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Syfy and production company American World Pictures unleash
another Bulgarian beastie in JABBERWOCK, airing this Saturday at 9 p.m. as part
of the channel’s ongoing slate of creature features. This period horror/fantasy
tale, helmed by I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake director Steven R. Monroe, centers
on a young squire (WAR WOLVES’ Michael Worth) who, alongside his brother (TRICK
’R TREAT’s Tahmoh Penikett), must become a warrior to save his people and the woman
he loves (RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE’s Kacey Barnfield) after a horrific monster
is unleashed on the village. Fango spoke with JABBERWOCK co-writer Rafael
Jordan, a Syfy vet who previously scripted ARCTIC PREDATOR, YETI: CURSE OF THE
SNOW DEMON and LOST COLONY: THE LEGEND OF ROANOKE, and we’ve got an exclusive
creature pic to go with his comments.
FANGORIA: Was the Terry Gilliam film JABBERWOCKY the
inspiration for this?
RAFAEL JORDAN: Only to the extent that both are obviously
inspired by the same source material, the classic poem by Lewis Carroll [in
ALICE IN WONDERLAND]. So there are inherent similarities between the two, but
their respective tones couldn’t be more different. Gilliam’s was a black
comedy, and a very funny one at that, but even though there are plenty of
lighthearted moments in ours, we play it pretty straight. It’s also not really
about the Jabberwock, despite what the title would have you believe. I mean,
sure, the creature drives the plot forward, but at its heart it’s ultimately a
story about two brothers and what it means to finally grow up and embrace
responsibility. My guiding rule with these movies is that for them to really
work, you have to be able to take out the creature completely and still have a
compelling story. Otherwise, it’s just people reacting to a monster, and you’re
never really invested.
FANG: There are two writers listed on the movie, you and
SAND SERPENTS’ Raul Inglis. Did you collaborate? If not, how was the script
JORDAN: I never actually met the other writer, which in my
experience has always been the case. I’ve shared credit with lots of writers on
these movies, but I’ve never directly collaborated with anyone. It usually just
means one person worked on it for a while, and then time passed while the producers
raised money or prepared to make the movie, and then someone else came along to
rewrite or revise things when it was actually time to make the movie many
months—or years—later. In this instance, there was already a script when I came
on board. The development process had taken quite a while, however, and by the
time they were gearing up to shoot, the network and production company decided
to change the tone and scope quite a bit. It went from being a fantastical epic
full of sorcery and royal politics and intrigue to what it is now. We basically
stripped it down to its core, which is a small medieval village being
terrorized by a mythical creature. It all happened very fast. My good friends
Mark Lester and Dana Dubovsky at American World Pictures—the production company
that basically gave me my start in the business—contacted me in September to
reshape the script, and they were shooting by October.
FANG: Did you go overseas to work on the movie?
JORDAN: No, not on this one. I’m up to a dozen Syfy movies
now, and I’ve been lucky enough to be on set as the writer/2nd unit director on
four of them, but it’s not always practical. Each movie is basically three
months in Bulgaria, or someplace similar like Romania or the Czech Republic,
and I usually only go if I’m not too busy writing the next script or if I’ve
already got a working relationship with that film’s director. I did do six
months in Bulgaria for THE IMMORTAL VOYAGE OF CAPTAIN DRAKE and HAMMER OF THE
GODS, back in 2007, and that was an amazing experience. The reality is, when
you’re single, you like being overseas for as long as possible. Once you have a
great girlfriend, though, you never want to leave LA for any amount of time.
That’s why young filmmakers in their 20s should never have girlfriends! I’m
kidding, of course…but not really.
FANG: How was Steven as a director? He has been doing good
JORDAN: Steven, as you already know, is an amazing
filmmaker. Things were so rushed during production, though, that I never even
met him face to face. He was already over in Bulgaria prepping the film, which
usually starts about six weeks before shooting, so he and I just corresponded
via e-mail and Skype. Even under those conditions, it was a real pleasure
getting to work with him. Some directors are definitely easier to deal with
than others, I’ll tell you that, and Steven was an absolute joy.
FANG: Tell us about the creature. CGI?
JORDAN: Yes, the creature is completely CG. That’s almost
always Syfy’s preference these days. There used to be more limitations with CGI
on these films—things like creatures with hair were too hard to render,
etc.—but it has come a long way, even on limited budgets and time frames. As
for the creature design, we took the inspiration straight from the source: the
body of a small dragon and the head of an insect. So that’s pretty much what
FANG: What is the secret of Syfy’s enduring ratings success?
JORDAN: I’m sure it’s more than just one thing. I’ve known
[network movie chief] Tom Vitale for years, and one thing we both love about
these movies is that they’re really among the only true anthologies left on
television. I actually see myself as a writer on an ongoing TV series, and
every Syfy movie I work on is just a new episode. So that’s one of the things I
love about it. Beyond that, they’re just a lot of fun. They’ve become something
of an institution; you know that every other weekend, you get a brand new Syfy
Saturday movie. As a writer, I love the period pieces like JABBERWOCK the most.
I love immersing myself in the research for weeks on end during the writing
process. For me, that’s a special time because for a short while, I feel like
I’m really living it. I know that sounds very NEVERENDING STORY of me, but it’s
FANG: What else do you have coming up?
I’m really fortunate in that Syfy keeps me really, really busy. As I mentioned,
I think I’m up to 12 of these movies now, and I’m developing one or two more.
My latest one just shot in Bulgaria over the summer—BLOODTHIRST [formerly
VAMPYRE NATION]. It’s a bit like DAYBREAKERS meets BLADE with a hint of TRUE
BLOOD, I suppose you can say, starring Andrew Lee Potts from PRIMEVAL. I’m
really looking forward to the finished product on that one. I’m also really
excited for a web series I’m developing for Syfy based on one of my earlier
films from 2009, but at this point, I don’t think I’m allowed to say which one,
as they’ve yet to make an announcement. Once they do, though, I hope we get to
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