Tim Bradstreet: Bringing Yourself into Your Art

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

Tim Bradstreet has been one of my favorite artists for a long time. His work always seems very simple on the surface, but ends up dripping mood and emotion right onto the page. He's a master of using light and shadow to convey specific emotions, and is brilliant at helping the reader understand the sometimes operatic energy that comics, games and science fiction have. So it was an absolute thrill to get to speak to Tim at this year's Comic-con. As you'll see, Tim is a great interview with lots of interesting things to say about his work, creating dynamic artwork, and his passion for Westerns. I just wish we'd had longer to talk because it was really fun hanging out with him.

Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: You said before we started that you live very much in the world of reality. Professionally you have a foot in the fantasy world, and a foot in the reality world. Your art is very photorealistic, and I know you work from models too. Do you think that your art technique reflects how you see the world?

Tim Bradstreet: Absolutely. I love John Buscema, and classic comic book artists. That's what sucked me in to begin with. I did that at the beginning of my career when I started working with role playing games. It was all from the head to the board work, I'd been doing that stuff professionally for about four years when I began to employ the use of photo reference with my ink work for a project called Shadowrun, and this guy named Alex Ross had done a bunch of pieces for that.

Nobody knew Alex at the time. What Alex had done was he took a bunch of lobby card stills from movies, and he tweaked them. There's one he ripped from Blade Runner, and I think he put a mohawk on Deckard. He tricked him out so he didn't look like Rick Deckard. He just looked like some guy that would exist in this world.

Alex took a lobby card from Time Bandits and a lobby card from A Clockwork Orange. He turned all of the characters into Shadowrun characters but he used the photo as the base. I saw this stuff and I was like "God, I've got to do something at least in this neighborhood."

When I first started in roleplaying, I did pencil illustrations on vellum over photos for this game called Twilight 2000. So I was very familiar with working from the realism, and I thought, "Ah, well if I just blended that with my pen and ink style over the photo, I bet I could do something in that vein."

What really sparked for me was that I was always into movie posters, art for things like The Road Warrior, and Escape from New York, and those classic Star Wars posters. All that stuff. I was in love with movie poster art because the characters were always presented very iconically and with a lot of impact. It made me want to be those characters, like "Man I wish I was that guy!"

So I have that sensibility dripping out of me. When I started to play with the photos that way something just clicked. I went "This is what I want to do." But it helps to spend four or five years -- well all my life really -- drawing from the head to the board. It teaches you the real craft of illustration. It prepared me for not just tracing photos, not just reproducing what you see in the reference, but changing it into something that’s more than just a photo.

The Shadow by Tim Bradstreet

You're bringing all of this stuff from within you into it. You're bringing your stylistic influences, sensibilities, and your vision to it. If you look at any of the reference that I use, and then you look at the final product, a layman might think it looks just like a photo. Gah! That bums me out cause it IS so not just a representation of a photo I took, it’s covered in the craft of interpretation and ink style. Those kinds of comments come from the right place though.

When I was first doing this in comics I took a lot of slack from people because it wasn't common to use reference. Today it's not considered so bad to be using reference. Today people accept photographic art a lot more than they did in the '90s.

I never just traced photos. First of all I take my own photos. It's not like I swipe stuff from people. It's just that it's a realistic vision. The thing I found out that I thought was very interesting was that when I started this technique in the game industry, it turned out to be this perfect kind of luck. I just stumbled into it, but it turned out to be the perfect thing because when people are roleplaying and they're playing these characters from Dungeons and Dragons or Shadowrun or CyberPunk or WarHammer. You're looking at cartoons. You're looking at very simple drawings in books, and you're going "Oh I get it, and it works!" but when you see yourself as that character which is what I did in Shadowrun and then Vampire, all of the sudden that really affected people. They connected with it on a whole other level. It somehow personalized the roleplaying experience which had a startling effect on the fan response I began to get.

CB: Of course Scott McCloud writes about the simplicity of a line. When we read Peanuts we can all see ourselves in Charlie Brown because the art is so simple and iconic. But you go the opposite direction with your art, and you're still seeing a very similar take on the characters being relatable.

: I went through a phase where I really wanted to be like Frank. If I could just draw like Frank Frazetta, wouldn't that be incredible? But you can't draw like Frank Frazetta. Because you're not Frank Frazetta, and you never will be. That goes for every artist out there. So I quickly switched gears. I’m a product of my influences. I think everybody is. As I got older, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, I began to gravitate towards more mature material, I went from John Byrne X-Men type stuff, to European style illustration like Milo Manara, Enki Bilal, Serpieri, and Mobius. That stuff really opened my mind to something that was near the wheelhouse I wanted aim for as an artist.

CB: Yeah because I can see Manara in your work.

: Yeah!

CB: I certainly can see John Byrne in your work.

: Yeah, yeah! He was my huge favorite artist when I was younger until I met him! I hate to say it, but sorry John, you were a jerk, my friend.

CB: I'll add you to my long list of people who feel that way.

: Oh my god, well he doesn't care. He doesn't care.

CB: Obviously he doesn't.

: Nah, he doesn't. It doesn't bother him at all. He's a narcissist and he's fine with it. Remember when he made some crack about post-accident Christopher Reeve not being a hero? I was like, "What!? Why would anyone go out on that perch and broadcast that?" It was just to draw attention. I don't think . . . but maybe he really believes it. I think it was more about "Hey, look at me."

CB: Those strong European influences led to your own style. I guess that's what happens to all of us as we move ahead in our careers, no matter what field we're in.

: And my style's evolved a ton. I mean, if you look at stuff I did - let's just go back to the start of my using photos, if you go back and look at the stuff I did with Eclipse at the time I was also an inker in comics I used a lot of feather lines. I used a lot of those kinds of techniques and as I tried to simplify I found my technique actually got more and more complex.

It’s like "Ahhhh!" "I’m trying to simplify but it just keeps getting more and more illustrative!" I guess I just wasn’t built to be a classic Kirby-style illustrator (laughs).

It's still a bizarre evolution, man. It really is and I experiment all the time. When I'd work with Chris Warner I'd pick up some of his tricks, and when I worked with other artists I’d be like, "Oh yeah! I like that. I'm gonna apply that to my stuff." That stuff comes and goes. Sometimes the good stuff stays. Sometimes it shoots to the front. Sometimes it disappears along the way in the evolution of an artist. That's why I love to with ink other artists too so I can steal from them! I love to jam. I love to work in different styles.

My first big job in comics was illustrating Clive Barker's Age of Desire, a graphic novel for Eclipse. Craig Russell had done all the breakdowns on the story, so it was all stick figures and balloon heads. Very cool, a dream come true to work with Craig! Looking at how Craig broke it all down gave me the insight I needed to figure out how to do a big sequential project.

 Clive Barker's Age of Desire cover by Tim Bradstreet

It's just like shooting a cover of an illustration, but it's panels, obviously -- I ended up doing all of this work, busted my tail, and during this process I got pneumonia and I was down for six weeks. The book was a little late anyway, my first job. I didn't have a darkroom so I was going to the university to a darkroom, to a friend's to use their darkroom. It was a real learning experience, but I’m off on a tangent (laughs) . . .

CB: In the pre-digital days.

: Yeah! It was all shot on a Pentax K-1000 manual camera - I developed all my own film, chemicals, enlargers . . . the whole nine yards. I was about 5 months into the project when I got sick. While recovering from Pneumonia I get this call from the publisher . . . he thought I was faking him out. He thought I was just running them. He chewed me out, I mean I was just laying on a bed like death warmed over and my mom's like "You need to talk to him." so I did and he chewed me out, and it was kind of heartbreaking, you know? Because he just didn't listen to a word I said. He didn't believe I was sick. I recommend the pneumonia diet by the way. I lost 26 lbs.

So anyway, long story short: just as I get this book done the company goes bankrupt. They still owed me like $2500 from the last batch of pages I’d turned in. I finally had the last ten pages finished. I was about to turn them in, and then I heard there was trouble and I held back the stuff. I saw the publisher the next weekend at a convention in Philly, "Oh no, everything's fine! Have you turned your other stuff in?" I think I said something like "Yeah, it’s in the mail."

And then it was out. Eclipse was chapter 11, and all of the pages I turned in were gone. No one knew what happened to them. My very good friend Beau Smith was the sales manager for Eclipse back in those days, and so Beau was like "I will scour this place. I will find these for you." Turned out they were in the wind. They were lost for seven years.

So I poured all of this blood and sweat and tears into this first job to have it just disappear. Just to have me owed money, all this stuff. It really broke my spirit for a big job like that. I've always been more about single illustration storytelling and stuff like that anyway. I love sequential storytelling for sure. I truly do, and I'm going to do a really awesome story at some point. I'm just waiting for the right project and the timing. Basically it’s math. I can make a lot more money and support my family by doing covers than busting a huge hump doing interior work.

We're (RAW Studios) doing Alien Worlds with Bruce Jones, so I think I'm going to do a little six or eight page story. Just to kinda get my feet wet again and do a cool-ass little short story.

Alien Worlds cover art by Tim Bradstreet

CB: You're doing covers for the new Star Trek series, right?

Bradstreet: Yeah, a ton of fun for me. What they’re doing with the comic is they’re doing the old Star Trek adventures. It’s the classic Star Trek timeline with the new alternate universe characters. Great twist on what you’re familiar with. It's awesome.

After I did the cover for #1, I was like "Can I do the cover for #2? Can I do the cover for #3?" and then last year at Comic-con they said, "It's yours." I’m a Trek nerd and I loved the new J.J. Abrams film reboot so I really wanted to be a part of where it was heading, even in some small way. If you like Trek the comic is a treat. They retell the classic stories we all know but with a twist, and all leading up to Star Trek: Into Darkness, and now beyond.

Star Trek cover by Tim Bradstreet

CB: It's a little bit out of character from what I think of from you.

: Well that's how I started out in games doing science fiction games like Battletech and . . . Renegade Legion. See, I'm going to forget all my old stuff. But for me it's like science fiction, fantasy, horror, it's all one to me. Especially when you blend them. When you hybrid them. That really gets my trigger tripped, you know?

CB: So you have a Kickstarter coming up. Is that what I heard?

: I'm doing an art book with IDW. and it's not just a regular "Hey, here's my work" No, no. I had been working for the last couple of years on a bunch of personal pieces that are unpublished, and I think it's some of my best work. What I wanted to do was start a Kickstarter so I could take three or four months off, and do about ten more.

And so the book would be about 30% or 40% of this art that no one's ever seen before, and then 60 or 70% of stuff that I'm very proud of presented in a way that you've never really seen it. I'm doing a lot of black and white RGB scans. I'm doing original art RGB scans like the Artist Edition books IDW does. It's a kind of book that artists will love if there are fans of mine that are artists. They'll love that kind of stuff, and there will be color stuff too.

CB: Do you still create on paper then? You have RGB scans?

: Oh yeah! I draw everything on paper. I color digitally, but I also color organically. A lot of the coloring techniques that I use are hand-painted watercolor swatches. Sometimes I'll paint just a cityscape and then scan it in and add it in the background. Basically I’m frightened to death, I'm a bit of a pussy in this way, I just can’t bring myself to paint on the original. I'm afraid if I screw it up it's screwed forever and then I've got to start from scratch. I can't go backwards.

CB: That's not pussy, that's smart.

: Well, I used to copy all my art onto watercolor board and then watercolor the print. Then I would have an original black and white and an original color. I went to Italy to work on a project for six months and I wasn't sure that I could do the printing that I needed in order to do my regular cover work while I was over there, so me and my buddy Grant learned Photoshop and we started to work digitally in color. We got the hang of it. I helped get him a job at WildStorm and he learned digital color from the ground up before the Italy project, so it was a good opportunity to see if we could catapult into the 21st century.

He’s a painter, so it was not so difficult a transition. It’s giving an honest to God painter a set of digital tools, and Grant was great at it. He really brings a tactile painter’s mindset to everything he does. Again, I believe it’s way better for an artist to have practical experience before entering the digital realm. Young artists who start with digital, who have never picked up a brush and paints, tend to be much more stylistically derivative. Those artists tend to become a product of their tutorials, a lot of them bad. There are always exceptions but the lion’s share of new colorists today do nothing for me.

So we went digital, and we found out that we can turn this out so much faster. Not like breakneck, but faster than traditional. Those hand-painted covers would take us two to three days to do, then bam, one false move and it’s fucked. Working digitally saved a lot of time and a lot of headache. It’s practically essential for me now so I can take on more work and maximize my time. I’m a freelancer working in the deadline-driven publishing business, so any way I can save some time and keep the quality, I’m all about that.

CB: Right. There's no Undo button when you're painting an actual painting.

: Absolutely not. One of my best friends is Joe Jusko, and Joe is a traditional painter. I love that. I wish I had the time and talent to do it. Every once in a while I dabble in painting, but I don't consider myself an actual painter. That's like how "I write", but I don't consider myself a writer. I draw for a living. I am an artist. I wouldn't offend a writer by saying I was a writer. Not till I've been in it for ten years and that's my soul purpose, you know? OK, I’m getting off on a tangent again.

The Punisher by Tim Bradstreet

CB: I'm still kinda stuck on the fantasy art, because I think that you worked on The Punisher cover first, and the Hellraiser covers first, and the Shadow pieces.

: If I can figure out where I had… I had a box of black and white art. I think I might have left it home but there's a piece of Solomon Kane that I did that's going to be in this new art book that is absolutely a fantasy piece. It's Solomon Kane standing in these dark woods. Just Kane standing there, but it's just all atmosphere and it's very European in the way that it's just noodled and illustrated, which for some reason has always appealed to me. Texture and grit and the technique-

CB: Mood.

: Yeah, the mood. I want something to drip with mood and have more of an impact for me than just a static kind of over-lit scene like you see in movie posters where they shoot everything -- they have these gallery shoots where they have all this all-over light and then when they do the movie poster they have to darken it up. So they use all of these standard Photoshop tricks to do it, which is why they all look the same.

And I'm like "if you just light it" you'll get much better results. Then you get something cool as shit, like the Dredd poster. Remember how awesome that looked? It was just all shadow with just these little bits peeking out, and you can let your mind do the rest. I love that. Someone in marketing on the original Blade film was smart enough to have their gallery shoot shot for mood too. The shots were marvelous! But it’s so rare when you get someone who knows their ass from a hole on the ground when working with suits.

Tim Palen at Lion’s Gate did a great marketing campaign for Punisher War Zone. I'm not a huge fan of the movie, but wow did he kick the shit out of his gallery session. He called me up before he did the shoot, and he's like "Well, you know, I want this to look like your art." He's a great photographer. I said, "Tim, just light from the top. Use a lot of shadow. Let Ray and the costume do the rest."

He showed me that stuff when he was done and I was like "Holy shit, it looks like one of my covers but with a shit-ton of badass resolution and some off-the-hook hardware". Ray Stevenson looked fucking awesome. Palen rocked it.

The Punisher by Tim Bradstreet

CB: Well yeah, that's the thing. I do a lot of writing. Whenever I reread something I've written, I say "Oh no, I could do this better." and want to jump back in and revise it. But you just gotta let a piece go.

: I think you have to, and sometimes there is something really cool about going back and redoing something that you did a long time ago. Case in point, perfect example is Derek Riggs who did a lot of the first Iron Maiden covers. His first album cover is a good start but he’s still not a polished pro, then if you look at his body of work over the next several album covers – you can literally witness the evolution of an artist. By their fifth studio album, Powerslave, he’d become a master.

Powerslave is just this intricate, crazy airbrush masterpiece. I usually despise this, but Riggs went back and did a digital remaster of that first sleeve cover to the first record and it is freaking mindblowingly awesome. Still has that incredible lurid vibe, but it’s polished like his later-greater works. That dude is so freaking cool, man.

I also gotta mention Frazetta. Frank Frazetta was notorious for going back and repainting his work, but for the most part he always made them better. Case in point is the Destroyer painting featuring Conan. The first version was awkward and Conan’s arms looked stunted and too bulky. The rest of the painting is an absolute masterpiece. Then he went back and repainted Conan into a position that was infinitely more dynamic and powerful, swinging a battle-axe high in the air with a look of primal savage fury on his face, Absolutely brilliant.

Then you have cases like when someone goes back and remasters a classic film, like when Lucas couldn’t help fucking with THX-1138 and the Star Wars Trilogy. That is nearly unforgiveable. Just leave them alone! It’s a rare thing when going back to rework something actually works. You know, fine, Lucas wants to keep playing in that old sand box that’s fine, but at least leave the public with the availability to the original versions! Don’t let that stuff get lost in the race to keep your work relevant. That just screams a lack of confidence somehow.

Let it stand, warts and all.

CB: And that's why people shouldn't go back and redo their work. The original work reflects who you were at the time, and that's also the audience's perception of the work. Once it's out of your hands you've got no control over it.

: Thankfully most filmmakers aren't as solvent.

CB: Yeah, that's it!

: As for George Lucas, I think. Because there was a time when coloring black and white films was popular. There was a time when people went "ah, I can fix that." Luckily the studios went "Yeah, I'm not paying for that."

Judge Dredd by Tim Bradstreet

CB: I know you loved working with Tim Truman.

Bradstreet: Truman's amazing. Tim is European influenced as can be. He took the veneer of this European art onto his work - his story telling has always been fantastic, extremely cinematic. He would be the first to admit, "I'm not the greatest artist." Which I'm like "Psh, whatever." but his strength is storytelling. That's why he's such a successful writer too, you know?

But man, I got back home after visiting with Tim Truman in Chicago in 1991. I walked in the door and my dad was standing there and he's like "What happened?" and I'm like "Tim Truman wants to work with me." and he's like "What?!" I talked to my dad about stuff like that. He told me once "I couldn't wipe the grin off my face for a week."

When those pages showed up in the mailbox, it was real and I was so nervous about inking Tim Truman's pencils that I light boxed them, redrew them, and then inked them.

CB: Yeah, I would imagine you'd be terrified!

: I was terrified! Do you know what Duoshade board is? CraftTint board?

CB: Yeah.

: All of the Vampire stuff and all of the Shadowrun stuff that I did was on Duoshade and Tim loved that, and he goes "The new book I'm going to do, I'm going to do on Duoshade and you're going to ink it and you're going to do all the Duoshade."

CB: Which book was that?

: Dragon Chiang.

CB: I've actually never read that one.

: It's good. Drop me a line and I'll send you a copy. I have them somewhere. They collected it into like a one-shot. So I've done this page, and I'm like, "I just inked this page, but it's not on Duoshade. Now what am I going to do?"

So what I did was I inked about four or five pages that way, and it gave me the confidence to work on the actual pages. I finally got to the point where I was like "I think I can do this." and I did, and it was so funny because we fit together very well. Our sensibilities were very much on the same wavelength. I remember Beau Smith saying that Truman hadn't looked that good since GrimJack. I was like "Okay, whatever." but that kind of a comment coming from someone who knew Truman’s work very well meant a lot to me, and I thought "I think I've taken a step here."

CB: Yeah. That confidence helps build your whole career.

: Absolutely. And inking -- drawing in general, but in pencil you can erase -- inking is all about confidence. That is 90% of it. Most of it is "how am I going to do that big sweeping line." Don't think about it. Just do it. I found out a trick, I wish someone would have just told me this, but I stumbled into it just by drawing a million lines over after my first fifteen years - I just did this once and something clicked . . .

When I do a big sweeping line and I'm not going to do a French curve or a ship curve something like that. It needs to be organic. It can't be perfect surgical, but it needs to be clean. You look where you're going, you don't look where you're at with the brush or pen tip. When you look where you're at, you think too much about it. What you've got to do is just don't think about it. Focusing instead on where you're going works. I’m not sure how much sense that makes without a visual frame of reference, but ask me about it sometime and I’ll show ya!

CB: It's like looking at your feet while you're walking.

Bradstreet: Yeah, you kind of lose yourself in it, right?

CB: But if you just think ahead and see where you're going, things are much easier

: But if you look at the big picture, you know? It's very much that way.

Elric by Tim Bradstreet

CB: Interesting. Alright, I'm supposed to ask you about your movie project with Thomas Jane.

: Oh yeah, the western!

CB: Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand.

: Tom's been trying to get this thing going for a couple years and he's had great support our producer Ed Pressman. He's produced everything from Conan to Wall Street and Crow. This guy Jose Prendes sent a script to Tom out of the blue. It was very cool, cool enough to get Tom interested. Tom rewrote a ton of it and I worked on some stuff too. That rewrite sold a lot of people on the movie. That sold Nick Nolte.

CB: That's a big "get".

: That's a big guy to get. Not that it's actually been cast yet, but when you go in and you're trying to get a movie off the ground with this money, you have to cast at least a couple pivotal characters. At least in terms of "Who do the producers like?" "Who are we going to go after?".

Tom and I worked up a list. I'm kind of his de facto casting agent. Tom and I came up with this criteria and narrowed it down to "what I'm looking for is probably an A-List actor in the '70s or '80s and he's still a relevant actor." So you go through all these names, you go "Oh well it's a western, it's about a guy who's this powerful matriarch." Immediately I'm thinking Kirk Douglas in The Man from Snowy River. You gotta find a guy that has that kind of command. Someone said Al Pacino, and I said "No. No." Al Pacino is a great actor, but he's not a western actor.

CB: No. I can't imagine that.

: I'm not buying that. It's not that he couldn't do it. I'm sure he'd be great, but it's not the right flavor and it's not a good mix. There's a connection with these two characters. Nick Nolte was my favorite pick. Nick and Tom are both mavericks, and with this script that quality is an extremely important dynamic to have with those two actors/characters. Tom went to visit with Nick. Nick loved the script. Nick said "Can you guys put together a soundtrack for me? Like just music that makes you think what this thing is?"

Which is perfect for me. I'm a soundtrack freak. I have a huge collection. I'm a total soundtrack nerd/music nerd. Tom goes "Guess what Nick just asked for?" and I'm like "What?" and he goes "He wants us to put together a soundtrack." and I almost dropped the phone. So I put this thing together, and Tom added a few things and sent it to Nick, and he goes "I want to do this movie." It was literally that easy.

Right now it's come down to scheduling. Robert Redford wants Nick in his new movie, and they're supposed to film around the same time. Tom is trying figure out with Robert how we can work with him and accommodate both schedules.

Scalped cover by Tim Bradstreet

CB: It can't hurt your movie if there is a Redford movie coming out.

Bradstreet: No kidding, but Nick Nolte though. He's a force. He's a maverick, you know? He's going to be amazing. Well if you work with Walter Hill then I would say that Extreme Prejudice is that kind of a western. It's a modern western.

Magnificent Death is a classic western. It's mythical. It's got mythical themes in it. Like Homer kind of mythical. There are little things.

CB: The hero's journey home.

: It’s definitely a journey picture in a sense, but there are characters in it that are reminiscent of Homer’s The Odyssey.

When you get to a section of the movie where there are three whores - well you can see them as Harpies. You know? Or the sirens, and to say too much would be to give too much away. We were talking to Jeremy Irons and he really loves it, and the whole thing now is that we're supposed to shoot the thing in September. We're going to shoot in Monument Valley, Utah.

See, there hasn't been very good Monument Valley western since John Ford, and I think it's time someone saw Monument Valley with a Red Camera, or something dynamic with 4K resolution and some really great color. We've got a great DP, Uta Briesewitz. She shot The Wire for two or three seasons. She shot Hung with Tom, that's how they know each other. She is amazing, and we have a vision for the way this thing looks and just projecting and knowing her work. We're just very excited.

Walking Dead poster by Tim Bradstreet

CB: You obviously get to work on a lot of stuff you love.

: My first love and my first goal was that I wanted to break into comics. You know, when you're thirteen that's your dream. After I broke into comics and worked in comics for 10 years . . . let's go back . . .

 I’ve pretty much always wanted to work in the film industry. I want to direct. I would love to direct. I want to be a creative producer, I've production designed, done concept art . . . I’ve learned a lot over the years and working on a film set with Dark Country was invaluable. Putting a great crew together to make your movie is almost as important as casting your movie. So you want to find the best people to see your vision, and get a great crew and make them a family. Shooting in Monument Valley and camping under the stars while shooting this western will be a great way to create a common bond with cast and crew. Nick's all "Yeah we're camping!" He's great.

CB: We were out in Monument Valley a few years ago, and loved it.

Bradstreet: That’s a good omen! So yeah, Tom's just been working super hard trying to get this thing moving. So hopefully we start shooting in about six weeks. Tom was maybe not going to be here at Comicon this year because he was going to have to go location scout. When you have a movie like this it's hard to production design. Well it's a challenge to production design because you're working with a lot of locations that exist. Right, it's a western? There's a scene in the beginning of it where there's a guy hanging from a tree. Well that tree has to be the coolest, most gothic awesome tree.

That perfect tree, and it's kind of on the edge of the desert too. So it's going to be gnarly. I would love to get an old Methuselah tree, but the Bristlecone pine doesn't necessarily have the size. You know? But the roots and the gnarl, so I'm like, we should just make our own tree. Bristlecone is impractical because it’s a protected tree; it’s endangered and rare. Tom's like "Think that will be expensive?" and I'm like "I’ll make that fucker out of paper mache if I have to!"

CB: But if you go out there you may find the perfect tree. It may be there.

: Absolutely. Which is why I want to go. Our production designer is part Native American and we're hoping to film on Indian reservations in and around Monument Valley that have never been filmed before.

I've seen photographs, and I send Tom photos all the time. Stuff I've tracked down, you know. I'm like this is in "such and such" Indian reservation. Jesus, wouldn't it be great if we could film here. You know? What do we have to do? How do we get the permit? Who do we have to talk to?

CB: Most of that area is on Indian reservations. There is a large area of the U.S. that's actually not a part of the U.S. That's all Indian territory.

: I’d love to hire an all-Native American crew. That’d be brilliant. Bet we’d find some real expertise there too. There used to be a pretty big filmmaking community out there back in the 1950s.

CB: I didn't know that.

: Yeah. Because they had actual sets out there where they would shoot movie after movie after movie. The sets were in use all the time and a lot of the local people learned the trade. It's way less expensive for studios if they don’t have to pay for travel and accommodations. Local professionals and craftsmen is the way to go. But all that was a long time ago. I'm not sure how many of those old timers are still around.

I want to go to cowboy school.

CB: That would be fun!

: But I want to do what Dale Dye does for when they're doing a war movie and you have to take the actors to boot camp. I want to do that for the western and not have a Jack Palance situation on Shane, where he told the director he could ride when he had never been on a horse in his life. Palance thought, "I’m an actor." I can certainly act like I can ride a horse ;)

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