Beware of SPOILERS for Stargate Origins in this interview!
Stargate Origins marked the first live-action Stargate production in almost seven years. So what was that like to tackle the project from a directorial standpoint? How does it feel to be thrust into the public eye, and craft a compelling vision for the return of a venerable, long-running sci-fi franchise?
Here to answer all those questions (and more) is Stargate Origins director Mercedes Bryce Morgan.
In this exclusive interview Mercedes shares why she became a filmmaker, how she got hired to direct Origins, and a step-by-step walk-through of what it’s like to helm a Stargate digital series — including the budget constraints, and the choices she had to fight for. Mercedes shares her film school experience, her favorite moments on the set of Origins, and where her career is going next.
GateWorld’s conversation with Mercedes Byrce Morgan runs an (ironic) 38 minutes, and is transcribed in full below! Listen via the player above, or subscribe now to the GateWorld Interviews podcast.
You can also hear this interview on our YouTube channel … or sign in to your Spotify account and search for “GateWorld Interviews!”
GateWorld: Hello and welcome! My name is Adam Barnard and on behalf of GateWorld.net I’m here with Stargate Origins director Mercedes Bryce Morgan. Mercedes, thanks for joining us today.
Mercedes Bryce Morgan: Yeah, thank you so much for having me!
GW: This is probably a very exciting time for you because you now have a feature film in the form of the Stargate Origins feature cut like everywhere on digital markets. Every time I go to Amazon or iTunes I always see it!
MBM: Yeah! It’s really exciting because it was so great to have Stargate Origins on Stargate Command before … but then only a portion of the population can watch it. So I’m really happy that it’s streaming on other platforms, so that more people can have access to it.
GW: Right. It’s kind of like expanding the reach for Origins, which is so cool because it’s part of such a vast Stargate legacy and the more it becomes available to the general public the more people will get to experience this new chapter.
And for you it’s like your first feature film, right? Because usually you do short film or digital Web series content.
MBM: Yeah, definitely. I still say even though it’s a feature film we ran it more like a TV show, since that’s the original cut we have — in shorter-form episodes.
But yeah, definitely it was one of my first bigger credits with a known franchise. And so it’s been really wonderful to have that opportunity.
GW: Well, so speaking of your career, before we get into Stargate Origins and hear your take on how you dug into the material, I want to hear your “origin story” personally and kind of go back to the beginning and how you got inspired with film. One of the reasons I was super-excited to sit down with you is Stargate is what got me to go to film school and got me into the film industry.
And so just out of personal curiosity — and also to provide some insight into fans who might look up to you or look up to Origins and be inspired — how did you at the earliest you can remember garner an interest in film and start on this path?
MBM: For sure. So I have the cliché filled answer where I love filmmaking since I was in fourth grade! I would take my camcorder with my mini-DV tapes and go invent stuff with my next-door neighbors who live down the mountain from me. And we would just put together a whole story and edit it. And I still have a closet full of tapes in storage.
I grew up in a very small town. And there wasn’t much to do other than watch and make movies. Basically the way I like to describe it to people is [that] as a young girl it’s just taking playing with dolls and Barbie dolls to the next level, because you’re just creating stories with them … and then you’re like, “Oh, what if I just replace the dolls with my friends and make up characters for my friends and actually capture it?” And so I did that.
When I was in high school, I started my own small production company where I would do wedding videos and all that stuff. And that’s how I was able to make a living off of filmmaking, even though it wasn’t in a narrative way. What I tried to do is I tried to watch the IMDb Top 250. And I got down to about 70 movies and it was too hard to keep up, because they keep changing all the time! Even though I’m still pursuing that. And so I did that.
I went to USC film school for film production. And while I was there, I just drove to continuously make my own content all the time. It’s a great school. But if you just stick purely to the classes you don’t actually get to make that many films. And so I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to go off and actually try to make stuff.” And so something that really helped me get into directing was producing. And so what was great about producing is I got to work with all different types of directors and see what was more efficient, or what clients didn’t like.
And what was really helpful with that too is working with these clients. They’d have directors where they’d ask something from them or something would happen and they’d be like, “Oh no! This director isn’t working out. Mercedes … it looks like you have directing credits and you’re right here and you know the content. Would you like to direct it?” And so that was really cool because it helped me get these opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had unless I was just right there the whole time.
GW: So it sounds like from the beginning you kind of were a student of cinema before you were actually a student of cinema at USC …
GW: You started that kind of study process way back in fifth grade or fourth grade, which probably gives you like a head start. Because when you get to USC, you know what you want to do once you get into classes.
MBM: Yeah, definitely. And a lot of times people in the industry are like, “Oh my God, you’re very young …” And it’s very respected to be a young director, but a lot of times people are hesitant because they assume that because you’re young you don’t have as much experience. But I beg to differ. Because I think people just figure out what they want to do at different points in their life, and I’m just lucky enough to have found out from a very young age … and just [missed] a lot of parties to be on set in college!
And so I was just able to take that with me. And so as soon as I graduated college I was able to direct and produce full time and make a living off of it, doing what I want to do and do the content I like to do.
And I really love to do genre pieces. And so that’s what’s so wonderful about Stargate is I love sci-fi.
GW: Is that what kind of got you into movies would you say? You’re a big sci-fi fan, when you were studying all these films before college?
MBM: Yeah, definitely. So another thing a lot of people don’t know about me is I actually grew up without TV, because our satellite dish blew down when I was in second grade. And so the way for me to watch anything is we had to buy entire seasons of the show. And so I was one of the original binge watchers!
We owned all of the original Star Trek. And I would just watch them over five times. And so for us to watch a show it had to be something we really, really loved.
And that’s why I watched so many movies. Because if you can’t just turn on the TV to reality TV, you have to be really choosy with what you pick. And so that’s why I’ve watched a lot of classic movies and classic content.
USC FILM SCHOOL
GW: It’s interesting — what I’m seeing is you kind of grew up very separate from the industry early on. You kind of had that Stranger Things purity of childhood, where you got a smaller town to adventure in and hang out with your friends and make movies.
So I’m wondering how did you make the jump to USC? And how did you cultivate an interest in that? And also how did you get in — because, I’ll just put it out there for viewers, film school for film production (which I think is your major, right?) … you have like a 4 or 5 percent acceptance rate. Which is crazy low. I mean it’s lower than most Ivy League schools.
MBM: So to actually break it down: When I was in high school I went to the USC summer film program. Coming from a really small town I didn’t have any friends who were film Geeks and so all of a sudden I was in this place where all these people had seen Clockwork Orange and watched all these Hitchcock movies! And for the first time I really felt like I had found my subculture. And that was really exciting for me.
And so when I was there I was in this program where you make five films over the course of six weeks. And for the very end of the program in the class, they choose one film from every class to be able to be shown at the end program. And I was lucky enough that my classmates voted on my film to be shown there.
And so I feel like that really helped me to get a leg into USC — to be like, “Look, I made this film on your campus as a teenager. Please accept me.”
GW: Yeah, yeah!
MBM: For the admissions essay I really tried to make it true to me. A lot of people write essays where they are like, “I came out of the womb filmmaking” … instead of actually telling about what kind of stories they want to tell. And so I really tried to personalize it to my background, saying how I would specifically tell stories different from someone else. And so I think that helped.
GW: So when you got to college it sounds like you were a woman on a mission: you knew exactly what you wanted to do. How did you capitalize on using those four years to the best of your ability to launch your career? Because if we look at you now, two years out of graduation … oh my God, you’ve directed a Stargate feature film and done a lot of stuff!
So how did you springboard into the city? You seem like you really used that time to plant your feet on solid ground.
MBM: For sure. So I’d say what I did is the first semester I was there — I was a very, very shy person. And I’m still kind of secretly shy! People just don’t know it because I pretend not to be … [Laughter]
GW: Well, you’re doing such a good job pretending now because you’re so charismatic and energetic!
MBM: Thank you! But yeah, so when I went into USC it was really just me trying to make friends with everybody and networking in a genuine way. And so I was just like, “OK, I’m going to find people who want to do the same thing as me and I’m going to help them on their projects and they’re going to help me on my projects.” And so the first semester I spent doing that.
And then the second semester I was like, “OK, great — I’ve assembled a crew of classmates and I made a short film which I raised like $3,500 for on Kickstarter. Which at the time I’m like, “Wow, look at this budget we have!” [Laughter] Now it’s like we couldn’t even do half a day of filming with that.
So I did that and it was just kind of like this community where other people started making projects, too. And so in a non-competitive way we’re just like, “Oh, this is what everyone’s doing … we need to hop on that train.” And so I just tried every semester. I’m like, “OK, I’m going to direct a new project.”
And it just transitioned from the point where originally I was having to self-fund projects into having clients fund projects for me. And then to the point where I was getting paid for my work, into then making a living off my work. And so just steadily seeing the jobs change from one to the next
GW: Right. Well, you sound so passionate about it. It’s so cool to hear this. Thank you for opening up and shedding light on that. Because I really do think that’ll be valuable if anyone’s listening who is interested in going to school, or in high school. This is really good information that I wish someone told me, when I was 15 and all emotional and confused!
MBM: Yeah, definitely!
GW: So let’s get into Stargate Origins. How did you segue into doing directing full-time? And then what was your story of how this project landed on your desk, and what discussions you had to have or how you got the offer to direct this project?
MBM: What’s really great is I feel like in the 90s and even early 2000s directors got their start doing music videos and commercials. But what’s great is because of the sweet old Internet we can actually make narrative series as a way for directors to get their foot in the door — which is even more of an easy transition, because it’s very similar [to the work you’ll be doing later]. And so that’s what kind of helped me as I was just doing narrative series.
And so for Stargate I was put on this list of directors that they wanted to have pitch. And I was told, “OK, you have two days to make an initial pitch deck. And you need to put all your ideas and how you would do it into a deck, and we will send it off. And if they like it then we’ll bring you to the next round where you go and pitch in the room with MGM.”
GW: Did you know it was a Catherine Langford story? What did you kind of have [in order] to prepare for that pitch in those two days?
MBM: I had like a two-page rough outline … which also changed drastically. So I knew that it was a Catherine Langford story, and I knew kind of the general idea of what they wanted to do with it. But it was very open-ended. And so taking that, what I like to do when I pitch is find out what the theme is, because theme influences everything else — and say, “OK, here’s how the theme influences characters and character arcs and location and design and all that.”
And so I did that. I was brought into the room to pitch. And I was told one of the reasons why Sam Toles and the other people MGM like my pitch is I tried to make it Stargate and not something else. Because a lot of people came in and were like, “What if we make it more like Star Wars, or Star Trek, or this sci-fi?” And I’m like, “No, this is what people like about Stargate — is combining this historical tone with sci-fi. And also that it still can have a sense of humor without being too serious.”
And so that’s what I was told led them to choose my pitch.
GW: So you had at least some prior experience with Stargate. I know you said when you were young you bought the Star Trek box sets. What was your prior experience with the Stargate franchise?
MBM: I had watched Stargate the TV show, and watched the movie. And so when I came in I had that knowledge. And that’s why I was able to pick like, “OK, this is what I like about it, and what I believe other people like about it” — and try to thread that in.
And something to know is it is a new part of the franchise. A lot of people are upset, even when it was announced, because they’re like, “What? We want more SG-1! And we want more of this …” And it’s like, “I’m sorry guys, but it’s something different.”
And so I think, for people to enjoy it, it’s accepting that it is a part of the same universe. And we really tried to stick to canon. And we had Kieran [Dickson] as our Stargate expert always advising us, making sure that everything fit within the universe. But it is something different, still.
GW: Yeah, I guess it is hard. Especially because if you’re watching the Web series — not the feature cut — you see the first three episodes and then it stops. And you have no idea how the end ties into canon.
MBM: Yeah, exactly.
GW: … you say, “Well, how can Catherine Langford remember this? This is a gross oversight of what happened, or what SG-1 [or] the original movie was like!”
And so that’s one of things I’m excited about [in] the feature cut. Because once you see it straight through it makes more sense, if you don’t have to wait weeks to kind of catch the other episodes.
MBM: Definitely. People are very reactionary — and I don’t blame them. They were like, “What? This doesn’t tie to anything in the past!” It’s like, “Guys just keep watching. We promise! We are very aware of how this fits in canon.”
And so, yeah — when people watch to the end they realize, “Oh, OK, that’s how this does that.”
DEVELOPING STARGATE ORIGINS
GW: Did you so did you see Stargate with your family, when you were a kid before film school? Or was that something you picked up once you got into entertainment industry?
MBM: It’s something I actually picked up once I got into the entertainment industry. It’s something I came to later — not as a kid, but then discovered and was like, “Whoa! Look at this huge, vast world!”
GW: So for developing the script — so you’ve got the job now, and now it’s time to work on the script. How far in were the writers? Were they still in the outline stage? And how were you able to put your voice and your sensibilities in the Stargate Origins we see — this season of Stargate Origins?
MBM: So the writers were brought on at the same time that I was. And so what was kind of crazy is our pre-production overlapped with them writing. We were working on outlines off of pre-production in the very beginning. And then we started working off the scripts.
But everything was changing right down to the line — and even on set. We had Justin [Michael Terry], our writer, on set. And we would refine lines as need be. And our ending — I don’t know if I could say, but there [were] a couple different possible endings up in the air …
GW: You’re talking about with Beal?
MBM: Yeah, with Beal specifically …
GW: Yeah, that’s been disclosed.
MBM: OK, great. So it wasn’t until I think a week into shooting that we’re like, “Yeah, Beal’s gonna die!” And it was really funny because I came to him [actor Philip Alexander] … I’m like, “Oh man, how do you tell someone that they’re going to die?” This is so hard!
And so telling him — he was actually like, “Yeah, you know what, that makes a lot of sense.” Because it does make sense. I think it was right for him to do that. And it makes for a better ending.
GW: Was that something that came about in your head, as a director, or [through] conferences with the writers? How did you make these kinds of bigger story decisions later in the game?
MBM: What we did is we had a weekly notes session with MGM and the writers and me. And they would listen to everybody’s notes and take the ones they thought worked. And for the ones that they didn’t, you know, we would discuss some more.
But then something else interesting which I haven’t really done before, but I’m really happy and proud of having done, is one of my favorite scenes wasn’t ever actually written in the script. And it’s when Catherine and Kasuf are up on the mountain by the mines. And they have this whole conversation in Abydonian about religion and why they’re doing it. And that’s something that wasn’t written in the script. And for me I was like, “This is something that’s very important to talk about, philosophically. Because [these are] the questions that Stargate brings up.”
And so the weekend — like the day or two before we shot that — I took the writer aside and I was like, “Hey, I think this is really, really important for us to have. And if we go through the long process of trying to get it approved it’s probably not going to make it in, because it’s the weekend. No one’s in the office. So can you and I just try this … please?”
So he wrote it and we gave it to the actors. And in the van on the way driving like five hours to set they had to memorize this other language of sounds … of this huge, philosophical conversation! And so when we showed MGM the cut for the first time they were like, “What is this? We’ve never heard of this before! This was never in the script.” And I was like, “I know, but I think it’s really, really important.”
And I had to fight the entire time we were in post-production to keep that in there. Like every single note session we had, people tried to take it out. And I’m like, “You guys, we need to have heart here. It’s not just about action and people running around and trying to do that.”
For me what I love about sci-fi, and I’m just going to keep fighting to put more in anything, is people want to know the philosophy behind it. Because it makes us think about our world differently. And so the way I was able to keep that in there is we showed it in a test screening to Stargate fans. And when asked what one of their favorite scenes were, they said that scene.
GW: Really? You guys test screened it with Stargate fans?
MBM: We did, yeah. MGM test screened it with Stargate fans. And so in the test screening they said they liked that. I was like an inch away from having it cut out completely. And I was able to keep it because that’s what they liked. And I was like, “Thank you!” [Laughter]
GW: That scene is classic Stargate. And that’s a discussion I’ve had with some other fans — it engages in the kind of philosophy or the cultural struggles that Stargate so brilliantly articulated in its past work.
MBM: Exactly. And I mean, I personally would have wanted to put even more of that stuff in there. But that wasn’t my job as a director. And that’s me overstepping my bounds. So I did it for that part, because I was like, “This is important, because everyone wants this to be good and I believe in my gut that this will make it better than having not had it.”
But yeah, that’s the kind of stuff I really love and gravitate towards.
GW: And this kind of ties into what you were saying earlier about how theme is everything, and how that kind of develops the heart or the core of a project. Because like that scene is very thematically enhancing in a way that makes it clear what kind of statement Origins is trying to make as a story.
MBM: Yeah, definitely.
BEHIND THE CAMERA
GW: So what was it like — apart from the creative — when you take on one of these projects you also have to be a logistical manager, a project manager. And Stargate Origins seems to be a bit longer in terms of the production cycle than what you might do as a freelance director. So I’d just love to get your perspective on what was it like, through all three stages — pre-production, production, and post-production — how this was different and what it was like to experience being a part of a franchise? And being that person that people are looking to and saying, “What are we doing? What’s the decision? What are we shooting? How many shots do we need?” and having to live in that space?
MBM: This was a 12 to 15 hour a day thing from Day 1 — from the very, very beginning, even in pre-production. And what was so wonderful is working out of the Vanishing Angle offices is I was just able to be there with my department heads. And so every single day in pre-production I’d be like, “OK, what department are we meeting with today?”
We have the initial concept meeting, and then checking in and breaking down the script together. The type of director I am is I like to have every single thing planned, so that when things happen that are unexpected we can throw out the plan having already talked about all the things that don’t work, and choose the second, next best thing that works. And so with this we shot it multi-cam, but we were able to have more days on set so that it wasn’t just straight coverage.
But yeah, from the very beginning even though we had breaks on weekends I’d meet with my First AD [Assistant Director] and my DP [Director of Photography] and we would just sit all day and plan out this week. And we’re like, “OK, what happened last week? What do we need to grab this week?” If anything in the script changed, how do we plan for this new scene?”
GW: So another question which I’ve never really gotten the answer to — I hear it kind of varies, just from other directors or other projects: once you get into post-production that’s hypothetically the time when you can take a breather …
GW: No? OK, there we are! So that’s the same 12- to 15-hour days in the editing room.
MBM: Yeah, exactly. I would go in and it would be dark and come out and it would be dark.
Anjoum Agrama is my editor, and she’s wonderful. I have her edit all my stuff, and it’s really great because we have a dialogue and we just know what we both like together, and the style. So she was editing the entire time we were on set. And so when we came off of set we had I think it was a week until we had the first cut to show the studio — which is super insane.
But also because of that what I would do is every weekend I’d go and see a cut of the scenes we did with her. And she tell us, “You should get a pickup of this shot,” or “This is how we make this work.” And so that’s how we made that possible.
But yeah, I just basically sat in a dark room with her for a month and a half, every single day.
GW: So how did it feel to emerge and kind of get to show it — like you said you did a screening with Stargate fans. Were you in the room? Did you get to feel some of the test screenings and the first response?
MBM: No, so that was actually with MGM and I wasn’t part of that. But they did questionnaires and showed it to us. But something we did — that actually Matt Miller our producer has introduced to my life, which I will forevermore use — is what we did with our cuts is a lot of people now, because you can just send a link to someone … We’ll have a cut, send a link off to the client, get their notes back, and then go and execute it. And what we tried to do is we tried to do live screenings instead of sending links to people.
So we bring in our MGM people, like Sam Toles, and we’d all watch the cut together. And what’s cool about that is because when people are giving notes based off just a link they’ll stop for two minutes — they’ll be like, “I don’t understand what just happened!” and write that they’d understand, when possibly in the cut its explained five minutes later! And you’re supposed to want to know what’s happening! You shouldn’t have all the answers answered up front.
And so this prevents people from doing that. And you’re able to actually see when people laugh, and actually have a discussion. Because sometimes people write notes too where they’re just like, “Change this.” And you’re like, “OK, but why? What is the feeling behind that?” And so if we discuss it in the room we’re able to discuss. And they’d be like, “Change this,” and [we can say] “OK, but if we change it to this, this happens.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, nevermind. Let’s change it in this way instead.” And so it opens a dialogue.
GW: I have a question about going into this project as a director. What did you pull upon in terms of stylistic influences — just apart from Stargate, honestly? What movies or other shows did you pull on to craft the tone and craft the visual language specific to this project?
MBM: A ton of different things. But what my DP and I would do is like when we were shot-listing together, we’d shot-list together for the morning and then in the middle of the day take a break and watch some content we wanted to show each other for inspiration, and get back into shot-listing.
I really like looking at anime because I think, first of all, they’re able to do way more shots than you’d ever be able to do in live-action [and] be able to afford. Just because the shot design is very clearly thought-out. Like we watched some Nichijou. And what’s funny about that is even just like little things, like when characters move their eye line closer to the camera, it becomes way more intimate and intense. And something I like to do in my work — which people noticed in Stargate — is characters actually look straight into the camera, which is different than what we’re used to seeing.
And then also Nico [Aguilar, Cinematographer] would bring in images from video games for lighting. Something that Nico likes to do, for example, we’re like, “OK, Earth is going to be very warm colors and everything in Abydos is going to be very cool colors.” But if you look at all the stuff in the warehouse is that even though everything’s very warm there will be something cool thrown in the background. Because if it’s all warm you don’t get separation. But if you put up like one blue light or something far, then it makes it feel warmer because there is that contrast. And so that’s another thing we would look at.
GW: One thing that was really incredible about this was just how striking some of the lighting was, and some of the depths of the sets were. You know, especially for something like a Web series that usually has more limitations than you have in a feature film — like the quality of that rose above what you would usually get in a digital series.
MBM: And that’s something that also fans were like, “Whoa, it seems like the budget has limitations on this.” And we’re like, “Yeah, we did!” [Laughter] We had extreme budget limitations.
And I really felt that considering that we did way more than what we could have been expected to do, given that. Like the Egyptian sets. We really had to work with that, you know? And not being able to make huge, huge things, but still being able to make something where we’re like, “Yes, this gives us what we need for people to move around and tell the story.”
GW: Right. That’s crazy. So did you pre-vis it all, or did you just shot-list? How much did you get to prepare, and did you have a lot of time before going into this?
MBM: It was great. I did — I had a lot of time. Something that’s taught me is I think one of my strengths is planning everything out too much, but then also [that] that is so time-consuming. On this I really learned where I can let things flow more freely.
But yeah, we made overheads with blocking for actors for every single scene, and shot listed every single thing. But I don’t care for storyboards. They’re not really useful to me. I think the only time that storyboards are really useful is if you have really intense VFX or action sequences that you’re having a second unit shoot, or most of it is going to be done in post. Because people move more freely in blocking than they do in storyboards. And when you’re on location it doesn’t make sense to draw storyboards unless you already have locations locked before you’re at that point.
GW: So are there any stories from set, or what are your favorite memories coming away that if you got a chance to talk to someone about this what is the the first story you would want to tell them? or one of the one of the main stories that was just a really cool moment, or a really interesting moment, from the whole process of making this project?
MBM: I think one of my favorite ones is something we’d always do in the Vanishing Angle offices is have random dance parties. Because it’s a really great way, after you’re sitting in a chair for like 12 hours in an office during pre-production, to just kind of relieve some stress! And so it could be 3 in the afternoon or it could be 1 a.m. in the morning, and you just walk into the office and everyone’s just dancing to a random song — which is so wonderful.
And so I remember first time Philip [Alexander] came in to get fitted for his Beal costume everyone in the office was just dancing at like 2 in the afternoon. And he just seemed so shy and taken aback and was like, “Am I in the right place? What is going on?” [Laughter] And we’re like, “Oh my God, I think we scared him!”
And it’s so funny because Phillip is one of the funniest guys. And then after like a week into knowing us [he] initiated dance parties. And so that was just a really wonderful moment.
GW: So he caught on pretty quick! He got inducted and engaged in it and embraced it!
MBM: Exactly! Yeah. I just think that that was my work family. And so it’s like if we’re not having fun everything is going to suffer.
GW: Was a tough to be that person who has to set the tone? How do you kind of lean on your team to make sure you don’t burn out, and still keep that kind of fun environment that you’re talking about here?
MBM: I think it’s just, first of all, choosing a team that I trust and know will do the job. Like I don’t have to get mad at someone for not doing their job if they’re just going to do their job in the first place.
So it’s kind of like how with casting actors it’s like 90 percent of it is just casting people you think are the part already. Because then most of your job and the hard part goes away.
GW: And you got to work with people who you are familiar with. A lot of the crew was young, and either were from my era even of Chapman or your classmates in USC, right?
MBM: Yeah, definitely. It’s just like people that we had growing up together. And there’s a lot of people who weren’t — like Candi [Guterres], our production designer, has been doing this for 20 years. And same with our costume designer, Kit [Scarbo].
And that was really necessary because she needed to have been doing this for 20 years for us to be like, “Hey, can you make a gigantic Stargate?” [Laughter] “… and make it possible on like a tight budget?” And she was like, “Yes!”
GW: The costumes are fantastic, by the way. They look amazing.
MBM: Oh, yeah — she did a really good job. Everyone did. And so it was like a mixture between that — where I was like, these are people who are willing to do all the hours, and then these are the people who have done it for many, many years, and combining those forces.
GW: I love it when there’s real synergy within a project, and you know that the people who made it enjoyed making it. And you know how it’s not like this miserable job that they hate going to and everyone is fighting behind the scenes. It’s nice to hear that there’s a warmth to the environment and the creative family.
MBM: Yeah. I mean, for me personally it’s like raising your voice doesn’t help anything. Because it’s going to make people not want to do something — not want to do it more. So yeah, there’s no point.
GW: So now that the Web series has been released on Stargate Command earlier this year, and then now it’s out as a movie, where are you looking to go as a director? And I want to throw this question your way: If you could pick any dream project going forward in the future — whether it’s a sequel, a historical period piece, an adaptation of a literary property — if someone just came to you and said, “We’ll write you a check for whatever budget you want and whatever material” — what would you go make?
MBM: Oh, my God! Such a big question. [Laughter]
GW: Sorry — I didn’t tell you beforehand!
MBM: No, it’s great! Well, first of all, I hope to continue … I just like to work a lot. So I just kind of continuously, always make more projects. Whenever I finish one, even if that was previously the dream project, I’m like — “Cool, what’s the next one?”
But I’ve started writing my own content recently. And so I’d really love to do something with that because I really love working with other writers. But I love to make stuff. I call it like “alternative genre,” where it’s stuff that’s in the genre realm but isn’t afraid to be different. It would be something that’s shown at like Sundance Midnight.
And so be able to get complete freedom with that, where people aren’t like “Why is that there? That’s so weird!” It’s like, “Well if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s the point.” So that would really be my dream, is to be able to do that.
And then just also really like dive into TV. I’d love to be a really, really busy genre TV director working all the time. Because it’s just like constant work. I’m good at carrying out other people’s visions. So really having a mixture between TV director, doing that all the time, and then every now and then doing my own feature — even if it’s like for a low budget, because then I get more control.
GW: So for on the feature side you’re more interested in indie, original material — not like big-budget fare.
MBM: Yeah. My favorite director is Terry Gilliam, who did [films like] Brazil and 12 Monkeys. I’d say he’s an example of the type of stuff I want to do. Because it still has enough of a budget where he could do something with it. But then [it] also wasn’t stripped away from him and turned into a blockbuster.
GW: So in terms of TV, what are any recent properties that you’ve been really inspired by — of this new age, where we finally see binge-watching being a thing and we finally see these more original, higher budget projects coming in? What show or miniseries have you just adored and want to do something like that?
MBM: I really love Handmaid’s Tale because I think it’s very timely and very important. And the way it’s done is very masterful. But then in a completely different direction … I’d say my favorite favorite show is Rick and Morty.
GW: [Laughter] That’s awesome. No, it’s great!
MBM: I just love it so much! Because it just goes beyond the genre, and it’s just very intelligent … and also just immature, like I am at the same time. [Laughter]
And then I’d say the last one, different from those, is 13 Reasons Why. Because when I was younger, I read that book and it changed my life. And so even though it’s very controversial, for me it helped me emotionally, mentally, instead of hurt.
GW: Awesome. Well, we very much look forward to what you’re doing next. I want to give you a warm welcome to the Stargate family — because once you’re in it you can’t leave, for better or worse! So hopefully you enjoy it and hopefully this has been a really enriching experience.
MBM: Yeah! Definitely. Thank you so much.