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Monday, May 2, 2016

Fort Thomas Filmmaker to Pitch Animated Series to Netflix

John Gibson and his wife, Candace, with their two children Emery and Silas Halloween 2015.
By Jennifer Heindl 

After working on his feature film “Revelation Trail” for six years, John Gibson wasted no time thinking about a sequel, but didn’t rush into the project right away.

RELATED: Theatrical Trailer for “Revelation Trail” and website

Revelation Trail released in 2013, so it’s been almost 3 years since I’ve done anything super creative personally,” said Gibson. “I’ve done some documentary work and projects at work, but nothing that was really mine.”

RELATED: Street Class Lumley Avenue’s Road to ‘Revelation Trail’ 

Now that he’s taken time to stop and smell the roses (and have two children along the way), he’s got multiple irons in the fire and multiple projects in process.

Gibson has written a full treatment for a feature length sequel to “Revelation Trail.” He’s estimated the budget for the film to be $500,000 which is a significant jump from the $33,000 they used to make the first film. Gibson co-wrote, directed and produced “Revelation Trail.” That project is on hold until funding and other details of pre-production get squared away.

Gibson directing a shot during production of “Revelation Trail.”

While the sequel waits it’s turn, Gibson, has a short film which is scheduled to be shot in June titled “Half Finished.” It’s a dramatic “character piece” so, there isn’t a lot of action or moving plot points. The script which was written by Gibson centers around the relationship between a father and his estranged son.
Charlie Roetting, one of the stars of Half Finished.
As Gibson surveyed the body of work represented on his demo reel he realized he was light on dramatic character study. So, he got to work and wrote a script. Casting is complete for “Half Finished” and shooting locations have been scouted. Gibson wrote one particular scene with Fort Thomas Coffee in mind as the setting. So, he’s looking forward to using a local business as a shooting location.

The main objective with this 20 minute short film is to submit it to various film festivals with the final audience being online with downloads available via various streaming services.

“We didn’t have much luck with ‘Revelation Trail’ at festivals because as a zombie western it kind-of fell between genres,” said Gibson.

The other project Gibson is actively working on right now, is an animated series with a working title of “Iron Wing” which he says will depict an alternate version of history centered around World War II. His hope is to have it produced as five 13-episode seasons for Netflix.

“Filmmaking is largely about networking and so through various people I’ve worked with in the past I have a connection to a producer at Netflix,” said Gibson.

Initially he had conceived “Iron Wing” as a live action series, but moving forward with it would have been difficult from a budget standpoint.

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“Sylistically, I’ve always thought animation would be cool, budget wise I’ve always thought animation would be cool,” said Gibson. “And I started out in filmmaking doing stop motion animation so it was something I was interested in early on.”

This project is very heavily focused on story and a team of writers will be needed. Gibson has already written what he referred to as the “show bible” which details all major points related to the show so multiple writers can refer to it and maintain continuity as they write. Gibson will act as the Head Writer and Show Runner for the series. He’s already discussing some concept art for the animation with, Hannah Brewer, a former student who has an interest in animation.

The Idea for “Iron Wing” came to Gibson around the same time as “Revelation Trail” which was about eight years ago. He worked on both ideas side by side for several months but after looking at which project had a more realistic chance of seeing the light of day at that time he decided to pursue “Revelation Trail” and put “Iron Wing” on the back burner. After a recent trip to France to do some documentary film work with his students, his desire to make “Iron Wing” a reality was reignited.

Gibson filming on Omaha Beach with students from NKU.
“We visited Omaha and Normandy and I was able to go into some German bunkers and being in that place that was so filled with history, it sparked a desire to revisit Iron Wing,” said Gibson. “I was a little worried going back to it after it had been on the shelf for so many years and didn’t know if it would still seem compelling, but after re-reading it and getting into some of the research, I knew it could be really cool.”

This animated series is a major departure from anything Gibson has done in the past but it’s also a perfect fit.

Gibson’s first love was history. In high school he was enamored with World War II. In fact, he attended Murray State University and majored in education so he could teach history to high school students. It wasn’t until he was two weeks from graduating with his education degree that he came to the realization that he didn’t want to teach. He finished out his degree, but had no clue what he was going to use it for after graduation.

At the time he was also working at Walmart selling car stereos. One day, a local NPR radio personality, Gary Scott, came into the store and said Gibson should contact the local station, WKMS in Murray, Ky. for an audition because he thought he had a voice for radio. From that chance encounter Gibson got the job then also landed a job at a local public access TV station, Murray Electric. He worked both jobs part-time and did a lot of media related work from public relations and marketing to video production.

“I basically got a lot of real world experience on the job and from there I decided to go back to school and get a Masters in Mass Communication from Murray State,” said Gibson. “In my second year, they needed a teaching assistant for a class and asked if I would do it. So, I basically taught this entire class and realized that I really DID want to teach. I just didn’t want to do it at the high school level. I wanted to teach college students.”

It turns out that TA position was awesome in more ways than one because Gibson ended up meeting his wife Candace while she was a student in one of his classes. Fast forward a few years and they’re married and still living in Murray and Gibson was working full time for Murray Electric. Candace saw a job posting for a Media Engineer at Northern Kentucky University and thought John would be perfect for it. Thirty minutes after submitting his resume (which included references to both the original Mad Max and the Terminator) he got a call asking him to come for an interview. He was offered the job while at the interview and 2 weeks later the Gibsons had completely uprooted their life in Murray to move to northern Kentucky for the job at NKU.

So, really, for the last eight years Gibson has had the best of all worlds. He’s been able to teach about film and media while being able to insert his love of history into his own personal film projects. AND, he gets to collaborate with his wife Candace who also happens to know a thing or two about the industry. Funny how a chance encounter can change the course of everything.

Candace received her bachelor’s degree from Murray State in mass communications, and she has minors in theater and dance and so her experience in wardrobe and makeup paid huge dividends when they produced “Revelation Trail.”

“Candace was the production manager for ‘Revelation Trail’,” said Gibson. “She was in charge of wardrobe and if we needed hotels she booked them, if we needed food she made sure we had it, and she also served as the ‘John Gibson handler’.”

Candace also reads John’s stories and scripts in draft form and gives feedback.

“Mostly, she reads my scripts to make sure there’s not too much cussing,” said Gibson. “But, she’s great at reading through and making sure what I’ve written will translate to an audience.”

“John taught me that its really hard to kill your darling, but sometimes you have to do it,” said Candace. “So, there may be one line that John really loves, but it doesn’t matter what he meant it to say, if the audience doesn’t catch it, it doesn’t work.”

After producing a feature length film and spending several years in the same place, some might get the itch to move on to bigger and better things, but Gibson says he and Candace are happy right where they are.

“Candace and I both work at NKU and love our departments. We love Fort Thomas – we can walk to our church and our kids will be able to walk to every school they go to,” said Gibson. “There are still so many good opportunities here. A decade ago, if I wanted to do what I do I would have to move to LA or Chicago… another big city, but with technology the way it is I don’t have to. I have a supportive work environment and that extends to my students – which I refer to as my kiddos.”  

Gibson says the projects and field experience he gains on his filmmaking projects are what fuels his teaching and lectures. He’s able to give real-life examples to his students.

“In 20 years I don’t want to still be referencing a project I did in 2011 to my students. Having a project in the works makes teaching vibrant,” said Gibson. “People have asked me whether I would retire after Revelation Trail came out, and I just laughed because even if the movie made $10,000,000 I couldn’t retire from teaching because I love it and the filmmaking is part of the creative drive that keeps me going.”

“I have lots of ideas and I’m glad that I’m actually getting some of it out of my brain pan and didn’t just let it sit,” said Gibson. “I actually have a lot of people come up to me and say they’re interested in filmmaking or their kid is interested in film and I tell them you only learn by doing it and screwing it up and learning from it. Get a camera in your hand and give it a shot and see what happens.”

“Revelation Trail” is now available on DVD and via download on iTunes and Amazon as well as other streaming services.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah Brewer is a Fort Thomas resident too, and a Highland HS graduate.