My guest today is author, filmmaker, animator and writer Craig Lew, creator of The Goths. Before working in the entertainment industry, he was the president of a successful consulting firm. His clients ranged from KCET, DELUXE LABS, Nortel Networks, Infonet, ITC and the New Getty Center. However, it was the emerging studio DREAMWORKS SKG that changed Craig’s direction. In this interview, he talks about what got him into writing, The Goths, his writing process, as well as the valuable lessons he learned while working at Dreamworks, among other things.
Thanks for this interview, Craig! When did you begin your career as a storyteller?
From the very beginning. I generally told stories that got my older brother into trouble or me out of it.
I almost always started with “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a junk yard heap.”
But I made the switch from corporate executive to storyteller in 1996 when I wrote, directed and produced my first film, The Fish, while working at Dreamworks.
I’m quite intrigued by your work, The Goths. I understand it is a graphic novel in print, a motion comic on the web, and a web series with actors voicing the characters. How did you come up with this multi-format idea?
I have been focused on muliti-threaded story telling for a very long time. But I had to wait for the perfect storm of sophisticated animation and film editing software, higher speed internet bandwidth and more robust consumer electronics.
So now is that time.
From an author perspective I am adding content to a book, from a film producer perspective I am offering a more complete experience to my audience from their choice of media.
I’ve just recently added AR or Augmented Reality to the project. AR allows the reader to listen, link or watch the pictures come to life.
In the story, the Goths lead teens by using graffiti my producing partner Mark Woolley had mentioned Geo Tagging, where GPS coordinates could be used to leave digital messages on landmarks…When I researched this technology I discovered that images could also be used to trigger digital content. So the graphic novel pages are enabled with AR or Augmented Reality. Now a reader armed with an smartphone can scan a page with a free app and watch the pictures come to life, with full soundtrack and dialogue.
What is the premise of the series and who is your target audience?
The Goths are demons that lure wayward teens to rave clubs where they suck out their life essence with a passionate kiss. This is the Comic Con, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twilight audience.
How do you divide your time as author, filmmaker, animator and writer?
I wish I could divide my time! Hahaha. I am always developing concepts or being pitched concepts. But I love writing novels. I don’t think there’s a more therapeutic or satisfying feeling than putting words to paper and completing a story.
Film producing is a very long process. If I did not write the screenplay of the film I am producing, then I function as the editor refining the story until the day of filming. When I go into production, I am 16 hours a day or more on set and am completely lost to the rest of the world for eight weeks or more.
It is very much the same when I am writing. I like to immerse myself in the world I am building and write until my eyes bleed. I often take a trip away to reduce the interruptions. I probably switch projects every six weeks.
What valuable lesson did you learn while working at Dreamworks?
The lesson’s were many. Steven Spielberg once told me that I should build a strong body of work, because that will speak louder than anything I could say about myself.
The other lesson was “concept, concept, concept.” A poorly written story with a strong concept can be fixed with editing. But a well written story with a weak concept, can’t be salvaged.
But probably the biggest lesson was artistic success takes hard work and undying belief in yourself.
How would you describe your creative process and are you a disciplined writer?
I call my process S.P.E.W.
Scrub…scrub that concept, that premise, the hook.
Pitch…pitch it to your friends, then your crit group, perfect the essence of your story.
Envision – See the story like a movie. Day dream a scene. Become each of your characters and envision the best moments or dialogue.
Write – Write till blue smokes comes off your finger tips and your eyes bleed.
Once I do set aside time to write I am very disciplined, I try to write 10 pages a day.
But as a producer and the head of two companies, I have to take care of administrative things too…and these things don’t often adhere to schedules.
I hear you have a paranormal romance in the works, The House of Mirrors, as well as a completed children’s book. Tell us about them! When will they become available?
The House of Mirrors is a manuscript I wrote based on an award winning screenplay. The movie premise of the screenplay is: “When you face two mirrors, they create endless reflections, look to the smallest reflection and you deepest wish may come true, but touch the 13th reflection and you open a gate to hell.”
I worked with Terri Farley (Phantom Stallion, Seven Tears into the Sea) as part of the Nevada SCBWI mentorship program to refine and streamline the story. Terri is great at horror and helped me get closer to the characters.
In The House of Mirrors, the hero, Faith a disfigured teen uses the two mirrors myth to become magically beautiful. She wins the love of her life but learns too late the price of her unreturnable gift is a human soul. She and her lover must unravel the riddle of the mirrors before her own soul is taken.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a young adult thriller titled that I am very excited about. Again originally written as a movie but it has been getting some good feedback as a manuscript.
I am also creating a “Smittens Says” smartphone App. Smittens is my newly adopted kitty. If you look on my facebook page you will see pictures with captions here.
And hopefully by the end of the year a Goths Feature film.
Where is your work available?
The Goths Graphic Novel will be available on Amazon.com next week.
The Motion Comic and Web Series can be seen on the website.
My latest film Rock Jocks is just releasing across the US. Not sure when it will hit Europe. More here.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
Just that there are monumental changes coming in the publishing world so lean forward, watch and listen. These changes might not impact how you write your stories but it will have an impact on how your readers discover you.