*The Philosophy of Evan Hale*
by G.A. Deezen12 December 2004
"When we try to focus their attention on solid facts ... they scream that the iron hand of objectivity is turning frail and pliable souls into reified machines."-- Bruno Latour, "Do you believe in reality?": News from the Trenches of the Science Wars
Who are you, and why are you important? I'm Evan L. Hale, and if I had to say why I was important, I'd have to say it's because I'm a child of God. But you're probably wanting me to say that I produced, directed, edited, did music for, co-wrote and played the lead role in SUBTERRANEAN CINEMA REALM, an MST3K fanvid series. When did your love affair with MST3K begin? It was the summer after seventh grade, I guess that would've been 1997. I was in my room, listening to music and playing SUPER MARIO 64 late at night, when my dad called me into the living room. My mother and father were watching something on TV. It was weird. There was an old 1950's schlock-movie playing (I would learn later that this was THE MOLE PEOPLE), but there were these three shadows in the corner of the screen heckling it. I thought it was hilarious. It actually reminded me of my cousin Christian, who I'd actually seen "mst" a movie before when I was younger (TERMS OF ENDEARMENT . . . he was really funny, and after he left he suggested I carry on without him . . . oddly prescient, considering what's happened). It also reminded me of stories my dad had told me about him and his friends doing something similar when they were young 'uns, only they would usually turn the sound all the way down and just completely make up the dialogue. Anyway, I thought it was really funny and wonderful. I kept expecting it to end, like I thought it was just some brief clip of something that was being shown on some other show, maybe a talk show, but it kept going, THROUGH THE WHOLE MOVIE, and I thought that was really cool. Later, I saw a commercial on Sci-Fi for it, and started watching it every weekend. I learned a lot more about it as the years rolled on, but that's pretty much how it began. What inspired you to finally get off your duff and make a fanvid? I always thought it'd be really great to work on MST. For a while, I entertained the possibility of going to film school and then trying to become an intern on the show, if it was still on by then. I can't remember exactly how it all began. Kyle Buchman and I were walking around at recess one day in 8th grade. I had introduced him to the show fairly recently, and we were both in love with it. I'm not sure how it all came about, but I think I mentioned something about how it'd be cool to make a show like that. I started trying to think of a catchy title, and eventually came up with SUBTERRANEAN CINEMA REALM. We invited another guy, Billy Thomas, to help us, and Air'n Monahan, and then Will Basanta asked to help. And that's kind of how it started. Oh yeah. My dad had some old video equipment, and that got us started learning how to use the stuff. What's your best memory? My best memory is probably just about being down in my basement shooting the host segments. It was pretty funny, trying to deal with the fact that we didn't have puppet trenches. Oftentimes what was going on below the desk-line looked like some sort of creepy orgy, with lots of wriggling around and slithering. And David Hutchings and Taylorson were always naked, there was that too. It was always fun doing the elevator thing, where I had to crouch down in a fashion so as to convince the audience that we were actually on an elevator, going down. The effect, as many of you may have seen, is astounding! I'm sure, after reading this, now that you know how we were really doing it, you will never be able to watch those segments in the same way ever again. (This might be slightly off subject, but I also have a particularly vivid good memory of spending the night of my sixteenth birthday at my house with David Hutchings, Louis Strack, David "Taylorson" Taylor, and Mitch Penrod, writing the script for JACKLAND AND MORBIUS IN SPACE, a tasteless, morbid puree of humor that's still available through our old website-- we were (and are) terrible dorks. I remember David Hutchings sitting in the kitchen, insisting that he was always angry on Friday nights and filling the script with cursing. I remember seeing Louis, working on the script or listening to a read-through, I can't remember which, and the way the light of a lamp in my living room lit the scene . . . whoa, this is getting weird. End.) What's your worst memory? My worst memory is probably when I was a big jerk to Air'n Monahan and Will Basanta. They were busy guys, and I was always finding some way to undermine their connection to the project 'cuz I couldn't get them to be where I wanted them to be when I wanted them to be there. I was a total control freak in the earlier days. It all blew up when, in the original version of REEFER MADNESS, we had some gay jokes written into the host segment script, and they didn't feel comfortable doing them, and I was a total butt-hole about the whole thing, and we ended up mutually separating. Again, I used to be a big jerk. I've apologized since then, and I'm much less filled with rage at the world. Was this whole creative differences thing what was responsible for "Subterranean Cinema Realm: The Next Generation", et cetera? There's a few Star Trek based titles on the SCR website. Those are just "eras" in SCR history, not actual episodes or anything, right? They are just eras in SCR history. David Hutchings put these up every time we had some huge shift in the geography of our cast, which happened quite often. So, yes, the creative differences would have been one of the things that led to a new version of SCR. Are you guys big Star Trek fans? I am not much of a Star Trek fan myself, though I have been known to enjoy a viewing of one or two of the original series episodes. Something about the atmosphere. I don't think any of us were Star Trek fans except for Kyle Buchman, the original Kilgore Catfish, who, if any of you were aware of us back in the day, actually had some sort of Star Trek cartoon on our website that was published periodically by somebody. I think it might've been called SEV TREK, but I'm not at all sure why. He was the one originally in charge of the website. After he went off the the Illinois Math and Science Academy, David Hutchings took over the site and put the text line, "No, I didn't laugh either," next to the cartoon, because it wasn't usually very funny. Nowadays there's no cartoon there, just a big sign reading something like "THIS COMIC IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE" or something, and the "No, I didn't laugh either," is still there, transcendent and free of any context whatever. Are you currently working on anything you'd like to divulge? Smart Guy Productions has split up at this point, but I believe there are still two projects going down by people from the old SGP. Some of the other guys are continuing with CHRONOLOGICALLY SPEAKING, which is a show about the end of time, where C4PO, of SCR fame, has a talkshow, and must send his two henchmen back into the timestream in order to kidnap celebrities to appear as guests on his show. I was involved with the writing, directing, acting, blah-de-blah-de-blah for the first episode, but not anymore. Now I'm working on a show with some of the old SGP guys called MR. TAYLORSON'S LEARNING DUNGEON. It's a parody of children's programming, starring David "Taylorson" Taylor as Mr. Taylorson, a bizarre, twisted man intent on making creepy educational videos for small children. His rival is the notorious Monsier Mileur, a Frenchman to be played by Steve Kirkpatrick, who is the host of his own children's show and is always at odds with Mr. Taylorson. (The name of Mileur's show is either going to be "Monsier Mileur's Afternoon Salon", which is what I originally wrote down, but due to the fact that I wrote it in a French accent, it came out to Ginseng's eyes and ears as "Monsier Mileur's Afternoon Saloon." I don't know which is better. I meant "Salon" because I thought of all the philosophes in the 1700's that met in salons. They were French, right? On the other hand, I really do like the idea of a French cowboy.) Are you affected normally by gravity? I am affected supernormally by gravity. As I'm typing this, I have to concentrate extremely hard to hold my fingers up so they don't just crash right down into the keyboard. I have to be very careful about how much give I let gravity have over certain fingers in order to type. If I don't time the relaxation of my muscles and the following re-tensing of my muscles just right, my hand goes crashing through the keyboard and the table underneath it. Then I have to buy and install and entirely new keyboard. I'm on my third for this question. What's the deal with... you being so long-winded, Evan? Well, that's a long story . . . Just kidding. I'm just bored right now and love the sound of my own keyboard clicking. Just where did you come up with the name Kilgore Catfish? I'm somewhat of a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and he has a science fiction writer in a lot of his books who writes really silly stories that allegorically present valid points pertinent to the larger Vonnegut work. It's like Vonnegut comes up with a really good idea that's just too silly even for him, so he gives it to this guy, who writes it in the world of Vonnegut's story. This guy's name is Kilgore Trout. Kilgore Catfish is a take-off on this, an homage, if you will ,to Kurt Vonnegut. It also kind of works because part of the Kilgore mythology is that he's malfunctional in the sense that he's a cat fetishist (cat fetishist, Catfish . . .). We decided on this because it's really true that Kyle Buchman, the original voice and puppeteer for Kilgore, was known to enjoy ... the feline species. (Some people who actually knew Kyle--and possibly Kyle himself--might contend that this is, in fact, not true. Against their contention, I would contend that truth is relative. They would then counter-contend that anyone who knows me--and possibly me myself--would know that I don't believe that. To which I would reply by throwing a copy of Bruno Latour's SCIENCE IN ACTION at them and screaming, "Of course I believe in reality! But the only reason you think Kyle [doesn't enjoy cats] is because of the army of citations that my scientific realist opponents have mobilized against the idea in their literature! The fact is constructed, and if one were to finance their own [cat enjoyment] laboratory, with their own instruments to measure how much ... Kyle [enjoyed] cats, and then make their own value judgments and get enough expert opinion on their side, then one could easily defeat history and conquer Kyle's claim to have not engaged in [the enjoyment of cats]!") Were any cats harmed in the making of any SCR episodes? Unfortunately, no, but that reminds me of something funny. In the early days, sometimes Kyle and I would hang out late into the night after a meeting or whatever, and make short, edited-on-the-fly videos filled with silly stuff. Part of these little videos involved Kyle putting one of my cats up to his mouth, and then we would crash edit into him apparently stuffing something down his throat. It kind of looked like he was eating a cat alive. We'd also sometimes do something similar in reverse, so it looked like he was vomiting a cat. We also danced like old men from the '50s. We were average American boys. Do you think the cat fetish mythology added to Kyle's performance as the voice and puppeteer of Kilgore? Anything that allowed Kyle to freely express his passion for cats was (and is) good for the world at large. What do you do when you're not making MST3K fanvids? I do homework. When I have free time, I enjoy reading fiction, philosophy, theology, and such. I also play guitar, and am currently trying to learn every single STROKES song, because they're all AWESOME. So, you're in school then? Which one? What's your major? I'm majoring in philosophy at Southern Illinoins University at Carbondale. I don't know that I actually want to be a philosopher, but I might as well study something I find kind of interesting. Will there be any more episodes of SCR, now that SGP is no more? Highly unlikely. Certain differences between the main players render this unlikely, but even if those differences were to be mended, we'd probably be working on another project of our own creation. How did you create the shadorama effect in SCR? Just what ARE those things? For our very first episode, which wasn't very good (Episode 0: WITHIN THE ROCK), we just filmed a television screen with some puppets in front of it. Air'n Monahan made the puppets for my character and his (Air N. was another human character that was in the theater with myself and Kilgore before Air'n stopped working with us and we replaced him with C4PO). Kilgore was some sort of Star Wars robot (I'm pretty sure it wasn't R2D2) that Will Basanta owned. Later, when we did the HOMECOMING SPECIAL and everything after it, my dad got a Videonics Digital Video Mixer, with chroma key effect. We just placed our puppets (along with the little line of seats Air'n made) against a green screen and then green-screened in the movie. We recorded the audio from the movie and our comments in another room. After Air'n was gone, we used his puppet for me, since my hair was different then, and used a Bic razor markered black for C4PO. The proportion of the head to the body was a little off when compared with the host segments, but it was all worth it to use a Bic razor as a puppet. One of the SCR experiments was Reefer Madness. Were you surprised that Michael J. Nelson was tapped to do commentary on a recent release of Reefer Madness on DVD? Yes, very much so. We were all excited to see whether or not he made any remarks similar to our own. He didn't really. His was funnier and a lot less dependent on immature sexual humor, I noticed. What really surprised me is that on some website (I can't remember if it was yours or not), when word first got out about REEFER MADNESS being released on DVD with colorization, the website in question presented this info with two points about why it was important. And the fact that we had done it was mentioned before the fact that Mike was gonna do commentary! Weird. [Editors note: It was this site. See the news for 19 December 2003.] One of the SCR experiments was the movie called simply "W". If you were to make a film with a single letter title, what letter would it be, and why? It would be what my classical Greek instructor [calls] "omega with iota subscript." I can't write in Greek with my keyboard, but it's basically an omega, which is sort of like a "w" with a little iota subscript thing, kind of like an apostrophe, underneath it. I choose this because no one in the world has any idea of how this was supposed to be pronounced, and no one would be able to refer to my movie verbally. It would then necessarily transcend language and get to the core of the human condition, all constructs thrown aside. I mean, that's what happened when Prince made his name unpronounceable, wasn't it? Where did you guys find the movies you used for experiments? Anywhere we could find them. We bought some from stores, taped others off of TV. One thing I'm not too proud of is when we rented a bunch from the Cult section of Hollywood video and just copied them at my house. Lousy ethics, always getting in the way!
Thanks to Evan Hale for answering these more than seven and a half questions.