Xenovision Interview: Angel Rosenthal and Paul HartmannA column article by: Park Cooper
Angel Rosenthal and Paul Hartmann, among others, have teamed up to help the late Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live, Newsradio, Kiki's Delivery Service, the video game Blasto) get the recognition he deserves—in Hollywood, in Canada (Phil was from Brantford, Ontario), and in the rest of the world.
PC: Okay, here we go! So, let's see. How shall we start... Okay, let's come at it this way... Let's state the goal. What is y'all's goal? That main goal which I, indeed, also support and encourage?
Angel Rosenthal: For the campaign or the XENOVISION projects?
Paul Hartmann: A life of peace, love, and understanding.
PC: Let's start with the campaign.
AR: The campaign goal: get Phil the recognition that has been lacking, and get him the stars on the Canada and Hollywood Walks of Fame. Fairly simple goals. Difficult road to get to the goal.
PC: Which will be harder, of those two, do you think?
AR: Well, what do you know, we agree on something!
PC: And why will that be harder?
AR: The cost of the Hollywood star is approaching $40,000.
PaulH: 35,000 reasons...
PC: Ah hah.
AR: There is no cost to the Canadian star.
PaulH: Body count.
PC: So one can just buy the Hollywood star? Or is there even more to it than that? I mean, I'm sure they wouldn't let me have one... even with the money
PaulH: No you must have the track record of a star to get one
AR: Hollywood also wants to make sure we can deliver family and celebs to the induction ceremony, if and when Phil is elected. There is an application process, which is fairly basic. Then, it becomes a public relations and cash factor with Hollywood. A political process at best.
PC: Okay... and so what's the new plan for these two goals?
PaulH: We have $10,000 promised already
AR: Hollywood right now is not in the equation, the application does not have to be completed until May if 2012, so at the first of the year, we will begin work on the application, and begin to line up people to participate in terms of a potential ceremony, as well as look at help for raising money. Once you are elected, you have 5 years to schedule the star ceremony.
PC: And the other one?
AR: Canada is what we are working now -- it is a voting process, and a constant searching for new people to vote and then making sure they indeed do cast their votes. I put together a committee of 25 people to help out with the pure volume of work that needs to be done to hit every single social media and internet site we can to drum up interest and votes.
PC: How do you find these people to vote (not the 25, but the others)?
PaulH: It seems we are the only ones who actively promote a candidate for the last two years anyway.
PC: Well if that's true, how the heck do other people get in and win?
AR: Well, I don't know about that, because someone else is getting their people elected, Paul...I think we are just not looking or seeing other people's campaigns.
PC: Yeah... which is... thought-provoking... But anyway, how are y'all doing it?
PaulH: You never see them doing as much press as we have done... So why is it that we are not getting in? For one translating social media into votes is not easy. The old horse to water thing. Troy McClure’s page has 220,000 members... if half of them voted, we would win... but a fraction vote
AR: They are working just as hard as we are. It is also a matter of timing - since Phil is deceased, it is the Legends Award he would most likely get. So, can you avoid having a more famous Canadian NOT die during a year? Last year, Mordecai Richler got the Legend Award. My concern this year is now going to see what happens if they decide to honor Jack Layton with a star
PaulH: They only get a total of a 130000 votes a year...
PC: You mean they are Simpsons fans who just like anything Simpsonsy?
AR: Not even that -- because of the size of the page, Facebook will usually say "like" this page based on the demographics involved or the other pages that might be similar to the Troy page...
PC: Oh really. That's not actually the number of people who have clicked Like?
AR: ...So you end up with a majority of people joining that page that just join it for the hell of it. Kinda like a herd mentality.
PC: Oh I get it, FB says "hey I bet you'll like this too" and they're like "sure okay!"
AR: So it becomes an education process, and a constant process of reminding people to vote, and who they are voting for. The issue with, say, the Troy McClure page is that most of the fans are kids. Most of them don't know who Phil was, much less who the hell Troy McClure was. How the people come about to press the "like" button is one of those FB mysteries...
PC: Can only Canadians vote for it?
AR: No, anyone can vote anywhere in the world
PaulH: Getting other stars on board has been slow as well, but getting better. ...One additional problem is that a lot of people assume that Phil already has a star...
AR: For the first few years of the campaign there was no concerted effort to bring stars onboard. We began that in the final months of last year's campaign, and found some success with it. This year, it is even bigger, as a way to continue to draw on people that Phil worked with.
PC: Is there a website or FB page where people can be directed to about this? I don't mean the Canada star page, I mean your efforts specifically.
PC: All righty... Angel, how did you get involved with all this in the first place?
AR: How did I get involved with the campaign or with Phil stuff in general? Both of those are pretty long stories...
PaulH: It’s a whole novel...
PC: I meant the campaign, but if it's really long...
AR: The short version I guess is that I was on the fringes of the campaign and the Phil pages in late 2009 and early 2010, then Paul "found" me on FB in April of 2010, and ever since then....it has been a pretty amazing process... Yeah, a 300 page plus novel Paul...been working on the book since last September. It reads like fiction, but it's 100% true.
PaulH: True fiction! I like it...
AR: No fiction needed. The story is pretty amazing as it turns out via this past year and a half.
PC: How so?
AR: Starting a business without ever meeting your partners.
PaulH: Yeah that is fun...
AR: Working non stop despite difficult-at-best circumstances related to schedules, geographic distance and different philosophies of business. It is not fun. It is a daily burden. Truly. I come from a business background where I did a lot of startups, training and development and team building. I can't move this thing along the way I want to because of many issues, and I must admit, as Paul will also, I am sure, it has lead to some strife for all of us.
PaulH: It is almost always not fun till you nail your first deal then you are hooked! Then the work is so fast that it becomes fun as your dreams come true -- manifest destiny...
AR: But here is where we disagree - it is fun, it is a challenge now, but we have many things we can be doing, in my opinion to get ready for that deal, but we can't seem to get our team together to spend concentrated time on it together.
PC: Let's try talking about the Xenovision projects, at least for a while. How did the Xenovision and its projects get started?
PaulH: They started before Xenovision in conceptual stages in 2003; then in 2005, Emmy-award-wining director/producer Stevie Vallance and I started on Yogi and the Kid and came up with a lot of the basic ideas and characters. A lot of blood sweat and tears during the early days on that… Stevie moved east, and I followed. I got to Owen Sound, Ontario, and it seemed to be a hotbed of arts, music and theatre, so I settled in here to hatch the plan and spend time with Stevie (when she is at her home in nearby Southampton). We had a lot of raw ingredients and a dream. Then, in the spring of 2010, it was time to form the company. I had found Tony Turino and Angel on Facebook. We became friends, and in July, we formed the company. It took a lot of time to find the things we wanted, like writers, and a character designer we could work with and afford! We found those things in Damon Mark, from L.A. He is awesome and is killing it on two of our projects, one of them entitled Bullets off Broadway. We then found a new writing talent in Angel’s son Mark. We needed a pilot and a short or two, and I had ideas, Mark had ideas, and Mark came with a solid idea we collectively worked on, then we sent it off to John Paragon of Pee Wee fame (Jambi) to be fixed, and it came back more cohesive. John Paragon had been advising me for a short time before he committed to jumping in all the way. My oldest brother, John Hartmann (legendary show biz agent, manager) has always been an adviser, from the beginning. We will all be working on each project. Stevie will be casting, direction, and doing voices. There is a lot of coordination that goes on when productions start... with 22- 52 episodes, it's crazy how fast it gets going...
It will all go through a couple more overhauls, and then it will be gold. Mark has been a great addition to the team.
AR: The actual company of XENOVISION was formed in July of 2010, when Tony and I joined up with Paul. The principals in XENOVISION are as follows: Paul is the CEO and Executive Producer; I am the Chief Operating Officer and Coordinating Producer; Anthony Turino, our Chief Technology Officer and Producer. The three of us are the partners, owners and officers of the company; John Paragon is the Senior Writer. My son, Mark Rosenthal, came on board as our staff writer in October of 2010, after he had written both a treatment and scripts for Bullets and Yogi. John Hartmann, obviously, is Paul's brother, the eldest of the Hartmann boys, and Paul relies on John as an adviser. John's legendary career as a manager and agent is amazing. Finally, Damon Mark Davis is the artist working with us. He came to us based on a referral from John Hartmann early in 2011. He has completed the character drawings for Bullets and is currently working on the rest of the character drawings for Yogi and the Kid.
But back to the projects themselves: Paul found the drawings for Yogi and the Kid and Edgar Screwhead in a box in Phil's garage, on the family's last walk through after his death. Paul picked up the box, and found these drawings, as well as some other treasures, and that's how the seed got planted. Paul worked on things on and off for years, before finding Tony Turino and myself as part of the Phil community on Facebook, and in July of last year, we really started things in earnest, in terms of putting together how the company would look, and what we wanted in terms of the projects seeing the eventual light of day.
PC: What's the status on the Xenovision projects right now?
PaulH: Final writing and Art, then to storyboards and animatics, animation, then we hope to be able to present at two of the most pretigious animation festivals next season at MIPCOM in France and OIAF in Ottawa.
AR: We are finalizing art work for Yogi, and putting together our proposal packet. There are a few scripts, character development work has been done as well. We have parties interested in the project, and hope to be able to present a full proposal soon. Work on Bullets off Broadway, which is Paul's creation, is moving forward, with art work completed and writing underway. In terms of Edgar and the final project, Tony the Fist, not until we get the other two projects up off the ground will we be looking at proceeding on these, though some initial work has already begun on these as well.
PC: Who named it Xenovision and why?
PaulH: Xeno is my nickname. When was 19, I worked at Surfing Magazine in California as a darkroom technician. The editor of the publication was Doug Fisk, he gave me the nickname. One day I walked in to the editorial room and Doug was reading X in the dictionary. He said to me, "Paul you’re from Canada? I said "Yes, Doug I am." Since “Xeno” means “alien,” and since we were in California at the time, Doug started calling me that: "Xeno, would you make some prints of these negatives for me?" I have had other Xeno companies, Xenographics…
AR: And then also, I don't know if you're familiar with Phil's Flat TV CD, but Phil named the son XENO, after he rebelled from his given name of Billy. So it's a total homage to Paul. And pretty funny as well.
PC: What's the most important thing people should know about the Xenovision projects?
PaulH: We are the home of the only two Phil Hartman projects; we reflect his style and humor.
AR: The most important thing to know: This is a labor of love. We came together under unusual circumstances, we work under even more unusual circumstances, and it has been a journey over the past year and a half of fate, I know now. The Phil projects are most special to me, particularly Yogi and the Kid. They are pure Phil, in terms of the creation and the imagery, and it is humbling and exciting to be attached to anything Phil did.