Joel decided to open his interview by writing his own introduction, which was a bit odd, but it was better than mine, so here it is:
History seems to have been kind to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the show that makes fun of bad movies that was created and produced in Minneapolis by a group of novice TV writers and performers. During its ten year run it received many Emmy nominations and also won the Peabody award for excellence in broadcasting. In September the show was listed as one of "The top 100 television shows of all time" by Time.com . MST3K's creator, Joel Hodgson has chosen to emerge with a new movie riffing show called "Cinematic Titanic" featuring the original cast of MST3K. Last week Cory Doctorow raved about C.T's first DVD on BoingBoing.net by saying "Cinematic Titanic is Joel Hodgson's latest project, and it kicks ass."
Whoa! Thanks for that Intro and thanks for inviting me to be interviewed here on Slashdot. I can't wait. I'm so ready. Just watch the tech-spin I put on these answers to your questions - boy - yeah.
What do you think of KTMA episodes being available (Score:4, Insightful)
by antifoidulus (807088)
on sites like the Digital Archive Project. I know many current and former MST3k staffers have shown support, but I am interested in what you think about the early stuff (KTMA era and season 1 era) episodes being available for all to see. In the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide there are a couple of statements telling us not to go seek those out because they aren't very good, but fans have encoded them anyway. Does it still bother you? And also, can we please have the master tapes for the first 3 KTMA episodes? Please!
As far as the first three episodes, I haven't the faintest idea where they might be. I would love to see them myself.
The KTMA episodes are important to me. It was the beginning of it all, but be warned: by today's standards, they're sort of slow moving. The KTMA days show the origin of where we figured out how to riff on a movie. I can say this now because I have so much distance from it. To me, it's like watching an early video of your favorite band playing at a house party-- all the elements are there, but they just haven't figured out how to arrange them yet. If you're interested in the process as much as the product, you may get something from them. I'm sure a five minute clip on YouTube will suffice. For me, it all crystallized when we made a five minute "sell tape" to bring to Stu Smiley at Comedy Channel. Taking our best riffs and visual gags from 22 shows and editing them tightly together made it clear to me where this was all going. Getting the resources to build a makeshift studio and work on the show full time for a year was all we then needed to take our game to the level of riffs most people identify with MST3K.
Pissed off any target? (Score:5, Interesting) by sammyo (166904)
Has any actor/writer/director been legitimately peeved by your often acrid, yet so very accurate commentary?
I've never met anyone who had a problem with MST3K on that level. Actors understand that they have little control over the end product of a movie. Most seem very human about the bad movies they are in, like they're subjects in home videos from a long time ago. But let's be honest, they're actors and it gives them attention. Sly producers with marginal product know that processes like MST3K and now Cinematic Titanic can sometimes give a movie a new life. In cases like "Manos, the Hands of Fate" and "The Giant Spider Invasion", it can make their films much more valuable. I'm also sure some producers felt like we let them off the hook -- like they never meant the films to be taken seriously in the first place.
Could you make it today? (Score:5, Interesting) by bigbigbison (104532)
It seems that cable channels are becoming just as timid as network stations (who of course own nearly all of them). Could MST3K get on the air today?
There are lots and lots of channels on which MST3K could appear or Cinematic Titanic. What's hard to find is the independently owned UHF channels like KTMA that will let you goof around for 90 minutes a week while you are figuring it all out.
What do you do in your own off-time? (Score:5, Interesting) by KC7GR (473279)
What do you do when you're not lampooning bad movies? What do you do in the way of hobbies or relaxation? Favorite books? Heck, for that matter, what do you LIKE to see in terms of movies or animation?
Thanks for asking. My hobby is stage magic. I've been interested in it since I was about eight years old. Ask any magician -- magic can be a richly satisfying hobby. Come to think of it -- That may explain why there are so many magicians out there who aren't particularly entertaining.
Permission and Sets (Score:5, Interesting) by Avatar8 (748465)
Do you have to get permission from the target movie's owning company to use/abuse it? Has this caused limitations of content for your treatment? What movie(s) did you really want to review but were denied for some reason?
It's all about cost. Luckily, the movies that are the most fun to riff on are also the cheapest. Now that we're self-financing, it's fortunate the way things went.
Public Domain (Score:5, Interesting) by eldavojohn (898314)
What is your opinion on public domain laws? As someone who creates content but also relies on making derivative works of other content, do you support it? What do you think is a desirable length for something to become public domain?
I think what's going on with Creative Commons is fascinating. The concept of an artist being able to "dial in" the way they'd like the rights to their content to be used and reused is profound. For most of the public domain titles that we've used, it's a matter of the garbage not being taken out. Basically, they forgot to apply for a copyright so it in fact lapsed into the public domain.
I think public domain laws are not strict enough. 70 years beyond the life of the author is ridiculously long-- it should be cut in half. Now that we're on the subject, the Sonny Bono Term Extension Act seems suspect too (this act adds another 20 years onto the 70 years already in effect - exactly which 120 year old 'creative type' is this act supposed to benefit?). I also feel that the public domain should be merged with the national park service, but don't get me started.
Why'd you stop? (Score:5, Interesting) by damn_registrars (1103043)
Really, there's no shortage of bad movies still being made that deserve the MST3K treatment. Did you just get tired of mocking bad movies?
No, I loved working on the show -- I created it. It was the perfect job. I left the show because I was not getting along with my partner in the venture. After the fifth season, he and I were on the verge of a fight that I think would have threatened the survival of the show. I decided to step down, which was a bit of a personal tragedy for me. I created the appearance to the press that I had other plans, but I didn't. It was all to keep the thing alive. On the bright side, it worked-- the show lived on. On the downside, I felt like an important part of my creative life was cut short -- but now I'm working on fixing that, by getting everyone back together in the form of Cinematic Titanic. And I'm glad to mention that everyone's improved at what they were already great at -- movie riffing.
Sci-Fi Channel Years (Score:5, Interesting) by eldavojohn (898314)
I had heard rumors that Sci-Fi was the end of MST3K. I know people that have argued whether it was quality or requirements of a story arc in Sci-Fi's contract that caused the show's viewership to fall, why do you think the show eventually went off the air? What was your opinion of it at the end? What was the biggest mistake MST3K made?
I wasn't there during the SciFi years, so I don't have an opinion about it. MST3K had an incredibly long life, 10 years and 172 shows. Can you name five shows that have done that? If it died, it died at a ripe old age. That's kind of like asking "What did I do wrong?" as you're putting your seventeen year old dog to sleep.
How much improv? (Score:5, Interesting) by xPsi (851544)
Obviously, a huge amount of energy went into writing a typical MST3K show so that it recreated the feel of a bunch of sharp-witted pals staying up late at night over beers and pizza making fun of a bad movie. Nevertheless, it seems like as a group of talented comedian/actors, after watching so many campy movies with such vast bounties of ripe, low hanging fruit, it would be just too tempting to blurt out something amusing that deviated from the script. How many of the remarks made during a typical MST3K show (i.e. during the featured movies) would you say were improvised and how many were scripted?
No, blurting out 'something' was never a problem for any one of us, but when movie riffing is your job, you have to build places into the creative process where you can be loose and say whatever comes to mind. The riffs we made were all products of several passes at improvising to a movie. This usually happens in the writing room. You take the best and shape those into the show.
Box Set Frustrations (Score:5, Interesting) by eldavojohn (898314)
My frustrations abound with my attempts to collect the Licensed DVDs of your MST3K material. Currently I have no method of acquiring the tenth box set ($250 on eBay?!) and Rhino has some insane pricing scheme which amounts to $10-$15 a disc. Why did Best Brains Inc. go with Rhino? Why after all that effort to make this material free online (at one time I think there was a dedicated server) are they so expensive and hard to get a hold of? Will Rhino go after me if I continue to own and share tapes and files of MST3K? The mantra always was to keep on circulating the tapes--and with the advent of bittorrent, that's never been easier--but now that they are one by one becoming licensed by Rhino, is that legal?
I may be misunderstanding your question, but it sounds to me like you want me to give you permission to illegally copy shows without paying for them. Unfortunately, I can't do that. I think there is confusion because of the phrase "keep circulating the tapes" that we put in the end credits of MST3K. We said "keep circulating the tapes" because back in the 90's, some cable services didn't carry MST3K and the only way people who wanted it could see it was if they had a friend tape it and mail it to them. It was our version of "I want my MTV". We wanted people to demand that their cable service carry us. Also, between you and me, we were also impressed that anyone would want to circulate our little show. Speaking of Rhino and the fees they're charging, the risks that Rhino is taking may be built into the price. It might be all that file sharing that is making the shows more expensive, and thanks for raising my insurance rate by getting in that last accident! Just kidding - you could do me a 'solid' though, by visiting our website at CinematicTitanic.com and buying a disk or two. Thanks!
Rifftrax & The Film Crew (Score:5, Interesting) by eldavojohn (898314)
What do you think about the other efforts led by Mike Nelson like Rifftrax & The Film Crew? Is there a reason that you, Pearl, TV's Frank & Dr. Forester have split from Mike, Brain Guy & Tom Servo? I'm overjoyed that there are multiple efforts but why?
Question Unsurprisingly Left Unanswered.
Cinematic Titanic (Score: Infinity) by CmdrTaco (1)
Tell me about it. When, how much, and where. Are you enjoying yourself again? Do you think that with video on demand and the increasing number of channels that you may get a broadcast distribution, or is your intent to keep it like this?
Cinematic Titanic is a new movie riffing show involving the original cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. As you probably know, we all left MST at one point or another and are now gathering to do it all again, in a new form. To get an idea of what we're up to, check out the trailer at CinematicTitanic.com -- it Roqs! Our first feature length show clocks in at about 80 minutes. The first film we're riffing on is called "The Oozing Skull", and it is one humdinger of a doozy! It's available from CinematicTitanic.com and the DVD costs $15.94. Yes, thanks for asking, working on Cinematic Titanic is a pure and potent kind of fun.