“They’re Mad, They Are” written by Clive Barker, produced by J. Thorn
Clive Barker. The name is instantly recognizable, the man a legend of the American horror tradition. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I spent most of my free time reading the stories that made my parents cringe. Stephen King. Dean Koontz. And of course, Clive Barker. Recently, I was granted the unique opportunity to pay homage to one of the horror writers who inspired me. I truly do stand on the shoulders of giants.
In the fall of 2012, I stumbled upon The Odyssey Project II hosted by deviantART. The second iteration of this creative initiative was begun by Clive Barker who wrote the prologue. Others would then submit their version of the next chapter in 400 words or less. Mr. Barker selected eight chapters in total, written by eight different authors, then compiled the selections into a single, cohesive story.
Collaborate, Publish, Write & Illustrate
Clive Barker starts us off with the Prologue for Odyssey II and selects the submissions for the final books. The ultimate creative challenge to produce the ultimate deviantART book.
I submitted a selection for chapter four and it was not chosen. However, The Odyssey Project II inspired me to create my own version of the multi-author novel which would eventually become The Black Fang Betrayal.
During the pre-production work on that collaborative novel, I sent an email to Clive Barker’s people to ask if he would like to be involved in my project. I was politely told that Mr. Barker was not accepting new projects at the time. I moved on with The Black Fang Betrayal but there was something about The Odyssey Project II that stuck with me, an exciting, creative ache that never left. I found myself thinking about “They’re Mad, They Are” and the way the story unfolded. Months later as The Black Fang Betrayal was about to publish, I emailed Mr. Barker’s people again. This time, instead of asking for something, I offered something. Without knowing why or how I was going to do it, I offered to make a “multimedia adaptation” of “They’re Mad, They Are” and I would do so purely for the opportunity to honor one of my influences. I explained that I would not create the adaptation unless I had permission to do so nor would I sell it. This time I was told, “maybe.”
Months turned into years and every so often I would email again, knowing these types of requests involving intellectual property were never decided lightly. There would be publishing houses and agents and other such entities that would have to approve such a request. Finally, in late 2015, I received official approval to create my adaptation of “They’re Mad, They Are” by Clive Barker.
With just a few hundred dollars, a laptop and a creative bonfire, I went to work.
The first step was to narrate the piece and having it done professionally would be worth the expense. On a blustery January morning, I ventured into Cleveland to Lava Room Recording studios and read Barker’s piece while the engineer, Austin McMaken, captured the cleanest, purest recording possible. My old bandmate and friend, Adam Phillips, joined me in the studio. I was thrilled when he also agreed to do the final audio production on the project.
With the narration complete, I began the difficult decision of laying the foundations of a sound bed. I knew I wanted atmospheric music that would reflect the tone of the story. In 2008, Nine Inch Nails made history by being the first major artist to release an album under Creative Commons licensing. Ghosts was not only a critically acclaimed record but it gave anyone permission to use and remix the songs as long as the adaptations were attributed and not sold. After listening to Ghosts again with a more critical ear aimed at my project, I realized that this was the perfect sound bed.
While video can be the most compelling and engaging medium, I did not want to create a simple “book trailer” type of visual with animated text placed over still images. Clive Barker’s words deserved more than a glorified PowerPoint presentation. I contacted a few friends of mine in the filmmaking industry, but without a budget, it was difficult to generate interest and I knew it would be an obstacle in getting any filmmaker to sign on to the project. It was then that I decided I would have to do it myself.
Armed with nothing but a rudimentary understanding of Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, I began the project. After producing several podcasts, I had some experience with video editing but quickly discovered I would need to take my skills to another level. I read hundreds of articles about video production and watched thousands of minutes of instructional video, taking endless notes on technique and composition. I sat through online tutorials and did several Adobe Premiere Pro practice projects just to understand the mechanics of the software. Now I was ready. I squeezed the most out of the few hundred dollars I had stashed away. At last, I acquired several high-quality pieces of video footage and began to craft the visual track for “They’re Mad, They Are.”
That was several months ago. Now the project is nearly finished and is about to be shared with the world. Having the opportunity to represent Clive Barker, a mastermind who has frightened and amazed me since childhood, is something I will never forget. I’m eternally grateful. I hope you enjoy viewing the adaptation as much as I did crafting it.
1 April 2016
Credits & Appreciation
Audio recording, engineering and editing by Austin McMaken at Lava Room Recording, Cleveland, Ohio.
Narration by J. Thorn.
Audio production and final mix by Adam Phillips.
Promotional graphic designs by Glynn James.
Ghosts by Nine Inch Nails, used under the Creative Commons licensing.