Interview with Sandy King Carpenter for UK Horror Scene
UKHS: Hi Sandy! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! You seem to be a creative type who enjoys having a huge number of fingers in incredibly varying pies, does it ever get confusing or difficult hopping from one medium to another? Would you class yourself as a total workaholic?
SKC: HA HA HA!! Oh my God, I don’t think so. I prefer to think I just have a very active and interesting life. There are many ways to tell a story and they all offer interesting challenges and opportunities to reach new audiences. I find that there is a more organic flow than one might think from one medium to the other when the various avenues present themselves. My path into film making came from animation, which had come from my being an artist first, so there is more of a common thread between these worlds (say the comic books and the movies) than it might first appear.
UKHS: Of all your many projects that you have worked on, do you have a particular favourite that you find yourself looking back on with the most pride?
SKC: That’s like asking a parent to choose between their children. Most of the great memories come from the experience of working with great technicians and artists who become your family and friends. I love making movies. I love making comic books. I love learning new things and in our business, the technology is constantly evolving. There is no point at which you sit back and say, “Now I know it all.” I get excited when I’m driving down the freeway and I see film trucks headed down the highway at magic hour. I want to follow them like the circus. I want to see what they’re doing and how. So I might answer your question this way: that the film I am doing at the moment is my favorite and the most exciting. It’s new love–fresh and unknown.
BUT…I love “Big Trouble in Little China” to sit back with a big bowl of popcorn and laugh my ass off with.
“Vampires” to remember waiting for the sunrises in New Mexico to fly Valek across the sky.
“Rumble Fish” for working 104 hours a week in 115 degree heat and making an American art film.
“Starman” for finding true love.
UKHS: Having expanded your talents to the world of comic books, are you pleased with how they are now hugely embedded on mainstream conscious like never before or do you find yourself pining for the days when the world of comic book fans and makers felt more shall we say ‘exclusive and secretive’?
SKC: I’ve never been a fan of exclusive clubs. Whenever I find something I think is cool I like to share it, so I love that comics and graphic novels are finally getting their due. Finally mainstream is recognizing the great artists and writers who have been telling stories there, and much like current television, I think the comic world is expanding and the writing is getting even more diversified and better. Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like a second Golden Age of comics to me.
UKHS: We seemingly can’t move these days for huge blockbuster pictures based on comic books, with their often incredibly varying quality, do you feel that there’s a slight case of over-kill in the market?
SKC: Not all comics make good movies and not all movies make good comics. It’s not one size fits all. I’m just pleased at the number who have gotten it right.
UKHS: Something that certainly can’t be ignored is the very male-dominated focus of both the films and fan-base in general. Having worked on the fantastic ‘Heroes’ anthology with Womanthology, do you feel as if you’ve made a significant step to stem the tide or is there more that still needs to be done to have female characters be on level footing with their male counterparts?
SKC: Actually, I did the second anthology, “Space”, which was the series that grew out of “Heroes”. Rene Deliz was the driving force behind Womanthology and I thought she did a brilliant job of showing publishers and retailers and readers that there was all this female talent in the comic industry ready to tell stories that all ages of females (and males) would buy. She proved we were economically viable and supportable. Little girls could be found in the corner of comic shops across the country reading that giant volume of Womanthology comics. Twice.
In general, the best way to push female character forward is to make them as interesting and as deeply flawed a their male counterparts. Make them WHOLE personalities. Gail Simone has always written amazing female characters and pushed Red Sonja right up to the forefront when she took it over.
EVERYBODY was reading it. That’s what it takes. You can’t whine and make it happen.
UKHS: As someone who’s dealt with their fair share of projects of the horror genre persuasion, what do you personally find is the best way to scare people?
SKC: Suspense and dread. It isn’t about the gore and the jumps so much as it is the underlying truths of personal fear.
UKHS: How do you personally see the state of the horror genre as it is today in comparison to what it was?
SKC: I think it’s gotten lazy. But I have faith we’ll cycle back into something more interesting. I’m glad the slasher/torture porn seems to have worn itself out.
I’m happy the Scandinavians seem to have infiltrated a bit and given us a bit of darkness.
UKHS: Are we any closer to getting the highly anticipated ‘Darkchylde’ film adaptation off the ground?
SKC: I sure hope so. We are currently finalizing the look book for the agents to take out and have just finished shooting some motion capture segments for the pre-viz for sales presentations. WETA has designed some great monsters for us and we have our visual FX team together and sets being designed.
UKHS: Much of John Carpenter’s iconic film scores have recently been lovingly pressed onto vinyl and snapped up incredibly quickly by die-hard fans. Does it surprise you at all that his music is still considered to be so influential and adored and do you find it a shame that these days there appears to be a distinct lack of effort put into a film’s soundtrack?
SKC: I’m not surprised at all by how popular his soundtracks are. He’s a great composer and some of his themes are truly iconic. While some soundtracks seem either over-amped or cliched, I am in awe of Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler’s work. John Williams is still hammering them out and I thought Steven Price’s score for “Gravity” was really good. T-Bone Burnett does the unexpected.
UKHS: Increasingly today, a great deal of effort is being put into creating truly terrifying horror video-game experiences that often pack a great story with them. Are you at all concerned that with the direct interaction afforded by the game experience that audiences may end up turning their back on horror films altogether?
SKC: No. They are two different forms of entertainment. A good horror movie is like a good ghost story told around a campfire. Great Stephen King books read at night with a storm outside are another way to get scared. A massive roller coaster that turns upside down works, too. There’s room for it all.
UKHS: With the world increasingly focusing of the injustices of the “1%” and the terrifying manipulative powers of corporations, do you almost feel eerily prophetic when you look back on the satire of ‘They Live’? It certainly feels as relevant watching it today as it must have been at the time, if not more so
SKC: At the time we considered it political satire and still do. It was what we saw happening around us. Nothing has changed.
UKHS: On a personal note, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ is one of my all time favourite films and I still find it outrageous that it wasn’t the success it deserved to be at the time. When assisting with the script, did you feel that it was going to potentially be too ‘out-there’ for mainstream audiences or that it was so unique and exciting a project that it didn’t really matter?
SKC: No. It’s a great movie. Funny, timeless and discovered by new generations every incarnation of home video, DVD and Netflix that comes along. It’s a movie that succeeded in spite of a studio that made every effort to bury it. We believed in it. We still believe in it and Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express roll on.
UKHS: The hugely-anticipated comic book series based on the film is coming out this summer, what, if anything can you tell us about it and is it the closest we’ll get to ever seeing Jack Burton again?
SKC: Eric Powell, the creator of “The Goon”, is writing the new comic. He and John have been working together to set the tone for it and I think fans of both the movie and Eric’s comics will have fun with the new book. BOOM! publishes good quality comic books, and from what I’ve seen of the upcoming art and covers and pieces of the stories, I think “Big Trouble” fans will have fun with them. As for the future of Jack Burton? I wish Fox would ask us to fire up the Pork Chop Express again. I think Jack and Wang could really shake the pillars of heaven one more time.
UKHS: And finally, if you had to select one film of your husband’s extensive back catalogue to watch on the couch on a lazy Sunday, which one would it be and why?
SKC: Only one? Damn. Give me two Sundays.
On a lazy summer Sunday it would be “Big Trouble in Little China” for the sheer fun of it. I have great memories of everyone involved in it and I love a comedy that I can lose myself in and laugh out loud.
On a dark and rainy winter Sunday–preferably with thunder and lightening–it would be “The Thing”. I have to say that this is my all time favourite movie of John’s. I think it is flawless film making. I’ve seen it dozens of times and the suspense still kills me. Jeb, the dog from the Norwegian camp, walking down the hallways looking in doors is terrifying. Testing for the blood…I still jump every time it screams. The notion underneath it all that you aren’t what you seem. Perfect.
UKHS: Sandy King Carpenter, it’s been an enormous honour, from all of us at UKHorrorScene, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us!
SKC: Thank you for asking.