t need a big budget to engage somebody’s imagination.

Speaking of the budget, what was the budget for The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Eric: Let’s just say this. It’s more than the first but less than what we would have liked to have had.

How did you initially get involved with The Man from Earth?

Richard: We’ve told this story a million times, so:

Long story short, they saw an ultra-low budget film that looked well-produced, which gave Eric and Richard hope for producing an excellent low budget movie. Emerson Bixby was approaching directors to get his father’s movie made, but Richard wasn’t a big enough name for their taste, so Bixby continued looking. It turned out that every other director said, “This is a good first act, but then he needs to be on the run from the CIA who want a sample of his blood. Or, this is great but we need to see flashbacks of him leading his army of Cro-Magnons against an army of Neanderthals, riding on the back of a sabretooth cat.” Bixby didn’t want to ruin his father’s story, so nothing ever happened. Four years later, Richard approached Bixby who was excited to get back in touch with a director who wanted to make the movie the way his father wanted it, so they raised a little money, and the rest is history.

Did you anticipate the Man from Earth becoming the cult classic that it is?

Eric: I didn’t. I knew we made a good movie, but my feeling was, because I came from the sales end of it, and had a lot of experience with films that went direct-to-video, that it would make a little splash when it came out, and that it would fade away into obscurity. Not that you didn’t make a good movie Richard, but not in my wildest dreams did I think 10 years later people would still be engaged about it.

Richard: Yes, I mean, you hope for that, but you don’t allow yourself to expect it or believe it. You’re always hoping to have a big impact. But it’s interesting the way it happened. It was such a uniquely modern phenomenon, with the illegal downloading and the file sharing all over the planet. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years before.

Eric: People discovered the movie and shared it with each other.

Richard: It really did pass word-of-mouth, hand to hand. “You have to see this thing.” Unfortunately, a lot of these people were not in America, and the countries they were in didn’t have a reasonable commercial outlet. They couldn’t buy the movie if they wanted to, they’d have to import it from America which would have been prohibitively expensive. I like to think they would have paid for it if they could, but there was no legitimate way to get it, so they downloaded it and then told their friends about it.

Eric: Their attitude, and part of me doesn’t blame them, which is why I reacted the way I did, was, “Why should I have to wait six months to a year for it to come here legally, I’m just going to download it and watch it.” Everybody who worked on the film cut their rates, and so everyone who worked on the film owned a little piece of it. Luckily for us, I’ll say two things. One, they loved the movie, and two, they loved the movie so much that they were generous enough to donate money toward the production which allowed us to give money back to all the people who worked on the film, from the actors all the way down.

Richard: We gave away more than 2/3 of the movie to the cast and crew.

Eric: So when people donated money, we were able to make up some of the difference. We’re grateful. That’s why when people google my name, they see “Producer thanks pirates for stealing his movie.” In a way that was true. With Richard being an artist, I was happy to work on the movie with him, and I wanted people to see Richard’s art. Whatever percentage of profits we may have lost through file sharing, I think of it as our marketing budget. We got the word out. Richard got to make a movie that really affected people on a deep level. Even to this day, Richard reads the messages through social media, [people] love it. Isn’t that why you got into this business, Richard, to make a piece of art that creates conversation and challenges people and becomes their favorite movie?

Richard: It’s a stunning achievement. I would say at least once a week, somebody posts on the Facebook page that this is their favorite movie of all time. It’s just stunning. The idea that this movie would become someone’s favorite movie of all time, and so many people’s favorite movie of all time, is just amazing. It really is one of your fondest goals when you become a filmmaker, to have your movie seen. And god knows it’s been seen, it’s been seen millions and millions and millions of times.

Eric: That’s the difference between me and Richard, and why we work well together. I’m just happy to break even, and God forbid, maybe even make a little money or a little laughter.

Richard: I said one of my fondest goals!

Do you think you would have believed John Oldman if you were in that living room?

Eric: No. No, I would have been like, dude you’re out of your mind.

Richard: I feel like I would have been a lot like Harry, you know, deeply skeptical. Amused, bemused, and then at some point wanting it to be true, because wouldn’t it be so cool if it were true? But, really feeling like I couldn’t buy all the way in until there was some sort of actual proof. I would probably be relieved at the end when he said, “Alright, alright, I was just telling a story, don’t worry about it.” I would be like, “Okay, phew.

Speaking of proof, will there be any proof of how and why John’s existed so long in The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Richard: It’s… Well, part of what we were trying to do in the original film was to present the story in such a way that if you were really dead-set against believing John’s story, you could walk away saying, “It’s not true.” And if you were the kind of person who wanted to believe it was true, like “Oh my god, how awesome! What a great explanation for all this stuff!” – you could. You could embrace it and hold on to it as true. I feel we’re in similar territory with the new one. It’s funny, you’re the first person outside the movie that I’m talking to about the movie. We’re pretty early in the process, it’s technically not complete. So, I don’t have my rap worked out yet, but I do feel like we’re in similar territory. If you want to say, “No, it’s not true,” or “It’s true to some degree,” you can, and if you want to say, “Nope, nope! That’s the story, it’s 100% true,” you can do that too.

It’s not about making more money. We believe fans wanted more. Eric Wilkinson

Eric: That’s the beauty of the movie and the conversation it creates. The movie itself, both movies, walk a fine line between science fiction and religion, in how both are open to discussion and interpretation. I love how Richard wrote the script, and while I’m sure it was a challenge for him because Jerome Bixby wrote the first one, I love how he found a way to continue the themes from the first one in a way that it feels completely organic and believable. Us making this wasn’t “How can this be a cash grab?” It wasn’t about making more money. We didn’t get rich off the first one, but we believe fans wanted more. They were so connected to this character and this story that I think the movie lends itself to there being more story to tell. I can understand when people spend time with the character, especially when they watch the movie over and over again, that they want to spend more time with them, they want to learn more about them. I loved how into 20 minutes in, the first one grabs ahold of you. You find yourself hanging on every word, it’s so weird, and when you get to the end and he flicks that light switch on… It’s amazing how much it mimics the feeling you get when you watch a thriller, though it’s not necessarily a thriller. I hope I’m not sounding like a complete and utter crazy person, the movie isn’t a thriller, but when I watched it I felt the way I feel when I’m watching a suspenseful movie. That’s what’s really cool about it. Plus, my mom is a huge Star Trek fan, so I was drawn to the material on that basis alone.

But much to humanity’s surprise and delight, not only is much of the Star Trek: The Next Generation technology available today, but many available examples are even more advanced than those used on the show. Others, of course, are still pretty rudimentary by comparison, but there was absolutely no indication that these were even possible in the late ’80s and early ’90s. There are still some things on the show that [Click to read more…]

I noticed almost every other person involved with the original film was also involved with Star Trek in some way.

Richard: Well, to some degree that was definitely by design. We felt, okay, this has a really important Star Trek* legacy, let’s embrace that and enhance it as much as we possibly can. What was cool was that there were one or two people in the cast that I didn’t even know had been in Star Trek! I’m mean, obviously John Billingsley (Doctor Phlox) and Tony Todd (Worf’s brother Kurn). Tony, after all, was the guest star in arguably the single best hour of Star Trek ever created. You know, arguably.

*Jerome Bixby, the writer of ‘The Man from Earth,’ wrote episodes for Star Trek. One of Bixby’s episode Requiem for Methuselah, Richard says, was Bixby playing with the concepts that became ‘The Man from Earth.’  

Eric: Was that the Next Generation episode he did?

Richard: No, it was the DS9 episode he did.

Eric: Oh, duh, I don’t know. I mean, he’s in four different versions of Star Trek! He was in Next Generation, he did DS9, I think he did Voyager, and I think he was in a video game. And even David Lee Smith! [who played star John Oldman]

Richard: Yeah, that was the surprise! I forgot about Richard Riehle*, and I had no idea about David. Richard, it’s easy to forget because I think he only appeared in the holodeck, you know, back when Captain Janeway would go visit her Irish village-

Eric: No, Richard was in two different … didn’t he play Picard’s brother or something? I forget. Richard was in New Generation too, I think. The weird thing was, when we were casting, when you’d throw a name by me, I would start looking up to see if they were in any version of Star Trek. It became a thing for me.

[*Added note from Richard Schenkman: Richard Riehle appeared in three of the four Star Trek spin-offs, as well as over 50 other television series and about twice as many films. He first appeared as Batai in Star Trek: The Next Generation fifth season episode “The Inner Light” in 1992. He then played Seamus in two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk“. His most recent Star Trek role was that of Doctor Jeremy Lucas in the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes “Cold Station 12” and “The Augments.”]

So, Star Trek vs. Star Wars?

Richard: I personally [like Star Trek better], but I can’t speak for Eric.

Eric: Hmmmmm… I love them both.The new Star Trek movies, done by J.J. Abrams, I like much better than the prequels that Lucas did in 1999-2005. But, the original Star Wars series, and arguably the new ones they’re making, I might like a little better than Star Trek. I’m torn, I love them both. I was raised in a house with a mother that absolutely loved Star Trek and had me watching that before I saw Star Wars, and then I saw Star Wars, so I’ve always kind of loved them both.

Richard: Luckily, one doesn’t have to choose.

It’s a new era for sci-fi nerds. Are any of the characters from the original going to return for The Man from Earth: Holocene?

William Katt as Art Jenkins in The Man from Earth: Holocene.

William Katt as Art Jenkins in The Man from Earth: Holocene.

Richard: Art Jenkins is back. Dr. Jenkins, played by William Katt. What we find out fairly early on in the movie, and – Eric and I haven’t even discussed what we’re going to reveal and not going to reveal – but you find out fairly early on in the movie that Art Jenkins actually wrote a book about that night depicted in the original film. He wrote a book called The Longest Night: My Evening with the Man from Earth-

Eric: You’re getting an exclusive right here! Just so you know, this is the first bit, no kidding, the first bit of plot information that Richard has revealed to anybody.

Richard: True, we haven’t said anything to anybody.

Eric: Yes, in the movie, Art Jenkins has written a book about the night that he spent with The Man from Earth.

Richard: And as a scientist, he researched it, he came to conclusions about John’s story and published it as a nonfiction book, and things did not go well for him. So, he’s got a set of feelings about John that aren’t too different from how the last movie ended. He was not pleased. He’s onboard as a sort of antagonist. We thought he’d be worthy and realistic to bring back. He’s a wonderful actor and a wonderful guy.

When researching the film, I noticed Jerome Bixby published under fun aliases that were often a play on words, and his character John Oldman did so in the film (Old-man). What name will John go by in The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Richard: I don’t know how fun it is, but he goes by John Young.

Compared to the original, how much scientific and historical research went into The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Richard: An annoyingly large amount [laughs]. A distressingly large amount. Let me put it this way, I worked on the script for two years. Two. Years. And got a lot of help from a lot of smart people.

Eric: The fans who donated on the Kickstarter Campaign were like, “What’s going on, what’s going on?” and I don’t think they realized the magnitude of the shoes you had to fill, Richard. Richard and I worked together in terms of the general idea of the story, but when it came time to write the dialogue, I was like, “I’m out, you’re on your own buddy!”

Richard: The thing about Jerome Bixby is that he was a voracious reader, as all writers should be. He spent decades pondering this story, and he read constantly. Like Emerson said, he had thousands upon thousands of books in his library. And he read constantly about history and religion and philosophy, and this stuff was all swirling around in his head when he finally sat down on his deathbed to write that screenplay. I, however, am not the intellect that Jerome Bixby was, so once we had the story, and I realized “This conversation is about this,” I then had to do boatloads of research about that in order to intelligently write the scenes, and even then I leaned heavily upon friends and supportive acquaintances to say, “Is this right? Would somebody say this? Would somebody believe that?” I got a lot of input from some smart people. It’s completely vetted, the screenplay, and hopefully, it’s full of smart observations, only some of which are mine. [laughs]

Dr. Alan Lightman’s truly unique investigation into the potential ramifications of alterations of Einstein’s theories of relativity is titled Einstein’s Dreams. Einstein’s Dreams is a science fiction novel which is comprised of a series of anecdotes “dreamed” by Albert Einstein as he struggles to put together his theory of relativity in the Swiss city of Bern. Each of his dreams are self-contained hypothetical realities in which the property of time behaves differently than we are used to. The author holds a PhD in theoretical physics, and so each anecdote is well-thought out from start to finish, though only tenuously connected to the actual mathematics of relativity. [Click to read more…]

Is that something you’re worried about regarding the critical reception of The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Richard: Well, I mean, any time you’re dealing with a story- it’s gotta exist within its own world. In other words, you say a man can fly and has heat vision, but then THIS wouldn’t happen. There are rules. I mean it’s kind of ludicrous that a man can fly have X-ray vision, but he can’t see through lead. But okay, he can’t see through lead. And, if you bring a little piece of his original planet to him, he loses all of his strength, even though he gets his strength from the sun. So, I’m not sure how that makes sense, but okay, it’s one of the rules. You have to stay within the rules, and I feel that while the rules of The Man from Earth are not that complex, we do stay within them. It’s important to stay historically accurate, but we do have a little bit of wiggle room because John Oldman never claimed to be the smartest man in the world. He’s just had a lot of time to observe things. But if he wasn’t there himself, experiencing something, then all he knows about it is whatever he read in the news or in a book, or [heard from a] story from somebody. He’s not omnipotent; he’s a really old, really smart, really insightful guy, but at the end of the day, a guy.

Was there ever any urge to make him into some sort of super genius, or were you always down with the idea that he’s just a guy?

Richard: Well, that’s what I love about him! I think that’s what everybody loves about him. I mean, what’s the point of making it be Brainiac? That’s another universe. I mean, it’s a great story, we all love Brainiac, but that’s a different movie. The beauty is: what if you were given this one thing? It’s almost got more in common with Groundhog Day. What if you had the time to just…learn? And ponder, and travel, and meet people? To experience life in all of its permutations, over and over and over again? There are things that would probably just get really boring and obvious and sad to you, but there are things that would reveal a hidden complexity as well.

If you knew that going forward you weren’t going to age, and had seemingly unlimited time, what would you do?

Richard: I would read a lot more. I would hit the road! That’s what I would do. I would go travel and learn languages, and try out every job. I’d go work on a ship for a year, I’d go build water pumps in Sub-Saharan Africa. I would do all those things because even if it takes you six months to learn a language, you got the time. You sit there for six months to learn a language, and then you help, and you travel, and then you move on to the next place. Gosh… Gosh, what wouldn’t I do?

Eric: I don’t know, I’d make more movies. Try and get it right. I mean, I don’t know if I’d want to live that long. The only way I’d want to live that long is if everybody else around me could live that long too. The thing I find sad about Oldman’s character is that everyone around him dies. You know? If I could live that long, it’s all fine and good for me, but then I have to watch my friend Richard die, and my wife and my kids… If it was just me, I don’t know if I would want that for myself.

Richard: Well, if you did my plan, you’d be moving on every few years. So, you wouldn’t have to witness that.

Eric: No, but you’d still… I mean, listen, I don’t know. I’m not John Oldman, I don’t know if I could shut it off like that and disappear.

In the original, there was a little romantic subplot with Sandy. Will there be a similar thing in The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Vanessa Williams as Caroline Kittriss in The Man from Earth: Holocene.

Vanessa Williams as Caroline Kittriss in The Man from Earth: Holocene.

Richard: Well, not… not that. We didn’t really know exactly how far along their relationship had gone when she revealed her feelings explicitly. I always had the feeling that she was working as an assistant or associate professor or something, TA or whatever, and John sensed she had feelings for him, but they had never really been spoken about. That’s just my opinion, anyone can interpret it however they want. In the new one, when we meet John, he’s very much in a committed relationship. He’s living with another professor at the same school. When we meet John, he’s teaching at a small school in Chico, California, and he’s living with another professor, an anthropology professor. His girlfriend, the one he’s living with, is played by Vanessa Williams. Who also has a Star Trek history! We’re very excited to have Vanessa in the movie. She’s a huge talent. I adore her. She’s funny, she’s kind and generous, also extremely professional and hardworking. She’s your sort of classic Broadway Gypsy. She shows up, she’s on time, she has her lines, she’s just a constant professional.

Did you have actors in the original trying to improvise lines?

Richard: No, but we did something really unusual with the original that I wish we could have done with the new one, but simply couldn’t. The actors and I got together for a week beforehand to rehearse. All of their concerns and questions, we were able to work through all of that and make really minor changes to accommodate their desires. But at the end of the day, we all agreed that the script was the script, and they memorized their lines and we shot it in 7 or 8 days. Which is ridiculous.

Will The Man from Earth: Holocene take place in just one location like the original?

Richard: It’s pretty small. It’s not like the original where it’s literally in one cabin. There are a few locations we see. We actually see John at work, teaching, which is fun.

Eric: We opened it up a little bit.

Richard: Yeah, we opened it up a little bit. There are still no chase scenes, no scenes of John riding bareback on a sabretooth, but maybe next time.

Eric: When we were talking about a second one, we agreed that we couldn’t just stick him back in a room with different people and try to do the same thing over again. It had to be opened up, we needed to see this character outside that room.

Richard: Absolutely. But at the same time, we didn’t want to change genre. In other words, the original film was an eight character “talk-a-thon.” And we felt we can’t come back now and have a 20-minute car chase. That’s just not The Man from Earth. It’s still about ideas and character, emotion and storytelling. We’ve added more characters, we’ve added more locations, we’ve heightened the stakes a little bit here and there, but at its heart, it’s still a Man from Earth movie.

Eric: It’s still very talky, believe me.

Richard: [laughs] I held off saying that.

Eric: That’s not a bad thing, though. I think anybody who was a true fan of the original, they’re gonna want that. They want to be challenged intellectually on some level, they want to hear smart dialogue. Part of what makes the first one great is the interaction between the characters, and the talk- that’s what makes it great. When you wrote this script, man, and I was reading it, I almost felt weird about giving any notes because really, I’m sure it was a challenge for you to continue that voice, but you just did an amazing job. Not only on John’s voice but making it [all] feel like The Man from Earth, even though it’s opened up a little bit. I don’t know, I’m rambling again.

Opposites really do attract. You know how I know? My idea of a perfect movie night is this – to curl up on the couch with a big bowl of buttery popcorn and watch a movie that tells the touching story of a terminally ill young man who would do just about anything for the girl of his dreams. My wife’s idea of a perfect movie night would be the same, only instead of Deadpool, we’d be watching The Fault In Our Stars. I don’t think we’re the only couple suffering from cinematic incompatibility. [Click to read more…]

Are you concerned there will be similar push-back on the topic of religion that you got after the original film? You said some people referred to it as “atheist propaganda.”

Eric: I was never concerned… When the subject of science and religion came up with the first one, I wasn’t ever concerned about it so much as I loved the idea that a piece of art that I contributed to, and Richard had made, had prompted and created a discussion about religion, and I think this is going to continue that conversation.

I loved the idea that a piece of art that I contributed to, and Richard had made, had prompted and created a discussion about religion. Eric Wilkinson

Richard: It will absolutely continue the conversation. I think anybody who had a strong objection to that element in the first one is not going to be any happier with us this time around.

Eric: At the same time, there are people that have faith who that loved the movie. And that’s what’s great about art.

Richard: And by the way, there are people who have faith who’ve seen the new one and love it. It’s not an attack on faith. It’s certainly not an attack on faith.

Eric: If anything, I would argue the new one is more spiritual than the original. To me, it felt that way.

Richard: Well, it definitely deals more head-on with spirituality. Let’s put it that way.

Eric: Yes, John’s mere existence is a miracle in and of itself. Even if you’re unabashedly Christian, it’s almost a conundrum because you’re watching the first one saying, “It’s bashing religion!” but you’re forgetting the fact that this man has been on the earth for 14,000 years. That’s a miracle! I love that.

Richard: One of the points I always made was, wouldn’t John be something that God might do? Send a man to Earth, let him wander, and learn, and interact with people for thousands, I mean thousands and thousands of years, and finally step up and start talking and teaching and trying to help? Isn’t that exactly the sort of miraculous thing that you’d want your God to do? The question is just how literally you’re taking Scripture.

The four students who discover John Young's secret in The Man from Earth: Holocene

The four students who discover John Young’s secret in The Man from Earth: Holocene.

The brief plot description on IMDB says four students figure out John’s secret. Can you say what they intend to do with that information?

Richard: Well, part of the setup is that they stumble across Art’s book. And there are four students, so their motivations are across the spectrum. They don’t all want the same thing. And indeed, that’s what makes it a movie.

If you had an unlimited budget and the rights to whatever you wanted, what movie would you make? (Other than Die Hard!)

Eric: Ah, man you just took my answer! But I’m gonna tell you something. Let’s just say I had Mark Zuckerberg money, you know what I would do? I would hire the writer of Die Hard, Steven E. de Souza [Ed: don’t forget Jeb Stuart!], I would hire John McTiernan, I would hire Bruce Willis; I would literally have them make a Die Hard movie for me. But a fan movie, just to make one more good one. But I wouldn’t be able to share it with the world, it’d be like that Star Trek movie they’re trying to make on the side, Axanar or whatever? If I was filthy rich, I would literally give them a hundred million dollars and say “Go make a Die Hard movie” just so I could see it. That’s what I would love as a geek.

Richard: Well… I have a couple of scripts that I’m really, really happy with-

Eric: You wouldn’t want to make a James Bond movie or something? Unlimited money Richard!

Richard: Um, no I wouldn’t because I’m not going to make a movie better than Casino Royale. Sure, I’d love to make a Bond movie, but in the real world, I have scripts that I want to make. I have two comedies I think are very, very funny and that people would love. I have a western, a script I’m very proud of, and I’d love to make that. I have a western pilot for a series that I think would be huge fun that people would really enjoy. I would make one of my movies that I’m trying to get made.

What’s the deal with Die Hard, Eric? You just really like it or what?

Eric: As far as movies go, it’s a perfect movie. Can you name something, anything that’s wrong with it?

To be honest, I’ve never seen it.

Eric: Oh, my god. [Takes a deep breath] In terms of movies, it’s lightning in a bottle. They had a perfect villain, perfect scenario, and it had never been done that way before. If you grew up in the 80’s at the time, all the heroes in the movies were built like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, these muscle-bound heroes you knew were indestructible. To have a hero that was vulnerable and looked like a regular guy… that’s what made the movie- everything just came together just right for me. Yeah, I would literally hire the original writer, the original director, and Bruce Willis to make the perfect Die Hard movie just for me to see.

Richard: There’s a pretty big difference between you and me, ‘cause I think that’s nuts!

Eric: I would make sure since I’m producing it, you would get paid to work on it, Richard. Like, 1st AD or something.

Richard: I would think you’d want to show it to everybody, like, “See, see! When I’m in charge they finally make a good Die Hard!”

Eric: I wonder if I’d get a cease and desist from 20th Century Fox?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will finally hit screens next weekend, kick-starting a new run of Star Wars anthology movies set in everyone’s favorite galaxy far, far away.

Without a doubt, this ‘side’ run of films is a stroke of genius on Disney and LucasFilm’s part, giving them greater freedom to explore their lucrative property. While we’ll get episodic installments of the ‘main’ storyline with Episodes VIII [Click to read more…]

What do you guys think about this trend of remaking and doing sequels to classic science fiction movies?

Richard: I love it–

Eric: As long as they continue it in the same universe as the originals. That’s where I think Ghostbusters (2016) went wrong. I liked the new Ghostbusters, but I would have liked it better if at the beginning the original four Ghostbusters were kidnapped by ghosts or something, and these guys had to step in to save them. You know, something to incorporate the original universe.

Richard: It goes both ways, with Star Trek they’ve completely rebooted the thing. Same universe, different timeline. But in the case of Blade Runner, it’s literally just a sequel. And Star Wars, I’m really impressed with how they’re expanding the universe. If Rogue One is any indication, I think the way that they’re expanding the universe sideways is really good.I really liked Rogue One, and I really liked the ending, I thought it was ballsy as hell.

I really liked Rogue One, and I really liked the ending, I thought it was ballsy as hell. Richard Schenkman

Eric: Loved it! And it takes place in the same universe.

Richard: What they’re saying is, “Hey, we always knew there were a million stories to tell,” and so now they’re telling them. And I think that’s awesome.

Eric: That’s where they faulted with the movies like Ghostbusters when you start to go out of the universe, especially if there are younger producers or different people involved, it starts to feel like somebody says, “I can do it better.”

Richard: But I also think there’s opportunity. For example, they’re talking about remaking Fantastic Voyage. If you take a movie that really had a great idea, but at the time the technical level of execution wasn’t up to scratch, or the people involved in the movie didn’t have the taste level you wish they’d had- I think remaking a movie that was mediocre in its day and remaking it today with more talented filmmakers, is an exciting idea. But at the same time, saying, “Let’s remake Close Encounters.” Like, that’s just stupid.

Eric: I agree with you on that one, I don’t want any sequels for Close Encounters.

Richard: Sure, the effects are better now, but why would you remake it? The original is fantastic. Same with Metropolis. Metropolis works beautifully, why would you remake Metropolis?

Eric: At the same time, I love that they’re making more Alien movies. I loved that I have the sequel to Prometheus, which is a prequel to the first Alien. I love that stuff, man. But I agree with Richard. If it’s not a movie I love, they can remake it all they want. I don’t care.

When can we expect The Man from Earth: Holocene?

Eric: Well, we’re working on doing a 10-year anniversary re-release of the original, which will hopefully come out this summer.

Richard: In a perfect world, sometime this summer we will re-release the original film, and debut the new film at festivals, and the new film would come out commercially in the fall.

What’s next for The Man from Earth?

Richard: In terms of The Man from Earth, it’s my hope that the new film will launch a series. And that could take any one of several forms. It could be an Amazon/Netflix 12 episode thing, or a Sherlock four 90 minute episodes thing-

Eric: A series of movies?

Richard: Yes, whatever the marketplace allows/demands. But one of the goals of the new film is to hopefully launch a series.

Eric: Our goal, our hope is to make a series.The concept of an immortal man who has to move on, it just lends itself to a series. I’d love it to be on Netflix, to do a series of 10 to 13 episode seasons that take place over a period of five years. I think that would be the perfect scenario to tell the stories we have developed.

Do you guys have anything else coming out?

Eric: I am also working on an anniversary re-release of Richard’s film, Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God which will hopefully come out this summer. And of course, we have The Violence Movie. You’ll hear more about that soon! We’ll talk about that on a separate conversation. That’s your little hint, but it’s called The Violence Movie. It’s the only time you’ll see my name next to anything with the word director next to it.

Richard: Like a lot of aspiring filmmakers, Eric and his brother made little movies when they were kids. This is one that they made which is… [laughs] unique and entertaining enough that it’s getting a second life.

Eric: It’s going to premiere on Sundance Now. It’s getting re-scored as we speak because all the music I put in it from my record collection back in 1988 has to be removed. I loved horror movies as a kid, specifically Friday the 13th, so The Violence Movie is my Friday the 13th and as a kid, I used the soundtrack of Friday the 13th to be the soundtrack for these two shorts that I made. I’m fortunate enough that I work in this business and became friendly over the years with the composer of Friday the 13th, Harry Manfredini, and I’ve asked him, and he’s agreed to score my short. So, now I’m taking out his score from Friday the 13th that I stole, and he’s doing an original horror, Friday the 13th-style for this short that’s going to premiere on the Sundance Now app. As a fan and a geek, that just makes me super happy.

Featured Images: courtesy of Eric D. Wilkinson and Richard Schenkman

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