An exclusive interview with Alex Leung
On Studio 407’s official site it states the fledgling company is dedicated to producing quality comic books with an “East meets West” approach. You could say 407 is taking a similar two-fisted approach to horror by unleashing both celluloid carnage and developing four-colored frights. In 2007, they signed a first-look agreement with Myriad Pictures (Mother of Tears) to develop films culled from their upcoming comic book properties. The first two titles on the slab: Night & Fog and Hybrid. Studio 407 managing director Alex Leung (producer of Around the World in 80 Days) shares with ShockTillYouDrop.com a bit of background the Hollywood multi-hyphenate he works for, how they operate and what projects are on the way.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: Where did Studio 407 originate and what was enticing about the partnership you formed with Myriad?
Alex Leung: We came out of Asia as an intellectual property/multi-media company that was started in Bangkok. From there we opened a small office there with four people and when I came back to Los Angeles, we started an office here and we got started with Myriad with the idea to not only use our comic books but to also develop genre material with them because they were very successful with Jeepers Creepers 2. They wanted to find a way to do more of those kinds of films. It just made sense because it’s what the market demands right now. A lot of their films they put together through foreign sales and pre-sales, and obviously a genre that crosses over really well is horror. We wanted to do more of these and we could provide a lot of that material, but we could also produce those films because we have experience in that field as well.
Shock: Take us through how that relationship works, then. Do you guys create the concept then Myriad says, Let’s make the movie. Or does it go in the other direction with movie first, comic book later?
Leung: It goes both ways. In one way it starts from a comic book that we’ll develop and present to them. They’ll say, Okay, we love this, let’s develop this as a film. We’ll get together the script, package the film, they’ll put together the financing – which is basically how Hybrid happened. It started from the comic, they loved the idea and the script we developed from it. Hopefully, it will go into production this fall.
Shock: So, not everything is geared for the big screen?
Leung: No, we’re more about developing a property and commercializing it across various platforms. Film, without a doubt, is extremely important and it’s one of the big brass rings we try to reach for, but it’s not the be all end all for us. The comic book is important to us, the video game is important to us, we’re developing mobile content, but film without a doubt is one of the important components but we try not to just focus on stuff to turn into film because at the end of the day we’re also huge comic book fans. We have a huge respect for the medium and enjoy working in it just as much as we love working in film.
Shock: What can people expect from the first title you have coming out, Night and Fog?
Leung: That is basically our big Aliens vs. Predator-esque title. The book will be a bi-monthly title. We do believe that it can be an Aliens-type project that can be developed for games and films. But our first goal is that we get the comic book right and we get the story right. We’ve been getting good feedback on the premise. We think we have a unique angle on something that is familiar, which is “the monster mash.” We have all of the monsters you can think of, but we’ve found a way to introduce them and make it more of a progression rather than just a battle royale.
Shock: Are we going to see the Hybrid film before the comic book?
Leung: No, the comic book will be coming out by the end of June. Then the subsequent issues will come out bi-monthly. It’s a four-issue mini-series so the book will be out way before the movie. The movie, if we’re lucky, will be out by the end of 2009. It’s skewing towards a straight horror title with it very much in the vein of the classic Creepy and Eerie comics. It’s a modern day Creature from the Black Lagoon with elements of Jaws. It’s very a much an old school creature feature but updated with an environmental angle, very much like The Host was. It’s a very subtle thing that’s set up in the beginning, then touched on lightly throughout.
Shock: What was the decision-making process in choosing which film to launch first?
Leung: Hybrid was the first one because [screenwriter] Peter [Kwong] was able to bang out a script really quickly. He’s an amazing writer, he can be fast and good. Usually you can only choose between the two of those. Peter’s both. He was able to get out a script that got Myriad on board right away. We’ve got a director on board [Shock note: We were told who it was but have to keep it under wraps for now.] and of course we’re still doing rewrites. But what we went out with was a first draft and it’s rare that you can hook a studio right away just on the first draft. To be honest we did not expect Hybrid to happen. Basically, we told our investors not to expect any films in the first two or three years. So, we’re very fortunate to have two films going. Hybrid, as a matter of fact, is our second film. Our first film is already in production and it’s called Hunter. [Shock note: All the details on this are here.]
Shock: Neal Marshall Stevens (Thirteen Ghost, Hellraiser: Deader) is doing two titles for you including Hunter – do you aim to go out to more screenwriters to pen a few comics for you guys?
Leung: I’m from the film world, originally, and I just happened to get into comic books because when I was working for the studios I had to track down comic books. Through that I developed a lot of relationships in the industry and figured out what the business was. I wanted to use that knowledge to develop comics and use the experience that I had in the film world to our advantage because I think a lot of people in the film world were interested in getting into that realm because as a screenwriter a lot of people don’t get to see their work made. Neal puts out a lot of material – but only three films have been made from his stuff. They may get paid well, but sometimes their work doesn’t see the light of day. Even though they know there’s not a lot of money in comic books, they know that at the end of the day they’re going to be a published author and they’re going to have the opportunity to see their work out in the marketplace the way they wanted it. And they can’t blame the director, the producer or the studio about the story – they have complete control. Every book we do is creator-driven.
Shock: What are the other books you have in line with Neal?
Leung: One is in the horror realm that I can’t talk about just yet, but it is definitely a project that you could say is in his wheelhouse. Then we have an action title that’s more of a superhero style book.
Shock: You broke onto the comic scene with movie deals and a relationship with a production entity in place – something many publishers strive towards – so where do you see Studio 407 going now that you’ve already accomplished this feat?
Leung: I think the goal for the company really is to develop a strong content library. Movie and comics are our strength, without a doubt. We have built a part of the infrastructure, but we still have a ways to go. For instance, we don’t have an output deal the way some companies have which is eventually what we’ve wanted to lean towards. We want to expand our properties so we can get the leverage that Marvel has been able to get. Marvel has been able to get their own financing, their own output deal, simply on the basis on the value of their library. They realized that to control their own destiny, they have to control their own material. And that’s how we feel, we need to control our own material. Eventually, we want to be in the place Marvel is where we can control the budgets of our films and the output as well.
Other horror titles arriving this year from Studio 407 are The Night Projectionist and Vampire Planet. For preview pages from Night & Fog click here; more on Hybrid, including a sneak peek, is here.
Source: Ryan Rotten