Marc Hoover: I have watched a few episodes to gain an understanding of “Dead Drift.” It reminded me of English humor. I get the feeling that you based this on a combination of Benny Hill meets Monty Python in outer space. Am I correct? If not, where did you find the inspiration for this project?
Ken Carlson: Haha, “Benny Hill meets Monty Python in space!” That sounds hilarious! Where do I deposit my money to make that happen? Monty Python was a tremendous influence on all of us growing up. The pure silliness of it made its mark. “Red Dwarf” was another major influence. One could almost say “Red Dwarf” is “Benny Hill meets Monty Python in space.” We are all huge fans of the British brand of dry wit and the silliness of Monty Python. I don’t think it was ever an intentional choice – to make “Dead Drift” in a similar vein. We were unconsciously emulating our influences. This particular language of comedy resonated with us the most, so it made sense to find echoes of that root language in our own voice. To be compared to Monty Python and Benny Hill is a flattering compliment, so thank you!
MH: So tell me about Captain Ryland and Maurice Morris. Are they the stars of Dead Drift? Who are these goofy guys?
KC: Banks and Morris are the core “Odd Couple” duo of the story. In episode four, they’re joined by the holographic AI HANNAH. The trio becomes the heart of “Dead Drift.” I’d say Banks is our pride, Morris is our heart and HANNAH is the brain we wish we had.
Captain Banks is essentially a failed officer in the USSC (United Solar Space Command, our future equivalent of NASA/ESO, jointly operated by all the nations of Earth). He’s bungled up so many times, and this is his last shot at redemption. He received command of the oldest ship in the fleet, paired with an under qualified mechanic and tasked to do a survey mission of Saturn’s moon Titan. In his mind, he’s been set up to fail, and that’s his entire career outlook. None of his failures are his fault. Someone else is always out-matching him in the chess game of life. So he’s bitter and clings to the command of the USSC, thinking that he deserves some success. He’s a jerk – but he’s got charm. I think we can see ourselves in this character. We want him to succeed, but we know he must first take ownership of his flaws.
Morris is a happy-go-lucky guy who throws his cares to the wind. He’s a naturally talented mechanic, but the JF Sebastian is more complex than anything he’s ever worked on – he is out of his depth. He doesn’t worry about it though since these big ships take care of themselves, right? Morris’s world is shattered in the first episode when he learns his wife has left him. His respect for the chain of command is nonexistent, which often puts him at odds with Captain Banks. Morris wants validation and needs to feel valued. Morris seeks solace in the arms of the few women he meets on his voyage (human or alien). His recklessness endangers the crew. Once again, I think we can see ourselves in this flawed human. We want him to find happiness, but he’s got issues to overcome before he realizes that happiness must come from within.
HANNAH, which stands for Highly Adaptive Neural Network Anthropomorphic Hologram, is the JF Sebastian’s holographic artificial intelligence. She’s the ship’s computer genderless computer but appears as a female at Morris’s request. She’s smart, cool, capable and constantly bailing her human crew out of trouble. As an AI, we’d expect HANNAH to be cold and unfeeling, but she’s programmed to learn from her crew’s behavior. She maintains her professionalism, but becomes corrupted by the negative traits of Captain Banks and Morris.
MH: So you filmed this in various garages? That’s awesome. Can you tell me about the filming? How do you find garages? Also, did you create the JF Sebastian sets?
KC: Yeah, we shot the entire series in three different garages in Olympia, Washington. Chris Nacey’s (Commander Schneider) garage served as the primary site for most sets. The JF Sebastian’s bridge, the Mars Station sets, the bridge of the Roy Batty and our green screen stuff was shot in Chris’s garage. The JF Sebastian’s engineering set was built in another friend’s shop and the JF Sebastian’s Lander set was in my garage. The process was complex because of the time involved with building sets, scheduling construction and shooting around everyone’s lives. But between work and life, we managed to build each set, film everything we needed on each set, then tear down and build a new set to do it again. The whole process took a couple of years, but it was fun. I wish we had access to a large warehouse where we could have built our sets at once and filmed continuously, but that’s not in the cards for a few regular stiffs who created this project in their spare time. We always had a blast on set. The core writing group of Matty, Chris, Jason Brown and myself took turns acting and directing one another. There was competition on the set as we tried to crack each other up while filming. The shoots were stressful, but it was a good stress and shooting was always a pressure-relief valve where we channeled everything into the work.
MH: Can you tell me about the actors? What are their backgrounds?
KC: Sure thing!
Matty Burdick (Captain Banks) is a natural honey-baked ham. He is always sarcastic with a self-depreciating bent. Captain Banks was a much more serious turn than anything he’d done before.
If Matty is a honey-baked ham, then Chris Nacey (Commander Schneider) is a spiral-cut Black Forest ham with cloves and a pineapple on top! A regular comedy goon. All you have to do is point a camera at him and it’s like the “Silly Switch” is flipped to the “On” position. Chris and I first worked together on a public access sketch-comedy show I produced from 1997 – 2003. We are longtime collaborators and enjoy working together.
Alyssa Kay (HANNAH) is the only “legit” actor among us. We needed HANNAH to be the “straight-man” anchor that stands against the constant silliness of Banks, Morris and Schneider. Alyssa pulls it off. She’s an absolute pleasure to work with and watch perform. She does theater in Seattle and Olympia and often appears in independent films produced throughout the region. We didn’t know Alyssa before “Dead Drift,” but I felt honored and privileged that she graced our production with her talents. I couldn’t see anyone else as HANNAH.
Ken Carlson (Morris) – that’s me! I’m much more comfortable in a behind the scenes role, but Matty and Chris convinced me that Matty and my on-screen chemistry was a great recipe for silliness – and we’re all about that silliness!
That leaves Jessi Williams (Schneider Clones,) Erin Nacey (Mrs. Fermi), and Jason Brown (Mr. Fermi). Jessi was a co-worker of Matty’s. We had worked together on a small skit when we conceived “Dead Drift.” Jessi was on board from the beginning, and was a great fit for the Schneider Clones. Erin is Chris’s sister and has worked with us on the aforementioned public access sketch comedy show since the late ‘90s. She did a great turn as the genteel “Southern Belle” Mrs. Fermi. Jason Brown has worked with us since the sketch comedy show and brings a natural, raucous comedy to the show. An “in-your-face” presence made him a perfect fit for Mr. Fermi, who has one of our show’s more intense “in your face” moments.
MH: Here’s a funny suggestion for you. Any way you can get William Shatner to make a guest appearance as a senior officer or a hologram or something just as goofy? I love him. He makes everything great. I think a conversation between Captain Banks and Shatner would be too damn funny.
KC: Hah! I would LOVE to get Mr. Shatner a guest spot on “Dead Drift.” That would be like having a dream come true. He could play anything! I’d love to write him in as a USSC tow truck driver who comes to repossess the JF Sebastian for missing a payment. Working with Captain Kirk would be working with a living legend. Can you, uh, have his people call my people? (My people is just me doing a silly voice, FYI, but you probably knew that).
MH: What is the ultimate goal for this program? Keep it on YouTube or possibly a TV series? Maybe we will see “Dead Drift” shirts and video games?
Ultimately, we are trying to build a fan base, ala Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans.” We think they’re out there, and we’ve been fortunate enough to find like five of them, (one of them is my mom, hi mom!). If we can find our 1000 True Fans, we can gain enough of a following for this show. If we discover a demand for more “Dead Drift” beyond these 16 episodes, we would love to launch a crowd-funding campaign to do more seasons. Essentially, we are trying to build an audience and then see if they want the show to continue. Chris Nacey had created a “Dead Drift” video game as practice about a year ago! It was a “Space Invaders” type game where you were in the JF Sebastian shooting giant space squids. The JF Sebastian in the show doesn’t have any weapons. I think he accidentally deleted the video game.
MH: Do you guys write scripts or just improvise?
KC: We write scripts, do table reads and then rewrite them again. Even so, there was still a significant amount of improvisation during our shoots. You can’t just get a couple of hams like Matty and Chris together and ignore the fireworks!
MH: Tell us something about “Dead Drift” that we don’t know but should know.
KC: Captain Banks and HANNAH have great on-screen chemistry, don’t they? Interestingly enough, the two actors never met face-to-face until a podcast interview that we did about two months ago, which was more than a year after each had filmed their parts!
MH: Are you doing a Kickstarter program? If so, how can fans help?
KC: No, we are not doing any crowd-funding. We’ve already filmed our episodes. We are just focusing on finishing the postproduction, releasing them and promotion. “Dead Drift” was out-of-pocket, but we didn’t spend much. We are considering crowd funding for another series after these 16 episodes. The biggest thing fans can do is to help us spread the word about it. Tell their friends and other geeks who are into ridiculously silly science fiction. We want to get our show to those who like it. At first we questioned whether those people were out there! Self-doubt was a factor – “Is our show any good? What if it sucks?” But after months of grinding out the promotion and spreading the word, we’re starting to hear back from many people who genuinely love what we’ve created. That’s incredibly rewarding. When we can see that we’ve connected with the audience that this show was meant to reach – that’s validation. I didn’t waste four years of my life creating this show! Some geeks out there actually like it! Yay! (I’m one of those geeks).
MH: If fans and future fans want to know more about your project, how can they contact you?
KC: Fans can follow the show or contact us by several means. We love to hear from fans and we love engaging with folks about all sorts of geeky stuff, not just “Dead Drift!” We’re geeks too, and we love comic books, cartoons, movies, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms.
Our website – deaddriftshow.com
Twitter – twitter.com/deaddriftshow
Youtube – youtube.com/kenzofkc
Facebook – facebook.com/deaddrifter
tumblr – spacedrift.tumblr.com
Examiner – http://byteclay.com/article/ride-along-with-captain-ryland-aboard-th…
And I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc, thanks for taking the time to do this interview! I appreciate the opportunity of speaking with you about our show!
Thanks again Marc!