The following is an interview with Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder, co-directors of Stripped, a film that brings together the world’s best cartoonists to talk about the art form they love and what happens to it as newsprint fades away. The film includes interviews with Jim Davis (Garfield), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Jean Schulz (Peanuts), Mike and Jerry (Penny Arcade), Matt Inman (The Oatmeal), and 90 more of the world’s best cartoonists. Exciting to add is that the film includes the first-ever recorded interview with Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes). In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Kellett and Schroeder about their love of comics and inspiration for the documentary, their reactions to Bill Watterson’s special contributions to the film, and exciting news about the film’s upcoming premiere in Los Angeles, CA.
This interview was conducted on March 13, 2014.
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: STRIPPED is a documentary that you have previously described as “a love letter to comics.” Given the amount of time and dedication required to create a documentary, what inspired you to take on this endeavor?
Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder: We have both been life-long lovers of comics and comic strips and had been waiting for someone else to make a movie about the art form. Basically, we got tired of waiting for the movie to get made and decided to make it ourselves. Selfishly, this is the movie we dreamed of seeing about comics just because we love comics so much. I doubt we could have spent as much time on another subject that we didn’t have the same amount of passion and dedication to that we did for comic strips.
BD: Throughout the past four years of production, STRIPPED has enjoyed great success and notable milestones, from making twice the amount of funds requested on Kickstarter to garnering the first on-camera documentary interview with Calvin & Hobbes’ Bill Watterson. How would you describe your creative journey throughout the project, and what has your reaction been to each incredible milestone?
DK/FS: The most surprising and delightful part of the process of making this movie has been the level of generosity and support the movie has received from the comics community. Everyone from the fans to the cartoonists themselves have been incredibly generous to us, especially once they realized how serious we were about making a really serious study of this long-ignored medium. We never imagined when we began that Bill Watterson would talk to us about comics, let alone draw our poster, but that just speaks to what a generous person he is. The same can be said for people like Jim Davis, Cathy Guisewite, and Jean Schulz who gave so freely of their time to contribute to our film.
BD: On that same note, you recently released the film’s official poster, which features the first public comic strip drawn by Mr. Watterson in eighteen years. How would you describe the process of commissioning this artwork, as well as your reaction to seeing it for the first time?
DK/FS: When we drew up a short list of who we would love to do our poster, Bill Watterson was at the top of that list and really our dream artist to work with. We never imagined that he would actually do it! We think he really appreciated the documentary and how it let cartoonists say in their own words their feelings and experiences making comics. Again, it just attests to his amazing generosity that he did the poster for us to help get some attention for our movie, and we were incredibly appreciative. When the artwork first arrived we were blown away! We couldn’t believe we were holding an original Bill Watterson and that it was such a great cartoon summation of our movie at the same time. The idea was 100% Bill Watterson, and I think his genius as a cartoonist comes through as soon as you see it.
BD: Attendees of the past two San Diego Comic-Cons have had the chance to learn more about the film and even to watch a sneak preview. How has fan reaction been to the documentary?
DK/FS: So far everyone who has seen the movie has been overwhelmingly positive. Comics fans like us are eating it up I think because (like us) they’ve been waiting for a movie that really focused on the art and history of the comic strip. Fans of web comics in particular seem to appreciate the medium getting its due for the first time.
BD: Given that you are fans of the comics medium yourselves, what do you hope that viewers will take away from the documentary?
DK/FS: Our hope is that we have made a documentary that really does justice to this incredible medium we call comics. We hope that comic fans and aspiring cartoonists learn a lot about the creative process and history of comics. We think any creative person will really find resonance with the artists profiled in the movie and the challenges they face day to day.
BD: Do you have a release date set for the film, and how will it be released?
DK/FS: We are self distributing the film digitally on iTunes starting April 1st. On April 2nd, it will also be available through our site, www.strippedfilm.com, as a DRM-free digital download via VHX and DVD. It will also be available via GooglePlay. Our big premiere is March 26th in LA at the Cinerama Dome where we are giving away 10 extremely limited edition posters by Bill Watterson. Tickets for the premiere can be purchased here.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your web comics and comic strips?
FS: I can’t believe how much time I spend reading comics. I get lost in narrative strips like The Abominable Charles Christopher and Family Man and their attention to detail. The art is just incredible. Another strip I am really digging is Broodhollow, which is kind of like Peanuts meets H.P. Lovecraft in the best possible way.
DK: I would echo Fred that Charles Christopher and Broodhollow are both brilliant. I would add that I am loving the writing in a strip called Bug Martini. But, frankly, there’s such an embarrassment of riches in web comics these days. There’s so much talent producing so much amazing strips.
The world premiere of STRIPPED will take place on Wednesday, March 26th, at the ArcLight Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome. Tickets may be purchased here, but hurry, as tickets will go fast! For a sneak preview of the film, be sure to check out the below trailer.