By Derek May:
Not long ago, producers from entertainment website IGN reached out to our own Elizabeth Gracen to talk about one of her most enduring genre roles outside of the Highlander universe. In 1990, Ms. Gracen starred as Jasmin in actor/director Bill Bixby’s final outing as Dr. David Banner in The Death of the Incredible Hulk. Thirty years later, Scott Collura and Clint Gage decided to honor not only Bixby’s Hulk but acknowledge the first attempts at an interconnected live-action Marvel universe in a fascinating installment of their short-documentary series.
Scott and Clint’s love for genre has fueled them for years as both fans and curators for IGN. So we sat down with these two fascinating aficionados to pick their brains about their fandom, careers, and what they might have in store for us next.
DM: Scott and Clint! It’s a pleasure to meet you both, and thank you so much for talking with us. Let’s kick things off by having you tell us a little about yourselves and what you do over there at IGN.
CG: I’m Clint Gage, Managing Features Producer for IGN and CineFix (our film snob YouTube channel!). I’ve been writing and producing video essays for years, and I’m a writer and filmmaker as well, every time I get the chance.
SC: Hey, Derek! I’m Scott Collura, Executive Editor of Entertainment Features at IGN. Basically, I oversee all think-pieces, columns, lists, and any other movies, TV, or comics-related feature content on IGN. That includes things like our mini-doc on the Hulk TV movies.
Clint Gage (L) and Scott Collura (R)
DM: I know IGN covers a lot throughout the entertainment world, but you both focus on movies/television. Was that an area you both always wanted to work in?
CG: Yeah, movies are the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I did the whole “film school then move right to LA” thing, so landing in a job that lets me talk about movies every day makes sense.
SC: Same for me. I did the whole “film school and then can’t find a job” thing, which led me to going to work on a cruise ship of all things for three years. It was a great opportunity to travel the world, and it’s also where I took up really writing about entertainment in earnest (when in my off-hours).
DM: When Elizabeth told me about the documentary for the Hulk series you interviewed her for, I was very intrigued. Then I was really impressed with the final product, especially how you worked in both an homage to the Bixby/Ferrigno era as well as the larger idea of the first live-action Marvel universe. Was that concept something you set out to explore or did it evolve over the course of the production?
CG: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. All of us on the features team at IGN try to find specific stories that speak to larger ideas. So from the start with this one the goal was to speak to the difficulty of pulling off a major interconnected universe like that. There are so many things that can go wrong and derail it. It’s crazy how the modern MCU has worked out. Kind of a miracle that we take for granted.
SC: As Clint said, we had that shared universe idea in mind from the get-go, but certainly many aspects of these mini-docs come about during the research and, in particular, the interview process. The tribute to Bixby portion, in particular, was something that I don’t think would’ve worked as well had we not been able to speak to Elizabeth and Bixby’s other co-stars from the film and gotten their heartfelt memories of him.
CG: For Inside Stories, which is the series these are all a part of, it’s been an evolving thing. We started looking for interesting “movies that almost got made” kind of stories, which led to Batman Year One. Then the Batman Beyond piece grew out of a different story that wasn’t going to be an Inside Story at all. But we got all these interviews and started going through them and realized there was an interesting angle with the origins of the show and how nobody really wanted to do it, so it developed from there. All that to say, we’re pretty flexible on the ideas and where they come from! You have any good ones?!
SC: I think also one of the tricks with these is making sure we’re not repeating ourselves in terms of subject matter. There are a thousand Batman movies that almost got made, and we know our audience would eat up those stories. And maybe we’ll touch on some of them eventually, but right now we’re trying to find topics that are a little more off the beaten path.
DM: And about how long does it take to complete one of these mini-docs from conceptualization to release?
CG: It all depends on the interviews. It’s a kind of constant weighing of where we’re at in the process. With the MCU piece, it took a VERY long time. The script was done a year before the thing actually came out. And there were stretches where we were waiting on folks to get back to us, and we put the whole thing down for a little bit knowing that we needed all the original players to participate for it to really be worth it. So we had long stretches where we weren’t working on it all.
When we finally got everybody recorded, post was another thing. We had illustrators and animators helping out, so that took a while too, but really it all depends on the timing of the interviews.
SC: I think we're also at a point where finding the right ideas is proving to be time-consuming! But hopefully worth it in the long run.
DM: What is the process like for reaching out to the original creators? Do you generally manage to interview everyone you want for your documentaries?
CG: Mostly it’s reaching out through management, and we have a pretty good success rate with it. Although, we’ve completely abandoned ideas specifically because we didn’t get some of the key players. You have to identify who you absolutely need to get for the piece to be worth doing.
SC: Once in a while, we will track someone down through less-than-conventional means, like the guy we managed to find on Cameo!
CG: Oh right, and we tracked down Gerald Di Pego through mutual friends in Santa Ynez!
DM: One thing I noticed in watching your mini-docs is that they have a very journalistic feel; they present the story and background without injecting much bias or commentary, aside from those presented by the people directly involved. It’s quite refreshing when most channels seem out to sensationalize or overdramatize events. Is that a conscious approach on your parts?
CG: All journalistic credit and blame go to Scott. I’m just the producer.
SC: Clint is being modest. He taught me everything I know!
But yes, we don’t see these as opinion pieces at all. The goal of the Inside Stories docs is to do just that: tell the “inside story” about an aspect of popular culture that isn’t generally known. The Hulk piece is a great example of that. Since it’s about the TV movies featuring the character from the late 80s/early 90s, there wasn’t a ton of behind the scenes info on the films. There was no internet back then. And they weren’t big-budget theatrical films that got EPK packages made around them or anything like that. So really, our doc sort of stands now as the definitive record of the making of those movies. I think I can say both Clint and I are very proud of that fact. Nobody needs to hear OUR opinions about those movies when we’re just trying to tell the story of how these beloved films came about and the impact they had.
DM: So can you hint at any upcoming docs we might look forward to?
CG: Part of the deal with these is that you need to have half a dozen ideas in some stage of development for one of them to work out. So we’ve always got a few that we feel good about, some that are weird longshots, and some that require the ghost of Gene Roddenberry. So we can hint, but at this stage it’s hard to tell which one will show up next.
SC: All I’ll add to that is the ghost of Rod Serling might also come into play at some point.
DM: Clint, I see that you’ve worked a lot in comedy. Are you always looking for ways to inject some humor into your work? What sort of comedy do you gravitate toward most?
CG: I sort of grew up professionally doing sketch comedy in the mid-2000s. It’s where I started, and it’s where I learned to edit and shoot and all the other technical skills that you have to just do yourself when you’re producing stuff on the cheap. So I always kind of have to fight the urge to make a joke out of everything.
I think my favorite stuff is the more absurd comedy. Also any spoof that’s a good example of the thing it’s actually spoofing. I know Scott shares my love for Look Around You (really just season 2 when they were in studio), a British show from Peter Serafinowicz that spoofs those old 70s educational programs, so let’s go with that.
DM: And Scott, I hear you’re writing a book about one of your all-time favorite films. Tell us a little about that and why you wanted to write it.
CG: WAIT, YOU ARE?! HOW HAVE WE NOT TALKED ABOUT THIS?!
SC: I have been in love with the Arthurian legend film Excalibur since I first snuck it as a kid on cable TV, and at a certain point, I realized that many of the people who made the film were sadly no longer with us. Again, most films and shows from back when didn’t come ready made with DVD extra features from behind the scenes, and there is very little out there about Excalibur. So I decided to try to track down as many people as possible who worked on the film and get their stories about it down on paper! (Clint, I promise I’ll get you a signed copy of the book.)
DM: Since we obviously share an affection for epic historical sword-related movies, I just have to ask: what are your thoughts on the upcoming Highlander reboot and the recent casting of Henry Cavill?
CG: I stan Clancy Brown so . . . no comment.
SC: There can be only one.
I want to thank both of you once again for taking the time to talk with us and for sharing your love of entertainment. We really look forward to seeing what you come out with next and hope we can talk more again!
Derek May, a native of San Antonio, TX, is editor-in-chief for Flapper Press. He has written nearly 50 movie reviews for movieweb.com and completed 13 original feature film and television screenplays, many of which have been winners or finalists in such prestigious competitions as the Walt Disney and Nicholl Fellowships, the Austin Film Festival, and the Creative World Awards. He served as a judge for 10 years for the Austin Film Festival and Texas Film Institute screenplay competitions. His latest project has been the highly acclaimed stop-motion animation fan series Highlander: Veritas, currently in production on its second season.