Being an art lover myself, I’ve decided to start the new year with an interview with Sv Bell, a talented artist that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a while. Sv Bell has created numerous comics and DVD cover designs that are available both online via his web and at Comic Con each year. This is one guy that has gone through great lengths to pursue his dreams and give life to his vision. Along with an expanding graphic collection, Sv is a director and producer and has a TV Channel with something for everyone. Like the Troma Tromettes, Sv has his faithful Angels – of which I’m proud to be a part of. So let’s delve deeper into the French Canadian mastermind behind Black Flag TV and his creations.
Pophorror: What inspired you to become an producer/director? What inspires you?
Sv Bell: I never actually thought, “One day, that I would get to make movies…” It just happened by accident. In the ’90s, I was painting heavy metal album covers. Eventually one of the bands asked me if I could work on the art direction for a music video. I had no clue what an art director would do in a video project, but I said, “Yeah, sure!” Eventually, I found myself directing the whole thing. I thought that was fun. I started to make more and slowly shifted toward short films, and later, feature films. I also directed a couple of TV commercials for local networks.
As for inspiration, it’s hard to say. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Stuff you see around you, stuff you hear… It simply takes shape naturally in your mind, and when it’s shaped enough, you just throw it on paper and it comes to life.
Pophorror: You’ve produced a number of films since 2003, She-Demons of the Black Sun, Purple Glow and Crawler, to name a few. Where did you get your concepts from and what inspired you to create the films you’ve made?
Sv Bell: I think a lot in terms of ’50s atomic movies, or exploitation stuff from the ’70s… I love monsters and how they can come to life because of human mistakes. In The Night They Returned, it’s about cannibal girls throwing the remains of their victims in a swamp nearby, which turns out to be contaminated with toxic waste. The chemicals eventually cause a funny reaction to the human remain Maybe the most interesting origin for a film is with Crawler. I’ve been having this idea of a living bulldozer since I saw John Carpenter’s Christine back in the ’80s. At the end of Christine, the guys manage to kill the evil car by crushing it to death under the treads of a bulldozer. When I saw that, I was like, “Woah, now the spirit of the car will move on to the bulldozer!” But it didn’t happen that way. So I though the producers missed a good sequel opportunity. I kept that idea in my mind for years, and later, I made it come to life.
But the idea of a killer bulldozer was not new. It was even the inspiration for Stephen King’s original novel, Christine. Thedore Sturgeon wrote Kildozer in the mid ’40s, and that was also adapted as a TV movie in the early ’70s. Crawler has nothing in common with Christine or Kildozer though. It’s a totally different story around the concept of a killer vehicle.
Whatever you do, do it for you. Don’t try to please an audience. Do what you like and let the audience come to you. It’s all about staying true to yourself.
Pophorror: Do you prefer creating the concept/idea or being behind the camera? Which is more rewarding for you personally?
Sv Bell: I’m all about creating the story. I’ve been operating camera in the beginning when I started to make movies, but very soon I left that job to someone else to focus on directing. You simply can’t do both jobs. Directing actors is a full time job. Managing the camera work and all the associated tasks is a full time job. You just can’t do both parts and give your one hundred percent.
Pophorror: You’ve written a number of film concepts as well. Where did your inspiration come from while creating those projects?
Sv Bell: Like for Crawler, sometimes you watch a film and all of a sudden, an idea pops up in your mind. When you have a handful of these ideas, you put them together, and it creates something totally new. I also love reading stuff like conspiracy theories, alien stories, abductions and so on. There’s a lot of ideas in there, and for a creative mind, it becomes very easy to imagine lots of various scenarios, to go wild based on various ‘facts’ from those conspiracy theories. I read a lot. All the time. Books, novels, magazines, newspapers, everything. Reading keeps your imagination working.
Pophorror: You’re a very creative individual and extremely talented. You’ve been involved in digital art as well as composition. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Sv Bell: I think I’m simply creating from everything I touch. During meals, I often find myself shaping figures with spaghetti in my plate. That’s how I am. Doing digital art was just another tool I wanted to have fun with. That was in the mid ’90s. Jurassic Park shattered the special effects planet and opened the doors to a new medium. 3D and animation software became more and more popular and also affordable. I was already doing some computer illustration, but when 3D packages became affordable, I jumped on the bandwagon and started building my own worlds in CGI. Not only could I create universes, I could also animate, add motion, and put life in them. But 3D and digital art is expensive. You always need more processing power, and every new version of a software requires even more power. It’s a never ending story. I eventually quit digital art and came back to my old friends: brushes and paint, pen and ink.
Pophorror: You’ve been very active in all mediums, including writing, directing and producing as well as in the creation of art. Which is your favorite medium that you personally find most rewarding?
Sv Bell: I must say my favorite medium is with painting. I enjoy every step in creating a painting. And it’s always a great satisfaction to see it hanging on a wall or exhibited in an art show. I often see my paintings on covers for books or heavy metal records, and every time, it’s a total satisfaction. Making paintings is also a way to become immortal, I believe! When I pass away, I know there will be a part of myself that still exists, printed on the cover of a book or music record, and someone is looking at the artwork I made and creating his own world in his mind based on it. I think for an artist, it’s an awesome reward.
Pophorror: Have you ever had the chance to choose your characters when they’ve auditioned for the projects you’ve worked on? What did experience did you gather?
Sv Bell: Oh yes, every time! I’ve conducted auditions for the parts available in my films. It’s a great moment, and at the same time, I understand how hard it is for the talents coming to audition for the job. Because, ultimately, they are being judged, compared to their peers, evaluated… It’s very painful, and I always feel sorry for all the great people who came to audition, but I need to select only one talent. I wish I could hire everybody!
Pophorror: What are the negative and positive parts of creating a project in the following perspectives: writing, producing and directing?
Sv Bell: Writing is where everything takes shape and put on paper, everything you want to have in your film, even though you know it’s not possible to make it come true for budget reasons. Everything is positive in the writing stage! Then comes producing. This is where it hurts because you have to throw out some of the amazing stuff you wrote in your story because lack of money, lack of time, lack of resources. This is very sad, but at the same time, it’s also an opportunity to get creative and find shortcuts to express the same idea you had in the screenplay using a different approach. And finally, directing is a great part, too. When the production has been carefully taken care of, directing becomes like painting by number. You see the film taking shape before your eyes, much like a stage play. If pre-production was not done carefully, directing can become a nightmare.
Pophorror: Do you have any advice for those aspiring to make a career in the media industry or those creating?
Sv Bell: Remember that the media industry is just that: an industry. If you want to make films, you need to figure out what you like in making films. because you will not do everything. It’s like a mechanic working at General Motors. He’s not doing the whole car himself. He’s doing a small part. That’s what making films is all about: what part do you want to handle? Camera, lighting, sound, design, art direction, wardrobe, and so on… On a small production, you may be able to wear many hats, but not on a slightly larger production.
As far as creation goes, all I can say is: whatever you do, do it for you. Don’t try to please an audience. Do what you like and let the audience come to you. It’s all about staying true to yourself.
Pophorror: You’ve had an acting role in the movie Deaden. What was that experience like and how does it feel to be on the other side of the camera, taking directing instead of giving it?
Sv Bell: That was a very fun part! But I don’t feel very good in front of a camera. It’s not my place. I did it for Deaden for one particular reason. The role was an extra, a random victim getting beat up in a back street by a badass vigilante. The funny thing is that the extras getting beaten in the back street were (in real life) filmmakers. And the actor playing the vigilante is (in real life) a renowned film critic. I thought it was very clever, a very fun idea to have a film critic to beat filmmakers in a back street.
Pophorror: You have an active streaming movie channel called Black Flag TV that promotes various mediums of art and film. How did you start this venture?
Sv Bell: Black Flag TV is the streaming sister to my DVD distribution company Black Flag Pictures. I started that out of curiosity. There appeared to have some demand for that from customers, so I looked into that. It wasn’t easy to setup back then (2009). Streaming movies online was not a turnkey service. You had to setup your own broadcast engine and dedicated servers. That’s what I did. Black Flag TV still broadcasts today, and the system is still located in my own studio. Nowadays, there are countless streaming services someone can use, but broadcasting movies on the internet does not generate lots of profit. Streaming is very, very expensive. Even Netflix does not make a lot of money. There are massive revenues from their millions of subscribers, but revenues are not profits. When you ask them about their operating costs, suddenly the answers are vague and numbers are blurry.
Pophorror: Let’s chat more about your website beginning with your “TV Channels” section for Black Flag TV/Cult movies/Obskura and Serials. Are you compiling these on your own or do you have a team assisting you?
Sv Bell: I’m doing everything alone! But the movies are not all mine. Many of them have been sent to me from various filmmakers. Other movies are public domain, and some of them are web series that the author re-cut in a whole feature and submit to my TV channel.
Pophorror: The second channel section, “Art by Sv Bell,” is for your amazing artwork, which you also have on Patreon and participate regularly at Comic Con. You provide a range of Comics known as Silverblood and Realms of Fear, which feature some of the models you host on your site.
Sv Bell: Yes, sometimes I receive pictures and portfolios by models for the purpose of posting them to my site, and also use as reference for characters in my comic book!
My Patreon page is not really active. I have set it up and some people do support my art through it. It sure is very welcome! And every month I send my supporters the latest issue of my comic book series.
Pophorror: You also have an amazing collection of artwork known as Universe in Motion.
Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Sv Bell: Universe in Motion is an art book showcasing most of the heavy metal album covers I painted between 1985 and 2000. Right now, the book is out of print. It should be available again by the end of 2018.
Pophorror: Your blog section is very active and has a great variety ranging from Metal Art, Picsvault, Cosplay and Indie Press. Could you elaborate on those for us?
Sv Bell: These are all different sections and topics for stuff I post. Sometimes it’s informative, other times it’s simple entertainment. I don’t blog as frequently as ‘real’ bloggers, just when I find something worth sharing. Stuff posted on social media is pretty much invisible and/or vanishes. On blogs, it stays posted.
Pophorror: Could you tell us a bit more about your Black Flag TV’S Angels?
Sv Bell: Basically, it’s a gallery of pretty girls who sends me pictures to use as models for my comic books series Monsters and Models. I’ve been inviting models via Twitter to submit their galleries of pics if they were interested in possibly being turned into comic books characters. I would add these photos to my “Angels” section. That’s all. It’s nothing official, nothing fancy. It’s a bit like Troma’s Tromettes.
Pophorror: Are there any other ventures or projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share with us?
Sv Bell: I must say that my monthly comic book series are keeping me busy full time. I have a distribution agreement with a corporation here in Canada with firm street date calendar. My comics are distributed everywhere in Quebec. It’s very nice to have a decent presence out there on the real world market. I have an online presence for the series, but I don’t extensively use the web or social medias to promote my comic books. I rely on real world sales. Promoting your series online tend to short-circuit your real world sales.
Pophorror: In regards to the French Canadian industry, where do you see the industry heading in future?
Sv Bell: It’s very hard to predict… Future is in constant motion. But I can see people coming back to the good old print books and physical media. People pay real money and they like to hold real stuff in their hands. That’s what they are getting attached to. Nobody has any sentimental connection with an app in a smartphone or a digital download of a book or song. I think the days of buying vaporware are about to end. People are rediscovering the joy of holding stuff in their hands, owning something. And that’s not only applicable to the French Canadian market, it’s a worldwide trend. But we’ll see in the future.
So for those who love what Sv Bell has to offer and would like to support his Black Flag TV Channel or even become a Black Flag TV Angel, be sure to check out his website for amazing art, movies and music!