411mania.com Interviews: Writer and Director Kevin Tancharoen
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 03.28.2014
411mania.com speaks with the creative mind behind the hit Mortal Kombat: Legacy series, writer and director Kevin Tancharoen, for an exclusive interview. Tancharoen discusses his new web short, Gable 5, what's next for Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and more.
Writer and director Kevin Tancharoen is the creative mind behind the hit live-action web series, Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Following the release of his short film, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, Tancharoen expanded on the idea of his short into an ongoing web series with Mortal Kombat: Legacy that became a global hit. The second season recently debuted last year. Tanchoroen also directed the Glee: The 3D Concert Movie documentary, released in 2011, and the feature musical, Fame, released in 2009. His latest project is the online short, Gable 5, a sci-fi/action project that stars Eliza Dushku (Bring It On, Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and James Morrison (24). The new short has now launched on Machinima Prime, and it's reception with audiences will determine if we will eventually see more delving into this intriguing story of a nefarious scientist, Professor Gable, forcing an innocent woman (Dushku) into a type of captive scenario in order to harvest the chemicals or her emotion. Here's what Kevin had to say on Gable 5 and the future of Mortal Kombat: Legacy:
Jeffrey Harris: Between making the Mortal Kombat: Legacy series, was Gable 5 something you had kicked around before, or was this an idea that came to you recently?
Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah, no. It's been about—my writing partner and I, Scott Morton who wrote it, we've really been talking about this for the past couple of years actually. Just in discussion, just randomly talking about it. And the opportunity to do it came when I talked to Machinima about it. So we had this idea laid out for a couple of years now. So it's been something that I always wanted to do, but hadn't had the opportunity to invest some time into it. And it was kind of like the perfect storm where Eliza [Dushku] happened to be available, James Morrison happened to be available, and we wrote it very quickly. We actually wrote the entire season pretty fast actually to put things into perspective, and then we went and shot it. But I'm very happy to see it come to life because it's something I've wanted to do for a few years now.
Jeffrey Harris: When you say season, do you mean you have a whole web series planned going off of this or something even more?
Kevin Tancharoen: We have multiple stories planned. I'm hoping we get to do more. This is kind of like—you see that model now; this whole incubation model taking place in multiple realms. Amazon is kind of doing this now, where they do multiple pilots and put it out there to the world and survival of the fittest; whichever one does the best ends up getting to do more. So we have multiple stories to tell, but this is the only one that we've shot so far.
Jeffrey Harris: Do you want to take this as a similar model or maybe even furthere where, I don't know if you know the comic Powers?
Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah, I do. I do.
Jeffrey Harris: So now PlayStation Network is producing a one-hour episodic drama series based on the Powers comic. For years they've tried to get this show off the ground. First it was a movie. FX couldn't get this off the ground into a series. And now it's finally happening on the PSN as a one-hour drama. What do you think of that?
Kevin Tancharoen: I think it's all very exciting. When you look at all of this new content flying out there, I really like that it's starting to break the traditional mold. We've been so comfortable with just traditional episodic television, based off the technology, right? You have cable, you have TV, you've got 22 minutes, or you've got 45 minutes. Or you have a movie, two hours, or whatever. And I like that we're now kind of opening the doors to multiple media platforms. You got PlayStation. You got Xbox. You got Machinima. You got Hulu. Netflix. You got so many options. And for me, that means there's just going more content and more original content. And that to me is incredibly exciting as a content creator.
Jeffrey Harris: Machinima also just announced that they picked up the new live-action Street Fighter web series. Do you think you've started something here with Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which debuted in 2011? Do you think you created a bit of a snowball effect here?
Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah, you know a lot of people have given us credit for that, and I really think that's phenomenal. I would like to say I intentionally did it, but I sure did not. It's like a happy accident. The fact that Mortal Kombat: Rebirth came out for the first time, and I think people saw that there were some serious cinematic production value on the internet. And then when we did Legacy, we wanted to step it up a notch. I was just very excited that was one of the first of its kind because as soon as that hit, then you saw Halo getting made. Then you see Street Fighter. And you see a lot of this digital content that is competing with content on TV. And I'm very excited to see those things starting to get formed. And even just straight-up fan films. I see so many fan films getting made on such a high level, and a lot of them reach out to me and say they were inspired by Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and Legacy. And I think that's phenomenal. I think another one that kind of started it was Dan Trachtenberg's Portal short. It was phenomenal. It was great. I just like in general that fan films are kind of getting made because technology—
Jeffrey Harris: For fan films, some of these are very well made.
Kevin Tancharoen: Absolutely. Technology and younger people are growing up with the tools readily available. So you got a lot of these 16-20 year olds who are just masters of After Effects already, and they're like grabbing a 5D and shooting stuff over the weekend and going on Video Co-Pilot and learning how to do visual effects and putting it out on YouTube. It's just like this new generation—personally, I think it's just going to get younger and younger and younger. So it's really exciting to see the new wave of artists coming out.
Jeffrey Harris: What's going on with Mortal Kombat: Legacy? You keep leaving us hanging at the end of every season. Liu Kang joined Shang Tsung and the Netherrealm. Is Earthrealm just screwed at this point?
Kevin Tancharoen: *Laughs* We're actually talking about doing more right now. I'm getting ready to talk to the game creators about doing a third because we all know we can't just leave the audience hanging with that shot of Liu Kang vs. Kung Lao. So we're definitely talking about it right now to figure out the best way to kind of close the chapter and continue the Legacy series.
Jeffrey Harris: There were reports recently that you were also attached to do a movie? Can you talk about that at all?
Kevin Tancharoen: I unfortunately ended up departing the project because I just didn't feel like—it wasn't the right time. And also it wasn't the—we were also talking to the producers and we also felt like Legacy had a lot more of the authenticity that the audiences had wanted. It was really hard actually to try and tell the stories we wanted in a movie, in a movie length, because there are just so many characters. And we want to tell so many of those stories, so we kind of just had to think about doing more Legacy series because then we could tell multiple stories in multiple episodes, and it just felt right.
Jeffrey Harris: But you do plan on continuing with Legacy at some point in the future?
Kevin Tancharoen: Yes, that's the intention.
Jeffrey Harris: Can you give us any hints on any characters we could see or any characters you'd like to do?
Kevin Tancharoen: One character that I'm dying to do that I haven't been able to do yet, that I really am going to push for is Cabal. Cabal, and I want to see Jax with his metal arms. Those are the two big marquee names that I really want to do.
Jeffrey Harris: Let's get some big metal arms on Michael Jai White and make it happen.
Kevin Tancharoen: Exactly. He will look very badass with those metal arms.
Jeffrey Harris: I'm very intrigued by the plot of Gable 5. Now I watched the short and then I read a synopsis, so I'm curious. Is this project that Professor Gable is pitching the military a façade for what he is really doing?
Kevin Tancharoen: That's the thing. That's something we definitely have played with. We are playing with the fact that Gable has a very personal motive here, and he's just using the government façade to benefit himself. So yeah, that's actually a bit part of the mystery. And we don't reveal the motive until the very, very end of the season. But yeah, it's all a chess game, and I just like playing with the government espionage of it all and interjecting it with some sci-fi and throwing a little bit of The Truman Show in there and getting violent with it. There is definitely something up his sleeve that he is not telling anybody, not even his coworkers.
Jeffrey Harris: The synopsis said that he unearths five people who are the next step in human evolution. And then in the short, he appears to be trying to harvest the chemicals of emotion from Eliza Dushku's character. Am I misreading things here or did the idea change over time?
Kevin Tancharoen: No, no, you're not misreading things at all. I'll tell you just the main core concept that me and the writer have always wanted to do. We're big fans of gritty, grounded material, and I've always really, really wanted to figure out what's the grounded, what's the District 9, the gritty version of a real X-Men story? And we didn't want to it, "Oh these guys are mutants and they naturally have some certain powers." We always thought it would be a product of a medical experiment gone wrong. So that was the core of the concept and something that would be threaded throughout the series, so it's kind of the formation of how it comes to be.
Jeffrey Harris: The short has a great cast with Eliza Dushku, James Morrison and Steve Harris. How did you like getting to work with them all here?
Kevin Tancharoen: I loved working with them. I was already huge fans of all of them…so to get them on board this project was amazing. I was very lucky to get them.
Gable 5 is now available on Machinima Prime. You can also watch the short in the above player. Thank you to Kevin Tancharoen for taking the time to speak with us.