We were among the first to bring you “Cost Of Living”, the debut short from BenDavid Grabinski. Now it’s our pleasure to share an exclusive interview with him and to help introduce you to the “Enormous” pilot episode that just went live! I think it’s an excellent introduction into the world of the series and it has a few killer money shots towards the end. Very excited to see where this thing goes.
The web series is based on the works created by Tim Daniel and artist Mehdi Cheggour for Image Comics. It stars Ceren Lee as a woman who works for the United Nation’s Search and Rescue division looking for abandoned children. Erica Gimpel, Steve Brand, Garret Coffey, Billy Miller and Charles Melton also star. You might even spot horror mvp’s Simon Barrett, Joe Swanberg and Todd Farmer in the piece!
In addition to directing, Grabinski worked with Troll Hunter’s Andre Ovredal on the screenplay. Check out the pilot below and then scroll down for the interview!
I hadn’t heard of the comic but I guess it’s been coming out since 2012. Were you a fan?
I had absolutely no idea it existed but a lot of people really liked it including our producer Adrian Askarieh who came across it at NYCC and thought it was awesome. After he partnered with Machinima he had this idea that I should direct it and he called to talk me about it. He pitched me on the comic and the title and it sounded great and they sent me a giant package with the comic and the script by Andre [Ovredal]. Tim Daniel, who wrote the comic, is the nicest and most supportive dude. He was onset every day to help and wound up helping out on second unit, he was a valuable ally throughout the process.
Your previous short, “Cost Of Living”, was something you put together. How is something like this different with a studio behind it?
In some ways it was the exact same process, and in other ways it wasn’t. Everyone was extremely supportive of exactly what I wanted to do in terms of executing the material. Tonally you’re coming into something that people have already been working on and, in a way, you’re starting from scratch because you have to cast everyone and find a location and everything. You’re coming into something that a lot of people have felt very strongly about, but luckily we were all on the same page. The most important thing when coming onto a project is making sure that everyone is trying to make the same thing.
You had three days to shoot?
Yeah we had three days. We shot 19 pages in three days, which if you’re shooting handheld with available light can easily be done. But we were doing big dolly moves that were very complicated and we were shooting single camera so the whole thing was actually very complicated. The thing that really saved me was I brought in a director friend and a DP friend and they worked as a second unit and I was basically sending them off the whole time to go pick up shots. That’s the most fun thing in the world, when you give somebody an instruction and they come back with something even better than you could have thought of. The pilot is 9 minutes including credits, and I think over a minute is second unit.
It’s interesting that you got 19 pages into 8 or 9 minutes.
Yeah, it’s exactly my cut but we took a lot of stuff out. We had more jokes and levity but you have to introduce 11 characters in 9 minutes so you have to be careful about what you see and what you don’t. I called my friend Josh Ethier to cut it. I was just like, “hey are you here over the holidays?” And we cut it over Christmas. It all came together and it was really fun and we turned 19 pages into 9 minutes. I don’t know if the axiom that it’s a page a minute means anything, it might just be a lie we tell ourselves so this job makes sense. I’m just a really big fan of cutting sh*t out. You have to love and believe in and fight for everything until you get into the editing room and then you just have to judge what works and what doesn’t.
”Cost Of Living” only has two people onscreen. “Enormous” has quite a few more.
That was one of the reasons this was attractive. It was fun to see a ton of people and to also see the antagonists. I’m very proud of “Cost Of Living” but, at the end of the day, it’s a lark. It was, “can I make something without showing the monsters?” Here, you see everything. I was excited to juggle everything in terms of characters and seeing the monsters. Also, in terms of composition, there’s nothing more fun than something like The Thing where you can see everybody in the frame.
Going forward, would you direct the additional episodes or would they alternate directors like a TV show?
There’s been a lot of discussion about things that could happen. There are different ways it could go, based on the reaction to the piece and based on internal discussions with the team. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do. One of the big reasons I’d be going forward was the amount of fun I had with the cast. Everyone got along so well and then it was over! It would be fun to work with these people more.