Monday, 21 March 2016

Forever Fans are in for another treat as the talented Twosome do itagain....

A slight Deviation for the Blog today.

Fans of Forever, whilst dilligently  campaigning like Whirling Dervishes for the return of their beloved Show have been  much blessed in the meantime by the arrival on the Fan-Fiction/Graphic Novel scene of a fan written project entitled;

Forever and Ever.

Two chapters are already out, but on the eve of a new Chapter being published, I caught up with Jeff Sack and Brian O'Mara the two creative minds behind the project to find out how things are evolving.

First plotter and spinner of tales Jeff Sack.

E: Hi Jeff! A little Birdie tells me that you and Brian have been very busy and Chapter Three is going to be an extra special treat for your ever burgeoning fanbase. Tell us about that?

J: Emma, Our characters investigate what at first appears to be an open-and-shut murder which proves to be far more complicated. A familiar name once again resurfaces as a connection to Morgan Industries emerges. The story we came up with far exceeded our allotment of pages for a regular issue. So rather than sacrificing portions of the tale, we've decided that Chapter Three will be split into two separate issues. The first part debuts on Tuesday March 29. 

E: Have you had to revisit the show to capture the distinct tone or cadence of each character's Speech as your story has developed?

J: I guess I had a bit of an advantage on that front, having recapped all 22 episodes for NJATVS. I watched each episode at least twice, before I started my recap, so I had a pretty good handle on the accents and rhythm. I have however found myself reading aloud in the characters voices to make sure it sounds like one of these incredible characters Matt Miller created.

E: Which of the Characters from the show have been the most enjoyable to give voice to ? (From a Personal viewpoint I cannot wait to see what is in store for Mike Hanson and Perennial favourite Lucas! )

J: Each have their own allure. How can one be a Word-Smith and not appreciate the eloquence and old world charm of Henry Morgan? Lucas would like nothing more than to be Henry's best friend, but he's in a constant state of awe. That can lead to him making some awkward statements, but Henry's helped to ease that situation and a bond between the two of them is growing. 
There's been talk for decades that there aren't enough strong female-role models in the Movies or TV. I submit to you Detective Jo Martinez, a person who I'd feel comfortable watching my back in any situation. She's a total professional and can be hard-nosed when she needs to be. However she's not allowed her job or life to harden her. Lieutenant Reese is the world-weary Mama-Bear although I wouldn't want to be a suspect getting interviewed by her. 

We have three characters that can fill the comic-relief role, but come through when they're needed in Lucas, Abe and Detective Mike Hanson. Hanson and Henry's son also are great examples of how accents vary from borough to borough in New York City. Abraham was likely referred to as "Brooklyn" when he served in Vietnam, as his accent couldn't originate from anywhere else. Mike however is about thirty-years younger and was raised in Queens. The accent's a bit less harsh to the unfamiliar and lacks that Tommy-Gun cadence that Abe has.

E: In your imagining of how the show should have continued, Henry and Jo are now exploring being a couple. Without revealing too much that might spoil future Chapters, how far is their burgeoning relationship informing the way you tell the story?

J: I think perhaps the word comfortable might best describe their relationship at this point. Speaking from experience, any great romance needs to stem from a strong friendship. We watched that friendship evolve last year, now they've acknowledged their desire to be more than friends. However we've watched the chemistry disappear between countless fictional couples that developed their relationship too quickly. By keeping the flame on simmer instead of boil we're hoping to avoid that.

E: Obviously Henry's supernatural longevity is a as yet untapped resource of Gems in term's of scope for plot . I think already fans can see a story Arc forming in his familial past. How much fun has it been expanding the Forever Universe? 

J: Morgan Industries entered our Universe when they were linked to the murder of Assistant District Attorney Sean Moore, the husband of Jo Martinez. The multi-billion-dollar corporation has also figured prominently in Chapters Two and Three. Abe using the genealogy skills he honed after finding out the identity of his birth-parents, discovers that Henry and the family that run Morgan Industries share a common ancestor. Family patriarch Isaac Morgan, founder of Morgan Fishing which had evolved into Morgan Shipping when Henry's father ran the company.

Henry believes that the company's tied up in scores of illegal and illicit ventures and that they've dragged the name of Isaac Morgan through the mud. In order to obtain as much information on the Morgan's as possible, Abe and Henry are using a form of reverse engineering. Starting with the birth of Isaac we've watched a young man born in poverty build a small empire. This evolves into a tale of the rise and fall of England's finest families and then rise from the ashes with an agenda that scoffed at the principles set down by Isaac. This all eventually leads to the present day Morgan's that run the corporation. 

E: The more beady eyed reader will see more than a little bit of real Historical event being used to bed the storyline in fact. How much real History have you been able to incorporate into the story you want to tell? 

J: I make no bones about being a History Geek and so far I've been able to sprinkle some nuggets into our story. The home that Isaac and Sara live in when they first get married is Kelburn Castle and actually is the official residence of the Earl Of Glasgow. When Jo asks Henry if he's ever been to Japan he replies that he actually died in that country. After dreaming of exploring the country for years, Dr. Morgan's arrival coincided with the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The quake actually was Japan's worst natural disaster for decades. 

E: Very Clever, on a similar note, Henry is a bit of a celebrity name dropper in the show, his personal interaction with some of the Greats of Art and Literature is another reason the Show was so much fun and so popular with the more discerning viewer. Do you and Brian have any plans to drop a few more " names" into the melting pot?

J: Given the span of Henry's journey so far plus his aristocratic bearing, we believe that Dr. Morgan's been at least on the periphery of some historic events and has broken bread with greats and near greats. Henry as many times as not will talk about historical figures with great disdain, referring to the telephone as A.G. Bell's infernal parlor toy! He also tells Abraham that perhaps Mr. Bell was destined to invent the phone as he had the worst breath of anyone Henry's ever come across. However he has nothing but admiration for the name he drops in the first part of Chapter Three.

E: In terms of the actual writing Process, what are the biggest Challenges when converting a TV series into a Graphic medium? 

J: I'm constantly telling Brian O'Marra that I have the far easier job. I just have to come up with these stories, he then needs to find the images that bring my words to life. He told me when we first started working together to not be afraid to challenge him and he's pulled off some graphic magic that amazes me. I keep waiting for that e-mail or phone call telling me I've gone too far, but I've yet to receive it.

E: The project has been incredibly popular with existing fans, what message would you like to give them about your aspiration for Forever and Ever? 

J: Brian and I knew there was still a vibrant Forever community out there and we knew we could never come close to duplicating the magic that Matt Miller and his writing team and an incredible company of actors brought to life for 22-episodes. We've tried to capture some of that magic in our series of Graphic Novels and the response has been overwhelming positive. Matt Miller has expressed his support for our project and Brian's gotten word from Donnie  Keshawarz saying he's enjoying the series as well. Getting praise from those you are paying tribute to feels pretty darn good!

To get a little bit of a clearer sense about Brian's contribution as the creator of the visuals upon which the plot is hung, I posed a few questions about how he approaches his part of the project. The skill of fitting static images to storyline with ever burgeoning narrative threads would be complex for someone in the industry, but Brian is an enthusiastic  amateur so his work on the illustration is admirable.

E: So then Brian,Tell me about your process, How do you decide what cells to use? 
  How do you edit them to create the comic -style  cells?

B: I'll pick cells for a zoom in or zoom out.  For this  and the other chapters,  I’ll pick a cell to capture the mood of the character in the moment. This chapter Jeff and I are going for a film noir look. We are dealing with a lot of  personal angst with Henry so this works very well. I am able with special filters, to create a certain mood for the character.

E: Do you discuss what additional characters should look like? Or do you have creative autonomy over that?

B: Jeff writes the characters in general. When I use the show for source material, I  am picking scenes that will flow to the next section of Jeff's story that maintains a continuity with the way the characters are dressed for example.

E: No mean Feat! What has been your favourite part of the process so far?

B: Working with Jeff. Collaborating with him. He has a gift for storytelling. As he mentioned last interview, I wrote most of Chapter One and he was a wonderful guiding hand. But, I would never want to do this without him writing these great stories!

I set Brian the same question, what message would you like to give fans  about your aspirations for Forever and Ever?

B: Our desire is for the fans to see their show and cast continue. It was called Forever for a reason. As long as there is support and as long as we can keep this going, we will! Jeff always says, "Onward and upward!" That is how I feel also!

So there you have it, it only remains for me to sincerely thank both Gentlemen for their time and their willingness to answer my questions.

I cannot say how very much I am looking forward to reading the continuing adventures of Henry and the Gang. The time and effort Brian and Jeff have expended to give us a quality product is admirable. 

Great Characters like these deserve to exist in the public consciousness longer and whilst in a perfect world we would get more Shows, I am grateful to Jeff and Brian for taking the time to keep on telling interesting tales in the real spirit of Forever, giving the fan favourites authentic voices  and giving the Show the  longevity that is it's due.

Forever now available on DVD in the USA, Canada and much of Europe and on selected On Demand services Worldwide.

Chapters One and Two of "Forever and Ever" is available on Facebook with the first instalment of Chapter Three hitting the ground on  29/03/2016.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Faith, Fruits and Fire - Greece gives up more of it's secrets.

The Greece we see today is really quite young ,it was not until the 1950s that Greece really developed into a industrialised nation. This is partly due to the relatively late discovery of a rich mineral resource in Northern Greece. Coal .

The Mining of coalition a massive undertaking and when Simon visits he discovers the sheer scale of the operation and the country’s reliance on it for powering homes and businesses. Massive fields.  Winter snow in Northern Greece 35 square miles 3000 workers year round 170 metres below surface. 

The Process of retrieving the coal seems precarious at best with fuse wires lying haphazardly, explosives been pumped into holes and the fuse actually being lit by a match. No plunger boxes here. They have sixty seconds to zoom away in the truck before the ground explodes!

The minefields continue to grow, the surrounding villages and towns being swallowed up by it’s ravenous encroachment. Hundreds of people are being displaced and that is nothing to the environmental impact of burning Coal,which is tremendous but with so much else out of  Greek Control, the fact that they have this Rich Resource is on their doorstep, the Government will obstinately use it , the environment be damned!

The sad thing is if some of the squandered Government money had been spent on Solar power, the country’s power needs could have been more than met, folk would have been able to stay in their homes and the land could have retained some of it’s rugged Beaty a little longer.

As it is the workforce is necessary to maintain employment in the region as this area has 72% Youth Unemployment, the very highest in Europe. The Government cannot afford any investment in sustainable sources now so a vicious cycle is almost ensured.

This laissez Faire attitude is never better demonstrated by the amount of spare Seatbelt clips that are sold to trick modern cars into thinking the seatbelt is done up and to stop the incessant alarms to tell driver and passenger to buckle up!  The number of deaths and injuries on the roads  in Greece is the highest in Europe… One does not have to ponder why. It smacks of cutting the nose off to spite the face to me! The number of Shrines along the roadside are not a quaint part of rural life but physical reminders of places where road accidents have occurred.

Christianity is still a massive force to be reckoned with even in a Modern Greece. The power of the Church is far reaching. The Orthodox Church is still huge ,  90% of Greeks consider themselves Greek Orthodox . The Church is semi autonomous. Twenty Monasteries are situated on Mount Athos  and they are all a thousand years old. Much of that Period Greece was under Ottoman Rule, an Empire  from Turkish descent. In the 1800s Greeks battled for independence and Priests were at the forefront of that Rebellion. 

They still hold massive power, for instance it is impossible to be cremated in Greece as Christian Doctrine dictates that the body should be whole for the ascension to Heaven.The Church is government paid and still shape the education curriculum. 
No women are allowed on Mount Athos, and a woman has not set foot there for a thousand Years, they like the consumption of Meat is deemed too much of a temptation and distraction. It is it seems a very Austere life.

Simon is off to see some very special Monks, so at nightfall sets out for a  secret rendezvous  with Monk at 4:30am . The Government wants to kick them out from monastery, so they have blocked themselves in.  Avoiding  a  police check point, a monk takes them by truck to the secret location . Men like supplies are smuggled  in or out and as as day breaks they arrive. 

There have been many injured pitched battles between  rebels and establishment so they prefer to remain Isolated.

Led by Father Methodius a monk since he was nineteen years old who has been at the monastery for decades, they rail against the ideals of the newer Orthodox Church to try to align themselves with other factions of Christianity; Protestantism, Catholicism etc. The government supported church say these monks are now squatting and so everything has to be grown or fixed on site and all other things must be smuggled across in person.

Father Methodious proudly shows his tractor driving skills, scooping Simon and his guide up in the bucket before showing him the workshop where an ancient monk happily welds like some ageing hippy Rocker.

Simon samples their Home distilled Ouzo and declares a surprisingly smooth brew.

On the other side of the Religious coin is the sizeable and yet unspoken of Muslim contingent in the area. Many Greeks on the peninsula are ignorant to their presence. One hundred Thousand Turkish Muslims were displaced when borders were moved presenting a sizeable language barrier. This is particularly for women which is being redressed by specially arranged classes to allow women more freedom within the country.

Pavlos Georgiadis is a young Greek businessman who has retuned to Greece after extensive travel . He seeks his rural roots to to try to reenergise the Olive industry. His Grove boasts thousand year old trees and a Organic approach to Growing means he can produce high quality,  premium oils for sale. He hopes that many other young Greeks will return to traditional methods applying modern ideas to regenerate the jobs market. 

Much fun is had at Simon’s expense as he harvests olives with a motorised stick with a stripping implement on it, but in reality  his Grove is thriving and serves as a perfect mirroring of the hope and enthusiasm of the country to revive it’s own fortunes in the face of recent government mismanagement, European interference and intrinsic values that could have been catastrophic. As Simon ends his journey as it began by the sea, I think it is safe to say that while the sun still shines, the sea still laps the sandy shores and Olives still Grow, there is much scope for Greek Optimism!

Shipping and Conservation - the many faces of Modern Greece.

Simon Travels to the World famous Greek Ship Yards, ships and Shipping are where much of Greece’s wealth is held. Greek Ships are the largest shipping fleet by Tonnage and the richest quotient of their numbers continue to get Richer.

However the recent Financial Crisis has meant that Ship building has dwindled to an all time low. Eighty percent of all shipyard staff are now on the dole. The only ship in the yard when Simon visits is one under refurbishment and the men working on it are under a lot of strain. One man has only worked 50 hours in the last year and he says younger men are relying on parents to feed them when the work dries up.

The Peloponnese Peninsula  was once the home of the ancient cities of Sparta and Corinth. 

It is separate from the mainland by a narrow canal that saves a round trip around the peninsula of Four hundred and fifty miles .

As Simon enters the area it becomes apparent  that agriculture is still a massive part of the Greek Economy. Poly tunnels reach as far as the eye can see. Soft fruits like strawberries are a very profitable crop.  Strangely though, despite high unemployment ,almost all of the work in the stiflingly hot tunnels is being done by non Greek nationals .Predominantly very poorly paid migrant workers. Greeks have tried to extricate themselves from the work of the  land.

These migrant workers often live in tents beside the fields with little to no sanitation. The pay is appalling and workers rights are almost non existent.   

At the farm Simon visits the workers are mostly from Bangladesh and earn €22 a day . There are over Half a million Migrant workers in Greece today. There are many who are illegal so are thus unprotected by the law when maltreatment occurs.

One gentleman along with others took their employer to task for failing to pay wages for six months. The employer lost his temper and shot a gun into them and thirty five men were injured. The man was shot in the chested leg with the bullet still in the leg to this day.The Police failed to prosecute and the workers ended up having to pay legal fees.

Railway travel is another area where spending far outweighed the need for such extravagance. Simon’s train is practically empty and has a carriage decked out like a child’s play area.One minister has been quoted as saying it would be cheaper to buy everyone travelling  a taxi fare rather than pay for the expenditure that their investment cost .
Unlike in the UK, Bears are still a naturally occurring species in Greece. Sadly they have been heavily affected by Human Cruelty and culling to save livestock . A Charity named  Arcturos, is redressing that balance. They have established a legally supported sanctuary to save the animals from bear dancing in local villages, where up until very recently bear dancing was common and run like a mini circus.  The illegal practice of being taken from their mother as a tiny cub, chains placed through nose  and mouth , their teeth and claws broken and made to walk on hot stilts to create the dancing move that is recognisable. Now there is land to release these bears so the authorities are able to enforce the rules.

Wild bears often break through the fence  so it is clear that nature finds a way and then 
Simon is taken to see another little cub that the vets think was hit on the spine so that it drags it’s legs.

The other side of the coin is that the farming community are concerned that Wild bears will attack flocks and any loss of wild stock would be catastrophic in a time of Finacial Austerity. Arcturos have again taken a novel approach to the problem, a breeding programme for Traditional Greek sheep dogs, a large sturdy breed that will Bark to ward off the bears, trained to stay in the midst of the herd to keep them contained their bumptiousness scares the bears away.