There is hope. Another cult movie is about to be born by indie director Pearry Reginald Theo. His project named The Gene Generation is about to be released into the scene that's about to die in expectation. We can understand that. The cast looks brilliant, on the soundtrack you have Combichrist and Ronan of VNV Nation and all the teasers we had so far promise something terrific. We talked to Pearry about the movie, its circumstances and also, Goths.
THE DOSE: THE GENE GENERATION definitely appears to be a cult movie that's going to appeal to the gothic, industrial and cyberpunk subcultures. Your background material, as I had the chance to see, has quite an involvement with H.R. Giger and Beksinski in terms of architectural and visual design, your musical work includes Combichrist and VNV Nation and as for the overall look of the characters, you couldn't deny the effect of the gothic and cyberpunk fashion. So how did this involvement with these subcultures start? Do you feel you belong to any subcultures and if so, did you touch more (and which ones) before ending up with one?
PRT: I prefer to coin the term counter culture. Only because subculture has a word that might infer we even belong as part of something. I like to think of the people and music that I love as an entirety to itself. It's about who we are and how we are different. We never work in society, but rather with society. We are a part of it rather than letting it control us. And I blame this thought process and influence on visionaries who have helped shaped our future with minds that dared to venture somewhere else. It's hard to actually say I belong into a counter culture only because I don't feel I belong to any one of them.
Rather, I enjoy the idea of being around them so I can absorb a mood and certain ambience (as well as creativity) before these cultures actually influence me. You probably can tell I have a lot of different references to different things. In fact, I just love mixing things and seeing how beautiful it turns out. Something industrial, mixed with traditional cross cultural shock, makes me happy to see that no matter how different we are, in art, we can come together to make something beautiful. But the one constant, no doubt, is that I am extremely attracted to dark like-minded individuals such as the goth, industrial, EBM, cyberpunk scene.
I find no inspiration in rappers, hip-hop scene or pop. In my opinion, I think they are mainly egotistical, and it's all about the individual whereas the former definitely lends it style more because of taste and human emotive ideologies.
THE DOSE: Could you talk about the basic idea and storyline of TGG? When and whe did the first idea of TGG come up and how did it evolve until it got to the script version?
PRT: The Gene Generation (Formerly known as The Middle Link) started out as a drama film about a brother and sister. It's about a brother and sister who caught in a foreign world and how each adapted to it in their own way and how, despite them growing apart, there is something in them that could never be separated. It was first written in 2003. When I came into the project later on, I did it because I liked the idea of a drama film. But at the same time, I love being extremely visual about things and since the script had nothing to say where they where or what year it took place, I took the script and starting creating the world of The Gene Generation using references from Giger, Beksinki, David Ho amongst many others. Of course, I had to change things around to retrofit things, so instead of taking the train, I change it to an Aereann Flyer.
Those that asked me earlier on what it was only got the answer 'a flying Chinese junk boat'. I think that is the key to reading the script is to understand the basic human emotions and drama in it. After that, I like the idea of creating a completely different world. If we are going to spend thousands on building a room, why not spend that thousand building a room in a world that never existed, except in our fantasy. It's the same thing, except maybe instead of a plastic keyboard, we can use an antique typewriter or an ouija board as a keyboard (with wires hanging out all over the place). They both cost the same money, but one just looks more interesting and sounds more interesting.
THE DOSE: Would you consider TGG a cyberpunk movie in terms of its visuals and concept or is it more like a (post-)apocalyptic film?
PRT: I'll let you call it what you like. I didn't set out to make a cyberpunk movie or postapocalyptic film because I feel I will pigeonhole myself into thinking a specific way and hence limiting me into creating something new. As I said before, I like the idea of combining different visuals and creating different worlds so we may explore it and enjoy it. If I wanted to make a 'say' cyberpunk film, I would be saving myself the trouble and watching Johnny Mnemonic, Blade Runner or The Matrix over cigarettes and diet coke.
If I wanted Post-apocalyptic, I would just veg out over Mad Max. That's what movies are made for....our enjoyment. Making movies is tough, so unless its a project that could possibly bring the audiences into a new world with old emotions, I wouldn't do it. My mind should be spent creating, not copying. This is of course, a scary ideology with Hollywood and the likes only because I'm venturing out into territory that has no test market. At least with a genre or look, the studios can look back into their past and pull records off for estimates and audiences. So that was how it became an indie film really, by me wanting to dive into unchartered waters.
THE DOSE: What would the greatest influences of TGG be, in terms of movies, books and moods?
PRT: I definitely used a lot of HR Giger as a reference for visual palette. Beksinki had a surreal architectural sense which I liked. I am inspired of course by the works of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love. Although a completely different genre, it shows how you can take a basic idea of family love, throw it into a completely bizarre environment and still make it work. I love themes in movies like The Crow and Dracula where it focuses around Revenge, Romance and Redemption. And last but not least, the abstract and poetic writings of Dante's Inferno.
THE DOSE: What concepts are you exploring with The Gene Generation and what do you think are uniquely interesting about these concepts?
PRT: Story wise, I love the concept of disastrous love. I think there is definitely a delusion created by many people on the subject of love. I believe we become immortal not through our bodies but how our memories continue to live on in other people's lives. Those that you love, protect and effect / affect. Love always comes in strange ways, most commonly the right person at the wrong time or the wrong person at the right time. Most movies definitely make love way too convenient, but it's such a complex topic, border lining between love and lust. What constitutes love and what constitutes lust will probably make our emotions and feelings far better to understand. It's such a primal instinct but yet for some reason, most people prefer to live in a fantasy that everything will work itself out in the end.
I think it's just a short cut to thinking, and through this film, I explore the disastrous effects of it. Visually, I want to explore the concept of opposites. A Chinese junk boat is suppose to exist in the water. I try to figure a way out to make it work flying in the sky. I like the idea that we want to go to a better place, where plastic, metal and wood do not exist. The Walls of Demeter (the other world we created around Olympia) was created using materials that do not exist. Will we feel comfortable in there? Will we be able to survive there? I love things that force more thoughts into you. People walk around to survive, they piss in different colors or find the ugly beautiful. Although extreme, many of these exist in our world today. Sometimes, we call them fetishes, but most of the time, they are nothing but unique tastes.
THE DOSE: Do you keep yourself updated on cyberpunk movies? What are your favourites?
PRT: I wouldn't call myself the forefront on cyberpunk movies. But I do like them a lot. Perhaps my favorite still remains to be Akira. I love the ideology behind uncontrolled revenge. It's dark without trying to be. Johnny Mnemonic, since it was written by Gibson himself gave a fresh and cutting edge storyline behind it although the short story that it evolved from was a little different in pacing and mood. Bladerunner was way ahead of its time, sometimes even up till now. Lain, another anime is a really good one worth investing your time on it.
THE DOSE: If we're at it, what are your current favourite movies (excluding TGG for the moment), music projects and books?
PRT: Wow, I have a lot. Movies in general, La Cite Des Enfant Perdus, Bladerunner, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Brazil, The Crow, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nightmare Before Christmas were all my favorite movies that have influenced the way I look at life very much. For music, it's such a broad term but among my favorite are Combichrist, VNV Nation, E Nomine, Covenant, Switchblade Symphony, Jane's Addiction, Razed in Black, Cruxshadows, The Birthday Massacre, Sisters of Mercy, Ministry, Depeche Mode, The Doors, MUSE, Mogwai, Type O Negative, Second Skin, AndOne, Wolfsheim, Juno Reactor, Die Form, Adenosine Tri Phosphate, Amber Asylum, Wumpscut, Orgy, and a bunch of others. I'm a big fan of graphic novels from Akira to Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I'm not big on novels although I try to read them now and then. Nobody should live life without reading Katherine Dunn's Geek Love and Dante Alighieri's Inferno.
THE DOSE: I bet you had quite a few comparisons between TGG and Aeon Flux. How did you like that movie?
PRT: Oh yeah. Although other than the fact that the lead is a female and she's dressed in black, I really don't see much of a similarity. As a movie by itself, it was entertaining although the actual cartoon was better in the fact it was so bizarre and experimental. Aeon Flux definitely had a Hollywood touch to it although I find it amusing that even though Karyn (the director) was talking about how original and different the look of Aeon Flux was, when really, I cannot tell the difference between that and other science fiction (clean and stark) movies. But you know what they say, filmmakers can only set out to achieve one film, but it's the ability to convince your crew about your mind set and mentality that you can get what you want. It's not as simple as saying what you like and don't. It's a lifestyle and culture you have to get 200 people to believe in, even though they do not know anything about it. I respect the movie by itself, I even own a copy of it in my collection.
While Aeon Flux touched about the evolution of mankind and surviving through preserving and genetics, The Gene Generation is about the de-evolution of mankind and surviving through primal forms of human emotions. What's funny that even though The Gene Generation has been tagged a science fiction film, it has very little science and fiction in it. The look of the film probably gave it that. But I touched little on the topic of DNA Hacking except that it is a premise of the world I created. I'm more interested in topics like love, survival, revenge, redemption amongst others. It's humans I'm interested in, and the way they exist, more than the science behind it.
THE DOSE: Cyberpunk has long been discussed dead since Johnny Mnemonic, been "revived" with the Matrix and also killed with it by the end of the trilogy - but that's more like the apparent letdown of the storyline and not the phenomenon. What's your connection to cyberpunk as the literary/visual art form?
PRT: I like the idea that through the evolution and fusion of science and dystopian theories we find that science doesn't evolve on his its own. Like most cyberpunk movies that I really like, Akira and Lain for example, technology has learn to evolve as a part of us. It doesn't grow because of us, it grows with us Very soon, there will be a fusion of technology and humans where we become one. I hate to say the word cyborg because it's so tangible, but I prefer to look at things in a more spiritual way.
For technology to become part of us, it has to connect to the spiritual realm with us. After all, that's what defines us with technology now, is the ability to have things like sixth sense, third eye .etc. But using technology with our bodies to tap into that other realm, that's a turn on for me. On a visual art form, I love the idea of experimental externalizing. Because film in general, the human components that make it successful is internalizing, cyberpunk provides a nice and complimentary contrast visually through externalizing. I don't like simple visuals. I like it complex. Negative space is my enemy hence cyberpunk allows me to explore and exploit a lot of my tastes.
THE DOSE: What were those skills, references or factors that made you cast Parry Shen and Bai Ling as your two protagonists?
PRT: Well, we were actually opened to the idea that the lead is played by anybody. We auditioned white people, hispanics, blacks, you name it. I'm sure that Bai Ling being Myca from The Crow had a huge factor in my decision to cast her, although I didn't admit it then. But I have a tattoo of The Crow on the top half of my back, so it was obvious that I am very influenced by the creative people who were involved in the making of that film. When I met with Bai Ling, it was interesting because I found her (in real life) to be an extremely brave woman who was not afraid of controversy. I love that, and when she read for the movie, I knew she was immediately the one to play the lead. Her performance screamed out everything I thought of in the character.
A brave and dangerous woman who was broken deep down inside. Parry Shen on the other hand, was an actor whom I found was not afraid to be a boy. What I mean by saying that is that many male actors prefer to get the macho, look cool with sunglasses kind of role. Parry was not afraid to look unattractive, to be naked in his emotions, even though some of them does not constitutes what a cool macho guy should be. He was very sensitive during his audition, and I loved that. He was the only one who dared to venture into my territory of emotive nakedness. For that, he was my choice.
THE DOSE: And how come Faye Dunaway plays a role in TGG? However accomplished an actress she is, it's definitely strange to see her in a cyberpunk movie..
PRT: One of the antagonists, Josephine Hayden, that I wrote for the movie (inspired by one of my favorite movie, La Cite Des Enfant Perdus) was actually a burnt up human torso kept alive with wires, life support systems, etc. Although not very mobile, she has her brothers go out to find a cure for her which was in a device called The Transcoder, a hybrid prototype of a new DNA hacking machine. I just like the idea of my main antagonist really messed up so bad she could not even go anywhere. Evil is not in action, but in thought. I wanted to explore how evil a person's mind can be when it begins to think of nothing but itself. Faye Dunaway plays Josephine Hayden in the flash backs, back when she was walking around and heading a company that was to become (in the current movie timeline) the forefront of DNA Hacking technology. Ironic how her own invention destroyed her and made her this 'torso' in limbo. I needed the flash back scenes because I was introducing something new, DNA hacking, so a bit on the history and evolution of it was required.
THE DOSE: Your music score is worked on by Ronan Harris of VNV Nation. How and why did you choose him and not someone like Claus Larsen of Leaether Strip who has already established his oeuvre with a dark-symphonic album?
PRT: Ronan's music definitely lends to a lot of more positive messages as well as melodies. My producer was getting concerned about how dark the movie has become and he wanted something that is more light hearted to counter balance the visuals and Combichrist's soundtrack. This is why I chose VNV Nation. There is still a dark quality, but I'm not pushing it and depressing people about it. After all, aren't we here to enjoy the dark qualities of life? I like to use the comparisons of anger and hate. Both are dark, negative energy but anger can be contained. Anger can be covered up and used for better creative outlets. Hate, on the other hand, is just hate. Both can co-exist together, but anger is more controllable. Hate on the other hand, is a different story. Ronan's more inspiring nature allows me to control the dark qualities of my film.
THE DOSE: Let's talk about the TGG music video. As it is quite known, you worked together with Andy LaPlegua of Combichrist on a PV. How come you chose Combichrist and what was it like working with them?
PRT: Who can deny that Combichrist delivers a fusion of madness, aggression and energy. Although a love story in general, The Gene Generation contains it's share of violent and disturbing images that I felt were a complete contrast to the theme. As state before, I love contrasts and opposites. I like to see how they work together. Andy's music and adaptability allowed me to help explore my story and my fascination for contrast a lot more than usual. Now working with Combichrist was perhaps one of the more scary things. You hear a lot of stories and I had experiences with rock star egos and all, but this is not the case with Combichrist. Andy, Bjoern, Kourtney, Shawn and John were among the most hardworking and kind people I've met.
The only complain I ever heard from Andy was that he was sick of drinking green tea in a scene we shot. But he meant it more as a joke. I bet he is drinking it now as we speak. I honestly never came across a group of people, inspired by Andy to work so hard, in the worst conditions and never once faltering on their art. For everything that Combichrist is, they deserve it and more. You'll never find, no matter how tired Andy is, being a diva or throwing a fit. At the end of the day, when his eyes are about to close and his body ready to collapse. He still takes the time to thank each member and extra in the music video shoot. He is a natural born leader whose talents are exceeded only by his music. I cannot wait to get into the studio with them at the end of June. I even created a club with a new Combichrist logo in the movie, so watch out for it.
THE DOSE: How challenging and inspiring was it to do a music video?
PRT: The music video was an interesting challenge indeed. I did shoot a couple of music videos. But when Andy and I were talking while I was doing the Visual Effects work in Europe, he wanted to do a music video that includes scenes from The Gene Generation. Of course, I was there for a good 2 months and I was returning about 2 weeks before he was arriving in Los Angeles. I started planning the entire music video and co-ordinating it while I was in Europe with people in Los Angeles. That was extremely tough and meetings had to take place at night in Europe when everybody was awake in Los Angeles. I was basically doing double shifts there. In the day, I was working with the Visual Effects guys, at night, I had to work on the music video. Thank god Chad Michael Ward was there to supervise most of the things.
But communication was very tough and I am glad that me and Andy had no conflicting vision on what the final music video should look like. But on the day of the shoot, Combichrist really deliver an electric performance that impressed not only me but the producers of The Gene Generation who were present in the shoot as well.
THE DOSE: The Combichrist music video will also be included on the DVD - what exclusive or other special teasers do you plan to include (like a TGG map)?
PRT: Bear in mind that the Combichrist video to be released on the internet will be different than the one on the DVD. There will be two different cuts to it and the one including Visual Effects and a lot of goodies I will not reveal as yet will be available in the Combichrist TGG Cut of the music video. As far as other things on the DVD planned, here it is (so far, and planning more)
-Map of Olympia and Demeter
-Visual Effects Featurette
-Making of Featurette
-Picture montage of Fans of The Gene Generation
-Cast and Crew Interviews
-Goth, Cyberpunk and Industrial Culture documentary (still in talks)
-Me / Bai Ling / Producer commentary tracks
-Visual Effects concept art
THE DOSE: You work together with renowned digital artist Chad Michael Ward of digitalapocalypse. com as production designer. What does your cooperation add to the movie?
PRT: I was a fan of Chad Michael Ward's work before I came to the Los Angeles to work on The Gene Generation. One of my friends showed me some pictures taken by him that were utterly fascinating. They were dark, sexy and conjures up thoughts and emotions that you were afraid to conceptualize. During shooting the current scenes of Josephine Hayden (Faye Dunaway played the flashback sequences for it), I brought in Chad to help me design and built this place.
A prison of the body, both internally and externally. Chad came back with some designs and we started talking about it. Not only did we discuss about the way things looked, we discussed everything from the actor's emotions in the room, what it felt like and how we could use the actors to create a more creepier ambience. As we worked more on the project, we felt that both of us shared a similar sense of style and vision (which I was VERY flattered), and after helping Chad produce a music video he directed, found that we worked so well that we formed our company Teo / Ward Productions. The first two movies on the company's slates is Chad's new feature horror tentatively titled 'Mortem' and my new feature entitled 'Advent Souls'.
THE DOSE: TGG is an indie production, which means you can pretty much go wild with your ideas and imagination. Yet, was there any scene or idea that you had to refine or cross out because it was unrealizeable, too explicit or too resourceful?
PRT: Although an indie production, The Gene Generation's crew consisted of union people from Hollywood. They are used to working with the Hollywood standard and they were a lot of things that are different from my previous experiences. Since I am not the producer, there needs to be a constant communication and definitely many arguments about the content I was shooting. Some people were uncomfortable with the fact that my extras consisted of freaks (including animals, one legged pigeons, 2 legged cats, one eyed dogs .etc.) and very unattractive people. I'm happy that the producers were very open to my ideas although some of them were really violent. However, I think more ideas were scrapped because of budget and time issue than a creative issue.
THE DOSE: What is the budget and the shooting schedule for The Gene Generation?
PRT: The budget is approximately 2.3 million. We had a total of 24 days of principal shooting on The Gene Generation and 6 days of reshoots. It was very rough, and since it is a low budget production and we shot on HD, I was living in the trailers editing the movie with my editor (he came at nights after the shooting day is over) when I was done shooting. I think I was clocking 3 hours of sleep a day but this allowed me to see my cut and fine tune my directing as the days went by. Night time were really my time-to-spot-all-my-mistakes time and hopefully learn enough not to make the same mistakes twice.
THE DOSE: In total how many makes up the cast and crew?
PRT: On our principal shooting on the film we had 148 crew 231 cast (including extras), on the reshoots, we had 56 crew 32 cast.
THE DOSE: Are there any lessons that you are concerned that the audience might not understand or not notice due to the a strong subcultural involvement?
PRT: Umm...not really. Whether or not we belong to one culture or another. The Gene Generation's morale of the story centers around universal emotions of love and bonding. There may be a couple of things that people might not understand on a visual level but that's fine. I don't expect everyone to. All I hope is that they don't try to analyze the film too much and enjoy it as a whole. I think when people try to spot mistakes, it ends up ruining the whole movie experience. And I am sure that I will have my fair share of people slamming the film. I already have that, and the movie is not out yet and people are already sending me hate messages for no apparent reason. You can't make a movies for everybody, if I tried that, I would just end up with some trash.
THE DOSE: You mentioned in your blog that there are/were five different cuts of the movie with different lengths and foci on different characters. Although it's still somewhat of a secret which cut ends up being the "finalized" version - will all versions be included on the DVD?
PRT: I believe once this project is over, coming back to work on it will be tough. My mind will be moved on to other things of similar style. Perhaps if the demand is great, I might go back and release my director's cut which is about 49 minutes more than the finalized locked cut of the film. But this also means that there is more score needed and definitely more work put into it, probably equivalent to the post production on a feature film just by the extra things I have. Like I said, I'm a human emotion junkie and I love exploring.
THE DOSE: Your current movie marketing is relying upon - as far as I can see - scene promotion and online promotion through sites like MySpace. This is primarily a budget issue but would you consider this an advantage - messaging the ideal target groups that makes your movie a cult film, thus achieving a status that will make advertising easier for the bigger masses?
PRT: Because we have not have a distributor attached yet, that is the reason why traditional marketing as not been relied upon yet. Rather than seeing it as an online promotion tool, I see it more as a gathering of like minded individuals towards one centered project. I wouldn't say target one particular group, but it does seem to verge towards a certain direction. It makes me happy to see that the people whom I enjoy their company seem to believe in my project as well as embrace it.
Makes me believe that we are who we love and protect. I'm an inspired amateur in this industry and counter culture. I do not know the meaning of the word 'Cult Film' yet, but I do know who my target audience are and I constantly seek out their presence to learn and be inspired from them. I think the day that I approach this film as a money making opportunity, where I try to drag in the largest audience in the shortest amount of time, is the day that my art will be destroyed. Art cannot be forced upon people, art should be learned and embraced by them. I make no claims about whether this movie is awesome or not. I can, however, make a claim that I did what I could with what I have in hopes of giving back to a counter culture, what they have given me...inspiration in the purest form.
THE DOSE: You said that you used the Goth subculture as a tool of adding realism to the movie - as this milieu is the same everywhere, the audience can find something they can attach themselves to, thus submerging easier in the movie. What was your opinion on the Goths when the preliminary work for TGG started and did this change by today?
PRT: I'm going to try and answer this question without opening a can of worms. I think goth is slowly becoming a fashion trend. That's not to say it's a bad thing, but people forget why we dress up in the first place. Goth started as a movement of music. It slowly branched out to different genres and people's fashion accommodated that music. Right now, I think that there are too many 'tourist goths' and 'gothlings' who have yet to get the meaning of goth. There's really nothing destructive about it. People who are destructive in general, the majority of them are not goths. I'm not going to mention what kind, but it's because of our bizarre and loud statements we make with our fashion that people easily pinpoint it down to goths. What this creates are those self-destructive personality who take on the goth image for attention in the process.
I think the new goths should really take a look at the history of our culture and really understand it to be more than just a fashion statement. It's about music, it's about finding beautiful things like love in the darkness. It's not about killing or cutting yourself or being depressed because you don't have enough myspace friends. This change actually occurred before I made The Gene Generation and I was aware that my movie, with many gothic and industrial influences shouldn't be about brooding or feeling depressed. It should be about hope and love. I learned that from watching The Crow. Even though there were dark negative feelings, the hope and redemption in the movie overpowered anything else. That's a message I want to send across about the goth movement.
THE DOSE: When can we expect screenings, release dates for DVD? Can you tell anything about the European distribution and screening opportunities?
PRT: As mentioned before, because we don't have a distributor yet, there is no right answer to it. Even though we have offers now, I really want people to see the final and polished product before anything else. But I can promise one thing, the European distribution avenue will probably be as big, if not bigger than in the US. Especially in Germany and UK. Hopefully, with enough Jedi mind powers, I can coax the distributor to have one opening premier in Germany, one of my favorite countries to be in.
THE DOSE: Thank you for your time for answering all these questions. Do you have a final message to THE DOSE readers?
PRT: I have to say, thank you for spending the time to read my rants. The Dose magazine certainly boost some exceptional content as well as staff, and I am happy to have a part of your time that you spend on reading this. People do not realize how precious time is. Money can always be made back, time cannot. What you have given me, by reading this, is a part of your life which I am truly thankful for. The Gene Generation is dedicated to people like yourself. It has been 2 years of my life, and I hope through this project, I can give you a part of myself in it. I hope to make a contribution to counter culture as I felt you have. Although I may not know you, as readers, perhaps one day...I may find myself in your presence (maybe you may not be aware of it) and be inspired by who you are. Stay different, unique, intelligent and most of all, stay as you!