Director Richard Schenkman talks with TV STORE ONLINE about MAN FROM EARTH and the film's upcoming sequel...
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get involved in the MAN FROM EARTH project?
I guess it was about 1998 or 1999. It wasn't too long after Jerome Bixby had passed away. A friend
of mine, a producer whom I had worked with once or twice previously called me up and told me about the script for it. I read the script and loved it. So I met with my friend, and Emerson Bixby and his manager who was trying to position himself as a producer. I went through and told Emerson what I liked about the script and I pointed out a few things that I thought needed to be changed in the script. The meeting went really well, everyone was really excited and we had all agreed that we could make the movie inexpensively and I thought that I'd be getting a call about it, but it never came.
It turned out that Emerson's manager turned producer thought they could attract a much bigger director to the script because of the enthusiasm that I expressed for the project. So this producer encouraged Emerson not to stay in touch with me. A couple years passed. But they couldn't get the film made how Emerson wanted it to be made. Other producers wanted to take the script and rewrite it. Then another producer wanted to put in all of these flashbacks. But Emerson didn't want any of that. He wanted to honor his father and his work and keep the script exactly the way that Jerome Bixby had written it. A friend of mine had just shot a film on digital video for almost no money and it turned out great. It really looked like a film. So a producer friend and I started talking about how we should do something like that. Nothing I had written though up to that point would've worked for the money we had to shoot with. So my partner said, "Have you ever come across a script that would work?" I told him about Emerson and Jerome Bixby's last script. So I called up Emerson and said, "I'm not sure if you remember me, but I was circling around your dad's last script a few years ago..." He said, "Remember you? You were the only the director that wanted the film the way it was written."
TV STORE ONLINE: Reading that script for the first time...What was it in the story that hooked you?
It just connected with me. Thematically I connected with it. I've spent time in my own life thinking about many of the ideas in the film. The dialogue was deeply intelligent. The characters were great. Even though it was a deeply intelligent idea, it has had a lot of emotion in it.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you have certain cast members in mind when you started the project? Your choice of actors to play the roles in the film is really wonderful. I really appreciate seeing William Katt and Tony Todd in the film....
I didn't really have anyone in mind when I started. It all happened like it does with many films. You figure out your budget and you figure out who you can get based on how much money you have . Then you cast the actors that appreciate the script too. I also wanted actors that were very well established in the science fiction fan community
. Almost all of the actors had appeared in Star Trek
. Tony Todd is well known in the horror and science fiction community as well.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can you talk about what's been written in regards to how the MAN FROM EARTH filmmakers wrote and thanked bootleggers for pirating the film online?
Well, part of that...When Eric [Wilkinson] did that, it was obviously tongue-and-cheek. What he was really thanking people for was watching the film and spreading the word about it to those outside of The United States that couldn't see the film when it was released. I can certainly understand those out of the US that downloaded the film because they had no legitimate means of getting it, but those in the US should have bought the film on DVD
. If I knew what I know now, we would have made the film more web-centric in that we would've offered the film streaming on a website and then offered a high resolution version and maybe through bit torrent technology. But we had no idea at that time that the film would do so well around the world so we just didn't consider it while we were making MAN FROM EARTH.
TV STORE ONLINE: Why hasn't the film gained more exposure in the US? It seems like something that would be perfect for the SyFy Channel...
We wanted it to air on SyFy. In fact, they were the first place we went to when the film was complete. I, myself, had a very nice conversation with the acquisitions guy at SyFy who said that he enjoyed the film very much himself but then went on to say that they had no place to put it. He said that their schedule did not allow for a movie like this. He said basically that the only original movies that they are interested in are action movies
. He went on to say that because MAN FROM EARTH has no action, there is no spot for it on SyFy. I said to him, "Can't you put it on at Midnight on a Wednesday or something like that?" He told me that they couldn't. I couldn't believe it. We even took it to places like The Sundance Channel and the IFC channel and they said that it wouldn't fit their channel. I mean, MAN FROM EARTH got great reviews, it has a great score on IMDb.com. It won awards at film festivals.
TV STORE ONLINE: Is there any chance for a sequel to MAN FROM EARTH?
Yes, we're working on it. There is a spec script and the story line is all fleshed out. We approached the company that put out MAN FROM EARTH on DVD about financing the sequel and they never got back to us. So we're about to start a Kickstarter campaign online to fund the sequel. You can follow it on Facebook HERE:
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you want people to take away from MAN FROM EARTH? It's such a great film with great ideas and it asks its audience to consider many things...
Schenkman: That's not really my place to say. If MAN FROM EARTH was my first film I might have something to say about that. I learned on my first film THE POMPATUS OF LOVE (1996) that once a film is done and it is released it no longer belongs to you. Each person is going to take something from your film that is completely different from the next. People will either love your film or hate it. I've gotten reviews that raved about my first film and then others that just disliked it. I think the only thing a filmmaker can do is to fill their film up with as much heart, intelligence, honesty and ideas that they can and hope someone takes something away from it.