GenreTainment #127 – Showrunner and Producer Adi Shankar

Adi Shankar

It’s episode 127 and this time we are chatting with showrunner & producer Adi Shankar!

Adi has produced such hit films as The Grey (starring Liam Neeson), Dredd (starring Karl Urban), and the upcoming Bodied (produced with Eminem). He is the co-showrunner and producer of the Netflix animated series Castlevania.

We talk to him about the second season of Castlevania, coming out October 26th, and how he got started with filmmaking. Chat about his Bootleg Universe on YouTube which has given us such fun re-imaginings of pop icons like The Punisher: Dirty LaundryVenom: Truth in JournalismMr. Rogers: A War Hero,  James Bond: In Service of Nothing, and Power Rangers Unauthorized. We also ask him about his upcoming superhero series on Netflix. And we discuss the controversy over Apu in The Simpsons and Adi’s plan to help move the discussions forward.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series. We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

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The marX Files: Quest for the MFA

“So in my uncertainty, I went to graduate school and there it all happened.” – Ted Nelson

Act I – Why an MFA?

Welcome back!

If you are new here, then the quick “previously on” is: I am a filmmaker and writer who has begun the duel journeys of writing my first fiction novel and attending grad school for a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA).

Today, I want to dig a little deeper on this whole MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program and why I would do this to myself. Basically, I’d like to offer you great insight on my Quest for the MFA (*cue dramatic echo*). Many of you might have considered grad school as well, so you might find this helps you gain a better understanding of how it works or if it would be right for you.

First off, let’s address the 500-pound telepathic gorilla in the room. Many of you are probably thinking: “Do I need an MFA to be an author?” or “Why would anyone want to spend the time and money on an MFA?”

No, you do not need to get an MFA to be an author. Everyone’s got their own creative path. I’ve decided at this time in my life that it makes sense to do this. There are two major reasons I decided to pursue my MFA in writing. If I had only one, I may have thought twice, but the two combined just clicked for me. Everything seemed to come together at just the right time that this just… made sense… kismet.

  1. I want to write my friggin novel! I’ve struggled with writing a fiction novel for over a year. Perhaps my mindset and doubt are stopping me? The perceived hurdle of switching formats from scripts to novels? Perhaps it is the lack of external deadlines pushing me to move forward? Who knows, but I do know that, with the help and guidance of this program, I’ve got a lot of writing done and I finally feel like I’m moving in the right direction.
  2. I want to be a better teacher to help others with their own writing. Recently, I have had the great opportunity to teach film production and script analysis as an adjunct professor. Hopefully, an MFA in Popular Fiction can help make me a better teacher.

Act II – Why Seton Hill University?

Whew, okay, we got that out of the way.

So, once I decided I was going to go to grad school, the next big question for me was, which school?

When I first when to college, I experienced something a lot of writers experience: creative writing classes that… actively discouraged creativity. The kind of class where writing about spaceships or vampires is frowned upon, looked down upon as a lesser form of storytelling. I didn’t like it when I was 18 or 19, so I sure as heck wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on a program that had that attitude now. If you want to write only navel gazing stories that are based on a true story or could be, then that’s okay, too. The world needs all kinds of stories. But me, I want to write stories that make me feel the way I did when I first watched Star Wars or Indiana Jones. I want to relive those chills of Michael Myers lurking in the shadows, the laughs and tear jerking moments of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the wonder of exploring the Wonderland, or the dark terrors of Castle Rock. Don’t get me wrong, I might write some navel gazing stories at some point, too, but I really want to write books that fall in what is known as Popular Fiction.

What is Popular Fiction? It is what the book genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Romance, and Young Adult are considered. You know, the popular stuff that people buy. What, go to grad school to learn to create stories that large numbers of people want to buy and read? But, but… I might make enough money to pay off the student loans. Madness I say!

So, I knew what I wanted, and only a handful of universities in the United States provide an MFA in Popular Fiction. That narrowed down the list greatly.

My top two choices were Seton Hill University and University of Southern Maine (their Stonecoast program).

Another choice that probably would have made it on the list (if I had heard about it before applying) would have been Western Colorado University.

I was looking for schools that have a proven record of helping authors have good careers and have teachers that are also award-winning/career authors in Popular Fiction.

Oh, I should also mention that I wanted a low-residency program (combination of online instruction & visiting campus a few weeks each year), because I wasn’t going to quit my day job for school. So if you are going to school full-time, you might find some other excellent options.

Seton Hill University (SHU) ended up being my first choice and I got accepted! The school’s mascot is a Griffin and the school looks like Hogwarts, so it just felt perfect for me to learn magic… I mean writing.

Seton Hill University

Act III – What is it like?

So, what is the MFA program like at SHU? Well, I’m just a few months in, but so far I’m over 20,000 words into my thesis (a.k.a. urban fantasy novel) and I’m taking a Readings in Genre: Recent Works of Science Fiction and Fantasy class that has me reading and writing about a wide range of books.

I really love that the Thesis starts right out of the gate. The best way to learn to write is by writing, after all. And I get excellent feedback from my mentor (author Heidi Ruby Miller) and my fellow classmates in my critique group. Not only do I get insight on how to improve my story, but I learn so much by critiquing my fellow MFA questers.

So, while we learn theory about writing in workshops, we apply those theories to our current work in progress. We also learn by reading works of other successful writers in a variety of genre, at time nudging me out of my comfort zone and into the worlds of romance and mysteries. I have no plans to write a romance story, but most stories have romance as a sub-plot. So learning the various genres will make me a stronger writer in my chosen genre. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll go on the Quest To Write A Hallmark Movie!

Fade to Black

Well, I’ve blabbed enough for one week. So, I better start wrapping this up. You’ll hear more about the MFA program over time and soon, I’ll give you a sneak peek into how my novel is progressing.

Before I go, I want to say a big thanks to everyone who read the column last week and commented on social media. It really energized me and I managed last weekend to write over 8,000 words! To give you a comparison, last month, I wrote less than 8,000 words… for the whole month. So, please, keep reading and feel free to leave a comment. Let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover or any writing tips you would like to share with me and the readers of the column.

I also want to give a big thanks to Kathie Fong-Yoneda, Victor Miller, and Tamara Coy whose support helped make it possible for me to start this Quest for the MFA (*cue dramatic echo*).

Marx’s Work In Progress urban fantasy novel (that may or may not have a telepathic gorilla): 22,843 words and counting.

Until next time… marX out

Want to hear when the next installment is out for your reading pleasure? Join My Email List!


This post was originally published on SciFi Pulse. Check there for the most recent installments of this column.

The marX Files: Episode 0 “The Introduction”

“The average introduction to almost any book is somewhat of a bore” – Boris Karloff, And the Darkness Falls

Act I – What is this?

Welcome, World, to the first installment of The marX Files! As you might suspect, my name is Marx. Sorry if you’re looking for information on Karl Marx. If you are, check out the next link on your Google search for “Marx.” This column is about writing! If you want to write a story about Karl Marx… go for it, I guess this will help with that, too. But for everyone else out there, you’ll find tips and insight on writing for scripts, novels, and everything in-between.

Act II – Who is this guy?

Who am I? Good question. I’m Marx Pyle: scriptwriter, non-fiction author, indie filmmaker, podcaster, web series creator, college professor, martial art lover, and a guy who likes to capitalize words in awKward places, like marX Files and GenreTainment. What can I say, I just like to break the rules.

I’ve written off and on for a number of science fiction and fantasy websites since 2007, including SciFi Pulse. I’ve been a co-host of the podcast GenreTainment since 2012 and guest podcaster for a few years before that. I’m basically a professional geek/nerd for science fiction, fantasy and horror. I like to talk about those genres, watch/read those genres, and create in those genres. Basically, if you could marry a genre they would arrest me because that is, like, three wives and I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in most places.

Act III – What the future holds.

But enough about me. You want to know why you should bother reading this column.

Well, you may be interested in reading this column if you want to join me on my journey: The Quest to Write My First Fiction Novel! (*cue dramatic music*) If that isn’t sufficient, then maybe you’ll enjoy my sub-plot: The Quest to Get My MFA in Popular Fiction! (*cue slightly more dramatic music*)

Yup, despite having graduated from three colleges (with degrees in Film Production, Psychology, and Computer Science), I decided I missed the pleasure of drowning in student loan debt… I mean… I wanted to challenge myself to become a better writer and teacher. I was accepted this year in the Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University.

In each installment of my column, I’ll share with you my challenges in the MFA program and my Thesis WIP (Work In Progress), an Urban Fantasy novel that is guaranteed to be #1 in at least one of the extremely niche Amazon categories (watch out “books about drunk leprechauns” category!).

My hope is that you’ll learn:

  • Tips & tricks helpful for your writing. And maybe the occasional tangent into directing, producing, etc.
  • Read reviews on books, TV shows, web series, etc. that not only point out things to emulate (or possibly avoid), but might give you something new to check out for fun.
  • Get a look behind the curtain of what an MFA is like.
  • Learn about my creative projects, so you can support them and help me not fall into the depressed and drunk writer cliché. I’ll keep you updated on my fiction novel and other projects, sharing with you lessons I learn in the process.

Fade To Black…

So, there you go. Episode 0 is in the history books. Why not Episode 1? Did I mention I like to break rules?

I hope you’ll join me on this adventure. Please, feel free to cheer me on when I’m struggling and laugh at me when I make obvious grammar errors in my column.

Is there something challenging you in your writing or filmmaking? Want me to cover it in a future installment? Just let me know.

Marx’s Work In Progress urban fantasy novel (that may or may not have drunk leprechauns): 14,507 words

Until next time… marX out

Want to hear when the next installment is out for your reading pleasure? Join My Email List!

This post was originally posted on SciFi Pulse. Check there for the most recent installments of this column.

GentreTainment #125 – Writer Jeffery H. Haskell

This is episode 125 and our guest this time is writer Jeffery H. Haskell. He is the author of a fun superhero novel series that I’ve been reading called Full Metal Superhero.

Jeffery tells us about his popular superhero series, the meaning behind the name of the series & lead character, the research he did on the science behind the superhero, research to write a character that cannot walk, his experiences writing for Kindle Worlds, his upcoming books, and more. We also chat with him about what we think makes a superhero story, a superhero story.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series. We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #124 – Film Producers Jeffrey Michael Bays and Jay Plyburn

This time our guests are Jeffrey Michael Bays and Jay Plyburn. They are here to tell us about their new film Not From Space, a sci-fi/comedy film about a dysfunctional cable news channel on the day aliens arrive in orbit.

Writer & producer Jeffrey Michael Bays, a.k.a. the Hitchcock Whisperer, is a filmmaker and film scholar with a Master of Arts in Cinema, author of Suspense With a Camera and Between the Scenes. And actor & producer Jay Plyburn is a Broadcast Journalism graduate of Marshall University, and was a Morning News Anchor. Now he is producing and developing a variety of TV and film projects.

Jeffrey and Jay tell us how this story originally told on the radio has made the transition to film and the fun crowdfunding campaign they currently have for it. We talk about the film, Hitchcock, the Indiegogo campaign, journalism, and more.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series. We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #123 – Writer Scott King

Scott King

It’s episode 123 and this time we are chatting with writer Scott King. He is the author of the non-fiction books Outline Your NovelFinish The ScriptStory Pitch, and The 5 Day Novel. Yes, he wrote a book in five days and tells us about it. He has also written fiction books like Ameriguns and the fantasy novel Wrath of Dragons.

He shares lots of writing tips, tells us how he made the transition from college professor to full-time author, shares how he created his fiction stories, and much more.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series. We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #122 – Stargate Origins with Director Mercedes Bryce Morgan

This is episode 122 and the interview this time is with director Mercedes Bryce Morgan who is directing a new series in one of our favorite franchises. Yes, we are talking about Stargate. Stargate is back!

A new series called Stargate Origins premiered on the digital platform Stargate Command. Not only is Stargate Command a perfect hub for fans to celebrate and interact with the Stargate franchise, but the platform library is the largest collection of Stargate content ever to be released in one place. Everything is there, plus this exclusive new series.

Mercedes Bryce Morgan tells us about her adventures directing Stargate. We learn why she was picked as the director of this new series, the biggest challenge she faced, a funny moment on set, a directing tip, and more.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series. We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #120 – Stareable Founder Ajay Kishore

This time we’re chatting with the founder of Stareable, Ajay Kishore. Stareable is a website that seeks to even the playing field so TV shows are considered on their merits, not their marketing budget. So if you are a web series/indie TV series creator or just someone looking for new TV shows to watch, then you’ll want to check out this episode.

We talk about the origin and goals of Stareable, how it works, how you can submit your show, a few of Ajay’s favorite new shows, and more.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series.  We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #119 – Writer Justin Sloan

justin-sloan-telltale-games

Marx goes solo for episode 119,  chatting with video game writer (Game of Thrones, Minecraft: Story Mode), novelist (Allie Strom and the Ring of Solomon, Falls of Redemption), screenwriter (Wrecked, My Husband’s Preggo), and podcast host Justin Sloan.

They talk about Justin’s fiction books, his non-fiction (Creative Writing Career), writing for video games, how being a veteran has affected his writing, and so much more. And you may have recently heard Marx be a guest on Justin’s Creative Writing Career podcast.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series.  We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

GenreTainment #118 – ITVFest Special

itvfestlogo1_400x400

Welcome to another episode of GenreTainment at Sci Fi Pulse Radio! This 118th episode is a special festival episode.

Marx recently went to ITVFest, the Independent Television and Film Festival, where he did one of four presentations in the IAWTV Producer Prep panel track. The presentations went really well and Marx enjoyed the festival.At the festival Marx snagged 10 mini-interviews with creators of web series, indie TV pilots, and short films.

WARNING: The interviews were live and there is some wind noise on some of these episodes. We did our best to clean up the audio.

GenreTainment is where Marx & Julie talk about what is happening in the world of film, TV and web series.  We give you interviews with writers, directors, producers and actors in both independent and not-so-independent creations.

Links:

ITVFest
http://www.itvfest.com/
ITVFest on Twitter
ITVFest on Facebook

Darwin the series
http://darwintheseries.com/
Darwin’s YouTube channel
Darwin on Twitter

Ghost Light
http://www.kellyspoolhallproductions.com/
https://twitter.com/kellyspoolhall
http://www.ghostlighttheseries.com/
Ghost Light’s YouTube channel
Ghost Light on Facebook

Superior Living (Brandon Polanco – Winner Best Animation)
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/bfilm87
Brandon Polanco on Twitter

Lifelines (A. Monnie Aleahmad – Winner Best TV Drama / Best Actor, Drama)
Lifelines Trailer
https://twitter.com/monniedragon

The Folklorist
http://thefolklorist.newtv.org/
The Folklorist on YouTube
The Folklorist on Twitter

Knights of New Jersey
Knights of New Jersey on YouTube
Knights of New Jersey on Facebook
Knights of New Jersey on Twitter

LARPs
http://www.larpstheseries.com/
LARPs on Facebook
LARPS on Twitter

Wizard U
http://www.geniuslosers.com/index.php
http://www.geniuslosers.com/index.php/wizard-u

IAWTV (Sib Law)
http://iawtv.org
https://saxonmills.com/

Ascendants
http://ascendantsthemovie.com/
Ascendants on Facebook
Ascendants on Twitter

GenreTainment