Robert Heske was an aspiring screenwriter who zigged into writing horror comics only to zag back towards film work. His latest comics effort, The Night Projectionist (Studio 407) debuts in February and has been optioned for film by Myriad Pictures.
He also the publisher of the anthology series Cold Blooded Chillers which is now on it’s third issue. Bob is based in Shrewsbury, Massachuesetts. You can find out more about him and his projects at www.coldbloodedchillers.com, www.comicspace.com/heywell_scripts, and www.studio-407.com.
Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
Actually, I always wanted to write movies. At least I thought I did. Until I pitched an idea to Alex Leung at Studio 407 who loved the premise — as a comic book series. Hence, The Night Projectionist came to life. The story takes place on Halloween Eve in a small-town movie theater, where an all-night Draculathon draws throngs of moviegoers who suddenly find themselves locked inside the theater, which is slowly filling with vampires. The 4-issue vampire series hits bookshelves with issue 1 on February 25, 2009. Myriad Pictures, which has a first-look deal with Studio 407 projects, has optioned the film rights.
Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
That would be my favorite horror/suspense authors: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, William Goldman and a new guy called Joe Hill.
Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
Two people – Alex Leung, who is the Principal and creative visionary at Studio 407, for seeing what was so great in the premise for The Night Projectionist; and Chad Jones, the Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director at Studio 407, who has been my trusty editor on the comic series these past 18 months.
What any writer does – I drink!
Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.
Write during lunch. Write after the wife and kids go to sleep. Steal an hour to write after work before my one-hour commute home. With two little girls running around at home, that’s all the time I have!
Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?
Just Word for comic book writing. For screenwriting I use Final Draft.
Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
Seeing the work published. Cold Blooded Chillers is a self-published anthology that I’m very proud of. I wrote all the stories but since I used various artists, each tale really does have its own unique “voice”. It was a hoot connecting with artists on comicspace.com and seeing the pages come to life. What a great experience this has been! For The Night Projectionist, I basically turn in the pages and wait for my editor’s notes or to see the pencils, inks and colors after the story has been approved.
Well, if The Night Projectionist gets made into a film and is successful as a four-issue release and trade paperback – that would be pretty tough to beat. Unless the movie bombs – but the story is so good that ain’t gonna happen. I also have an animated film script called Mighty Lemming that is getting some nibbles. Would love to see that turned into a film because then I could actually take my two little girls to go see it. I also have a short film script called Blood Relative that has won a screenwriting contest. I would like to team up with an artist to turn it into a graphic novel – either through a publisher or under my Heske Horror brand. If there are any talented artists out there who are willing to work on this story and share the rights as compensation — that means no pay unless we sell the thing — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
“Don’t suck.” No, sorry — those are the best words of advice that the actor Matt Damon said he ever got from a director. I’d say stick with your dream and keep plugging away until you find a publisher or producer who shares your passion. Years went by until I finally connected with Alex Leung at Studio 407 and shared my Night Projectionist premise. It took him about a year to read it and get back to me — and another two years to get issue one out the door. But now the series is optioned for film and, last I checked, was #5 on AMCTV.com’s horror rankings. Also, don’t be afraid to self-publish your own work. That’s what I did on Cold Blooded Chillers. Sure, the sales are low but the critical reviews have been 90% positive. I still have hopes that several of the stories in the series become short films or the series itself gets picked up as a horror anthology series for cable TV.
Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
It’s simple and corny but “Never give up on your dream.” I spent the last 15 years trying to break into the film business and it was only after I took a totally different direction — creating a comic book series — that the opportunity to have film made finally appeared at my doorstep. That’s a pretty sweet ending for a horror writer!
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