Back in February at WonderCon, we got invited to a press conference announcing “Dark Horse Indie,” an independent film production company formed by combining Dark Horse Entertainment with Image Entertainment. Their first big “find” was Monarch of the Moon, a faux 40’s film serial they debuted two weeks later at the New York Comic Convention. And yes, we knew it wasn’t real at the time. At Comic-Con, Dark Horse Indie held a panel with scenes and discussion about a couple more of their films, Splinter and Driftwood, interesting small films with two things in common: Dark Horse and Diamond Dallas Page.
So we had to sit down with Dark Horse Indie executive Chris Tongue, who gave us the lowdown on the company’s slate, starting with a long-rumored film that should get fanboys drooling now…My Name Is Bruce…
Derek McCaw: Can you talk about the Bruce Campbell movie?
Chris Tongue: I can talk about the Bruce movie. I don’t know how much you know, but it’s Bruce Campbell starring as Bruce Campbell directed by Bruce Campbell and co-written by Bruce Campbell and Mark Verheiden.
The story is a small town being terrorized by zombie monsters figure that the only person who can save them is Bruce Campbell. So they kidnap him off the set of his latest B-horror movie and force him to do just that. At first he thinks it’s this great publicity gag put on by his agent, played by Ted Raimi. One of the many characters Ted plays in the film.
Derek McCaw: Ah, so Ted gets multiple roles…
Chris Tongue: Oh, yeah. Just like Evil Dead. We’ve got the same composer from all those movies, too, Joe LoDuca. We’d actually been up in the air between Bear McCreary, who does Battlestar, and Joe.
Derek McCaw: But Joe’s got the Evil Dead cred…
Chris Tongue: He has the pedigree.
Derek McCaw: So that just wrapped.
Chris Tongue: That just wrapped. We shot that in Medford, Oregon.
Derek McCaw: I once bought a leather coat in Medford.
Chris Tongue: Ahhh…
Derek McCaw: Yes, the summer that I spent in Ashland.
Chris Tongue: You were there for the Shakespeare Festival?
Derek McCaw: Well, I wasn’t in the festival, but I had a friend who was.
Chris Tongue: I’ve never actually been to that but I’ve heard it’s quite a draw.
Derek McCaw: Sometimes it’s really cool, sometimes it’s really horrid. As any great artistic endeavor can be…
Chris Tongue: Well, I like to think that our movie is both.
Derek McCaw: How did Bruce approach Dark Horse with that?
Chris Tongue: We’ve been friends with Bruce for a while. Dark Horse just did the comic book adaptation of Man With The Screaming Brain. Mike Richardson was on set for Army of Darkness hanging out with Bruce’s dad while there were like eight Bruce Campbells running around. It’s a relationship that we’ve had for quite some time.
We said, “hey, Bruce, you want to direct something for us?” and he said, “sure, here’s a great idea…” And we brought Mark Verheiden on to write it, who is another relationship that we’ve had for a long time.
Derek McCaw: Now, we’re in the offices of Dark Horse Entertainment, but My Name Is Bruce will come out under the Dark Horse Indie label…
Chris Tongue: …which is our partnership with Image Entertainment, who are a huge DVD distributor.
Derek McCaw: Okay, so how did that come about? Why create Dark Horse Indie, and how active is it?
Chris Tongue: We’ve got three films in the can, done. And Bruce just wrapped yesterday. The straight Dark Horse Entertainment label is what we do our larger films through. The Mask, Hellboy, AvP, that sort of thing. Dark Horse Indie is independent level budgets, low, low, low million dollars for these things that Image puts up directly. Basically, it makes us into our own mini-studio, so we don’t have to deal with notes from tens of executives. It’s not art by committee; it’s what we want to do.
Derek McCaw: It will be much more directly in touch with what you think the fans will respond to.
Chris Tongue: Exactly. Which is really more in touch with the original Dark Horse philosophy – letting the creators do their thing.
Derek McCaw: So will you be getting theatrical releases?
Chris Tongue: Hopefully. We’re still working out the kinks in this. There are no hard and fast rules right now. We have a couple plans for that, but none of them have been put into action yet.
Derek McCaw: It makes sense to me. You seem a little ahead of the curve, what with Warner Home Video doing their DC animated projects. You’re already there.
Chris Tongue: Well, a lot of people are doing direct to DVD kind of stuff. But we don’t look at it as that, otherwise we would have called it Dark Horse Home Entertainment. This is our chance to operate independently of the studio system.
Derek McCaw: Besides My Name Is Bruce, you have Monarch of the Moon…
Chris Tongue: The gem that we “found…”
Derek McCaw: I think that line’s time is past…
Chris Tongue: Yeah, that’s past, and I’d like to thank you for playing along.
Derek McCaw: It was fun. Is that going to be the first official release?
Chris Tongue: It looks like Monarch’s going to come first. Depending on whether it’s packaged with (an earlier film from the same creative team) Destination: Mars or not, and how many different versions we release it in. We have a black and white version, we have a colorized version and, …yeah. We’re putting together the package right now.
Derek McCaw: It did have one public screening in Austin, Texas. Which version showed there?
Chris Tongue: That was in color. We actually sort of got chastised by Aint It Cool News for showing it in color, because they thought that was a departure from the original art form. Those serials weren’t in color. The fact that we added color …they didn’t like that.
Derek McCaw: You’re talking about a San Francisco screening. Which one will show there?
Chris Tongue: I think it will be the color one. It’s more accessible to more people. Some people dig the black and white and more power to them, but we put a lot of effort into recolorizing this thing. (laughs)
Derek McCaw: How do you get involved with these projects? You’ve got Splinter coming from Michael D. Olmos, but it sounds like he and his partners had developed that separately. How does Dark Horse Indie get involved?
Chris Tongue: They were doing that on their own, they ran into some trouble and we stepped in to help them finish the film. That came in through Barry Levine. We were able to bring (Tom) Sizemore into the project, and obviously Michael’s father Edward James Olmos was instrumental in getting the film the attention it deserved.
Derek McCaw: Another in the stable – Driftwood…
Chris Tongue: Driftwood was developed pretty much in-house. That was another in the relationship through Barry Levine, who produced Detroit Rock City with Tim Sullivan, who is the director of Driftwood. They always wanted to work on something together. Barry was working with us and brought us this project. We thought it was pretty cool, so there you go.
Derek McCaw: All I know about that one is that Diamond Dallas Page is in it.
Chris Tongue: Diamond Dallas Page is in it, Talan Torriero is in it, who’s a major draw, as is Ricky Ullman from Phil of the Future. Talan’s from Laguna Beach, he’s got an album coming out this Fall…I guess. (we both shrug)
Derek McCaw: So what is Driftwood about?
Chris Tongue: It’s actually really hard to categorize as a horror movie, or as a thriller or as a drama. It’s a horror drama about a youth prison camp.
You know those camps that they send bad kids to, to sort of reprogram them in Montana or wherever? A lot of kids these days at least know somebody that has been through them, and a lot of times they’re not particularly good experiences. I don’t know if they’re really doing any good for these kids.
In a way, this was a bit of commentary about that. Then we took it a step further by adding a supernatural element into it. The new kid at the camp is being haunted by a kid who’s just been killed there, letting him know he’s next.
Derek McCaw: And Diamond Dallas Page seems to have worked his way into a few of these films…
Chris Tongue: He’s in all of them. Wait, no, he’s not in Monarch of the Moon, but his ex-wife is. Kmberly Page is there as the Dragonfly, and she’s fantastic. He’s also not in My Name Is Bruce. But he is in Hood of Horror, Snoop Dogg’s new horror film that Tim wrote.
Derek McCaw: That’s not a Dark Horse film.
Chris Tongue: No, but Dallas is family.
Derek McCaw: How do you decide on these films? Is it just movies you want to see? Will you focus on certain genres – we’re not going to see a Dark Horse chick flick any time soon, are we?
Chris Tongue: Probably not. Unless it’s got an interesting genre twist to it. I think you can pretty much expect the same kind of material you get out of Dark Horse (Comics). Genre-type stuff, but not limiting ourselves to any specifics. Basically, good stories, well-told, that we’re interested in. If you’re a Dark Horse Comics fan, you’ll be a Dark Horse Indie fan.
Derek McCaw: When will these start launching?
Chris Tongue: The first part of 2007. Then we’ve got a John Landis project going that I can’t tell you anything about and a …
We decided to phrase it thusly: a project with a writer of some renown who may or may not have written a famous episode of a famous science fiction television series who may or may not be extremely litigious if you spill the beans about his (or her) projects too soon. This writer has also referred to Fanboy Planet wrestling columnist Chris Garcia as “the devil.”
We might be doing a little documentary on Forry Ackerman, some other cool little things that otherwise wouldn’t have distribution.
Derek McCaw: You’ve got a lot of scripts in the pipeline…
Chris Tongue: Oh, yes, did you hear about…
Here, Chris mentions a title so concisely perfect in the height of its concept that it’s a tragedy I can’t share it here. Suffice to say, when Dark Horse Indie DOES see fit to announce it, you’ll read about it on Fanboy Planet.