Richard Weiss (also known in the film world as , which is pronounced like the letter O) is a man who believes in everything, unless there is absolute proof otherwise. As the director of The Book: They Came From Inner Space, he has crafted a visually stunning world that infuses fantasy and science-fiction in a fun way, while tackling serious questions.
The Book depicts a best-selling author in the year 2284. He is confronted by look-alike aliens who possess a book and wish to take over his identity so they can publish it. While the aliens are frightening at first, the twist is that they only want to manipulate humans to help them. "The Book" can save humanity, as it depletes all negativity in those who read it. Yet, there's a catch: people who read it lose their darkness. Unfortunately, they also lose their free will.
The initial idea was born when Weiss was searching through the phone-book. He came across an entire page of people with his surname. He wondered who might also have his first name, and about the concept of perfect doppelgangers. This notion returned to him some time later, as he drew multiple sketches while bedridden with a fever. "When it receded, I realized I'd drawn strong storyboards," Weiss muses. "I then remembered the phone-book idea, and wanted to tell a story that dealt with that, as well as subliminal messages."
While The Book is Weiss' first film, his artistic background makes it easy to see how he was able to craft a film with such kaleidoscopic colors and costumes. "Directing was something I always wanted to do - but previously, I was involved in fine-arts and music," Weiss elaborates. He has always worked as a graphic artist and a musician: sometimes alternately, and other times simultaneously. Weiss even used to create screenplays just for fun. He always drew them out in storyboard form (and to this day, he sketches storyboards instead of writing out dialogue or directions). Ultimately, it was working as a film score composer that propelled him to make his own movie. No matter what a film's quality, Weiss learned that the background music was expected to make or break it. "I thought, 'Well, I may not know how to make a movie - but I know the mistakes I won't make if I ever do!" Weiss laughs.
Weiss describes the filming of "The Book" as an eventful process. During filming, there was a five alarm fire in his building. He managed to grab his exposed film and camera as he evacuated. When residents were allowed to return days later, Weiss knew he'd find only the charred remains of his intricate costumes. Yet, he was wrong. "I was sleeping on a Murphy bed at the time," Weiss explains. "It actually made a pocket, falling in such a way during the fire that the costumes were protected." Apart from smelling like smoke, they were untouched. Filming then continued as usual. It wasn't until post-production that Weiss discovered he had heavy metal poisoning. The disease was a consequence of the many aluminum particles and melted lead he handled to create special effects. Fortunately, Weiss recovered, and loved his experience making the film regardless of the challenges.
Part of why Weiss had such fun making The Book was because of its content. His personal experiences have made him believe in parallel dimensions, as well as inter-dimensional travel. He acknowledges that many people are inclined not to put stock into these ideas. Yet, he counters that fairy tales are always important to children, and that countless children have imaginary friends. He suggests that younger people may be more correct than adults realize. Their minds are more open, for they've not yet been taught to shut out what "can't" be real. "I understand that there are things that certain people can see, and that others cannot," Weiss clarifies. "In my work, I try to show people that many dimensions exist at the same time - in a light way, so it isn't too disturbing or scary." Weiss' next projects are two G rated comedies, both of which also deal with parallel universes. One called Pandemonium he hopes to work on first is a live action piece, combining cowboys, Indians, princes, pirates, elves, and partying teenagers. This smorgasbord of characters can all be seen by the viewer. However, they cannot see one another, even when in the same room at once. Ultimately, a funny ending shows them they've been in another dimension the entire time. He describes it as Peter Pan meets the Wizard of Oz.
Weiss hopes to continue creating fantastical films, and helping people open their minds and hearts to things they might not have previously believed. "I used to picture myself onstage receiving awards for a movie when I was twelve," Weiss smiles. "It's taken me a long time to get here, but I just received my thirteenth award. I guess my vision was pretty good, and I want others to enjoy it."
- Donna Letterese
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