The Mercury Men – interview with Chris Preksta

A WHILE ago I blogged about the deliciously retro web serial the Mercury Men.

Evoking memories of the Buster Crabbe era Flash Gordon series, it follows Edward Borman, a lowly government office drone, who is trapped in his office building when it is seized by the glowing and deadly Mercury Men.

Borman must help the mysterious and dashing Jack Yaeger to stop the invaders and their doomsday device, the Gravity Engine.

The MM’s creator Christopher Preksta took time out of working night and day finishing the post production work ahead of the autumn release to answer some Scyfilove questions….

How did the Mercury Men come about?

The Mercury Men started out as a short film we shot in October 2007. I really just wanted to make something with ray guns. So in one ridiculously long day we shot a short little black and white adventure with this office employee fending of glowing invaders. The whole thing cost around 300 bucks.

It ended up screening at dozen or so film festivals, including San Diego Comic Con, and even picked up a few awards. Somewhere in that process I knew the idea could grow into something bigger.

What were your influences on The Mercury Men? It looks beautifully retro.

We of course are influenced heavily by the old serials, but the films with the greatest impact on TMM is the Indiana Jones series. I’m almost certain that we talked about Indiana Jones EVERY single day of production.

When doing something born out of vintage or retro storytelling it’d be easy to copy the style down to the smallest detail. Retro posters, cheesy announcers, corny dialogue, etc.

What Spielberg and Lucas did with Indy, and what we hope to emulate, is taking that old style of storytelling, the adventure, the mystery, the cliffhangers, and do it in modern way. And without Shia LaBeouf swinging with CGI monkeys.

How long did it take to film and produce, and how many people were involved?

Pre-production began in the spring of 2008. We filmed for three weeks in October of that year with a week of pick-ups in the summer of 2009. Post production, including a lot of VFX work, has been going on since filming wrapped. We’ve got roughly the same amount of VFX shots as the first Star Wars film!

All in all there’s been roughly 15 – 20 people involved and of those roughly 3 or 4 (including myself) are behind the continuing day to day work.

Who are the team behind it – is it just you and some friends, or a bit more serious?

Definitely more serious than just a group of friends, although I do try to make opportunities available to filmmaker friends whenever possible. We posted notices and brought on cast and crew from Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and even Ohio.

About a third of us had worked together on our first series, Captain Blasto, another third was the crew from the original TMM short, and the rest were all new to the team.

How did you get into this type of work, and what made you start making web films for yourself?

I’ve been making short films since high school, and oddly enough nearly all of them were serialized. We’d come up with goofy characters or ideas and tell the story in chapters. Even my first feature length film Captain Blasto, which we later adapted into a web series, was broken up into chapters in the screenplay and final film.

So when the web series medium really took off with shows like The Guild, I’d realized that our abilities and my style of storytelling where already really well suited for it.

It looks incredibly polished, with solid special effects, despite what must be a tight budget. How do you pull that off?

Everything we’ve ever made has been micro-budget. We’ve learned over time how to turn a handful of cash into something that looks much more valuable. We’ve got it down to a science or an art form at this point. That comes from a couple things.

One, we have an incredibly dedicated and talented cast/crew. Two, I spend A LOT of time making sure the production is ridiculously organized, including storyboarding EVERY single shot.

And lastly, rather than just writing a story and then trying to go find money to make it happen, I look at how much money I know I can get and then write a story I feel I’m capable of telling for that amount.

Does making a web series give you greater freedom, as you call all the shots?

Absolutely. If we’re successful enough to make a living from the series, I’ll gladly stick with it.

Did your past success put you under any more pressure to deliver this time around?

Not at all. My biggest success was with Captain Blasto and I was practically a kid when I made it. Didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’ve felt much better about this project every step of the way.

After Joss Whedon’s web series, do you think people are paying more attention to them?

Yes and no. A lot of people that never watched a web series before saw Dr. Horrible. But did they watch anything else? Or are they just waiting for the next chapter of Dr. Horrible?

Any Mercury Men singalongs planned?

No sing-a-longs in our future, but we’ve got plenty of other great things planned for the series.

This first set of episodes really is the tip of the iceberg. I’m really hoping it’s successful enough to warrant the flood of ideas we have planned.

What does the future hold? A MM sequel? New films altogether? Moving into the mainstream production world?

I would love to continue the TMM story, and I’m committed to it, whether that’s a web series or another medium. I’ve already got plans for the sequel and beyond. On top of that we have things we’d like to do outside of the actual episodes, including our digital props series and a role playing game based on the TMM universe.

When will it be released and what reaction are you hoping for?

It will be released this fall, hopefully late September or early October. Like any film or series, I’m just hoping people connect with the story, characters, and world.

I’ve been calling this series a “knothole” because you’re really only getting to peek at the much larger world behind the fence. And I’m hoping we attract enough people that we’re given the opportunity to start tearing that fence down.

….. Good stuff eh! Thanks to Chris for having a chat with me for you Scyfilovers and here’s hoping the Mercury Men takes off this autumn.

Find out more by having a look at its official website.

2 thoughts on “The Mercury Men – interview with Chris Preksta

  • Live for films


    Nice interview. Love this kind of pulp serial stuff. Mercury Men looks excellent doesn't it

  • Stevo


    Never met him but Chris is the real deal. His work is incredible & speaks for itself. Hollywood should take notice of a guy with this much talent & drive and give him a good budget to work with instead of wasting money on more of the same old dreck.

    Would love to AD for him in the future!

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