Exclusive Interview: Ninja Ropes

Photos @ Whedonopolis used with permission

Photos from Whedonopolis used with permission click to enlarge

Nathan Fillion’s interest in the iPhone game Ninja Ropes was first revealed to the public at the Dr. Horrible screening in Los Angeles at Halloween when he showed up in an impressive Ninja Ropes costume.

When the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog DVD was released fans were able to hear Nathan singing about the game in the song “Better than Neil” (“Who’s got the high score on Ninja Ropes?”) .

The DVD’s “Commentary! The Musical” also features an entire song dedicated to the game.

We spoke to the Ninja Ropes creator “Sarkscape Games” about the game.

How long have you been creating games?

Sarkscape Games: About a year, since I opened sarkscape.com website. I’m not a professional game developer, it is just my sparetime hobby. When iPhones entered the market I decided it is worth to try to make something interesting for them.

For those that aren’t familiar with the game, can you give us a bit of a description of Ninja Ropes?

SG: This is basically a game of attention and reaction. By controlling two springy ropes you should lead a ninja through outer space.

When did you first hear about Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog?

SG: In the middle of December 2008, when a first preliminary review of the DVD came out and I found a mention of the Ninja Ropes song in it through Google.

Before the commentary came out, did you have any idea that the team enjoyed your game so much?

SG: Absolutely no.

What was your reaction when you discovered there was a song written about your game that was included in Commentary! The Musical?

SG: I was completely stunned. This was the last thing I could expect. Even now somewhere deep in my mind I have doubts this all really happened.

Have you had any contact with the Dr. Horrible team?

SG: No, but I wish to have 🙂

Have there been an increase in traffic to your site since the Dr. Horrible DVD was released?

SG: Yes, but not very much.

Are there any hints you can give to beginners of the game?

SG: The game is simple when you know it’s mechanics. The more speed of your falling, the more speed you will have after shrinking of the rope. Use both ropes and remember locations of the gravity vortexes.

Do you have any other games people might be interested in?

SG: You can see all of my games on sarkscape.com. There are a logical puzzle Block2Lock (which I personally use as a time killer) and an action game Mass Defense (which strangely makes me very nervous when I’m playing it).

Currently I’m planning a native game for iPhone and possible for the other touch-screen devices too. Hope you don’t miss it when it will be released.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

SG: Well, I would like to thank Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris and all cast and crew for the superb musical, hilarious commentary and the great song about my game.

And, of course, thanks to all people who play my games. I’m happy that you like them.

Play Ninja Ropes Extreme right here!
(Doesn’t work in Internet Explorer)
Click Play to begin and don’t forget to leave us a comment on your high score

[Hint: Don’t forget to check the Top 15 high scores!]

Exclusive Interview: Producer, Michael Boretz

Michael Boretz

Michael Boretz

Brian Wiser: I’m Brian Wiser and I’m speaking with Michael Boretz, producer of Dr. Horrible. Thanks for joining us Michael.

Michael Boretz: You’re very welcome.

BW: You worked with Joss for a number of years before Dr. Horrible. Can you tell us a little about your history with Joss and how you came to work for him?

MB: I was working on a Sony movie as a production secretary called Identity with John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and Amanda Peet. The producer’s assistant, a guy named Rupert Cole who was a friend of mine, was going to try to bring me on as the producer’s second assistant. That didn’t work out because he stopped working for her. While I was back home at a golf outing with my family, I got a call from Rupert saying that his roommate, Kelly Wheeler, who I had met once before, was the producer’s assistant on Buffy, and that Joss Whedon was looking for an assistant. I wasn’t very well versed in Buffy or Angel (Firefly wasn’t out yet at that time) so I had to do a little bit of research. I wound up trying to memorize all the seasons’ arcs before my interview. I was very nervous. And then when I met with Joss we didn’t talk about any of that stuff. I think he picked me over the other person he was considering because, quite frankly, I didn’t frighten him or possibly I made him laugh. At one point I remember in the interview I could tell he was starting to get a little bored so I tried to make him laugh and it worked. I attribute landing the job to that moment.

BW: I think it’s always a good idea to show the interviewer that there is an actual live, creative person on the other end, so that was very smart.

MB: Yeah, I was grateful he didn’t have me quote Buffy, but I don’t think that was the most important thing for Joss. I think he just wanted somebody he felt had good organization skills and someone he saw playing more of a producer role one day. So that was how I came to work for Joss and I worked as his assistant for a period of about five years while he had three shows on the air, through Serenity up until recently.

BW: That’s an incredible opportunity you’ve had to see things from the inside perspective of how Joss’ mind works. Having spent so many years with Joss, what are some things you may have learned from him that may have influenced your approach to producing Dr. Horrible?

MB: Well, working with Joss for so many years on multiple projects allowed me to be able to understand what he was looking for creatively and how to communicate that vision to others. This gave me the ability to be an effective producer for him. The script and the songs were already written by Joss, Jed, Maurissa and Zack when he called me in to talk about this musical short project he wanted to do. He had seen my short film Splitting Hairs which I had done and put together while I had worked for him. He was nice enough to give me the time to work on it, and I shot Splitting Hairs while he was in post production on Serenity. So he had seen my short, known what I was capable of, and asked me to help him with Dr. Horrible. And what I did was immediately start to think of key crew who would be willing and able to help us with this project. Since he didn’t have a whole lot of money and was funding it himself, it was important that we got people who were not only willing to help us out, but also people who were very familiar with how Joss works. Lisa Lassek agreed to edit it and Shawna Trpcic who did costumes for Angel and Firefly jumped aboard as well. Loni Peristere from Zoic agreed to do the VFX and I brought in my production designer from Splitting Hairs, Alethea Root. We also brought on as our director of photography Ryan Green who was our camera operator on Serenity. So it was helpful having those years of experience to know the people, and then once they were hired, to be able to communicate effectively with them to relay Joss’ vision and help facilitate getting us into production quickly.

BW: Joss called in favors such as getting a discount on the Universal backlot. The way Dr. Horrible was envisioned and with the limited budget and resources you had to work with, what were some of the other challenges you faced getting it off the ground?

MB: We had a limited budget and we just had to make Dr. Horrible at a reasonable amount. I’d say that was our biggest challenge. It was only through the help of those who know Joss and were excited to be part of the project that allowed us to overcome our budgetary restrictions. A lot of the key crew worked for free and others at a reduced rate with the goal that if Dr. Horrible became profitable we would then compensate them. People willing to work on a labor of love and bringing it in on budget was what made the production possible.

BW: It says a lot about Joss that people are willing to do anything and everything they can to help make his projects successful. Having that history with him no doubt helped immensely.

MB: What I’ve witnessed over the five plus years I’ve known Joss is he really inspires people on multiple levels. He’s talented and so obviously the writing itself people love. On top of that he inspires people not only with that talent but when you meet him he’s very charming, he has a great sense of humor, and he’s very down to Earth. It’s kind of amazing. You’re in awe of this guy when you meet him because you expect him to not be so approachable and not so open and warm, and he is. He creates that kind of environment on the set as well. And that’s why people like to come back and continue to work for him and are willing to do favors. So, you have this great working environment on set. You have a lot of fun because the project you are working on has great dialog, it has fun actors, and everybody is on the same page. And on top of that you have this genre bending story with lots of jokes, lots of action, and great songs — it’s a lot of fun. It’s not like we’re all signing up to do some kind of period piece or something that’s just overly depressing, like the American political system.

BW: It would be a very different world if everyone worked the way Joss works. With the sales of the show and soundtrack on iTunes, can you say if you are in the black?

MB: I haven’t seen the books but things are moving in the right direction.

BW: There is always some risk when entering new territory the way this was released, but I’m sure the fans and Joss have faith that you’ll prevail very shortly with the stellar sales on iTunes. Can you comment on when the DVD or CD-based soundtrack may be available?

MB: The goal is for both the DVD and CD to be available for pre-order in the near future and hopefully they will be shipping before Christmas.

BW: That’s beautiful! I know what everyone will be getting for Christmas this year! We know that there will be a musical commentary track and Evil League of Evil applications as part of the DVD special features. Are there any other special features you’re planning on, or any other ways of involving the fans?

MB: There will be a bunch of fun stuff on the DVD. I think fans are gonna be stoked.

BW: That was a brilliant idea with the Evil League of Evil applications and getting the fans even more involved and becoming a part of that world.

MB: We got over 650 applications! It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve watched a bunch of the applicant’s submissions and it’s a blast.

BW: It’s interesting how much the fans have embraced Dr. Horrible in a variety of ways. I attended DragonCon and there were several Dr. Horrible sing-a-long performances in the style of the Buffy musical. I actually performed in one myself and it was great fun.

MB: What role?

BW: I was one of the Bad Horse Trio.

MB: Sweet!

BW: The first performance had over 2,000 people in the audience and not everyone was able to get in. And at the end, people from the audience gave homemade Evil League of Evil ribbons to everyone who participated. It’s fun to see how it keeps perpetuating and growing.

MB: Wow, that’s so cool. Great to hear that people are having so much fun with it.

BW: In addition to T-shirts, what kind of merchandise can we look forward to? Singing greeting cards and action figures?

MB: Maurissa informed me that new T-shirts are about to launch on Jinx very soon.

BW: Are there any plans to enter Dr. Horrible in film festivals or show theatrically?

MB: There are many plans in the works. We have to make sure we get our ducks in a row first. The real focus right now specifically is making the DVD and CD available.

BW: Do you think that the incredible success of Dr. Horrible has created an opening for others to follow a similar path releasing films online and being more of an online experience initially? Do you think you’ve paved the way for more things like that in the future?

MB: It seems that way. People, both independents and within the studio system have taken notice of Dr. Horrible. We’ve received a very positive response and I hear more and more about individuals shooting webisodes. I have people contacting me trying figure out how to monetize them and make a success out of them. So yes, I think Dr. Horrible has in a sense opened up people to this and shown them that it can be done successfully. I think that the effects of this project are greater than we ever could have hoped for. For one, it’s a hilarious short film musical. It’s unique, a rarity, and on top of that it’s an industry game changer.

BW: It definitely is. Of course it would be wonderful if this could continue with other Dr. Horrible productions. Do you think there may be the possibility of a TV series or movie?

MB: There are a lot of plans and a sequel in some form is a likelihood.

BW: That’s excellent news and will make a world of people very happy.

MB: Yes, I think those are the intentions for Joss, Jed, Maurissa and Zack. And in between doing double duty on Dollhouse, Fringe and trying to get everything else done, that’s definitely the next step after getting the DVD out — figuring out what’s next.

BW: In addition to producing Dr. Horrible, you had a nice cameo role. Is this the first time you’ve been involved as an actor and how did you find that experience?

MB: It was a terrifying experience. It was our first day of shooting and I believe it was even the first scene up. I was there to wear a “producer’s hat” so to speak, and I remember I had to put on this moving guy uniform which was a little tight. It was this one-piece thing and when I zipped it up I could barely breathe. It was more like a girdle. And all I had to do was say “it’s about time” which had been recorded by Joss previously, prerecorded with Jed. I had to land on my mark and I was totally insecure and Joss luckily took it easy on me and gave me some good direction. It took about four takes which also involved getting the camera right. I’m glad I did it. Even though I was very self-conscious, in hindsight it was so much fun.

BW: A fun and memorable experience without a doubt. That’s always nice to see things from different perspectives — acting, directing, and producing. You’ve had so many wonderful experiences with Joss. Are there any hidden meanings or inside jokes in Dr. Horrible that people haven’t discovered yet? Something in the background, a phrase that was used, or something that would be funny when discovered?

MB: You’ll have to ask the writers that one.

BW: Is there anything you’d like to say the fans in closing?

MB: What I would like to say to the fans is that none of this could be possible without them — the success that we’ve had. The response has been amazing. And this isn’t some kind of gratuitous suck up. It’s that people have been contacting me about shooting webisodes and they want advice on how to make it a success. And the truth is, it couldn’t have been done, as it’s becoming a habit now, without the fans’ support. It’s one thing to shoot something, and shoot something that’s good, but without Joss’ loyal, excited and enthusiastic fanbase we wouldn’t have had the spread, the number of hits and views, and it wouldn’t have been so high up on iTunes. This would not be possible without the fans. It really wouldn’t be. So thank you.

Exclusive: Felicia Day Interview

Felicia Day

Felicia Day

If you’ve been following Dr Horrible you’ll know that Felicia Day has done interview after interview after interview since Dr Horrible started gaining attention. Recently Felicia Twittered that she’d had to decide “No more interviews. That’s it. I could spend all day at mixers and doing interviews, but I gotta make more stuff to interview about!” so the Dr Horrible Fan Site is very thankful to Felicia for granting us one final interview… Thanks Felicia!

If you had written Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, how would Act III have ended?

FD: I see no reason to morning quarterback (yipes, was that a sports term I just used?!?!). It was set up so beautifully that the way it ends is the only way it could have ended in my opinion. It was perfect. Had it been more upbeat, I think it would have not had the impact it did. Art should provoke and not placate. I think all the controversy is a compliment, not a detraction.

Some people have criticized Penny’s character saying she’s not strong enough and doesn’t live up to Joss Whedon’s usual portrayal of strong women characters, do you have an opinion on that issue?

FD: Does every woman character have to be “strong”? What does that mean anyway? To me Penny represented the normal life that Horrible craved, someone who didn’t judge, someone who cared about others before she cared about herself. She wasn’t kicking people in the face, but she was true to herself and brave enough to be “good” in the face of a cynical society. Just because she was naive doesn’t mean she was weak. Personally, I loved playing her.

Last time I spoke to you, I asked if you would be interested in doing a sequel if given the opportunity, you joked that you’d work Craft Services if you had to. Now that we all know what happens in Act III do you think we’ll see Penny return in some way if there’s another episode?

FD: People read waaay too much into that Craft Services remark! I always talk about craft services! Because frankly, it’s one of the great things about filmmaking: An open trough of food to snack on all day featuring thing you’d never buy at home, like processed cheese and crackers. Who wouldn’t want to work in Hollywood with that as a perk! As for a sequel, I can only cross my fingers! Of course I’d love to come back somehow, but only if it served the vision of the Horrible creative collaborative. If they’re reading this, I can also snap a mean clapboard. 😉

Did you have any expectations about how people would respond to Dr Horrible before it went “live”?

FD: I’m so tied to the net I practically have an Ethernet cord plugged directly into my brain, so it was obvious to me that Joss + Whedon Fan Base + Amazing Product would be a phenomenon. That said, the reality of it was more overwhelming than I could have ever envisioned. It’s one thing to say “it’s going to be huge”, but to see an independently produced show in the #1 slot of iTunes and featured in a spread in Entertainment Weekly, that was nothing anyone could have predicted.

Last week was your first visit to Comic Con – what were your thoughts as a visitor?

FD: Uh, wow. Can we say unprepared?! I had no idea they constructed buildings to accomodate that many people! It was insane! When I was rushing from place to place I kept lamenting the fact I was so packed that I couldn’t stop and shop. When we walked on stage for the Dr. Horrible panel and like 3,000 people were cheering, man. I know why Miss America ladies cry now, sorry I made fun of them all my life. It was overwhelming, like the whole weekend.

What was the experience like as a guest?

FD: Crazy!! I literally couldn’t walk sometimes because so many people would recognize me! The thing I’m proudest of is that when I was in the more “corporate” section of the exhibit floor, I didn’t get stopped much, but when I was on the independent vendor side, I wouldn’t make it two feet without a wave. I love that!

Do you have a favourite fan encounter from Comic Con?

FD: When Irrel (http://twitter.com/irrel) gave me the cutest fan art for Dr. Horrible of me, Dr. Horrible and Hammer. She also did fantastic fan art for The Guild that I found online later, you can see it on The Guild site, www.watchtheguild.com. It was so amazing, I will treasure that drawing and meeting her.

Will you ever confess to Twittering in public again?

FD: LOL I love that moment, I turned as pink as my sweater! The only revenge I have is that I’m sure that I’ve created a few thousand Twitterholics like myself after that incident. Take that!

Do you ever worry that being so open with fans will create problems for you, do you think there will come a time when you’ll have to back off a little?

FD: Due to the massive influx of communication, I am finding that I can’t really answer nearly as many emails/msgs etc. which sucks, but I still try to read everything at least. I could spend 9 hours a day just answering Facebook messages, which does no one good if I have no time to write or produce other things 🙂 That said, I’ll never consider it a “problem” until someone shows up on my doorstep (please don’t do that, haha).

As someone who is so involved in the social networking community, what was your reaction to seeing Dr Horrible on the front page of MySpace this week?

FD: I was pretty geeked out (Did you see my Twitter? 🙂 ) I was particularly struck that it was getting so many views. A lot of web people have “theories” about length of videos, what viewers will tolerate, but Dr. Horrible shows that it’s quality that keeps people watching, not arbitrary length.

What impact do you think the success of Dr Horrible will have on your career?

FD: Of course I hope it opens doors for me in mainstream TV and movies, but honestly I’m most excited about the opportunities to keep producing and acting in web content. I love being on the forefront of a media revolution, and Dr. Horrible definitely lends web video more legitimacy and will forge new pathways for creators everywhere.

The second season of The Guild should be out in September, is there anything else you’re working on we can look forward to?

FD: We’ll be shooting The Guild Season 2 in September, so release may be pushed to October. It’s all about getting the funding pushed through at this point. I have a Guest Star on House airing in September that I’m looking forward to, and I’m writing another show with Machinima.com, a sitcom set in a game world. In my “spare time” I’m also developing a few other projects for the web and other media. There are so many opportunities for me right now I just need the time to figure out what direction I want to go and do it!