Every so often, we’ll be spotlighting alumni and what they are up to these days. These Q&A sessions will give you a bit of insight into where the world has taken them since graduation.
This week, the spotlight is on Mark Miller (BFA/Film Production ’06) who wrote the comic book series New Testament with Boom! Studios under Clive Barker’s supervision and adapted the series into a novel.
DODGE: Share your career path with us – how did you get where you are now?
MARK: The old cliché: opportunity and preparation. An internship position opened up at Clive Barker’s company. I did everything I could to get hired. When I did, I worked unpaid for probably 2 years before someone finally left and I was asked to come be a paid employee. I never looked back. I burned through every last dime I had waiting for the gig, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
DODGE: What was the biggest adjustment you faced after graduation and how did you overcome it?
MARK: I would have to say managing my time. Up until the moment I graduated, I always had an external deadline, or task to accomplish. But when I graduated, all of that vanished, and I realized everything was up to me. So I busied myself trying everything. Writing novels in my spare time. Pitching pieces to a local newspaper. Anything that I could sink my teeth into, I did. I got so many rejections, but I kept at it.
DODGE: What is the best advice you have received and/or what advice would you give current students?
MARK: First, enjoy your time at Chapman. It feels like it goes slow, but suddenly you look back and it’s way in the rear-view mirror. Second, just show up and do the work. So many people don’t do that simple thing. If you do, you’re already ahead of the curve. Oh, and if you want to be a screenwriter, read “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit.”
DODGE: What is your favorite memory from your time at Chapman?
MARK: Honesty, all of it. Writers classes. Industry Insiders interviews. The screenings. The plays. Everything; down to just being on campus. It was a magical time.
DODGE: What have you taken from the classroom and applied to your career?
MARK: Three bits of advice that were repeated over and over: “Get used to hearing no. But don’t take no for an answer.” “It’s just a story. You can write it.” And, “Say ‘yes’ first. Figure out how to do it later.” I swear to God I use at least one of these every day.
DODGE: Have you received any awards or recognition?
MARK: There have been a number of special thanks I’ve been collecting. That’s pretty great. Especially the one on the bonus content for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. I’ve also won two Rondos (Best Commentary, Best Vintage Blu-Ray Release) and a big beautiful Saturn. All for producing Nightbreed. They never leave my sight. Oh, and seeing yourself on the front page of your Alma Mater is a memory that definitely helps get you through the rainy days. Which is my last piece of advice: Focus on the good things. If you don’t stop and acknowledge your wins – however minor – you will lose your mind.
DODGE: Could you tell us more about your work with Boom! Studios and your novel adaption of Clive Barker’s Next Testament?
MARK: Clive and Boom! Have had a longstanding relationship. When I came to work for Clive, they had just taken on the Hellraiser license. I came on as an in-house editor for the project. I spent many a late night giving notes and tidying up pages on issues when they were running late. After almost a dozen issues, one of the writers fell through, and since I’d been there from day one, Boom! Asked me to take over temporarily while they found a suitable replacement. I can only guess that Boom! didn’t hate what I was doing, they kept me on until the end of the Hellraiser run. And what’s more, somewhere in the middle of all that run, Boom! asked Clive if he’d be interested in exploring publishing an original title with them for me to write. What we pitched them was Next Testament, an idea Clive and I had developed together somewhat recently. They snatched the idea right up, and I wrote all 12 issues of the comic book with Clive guiding my hand the whole time. It was an unforgettable experience, and a dream come true. Everyone as Boom! was great. They gave us total creative control, and really let us write the comic book we wanted to write. The longer I do this, the more I realize how rare it is to receive support like that.
After the series finished its run, I sent a query letter to a publisher we had worked with in the past: Earthling Publications. One of their specialties is creating gorgeous anniversary and limited editions of genre titles. They had done the 25th anniversary of The Hellbound Heart (the book upon which Hellraiser was based) as well as the limited hardcover version of The Scarlet Gospels (the follow up to The Hellbound Heart which was just released in paperback form this year by St. Martin’s Press. Having worked with Earthling on curating the anniversary editions, as well as having written the afterword for The Scarlet Gospels, I felt there was a strong enough relationship to gauge their interest in publishing a book of my own. After tossing around a few ideas, we landed on a novelization of Next Testament, a story that I’d spent a great amount of time, which meant I felt comfortable taking the project on. From that moment on, it was a go. Paul Miller, who runs Earthling, worked closely with me, brought on an expert editor, and really helped make this the best book it could possibly be. It was a wonderful experience from start to finish. And the intro and afterword by Clive and F. Paul Wilson, respectively are just the cherry on top. I still can’t believe how it all came together.
Thanks so much for sharing, Mark!