EXCLUSIVE: Comic-Con fixture J. Michael Straczynski will launch a new media company here to handle his prolific output in comic books, digital, TV series, feature films and video games. Studio JMS is designed to bring his output under one roof, and the idea is for the projects to cross-pollinate in other media.
Straczynski’s work ranges from writing/producing TV series that include Babylon 5 and Jeremiah, scripting films that include Thor, Ninja Assassin, Underworld Awakening and the Clint Eastwood-directed Changeling, and hatching comic books that include the Amazing Spider-Man and Superman: Earth One.
Straczynski will run the studio with Patricia Tallman, who has done her share of acting in horror and sci-fi films, and appeared in Babylon 5 as an actress. For the past decade, she ran Talent To Go as creator and co-owner. They have a number of initiatives that include an ambitious feature that will mark his directorial debut.
The Flickering Light, Straczynski tells me, is a fact-based film about how Nazi propaganda director Leni Reifenstahl, making a film that required Spanish actors, rented ethnic-looking Jews and gypsys, men, women and children who were imprisoned in the Max Glan Concentration Camp outside Berlin. During the course of the shoot, bonds were formed between the “actors,” who were brought back to resume their hellish existence in the camp after each day’s shooting. If you think that Reifenstahl is getting slack for liberating Holocaust victims, forget it, Straczynski told me. “She didn’t care about them at all, only about her movie, and it was the crew that looked after them,” Straczynski said. “This was a surreal existence, moving from escapism on a movie set back to a nightmare imprisonment. The script is written, we’re out to actors and we will have partial funding from the German government.”
Studio JMS has signed on to produce a web series for MTV.com entitled The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al, and they are self-financing a second web series, Living Dead The Musical. Straczynski tells me he also has two television series in development: he’s teamed with Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment on Epidemic and with Sam Raimi on Vlad Dracula for Starz. JMS is also partnering with Image Comics to revive his Joe’s Comics imprint, which published the best-selling graphic novels Midnight Nation and Rising Stars. The first four comics that will appear under the label beginning in Spring 2013 will be Falling Angel, Ten Grand, Guardians and Sidekick.
Straczynski said that after working in these genres for so long, he realized that many didn’t realize he was the same guy who operated in other platforms. He’s got offices in Woodland Hills, and will at first set projects up “ala carte,” though he isn’t ruling out a broader relationship down the road with a studio.
“The center of the storm is what comes out of my keyboard,” he said. “It’s all about creating IP. For twenty years, I’ve had the remarkable good fortune to work successfully as a writer and producer in a wide variety of fields, from television to comics and movies. I’ve always dreamed of creating a mini-studio where I can put all of that work under one roof, telling stories that I want to tell and which can be spun up between various platforms: comics that can become TV shows, TV shows that can become movies, and movies that can become comics. With the tremendous recent success of films such as The Avengers, Thor, and the Batman series of films, this feels like the best time to tackle that dream. Best of all, unlike many other startup ventures, I’m not looking to get into these areas, I’m already working in them; now it’s just a matter of taking the next logical step: consolidation.”.
Straczynski hopes to generate a film each 18 months. He most recently completed two projects for producer Jerry Bruckheimer: Vanishing Point and Shattered Union.