Lights, Camera....Comix?

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2002
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Lights, Camera....Comix?

The New Hooked On Comix, a sequel to David P. Moore's early 1990s documentary, Hooked On Comix, is about to be released on video, with a DVD of both documentaries soon to follow. The New Hooked On Comix focuses on Chicago's finest cartoonists, notably Chris Ware, Ivan Brunetti, Jessica Abel, Archer Prewitt, Terry Laban and Cherise Mericle. I contacted David P. Moore - Director, to find out a bit more about his films...

Darren P. Schroeder: What made you want to do a film on comix?

David P. Moore: When I lived in Seattle, Fantagraphics Books put on a huge original comic art show at a gallery. I had been reading Eightball for a while but hadn't realized that Seattle had this burgeoning local comics scene. I decided to do the first Hooked on Comix after seeing that show and seeing how many truly amazing artists lived right in my own home town. Since I was working for a production company I could use all the equipment for free so I began shooting I think around 1990 or 1991. The video came out the same year Crumb by Terry Zwigoff came out so it was kind of good timing. I'll be re-releasing it on DVD within the year so all the collectors can have it preserved on plastic.

DS: Fantagraphics Books seemed to tap into something with the local creators as well as gaining a certain amount of respect in the wider comics community. Did you get any sense of how they achieved their success?

DM: They have been publishing truly gifted cartoonist for years, I think they go with what they like first and foremost. So, I guess they just have amazing taste.

DS: Did you have to read their comics before interviewing them?

DM: Its a courtesy to be knowledgeable about someone's work before you start interviewing them. If I didn't then I wouldn't know what to ask them. I'm also a fan, so I have most of their comics.

DS: What is your background in film production?

DM: I started out in video production in the mid 80's in Seattle, Washington. I was shooting horrible cable commercials for used car dealers and the likes. When I moved to Chicago I went back to school and studied film production. I worked on independent features and documentaries for a while but decided to get back into video production because it was too slow working my way up in the film biz. When I moved to Los Angeles two years ago I started working for a company that produced a lot of Discovery channel programs. I've had a great time shooting and producing shows for them. My latest work can be seen on a show called Special Delivery, where I get up close and personal with mother's giving birth!

DS: Which was more frightening, comic creators or mothers giving birth?

DM: Well, both situations had equally frightening situations. Chris Ware was really against doing an interview. I think the only reason he granted one was because I had produced the first Hooked on Comix. He and Daniel Clowes are friends so he probably got the inside scoop from Dan that I wouldn't torture him too bad. Although, when you look at the interview with Chris his arms are folded and his shoulders are hunched the whole time. He was obviously very queasy in front of the lights and camera. He even made me erase part of the interview because he didn't like what he said.

Filming the Mother's was pretty intense for the first few shoots. I got more comfortable the more births I shot but it was always a very emotional experience for everyone in the room. The Mothers are usually in a lot of pain, its very hard to put a camera in someone's face in such a private and personal setting. I've shot accident scenes for another show called Lifeline, so I guess it prepared me for this.

DS: Would you every decline to erase something when asked by a subject?

DM: I don't think so. If I ever said or did anything on tape I didn't like I would want it erased too. Its really a trust issue. Chris Ware had never met me in person until the interview and he had no idea how the show would look and feel. He told me a kid shot an interview with him for a public access show and he hated what he had said. He really regretted that. He was very, very conscientious of what he was saying to me and he didn't want to end up sounding stupid, and of course he didn't.

DS: Did you have any formal eduction in video production, or did you learn on the job?

DM: I studied television production and photography when I was younger. When I lived in Chicago I went back to school to finish up my Bachelors at Columbia College. Its nice to have a degree in this field but its really on the job experience that counts.

DS: From your experience are comic creators nice people to deal with?

DM: Yes, they're generally very nice people to deal with. My goal for Hooked on Comix is to show interesting people with amazing talents, so the audience can appreciate how gifted these artists truly are. The cartoonists realize the promotional aspects of my work too, so they are usually more than happy to participate.

DS: Do any of them throw a tantum on film?

DM: No. Everyone was very polite and hospitable.

DS: Who was involved with the first one, Hooked On Comix?

DM: There were nineteen cartoonists in all ... all the big wigs of the time are in the show. A lot have dropped out of the comics world, but Daniel Clowes, The Hernadez Bros, Jim Woodring, Roberta Gregory, Joe Sacco, Peter Bagge, Julie Doucet, and Chester Brown I believe are all still working in the genre.

DS: Was everyone happy to take part in the new film?

DM: In the new Hooked on Comix pretty much every one wanted to participate except Chris. He likes being anonymous and probably would prefer to stay that way.

DS: What sort of response did you get to the first Hooked On Comix when it was screened?

DM: The first Hooked on Comix was screened at various festivals and was shown on MTV Europe and in Finland. I didn't have a distributor for the first one so it got to these markets by word of mouth. It mainly sold as a video tape to alternative comic connoisseurs through Fantagraphics. The new Hooked on Comix will make its world premier in Chicago at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. I'll be looking for a TV distributor after that screening but it'll be out on tape and DVD also. I asked Dan Clowes what he thought of the new Hooked on Comix and he said it was shot in his favorite city (Chicago, Ill.) and includes his favorite subject (squirming, self-conscious, pasty-faced cartoon geniuses) all in one movie!

DS: Breaking in to comic and breaking into film production both involve trying to succeed in a creative industry, did you pick up anything from your discussions with the comic creators that you could apply to your own craft?

DM: In comics you have the amazing ability to show simultaneous emotions and perspectives from different characters all in one tiny box. It's incredible what can be shown on one page compared to the length of time it would take to show the same emotions on film. That really intrigues me, and I think you can learn a lot about making films by reading comics. Everything is right there in these panels for directors to envision.

When I interviewed the artists, most of them mention a commonality in the process of doing comics. You have to be honest with yourself. If you're not honest with yourself about how you feel about your work, you are probably not going to connect with an audience.

DS: >What was the best moment you caught on camera during the making of these films?

DM: In the first Hooked on Comix I used an out take of Jim Woodring in the credits. He was standing in front of this contraption that he made. It was a wooden box that had a replica of his foot in it. A disc sander could be turned on to scratch the heel of his foot. He described the feeling when the sander touched his foot. I can't remember his exact words he used to describe the feeling when the sander touched his foot, but he said it was very pleasurable!

DS: Any more details on the release dates of video's and the DVD?

DM: The video of the new Hooked on Comix will be released very soon. Probably by next month. The DVD's will be another couple months down the line.

You can contact David to order the films on video, and soon on DVD, via E-mail:

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