Thursday, July 25, 2013

Broad Spectrum And Other Things

I am a firm believer in promoting for others, in helping people fulfill their dreams. What better way than to share about one another? After all, how would the word be spread if not for one person at a time?

Today I share an interview from a very talented young man. I met him through Facebook on my journey of self-promotion, yet found such a good person, and amazingly versatile artist. I say artist, but not in the sense of drawing, sculpting or painting. For you see, there is so much more to the creative world than meets the eye. Take a look at Max Christian aka Jack Renard.

1. Tell me a little about yourself. What motivates you? What are some of your passions?

I'm a 20-something designer, voice actor, and all around digital storyteller. Ever since I was a little boy, I've literally dreamed of wild, impossible worlds I thought I'd never see. As I grew older, I discovered that art in all its expressions--and for me specifically, film--is a window through which we can experience worlds and stories we could never encounter in daily life. That's why I've devoted my career to using visual media to make those storyworlds real.
Although I appreciate the natural world, I tend to gravitate towards stories that defy it, so I really enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal. Mythology is an especially magnificent obsession of mine. And for some reason I can't explain, I love costumed heroes--especially Zorro. That's what I really want to be when I grow up.

2. Walk us through Broad Spectrum. Was this your brainchild? Who is involved and why? What are some of your goals with it? What are your plans with it for the future?

Broad Spectrum actually came about when Neil Lee Griffin, Josh Moeller, and I found each other. Neil's an expert in music & sound, Josh can build any prop/set/costume/doomsday machine, and I move things around on a screen until it looks good. When we saw that together we could cover sight, sound, and action with our unique talents, we decided to make our own entertainment production company, Super Friends style. We were really idealistic back then--we thought it would be sunshine, puppies, and chocolate all the way to the Oscars. Thankfully Josh's wife Amber really stepped up to the plate and made sure we did what we needed in order to turn it into a real venture, business plan and all.
Originally we did a lot of commissioned work for local clients. We strived to cater to any media need, shooting music videos, crafting TV pilots, and scoring original compositions for anyone who phoned us up. This got us the capital to start focusing on our own productions. Since then, I've assumed a heavy leadership role, but Neil, Josh, Amber, and our other collaborators still work as a team.
We made the jump from commissioned work to original productions in 2011 with an animated web series ("Let's Destroy Metal Gear") based off the popular video game Metal Gear Solid. It blew up overnight and has since become our most famous production with over 1.5 million views. After a hiatus in 2012, we've returned with 3 unique animated web series and a podcast each month, in addition to producing Neil's individual albums. Currently we'd like to move into film shorts & live stage productions, as well as offer other aspiring creators a chance at additional exposure through our YouTube channel as a network.

3. Tell about the comic you work with. What gives you the ideas for this? Is Max Christian one of the characters?

We're currently working with 3 separate comics, but the one we're most proud of is Gunnerkrigg Court. It's actually a pretty complex story penned and illustrated by the phenomenally talented Tom Siddell. Everything revolves around the adventures of the curious Antimony Carver at the even curiouser school of Gunnerkrigg Court. There's a heavy dose of mythology and the paranormal, but the story as a whole really defies classification by any one genre. Parts of it are comedy, drama, romance, even horror. Siddell really makes it blend together in this incredibly unique mix.
As animator and voice actor for the motion comic releases of Gunnerkrigg Court, it's my job to actually breathe life into the characters I act as well as the rest of the Court through the animation. The most challenging aspect for me is finding the right balance of staying faithful to Tom's vision for the story while still putting my best touch on it.

There's actually a funny story behind "Max Christian"--he's my legal name! When I began work in entertainment I picked up the stage name Jack Renard based on some of my favorite mythical figures (Jack of the Lanterns, Renard the Fox). For a long time I considered legally changing it, but it just wouldn't be practical to have all of my education and accolades attributed to Devin Maxwell Christian. I'm also the last son in the Christian line, so I didn't want to responsible for snuffing out the family name. You'll still find me credited as Renard in all of my entertainment work though.
(Ironically it was years after I took my pseudonym that I found Tom Siddell had cast Renard the Fox as one of the main characters in Gunnerkrigg Court.)

4. You mentioned journalism recently. Do you have a background in this already? Is it something you've always been interested in?

Really it's a means to an end. I'm actually pursuing my degree in Mass Media Arts, which is all about television and Internet media production, yet it's offered through the Journalism college at UGA. Journalism, communication, and media tend to be intertwined so closely that you can't separate them. Of course I'm interested in anything that involves talking to millions of people, but I'd rather be making stories up than just reporting!

5. What other interests do you have that may be related to your passions and dreams?

I absolutely love adventure--my favorite book (closely ranked with The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers!) is Don Quixote. I know Cervantes meant the novel to lampoon the works of chivalry, but I loved how it portrayed a man so convicted in his beliefs that he refused to accept anyone telling him otherwise. Plus it was hilarious.
I try to keep that spirit of adventure in my daily life. Trying new things, exploring new places, I can't get enough of it. I've actually started training in parkour as a way to keep in shape and live out my superhero dreams. It's all about discovering your environment and traversing it in the most efficient way possible. A bad leg injury took me out of it for several weeks, but I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

6. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I'd like to see Broad Spectrum Studios incorporated, and I'd like it to be a hub network for talented individuals across music, film, and even video games who haven't been able to break into the big-time industry. Essentially a combination of the YouTube and Kickstarter models with a focus on discovering fresh entertainment perspectives. Specifically, entertainment that's going to do more than distract its viewers for a few hours--entertainment that makes people think.

The great thing about myth is it entertains us while it teaches us. The classic Athenian Tragedies were a way for citizens to meet and ruminate on important social issues, and I see no reason modern media can't evoke the same results. At the risk of sounding grandiose, I'd like to revive mythology with media at its heart.

7. Where can we find you? (social media) Provide links....

The Broad Spectrum Studios YouTube channel is the center for most of my work and interaction:
But you're also welcome to find me on Facebook and ask questions, critique my work, lodge hate mail, etc. :

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Childhood Innocence

The little blonde-haired girl looked up at me, sparkling blue eyes on a face filled with wonderment. "Aunty Kar," she said in a voice much like the sweetest Disney character ever. "I wanna be a princess for trick-or-treat." I knelt down, giving her a hug,  remarking on what a wonderful idea that was. My heart cracked for her, this innocent little child, my niece, Elizabeth, three years old. What will life hold for her, what's in store? No matter what path she may take as she grows, right here in this moment, she's a little princess in her mind.

We played in an old-fashioned sprinkler, turned to its lowest setting since her baby sister only likes it that way. We splashed in the puddle on the sidewalk, wetting our bare feet, the three of us, giggling as if it was only us. A special, heartfelt moment for me, seeing their smiles, these two little girls, feeling their joy in the simpleness of the day. Warm sunshine surrounded us, bees buzzing in the nearby zinnias, my father's prized flowers. The youngest, Elena, a face full of awe, reached toward the delicate blossom at one point, and I gently guided her to lovingly caress the flower, to be careful so we could enjoy it, especially since we didn't want to upset Pappy. A little child can understand beauty and want to care for it, for she stroked the petals with her chubby little fingers as if petting a small animal.

In moments like these, I thank God above for becoming an aunt. Though I'm not a grandparent yet, I know what it must feel like to have that special bond for your grandchildren. I understand the innocence, awe and amazement these precious little ones feel as they experience life for the first time.

May they both blossom like the beautiful flowers. May their lives be whole and good, blessed and loving. May they come to know God and goodness. And may I be there with them as they grow, teaching and guiding, playing and learning from them what its like to be innocent again.

I love you Elizabeth and Elena.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Love of My Parents

Laughter, love, warmth, caring, companionship, friendship, happiness, tears, good times, bad times, sickness, health, understanding, peace. These are the words I choose to describe my parent's marriage. It's well over fifty years. Fifty. They've stayed together through difficulties and triumphs. Through heartbreak and heartfelt moments. They knew what it was like to have plenty, and knew what it was like to have barely anything. Yet they never faltered, not once.

In this world where it's so easy to throw things away, even relationships, it amazes me to see two people with the bond my parents have. Certainly it was no different when they were younger. They, too, had moments where I'm sure it didn't feel like they could take it any longer. But something kept them together.

I've seen my dad at Mother's side through difficult years growing up. With tenderness and understanding I saw him caring for her, never giving up hope in the darkest of moments. And saw that same love reciprocated as she stood by Dad during latter years and his own health issues. Times we weren't even sure he'd be there another day while, with faith, she remained steadfast.

It's with gratitude I watch them even today, a twinkle in Dad's eyes when Mom walks into the room. He'd do anything for her. Anything to make her smile, to give her a few moments of happiness. And Mom in her way, gives back to my father. With homey, delicious baked goods, and hot meals, she still has the knack in the kitchen, the way to a man's heart.

My parents are simple folks. Two people who enjoy sitting upon their front porch, their small water fountain trickling before them, hummingbirds darting to and fro at the feeder. A few pieces of bread thrown out to other feathered friends make for moments of enjoyment. An occasional hot roast beef sandwich shared from one of the local restaurants, some instant scratch tickets hoping for a win; watching a beloved movie, the kind you know every line. Worn photo albums, their covers dusty, pages falling apart. Classical music from scratchy vinyl records, one's they've listened to many, many times.  These are the things they share, the small things that bind them, giving them comfort in their later years.

I pray I've learned what it takes to be content in whatever the circumstances in a marriage. After all, I've had years of watching, years of gleaning all the knowledge I could from two people whose love has only grown stronger with every passing day.