Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your film, Multiplex 10, will soon make its debut at GeekFest during Long Beach Comic Expo 2018. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the film?
Gordon McAlpin: Multiplex 10 is an animated comedy about a schlock-loving movie theater usher named Kurt and a film snob named Jason who come to realize they have a little common ground in their shared — but very different — love of film.
It's based (loosely) on my comic strip, Multiplex, which ran from 2005 through 2017. The short film is sort of the "origin" of Kurt and Jason's friendship, showing when Jason started working at the theater and why these two people who constantly argue with each other continue talking to each other.
BD: In tandem with the film’s release, you will also be launching a web series of short vignettes with the two leads from Multiplex 10. What inspired you to produce these vignettes, and how do they enhance the viewer’s enjoyment of the film?
GM: People who enjoyed the short film and then see the web series will enjoy spending a little more with the characters, seeing how they talk about other aspects of movie culture and whatnot—but I think it's more the other way around.
Part of the reason we're making the web series is to promote the short film. If people see the web series and think it's funny or they like the characters or the animation, there's a twelve-minute short film with Kurt and Jason that is funny in very much the same ways—plus there's an actual, character-driven story there, too.
But since the short film isn't free (right now), we can't assume that every viewer of the web series has seen the short film, so the web series needs to stand on its own—as a series of short, hopefully funny vignettes—and reintroduce the characters to a new audience, even though the short film does that, too.
They're very much like the early Multiplex comic strips, where Kurt and Jason would argue about whatever recent movies were out—just animated. But you have a better insight into them as characters if you've seen the short, so I think having seen the short makes the web series a little more meaningful.
We hope to continue doing the web series, build up an audience, find sponsors, and whatever else it takes, to be able to tackle longer, more complex stories with bigger casts again. One of my favorite things about these characters and this premise is that the movie industry is a constant source of inspiration for new material.
BD: What can you tell us about the process of working with the cast and crew of the film and the contributions of these individuals?
GM: Dana Luery Shaw, Joe Dunn, and Tom Brazelton were producers and voices for the short film. Joe and Tom both did movie-themed comic strips, and we got to be friends that way, eventually co-hosting a movie podcast together for a few years. The four of us were "the writers' room" on the short. While I had a rough outline in place, we bounced around ideas for the short, and I'd run off and write a while. At some point, Dana did a couple of passes on the script and brought some tighter structure to it, and all of us worked together to punch up the jokes. She also helped make sure that Becky and Melissa didn't just feel like window-dressing. Even though the short is very much about Kurt and Jason becoming friends, so they're necessarily supporting characters, they have their own goals with trying to set the two up.
Joe and Tom's sense of humor is a little goofier than my own, so they helped make Kurt a bit more of a stronger presence than he sometimes was in the comic strip. Jason is an exaggerated version of who I was in my twenties, so I have the strongest affinity with him, and so in the comic, Jason had a tendency to steal the spotlight. I wanted the short film—and the web series, now, too—to be more of an ensemble.
I think our actual actors—Aiyanna Wade, Chris Rager, and Javier Prusky—kind of elevated the game for the rest of us non-actors (myself, Tom, and Dana).
Sound designer Ian Vargo and composer Tangelene Bolton were the last ones to touch it. I was familiar with Ian's work with Brothers, a filmmaking team that has made some really hilariously weird shorts. "Pickle Juice" was really the one that got me to ask him aboard. He helped ground the characters in a very real place, which was more appropriate to the characters and tone than a lot of animation sound design.
I found Tangelene's work on Soundcloud, just randomly listening to samples by various film composers. Her stuff was so good and so varied that I knew she'd be perfect for the short, because Multiplex 10 is about movies, and its score had to reflect that. It needed to feel grounded and real, but also parody film music conventions in a few places. And I think she did an amazing job with balancing that. In the wrong hands, it could have come across as disjointed.
BD: What do you hope that viewers will take away from Multiplex 10?
GM: This is a tough question, because I always approached Multiplex (the comic strip) and now Multiplex 10 as posing a question, not suggesting an answer. The "answer," if anything, is the conversation between the two characters in each strip or each scene or whatever. Not to pretend that the short film is super deep or anything, but Kurt and Jason represent two aspects of film fandom: the love of spectacle, and the love of art. And sometimes we see those as opposed to each other, but maybe they shouldn't be.
Like with the comic strip, a lot of viewers side more with Jason or Kurt, and I absolutely want that. I'm not interested in saying Jason's taste is "better" than Kurt's, or vice versa; even if one or the other appears to come out on top in an argument, the person who gets the last word is usually decided by what's funny, not who's right. I'm interested in exploring why they like what they like and how they talk about it, because what we love and hate and how we talk about those things says something about us.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working?
GM: Other than more Multiplex 10 webisodes and some freelance illustration projects, I have a couple of things that are maybe a bit too early to talk about. There's a horror comic I'm developing with an artist friend, a non-fiction comic (though I'm debating whether to turn that into a documentary video series instead), and a couple of animated short film ideas with a couple of different co-writers…
I always want to do so many things and never have enough money or time to do them.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Multiplex 10 and your other work?
GM: Go to Multiplex10.com and GordonMcAlpin.com!