Mother Mind Studios is turning into a motherlode of creativity. The new digital media company, which promotes and produces feature films, comic books and other artistic endeavors, has developed a strong team including visual artist Daniel Crosier, director/producer Dane Bernhardt, writer Cuyler Mortimer, editor Jose Medina, director Stephen Santa Cruz, photographer and graphic artist Norman Dillon and DigiFest director and producer Mike Hance. Two of their productions, Isolation Man and Colfax & 15th, screened at Denver's Comic Con in June, and the team is excited to move forward with future productions.
Westword recently talked with Crosier about the studio and upcoming plans.
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Westword: What productions does Mother Mind Studios have in the works?
Daniel Crosier: We have one feature film right now called Colfax & 15th that Stephen Santa Cruz directed a few years ago. He didn't really know what to do with it. Then I prompted him to start screening it. We had a screening with the Denver Film Society. We've really been pushing it on the film festival circuit... It was the last film screening [July 11] at the Downtown Film Festival in L.A, which we think is a big deal. It's about an expectant father who gets sucked up into a world of criminality.
We have another production, Isolation Man, which I'm co-directing. It's a mockumentary. It's absurdist, grotesque, which I'm more into. It's about a vanishteer who can make things disappear. We've been in production for about a year. [We're] doing editing now and animation bits and music, so hopefully we can premiere that in the fall.
We're developing a project with the Enigma, too. A horror film for him. The Enigma is covered head to toe in puzzle tattoos. We have him on the TV show The X Files, making monsters in his likeness. He recently tattooed the whites of his eyes and inside of his mouth black. He's been trying to team up with Rob Zombie's production company.
Another project we're working on is with Heather Dalton. She's a producer at PBS. It's a documentary called Neil Cassady's a Beat Generation and Muse. He was idolized because he was a free-loving person who often threw caution to the wind. He grew up in Denver during Prohibition. His half-brothers were running booze for gangsters, and his dad beat the shit out of him. It's a documentary depicting his youth and what he means as an icon and inspiration to people that really grew up in the whole Beat generation and writing culture. We're working on animation segments as segues to the storytelling. PBS will be airing that film.
Most of your productions are based in Denver. Is it just convenient?
We're here. It's accessible. Denver has a fantastic backdrop and characters that should be depicted as such. With Colfax, Stephen was able to use the underbelly as the backdrop and really paint a more descriptive image.
Mother Mind Studios seems to have its fingers in film, comics, marketing and merchandise. What exactly does Mother Mind Studios do?
We're an incubator for developing projects to get moving. We help by marketing and networking other people to an extent. If anything, it's a great sounding board to come in and pitch your project and have an open discussion to see what needs to be addressed. We've had people who have scripts that are very underdeveloped so we help them break it down to something that is very doable without the $100 million budgets. We're used to doing stuff on the fly for next to nothing on the creative side.
Mother Mind can also be useful for post-production, like creating DVDs and sending works to film festivals. We can use our knowledge and apply it to other people's projects. Locally there are a number of outlets for distribution. Denver Media houses workshops that teach people who want to edit projects for a small fee. It's a non-profit and you become a member and can use the space. They have three cable channels on Comcast, so they look for things to fill that with. There's always something new coming up. There's always a road less traveled and we're happy to navigate through that. That's what's great about our projects: Every one of them is unique, a different endeavor.
What about your involvement with comic books?
Comic books are a new territory for us right now. My background is as a comic-book illustrator and writer, but I usually go through publishers. The original company lined up for one of my comics, Show Devils, went bankrupt two months before the Denver Comic Con, and we wanted the book to be there. We took the book back and self-published it with Dane Bernhardt and Norman Dillon. Now we're trying to get a feel as to distribution. There are huge comic-book distributors like Diamond that are almost a monopoly. Publishing is really expensive if you don't have your own broker, and we have to pay a distributor. Instead, I've been going from store to store because I know most of the shops, but to go national I have to make a lot of phone calls. [Stores] mostly order the top forty or two hundred and don't have shelf space or the finances to purchase comic books at wholesale. We're basically self-distributing and promoting at comic conventions.
You used to work with Crazy Horse Studios. Why did you leave?
Well, we started out as Crazy Horse Studios. I was never really a partner of that, but Dane Bernhardt and Karl Mortimer brought me in to go to production on Isolation Man. Then the philosophies kind of changed. On the film side we wanted to do documentaries and adult-themed production. Not XXX content, but R-rated productions. The animators were gearing towards more Pixar-quality productions, but unless our studio housed 700 animators, good luck to that. They went off and formed Nightmill Productions, and we went off and did our own thing. We took a number of partners who have their own projects to make that happen.
How did you get into this industry?
I've always loved comic books. My academic background is doing non-representational sculpture work, specifically large wood pieces that look like malformed GI Joes when pieced together. In terms of getting into comics, art in itself is just a storytelling mechanism. The process of making that art still has its story. Maybe you were too high one night, or it was the result of a breakup or just complete indifference. But the process has always been more interesting to me than the finished artifact, anyway. Based off of that and the skill set I acquired at the Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design, I was able to get gigs building props or practical effects, like fake lungs that breathe or a fake heart that palpitates on screen. I could make it by hand through trial and error rather than doing it digitally. A lot of the directors I worked with I really didn't respect very much because they didn't take the time to understand the limitations of what I made for them, so I was craving to do my own.
At the same time I was working with machine and pyrotechnics with a group basically making machines that blow up and destroy stuff. I wanted to do more events with them, but because of the material and applications of it, it was financially very cumbersome. I could only do it a few times a year without killing myself financially and maybe actually killing myself at the event. I wanted to do something that I could do a little bit more often, so I started OFM and was really into bands. It ended up being a theater group and we created a whole fight-play based on imagery and feudal Japan.
I wear all of the arts hats. I just like to stick my feet into different ponds and see how things go.
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To learn more, visit Mother Mind Studio's website.