Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Welcome to the Shadowlands - An Interview with Andrew Parietti

Issue #8
Recently I came across a new magazine at my local Barnes & Noble.  There in the ever shrinking film magazine section was a hand drawn Planet of the Apes cover (Issue #7).  Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of Planet of the Apes, but I AM a fan of The Evil Dead which, was also listed on the cover....not to mention there was just something about the magazine as a whole that appealed to me.  Needless to say, I bought it, read it and loved it.

I was even more thrilled when I came across Issue #8, which features a fantastic portrait of a Xenomorph on it's cover (you can bet that I'll be nominating that for a Rondo this year...it's FANTASTIC!)  The accompanying feature on the Alien series was also a fantastic read.  After devouring Issue #8, I knew that I had to find out more about this magazine, so I contacted creator/editor Andrew Parietti and he was kind enough to take some time out for an interview!

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I'm the editor and publisher of Shadowland Magazine, a quarterly print publication that covers the best in horror, sci-fi and fantasy entertainment. I'm an avid fan of each the aforementioned genres – an interest that began before I could even remember.

Issue #8 Back Cover
What was the genesis of Shadowland Magazine?

Shadowland was really an endeavor to recapture the glory days of publications like The Monster Times, Starlog and, to some degree, Comics Scene. I've had an interest in publishing my own magazine for some time, so when I finally had the opportunity to try my hand at it, it was a no-brainer. While there's a guide – or “For Dummies” instructional/reference book – for nearly everything nowadays, a step-by-step handbook on magazine
publishing has yet to see the light of day. Starting up the magazine was very much a trial-by-fire approach but, fortunately, most of the wrinkles were ironed out well before the first issue went to the printer. Though it's still an endless learning experience.

Within the span of nine issues, the magazine has already evolved considerably. The first three issues were around 52 pages and we've since increased our page count to 104 pages. And, since issue #7, our distribution numbers have increased considerably, hitting not only more comic/hobby shops than ever before, but newsstands and bookstores like Barnes & Noble.

Shadowland has a varied mix of horror, sci-fi & fantasy...covering movies, books, comics, video games, television and more. What criteria do you use when selecting material for Shadowland?
Issue #7

When selecting material to include in Shadowland I'm always looking to apply a mix of the mainstream and obscure. However, if an article is covering a mainstream topic, I would always rather that it take a unique approach to the subject. For example, Shadowland #3 (our 'Bat Issue') featured an excellent retrospective by Flynn Cook who defended the two heavily-criticized Schumacher Batman films (Batman Forever & Batman and Robin), and offered both credible and insightful reasons for their merit. While those two films are far from obscure, Cook's article was not only 'out of the box' but offered a fresh look at the material. Alternatively, in the same issue there was Frank Warden's Rondo Award-nominated article that analyzed the lesser known 1930 film, The Bat Whispers – a criminally underrated technical masterpiece that rarely gets a mention in any magazine.

At the end of the day, which material to include is a bit of a
balancing act, because articles on Planet of the Apes, Ghostbusters, Alien, The Phantom of the Opera, Batman and the Evil Dead will always draw in the mainstream readers and garner significant interest across the board. By including these we can also cover topics that are far from the norm, like the 1987 made-for-TV Bates Motel movie, the unreleased Hellraiser: Virtual Hell video game, and the 1990s Robocop live-action television series, to name but a few.

Issue #6
Another goal is to balance out the horror, sci-fi and fantasy articles without focusing too much on one genre. And Shadowland never settles on one set era to cover. We've included content from silent films to modern summer blockbusters. Ultimately, I use my own fan 'barometer' to gauge the content – is this issue something I would pick up in a store? Would I spend my money on this? Are these articles something I would care to read? If all the answers are yes, and so far they
have been for each issue and every included article, I know I'm on the right track.

So many current magazines focus on a single niche genre, that they really have their respective market cornered. For example, Scary Monsters is the preeminent source of classic horror, and G-Fan is the go-to publication for Godzilla films and giant Japanese monsters. HorrorHound touches upon multiple eras of horror films from classic to new, they also tend to pay special attention to the 1980s era of slashers. All of these are fantastic publications and have not only set the bar, but raised it.

Issue #5
I know of no one who's strictly into horror, yet hates all sci-fi (or fantasy). And vice versa. That applies to 'in-genre' appeal as well. Sure, someone may love the classic Universal horror films and hate the gory '80s slashers, but there's many more who can find enjoyment in both. I feel that the diverse blend that
Shadowland covers really sets it apart from the current line-up of publications on the shelves.

What/Who are your inspirations?

The 1980s/early '90s run of Starlog Magazine was a strong inspiration for Shadowland. That era was a great time for the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres and quite possibly Starlog's finest hour. You take a look at those back issues and you find amazing articles on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Star Trek films when they were starring the original crew, Tim Burton's Batman, Aliens, Robocop, James Bond, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Gremlins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator 2 – it was one heck of a time for movies. Plus with the advent of home video and the studios' newfound drive for tie-in merchandising, the medium exploded like never before. There were endless amounts of subjects to tackle, and Starlog did it

Issue #4
Comics Scene, an offshoot of Starlog, was another influence. It was one of the first major magazines in the United States to not only be completely devoted to covering comic books, but was one of the first to explore the rising popularity of Japanese anime, including Akira and Lensman. This was also at a time pre-internet explosion, so both Comics Scene and Starlog were on the cutting edge. Nowadays, that's near impossible for any print publication; as soon as the ink dries after it comes off the printer the 'news' of an upcoming film, show, etc, is already outdated.

And lastly, The Monster Times stands as one of the all time greatest publications in the history of the genres and one of my main inspirations. It covered everything from horror to sci-fi to fantasy, including Godzilla films, comic book superheroes, Star Trek, the Hammer horror pictures, and everything in between.
As a kid I'd always be hunting down The Monster Times at horror conventions (alas, I wasn't around when it was being published in 1972).

Can you take us through the typical process of putting together an issue of Shadowland?

Putting together a typical issue of Shadowland begins with figuring out which articles will be included, their respective length, and then making sure that there will be enough pages to accommodate each one. Sometimes an article doesn't arrive on time, falls through at the last minute, or is postponed for whatever reason, which means quickly deciding on a replacement piece. Fortunately, I have no shortage of yet-to-be published articles on hand.

Once a decent number of the articles are decided on, I speak with Shadowland's cover artist – the immensely talented Dwayne Pinkney – about which ones he's interested in taking on for the front and back covers.
Issue #3

Next comes the task of designing the layout, followed by a final proofreading of the finished files. And then said files are sent off to the printer. And by that point, the next issue is already in the works. By the time issue #9 is on the shelves, I'll already be well underway working on issue #10 – and maybe even parts of #11. As of now, I'm already compiling content three issues ahead.

There seems to be a cycle that films (especially in the horror genre) follow.  Each decade, there seems to be a main theme.  For example, the 50's monster boom, the 80's slasher flicks, the 70's obsession with the devil and of course the first decade of the new millennium was the decade of torture porn.  Where do you see this decade going?

I think the theme will be more ambiguous this decade than previous ones. There's just so much content being turned out that I don't see us going into an all-inclusive theme of monsters, slashers or occult like the '50s - '80s. If I had to bet, I'd say that this decade we're going to see an overarching 'loss of control' theme play out across the genres, particularly in the fields of horror and sci-fi. The internet age has given society a virtual playground at our fingertips, and yet it's often a rift for dividing people as much as it connects them. While Facebook my be an outlet to catch-up with friends, check any message board and you'll have people at each others throats, whether it be over politics or favorite ice cream flavor, the topic is seemingly irrelevant. Yet, the internet exists on an entirely virtual arena, built and maintained on data collecting servers – servers that are out of the public's control. Not to mention that the internet, like television, is subject to media manipulation on so many levels. This coincides with the always reliable 'distrust of government' – which is nothing new, but recent security concerns over how our government 'watches' and 'listens' to us will no doubt fuel public fears and distrust. And of course, there's a disconnect between parents and children (something else that's nothing new), but now kids and teenagers are constantly 'plugged in' to countless online enabled devices ranging from their game consoles to computers to cell phones, and have more avenues to conceal their activities from parents. It all amounts to loss of control to different degrees.
Issue #2

All of this will provide ample themes for future genre films over the next decade. Already look at the multitude of horror films depicting children, either in danger or the cause of danger – like Dark Skies Mama, Haunting in Connecticut 2, Last Exorcism 2, and the upcoming Carrie remake. An outpouring of recent ghost films, along with the Evil Dead remake, seem to focus on possession – which equates to loss of control on a family/friends level. The onslaught of zombies in media like The Walking Dead, World War Z, Warm Bodies, shows not only personal loss of control (ie turning into a mindless zombie), but a much greater collapse of all societal control – which can be evidenced in the new wave of apocalypse cinema: John Dies at the End, the upcoming fourth Mad Max film, all the way to comedies like This is the End. As such, I see many more genre films adopting a far bleaker, grittier tone, for better or worse. That sense of 'realism' is even permeating the superhero genre with some of the darkest Batman films to be released, not to mention the recent Superman film, and focusing more on Iron Man's faults more than his heroics.
What direction would you like to see genre films go?

Issue #1
I would like to see genre films start to take far more risks and be developed with original storylines not based on prior films, novels, television shows, comics, video games, etc. Studios are hungry for profits but they're afraid to step out of established boundaries and, therefore, they play it safe. And it's hard to blame them, when it's not unheard of to spend $275 million on a single film. So remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels have become commonplace. Don't get me wrong, some remakes have proven to be exceptionally good – and likewise, some sequels outperform their predecessors. But, in ten years, what will they do, start remaking the remakes or rebooting the successful franchises, like they did with the Amazing Spider-Man film? Unfortunately, we're on a path that will give us no new, innovative properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Friday the 13th, Mad Max, etc...all things that were not based on established comics, novels, video games, prior to their development.

What's your favorite film?

Most difficult question to answer, ever. It's a tough call, I can easily name favorite trilogy (Mad Max), favorite franchise (Toho's Godzilla series), but single favorite movie is one heck of a challenge. I'd have to go with an animated one – Transformers: The Movie (1986). Might sound like an odd choice, but it's a film I never get tired of watching. I'd say its appeal is partially nostalgia-based, but I also genuinely feel that it's a remarkably well done film in terms of story, voice-acting, soundtrack, and writing. Also, in an age where the average film drags on past the two-hour mark, it told an entertaining story in less than 90 minutes. Despite my appreciation for the animated movie, I'm not a fan of the recent live-action Transformer films.

What's your favorite movie snack?

I'll have to go with popcorn.

What scared you the most as a kid?

I was watching horror films before I could remember, so horror films never scared me. I was wisely taught at a very early age that all movies were 'make believe.' That was a concept I grasped very quickly and I never recall having a single nightmare from any horror film I ever watched. By the age of five or six I mush have already seen the majority of slasher films, particularly the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, etc. Not to mention all the Universal Monster flicks, and everything in between. I grew up in New York City, so I got to go to the horror conventions like Fangoria and Chiller Theatre when I was very young and met Kane Hodder (Jason), and saw Doug Bradley (Pinhead) and all the rest of the then-current 'movie monsters' in person. It was always the magic of filmmaking to me, and as a kid I never understood how someone could be afraid of things that were make believe. I was also a very level-headed kid and wasn't running around the house with a butcher knife pretending I was Chucky.

Ironically, what did scare me somewhat as a kid was ED-209 from Robocop. Between that monotone voice and its jerky, clumsy movements, it succeeded in freaking me out. While I knew it was just a movie, I couldn't figure out the way they made the robot move and I knew it wasn't a guy in a suit. I must've been five or so at the time, if not even four, and I finally found a bunch of photos in Starlog of ED-209 and how the filmmakers made it work with stop-motion miniatures and life-sized motion props. I wasn't scared of him after that and wanted the Kenner-produced toy.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

People have seen some strange things, and I certainly wouldn't rule anything out. Whether it's a UFO sighting to ghosts, even bigfoot, there are countless upon countless eyewitnesses that claim to have seen some evidence of the paranormal in one form or another. Certainly, not all witnesses accounts are entirely reliable and some may be dis-proven – but even if 1% can't be solved or dismissed, that says something extraordinary. And how many witnesses never step forward with their stories? I'd imagine that many more haven't and that it would be a case similar to Marco Polo on his deathbed, when he said of his travels, “I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.”

If you had unlimited funds and unlimited access to any talent, IP's, etc in the world.  What would your dream project be?

I've actually thought about this one before, as filmmaking, in one form or another, is my genuine passion. Honestly, if I had unlimited funds, I would want to write, direct and produce a 26-episode computer-animated series based on my own plot and characters – or, alternatively, turn it into a 3D computer-animated feature film. Computer-animation has been relegated to typical Pixar fare, or films made to appeal to younger audiences, with few exceptions – one of which was the questionable Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which may have opted too much for photo realism in favor of the anime stylings of recent Final Fantasy and Resident Evil CG films. Computer-animation is a remarkable medium that has yet to be used to its full storytelling potential. While there's nothing wrong with Despicable Me 4, 5, and 6, I would like to see the format used for something truly groundbreaking in terms of visuals and story depth. The technology has evolved to the point where something remarkably different can now be achieved.

A huge thank you to Andrew for the fantastic interview!  Don't forget to check out Shadowland's website where you can order back issues and SUBSCRIBE immediately to this fantastic magazine!

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