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Fanbase Press Interviews Willow Polson on the Recent Release of the Webseries, ‘The Manos Chronicles’

The following is an interview with Willow Polson regarding the recent release of the webseries, The Manos Chronicles. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Polson about the series’ origins from the 1966 cult film, Manos: The Hands of Fate, how viewers can lend their support to the continuation of the series, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of The Manos Chronicles! For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the show and its origination from the 1966 cult film, Manos: The Hands of Fate?

Willow Polson: Thank you so much. The Manos Chronicles is a supernatural dramedy that focuses on Debbie, the little girl from the original film, who is now a seasoned monster hunter as a result of her experiences in the cult. Jackey Neyman Jones reprises her role as Debbie and has been wonderful to work with. I’ve added a number of new friends and foes to her story world, as well, expanding the “Manosverse” in a unique way. There have been other Manos-related projects over the past few years, but The Manos Chronicles is complete departure from these.

The original film is in the public domain and has a big audience due to its rediscovery in 1993 on Mystery Science Theater 3000, so it was a low-hanging fruit as I was trying to decide what to make during the COVID shutdown. It turns out to have been a really fortuitous choice.

I’ve been inspired and influenced by a lot of shows, including Heroes, Good Omens, Doctor Who, and, of course, Supernatural, which Manos is the most similar to. Other touchstones have been The Fifth Element, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Army of Darkness, The Umbrella Academy, and What We Do in the Shadows. I’m always looking for that blend of spooky, weird, and funny, and strongly dislike graphic horror (although I have been enjoying Invincible quite a lot).

BD: The developmental history of this show becoming a reality is truly phenomenal. What can you tell us about your work in not only producing the show, but in elevating the soundtrack and effects of the production?

WP: Well, I knew we’d have a built-in fanbase due to MST3K and Jackey’s hard work in the Manos fan spaces, but I was totally stunned when we blew far past our crowdfunding goal and even topped one of our stretch goals. Before that point, however, I had to craft a script that could not only keep everyone pandemic-safe (which is why there are so many phone calls in episode 1.01) but that would also make the best use of the resources we had, such as my rural property near Yosemite National Park.

I actually have over 10 years of experience when it comes to managing productions with budgets up to $3 million, as well as being fortunate enough to accompany Heroes showrunner Tim Kring a number of times on set and in his production offices. So, I’ve seen the inner workings of putting a series together at the network level, and knew that I could do the same for the much smaller Manos Chronicles. I’ve also experienced fun, supportive sets… and extremely toxic ones. I knew I could do better, and I got tired of trying to force opportunities out of the Hollywood gatekeepers, so I created my own.

The soundtrack and effects are almost entirely the hard work of my husband Craig. He’s an exceptional composer and I had always known that I wanted him to do the soundtrack, because I wanted something different and unexpected and gritty and quirky. He’s able to incorporate some of the cues from the original film, such as the piano arpeggios and “Torgo’s theme” into completely new and modern pieces, tying our project to the original, but not in a cheesy way. Our son Cian, a gifted guitar player in his own right, also added to the compositions. Just like the original, The Manos Chronicles is really a friends-and-family effort behind the scenes.

We did lose a couple of people along the way, including the person who was supposed to have done all our visual effects, so Craig has not only had to do nearly all of the score, sound design, and dialog editing, but he actually taught himself Adobe After Effects during all this and is doing all of the VFX on top of everything else. This show absolutely would not have been possible without him.

BD: How would you describe your creative process in working with the cast and crew to bring The Manos Chronicles to life on the screen?

WP: Fun and supportive. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a bunch of really toxic sets. I’ve actually walked away from the worst ones for the sake of my mental health and, in one case, physical safety. Unlike certain directors who shall remain nameless, I will die on the hill of keeping my cast and crew safe, both mentally and physically.

Another important aspect is giving them the space to bring their creativity to the table. Sometimes, they want to try different choices, sometimes, I push for more. If an actor is great at improv, I’ll let the camera roll as long as possible. Sometimes, the best stuff is found in those unscripted moments and happy accidents, like Timothy’s ad-libbed beatboxing and the Torvos donut scene.

As far as the show quality, as much as I keep telling everyone “Relax, we’re not making this for Netflix,” I’m actually totally using that as my magnetic north. I don’t half-ass my scripts, but I also don’t get crazy with things I know we can’t actually film (yet). The sound and cinematography and lighting need to be the best possible, even if we’re not using expensive equipment. It costs nothing to put a lamp on the floor for practical uplighting or frame something in an interesting way. I’m always trying to envision how a network show would shoot something, and do what I can to create that look with the limited resources we have.

BD: How many total episodes and/or story arcs are currently planned for the series?

WP: The total episodes are infinite! But seriously, because we’re self-producing and each episode simply goes into the distribution hopper, we’re not locked into a rigid production schedule, or even a fixed episode length. There will be “seasons” that the larger story arcs dictate the length of, and as long as we have support from fans, we’ll keep making more Manos.

BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?

WP: In terms of filmmaking, no, because Manos is taking up every bit of our bandwidth in that space. And, until a studio wants to help make it, I make no income from it. It’s 100% a labor of love at this point. My main sources of income are teaching and writing, as well as artistic commission work.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been working hard to shape the kind of creative life I’ve always envisioned for myself. In the past year, it’s really come together, so when I’m not actively working on the show, I’m writing cross-stitch books, teaching crafts at a local resort, weaving traditional-style baskets, and may even start doing repair work on embroidered Odd Fellows regalia. Oh, and we’ve just started developing the Yosemite Motherlode Folk School at the Northern Mariposa County History Center in Coulterville, California, which I’m the current President of. If you’re in the area, come say hello!

BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about and demonstrate their support for The Manos Chronicles?

WP: Oh, this is so important for us. We can only continue to make our show with the help and support of “viewers like you” as the PBS ads go. Right now, Patreon and GoFundMe are the only sources of funding for the show. Once we have an hour of material, we’ll move the pilot off YouTube and into our regular distribution channels, but even then we’ll only see pennies per click on something like Amazon, so direct donations are huge for us. Our supporters also get insider information and early releases, so Patreon is probably the best place for fans to follow what we’re up to.

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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