Every once in a while you discover that something incredible is happening right in your back yard. Just such a thing happened to the Cap'n when he discovered the teaser trailer to "The Doktor is In" posted in an article here at Dieselpunks.org, The "Doktor" a dieselpunk horror film in production from Back Alley Productions out of Richmond, Virginia, USA, a mere hour south of me. Based on the world of Lucky Ford by dieselpunk author and co-producer Daniel Baldwin, the Doktor has made some spooky promises.
I managed to track down writer/producer Daniel Baldwin and producer/director Tony Sanchez and ask them about their new project:
As anyone who has read your Article from last week knows, Back Alley Productions out of Richmond, Virginia, USA, is in production of a Dieselpunk Horror short film titled "The Doktor is In", based upon Daniel Baldwin's self-published dieselpunk fiction series "The Secret Files of Lucky Ford". To start off please tell us about your current project and how Back Alley Productions first came to work with Mr. Baldwin:
Danny: Our new project is "The Doktor Is In.", a short horror film set on the home front during the weird WWII setting of Lucky Ford. When I completed the manuscript for "Mission I: The Dragon, the Wolf and the Maiden" in 2010, I had Tony Sanchez, one of my best and most trusted friends, be amongst the persons who read through it first. It was one of the first works I'd ever completed, and the first time I'd let anyone read what I'd written rather than just hear about it. To my delight, he loved it, and the potential for a film has been something we've talked about over beers ever since. Once Tony got involved with Back Alley it became serious, and we sat down and knocked out the whole tale in one fevered afternoon.
With Halloween right around the corner, let's talk about your villain. In the Teasers we've caught only passing glimses of the titular Doktor: a shadow here, a bloody torture instrument there, the abused victim of his experiments. I'm getting visions of Josef Mengele here, whose real-life horrors outstrip anything Hollywood could ever come up with. Tell us what made you wish to make a dark dieselpunk horror film rather than something more pulpy or action-oriented?
Danny: Lucky Ford is something both Tony and I want to do all the way, and WWII action is not something we could do to our own satisfaction just yet. "The Doktor Is In." is a jumping off point, an engrossing look into the potential of Back Alley Productions and the world of Lucky Ford. The Lucky Ford setting can fit any genre, and with the potential for murderers and mad scientists in WWII, horror is the perfect framework to tell a great story. But don't worry, you still get some action and some fun
Tony: “The Doktor Is In” will be a genre-bender in the same way that Lucky Ford was able to seamlessly blend so many different themes and styles. There were many real-life Villians who dominated that era, the Doktor is the ubiquitous example of how our goals can become all-consuming and lead us down the darkest of roads. Danny put it very well, unfortunately we just don’t have the materials,money and capabilities to do full justice to the book in a grander action/pulp undertaking. We do hope that “The Doktor Is In” will be a good starting point for a feature, a web-series or more short films set in the Lucky Ford Universe.
While researching the diesel era for the novel and now the film, what about the time most inspired you, or most disturbed you enough int weaving a tale about a Mengele-esque villain? Why choose a dieselpunk setting rather than simply follow along the well-worn modern-day path of Hanibal Lector?
Danny: Research is the bane and delight of my existence. The bane because I spend so much time doing it, and the delight because I learn new, amazing things every day. Did you know the Soviets had a hover tank in the 30's? Or about the hypnotist George Estabrooks? Look that gentleman up, when I read just a short bio of him, it basically created an entire case for my hard-boiled vigilante hero, The Billy Club Bastard, to solve. But back to the Doktor. The Doktor is first a scientist, second a murderous inhuman Nazi. He is a man who values results and does whatever logically leads to these goals, and nothing else matters. The dark, gritty feel of the noir films of the 40's and 50's are as much of his character as his blood-encrusted instruments.
Tony: I love research. Mostly because in this case, it spans so many forms of media. We are reaching into comic books, video games, history books, dieselpunk, alt. history sci-fi and film noir. Though I must admit, Danny has already done a lot of the heavy lifting, and we are just honored to be able to play in his world.
And since we spoke about our villain, let's talk about Lucky:
Danny: Lucky Ford is our entry-point into this setting. He is a volunteer paratrooper who jumps into the wrong place and is thrust into the insanity and barbarism of this secret war lead by the Nazi Department Three, the monsters who also employ the Doktor. He is rugged and adaptable, but also prone to anger and depression. His nickname was given to him because everything misses him by an inch, but always hits the guy next to him, and he carries that guilt everywhere he goes. He is a strong young man who judges people by their merit and knows what is right and what is wrong. His ability to accept and adapt to even the weirdest, most dangerous situations make him the prefect recruit for the Office for the Cataloging of Unusual Occurrences, the only line of defense between Department Three and the unsuspecting world.
Mr. Baldwin, you introduced us to the character of Lucky Ford and the mysterious Office of Cataloging Unusual Occurances in your self-published "The Secret Files of Lucky Ford", a Weird War 2 story with an X-files-esque feel. Without generating too many spoilers, what can you tell us about the world of Lucky Ford and what influenced its creation?
Danny: The world of Lucky Ford is an amalgam of everything I love in film, television, books, video games, comics, and everything else. I wrote the story I wanted to read. I take guilty pleasure in subverting tropes and breaking the unspoken "rules" of series and pulps. This is an 80's action-adventure series with real, breathing characters and believable situations, even if some of those situations involve mutated NaziVargulf berserkers and spiderweb grenades. What I didn't expect was that the setting would grow as much as it has. There is war on three continents, spies, saboteurs, killers, and traitors on the home front, and a submersible aircraft carrier packed with the Allies' best and brightest somewhere under the Mediterranean. Mission I is out now, on my website or on your Nook and Kindle. The home front sees action from hard-boiled spin-off "The Billy Club Bastard" which started as an Athena Prime entry and has grown into its own world, with three cases available for free on UnusualOccurrences.com and a fourth and fifth exclusive to anyone who helps with our IndieGoGo campaign. There are also two upcoming and exciting new projects, as well as the soon-to-be-released "Mission II: The Butcher and the Black Tide", which takes our hero into the heart of Francoist Spain to rescue a lost friend.
Mr. Sanchez, Back Alley Productions has already gained some notice on the internet and among the Virginia Independent Film community. Your spooky "The Near Departed" was even posted here on dieselpunks.org. Tell us a little about Back Alley, its work, and its dedicated all-volunteer force:
Tony: Back Alley Productions was started by my friend Julian Ashbee for the Virginia 48 hour film festival. The crew ranges from first timers to hollywood veterans. It was apparent right from the start that we had the perfect combination of people working together.
Tony: Working together on the momentum generated at the festival: four short films have been made, with more in the works. The crew is too numerous to list here but let me stress that all the praise should be theirs and not mine.
I've found that many self-proclaimed dieselpunks say they've felt they "always were a dieselpunk, but didn't yet have a name for it." Was this the case for either of you, or has dieselpunk been a new discovery?
Danny: Dieselpunk was not something I discovered until I'd already written Lucky Ford. It was awesome to find a community of people who appreciated all the things I love. I guess I'm one of the "always was's".
Tony: I definitely fall into the group of fans who didn’t have a name for what I liked. But I can distinctly remember getting a first taste of it while playing Crimson Skies for PC at a computer camp through our middle school. From the roots of science fiction, come all good things.
On the subject of dieselpunk, what attracted you to creating dieselpunk art, both written and filmed?
Danny: The distinctive style of dieselpunk is what brought me in. Black and white, good and bad, light and dark; all with awesome, classic, iconic style.
Tony: Steam is just too clean for me. I enjoy the imagery, and the ambience of dieselpunk. I enjoy thinking about the echoes of boots on steel gantries, and the images of bulkheads and clouds of fuel vapor. There is something about the untapped energy of every piece of the environment that makes it such a wonderful world in which to create.
Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers and filmmakers out there, dieselpunk or otherwise?
Danny: Have your vision and stick to it.
Tony: Constraints cause creativity. You just have to stay vigilant.
Back Alley is an all-volunteer company. What can the dieselpunks of the world, particularly those outside of the US, do to help?
Danny: Today is the last day left to fund raise for this film. IndieGoGo is an awesome platform, but if we don't reach our goal they take a big bite out of our budget. And if we go over, the extra money will go to bringing the best possible wardrobe and special effects into the movie, including green screens. You can find our fund-raising campaign at http://igg.me/p/244671?a=1570351
Tony: We definitely are concentrating mostly on the funding situation however; we need artists, crafters, technicians and social media heroes to help us make this the best possible short film. Once we have the finished product, we need you to watch it, share it, and talk about it. Like all good things this starts with you, our audience.
Thank you both, gentlemen, for your time and for sharing your creation with the dieselpunk community. Any final words or parting shots?
Danny: Anyone who is interested in "The Secret Files of Lucky Ford" can find out more at UnusualOccurrences.com and anyone wanting to see more of Back Alley Productions' work can see their other films at http://vimeo.com/user12660487 Be sure to check out the artist of the awesome Lucky Ford covers and posters, Dudu Torres at http://blog.dudutorres.com.br/and if you have any questions or want to contribute in ways other than monetarily, email me directly at UnusualOccurrences@Gmail.com.
Tony: The art world is rediscovering its audience. Demand art for the audience’s sake, and accept no substitutes.