Bad Kids Go the Hell, the best-selling comic book series, is coming to a theater near you as a horror-comedy motion picture – in production now! During Dallas Comic Con, I spoke with series writers and creators, Barry Wernick and Matt Spradlin. (Today, I’m on the Bad Kids set shooting a scene, but that’s a story for another time.)
AFC: You started writing this comic book during the [motion picture] writers’ strike? How did you even get motivated to do it then?
Matt: We were both living in Hollywood at the same time. We had both gone to see some terrible horror film in the middle of Beverly Hills. And when we left the theater we were standing behind a group of kids that went to Beverly Hills High School. And we just listened to them talk. They were just talking to each other. And it just kind of freaked us out because these kids that were seniors in High School sounded like they were 40 years old, after rehab, and divorced. So they were pretty jaded. And then we started swapping stories about our own schools. We both went to fairly snobby high schools. Barry went to the private school, I went to the public school but it had a bad reputation as being snotty.
Matt: Snooty. Snotty.
Bazza: Snooty? Snotty? Snotty. Snooty.
Matt: Snotty. So anyway, we were both coming off projects, and when the writer’s strike happened…
Bazza: Matthew had just sold a show to SyFy. I had just finished a movie. So we were writing a movie together. We said, you know what, let’s start writing a movie together. And that’s when the writers’ strike was actually going on and we had nothing to do with our movie. Basically, it was one of Matthew’s friends, said well…
Matt: It’s a guy who’s pretty big in the comics world. He now works for Fox. David Atchison – who had done a comic called Occult Crime Task Force – he was the one who suggested we turn it into a comic and we/I agreed.
Bazza: Matthew goes, “What do you think about turning it into a comic book series?” and I said, “Can we do that?! Is it possible?” And it was! Obviously. Antarctic Press really showed us, okay, this is what you need to do, because this was our first comic book series. We found artists that we could afford. And liked. That was good.
AFC: Very good!
Bazza: Anthony Vargas out of Chicago. And then Chris Allen also helped on pencils and ink, he’s out of San Antonio. Antarctic Press also helped with the colors. Before the first issue came out, Previews Magazine had this big feature, items staff pick thing, and we started. Before the first issue came out, studios were calling us about the movie.
Bazza: So here we were. We were stuck. Originally, we wrote a movie, we couldn’t sell it, couldn’t do anything with it because of the writers’ strike. Turn it into a comic book and before the first issue comes out, people are asking us, “Hey we want to turn this into a movie.” It was kinda like gosh, we should do this all the time. We really lucked out. The first issue sold out in a week, the second issue a week, and it just kinda…every issue sold out in one week. And then the graphic novel in its first print run sold out in one day.
Bazza: And so we had sort of been going back and forth with all these different studios’ smaller divisions saying, “you know, we want this,” and we’re like, well now we actually have a fan base do we want to just give it up? And they’re not offering much either. Basically. And so here we are today. And we were able to get it independently financed and still retain ownership rights.
Bazza: So now we’re shooting the live action feature film in Texas, in Austin at Spiderwood Studios and in Dallas on location. Various locations in Dallas and Austin. Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club will be playing the Headmaster! Which is kinda cool because, from what we were told, if you talk to any of the cast members from The Breakfast Club, they don’t want to do things that sort of pay an homage to Breakfast Club or even have any kind of connection to it. And we had been referred to as The Breakfast Club Meets The Grudge or Breakfast Club Meets Poltergeist.
Matt: And Then There Were None.
Bazza: But they’ve always sort of said, well they’re in detention, but it’s probably Breakfast Club gone really, really bad.
AFC: So were you influenced by The Breakfast Club?
Matt: We were definitely influenced by ‘80s movies in general. Movies like John Hughes’. I love all John Hughes’ kinda early movies. I love Heathers. Daniel Waters, his films. All those movies from the ‘80s. And then ‘80s horror films we really like too. It’s kind of like all those people were an influence on us.
Bazz: A lot of people assume it’s strictly a horror or a slasher and it’s really not. It’s a more of a comedy/thriller. And that’s really what it is. It’s a mystery. You don’t know. Spoiled rotten private school kids get locked in detention, they die off one by one, and you don’t know who’s doing it. Is it the kids? Is it teachers? Is it supernatural? Is it…well, you’ll have to read to find out!
AFC: I know! I’m halfway through. It’s just getting to the good stuff.
Bazz: All right!
AFC: I’ll have to go home and finish it.
Bazza: Yes, that’s right. It starts off…it’s the slow burn…
Matt: Slow burn. Slowww burn.
Bazza: We want you to hate these kids. In the movie, though, we made sure. We wrote the screenplay as well, but these kids are even worse. They are really, really bad.
Matt: They are really, really, really, really bad.
Bazza: Maybe we should change the name of the movie to Really, Really, Really Bad Kids Go To Hell.
Marc Donato: (walks up) I was just kissing Harley Quinn.
Bazza: That’s a cast member right here, Marc Donato.
Marc: Harley Quinn, yo, this is awesome.
AFC: Which role are you playing?
Marc: I’m playing Tarek. He’s like a computer geek, all about technology. Crashes my school! It’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be cool.
AFC: Had you read the comic?
Marc: I had not read the comic before. But I know they did the things in Toronto, the ComicCon. And a bunch of my friends actually are huge into comics and they read BKGTH. So when I put it on my Facebook that I got the film, everyone was like, “Ahh! You got Bad Kids Go To Hell?!”
Bazza: He actually read the script before the comic.
Marc: Yeah, exactly. The movie script, the adaptation of the comic book.
AFC: Which he said was like the 10th draft. So it’s going to be better?
Matt: I told her, it’s like the graphic novel was the first draft.
Bazza: So as we’ve gone through it and had ideas and kept on reworking it, yeah, basically, the movie is really good.
Marc: The script was fantastic. I read scripts, maybe like 10-15 scripts month, you know I just turn through the pages, but this one was actually like I want to read and I want to know what happens and I want to see what happens at the end. It’s like these twists and turns and it’s not like a regular kind of script you always read. It’s really fresh and it’s new and it’s cool.
AFC: I look forward to it. I’m excited about it! Now do you guys work well together? How do you co-write?
Bazza: Oh, it’s horrible.
Matt: We’re like a married couple.
Bazza: I know, it’s kind of funny.
AFC: Obviously you work well enough together to get your product out.
Matt: Well, we can rely on each other. At the end of the day he can rely on me to do what needs to be done and I can rely on him for what needs to be done.
Bazza: It is a really good collaborative effort in the way we work together because we’ll have a sit down session together and come up with ideas and maybe get an outline. And then, instead of writing the same thing at the same time, okay, you do this part and send it to me, then I’ll go and send it back. And its just sort of back and forth. It really is good when you have a writing partner because when you write your own stuff you’re looking at your own words you get lost in what you’re actually writing a lot of the times but when you have that other person to look at it – why is that person doing this? I don’t know? I just didn’t even think about it.
Matt: You can lose perspective, and it’s always nice to have a fresh perspective on something.
AFC: See things that you aren’t seeing.
AFC: We first got to know each other online. So, last question: Social media is huge now – Twitter, Facebook. How has it changed your work?
Matt: Without social media, there wouldn’t be a best-selling comic. There wouldn’t be a film.
Bazza: If you think about it, we’re independent guys. We went to SDCC last year where you’ve got Marvel and DC and Lucasfilms, you’ve got so many huge things going on there and people giving away things. Here, we’re independent guys we’ve got to sell our stuff. Because our credit cards are maxed out, you know, we’ve got to sell stuff, we’ve got to promote it somehow, but we don’t have those big marketing arms that these big studios have and if it weren’t for the social media and people telling everyone about it, things like that – it happened at SDCC. Starz Entertainment came and picked us out, they had their different people that wanted to pick out, they picked us out as one of the graphic novels they think fans would think really cool in the theater!
Bazza: They interviewed us and had us on their show Starz Studios. Starz Entertainment is looking at trying to get down to the set to do some behind the scenes interviews and things when we shoot. Yahoo Movies – same thing. It was all social media, they did an interview of us and I think they said we had like 38,000 hits on their site and they were like, “Well we want to do another interview because you weren’t even on the front page.” But it was through Facebook followers telling their friends and Twitter followers that independent guys like us are out there.
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