10 Questions With Paul Salamoff
With a career in movies, television and comics as well as successful Kickstarter projects, Paul Salamoff is a perfect person to talk to and subject to our latest 10 Questions interview. He was a great sport responding back with some interesting insight from a creator who’s done it all.
Graphic Policy: You’ve had a very varied career, Writer, Producer, Film Executive, Comic Book Creator, Author, and originally as a Special F/X Make-Up Artist, can you walk us through your career a bit?
Paul Salamoff: I fell in love with Movies and TV at a very young age growing up in Natick, MA. Fortunately my parents were very supportive of my interests and together we would watch Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Star Trek, Doctor Who and Space: 1999 to name just a few.
My Dad took me to a horror convention when I was 13 and I saw Tom Savini talk about the Make-up FX he did for Friday the 13th, Creepshow and Dawn of the Dead and I was floored. I decided at that moment that I wanted to make monsters for a living.
I was fortunate enough to get accepted to USC and moved to LA to pursue my career while at school. I worked on a number of student films and then through those contacts was introduced to Taylor White (of Creature Features) who at the time worked as the coordinator for Tony Gardner’s Alterian Studios.
He got me an interview and I was soon hired as a runner, but when I was not doing runs I was working on such films as Darkman, The Addams Family and the Swamp Thing TV series.
I went back to school for one more semester then I jumped in head first into the business and worked in FX for almost 14 years straight.
I didn’t expect to start working in the industry so quickly, so a few years in, after working on already a great many movies, I started to adjust my long-term goals. Mind you, I wasn’t jaded with FX at all, I just realized that I had a long journey ahead and may want to spread my wings in other directions to keep life interesting. Also Make-Up FX was on a bit of a down swing since it’s heydays in the 80’s.
I really loved to write, so whenever I got downtime between jobs I would write and hone my craft. I got some great advice early on working as a freelancer that “when you have $5,000 in the bank, live like you only have $1,000”. This mentality helped me save money and be financially stable, so when I wasn’t working I could focus on writing instead of worrying constantly where my next paycheck was coming from.
It wasn’t easy, but it worked and once I had a few scripts under my belt, people started taking me seriously and paid writing gigs started to present themselves. This eventually led me to getting a Manager and then an Agent.
I then decided to solely focus on my writing career which ironically lead me to producing and than I got the opportunity to become an Executive. I always joke that I started my career making monsters and now I am one.
I soon began working in DVD’s and video games and comic books. Believe it or not, but I still do all these things (other than FX) simultaneously. That’s what keeps life interesting. One week I could be working on a screenplay or comic and then the next week I could be producing video game marketing assets or developing projects with my production company. It’s never boring
GP: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?
PS: A number of years ago I was one of the producers of the 34th Saturn Awards. One of my jobs was to help with the gift bags and coordinate with the different places donating stuff. Darren Davis of Bluewater Comics had donated a bunch of Ray Harryhausen Presents comics and I love Ray Harryhausen’s stuff, So Bluewater really stood out for me. The week before I had a meeting with my agents and we were talking about some of my screenplays, and they had told me we might want to think about turning some of my scripts into graphic novels.
I got in touch with Darren and he told me that Bluewater doesn’t do a lot of creator-owned properties but they were looking for a writer for Black Scorpion. They wanted to do a redux with a Batman Begins/Dark Knight feel to it.
Darren read one of my screenplays as a sample and the next week I pitched them my take. Fortunately it was exactly what they were looking for. So they had me write up a treatment, which they then sent to Roger Corman who approved it, and low and behold, I was writing Black Scorpion.
That led to Puppy Power: Bo Obama and issues of Vincent Price Presents and eventually to Logan’s Run which I am currently working on the third series called Logan’s Run: Rebirth.
I love to write. It’s when I’m most happy and most in control. Obviously making a movie is a collaborative art form and unless you are a true auteur, your vision is going to be distilled by the time it makes it onto the big screen. I found as a comic writer, other than the artist I was collaborating with, I was able to get my true vision, my true voice across and still in the context of a visual medium. That is very exciting to me as a writer because all I really want at the end of the day is to see my words come to life.
GP: Having been involved in so many different forms of entertainment and in so many different roles, are there any you’ve enjoyed more than others?
PS: I consider myself a Writer first. That’s what I enjoy doing the most. It’s where I feel completely in control and I feel it’s really where I shine. I couldn’t be more proud of the success I’m having with Discord and now with Tales of Discord. I really feel they say a lot about me as a writer and what I’m capable of creating.
GP: You recently sold your supernatural horror spec “The Last Breath …” to “O” & “Scott Pilgrim” producers Eric Gitter and Peter Schwerin at Chickie the Cop Entertainment. How’d that come about?
PS: I was fortunate to be recently named one of the top 100 up and coming screenwriters by The Tracking Board and I was listed with two of my scripts. One called In a World… had just gone out wide recently and made a big splash and got me a lot of meetings, so that made sense. But The Last Breath… was a few years old and had only gone out in a limited capacity. So the assumption there is that I guess execs liked it and passed it around and that’s why it made it on the list.
I had known Schwerin and Gitter because they had been circling my haunted house spec Beyond Repair. They got a hold of The Last Breath… and really fell in love with it. So we were able to close that deal really quickly because of our previous dealings. The great news is that one of the things negotiated was for me to Direct it. So I certainly hope the movie gets made sooner than later.
GP: Is there a difference to you writing a comic book or for other entertainment like movies or television?
PS: I find that they all have their own idiosyncrasies but I like to fancy myself a storyteller and not limit myself to one type of medium. Each one whether it be scripts, books, short stories or comics have their own rules which keeps me on my toes but I don’t see much of a difference as far as the act of writing goes. Typically, I’ve worked out the story already in my head before I sit down and type it out, so it’s more of a formatting issue.
I started out as a screenwriter because I’ve been obsessed with movies from a young age and my ultimate goal was to see my stories imagined on the screen. That hasn’t waned but as I delve deeper and deeper especially into graphic novels and novels I have grown more at peace with the idea that certain stories will only live in certain mediums.
That’s not to say that any of my stories wouldn’t work in a number of mediums, but like I said they are all different animals and the stories have to be reworked to fit in different formats.
My project The Silent Planet is a screenplay, graphic novel and novel and they all handle the material in their own way.
GP: You have the prequel to Discord coming out called Tales Of Discord, where did the idea of the world come to you?
PS: Because of the success of Discord, AAM/Markosia had discussed a sequel and I already had a very definitive idea for the second chapter that is going to truly stun readers. I knew the sequel story while I was writing the first graphic novel so there are things set up for it in the first story.
With that said, I was getting a lot of great feedback from the fans and one thing I heard consistently was how much they liked the members of Team War Hammer and it was a shame you only got to spend such a limited time with them before they got killed.
I realized there were certainly stories to tell about the team before the incidents of the first graphic novel but I didn’t want to derail the work being done on the sequel. So I got the idea of doing one-shot prequel comics and I would use different artists for each one with Giuseppe drawing certain pages that take place in the present day. This way he could focus on the sequel.
These “Tales of Discord” will not only give the reader a look into the different personalities of each member but will also lay the groundwork for what’s to occur in the sequel.
What excites me most about these is that they are NOT origin stories. They are character dramas that really get you into the psychology of each one of them. For instance Tales of Discord: Iridian deals with Iridian’s coming to terms with her sexuality as well as how her girlfriend Teresa came into her life. How you feel about this relationship is vital for the emotional turmoil that is going to take place in the sequel. Moiré & Chromatic shows the origin of Team War Hammer while Solaris & Moonshadow deals with sibling rivalry and Massive deals with celebrity and what truly defines a hero. Sinew is a flat out horror story in the vein of a Hammer Film. So it’s a mixed bag of stories and themes that I’m really proud of.
GP: You used Kickstarter for the comic, what’d you learn from using the crowd funding site?
PS: I learned that its more physically and emotionally taxing than I could have imagined. I can’t thank my incredible Backers enough for their support. It was really a nail biter at the end and at times it was looking like it was going to fall short. But we made it across the goal (and then some) and I’ve been showering my Backers with extra bonuses as a thanks.
I honestly don’t know if I would do another Kickstarter because one thing I learned is that it’s a full time job managing your campaign and you really have to be careful how you market it. The last thing you want is to piss off your friends with nagging emails every other day. So it takes a LOT of strategy. Fortunately I didn’t piss anybody off and I got a lot of compliments of how I ran my campaign.
GP: What types of hurdles have you met creating comics, and any lessons learned you can share?
PS: You’ve got to do it for the love of the medium. Unfortunately the sad reality is that there is really not a lot of money in the comic business, especially for writers. I write comics because I have a passion for it and I get to tell stories that are undiluted and express me as a storyteller.
If you’re trying to break in, I highly suggest either trying to do a comic on your own or work for companies that are willing to work with new talent. You may not get paid or only make a small amount, but at the end of the day you’ll have a physical comic with your name on the cover.
Most of my early comics were low-paying gigs but they helped to establish me as a writer worth checking out and because of those comics, it opened the door for my graphic novels and my original stories.
Also when you do get the opportunity to tell your own stories try to expand the medium and tell unique stories. I read so many comics these days that are just fluff or seem to be just marking time. Comics, unlike movies, give you limitless possibilities. You can truly explore whatever ideas you want.
Do something special that will make people stand up and take notice.
GP: What advice do you have for someone breaking into the entertainment industry?
PS: The 3rd edition of my book On the Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette just came out and if a non-fiction book can have a theme, this one would be “Everybody has a story”. Meaning that there are as many unique stories of people breaking in to the industry as there are people working in it and On the Set is filled with these stories from some of the top people working in the industry.
The best advice is be yourself and love what you do and people will take notice. Obviously have some kind of talent, but don’t feel that you have to be the greatest at what you do to be noticed or to succeed. I’ve got more jobs in this business because I was reliable and easy to work with and I have integrity than how talented I was.
If you want to succeed as a writer again you MUST be passionate about what you are writing. If you’re not, stop and move onto another story. No matter what the genre, passion will always make the story come alive and engage the reader.
Find that subject that you truly connect with. A good start (and an old adage) is to write what you know.
Also don’t write for trends. You must understand that by the time your script would be in good enough shape to sell (not even be made and distributed), the trend will be waning or even over and your script may be outdated or outmoded.
It’s important to know your genre and especially what has come before it but don’t be fooled into thinking that if you mimic something successful someone will buy it. Write a good story. That’s what people like.
And finally keep in mind that there are hundreds of reasons why a great script doesn’t get made, so don’t take rejection personally. If you do it will crush you. Keep positive and trust in your abilities because believe it or not sometimes it’s just plain old luck that gives you that extra edge.
GP: What can we expect from you next?
PS: I’m out promoting On the Set and will be doing a live webinar series in late January with some high profile guests. I’m also still working on Tales of Discord. The first 2 issues are complete and the other 3 will be done within the next month. Right now they’re exclusive to my Kickstarter Backers, but they’ll start rolling out probably starting in December with the collected trade paperback being released in the summer. I will shortly be announcing a new graphic novel project that’s more fantasy-based ala Conan and Red Sonja with a sci-fi element.
In the film world, I’m developing a lot of film properties and have had some recent near misses on some high profile movies, but sometimes even not getting “that gig” has a silver lining.