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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: June, 2015
Jun 29, 2015

Leo Lucien-Bay is a cinematic designer on the BioWare blockbuster video games Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. In addition to essentially “directing” the playable dialogue sequences of those games, Lucien-Bay is also an animator in the hacker’s form of animation called machinima, also pronounced ma-kin-ema (like cinema). He wrote and directed an award-winning machinima called “Beast” that got him his job at BioWare.

Lucien-Bay’s originally from England and lived part of his young life in Cameroon. He’s a lifelong fanboy who favours DC over Marvel. He hates bragging almost as much as he hates smiling. And he’s made a life for himself and his young family in Edmonton. In full disclosure, we worked together on Mass Effect 2 and we’re friends.

In today’s episode, Leo Lucien-Bay discusses:

  • How you can make machinima for endless fun and massive profit (but not really)
  • Which game engine you’ll need to commandeer to make machinima
  • His opinion of Roger Ebert’s claim that video games aren’t art
  • The consumer cost per hour of playing games vs. watching a movie
  • The training required to be a cinematic designer, and what’s even more valuable than a diploma or a degree
  • Lucien-Bay’s perspectives on being a role model and why there aren’t more Africans in North America’s video game studios, and
  • The difference between the work of a cinematic designer and a cinematic animator. Lucien-Bay is a cinematic designer, and in last week’s trailer I incorrectly identified him as a cinematic animator. Terrible.

 This episode’s conversation is from deeps in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. This interview originally ran on my show Africentric Radio on CJSR FM 88.5 Edmonton on April 4, 2012. Leo Lucien-Bay spoke with me at the restaurant beneath the offices of BioWare in Edmonton on March 1, 2012, just after completing work on Mass Effect 3.

He began by talking about the personal demands of career mobility.

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Jun 22, 2015

Jay Turner began as a game journalist and for the last ten years has been a professional video game writer. His first gig was working as an editor on BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins. Then he levelled up and got to write for it, and then for first three Mass Effect installments, as well as for Sonic: Chronicles. For Visceral, he wrote Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, and now he works at the N-Space studio in Orlando, Florida.

In today’s episode, Jay Turner discusses:

  • Misconceptions about, and the pros and cons of working in the games industry
  • What video game writers actually do
  • Why a game company inserted two famous hip hop artists into a game that was nearly finished production
  • How game writing and TV writing are the same, and how they’re different
  • Why some game writers are resistant to what playwrights call “workshopping”
  • What “the Eye of Sauron” means in professional game development
  • What video game actors can bring to the writing and realisation of video game characters
  • What it’s like to be hired to write something you find morally repugnant
  • How one game studio is creating a queer-friendly game universe, and
  • The socio-political differences between American and Canadian game studios and the content they create.

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Jun 15, 2015

Stephen Notley is the cartoonist who for more than 20 years has written and drawn the genre-hopping, politically satirical, gonzo fanboy comic strip Bob the Angry Flowerabout an evil, brilliant, and super-enthusiastic flower named Bob. Notley got his start in cartooning at the University of Alberta Gatewaynewspaper where he also became the editor in chief. He went on to a successful career in the Seattle video game studio Pop Cap, but he’s never left cartooning, and has put out numerous Bob the Angry Flower compilation booksand appeared at many major conventions including San Diego Comic Con. He has a vast following and counts among his fans no less than Joss Whedon, who also blurbed one of his collections.

In today’s episode, Stephen Notley discusses:

  • The personal significance for him of acclaimed socially satirical cartoonist Keith Knight
  • How San Diego Comic Con used to be before it went corporate
  • His own pre-Bob the Angry Flower superhero satire cartoon strip called The Germ
  • How cartoonists develop their own style and content, and how and why newspaper cartoon syndicates constrain both
  • When mainstream cartoons such as Peanutsand Garfield were groundbreaking
  • How Notley’s personal life influences his cartooning, and
  • How he maintains humour in his political and social commentary without ever becoming preachy.

Full disclosure: Stephen Notley is a sponsor of MF GALAXY, and we’ve been friends for over 25 years. During our discussion, Notley names mutual friends and fellow cartoonists including the arts reporter Fish Griwkowskyand the late video game journalist and writer Darren Zenko, after whom the character Darwin Zenko is named in my novel The Coyote Kings.

Stephen Notley spoke with me via Skype from his workplace in Seattle, Washington on November 20, 2014. The date is noteworthy because it’s just over five months before May 5, 2015, the day of the provincial election in Alberta. Stephen is the son of the late Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley, and the brother of Rachel Notley, the recently-elected and first-ever NDP premier of Alberta. And yes, he’ll talk about his famous family in this interview.

 

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Jun 8, 2015

Emilio Ortega Aldrichworked his way up from production assistant to write tie-in Arrow comics for DC and an episode of the hit CW superhero action series Arrow. That’s where he met Oscar Balderrama, who’s written an Arrow tie-in novel and the forthcoming Arrow graphic novel; he’s also been a script coordinator for the series.

Both of them spoke on the Arrowscreenwriter panel at Eagle Con on May 15, 2015, where they discussed:

  • The path to writing for a Hollywood series
  • The significance of not just who you know, but who knows you
  • The job descriptions of writers’ assistant, script coordinator, and showrunner
  • To what degree these writers needed to know the DC universe in general and Green Arrow in particular to write for Arrow
  • How screenwriters on a television show work as a team under the leadership of a showrunner
  • How writers working in collaboration can garner an individual “written by” credit, which is the top glory for a writer, and the top pay
  • The shocking secret behind the show bible for Arrow, and
  • How the writers react to fan responses and expectations

 

Jun 2, 2015

People love Levar Burton. He’s got just under 1.9 million Twitter followers and in 2011 was on Twitter’s Top 100 Globally Followed list. He’s been an iconic figure in North American television since 1977, when he starred as Kunta Kinte, a Gambian man in the prime of life taken to the American rape gulag to be worked to death.

Roots was the first American miniseries and at that time the highest-rated US television show ever made. Burton received an Emmy Nomination for his work. He later appeared in television series about Jim Jones and Jesse Owens, and even played a young Booker T. Washington. In the 2001 feature film Ali, he played Martin Luther King, Jr. And while becoming a highly successful television director, he’s known to hundreds of millions of people as Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and as the host of Reading Rainbow.

This episode’s conversation is from the upper floors of the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Burton spoke with me by telephone from his California home in March, 2011, just before coming to Edmonton for the Collectible Toy and Comic Show.

Among many topics, we discussed:

  • His final and startling career choice before choosing acting
  • Why he loves science fiction, and the most important question the genre asks
  • The cultural importance of Lt. Uhura specifically and African heroes generally
  • What he views as his special responsibility in his work as a director, and how directing has affected his perspective on acting
  • The impact of Roots on how US television portrayed Africans, and how Burton views his Roots collaborators now
  • His ongoing internal relationship with Kunta Kinte and Geordi LaForge, and the impact Geordi LaForge has had on others
  • His special connection with a real-life astronaut, and
  • His mental approach to making his dreams reality

 

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