Gilbert Speaks: An Interview with John Brito on “Below the Floor”

10 May

 

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When you write books, or blog, you get to meet the most wonderful and talented people. When I first started blogging, it was to connect to other writers. It can be a little scary sending your dreams and ideas out into the cyber universe…there are some scary people out there. Luckily, I have only connected to beautiful souls with beautiful stories to tell. One of these beautiful souls is writer, John Brito. John is from Austria, but that hasn’t stopped us from supporting each other over the years. I am so delighted to talk to him about his new book, Below the Floor.

Gilbert: Hi John. Tell me and my followers all about yourself   (I see on your blog that you also have a web series…so tell us everything.

John Brito: Since I was a small kid, I have always been drawing and imagining stories about barbarians and monsters. And I loved movies, especially science fiction, fantasy and horror. Actually, I saw at a very young age movies you usually would not allow children to see. Movies like “Poltergeist”, “Jaws” and “The Omen”. They scared me to death, but I also loved them.

 

After graduating from a higher technical college, I applied for the University of Arts in Vienna, but I was rejected. Actually, I tried four times. And was rejected – four times.

John Brito #5

But I didn´t give up and studied the next best thing, which was media science. This was as close to movies as I could get. And since I devoured the specials on DVDs (these were the 2000s), I knew that Ridley Scott, the director of “Alien”, had started out doing commercials. I thought: “Hey, Ridley Scott did commercials. And he is shooting movies now. So I will do commercials, too!”

I started working in the advertising industry, mainly doing multimedia stuff and animation, and later drawing storyboards for directors. Little did I know how the film industry really works, but I taught myself how to write scripts, how to do visual effects, digital compositing, editing, you name it. When the Canon Mark II, a digital reflex camera with video functionality, came out, for the first time in my life, I had the feeling that I could really do something.

So I searched for guerrilla filmmakers in my home town and helped them shoot their films. These were mainly no budget underground sci-fi-films, like “Nostromo”. We shot without permission, broke into industrial complexes and used them as backdrops for the films. Maybe I should not say that so loud.

Project 17

 

I also wrote my own scripts and started shooting science fiction shorts like the post-apocalyptic short film “Project 17” and the animated science fiction short “Echoes”, which was a test balloon for a film project. But these films were too heavy on visual effects and after I had calculated, that I would at least need 8,000 working hours to finish “Echoes”, I decided to put it on the shelf for the moment.

I also had the feeling, that I needed to go deeper into storytelling. And this was the time, when I started playing around with the idea of children´s books.

Gilbert: What was the inspiration for your children’s book, Below the Floor?

John Brito: One day, I saw a miniature bungalow made out of bamboo. It was a decoration piece with runways, piers, tiny bamboo boats, and even plants. And nobody took notice. I was totally fascinated and thought how cool it would be to live in this tiny bungalows. Which kind of creatures would inhabit these hideaways? How would they construct these homes and where would they find their food? What would happen, if suddenly a beastly lizard tribe found them..?

I knew that I had to write this book – and many others.

John Brito #2

Gilbert: Can you tell us a little bit about your book without giving too much away

John Brito: Sure. Below the floor there is, unseen by human eyes, a tiny village inhabited by little kobolds. These kobolds are a very peaceful tribe who take whatever they find to build their homes.

One day, a group of malicious lizard creatures finds and threatens the kobolds´ village. Only with a trick from a little kobold called Leto, the villagers manage to chase the lizards off. But the kobolds know that the lizards will come back. Hundreds of them. So Leto, the kobold, has to set out on a dangerous journey to find mighty warriors who could protect the little village.

Actually, I wrote the book that I would have loved as a kid: A fantasy adventure story with engaging creatures and awesome villains. And the cool book illustrations my eight year old self would have loved.

The book is written for small and big children, ten years and older. It deals with the idea that it is all right to stand for yourself. And that it is better to use your brains instead of being violent. The German version, “Das Dorf unter dem Fußboden”, is available in Germany, and once I know how the book is received, I will hopefully translate it into English.

Gilbert: Will there be a sequel to Below the Floor? If not, what other books are you working on?

John Brito: Yes, I have already plotted out the skeleton structure for four other books around Leto and some of the other characters. But I will hopefully publish other books first.

One of them will be released this summer and it is an activity book for kids full of labyrinths. And tiny monsters! I loved labyrinths as a kid, but they all looked the same. There were just animals that needed to find a glass of milk. I would have loved to solve mazes with creepy gremlins, vampires and rock creatures. And this is what this mazes book is about.

John Brito #4

Gilbert: I enjoyed following your blog as you worked on the sketches for this book. Were you ever worried that someone might steal your artwork?

John Brito: Oh, thank you very much. I am glad you liked them.

To be honest, I had some concerns whether I should post them or not. I post a lot of images from my sketchbooks on my blog. But I also deposit and register every project, even the early stages of manuscripts and screenplays as well as images, with my notary and writers associations.

It is one thing, if somebody did something non-commercial with it and gives credit.

But if somebody used my material to make money out of it without permission, I would let media and influencers know that this person is a fraudster. At the end, this person would harm herself.

Gilbert: Tell us about your other projects: science fiction, and horror

John Brito: I produced the ten minute animated science fiction short film called “Echoes”, which I mentioned before. I knew that I wanted to use rotoscoping. This means that you film actors and take the footage as a template for the animations. Just like they did in “Fire and Ice” by Ralph Bakshi.

Echoes

I talked to Moritz Winkler, a director and friend, about my short film. He said: “Come to my studio, I´ll give you everything you need to capture the live action material.” Some weeks later, we shot the short, I edited the live action material, did the concept designs and started doing the 3D stuff for the backgrounds. And then I started animating the short. But I realized very soon that it would take far too many hours or that it would be prohibitively costly to complete the short film. But the short did what it was meant to do: It was a test balloon. I wanted to find out, if I could produce a full length movie in this animated style. And the answer was: Better shoot it live action.

So my next little project was the ultra-short film “The Cellar” and I was really happy with the result.

Gilbert: You are writing children´s books and working on horror films, so how does that fit together?

John Brito: I believe that horror films and children´s books have a lot in common.

When we watch horror movies, we want to experience things that will never occur in our lives. When I talk about horror, I am not talking about genres like torture porn, but more about creature horror or paranormal horror. There is no chance that we will ever be in a space ship, hunting down a predatory alien that is decimating our crew. That just won´t happen. And that is why, I think, we like to immerse into those films.

The same goes for children´s books. We want to know which world lies behind the mirror. We want to see those giant walking rocks, hula dancing carnivorous plants and beastly goblin rats in nut shell armor.

Furthermore, a horror film tells us something about what it means to be human. When you are pushed to the limit the things you do show us who you really are.

How far would you go to come out alive? What would you have to learn to survive the tests this horror world is throwing at you? And what are the things that would compromise your immortal soul that much, that the price of survival is just too high?

John Brito #3

A children´s book, on the other side, shows a child what it means to be human. Which kind of decisions does not only help the child to grow, but also help the people around it?

A children´s book teaches us, what it means to be human. A horror film tests us.

Gilbert: John it has been a true pleasure knowing you, and watching this book take shape.and in the future, I can’t wait to read the English version of  Below the Floor

John Brito: Thank you so much, Marie, for your constant support and this interview!

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