by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
Cosplay was everywhere this year at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, and a good deal of it a loving if not terribly sad tribute to those we’ve lost recently. David Bowie as the Goblin King, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and, of course, Leonard Nimoy in arguably his most iconic role as Spock, to name just a few, were proudly displayed like living tributes to pop-culture gods.
DC Comics dominated this year, particularly everyone’s favorite psycho couple of Joker and Harley, in reference to Suicide Squad, which comes out in theaters very soon. But, there was also plenty of cheerful genderbent cosplay, anime tributes, steampunk recreations and original costumes, all of them ready to strike a pose for your camera. The International Cosplay Corps, those tireless do-gooders who run around all of Comic-Con doing free cosplay repair on the go, were finally honored for their good works by multiple online outlets, the Costume Designers Guild and the Union Tribune newspaper as well.
Here are just a small gathering of the many cosplay enthusiasts your roving reporter Alicia Glass managed to corral at San Diego Comic-Con 2016!
by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
Oh praise the costuming gods, herald the arrival of Prince PVC and Dame Duct Tape, pay worshipful homage to your favorite fandom in the best way possible – by dressing up as them!
Who doesn’t love Cosplay? As Geekdom takes over our entire universe in all its tatty, unselfconscious glory, we as adults get to live our dreams that many of us enjoyed as small children – dressing up as our favorite heroes, villains, and whatever other characters we loved under the moon! Cos-Losseum 2016 brings the best and brightest together for a weekend of Cosplaying your little heart out!
How can you get in on this Cosplay extravaganza? Well first, you buy tickets here. Cos-Losseum is on Saturday and Sunday, January 23 and 24, 2016, at the Crowne Plaza San Diego, located here. Navigating the hotel and surrounding area can get tricky and so can finding nearby parking, so it’s suggested you arrive early or scope the place out before the weekend.
Saturday events are as follows: The Video Game, where the audience decides the winner; Cinematic Storytelling in Star Wars Art with special guest Scott Harben; the Passion of Cosplay panel; the official Research for Lupus Fundraiser event; of course the official Cosplay Contest hosted by Loki Hates You and ThorTV; then comes breakdown and setup of the after-party, for adults only, with live performances by Lolita Dark and DJ Galactic Ray.
Sundays events include a Diversity in Pop Culture panel with guests Chris Riley and J.V. Green; Creature Creations with Face-Off guests Rashaad Santiago and Anthony Reyes; the I Have Such a Headache!!! panel with Power Ranger guests Barbara Goodson, Kerrigan Mahan, and Sandi Sellner; Galactic Steampunk with guests Star Wars Steampunk Universe; and finally The World Needs More Hashtags hosted by That Hashtag Show.
Bring your fundage because we all know Cosplaying can get expensive and yes there will be a whole bunch of vendors at Cos-Losseum. Dreadfully Punk will be doing a Live Podcast the whole time, and there will be a live performance from the awesome band The Flux Capacitors! The International Cosplay Corps will be offering free mobile Cosplay repair, as they often do at various conventions, which is forever awesome of them.
Prizes and funding come from the likes of Villanous Lair Comics and Gaming of San Diego, The Cosplay Initiative LLC, the anime powerhouse channel Funimation, Geeks of the Galaxy podcast, and Dreadfully Punk Dreadwaves. Special guests include the likes of Sandi Sellner, Rashaad Santiago, Russ Adams, Logan Long, Anthony Reyes, Michael Copon, Richard Harmon, Moses Moseley, Stephen J. Semones, Ellie Collins, and more!
Seriously, whether you’re a weekend warrior, “I only do this for fun” kind of cosplayer, or someone who shells out wads of time and money to make a realistic and lifelike lightsaber to go with your Darth Maul tribute, everyone should come to this Con. Of course, cosplay is encouraged but not required, and always adhere to the posted rules of cosplay, referring to such things as replica weapons, peace ties and wingspans. We here at the Super Villain Network hope to see you, in happy cosplay or not, at Cos-Losseum 2016!
by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)
Are you a Star Wars fan?
Go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, right now. Drop whatever you’re doing and go right now. It is essential that you go in the movie knowing nothing about it, other than this fact:
This is the Star Wars you’re looking for.
It is brilliant, not just visually or plot-wise, but it also packs an emotional wallop. Some of our beloved characters return. We fall in love with all the brand new ones, too. Spaceships race across the screen, roll and flip in space and through the skies of distant planets. The Millennium Falcon roars. TIE fighters scream. The Star Wars you remembered, the one you missed, is back.
There are no spoilers in this review, I am going to talk about it in the broadest of strokes possible. Still, you really shouldn’t even be reading this, just stop and go see it.
Still with me? Do you still need some convincing? Did the prequels let you down?
The thing that made the classic trilogy great wasn’t really the fantastic visuals or the special effects, although that was icing on the cake. The classic trilogy was great because it had heart. It had characters we could root for and relate to. The space war was epic but the characters and their interpersonal conflicts kept it grounded despite the fantastic things that were happening around them. George Lucas lost sight of this when he made the prequels, and decided to concentrate on spectacle. In The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams delivers the spectacle in droves, but he never loses sight of the characters. As a result, as soon as we’re introduced to the new heroes and villains, we love the good guys instantly, and the bad guys repluse us with their evil and cruelty. The story of Star Wars was always good against evil, and while there isn’t a lot of subtlety here, a back-to-basics approach definitely helps the narrative this time around.
To write a story with a punch is no mean feat, and joining Abrams for screenwriting duties are Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan, the latter being the person who originally wrote The Empire Strikes Back, regarded by fans as the best in the series. However, the movie doesn’t (just) ride on the coat-tails of nostalgia. It builds a mythology of its own; as mysteries are revealed, more questions pop up, and the cluttered galaxy we’ve got to know from the original Star Wars movies, prequels, and countless (now non-canonical) spin off media has been pared down, yet contain new surprises of its own.
The production of this movie is utterly gorgeous. Abrams and company spared no expense, and the heavy use of practical effects pays off big time, as we feel pulled into the magical world of Star Wars, yet again. Most of the sets and creatures look like they belong in the physical realm, and interact with the actors in the real world, thus bringing out nuances in performances that were utterly missing in the prequels.
The returning cast members will make audiences cheer: It’s like meeting old friends again. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are the primary returning heroes, and we see they are now aged and battle-weary, yet still carry the same sparkle in their eyes as we remembered them from years ago. However, this movie belongs to the new generation of heroes; the new actors really, really shine. The film’s weight is carried on the three new leads: John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and Oscar Isaacs as Poe Dameron. Boyega, Ridley and Isaacs all have their own unique wit and charm, the missing ingredient from the prequels that show up in spades here. Up to this point, Boyega and Ridley were obscure actors but this film may catapult them to superstardom (perhaps, boosting Isaacs’ visibility even more too).
If there is a fault to this movie, it’s that, in making a loving tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy (while also continuing it), there’s a certain lack of originality to it. Some story elements go from familiar to too-familiar; some key plot points have a somewhat derivative feel to them. However, the director and screenwriters make very bold choices too, and you are going to be at the edge of your seat throughout.
I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens four out of five stars, and it is quite possibly the best genre movie of the year.
by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the highly convoluted musical story of a mad-scientist, transvestite alien (I said it was convoluted), his servants and groupies who aid him in making his ultimate lover, and the two squares who get involved in the night of birth when their car breaks down! Here in 2015, The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrates forty years of iconic songs, ripped fishnets, men in corsets, and fan-atic freakdom!
It actually took me two viewings of Rocky Horror for me to understand that yes there was an entire plot to the movie, not just a bunch of singing, dancing transvestites and escapees from Universal monster movies. The first time I saw RHPS, it was in Korea on the military-run television channel, so of course, it was censored to hell and gone, which didn’t help me trying to figure out WTF was going on. A few years later, back in the States, I got to see the film in its entirety, and went, “Ohhhh, okay then!” That year, a friend invited me to a Halloween showing of a live-cast performance of Rocky Horror, and that was how I found out about the entire live experience in the theater!
Most theaters don’t allow it these days, because live-cast, or shadow-cast as they’re sometimes called, performances of RHPS have a tendency to get messy and loud. But if you can find one, the live-cast showing of Rocky Horror is an experience like no other! The live-cast performances are basically a showing of the movie on a big screen, with a stage right in front of it where live actors reenact the movie shot for shot at the same time.
I remember being so proud of my Crow makeup and costume, and getting upset because (it is tradition of the live-cast performances, mind you) before the movie, I got hauled up on stage for the “virgin circle” and had huge V’s scrawled in whore-red all over my face. My friend and I who attended the live-cast got water tossed on us when Dr. Frank’n tosses his water-cup at the screen singing “Sweet Transvestite,” a cast-member snuck up behind us and did the water-cup trick to bring us closer to the live performance. The lady acting as Janet wore condom barrettes in her hair, the entire audience (us included) got up and danced the “Time Warp” in the aisles, rock-concert lighters dotted the theater during “There’s a Light,” and nearly everyone chanted the familiar lines of almost the entire movie right along with the live cast. The live-cast performances of Rocky Horror are designed to get the entire theater, the cast, the audience, even the projectionist and the ushers, all involved in a raucous riot of enjoyment of one of the zaniest movies you will ever see!
The call-back or talk-back or, as some high-brow folk call it, “counter-point dialogue,” tradition is said to have originated in New York some five months or so after the film was first released. Being enjoyed by the freaky crowd at midnight showings, at first the talk-back lines were discouraged in the tradition of the repressed two main characters, Brad and Janet. But by the next year, the shadow-cast live performers and talk-back lines were considered fan staples, and the tradition has continued to this day, forty freaking years later!
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend various fan functions of RHPS over the years, the costumes and songs and beloved snark are forever recognizable and always create an instant bond between fan-freaks of any age. I can remember attending a stage performance of RHPS years ago at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and enjoying the hell out of myself! Seated in the middle of the audience near the front, I unabashedly sang right along with the song medleys the stage show made (they had to allot for a 30-minute performance, after all), completely uncaring that some folk in the audience turned to stare at me. I swear I saw a stage performer wink right at me as I sang and danced the “Time Warp” right where I was, signaling that my enjoyment was all that mattered. That is what the long legacy of Rocky Horror is all about!
There are plenty of epic performances in the movie – rocker Meatloaf as poor Eddie immediately comes to mind – but let’s face it, the film just wouldn’t be what it is even today without the sweet transvestite who rocked the corset before it was popular, he with the wickedest grin and the astounding singing voice, Tim Curry! I heard him sing a very appropriate Halloween song in The Worst Witch too, but this has to be quite possibly still his most well-known performance. To that end, here, enjoy the spicy Curry-ness in all its delectable glory!
To fully understand the incredibly long-lasting effect of RHPS on the world, you have to go way back to its origins. The whole thing began as a musical stage production in 1973, they were doing this satirical tribute to sci-fi and B-horror flicks of the 1930s through the 1970s, even back then. The film was shot in the United Kingdom in 1975, in an old country estate called Oakley Court, known for its earlier usage by Hammer Film Productions. Many of the props from various Hammer Films were used in RHPS too.
The film has a tendency to approach all sorts of topics that are relevant, even today. The transvestites of the movie are actually aliens, but that touches on the idea that alternate sexuality can be alienating, even in these purportedly modern times. The entirely too-repressed main characters of Brad and Janet can be taken to represent the “straight-man” that needs his eyes opened to all manner of glorious depravity in our society. The music itself can also teach lessons, the enduring legacy of how great music preserves the age and style in which we live, and remind us of the past, while providing an enchanting vehicle to move into the future!
There are some interesting things you may not have known about Rocky Horror. The original writer of the play that led to the movie, and of the script for the film itself, Richard O’Brien, also starred in the movie as handyman Riff Raff! Due to poor weather and run-down conditions in Oakley Court, actress Susan Sarandon, who played Janet Weiss, came down with pneumonia during filming. Makeup for the actors in the film was done by Pierre La Roche, who had previously been a makeup artist for Mick Jagger. The lips who sing the opening number in the film, “Science Fiction Double Feature,” belong to Patricia Quinn, who plays Magenta. However, in true sci-fi-horror parody fashion, the lips are lip-synching, as the actual vocals of the opening number were performed by Richard O’Brien.
This year, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary global tour of the original international smash hit, London’s Playhouse Theatre did a brand new two-hour gala stage performance of the play! Starring original creator Richard O’Brien as the Narrator, with guest Narrators Stephen freaking Fry, Sir Anthony Head, Emma Bunton, Adrian Edmondson, and Mel Giedroyc, the stage play show is full of the loving snark that made the movie so enduringly popular! A Halloween midnight airing in the tradition of Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showings follows a full day of Doctor Who-lloween, on BBC America!
by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)
It’s Back to the Future Day! Today is the day Doc and Marty arrive to the year 2015, via their DeLorean time machine, and fans of the series are having a blast with events, homages and references to the beloved time travel movie series.
It’s not just the nerdy movie buffs, either! Back to the Future is a cultural touchstone of cinematic history; it’s both a nostalgic trip to the past and a hopeful look into the future as we saw it from the ’80s.
One of the things in that film that struck a chord with me is that how 2015 was depicted. It looked futuristic, yet utterly ordinary; it was neither a gleaming utopia full of impossibly large shiny spires, nor was it a post-apocalyptic wasteland (even in the alternate, rich-Biff future). It looked like a future that we gradually transitioned to.
Since Back to the Future 2 was such a popular movie, it’s not surprising that we are celebrating Back to the Future day all over the world, especially for the generation that grew up adoring the trilogy.
Here are just some of the cool things happening:
1. Various brands are cashing in on the day, from Oreo Cookies to Nescafe, but what we really want is that Pepsi Perfect bottle, which Pepsi released today in limited numbers as a collectable. It was in such demand that fans were left angry as the demanded exceeded supply by a whole lot. I guess they shouldn’t have asked us to “ask for more.”
2. USA Today is actually going to run the cover we saw in the movie tomorrow!
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) October 21, 2015
3. Universal released a mock trailer for Jaws 19. So, the future really does consist of endless unnecessary sequels of ’80s properties … in 3-D. You nailed that one, Zemeckis.
4. Those Nike self-tying shoes are allegedly available, but they have not been seen yet. Nike tweeted at Michael J. Fox yesterday, “see you tomorrow.”
.@realmikefox see you tomorrow.
— Nike (@Nike) October 21, 2015
5. If you’re in New York, Lyft is giving free rides in DeLoreans!
6. Google has a mock time travel vehicle project.
7. If you have an iPhone, tell Siri “Happy Back to the Future Day.” The responses are cute!
8. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s twitter feed today has a list of things in the movie that have come true, might be possible, or are not likely to come to pass.
9. The Chicago Cubs are doing pretty well this year! We don’t know if they’re going to win the World Series, but I’m hoping they do just to make the headlines from Back to the Future 2 come true!
10. Even The White House itself is inviting us to share what we think the future will look like 30 years from now. It’s also a jumping-off point for discussions with scientists on the possibiltiy of time travel, the future of women in STEM, and understanding the human brain.
Don’t forget to check whether there’s a Back to the Future Day event around you! In present day 2015, we may still need roads, but we certainly have enough ’80s nostalgia to keep us happy till Mattel makes mass-produced hoverboards someday!
by Special Agent Laura Davis (a.k.a. Hex Quillion)
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a fellow fan of the insanely popular TV show, Face Off, say they wished they could be in the chair for one of those makeup sessions, I could easily retire. We all realize, as we watch the show, that what we’re seeing is edited, but you don’t really get a sense of how much is edited out until you sit and watch it happen live. At Salt Lake Comic Con, I had the opportunity to do just that, as season eight contestants Kelly Harris and Alan Carnes turned actor James Morris into a white walker from Game of Thrones.
It’s easy to imagine that the makeup somehow magically transforms the actor into character, and in a visual sense, that’s true, but overall, the actor has to contribute a great deal, starting well before the cameras are ever turned on. Morris arrived for the session a perfectly normal-looking and friendly fellow, handed his motorcycle helmet off, and spent a few minutes shaking hands and chatting with people. The moment his butt hit that chair, though, you could see the transformation begin.
“For me,” Morris explained afterward, “[learning to sit for makeup] was taking on the things I grew with in dance training and applying it to the developing of micro movements; comfort within a small space, with others touching me with brushes or fingers and not pulling from their concentration. I can imagine it would be incredibly difficult for someone not body-aware and comfortable in their skin. Also, I think it’s always a sense of will power, from a half-hour makeup to six hours, it still takes strength of body and mind.”
As Harris meticulously prepared the appliances she was going to use on Morris, Carnes narrated and answered questions for me and many of the passersby, while sculpting a freaky, fierce little rat without really looking at it. Meanwhile, Rayce Bird (winner of season two and season eight coach) and season eight finalist, Logan Long, were sculpting faces. I asked each of them what they were sculpting:
“A witch,” replied Bird. A pretty horrifying witch, with gi-normous warts!
“I’m not sure, yet,” said Long with a grin. “I’ll find out later.” It’s definitely some form of Batman, though he wasn’t able to finish the sculpt before they had to leave for their panel.
Bird appeared completely unfazed by the surrounding maelstrom; he seemed happily transported to his Zen zone. Even with me practically sticking my camera in his ear to shoot his sculpture (I think I might have stabbed me with a sculpting tool if I were him!), he was an island of calm.
Long didn’t get quite as much sculpting done, because about every 45 seconds, a fan would come by wanting to shake his hand or ask a question, or to call out, “You should have won, Logan!” He met them all with a friendly smile and patiently answered all their questions. Long’s wife, Sarah, was on hand helping out all day, her belly adorably round with the couple’s first child: a son.
Now, here’s where the TV version starts to let us down, in terms of showing the magnitude of this process. You have your model, you have your appliances, you have your makeup all ready to go. You stick the appliances on and then start in with the cool makeup, right? Oh, so very wrong! This particular makeup was, I gather, relatively simple, with only two appliances to apply: a throat piece and full face. It took Harris a little more than an hour, after initially applying the appliances, to trim all of the openings and fit it all just so, stick down all the edges, and “spackle” them over, so the appliances and Morris’ skin would appear seamless under the makeup. That’s more than an hour of painstaking work before a single color was touched.
And during that hour, Morris sat still as stone, bare-chested while the Salt Palace’s massive air conditioning system blasted him, and for most of that time, he had to have his mouth half-open so Harris could get every detail right, and not glue his lips together. A particularly miserable, cold, thirsty part of the process, but, Morris said, it was “worth it to showcase beautiful artistry.”
It was also interesting to note that while, on the show, we often see people frantically zooming around, sometimes venting frustration or blowing off a little steam, Harris was completely focused, calm, cool, and collected throughout the entire process.
Another 45 minutes or so, and Morris is now light blue, with details starting to stand out as Harris patiently shades, blends, and shades some more. They decide it’s time for a little stretch break, and, as Morris rises from his chair, I can see that although the makeup is only half done, he has become the white walker. He turns to the camera with a truly terrifying look on his face and lets out a blood-curdling screech, then does the same for the nearby fans who were watching. Some of them actually took a step back, while others leaned in to snap pictures.
Morris later laughed and remarked that moments like that are “definitely an enjoyable part of the process. It’s a kind of storytelling through the metamorphosis, bringing the audience in when they may otherwise be put off by the busy work of the makeup.”
The next hour or so was filled with details so minute it’s hard for someone who’s not an FX artist to take in, but Harris spattered and sponged, and the results were spectacular. And then came the part I found most terrifying: the contact lenses. At this point, Morris’ face and neck are done, except for the area immediately surrounding his eyes, which have no makeup at all. And he has — without dislodging any appliances, without destroying the makeup, and without injuring himself — to put in a pair of contact lenses.
Cringing, I asked Harris whether it wouldn’t have been easier to put the lenses in first.
“If I got adhesive, or makeup, or something in his eye while he had the lenses in,” she explained, “it could cause permanent damage to his eyes. They have to go in afterward. Once they’re in, I can touch up and fill in around his eyes with cream makeup.”
After a few harrowing moments, the lenses were in, and it only took Harris a short time more to touch up and fill in the rest of the makeup. Three hours into the process, and, at least from the neck up, we have a white walker. Breathtaking.
It was good timing, because, Long reminded them, they had just about an hour left to complete the job by painting his upper body, adding a few accessories, and getting him to their panel on the other side of the building. Carnes jumped in to lend Harris a hand with the body paint.
Remember I mentioned how cold Morris got while sitting in the chair? In order to have his body painted, he had to stand up, with his arms out to the sides. And that makeup is damp. I’m not sure, but I suspect that the (much louder and screechier) white walker screech he gave when they hit his chest with the makeup might have been more than just a theatrical nod to the fans.
Despite the discomfort, though, this is the point where that white walker really came to life. As Harris and Carnes whooshed around him, covering him in makeup at what seemed like light speed, after the laborious progress of the face and neck, Morris was clearly having fun playing to the growing crowd of onlookers. And they were eating it up. I was busy gaping at how easy Harris and Carnes made that body paint look, when it’s clearly anything but.
The last 20 minutes of the session reminded me a lot of what we see on the show: people bustling everywhere, all talking over each other; sculptures sprayed and covered; makeup and tools gathered; accessories delivered from McGrew Studios and Calliston Armory, and being added to Morris’ look as Harris and Carnes turned it up to 11 finishing his makeup. And then … it was done. There was about 15 seconds to appreciate the final effect before the team was racing off down the aisle to make it to their panel.
The fans in the packed hall went insane for the team and the makeup. And then, in just a quarter of the amount of time it took to create this amazing spectacle, it was over.
Team members scrambled to gather their gear and catch flights, and Morris was returned to his human state in short order. I’ll bet a hot shower never felt so good.
by Agent Sheralyn Pratt (a.k.a. The Sin-sei)
Most authors don’t look familiar the first time you see them, but if you think you recognize R.J. Terrell at a glance, it might not be your imagination. Terrell is an author who also works as an actor. In addition to writing novels, such as Echoes of a Shattered Age, you may have seen Terrell as one of Robin Hood’s merry men on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, or on CW shows that also film up in Vancouver, like iZombie and The 100. We caught up with this multi-tasking dynamo at Salt Lake Comic Con.
Terrell’s path to writing was not direct; he always wanted to be an actor. Like many creatives, Terrell was confronted by well-meaning parents who thought it was in his best interest to embark on a more traditional career. He tripped into becoming a writer first, while taking the path his more “practically minded parents” encouraged him to live. “My dad was in the military,” Terrell explains. “And then he became a police detective, so he encouraged me to go to school, graduate, get a job, work hard, and then retire. And I tried. I tried! But it was against my nature.”
What came naturally to Terrell was writing.
“I was going to school for medical billing and encoding,” Terrell says, remembering how things got started for him. “I was ahead in my work, so my teacher says, ‘Go on down to the typing program and do some work on that [story], then bring it back.’ So I had this idea for a story in my head. I typed it out, brought it back. The next day she said, ‘You wrote this?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Okay, well as long as you’re ahead in your work, go down there and type. As long as I get to read it, I’ll give you points on that.’ By the time I finished that course — I think it was a nine- or ten-month course — I had half of the book, Echoes of a Shattered Age, written. That was kind of how things got started.” So started the winding path that led to a fruitful writing career. Although he may not have had doors opened to his creativity, his teacher definitely opened a window of opportunity. Terrell jumped through that window with gusto.
Terrell’s acting career took a more straightforward path; his wife suggested it after he moved up to Vancouver, or, as some people refer to it, Hollywood North. The film community is very strong there, so as soon as Terrell was eligible to work in Canada, he got an agent and started auditioning. Not surprisingly, the skills that Terrell cultivated and developed as a writer also helped in his acting career.
“One thing that writing and acting have in common is that nothing should be there that doesn’t have a purpose,” he says. “As an actor, you might go out for a small part where your main focus is that you move the story forward. As we say in the industry, ‘You’ve been given three lines, don’t make a meal out of it.’ Your job is to move things forward. You have a purpose, but don’t go beyond that purpose.” But, this statement also highlights that small parts do matter, even if they’re not the focus of the entire scene or story. However, if they get blown out of proportion they can become a distraction, pulling focus where it shouldn’t be.
“In writing, it’s the same way,” Terrell continues. “You have a small character that plays a small role, but if you make it too big then the readers are going to be like, ‘Hey, that character did something really significant. What are they going to do next? Wait … I never saw them again.’ If someone is doing something significant, then there needs to be a follow-up at some point.”
In a well-balanced set of characters in a story, no part is insignificant, but each should only be as developed as it needs to be. That balance makes both storytelling and acting compelling, though, obviously, writers and actors differ dramatically in how they contribute to the development of those characters.
“The greatest challenge with acting, on a craft level, is learning how to step in and live a character,” Terrell explains. “I find that the emotional arcs of a character can be difficult, because you genuinely have to bring those emotions. As you grow into adulthood, you’re taught to hide your feelings. For example, you don’t want people to know you hate their guts. You smile and say everything is fine. But when you’re acting, you need to bring that out. You need to have that emotion stored up there and ready to come out, when you get to the part where it’s supposed to be there. It’s a lot harder than just saying lines. A lot of people don’t understand. Some people do. But it’s a lot deeper than [saying lines]. You need to feel all those things, because if you don’t, people will know it. If you’re not feeling it, the audience is not going to feel it, and sometimes they might not even know why. They just know it didn’t work.”
Writers need to develop the complementary skill: developing characters that come to life for the reader — and, if the writer is true to his or her craft, it’s the reader’s job to feel the part.
On the flip side, Terrell thinks one of the biggest challenges of writing is developing patience. “What I mean by that,” he says, “is that I’m one of those people who likes to jump in and get the story rolling. Having the patience to do my research, but knowing when to pull back without going too far. Yes, I’ve done my research, but I don’t want to info-dump on my reader. Balancing how much is enough, and how much is too much is probably one of the hardest parts of writing for me.”
And yet, as challenging as writing is, Terrell continues to churn out books with no intention of writing for the TV industry he’s involved with. What is it about full-length novels he prefers to movies or TV shows?
“Relationships,” Terrell says without hesitation. “There is no way any three movies — any four or even six movies — can give you the relationships that develop in books. Film is a visual medium, so there are things that film does better, but with books, your mind is playing an active role in producing the story. I like to joke that you’re looking at these words on a page and you’re hallucinating the whole thing, because you get so sucked into it that you see it! And in my opinion, that’s the best kind of 3-D, because you are right there with those characters. You’re walking right beside them, and there is absolutely nothing that can replace that.”
With a few exceptions, an unbreakable bond develops between the world a writer creates and the reader: a relationship that is stronger and far more meaningful than most movies can offer. It is that relationship that changes the reader; it may make him or her think, it may give them a world where they find solace, but regardless, a novel transforms its audience in a more intimate way than a film can. It is a deep and reciprocal connection that most cherish for life.
That’s not to say that TV and film don’t have their place, or that they’re not enriching, mind-blowing, and worthy of a full-tilt geek-out. We all have that special show or movie that moves us in ways like no other can. Luckily for all of us, we live in a world where we can enjoy all three, and R.J. Terrell will continue to bring us all three in the form of his novels, and TV and movies. And he will continue to bring us each with unique care, skill, and passion. So, keep your eyes open when you’re watching TV, movie previews, and maybe on a local bookshelf: You may just spot him!