Thursday, October 8, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Brian Stewart

Meet the force behind "Jake and the Giants (2015)", one of the best indie animated movies of the year.

To find an indie animated movie for small kids is a rarity these days. "Jake and the Giants" may not be your typical Disney fare but it has its heart at the right place and an inherent innocence in its characters. And good folks like Brian Stewart make it possible. Brian not only helped producing it but also wrote the script and helmed the beautifully composed music and songs. 

Brian Stewart is a writer, composer  and producer, known for A Federal Case (2008), Sugar Baby (2011) and Inside Out (2011) besides the super group Northern Light Orchestra.  A native of Bay Village, Ohio; he  is a graduate of University of Arizona  where he studied screenplay writing and drama. Brain is also the author of the popular children’s television show - Adventures of Donkey Ollie which is shown on many  popular cable and satellite stations throughout the  world.  The Forty Tales of Donkey Ollie is a popular books series having been translated for Ethiopia and Mozambique by Aberle Film Group  and  this is currently being taught to young children as part of an ongoing sports camp outreach.

Along with Ken Mary, former drummer for the Alice Cooper Band,  Brian also plays keyboards and writes song  for the  Christmas themed superband – Northern Light Orchestra which features musicians from popular Heavy Metal and Classical rock groups such as Kansas, Korn, Megadeth, Beach Boys, Def Leppard  and many others. Their hit song “Celebrate Christmas” has been featured on many well known radio shows including Dee Snider’s and Alice Cooper’s  weekly radio show.

Brian Stewart works as the  program director for Boat Angel Outreach Center which also produces the episodic television show "Hollywood Makeover” a series geared to helping high school and college students learn about independent film making.

Here's a small chit-chat with Brian on his role in the making of Jake and the Giants.

1. You seem to have an eclectic career transcending music, writing, TV and movies. How do you get to blend this all and why? 

My favorite writing combines my love of songwriting and story writing. It is nice to combine the both it works especially well in children’s animation as the songs can drive the story forward and give the director an area for his or her personal vision. 

2. How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for getting into writing? 

First time I remember was 7th grade my teacher put a bunch of words on the blackboard and said make a poem. I did and I loved it. And that's how it all started,

3. How did you end up writing Jake and the Giants and what were the challenges you faced while writing it? 

It was a gift to a film Company in India - Laughing Lions. When they were not able to produce it, we pitched in and decided to do it ourselves as we loved the idea. We trimmed it down a bit as we did not have as big of a budget as they did but we are glad, it still came out to our satisfaction.

4. Tell us a little more about Jake and the Giants and genesis behind it? 

It is based on the everlasting story of David and Goliath.. The small can overcome the big when their heart and cause is right. Evil does sometimes win but it will never triumph over good. Our kids need to realize this basic concept of good vs evil. 

5. What do you think makes Jake and the Giants a special kind of a kids movie? 

I think the characters are unique a little like the Dutch Paint Boy and the Jolly Green Giant with a bit of an Irish feel to the clothes and a Maxwell Parish color scheme. For an indie budget, we created a distinctive look, plus how can you miss out the flying Monkeys. 

6. How was it to compose music for Jake and the Giants ? How would you rate your work? 

With my musical background, it was rather easy getting the song keys but it was a challenge getting the right singers and musicians. This work is close to my heart so I would rate it one of my best. 

7. When did you start composing film music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? 

I loved the theme for Chariots of Fire by Vangelis and have always loved the theme song Beauty and the Beast. My first favorite was the song from Sound of Music.. the Hills are Alive I learned a lot of that soundtrack in college while studying jazz. 

8. What do you personally consider to be incisive moments in your musical career?

There are incisive moments all the time. I mean, it is always developing as you go from project to project and when you go back to listen to some of them you sometimes say.. “Wow, I don’t remember writing that but is seems to work well with the show.” “I feel fortunate to work with a great producer Ken Mary who makes everything sound great. 

9. What, to you, are the main functions and goals of good scripts and film music and how would you rate their importance for the movie as a whole?

Wow, that is a hard question. The story has to be unique.. You have to care about the characters, the villains can be bad but they have to be more than one dimensional and they definitely cannot be stereotypes.. There must be something likable in everyone. No one is all good or all bad. The music gives the characters a chance to stretch out to show who they are. Sort of like the office party when you learn the secretary has a great set of pipes and can belt out a mean Christmas Carol or your boss can do a great impression of an actor. 

10. What do you think is the harshest reality for indie film makers and producers? 

The reality is you are the small guy. You are up against a machine that has billions and billions and want not just the majority but wants everything. They want every screen, every TV station, every spot on every shelf and they are looking to keep their market share and have no problem crushing everyone who gets in their way. It is like our story the corporations against the indies. The thing is you do it anyway because that is who you are and that is what you do. If you get lucky you get lucky, if not you know you gave it your best shot. If you don’t try what do you get ….Nothing.. So you try you get better at what you do and with help from the good Lord above sometimes you might get your lucky break.

Know more about Brian Stewart on his IMDB profile here or visit the Jake and the Giants website. And here's a trailer for your viewing pleasure! 


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