Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Five-Q with Brett Weldele, The Surrogates

One of the coolest things about going to comic book conventions is that you might get to meet someone who has worked on something so popular that it becomes a major motion picture. It's cool to me because I feel like every writer or artist dreams of seeing their work adapted or produced for the big screen.

Today's Five-Q guest is someone who has achieve that dream. His name is Brett Weldele, and we talked about his motivations as an artist, his work on The Surrogates, and his recent work with Image Comics.

Brett Weldele
Aaron David Harris: Tell us how you broke into comics?

Brett Weldele: I went to [Savannah College of Art and Design] in the late 90s and met some editors I would later work with. It was five years between when i met Chris Staros at Top Shelf to when I started on Surrogates. So you never know when something might happen. I also went to the big comic shows that were around back then. Nowhere near what’s available today in both scale and quantity. There was San Diego and Chicago and that’s about it! I stood in many portfolio review lines. So, in short, networking.

ADH: How would you describe your art style? What other artists have influenced you?

BW: Expressive and textural. The main (artists) from my school days would be John Buscema, Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Romita JR, Chris Warner and Den Beauvais.

ADH: What was your favorite comic to work on? Why?

BW: Probably the most fun to this day was the SOUTHLAND TALES prequel comics. It was exciting working on Richard Kelly’s next project after Donnie Darko. He would send me screenplays and I got a ton of leeway to adapt them to comics. He was really open to collaboration and there weren’t constraints put on size and page numbers. It was a very organic project.

Weldele worked on The Surrogates with
Robert Vendetti, which was later
adapted into a feature film starring
Bruce Wills.
ADH: You worked on The Surrogates with Robert Vendetti. It was later adapted into a film starring Bruce Willis. Many artists dream of having there work adapted into film. Was that also a dream of yours? Can you talk about what that process was like?

BW: Oh yeah. Movies were my first love. When I discovered comics a few years later, I saw myself making movies on paper. No budgets or physical limitations. total freedom as opposed to making movies. When I was at the Premiere of SURROGATES in LA, it was an extremely emotional experience to see your name huge on the screen. It feels substantial. Contracts were traded back and forth for about a year. It took  awhile, but the option on the film rights got finalized and the screenwriters got the script finished right before the Writer’s Guild strike hit. Once the strike hit, no one could shoot anything that hadn’t been finalized. A lot of movies got shut down. Because of that SURROGATES got greenlit and it was being filmed six months later. Basically, light speed at Hollywood pace. From the time of the option getting signed to when the movie hit was around 2 years, which is fast. There was so much luck at play.

ADH: How much involvement did you have? What were your thoughts of the final product?

BW: Very little. Involvement is a matter of leverage. If everyone is after your project, then you can negotiate for more. That wasn’t really the case with SURROGATES. Ultimately you have to be okay with that when you sell your project to a giant corporation. I think (the final product is) pretty good. One of my big fears was that it wasn’t going to be and I would have to do interviews and I didn’t know what I was going to say. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. I do wish they’d kept Steeplejack in the movie and I like the less happy ending of the book.

ADH: What are you currently working on?

BW: I just finished a short comic adaptation of THE HAMMER TRINITY play for The Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. I’m also about to start a run on an Image Comics book.