Stand-up comic and actor Kevin Pollak makes his directorial debut this week in the form of “Vamped Out,” a six-part Web series about a real vampire named Alowisus Hewson who can’t get hired to play one in Hollywood. The trailer and first episode are available online at Babelgum and you can watch the first one in the post below. New Hero Complex contributor Noelene Clark caught up with Pollak to talk about blood pints, garlic and creative control in Hollywood.
NC: “Vamped Out” is a really fun idea. What inspired this series?
KP: I was with my creative and writing partner Jason Antoon (who also portrays the main character in the series). We went to have lunch together, and we passed a billboard for yet another vampire TV series. I was complaining about it, and Kevin said, “What if there was a vampire who couldn’t get hired to play one?” My girlfriend said, “Kevin, that’s a good bit for your act,” and I said, “Nope, it’s a Web series.” I was working on my “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show” at the time, and I hadn’t thought of doing a Web series in storytelling form until he said that, and I just blurted it out. We started writing almost immediately.
NC: So why a Web series? What drew you to that medium?
KP: What comes with doing original content online is abject artistic control, which is something you can’t get anymore in traditional media. You do have creative control when you do your act live. I’d lived for many decades in that stand-up comedy world. In stand-up, you’re your own writer, director, editor. And anytime I went to TV as a writer or performer, I didn’t have that control, ever. So here is an opportunity to bring all of my talents into one new frontier that is original content online, and to have the same freedom and control I’ve always had as a stand-up. Over the years, people ask me, “What do you prefer: Acting in movies or being a stand-up?” Stand-up always won because of that creative control. As an actor, you feel like you’re a gun for hire. So my future as a creator of online original content is here to stay.
NC: From your reaction to that billboard, I’m guessing you’re critical of the current vampire craze.
KP: I don’t know that “critical” is the word as much as “loathsome.” I love gallows humor. I always have. I love dark, dark, dark comedy. And you know, sometimes on rare occasions, it shows itself in the form otherwise known as the horror genre, so the vampire movies that are made for tweenies are wildly successful for a reason. They have a built-in audience, and that audience deserves to be entertained. I don’t spend as much time bemoaning their success as it’s an easy target to make fun of without being too serious. Anything that’s popular is ripe for humor.
NC: So I understand your vampire is not afraid of garlic or crosses, doesn’t feed on humans and is not immortal.
KP: He’ll be 172 in June. I don’t want to give too much away, but the premise was: In a world gone crazy with movies, books and TV shows featuring far too many beautiful vampires, what if you were one who couldn’t get a job to be one. We gave him a back-story that in the late 1800s as a young actor in Dublin, where Bram Stoker was a theater critic — that’s actually true — this young vampire spoon-fed the entire mythology, which Stoker put into his book “Dracula,” so that by feeding this misinformation, real vampires can literally walk among us. They don’t live forever. One of the mythos we blow out is that they are the undead. In our show, we suggested it’s not true; they live on average about 350 years. The only holdover is that vampires do need blood to survive.
NC: If they don’t feed on humans or animals, where do they get the blood? I know the trailer showed the vampire’s girlfriend working at a blood bank.
KP: Yes, and that’s convenient for our guy. But for the other vampires who walk among us? You’ll have to watch the show. I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s funny…It’s wholly original. In TV shows, like “True Blood,” they sort of take their own mythology and bend it to their liking. So instead of taking it, why don’t we blow it out of the water and say it’s all bull. Because we came up with our own mythology, we stand on the shoulders of all vampire creators as we dive into their world, and we tip our hats, but it is a wholly original idea.
NC: Who do you think will watch your show? What kind of audience are you trying to appeal to?
KP: Anyone with taste and a sense of humor? Two eyes and a heart? If you have a sense of humor, I’d say that’s pretty damn important. If you have a love of gallows humor, that’ll help. It’s a drama, in a sense, about real characters, real-life situations that they’ve lived through. The humor comes from the drama of their lives, the absurd drama of all of our lives. It’s not really a parody.
NC: Your cast and crew includes Samm Levine, who was recently in “Inglourious Basterds,” and cinematographer Robert Legato, who has won an Oscar. How did you get them on board?
KP: Robert Legato won the Academy Award for visual effects in “Titanic.” He’s a visual effects Yoda, and he was also the director of second unit for “Titanic” and “Harry Potter.” So visual effects means not just CGI, but building miniatures and every conceivable visual effect. A lot of that has to do with editing and lighting. We met when he directed a small film that I was one of the leads in last year. About a week before I’m about to shoot this Web series, I’m telling him about it, that we have no money, but that it should be fun, and he offers to help. I say, “Let me send you the script, and I’d love your feedback on it.” When I sent the script, I also sent a note that basically asked, “How much help are you offering?” He wrote back very candidly that he wasn’t working until the 21st of next month, so he said, “I guess I could shoot it for you and also cut it.”
NC: So budget was really an issue for you.
KP: I’ve worked on really small-budget films before, but nothing compared to this. It was fighting that element at all times. We don’t have enough lights, we don’t have enough crew, we don’t have enough time in the day. I insisted on paying everyone something, but not much. I joked six months ago that the new jury duty in Hollywood was being asked to be in someone’s Web series. After doing this, I have a great appreciation for people being willing to lend themselves. So there was a sense of everyone working for a fraction, or for Legato, he was literally my editor and cinematographer for nothing, which may be a credit to how wonderful I am. No, I’m just kidding. As a first-time director, I couldn’t have had a worse situation in terms of the accouterments a director would normally have. So I said, “If I could survive this, think of how much easier it would be if I had a budget.” We were literally fighting that no-money demon every day. But the reward you gain is a dream.
NC: Do you think you’ll do another Web series like this again?
KP: Can’t wait. Season Two.
— Noelene Clark
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