I had a vision some years ago about the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman coming to Kansas to find Dorothy. It was very sketchy and I didn't do much about it until six or seven years ago when I wrote “After The Wizard” as a children’s book. I’m a published novelist and playwright and I did have an agent, but we were unable to interest a publisher. In 2009, while a play I wrote called “Stated Income” had a production at a small theater in Hollywood, I started thinking about other projects I could adapt for the theater. I tried to adapt an unpublished novel I’d written about a professional poker player, which didn't work well on the stage, and I tried “After The Wizard,” which did. However, the challenges involved with a 12-year-old lead, dog, balloon launch and tornado were overwhelming. I had previously worked in video production and post-production so I was somewhat aware of recent advances in camera technology and editing software. It made much more sense to proceed as a film than as a stage play. I adapted the work as a screenplay and was able to secure financing.
Did you take any inspiration from the 14 Oz books by L. Frank Baum, or did you mostly rely on the 1939 movie and your own ideas?
Everything in “After The Wizard” is drawn from the original books by L. Frank Baum, which are in the public domain, or original to our movie. We were very conscious on all fronts – story, dialogue, design, music, etc. – not even to wink at the 1939 movie or any of the other later adapted works such as “The Wiz” and “Wicked” which are not in the public domain and to which we do not have rights. That is why, for example, you will not find ruby slippers or even a spoken reference to ruby slippers in “After The Wizard.”
Last we heard, distribution was being worked on by the production. What are the current distribution plans or hopes? Any idea when we'll be able to see the movie?
Producer’s rep Ronna Wallace of Eastgate Films just signed to represent the film. Ronna has placed many significant independent films. This is a great development for “After The Wizard” and I’m very optimistic. With just a little luck the movie should be available for viewing in 2012.
How was the general reaction from the audience at the premiere screenings in Kingman, Kansas over the summer?
The response was overwhelmingly positive. We had more than two hundred volunteers from Kingman who participated as extras or behind the scenes in the movie so perhaps it wasn’t an entirely objective audience. Still, we had coverage from Wichita network affiliates of CBS, NBC and ABC. An article that appeared in the Hutchinson Times (we also filmed in Hutchinson) was picked up by Associated Press and ran as far away as The India Times. As you know there is an incredibly deep affection for the original story and characters. In addition, “After The Wizard” is a true family film, which seems to come as a relief and broadens its appeal. Audience members particularly seem to enjoy a sense of having the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman visit America.
How was your overall experience working on the film? Did the cast and crew get a long when the cameras weren't rolling?
Working on “After The Wizard” was immensely satisfying. There were deep friendships made through production and post. At the same time, and speaking honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been an independent film in the history of the world where everyone got along at all times. We filmed in six states. Our schedule was brutal. Definitely, there were some tensions among the crew. Without question it was a very talented group that came together to make the movie and I trust now that we’re done everyone will take great satisfaction in what we've been able to accomplish.
Why do you think Oz fans should check out this movie in particular?
“After The Wizard” is not only a take-off and/or adaptation involving the original characters, it’s about what the original story and characters mean to those who love them. The movie is therefore a little unusual even in the Oz-inspired universe, heartwarming and hopefully inspiring to all.
Thanks to Hugh for doing the interview! Looking forward to seeing this movie. Let us know what you think of the movie in the comments below!