We asked all of our writers some questions about their writing and their work on Wormwood. We’ve talked to the writing staff, and now we turn our attention to the series creators, David Accampo and Jeremy Rogers. We’ve talked to David Accampo about the origins of Wormwood, and now Jeremy Rogers shares some additional insights.
Questions created by Rob Allspaw.
Q: How did Wormwood come about? What was the process and what is the hope behind it?
A: Since Habit Forming Films launched in 2005 as a means to stop relying on the chance of convincing someone to help us get something produced, be it a screenplay or a graphic novel, we’ve been hard at work making short films. We’ve had some success with our films, and though it’s rewarding as hell, there’s always that desire to be able to go bigger in ways our short film budgets just don’t allow. So, the idea of podcasting an audio series without concern for running length or costly setups and effects, and with a cast of characters not limited by the scope was immediately appealing. I’m always interested in film projects, genre films mostly, that not only find a way to produce something with a small budget, but find ways to make the tight resources an attribute to the project. We’re getting that with Wormwood.
I’m not the podcast fanatic of the group. But I understand the appeal, and I think my interest with the format would increase if I had an iPod I could play through my car stereo. But I’ve spent many hours in the dark with old radio shows like The Shadow, The Hermit’s Cave, and Inner Sanctum to know that you can strip away the visuals and style creatively and have something fantastically epic. I definitely understand the appeal to that. What I grasped onto early in the development of Wormwood was the realization that we could do an old radio serial and update it with complex characters and storylines. Within the story, I could funnel my love of horror, especially Lovecraftian seethe, into this tale of a seemingly normal small town hiding a big secret.
As the creep factor and characters began to flesh out, I became not only a co-creator, but also a fan.
Q: How did you get involved with Wormwood?
A: Like with most of our projects, David Accampo and I spend some time on the phone together. We’ll pitch, rattle, and linger on an idea for hours, and if it sticks the next day, we’ve got something to work on. With Wormwood, we found our hook quickly: This guy goes to a small town seeking a drowned woman, only he arrives too early. We talked horror and mystery, small town quirk, and gradually, new characters started popping up to fill the quaint, forgotten town. And there I was, caught up in the middle of new project, ready to go.
Q: What attracted you to Wormwood?
A: I’ve never had the chance to tell long story arcs and play and evolve characters as I go. I’ll be honest, and say that I’ve been writing screenplays for the past ten years more than I’ve been writing anything else. My ability to work in a longer format has generally resulted in confusion and then lack of commitment – I’m one of those with long dormant novels taking up hard drive space. Wormwood is the perfect format for me, then. I write a script, but without that industry standard three act structure and page limitation. As a fan of some serialized television and comics, I’m really excited about spending some excess time in this town, with these people. It’s all very ambitious and challenging, and I totally believe that we have ideas to carry us to our goal. Plus, it’s got a Muddy Man and lurid romance and a cranky British doctor with a nasty, demonic, hand. If I could move to Wormwood, I would. But I’ll just have to settle for writing about it.
Q: Which character do you associate with most?
A: Crowe and Sparrow clicked into place immediately. I knew what felt right at the start. Getting them down in the beginning made it so I was able to instinctively know right and wrong with approaches to the rest of the characters, the town of Wormwood included. I have my favorites, the ones that I look more forward to writing and following the insight and rhythms of what others write.
Q: Are there any characters you are struggling to understand?
A: Wormwood is a bit of a soap opera by design. If I have too much trouble with a character, I reserve the right to suddenly kill them off without a structured course of action. Of course, that will inevitably lead to someone calling me out in the writer’s room with the cry, “But we had plans with so and so, integral plans for the primary story arc of season one.” I understand that. It’ll be fine.
Q: What aspects of the project and/or Wormwood do you find the most compelling?
A: Honestly, it’s not the mystery or the occult stuff. I just might be in the minority, but when a story becomes too overt in dealing with the supernatural, I tend to retreat a little. I prefer the playful build of something evil and occult ridden than I do the moment it all enters the daylight and from there forward becomes normal to the story. That said, I think we have a really compelling mythos for Wormwood going on here. The balance of personality and history with a sense of dread is really compelling. I just don’t want to see (or hear) a super cool lightshow confrontation as we move towards the good vs. evil smackdown climax. We keep it subtle and weird and full of horror in controlled ways, and I’m ecstatic.
Q: Within the project of Wormwood, what do you find the most challenging?
A: Writing without visuals and still being dynamic is a challenge at times. It takes some effort typing out beginnings to a page before I’m able to get that intriguing line of dialogue and sense of location and action that clicks with me in a way that I don’t feel hindered by the format but completely in tune with it. Once that happens, it’s good, and the only risk is that the script will be too long for one episode.
Q: Within the project of Wormwood, what do you find the most rewarding?
A: The humor! Wormwood marks a transition, as it’s a dark tale of bad things, but there’s a sense of fun to be had. The characters banter playfully back and forth in ways that establish their personalities and how they communicate, while managing to say the things that need to be said in order to tell a story. I love it.
Deeper than the funny, I appreciate how we’ve taken a simple mysterious launching pad and put it through a workshop to develop an intricate bible of characters and history. We have enough story ideas to fill three seasons online, and enough mythology involved to write books and movies before and after our main thread. In fact, we have an abundance of content that will probably never see the light of day. But it’s there, and for all of us writing episodes, this kind of mammoth insight is one of the best resources we have.
The other thing, more than the mystery, has to be the characters. We have a great cast of actors assembled, and our aim for complex characters should be riveting through them. If we can pull it off online with audio, the audience will find themselves fallen so deep into the horror and intrigue that they won’t be able to get out. And they’ll die.
Q: What do you think about the added content on the website?
A: I love short stories. The way we can make this world so much larger and detailed with additional material is something that I think will appeal to any writer. We’re not just telling a story here, we’ve made this world and these characters real in our minds, and in many ways the audio listeners will never be let in on the complexities. But with the supplemental, possibly experimental, content on the website, we have the opportunity to tease out a link or two, illuminate a little of where we’re coming from with the characters and the town of Wormwood. I’m holding off from contributing any of the added content for a while. I have several story ideas and some pages written that I’m pretty happy with, but for now, I want to put my entire focus on creating the audio show and building the audience. As much as I’m compelled to dive in and write and write, I’m letting that itch bother me for the time being.
Q: With the collaborative process of writing the story, you have six writers now, what do you find to be the most rewarding of this style and what do you find to be the most challenging?
A: As one of the show runners, you have to envision that I’m smiling. There’s really no challenge. We’re all going to approach ideas from slightly different points of view from time to time, and we’re not always going to agree on the best course of action. But we all know where we’re going, we have all the beats in mind, and most importantly, we all really dig the characters and story. Obviously, we’re going to have surprises thrown around, we’re going to argue for what we feel is genius when everyone else just doesn’t get it, and we’re going to end up with script pages and new ideas that are so much better by having a group of excellent writers on board. All six of us are primed and ready to make Wormwood not merely one of the best (and only) horror/mystery serials in podcast form, but one of the best serial stories available in any format.
Q: Where do you see the project heading?
A: Scandinavia. Seriously, one way or another, I’ll get us there.
I’m adamant about taking the time to put focus on telling a story online, weekly. I want us to dedicate ourselves to that mission first. But I won’t lie. I’m a film and book guy, and I’d love to generate a strong enough audience to take Wormwood to the networks and studios and presses. It’s all in how we grow it. We have the potential here to be able to tell many stories across different mediums. We just have to be careful about our approach. But I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t want to start online and move into print and ultimately involve really expensive high definition cameras.
Q: Give us a hint, what’s one thing you can reveal?
A: The Muddy Man won’t really snip you. He will drip from his bones, however. It’s really quite gross.
Q: What are some of your influences?
A: I wasn’t allowed to watch many movies growing up. I wasn’t left out of the Spielberg/Lucas collaborations as a kid, but for the most part, movies sort of eclipsed me until I turned twelve and changed my living situation from one parent to the other, ending up with the one who had just purchased a top loading 125lb VHS behemoth. That VHS deck has had more influence on my life than my parent’s divorce, and it was a very nasty divorce. Suddenly, there was an awakening, of science fiction and action, of David Cronenberg (who I discovered at twelve when I caught the tail end of Rabid on cable late one night) and of cult horror movies. I had no idea… I’ve never looked back at a life without this stuff.
Books on the other hand have been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a fanatic, and absolutely love my overflowing bookcase. Hell, my bulldog was named after Victor Hugo, and my high school GPA dropped as soon as I discovered J.G. Ballard and opted to sit in my car parked out in the school lot and skip day after day of classes as I read through his collection.
Influences… yeah, there are just too many. At any given time, I’m likely to draw on something. And I have no problem with that.
Q: Share a little about you past writing projects and education. Any awards or publications?
A: This, I’m happy to state: I’m a film school dropout who, after three and a half years in the film department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale opted for a term in an advanced filmmaker’s co-op in Chicago. It’s taken eight years since to finally start making films.
I moved to Los Angeles to start working in film, became frustrated, and dedicated myself to writing. Somewhere along the timeline, I found myself caught up in the dotcom craze of the late nineties, where I spent time writing a lot of corporate scripts and documents for LOAD Media, even as I really only invested myself writing screenplays. Yes, on company time.
With that sudden turn to the internet, I inevitably began to develop quite a bit of creative content for our now defunct but expecting a revival writer’s website Laughing Mad Scribes. Not only a showcase for screenplays, we published short stories, reviews of everything we consumed, commentaries, and tried to instigate a functioning writer’s workshop. That little bit of dabbling in web design, coupled with finding myself stuck in the corporate cubicle workforce and wanting to die, took me into the two year multimedia program at Sessions School of Design. I became certified for oh so intermediate levels of Flash programming and have struggled ever since to keep up with web trends.
I’ve had top ranking screenplays during the infancy of Zoetrope Online, and later with Trigger Street. Two of my screenplay collaborations with David Accampo have achieved finalist status with the Project Greenlight. I blame our awkward audition tape for knocking our quirky thriller Cacophony out of the top 100. Somehow the fine people of Voice Over Magazine found our one science fiction screenplay The Maitland Exhibit and labeled it “one of the great unproduced screenplays.”
And then, finally, we started our production company, Habit Forming Films, LLC.
Bad Habits won a Remi award at the 2006 Worldfest Houston International Film Festival and a Best Actor award at the 2007 Sacramento Film Festival. The Long Road has been accepted into the FAIF International Film Festival and will debut at the Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood in September of 2007.
Q: What made you want to write?
A: To escape the shed out back of the house, that aluminum oven with the smell of gasoline leaking out from the lawnmower and the spiders everywhere…
Q: Is there anything you wanted to add to let the fan base know more about you?
A: The only time I have ever consumed a sizeable amount of absinthe, was also the first time that I watched Kevin Smith’s Dogma. I fired up some sugar cubes and the DVD player, and before all was done, the sun was up.