An Interview with Trip House Director Patrick Meaney
Patrick Meaney is both a comics writer and director of various comics related documentarties. Having directed fan favorites such as Talking With Gods and surrealist comics like Last Born, he’s turned his attention back to film with a movie that unities his expertise of creepy weirdness and movie magic.
Patrick kindly provided me with a copy of the film Trip House, a psychological horror strong in character and style. You can check out my review of the movie here (spoiler, I was very impressed). While a release date is still to be confirmed, the film has locked in its distribution rights, so you should be able to hear more information about it very soon.
In the meantime, Patrick was kind enough to talk a little bit about the film as well as some of his other projects which you can read below.
We The Nerdy (WTN): What made you want to tell this story as a movie rather than a comic?
Patrick Meaney (PM): There’s certain stories that lend themselves to a comic book treatment, and some are better suited to a film. Since I don’t have a huge budget on a movie, doing something like Last Born, which jumped from a post apocalyptic wasteland to the 1950s to an aquatic refugee shelter two hundred years in the future is impossible. For me, the best comic books feature big ideas, big themes and large scale. Think Sandman hopping between time periods and fantasy realms in each issue or Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, a relentless stream of wild concepts.
Trip House is a more character focused story, and if I was going to dig deep into these characters’ minds, I wanted to have the emotion that an actor can bring. The story really lives or dies on the subtleties of these people and their interactions, and I liked being able to collaborate with the actors to bring it to life.
WTN: Were there any practical challenges you faced when trying to create scenes, as opposed to just getting to draw something?
PM: For sure. The beauty of doing a comic book is that it’s as easy to say three spaceships explode as it is to say a man eats a donut. Your imagination is the only limit. But, in a movie, you have to make everything happen, and particularly when you have a limited budget, you have to balance your writer instincts to add something to a scene with not going over budget or making things too difficult.
The biggest challenge from a logistical point of view was finding the right location. So much of this movie takes place in one house, it had to have the right feel, and I think we found a great spot. But, it was also a spot with no cell phone service and a bathroom that went down on the first day of the shoot. It looks great on screen, but it was tough to deal with shooting there.
WTN: How did you create some of the film’s effects? They had a really cool, trippy vibe that looked really professional.
PM: I knew that we didn’t have the money to compete on a CG level, so we did everything practically. The Demon character in the film is makeup and an incredible performance from Paradox Pollack, who brought a real thought out approach to how he moved and his purpose in the film. A lot of the other elements were lighting effects that I did subtle color correction enhances on.
I was watching Citizen Kane the other day, and the practical effects they did in that film hold up so much better than a lot of effects from 10 or 15 years ago that are largely CG based. To me, it’s about making things as tangible and real as possible, and I want to offer you something you can’t get from a big budget movie.
WTN: How long was the actual shoot of the film? Was it a quick process after writing the script or have you been sitting on it for a while?
PM: I worked on the script for a couple of years, with my co-producer Jordan, and worked to try to raise money, which is not easy. Once we had the financing in place, things moved pretty fast, and we shot the film in thirteen days. That means about seven to eight minutes a day, which is not an easy pace, but we had a great crew and actors, so everything moved smoothly.
WTN: Were the cast fun to work with? How did you find the collaborative process and having to work with actors?
PM: I feel incredibly lucky to have the cast that we have. They each gave it their all, and the most rewarding and fun part of the process for me was working with the actors. Doing a movie it’s about 90% dealing with logistics and money, and a small percentage of the time being creative. So, it was incredible to actually get to set, be working on a scene and get to break it apart with the actors and figure out how to make it the best it could be.
One good example is the scenes with Kaytlin Borgen, who played Gwen, and Chloe Dykstra, who played a sort of dream representation of her mom. In the script, the scenes are very short, but on set, we saw the opportunity to expand it and talked it out together to make the scene more intense and carry a bit of demonic energy.
I think one of the coolest things about making a movie versus doing a comic is that each has someone who’s only job is to think about their perspective, so I want to see what the actors bring to it and improvise, and develop a scene to make it as realistic and compelling and intense as possible.
WTN: Would you want to continue doing movies then, or are comics the true way forward?
PM: I hope I get the opportunity to do both. There’s certain things that comics do that movies can’t. Reading The Invisibles or Promethea, you get this incredibly dense download of information, and are able to ponder the stories and carefully review each moment. Grant Morrison talks about how it can be a more interactive experience, and that was definitely my experience with The Invisibles in particular.
For me, doing a movie is more analogous to a piece of music. It’s about creating a specific mood, and letting the emotion rise and fall over the course of the piece. It’s a more experiential thing rather than an intellectual one.
So, it really depends on the story. For a larger scale, more cosmic story, I would go with comics, but if it’s a more narrow, intensely character based story, I’d lean towards a movie.
WTN: Out of curiosity; what’s the comic shop you used in the movie? Is it your own local one?
PM: That is The Comic Bug in Culver City. We had screened a couple of the documentaries I did there and Mike Wellman was kind enough to let us film there. It worked out great.
WTN: Anything else you’d like to add?
PM: As a comic book fan, I’ve seen more film and TV adaptations in the past ten years than I could have ever dreamed of. But, I don’t think many of those films have captured what makes the best comics so special. They take the surface stuff, but what I love about the work of Alan Moore or Grant Morrison or even more mainstream DC stuff like Infinite Crisis, is the relentlessness of the ideas and innovation. Comics are a place where reality is flexible, and you’re using these big, strange genre stories to get across emotions. And bringing that feeling to the screen was my goal.
I think that Trip House would sit nicely with the best Vertigo comics of the 90s, and my hope is that I was able to translate the feeling you get reading something like Sandman or The Invisibles to the screen, that sense that anything could happen, your mind might get bent a little bit and it’s going to be something different and original. That’s the kind of storytelling I love, and I hope that the film resonates for other people. If this movie could do for someone what reading those amazing comics did for me, I’d be so happy.
And that’s all she wrote. We would like to thank Patrick once again for taking the time to talk to us and wish him the best of luck with his future projects.