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Fanboy Comics Interviews Tara Cardinal (‘Legend of the Red Reaper,’ ‘Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation’)

The following is an interview with Tara Cardinal, the writer, director, and actress behind upcoming fantasy films Legend of the Red Reaper and Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Cardinal about her inspiration for embarking on the films, her inclination towards the fantasy genre, and her plans for the adaptation of the films to the sequential art medium.

This interview was conducted on December 24, 2013.

Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: In the past year, you have been in various stages of production on two films, Legend of the Red Reaper and Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation.  What can you tell us about the stories of these films and from where you drew your inspiration?

Tara Cardinal: This is a big question!

Red Reaper is the story of a creature, half human, half demon, and destined to save the world. She has other ideas and a whole lot of challenges – mostly her own baggage. She’s dark, tortured, and hates her demon side. She’s thrown into battle long before she’s ready and has to choose between her family and true love, destiny and desire.

The character of the Red Reaper and her backstory is taken very much from my unconventional upbringing. I can’t say too much more about that until the film is released, or I’d give all the good stuff away!

Scarlet Samurai is the story of twin sisters, half Asian, have Jewish (Jewsian!). Ikari is a very Americanized, trash-talking, brawling lesbian. Feng is the complete opposite: a quiet, traditional martial artist with a deep connection to Buddhism and an aspiring Samurai. They live in Buffalo, NY, with their Jewish hippy mother and attend the local university while searching for their missing father.

Ikari, following in her missing father’s footsteps, is studying (well, failing) archeology. She, her ex-girlfriend Becks, and three others are sent on an extra credit assignment to document the local landmark, the Buffalo Central Terminal. Hilarity and disaster ensue. Disaster comes when they disturb the nest of the “Jiang Shi,” a mythological, undead creature cursed to roam the 17th story of the Buffalo Central Terminal after a preventable fire killed many of the Chinese immigrants.

Feng, elsewhere during the expedition, can sense Ikari’s danger.  Armed with a blessed sword, she dashes off to save the group, dismembering any creature in her path. Can she save the group in time? Watch the movie and find out!

I wrote this script after training in martial arts with Sean Wyn, my business partner and martial arts master. (Now there’s a guy that will never get screwed over in business – he’s leathal!) I started training with him for Zombie Massacre where I play a ninja – one of the only redheaded ninjas in live action cinema! He trained me for much, but due to the constraints of the moment, I wasn’t able to incorporate most of the training into Zombie Massacre – so I did it with Scarlet! I based Feng on Sean, who is a real-life sword master, martial arts master, and all-around bada–, but humble, quiet, and rarely discusses his real abilities which, to me, seem superhuman.

Reaper poster 1

BD: Each film boasts a strong female lead.  What do you hope that audiences will take away from the films given the choice to place women in such prominent roles?

TC: I hope to eventually live in a world where such things are the norm, not the exception. Women are pretty phenomenal creatures, it turns out. Complexity doesn’t confuse us. We can handle logic and deep emotion simultaneously. We can be strong, weak, flexible, and flawed. We can be beautiful and smart. In fact, there’s pretty much no limit to what a woman can be or do – except for the limits we allow a generally misogynistic culture to impose upon us. It is my sincere hope that both males and females have the opportunity to view females in a new and unobstructed light. We do not just exist as someone’s wife/girlfriend/mother but are people worth knowing in our own right. The current climate of cinema rarely allows for this, sadly. Many bright people are confused by what they view of women on screen when faced with the reality of a complex, complicated, multifaceted female. Hollywood is to blame for this. And, Hollywood is the solution.

BD: Both films fall heavily within the fantasy genre.  What intrigues or attracts you most to this genre, and do you feel that it offers specific tools as a storyteller?

TC: You’re perceptive!  I LOVE fantasy. As far back as I can remember, I was creating other worlds where anything was possible.

BD: As the writer, director, and star of each of the films, how would you describe the process of working with the creative team of the film, including the cast and crew, and the contributions of these individuals?

TC: I very much like the creative process, and I’m a firm believer in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Both movies are infinitely stronger for the creative input of the crew and cast.

It’s a balance to be sure. There are times when someone that I “outrank” as a producer/director outranks me when I’m just the actor. I can’t be both in front and behind the camera at the same. It’s imperative to have a smart, critical, passionate team to protect the film just like I would on both sides of the camera.

It’s been a very rewarding experience to create something with my fellow artists that captures the imaginations of our new audiences, and an honor that my film family have trusted me with their creativity. I’m touched.

BD: As an actor, do you find that it is more refreshing or challenging to be on the other side of the camera?  

TC: Very much so! It’s both refreshing and challenging to be on the other side. I have a particular way I like to film fight scenes, but none of my directors like that style  – so I was thrilled to get to do it myself on Red Reaper and Scarlet. Other than that, it behooves me as an actor to spend time on the other side.

BD: Am I correct that both of the films have been adapted for the sequential art medium?  Are there any details that you can share about the upcoming series with our readers?

TC: Sure – you’ll be thrilled to know that THE George Perez (who appears in the Red Reaper movie) has completed the layouts for the first issue of the Red Reaper comic. The comic acts as a sequel to the feature film and will follow the storyline to the sequel of the movie, teasing audiences for what is to come!

Also – the NOVEL has just been released! The novel is a prequel to the movie (and, thus, the comic) and follows the adventures of our heroine prior to the big showdown in the movie. I’m very pleased with it. It was a joint venture between myself and Alex Bledsoe, a very established fantasy novel author. I loved writing with him and consider him a dear friend.

It will be conjoined with the Scarlet Samurai first issue, which tells the backstory of the first Scarlet Samurai. Who she was, and why she was chosen.

BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite films?

TC: Huge fan of most superhero movies – LOVED the new Thor – the humor was spot on. I could have lived with a little less on the CGI front, but that’s just a personal taste.

I’m a forever fan of The Princess Bride. In fact, for my acting final, I played “the man in black” (never was one for gender adherence – my favorite roles were always written for men).

Except for Buffy, which was great. I’ve seen every episode at least 3 times. Steve DeKnight’s episodes usually make me cry.

BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to independent filmmakers who aspire to create their own projects?

TC: Be really clear about who you are, and WHY you’re making the movie. Never give that up, because you might have to give up everything else.

BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?

TC: George Lucas, who lost everything making Star Wars. I lost my house and was hospitalized twice making Red Reaper. I get it!

Sylvester Stallone – that guy gambled everything and took a chance on himself when the studios turned him down. No amount of brokenness made him give up. They auctioned off my furniture before I lost my house to make Red Reaper. I get that kind of gamble. It’s terrifying in a way that nothing prepares you for. Double for a girl – we’re not taught to gamble on ourselves – we’re supposed to be the “prize” for the man who did the gambling. I gambled and I won. My movie is complete in spite of statistically insurmountable obstacles, it’s been sold around the world, and releases next year. The book has already been released in almost every country in the world. The comic books are penciled and ready to be inked. I have two franchises. Epic win.

Stan Lee – the father of comics. Stan has created every kind of superhero imaginable. He bases them on himself, or what’s going on in his life – he has a moral to every story, and his creations come from the heart. I love Stan, and I love that about him. He’s a good man with a good heart and a has a reason to tell his stories. I have a few more superheroines locked in this brain of mine. One day I’ll have the resources to get them all out!

Jackie Chan – the most underrated action star/director. His dedication to his craft is death defying. He’s proof that you can act, do incredible action, direct, write, and produce at the same time. He gives millions to charity and grew up in an orphanage. I aspire to a level where I can give at his level and also do martial arts at about 10% of his level! I was in foster care myself, and I do give back when I can, but Jackie is the shining beacon of what I aspire to be.

And, of course, the great Lucille Ball, the first woman to run a studio and the inspiration behind 20+ years of comedy.

BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Legend of the Red Reaper and Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation?

TC: Come visit us on the web:

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @TheRedReaper.

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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