I’ve mentioned on the site before just how much I absolutely love The Mercury Men series!
So you can imagine how excited I was when the creator and director of the series, Chris Preksta, agreed to answer a few of my questions! At the time of the interview I had only seen the first episode that had been uploaded over on SyFy.Com.
Chris, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to agree to this interview for the site. First of all I just want to tell you how much I really enjoyed the first episode of The Mercury Men, which debuted on the SyFy channel website July 25th. Could you explain to our readership what made you decide to create the Mercury Men in the first place? Besides it just being incredibly cool?
The original idea honestly came from me just wanting to make something with ray guns. I love ray guns and sadly they’re not around much anymore. We shot a concept short in 2007, also called The Mercury Men, which was about this nameless employee having to defend the universe with a ray gun for 10 minutes. It played really well at festivals and at San Diego Comic Con, so it felt like a good fit to adapt it to a web series.
How did SyFy become involved with your series?
After we shot the series in late 2008, I quickly edited together a rough trailer. I mentioned the fact on our twitter account (@themercurymen) and was instantly contacted by Craig Engler at Syfy, asking if he could watch the trailer. He had no idea what the series was, he just thought the Mercury Men name was neat. Roughly a year later, after I had signed with ICM, my agent ran into Craig at the SXSW festival and showed him a few completed episodes. Discussions started from there.
I was digging the style of the show especially elements like in the beginning of the first episode which seemed to me to be a tip of the hat to the Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone openings, I felt like some of the tone of the first episode was a bit like the Outer Limits as well. Are you a fan of those classic shows by chance?
Absolutely. The Twilight Zone was a huge influence. The very concept of The Mercury Men is an everyday guy trapped in extraordinary circumstances. Beyond Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, The Mercury Men also draws heavy inspiration from the movie serials of the 1930’s and the B-movie sci-fi of the 1950’s
In the first episode we are introduced to Edward Borman, played wonderfully by Mark Tierno, an office worker that is not exactly the most likeable character when we first meet him, in fact he straight up ditches a customer so he can leave his job five minutes early. Though have you already shown us there is more to Edward under the surface? I’m thinking in particular of the elevator scene where he hears a strange noise and instead of just letting the door shut he decides to go and investigate the source of it.
I wanted to quickly establish that Edward pawns off responsibility so that when the moon is literally falling down onto his head, he HAS to act. The elevator moment is a great conflict because while he is dead to his job, and terrified by the sound he hears, he also has a heart, and couldn’t stand by when people are being killed. If he hits the button to go down the elevator, he saves his own life, but only temporarily because nobody would have been there to stop the moon.
I have to say I felt there was witty humor throughout the first episode but you certainly didn’t skimp with the feeling of dread and fear either. The ‘stalking’ scenes with Edward and the Mercury Invader were intense. Then the episode becomes something similar to the old Republic Serials when Jack Yaeger, played by the awesome Curt Wootton, looking a little like a cross between Sky Captain and Spy Smasher rolled into one begins firing bolts of light from his pistol at the Invader driving it back momentarily. Speaking of the Invader and Jack, I was wondering if you would mind explaining how you decided on their visuals?
Jack is modeled after the classic serial heroes, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Indiana Jones, etc. I’m not sure how the look of the invaders first came about. When we were shooting the concept short I was pressing myself to create a unique alien, especially since so many great alien designs have been done in film and it’s incredibly difficult to bring something new to the table. I just randomly pictured a ‘reverse silhouette’ and their powers, backstory, etc just sprung naturally from there.
As I stated, both Mark Tierno and Curt Wootton really sell their roles, how did they obtain their parts in the series, have you worked with them before?
I worked with both Mark and Curt in my first film/series, Captain Blasto (http://www.captainblasto.com). They also starred in the Mercury Men concept short.
The music is really great by the way and I couldn’t help but notice you held that credit as well as editing and visual effects, art direction, as well as of course writing and directing the series. Being a web series did you find yourself forced to wear so many hats or are you perhaps following in the steps of the legendary John Carpenter?
It’s out of necessity really. I can’t wait until I’m able to hire people to do these jobs MUCH better than I can. But if you can’t find or pay anyone to do it, you just have to roll up the sleeves and do it yourself.
In the credits I also saw Felicia Day (The Guild, Eureka) was listed in the Thank You section, would you mind filling us in how she is involved with the series?
Felicia has been an incredible encourager, both directly through her advice and support of Mercury Men, but also indirectly simply by being a pioneer in the web series world. The Guild greatly demonstrated how you could tell narrative stories online.
Kudos on your digital props section for the Mercury Men site, I was just blown away by how much fun you and your crew have seemed to have had with the series and how much it seems you want to share that fun with your viewers! When I looked at your NES and Atari 2600 I immediately knew I had found something special. The Lumiére, which is the name of Jack Yeager’s trusty weapon…am I wrong or did you name the gun for Auguste and Louis Lumiére, the early French filmmakers?
You are correct. The digital props are a joy to make. Captures some of that nostalgia we all love.
I’m already sold on the series just from the first episode, are there any plans for the Mercury Men to continue or are you moving on to something else?
We have LOTS of story ready for future seasons, along with other mediums such as comics, novels, etc. All that is dependent on how well this first set of episodes do though. More viewers means anything is possible.
Thank you again for your time and a hearty congratulations on the Mercury Men, I read last week that it was getting attention at the San Diego Comic-Con. How exciting was that?
Comic Con is always a blast. Not only are those the people we made Mercury Men for, it’s also who WE are, so it was great to screen it there.
Before I let you go…I do have an important question, Chris. What are the chances of getting to become an honorary member of the League that Jack Yeager works for…and getting my own Lumiére?
We’re working on a video how-to make a Lumiere so you’re chances are pretty good!
Once again I would like to thank the incredibly talented Chris Preksta for taking time from his hectic schedule to answer these questions and I urge you all to jump over and watch the Mercury Men series on Hulu or SyFy.Com right this second!