Jon Clark: Spectrum Hunter is the culmination of a lot of my best ideas from the past three years, and collaboration with other artists. It was initially based on the idea of reenacting an 8-bit video game in live action. Unlike modern games, 8-bit video games are abstract because they were produced with a very limited set of tools. I wanted to use the abstractions inherent in those games as a structure for making a film. I thought that interpreting 8-bit conventions through live action would be bizarre and interesting. You can see this idea play out in the Spectrum Hunters' maze. I am also very inspired by B-movies, cult TV shows, and obscure media of all types. I wanted to create a bizarre, yet insular world that had its own logic, like these types of media do.
With Spectrum Hunter, I have attempted to create a meta-B-movie with constant visual payoff, where the objects and images tell the story more than anything. The characters are all B-movie archetypes. Rotten Robbie is a composite of the classic Drama kid, Goth witch, or Romantic poet type. Tyler is the classic Older Brother character. Like many older brothers, Tyler is deep into esoteric stuff that his younger brother Tc has never even heard of. However, in this case, the "esoteric stuff" is represented by the perilous Spectrum Hunter cult. TC is based on my friend Tom Cooney who co-wrote the script and plays TC in the movie.
NA: We're also showing Night Trap (the game & movie); was this an inspiration?
JC: Night Trap was definitely an inspiration for Spectrum Hunter, but only in a half-remembered sort of way. I played Night Trap as a kid and the game play was very difficult. Within moments I was completely disoriented. I watched as a future vampire cult in wetsuits drained teenage girls' blood with an auger-like device. The total package of Night Trap was more confusing and weirder than most cult movies. That's why it never left my subconscious.
NA: Can you tell us a bit more about what all those signs and secret symbols in Spectrum Hunter are all about?
JC:. In many ways, Spectrum Hunter is about interacting with art and media. The meat of the film lies in its production design. I was trying to create a world in which I could juxtapose memory and childhood with pop culture and, more specifically, the idea of subcuture.
I wanted to show how mysterious our overly-saturated world of logos and symbols can be if we just look at it differently or in a different context. We used Pogs to represent drugs/magic. The graphics depicted on them relate literally to the powers they give you. We used real Pogs because I wanted to recontextualize an actual item from my childhood. Much like music subcultures and professional sports teams, the Spectrum Hunter subculture produces its own ephemera in the form of trading cards, VHS tapes, posters, clothing, etc.
It was important to illustrate the Spectrum Hunter subculture through its ephemera because I was using it as a parallel to explore how we interact with culture and its ephemera in general. Laura Brothers provided many of the more abstract images that appear in the Spectrum Hunter's maze. She also created the Pogs that the Spectrum Hunters eat during their initial baptism ceremony. Laura's artwork is very graphic, yet also haunted. This made it the perfect Spectrum Hunter imagery. You can see most of her work on her blog. Even the puzzles in the Spectrum Hunters' maze have a graphic look to them, and in reality, they are children's magic tricks.
TC wears t-shirts with animal graphics on them because he identifies strongly with animals and actually transforms into a bird in one scene. In real life, he works at a Farm Sanctuary.
Most of all, I had a lot of fun creating my own subculture and it's ephemera. Since completing Spectrum Hunter, I have continued to make cover artwork for a series of imagined media called the Night School Collection. You can view them on my tumblr.
Questions by Network Awesome writers and editors. We're a lot of fun - you can find us at apocalypse-themed parties, museums of science and industry, and snarky media-obsessed websites.