Epic Claim: The Reverse Hero Story


Something always bothered me about super hero movies and stories… What exactly happens to all the homes and business the “heroes” destroy in an effort to “save the day?” Usually quite a lot, especially if you’re a director like Christopher Nolan or Michael Bay. So it occurred to me that the stories of the cleanup and restoration of the hero damage would actually make better stories than some of the actual films. This is where the idea for “Epic Claim” first came about.

In general though I thought it would be fun to take something as mundane as a call to the insurance company and give it a supernatural twist (as most of my films/stories have). The trick was to make everything seem fairly common, but through the right music and dialogue hint at something a little more extraordinary.

So, when it came to the narrative I thought it would be fun if the character was the one telling the story. Starting with an opening scene showing clearly a man of business sets up the idea of who the character is, which is then expanded upon in the second scene. Then as most irate customers are, the tone of the conversation escalates. When it came to the script however, I didn’t write out every single nuance to the story though. I left myself with more of an outline of the events and gave myself room to improvise and let my acted anger seem more natural. However I was left with a slight problem…how do you end such a short concept story like this. What’s the twist? Having a sudden spark of inspiration I thought about a larger universe of heroes that could exist in this fictional world. Around the halfway point in the film my character talks about “not keeping up with heroes,” as if there is more than one in the world. This gave me a way to uniquely guide the tale to show that what appeared to be a normal person, was just another hero in disguise.

Unlike many of my projects though, I couldn’t quite piece together a solid title for the project. This is where I asked my brother’s girlfriend at the time (now sister-in-law) to help me with this strange word and theme association. Taking her suggestion of “Epic Claim,” I knew I had the perfect title to describe exactly what the concept of the project was about. An insurance claim of epic proportions.

DemonGate: From Script to Story and Back Again

In early 2009 I wrote a script for a project called “DemonGate.” I project was to continue my series of college films that started with Golgotha and abruptly ended on the second project “Rise of the Kage Senshi” when I changed schools. So like many projects it was put on the shelf and sat for quite some time. Then in early 2010 I was looking for a project to work on again. I came across the script for this project and decided to flesh out the story in a short story using the film as chapter one.

Through the literature side of things I knew I could achieve a greater sense of setting and play with the supernatural side of things beyond what I could achieve with simple visual effects. This way I could play into things that I knew I wouldn’t be able to achieve with my skills alone and instead to create the idea vision of the story.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, what’s with the name “DemonGate?” Truth be told it’s not an original term. I had been watching an anime 6 months prior to writing the script called “Ghost Hunt.” In one such episode a character referred to something called a “demongate.”

Original Anime: Ghost Hunt

Original Anime: Ghost Hunt

This single term suddenly sparked a flow of idea on what a demongate actually is, since it was never referred to again in the series. Slowly through some crazy brainstorming sessions and drawing from some of my other anime influences (subconsciously) like “Full Metal Alchemist,” the script and eventually story began to develop. It was then that through some Wikipedia type research I looked into the history of an actual study (no longer in practice) called “demonology.” This I found as my historical link to make the mythology and characters come to life. A series of articles about “Christian Demonology” based mainly on passages from Dante’s Inferno and the Bible. The names however came from an article referring to a “book banned by the Vatican” called “The Lesser Key of Solomon.” As a book it was an occult type book from the 17th century about summoning demons. So with all this in mind you can start to see a connection. Doing this minor historical research allowed me to adapt the strange ideas into something that teeters between historical fiction and fantasy.

Like most of my projects I created a significant back-story and complex use of mythology than I would ever get to show on camera, but either way I began writing. Then as I changed schools my ability to film the project went down the drain. Unlike my few other projects up to that time though, I was very excited to film this and when I suddenly couldn’t I felt at a loss. So you can see how creating the short story (and eventually novel) was more of an option. Using the original script as the base much of the dialogue was indistinguishable from the first chapter. In all honesty I didn’t expect the project to take 3 years to write though. Then again it sort of didn’t.

After completing what would eventually be part 2 of 5 titled “The DemonGate Chronicles,” I found myself unsatisfied with just telling one story set in the same universe. I then decided that a “prequel” style story would be an interesting way to continue the mythology, and use more of the “research” that I hadn’t expanded on in the story. I didn’t feel like fleshing out a whole slew of new characters though, and then I got the idea of using the character/demon of Alastor as a narrator. Creating a “letter” of sorts (audio version here), served the purpose of creating an introduction the mythology that any new readers wouldn’t have to catch up on.

Then after 2 parts I said, “ok I think I’m done”. I sat on the project for another 6 months and said “how about another part?” I then in part 3 “Unholy Temple” I introduced a new character “Jason Myers” as a connection to the original story’s “Bruce Myers.” For those of you who haven’t read it, the first Myers (Bruce), mentioned about “leaving behind a family,” to fight in the DemonGate War. With a slightly open ended concept I started taking the idea of family a bit further. While the first (second part) story was about the bonds of friendship and a deep rooted story of redemption from the lowest point possible, Unholy Temple was written to explore the friendship aspect with the idea of love and loss. The main character from The DemonGate Chronicles (Lucas), was in the first part a bookworm historian that became a strong, quick thinking, analyst. In UT, Lucas acted as a father figure for Jason Myers as I drew character parallels between Bruce and Jason.

After Unholy Temple the story sat for a much longer period of time. After almost a year I started thinking again about the “next generation” in the DemonGate universe. At this time Lucas was now a successful novelist publishing stories about his world wide adventures in Demonology. While playing the façade of a fictional writer, he was secretly gathering his fans into a series of candidates to become new Demonologists. I then thought how great it would be to bring back the series as a “film” so I began writing the story version of “City of the Underworld” (now called “Book of Hours) which was to become the long form film version of a new chapter in the saga. Halfway through writing this part, I wanted something to act as a introduction to Jason as a more complex character like I did with Alastor’s Letter (Saga of the Fallen). This eventually led to scrapping both the story and film for “City of the Underworld” in place of a short film series simply called “DemonGate.” After the 5 episode miniseries I still needed to bridge a gap between what I had written and what I was planning as the final story part for the series.

I returned to the “letter format” for “DemonGate: The Chronicles of Jason Myers” which in the overall saga encompassed the film miniseries and acted as a “filler” (as much as I hate that term) and took the readers from Unholy Temple and into another new and final part called “DemonGate Academy.”

DemonGate Academy allowed me a great opportunity to essentially tell the original story again. Jason was now in his late 20s with the help of a young fan of the Lucas’ books (Ryan), and help from a new demon (Alastor’s son, Damian/Mammon), were blindly trekking through a new series of demons and DemonGates. I wanted to draw parallels with Jason and Bruce, while at the same time playing with the same parallels of Alastor and Damian. This allowed me to play with the two relationships as reflections of each other. I also hope any readers would see the same thing.

So these days over on the “upcoming projects” page you’ll notice the title “DemonGate: Book of Hours.” If I can drum up a cast down the road, the film could become a reality. Taking place about 6 months after the events of the miniseries, the project introduces Damian Blackburn, the demon, as a new character and builds the early partnership between Jason and Damian.

Sure I know most of you haven’t read the series or even watched the miniseries, but that really doesn’t matter to me. This was my longest running project, and to this day I still feel it stands as the best mythology and universe I’ve created to date. Then again a year from now I could be saying the same thing about my next big project.


To read the full story, download the .docx file here: [Mediafire]

House of Seasons: 3 Years Later

The Mushi-Shi fan film “House of Seasons” was released 3 years ago today, and is probably still my favorite of every project I’ve ever done. Yes it’s very simple, yes the visual effects of the “mushi” are terrible at best, but the story is still something I’m rather proud of.

The biggest challenge for House of Seasons was to adapt the mythology of the Mushi-shi universe into a modern setting where I could work with a new set of characters. Knowing I did not have the resources to create a film in the same period of time, I instead decided to play into the theme of reincarnation to give me a little more room to write.

This project (being a fan film) needed to be written very carefully. It was important to me that I did not offend the purity of the original series, but instead created something that paid tribute to the best storytelling elements of it. While writing the script I had episodes of the show playing in the background to inspire and guide me in the tone of the entire project I also didn’t want to repeat any story that had already been told in the series. While this was a fan film it was not intended to be an adaptation, so finding a mysterious entity to act as the catalyst for the project.

One type of story that I never saw within the original series was the idea of time and time travel, but again the trick was trying to keep the concept fresh. Time travel is often overdone making it a hard idea to implement correctly. I then had the idea of filming the project at 2 different times of year and “jumping” the seasons. Then using the idea of the small shack in my back yard as a fixed location the story began to take shape.

The next big challenge came with the modern Ginko character. After reviewing several episodes of the show, I began to form a more accurate character analysis. He was blunt and fairly self centered, but still looked out for those who didn’t know any better concerning the mysterious entity known as Mushi. Creating a new character that had the same underlying compassion covered by a uniquely harsh outer shell made writing lines for him much more difficult than I first imagined. However, knowing that I would portray the character made understanding how to write the lines a bit easier.

When the script was finished I found myself posting the finished script over to DeviantArt on a whim. I was surprised to find a young composer and his brother messaging me about the project. The Twins Compositions, as they called themselves, were equally big fans of the franchise and were excited to see that I would be filming the project rather than just posting a script for fun. After a few correspondents I had found a pair willing to compose for the project making a truly incredible.

The filming of the project was rather simple, there were some minor oversights with camera placement causing unneeded glare. It also gave me another opportunity to bring my leather jacket into another film, which seems to be recurring choice for many of the characters I play. Although I did find it remarkably difficult to talk with a toothpick in my mouth. Ethically for me it was better than a cigarette, but I feel that it’s painfully obvious how often I put it in and out of my lip throughout the film.

In post-production the film truly came to life! I was able to cut together the film in a more relaxed state knowing the soundtrack would be written to fit the production as it should be. Many of my projects however don’t have the luxury. Having to work with audio tracks that are fixed rather than dynamic in length makes for a trickier process of editing, but that certainly hasn’t stopped me in the past.

With the soundtrack complete in about a month the project released and now it sits as a shining example of the right elements in the pre-production process coming together beautifully. Sure some of the camera shots were a bit off (as I’m not the best cinematographer), and the visual effects of the “Mushi” were pretty cheap and generic, but I still feel great about how the project turned out. A tale of love, loss, and mystery contained in a ten minute short film, stands as my tribute to a fantastic franchise.