This week I get the opportunity to ask one of the hosts of one of my favorite podcasts 20 Questions. Chris Mancini is a comedian/podcaster/director/author who I have followed for years now. He is the co-host of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast wherein he and the other host, comedian Graham Elwood and a guest talk about movies in the theaters, trailers of upcoming movies, and movies that are on-demand and coming out on DVD. Chris is one of the creators of the podcasting documentary Ear Buds, he is writing a graphic novel I backed on Kickstarter, and really is a nuanced critic of movies. So, I know he is very knowledgeable of movies, is constantly creating, and is a dad, but that is about all I know of him. So, let's get to know him better through these 20 Questions.
In a previous job, I was a cartographer. I love maps and mapmaking and the idea of stories being told with the concepts place. Specifically I love people's personal geographic stories. For example, I was born outside of Oklahoma City, OK, moved to the Birmingham area in Alabama and stayed there until I went off to school in Kent, Ohio. I graduated from Kent State and followed my soon to be wife down to Columbus, Ohio for grad school and have lived in the greater Columbus area for over 20 years now. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
I was born in Havertown, PA and then moved to West Chester PA in 4th grade. I then moved to Philadelphia to go to college for Film and start my stand-up career. I graduated from Temple University with a degree in communications. I then moved to LA in my mid-twenties and have been banging my head against the entertainment industry ever since.
Pretty much a Pennsylvania to LA track. That is pretty direct and compact. I know that you are a stand up, so I am sure you have been to most (if not all) the states in the US. Question 2: Any states left of the 50 that you have not been to?
Yes, I’ve never been to Alaska or Maine. The northern extremes. And really want to get to both at some point.
This summer may family took a trip to Alaska, and my mother-in-law's favorite place ever is Maine. Both are wonderful places.
Now to my Question 3 which is a directly stolen idea from a classic Paul F Tompkins bit. Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
I’ve always loved peach pie with vanilla ice cream. It has fruit in it so I can pretend I’m eating something healthy.
Peach pie is a super Georgia thing. Rarely have I encountered someone who loves peach pie who has not spent some time in the Peach State.
Question 4: Where and how did you come into contact with a peach pie a la mode?
When traveling down south, of course.
I did walk right into that one.
Question 5: Is there a movie genre you cannot help yourself from watching even if you know the particular movie you are about to watch is going to be terrible?
Unfortunately, Action. The state of action movies could be a LOT better than it is. We have Fast and Furious, but they are tongue-in-cheek. We need more Mad Max, less Transformers.
Mad Max: Fury Road was really something impressive.
Question 6: Do you think the paucity of quality action movies is due to lack of people able to write action well, lack of directors being able to direct action well, or that the studios don't understand action movies?
I think it’s a combination of all those things. When there is a little success on an action movie, the studios milk it to death, like the Bourne franchise. And even those early ones the action was mostly hidden with quick cuts and closeups. It was infuriating when you have an action movie and you can’t see the action.
That is one reason why I think John Wick (for better analysis of John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 watch the Movies with Mikey reviews by Mikey Neumann) was such a nice breath of fresh air. The action is mainly in frame and not sped up, and super practical. I agree that, I think that the studios rely way too much established properties (re: Bourne). I guess, the insane levels of risk aversion is a pretty significant deterrent for the studios.
So, you have written a book, are writing a graphic novel, made short films, made a documentary, do stand-up, podcast about movies and produce/edit a movie themed website... Question 7: Any kind of content creation that you haven't done that you want to try your hand at? and of these things listed, which is the one you find most comfortable?
Writing has and always will be my first love. I’d like to just be doing more of that. And of all the writing, I love writing scripts the most. I’m finding writing the graphic novel very rewarding because it’s a screenplay come to life as I’m converting it. I’d just like to do more comic, film, and television writing. Although I am launching a new scripted anthology podcast soon called “Conversations From the Abyss” that I’m VERY excited about. I’m hoping to get it launched in the next month or so. Listeners of Welcome to Night Vale and The Thrilling Adventure Hour will recognize some familiar voices.
"Conversations From the Abyss" sounds like it could be really fun. (Editor’s Note: It is a great bite-size podcast. It has the perfect amount of creepiness, everyone should listen to it. I have enjoyed each episode more)
I did a NaNoWriMo a few years back about a c-list superhero and some of the shenanigans he got himself into. This November I want to refine that story and clean it up. There are so many things that need edited and fleshed out. I have been mulling over how it is put together for some time and feel that I am far enough away from the writing exercise to give it some strong editing. I might try and self-pub this and sell at Cons of something. All this to say that writing certainly has some real allure.
Question 8: What is the hardest aspect of writing that you encounter?
Lately it’s been finding the time to sit down and do it. I have too many plates spinning in the air and need to let a few go so I have more time to write.
Interestingly, for the people I have interviewed who are writers, but are not solely employed as writers, this is the answer I always get back. Time seems to be the limiting factor between creative expression, work/life balance, family etc...
If we only had more time there would be significantly more creative endeavors going on out there.
Question 9: What about writing do you find to be the most rewarding?
The most rewarding thing about writing is when it gets out into the world and is actually read or seen, depending on if it was a book or a script. One of the most satisfying things I’ve done recently is take an old screenplay (Long Ago and Far Away) that got some traction in Hollywood but ultimately never got made and turn it into a graphic novel which is being worked on right now. I can’t wait for people to read it.
Oh, I am quite aware of "Long Ago and Far Away." That is one of the 36 Kickstarters that I have backed and been funded. I am 36 for 36 on Kickstarters. I'm less a Kickstarter backer and more of a Kickstarter fairy. I back a project... it gets funded. Boom. In all truthfulness, I love the concept for the story of "Long Ago and Far Away," and I cannot wait to read it.
Question 10: Fill in the blanks: I find that I am mostly _____. Others find that I am mostly _____.
1)Stretched too thin.
2)Busy. I know they go hand in hand, but I’d like to get to a place where I’m busy but not struggling to keep up with everything.
"Pleasantly busy" is a laudable goal. It is also a very fine line to hit. I am sorry that you feel stretched too thin, because that is a hard space to be in.
Question 11: What is one small thing that you would like to add or change in your life that would help with the "stretched too thin" feeling?
Getting an assistant.
Attainable goal. Seriously attainable if you are willing to work with a remote assistant.
Deceptively simple question... Question 12: Overall, are you happy?
Yes. But I’d be happier if I had an assistant.
Again, attainable goal. More happiness may be just around the corner. Your assistant could put it in your calendar.
Here we are at the "unlucky 13," so... Question 13: Do you have any superstitions or rituals in your life?
When I write and get into the zone, I always put music on. It helps me concentrate.
I think, more than any other profession I have interviewed, writing is the most ritualistic, but really cerebrally ritualistic. The rituals seem to be associated with setting the stage and getting a proper environment. For example, one of the other comic book writers I interviewed cannot start writing until he's done a crossword puzzle.
Music while writing makes sense on a very deep level. Question 14: Does the music choice when writing influence the writing, or does the writing influence the music choice?
I often listen to Coldplay when writing comedy and Death Cab for Cutie when writing horror. They just seem to be good soundtracks for what I'm writing.
That is very interesting. I would not think that Chris Martin would lead one to comedic insights. Death Cab for Cutie makes sense on some level, but the Coldplay reveal is interesting to say the least.
It seems that comedy tends to rely on an set-up with an unexpected reveal, whereas horror seems to be about the suspenseful build-up and reveal. This is my understanding, but my understanding could be completely flawed. Question 15: What do you like about writing comedy and what do you like about writing horror?
They are two sides of the same coin. Both evoke an emotional response, via setup and payoff, albiet opposites: Joy or Fear. Comedy, Horror, and Parenting are all more closely related than people think.
I have often felt that comedy and horror are a razor thin line away from each other... at least in movies... It is very easy to have a horror transition into comedy. Bad horror movies sometimes end up being hilarious. Bad comedies can simply be horrendous, but necessarily scary.
Question 16: Is there a question or a topic you were expecting me to ask that I have not?
No. I’ve learned to “manage my expectations”.
That seems a little bitey with the quotes and all. Ouch.
The good news is that we are on the home stretch, and even though we are not done, I want to thank you for lasting this long. Some people do not.
Question 17: If you were to make a straight up action movie, what action movie trope would you want to try and flip?
Ha. More about “managing my expectations” for the entertainment industry in general rather than this interview. If I were making an action movie, I would flip the “ex navy seal” trope and make it an ordinary guy, and make an action version of “Falling Down”.
I would watch that.
Now, I am nervous because it is time for me to flip the roles. Question 18: Are there any questions that you would like to ask me?
What’s your favorite animated movie and why?
This is a difficult one... so I will give you a few, and maybe in my reasoning I will land on one.
Fire and Ice by Bakshi... my absolute favorite as a kid. It is gorgeous, but due to the rotoscoping and, let's say, the not quite timeless material, I don't think it holds up that well.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm... quite possibly one of the best Batman stories I have ever seen in a theater. It is almost forgotten, but it was a great capstone to the 90's animated series.
Inside Out... is a great and nuanced story that is told in a very delightful and inventive way. That movie is Pixar hitting on all cylinders.
I know I am omitting a bunch of other really amazing animated movies, but those are the three I fall back on.
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not come in with?
That it's actually fun to be interviewed piecemeal.
I have found that this process is very interesting due to the amount of time the "interview" spans. People are sometimes in radically different places in their lives from beginning to end. For one interview I was doing, the person went from being a young married guy to being an expectant father... His tone of his answers at the end of the 20 questions were very different than when he began. It is an interesting process.
Here we go with the final question. Question 20: What's next? Be as vague or as specific, as concrete or philosophical, and as near term or long term as you would like.
I’m not sure what’s next but here’s what I want it to be, no matter what it is: New, Fun, and successful.
Thanks so much! This was a fun one. Everyone should follow Chris. He has his Comedy Film Nerds and Conversations from the Abyss podcasts. He has his book, "Pacify Me: A Handbook for the Freaked Out New Dad," that you can buy. He is in the process of fulfilling a graphic novel on Kickstarter (which I imagine will be available for purchase somewhere eventually), called Long Ago and Far Away. He has his documentary, “Ear Buds: The Podcasting Documentary” for sale and rent on all digital platforms now as well (it is a surprisingly poignant documentary that everyone who consumes anything on the internet anywhere should watch.)
I should have formatted this post much earlier today
Like REALLY HUNGRY
Not like for human flesh or anything, but hungry enough
I might not have had a significant lunch
If “significant lunch” is defined as “more than a bag of chips”
That could be an issue
I am planning on heading to Cincinnati Comic Expo this weekend
I will be hanging out with Bill Grapes
It will be awesome
I might be able to pick up some commissions whilst there
Commissions could be nice
As long as it is not another Plastic-Man v Godzilla
That was hard to do just because of the scale difference
I am in the middle of another 20 Questions interview, but I think this one will take a full year to get done (it might already be a year+)
Just checked, we are on month 13 of the interview
He spends extensive amounts of time away from computers
Anyone else want to do a 20 Questions?
Hit me up
Have a great week