Tag Archives: Matt Vancil

5 Question Friday With Journey Quest’s Matt Vancil

Last year, one of my favorite shows wasn’t on television. It had no big studio backing. The last time I’d seen one of the lead actors, I was talking to him at Comic Book Ink. The people behind JourneyQuest weren’t part of the great entertainment machine that tends to push out cop/lawyer/doctor shows in every flavor imaginable. Instead, JourneyQuest takes you back to the time of elves, orcs and magic. And before you start rolling your eyes, don’t worry, they get how silly that is too. The humor in JourneyQuest is smart and funny. The writing is fun. It’s the sort of show that would last one season if it were able to get on television at all. Lucky for us, they didn’t go that route.

JourneyQuest is back. Or at least it will be. The scripts are written. The cast is set. Now all that’s left is the funding and if the last few days are any indication, that’s not going to be a problem. I decided to catch up with Matt Vancil, the writer and director of JourneyQuest and see how things are going. And what better way than with a 5 Question Friday? (Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Matt Vancil for many years.) Some of you long-time readers may recall that this isn’t the first time I’ve talked to Matt Vancil and his crew. Just because someone has previously participated in 5 Question Friday doesn’t mean they’ll never be back. Especially if they have something new to say.

Here’s Matt:

1. Last time we talked, JourneyQuest was just getting noticed. What’s happened since then?

A whole smorgasbord of good things. We got the DVDs out just before the big summer con season, and had screenings at a series of major and minor cons across the nation. A few hundred thousand people have found the show and shared it, and we’ve seen a lot of fan art and remixes pop up, which is exactly what we were hoping for. That’s Creative Commons in action, and I can’t think of a better way get new people interested in the show. We also have another celebrity, MMA superstar Bob Sapp, joining the cast in the second season, and he’s bringing with him a huge fan base of his own. Two very big pieces of news have happened fairly recently. We just got the entire first season of JourneyQuest — which cost our producers $30,000 — paid off with a combination of fan contributions and DVD sales. The moment we were in the black, we launched our Kickstarter campaign to raise the budget for a second season. Our goal is $60,000, which is modest (borderline anemic, really) by Hollywood standards, but is still several times higher than the average Kickstarter campaign. So we decided to be conservative and give ourselves the maximum 60 days in which to meet our goal. If we can raise $1,000 a day, we’ll hit the goal and be into our second season. By the end of the third day, we’d raised $30,000 — 50% of our goal, and what it had taken us a year to raise for Season 1. In three days. We’re blown away. And we’ve seriously got a chance to raise enough to shoot more than one season at the end of the campaign.

2. You’re filming the second season locally. Besides the fact that many of you live locally what are the other advantages of filming in Western Washington?

Washington’s vast and varied natural beauty makes it an ideal place to shoot outside. We’re about two hours from any kind of terrain you could want — mountains, coastline, forests, desert even — which is incidentally what made Hollywood Hollywood in the first place. There’s also a very strong maker culture here, so we can go directly to artists and performers to round out our crew and cast instead of needing to fly in folks or purchase our props and costumes from out of state. We also have a very strong film community, and until this year had tremendous incentives for filming in the state. These incentives were not renewed in last year’s congressional session, which does not bode well. Our neighbors to the north and south in Vancouver and Portland are dominating the northwest film scene because they’re offering massive incentives — not just for locals and indie films, but for major studio projects — to attract flimmakers and productions. At the moment, Washington is not competing, and we need to change this if we want to keep production in the state. You can learn more about the state of film in Washington at Washington Filmworks.

3. Your Kickstarter campaign has had an incredible response so far and I know there are many fans out there who love the show but can’t contribute financially. What can they do to help Journey Quest?

The easiest thing to do is share the project, let people know we exist. Our biggest challenge has always been obscurity. JourneyQuest is out there and is free to watch — you can see it on Hulu or YouTube. The more people who know about the show, the more potential contributors there are to keep it going. Again, it’s why we released the show under a Creative Commons license — we want the fans sharing it, and playing with it, and cutting it up and remixing it and sharing it with their friends. Anything that helps us be heard above the din. And as far as the Kickstarter campaign goes, and I know this gets said a lot but it’s honestly true, every little bit helps. Even a $1 donation, the minimum, helps raise the profile of the project on the Kickstarter page, which can put it in front of new people. It’s been hovering in the “Popular This Week” row in the Film & Video section of the site since we launched, which has only been to its benefit.

4. Most of your productions have a fantasy bent to them. Are there plans for doing things in other genres, is so, what?

Oh, yes. The first two movies we made were horror-comedies, the Demon Hunters films, and it would be fun to explore that territory again. I’d love to do a sci-fi piece, play with some of the tropes of comic book heroes. There’s too much to cover in a thumbnail, and a list of projects wouldn’t be very informative. What I can tell you is that every one of the projects I’ve made with Zombie Orpheus and Dead Gentlemen fit into the same umbrella universe, the hopjockey universe. Hopjockey is a show I actually pitched around networks in Hollywood with an Emmy-winner on my side, and unsurprisingly it didn’t find a home — it’s a pastiche of genres, a science-fantasy adventure, sort of an American Doctor Who. Anyway, we’ve been planting storyline seeds in our projects for years — in JourneyQuest, bothGamers films, and in Rude Mechanical, our new weekly news and entertainment show for our fans — seeds that will ultimately pay off when (if) we create Hopjockey. It all ties together, and will take us years to tell the whole story. I sincerely hope we get our chance to tell it.

5. This may relate to the previous question but, what are your plans beyond JourneyQuest?

Well, my immediate plans are to get Episode 1 of March 32nd made. I work for Chromed, a video game studio in Seattle. March 32nd,which I’m directing and co-writing, is an episodic graphic adventure game that’s looking to bridge the gap between games and television. I’m in love with the art style (check out our game trailer) and the story, and there’s a ton of crossover with folks from JourneyQuest, especially in the cast. On the ZOE and DG fronts, there are three new Gamers films in the works — Humans & Households, a short Gamers webseries; Pwned, an MMO-based Gamers adventure in development at Machinima that I’m having a phone meeting about in a couple of hours; and The Gamers: Dorkness Ascending, another feature-length Gamers film that chronicles the continuing in- and out-of-game adventures of the characters introduced in Dorkness Rising. That’s nowhere nearly everything, but now my hands are tired and I have freelance deadlines approaching.

I want to thank Matt for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. You can find out more about Journey Quest and his other projects in links throughout this article. If you want to be part of making Season Two of Journey Quest happen, go to their Kickstarter Campaign at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zombieorpheus/journeyquest-season-2

As always, if you or anyone you know might be interested in participating in 5 Question Friday, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Journey Quest’s Matt Vancil

The Cast of Journey QuestFor this week’s 5 Question Friday, I have Matt Vancil, the creator of the awesome web series, Journey Quest. If you are unfamiliar with Journey Quest, there are few ways you can better spend the next hour or so than by clicking the link at the end of this post and watching some of the funniest stuff on the web. They’ve also just released the DVD of the first season. I think I’ve done enough introducion, on with the questions.

1. Where did JourneyQuest originate?

I got the idea on the train ride back to L.A. from San Diego after Comic Con 2009.  I’d attended panels for The Guild and The Legend of Neil, and was really impressed with what the filmmakers had been able to do within the web series format.  I’d also been really frustrated and disillusioned with not getting anything made in Hollywood despite meeting after meeting and revision after revision.  There’s this notion in L.A. that nothing lives under a certain budget level, that quality entertainment simply cannot be produced for less than seven or high six figures, which is just flatly untrue — I and many of my colleagues have made a career on the lower end of the budget scale.  So coming out of Comic Con, I really wanted to try my hand at a web series, so that’s what I did.  I sketched out the broad strokes of the characters and the story on the train, and had a draft two months later.

2. What Tacoma ties does JourneyQuest have?

A few.  In the cast, we had four members of The Outfit Theater Project, all regulars on the stage at Tacoma Little Theater and Lakewood Playhouse, as well as other theaters in the South Sound: Christian Doyle, Brian Lewis, Luke Amundson, and Bryan Bender.  A fifth member of the Outfit is joining the cast in the next season.  One of our main actresses, Emilie Rommel Shimkus, is the lead singer for Tacoma’s Igneous Rocks; another band member, Steve Wolbrecht, composed all the music for the series.  Our Co-Producer and Production Coordinator, Kat Ogden, headss Tacoma’s Sabotage & Dialogue, a multimedia and production company, and skates with the Hellbound Homewreckers of the Dockyard Derby Dames.  Then there’s the legion of JQ cast and crew who attended Pacific Lutheran University: Ben Dobyns, Producer/Editor/Director of Photography; Phil M Price, Sound Design; Naarah McDonald, Production Manager; Emilie and Nathan Rice from the cast; and myself.  The show was also co-produced by Tacoma’s Dead Gentlemen Productions, where I and many of my fellows cut our teeth on the big film burrito.

3. What’s the most surprising thing that has happened since you started making Journey Quest?

That would have to be the fan art.  We released the show under a Creative Commons license, which means anyone is free to download, remix, and play with the video and audio of the show.  We’ve encouraged folks to do that, and the works that have come in have blown us away.  We’ve seen amazing artwork of the characters.  Some German fans redubbed our third episode into German; we still don’t know how they managed to separate the original dialogue from the rest of the soundtrack.  Another fan animated the first two minutes of the very first episode, and kick me if it isn’t better than the original.  We’ve included some of the fan contributions on the DVD of the first season.  I’ve also been approached by a pair of trading card game artists who are interested in doing a JourneyQuest web comic.  I don’t know how that will play out, but it’s damned exciting.

4. Why fantasy/comedy?

Two main reasons.  First, I knew we could do it at a production value far higher than our budget.  There are a ton of fantasy and medieval enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, and we were very lucky to work with the best of them — the Seattle Knights (not from Tacoma, but we forgive them.)  Their members costumed us, armed us, choreographed the fights, and generally made the actors look like they knew what they were doing with the weapons.  Their expertise really shows in the production design and combat.  Second, I love comic fantasy, and have always wanted to do a straight fantasy comedy, one free of an RPG setting.  (Don’t panic, Gamers fans — we’re working on Gamers 3).

5. What’s next for JourneyQuest?

Season Two.  When exactly we’ll be filming it has yet to be determined, but we’ve got a lot of momentum right now and many good things are happening.  We’ve already made back a third of our first season budget in fan contributions alone, and that’s not counting DVD sales, which just began a couple of weeks ago.  We’ve also got a TV star making an appearance in the second season — Fran Kranz of Dollhouse is a fan of the show and will be joining the cast when we resume filming.  We’re in the process of raising the rest of the season two budget, and then the story continues.

Thanks to Matt for participating in 5 Question Friday. For all things Journey Quest, go to http://www.journey-quest.com/

– Jack Cameron