Trico Lutkins is a job collector! History professor, Auto Mechanic, Comic book writer and now he’s added writer and co-director of UFO: The Otis Files to the list.
His first film was released on May 6th, 2017 and we had the opportunity to speak to him, not about just the film, but what inside his head must be like containing what appears to be limitless creativity.
IDV: So have you ever considered Adderall? Just to slow down a notch or two?
TL: Haha, no, not yet. I’ve always had all these things I said I was going to do “one day” and it seems like one day has recently turned into many days.
Take us back to the inspiration for this film. What was it, how long did it take you to write it?
Everyone has to do what’s best for them so leaving their day job isn’t for everyone but if you do, know that success won’t happen overnight. -Trico Lutkins
I was at a con in Lansing and I was speaking with another comic creator and he mentioned wanting to work together on a project “that might have happened but might not have.” I didn’t think much of it at the time but on the way home I wondered if he meant something like Roswell or an alien sighting. I started thinking of a news interview with a country bumpkin type character and before I knew it I was acting out all these characters out loud in my truck while I was driving home. I’m so glad I never fixed my radio and that the ride home was long or it might have never happened! HaHa!
Once I got home I wrote down all the dialog and funny situations I had acted out. The next day I flushed out the rest of the script.
Was it difficult to bring your cast together?
Luckily, I knew a lot of people that love seeing themselves on the big screen, lol. I had most of the parts cast in my head when I was writing. Some characters were added on the fly because I had friends that I really wanted to have in the film. Scheduling was tricky because most of the cast is made up of comic creators so it was hard finding weekends when no conventions were going on.
What was your budget on this particular film?
I think I spent under $1,000 including the premiere at Howell Historic Theatre. Warren and I pride ourselves on being able to create quality films on a micro-budget. It’s easy to make a film look good when there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions but it takes skills and resourcefulness to do it on a little-to-no budget.
Do you think to have a smaller budget, tends to make a director and writer more or less creative? What was your experience?
Yes for sure. We didn’t have a large budget (or the insurance) to do a lot of physical comedy or huge effects. The cast really did an awesome job of bringing the comedy with just funny lines and facial expressions. Also, a lot of the special effects we did use came about because we were looking for public domain effects and we’d stumble across something that looked so cool we’d say “we gotta use this somewhere!” Also, since we had a small budget, when things went wrong we had to find creative ways to fix the problem (or at least to make it look like we did it on purpose, lol)
What was the learning curve like, did you pick up any essential pointers from co-director Warren Jackson?
I learned a ton from Warren. He has an amazing eye for finding the perfect shot. Also, he always knows what B-Roll footage we’ll need later in editing. One thing I learned is that each page from the script is only about one minute on film so make sure your script is at least 40 pages if you want a full-length feature. Also, you can never have too much footage.
What advice would you give anyone who is considering maybe leaving their “safe” 9 to 5 job to dive head first into the “geek-arts”, movies, comics, programming?
Everyone has to do what’s best for them so leaving their day job isn’t for everyone but if you do, know that success won’t happen overnight. My first film I tried to make was back in 2008 or 2009. It never got off the ground. It took a few years and me building a network of other creative people to finally make a film. In comics, it takes a lot of patience. At cons, I sometimes see a creator there one year so I talk to them and pick up their comic. Then the following year they’re not at any cons and their website is shut down. It takes years to get anywhere so don’t get discouraged. Josh Werner and I founded Source Point Press in 2013 and for the first 2 or 3 years, it took everything we had financially, mentally and emotionally just to keep it going. Now SPP is making movies for the SciFi Channel and working with horror film stars and I’m getting freelance writing jobs. It all just takes time.
We’ve spoken to some comic creators who said that they originally pitched their comic as a movie, but when they went over the budget they realized that a comic was the only feasible route to go, from a financial standpoint. Upon creation do you know personally know if you’re creating a movie or a comic, what dictates that for you?
Almost always. I think the ridiculousness of UFO: The Otis Files worked great as a film but it would’ve been difficult to translate into a comic. Since it’s a mockumentary I think it was a lot more forgiving than making a horror or sci-fi film. Also, a lot of my comics would require too big of a budget to make into a movie. One time I wrote a poem and thought “this would make an interesting comic.” That poem became the script for my comic Vostokapolis through DimThroat Comics. That was one time when once it was written I decided it needed to be presented in a different media.
Now that the Otis Files is out, what’s next?
I’m going to be using my background as a history professor to make a historical TV series for kids (with puppets), I’m writing a history documentary series for a company and I hope to make a short horror film based on a Stephen King property.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of UFO: The Otis Files head on over to UFO: The Otis Files Store and order yourself a copy! It currently is only available in DVD format and retails for $9.99 US.