Writer Clint Sears (Tales of Halloween) is no stranger to the horror genre so it is only natural that he represents the Western voice in the new Japanese/American collaboration Crow’s Blood. From executive producer Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II/III/IV) and writer/creator Yasushi Akimoto (One Missed Call), the series stars Japan’s favorite J-Pop stars Sakura Miyawaki and Mayu Watanabe. Premiering earlier this week on Japan’s Hulu, Crow’s Blood was met with unapologetic squeals of delight and shock from the world’s top horror fans. Clint took a break from writing his next project to talk to Movie Vine about Crow’s Blood, visiting Japan, life as a writer and more.
MV: Welcome to Movie Vine, Clint. Congratulations on the successful launch of your new mini-series Crow’s Blood. What can you tell us about the story?
Clint: Thanks for having me!
The main story is about how far one would go to save a loved one, even if it means completely compromising your principles.
As far as the genre of the show? Hopefully it’s a successful mix with a little bit of everything… It is definitely fun, exciting horror but it’s also designed to be a fast and intense ride with some serious dramatic moments, bits of a love story, a lot of mystery and hopefully, some funny and lighthearted moments too. Joss Whedon is a personal hero of mine and I kept thinking “Buffy” every time I was finished with a draft, so if we came anywhere close to a thematic comparison I could die a happy man!
MV: How did you first become involved with this project?
Clint: My long time friend and collaborator Darren Lynn Bousman was approached with the opportunity to work with Yasushi Akimoto and do an East meets West collaboration on a TV series. Mr Akimoto had drafts for the first two episodes and outlined beats for the rest of the series. It was really a cool story and I was brought in to, I suppose, be the “West” in the narrative. I stayed faithful to his wonderful story, defined the characters a bit further, added some elements, drew out things that helped me weave pieces together for my own sensibilities, and just tried my best to write the show the only way I knew how, the way that I would want to see it. It was a real honor to be trusted to help execute his vision while being allowed the freedom to add my own takes on how to do it. He then took a look at what I had done and added amazing suggestions on how to improve. It was really rewarding all around.
MV: Crow’s Blood deals with the controversial topic of cloning in a way that both thrills the audience, and plants seeds of realistic horror. What are some interesting facts you learned while researching Yasushi Akimoto’s idea?
Clint: There was a lot of science in the original that is still there word for word. I would read it and be like, “wow, that is really interesting” and hopefully you’ll do the same so I won’t spoil some of the more unusual facts that get dropped in the episodes. I want to say more but I am afraid of spoiling some things, lets just say that some of my further research for the show led me down paths that I never thought I would go.
MV: Now that audiences in Japan have had a chance to watch Crow’s Blood what has the initial reaction been like from the viewers?
Clint: You tell me! No, seriously, please… Twitter’s translate function is not my friend when it comes to gauging the reactions so far, I don’t think it can quite keep up with the cool slang and vernacular some of our viewers use so I am mostly lost but I believe everyone is really enjoying it. Like a crazy person, I tracked down some very nice Japanese strangers and asked them to translate my twitter feed right after the premiere and they were translating things like, “surprisingly fun”, “grotesque” and they had these smile emoticons followed by, “too scared to sleep now”. So, all in all, I’d say that it sounds like we hopefully did everything we set out to do.
MV: Japanese genre films and shows have a special way of taking root in the subconscious only to surface again at 3AM when you have to get up in the dark to get a glass of water (laughs). How will Crow’s Blood keep us awake at night?
Clint: Trust me, Mr Bousman (and all the wonderful crew from Crow’s Blood) will definitely leave you with some unsettling images you won’t be able to shake for quite a long time! It’s funny, I COMPLETELY KNOW when the scary parts are coming and I still jump or want to crawl under the covers.
MV: Did you have to leave the lights on at night when you were writing?
Clint: Of course! I also wore the traditional sailor school uniform to truly get into the mind of the characters. Haha, let’s please note that’s a joke in case that gets lost in the translation! I would get creeped by the scarier parts and I would definitely get sad when I had to (SPOILER ALERT) kill off a character or two. You just get so attached to who they are that it feels like a genuine loss.
MV: How do you think American audiences will react to the show?
Clint: I sincerely hope everyone loves it as much as we do! I really think it’s ripe for an American audience. For my part, I never tried to write to an Eastern sensibility, I just tried to write what I liked and I think that as the world continues getting smaller and smaller global entertainment could very well be the future, where rather than just the US exporting our box office, everyone begins making quality stuff for the global marketplace and it’s all easily accessible and consumed.
MV: Since this is one of the first Japanese/American shows obtained by Hulu, hopefully it will open the door to future original programming collaborations.
Clint: I kind of mentioned it up there but I really think we will all become more global in our entertainment and we will begin to see more interesting fusions like this. I am all for it and think it can only lead to new and interesting choices down the road.
MV: You filmed Crow’s Blood on location in Japan. What were some things that inspired you while working in Japan?
Clint: This is a terrible answer but almost literally everything. Darren was out there for the whole thing and he kept telling me, “you can’t explain it, you have to experience it”. I was like, awww come on, we are entertainers, how are you saying you can’t explain something but then I went and I was like, “damnit, he’s right”. It’s just… I am in awe. I fell in love with the people and the country. I was only there for the last 10 days of the last episode and it was much, much too short. I’d need a whole other couple of pages to break down all my feelings. I never wanted to be the annoying guy that got an obnoxious new world view from a big trip or be the guy who starts every new conversation with, “You know… in Japan they actually….” but now I’M REAAAAL CLOSE. I keep thinking my honeymoon phase with Japan will wear off but it really hasn’t. I just love it.
MV: There is something special about filming on location especially in a different country other than your own. What were your first impressions of Japan?
Clint: My first impression was just the sheer SIZE of the place mixed with complete wonder about how CLEAN, ORDERLY and RESPECTFUL it is in spite of how dense and vast it is. Even the architecture, which is so layered, mixed with old and new on top of each other, is in perfect harmony with all of these clean, straight lines and it all just somehow makes perfect sense. It was as if the old and the new were designed to go together from the very beginning, it’s almost magical. The way Tokyo effortlessly blends in nature amongst the buildings… can you tell I am in love?
MV: Yes. I’ve only been to the Tokyo airport on a layover so it is still on my travel wish list. Did you try any unusual Japanese food?
Clint: I am an adventurous and ravenous eater, I love all food so yes, I definitely tried anything and everything I could get my hands on and it was mostly all delicious. There were a few fish flavored crackers I wasn’t quite ready for but all of my dining out experiences were pretty much amazing across the board.
MV: Have your experiences in Japan sparked other genre stories that you hope to one day write?
Clint: 100% yes. Stay tuned.
MV: There seems to be a special connection between audiences and young characters in horror films and shows. I think it’s human nature to want to protect kids and teens. What are some lessons you learned while working with this young cast?
Clint: Well, as I mentioned before I love Buffy and I think that there is something truly universal about the high school experience that we will always identify with whether we are 20 or 85 or, even if the school is on the opposite end of the world. High school is such a defining, strange, vulnerable, weird and exciting time in all of our lives that I think when you use high school characters correctly you automatically get buy-in from your audience… No matter what your experience during high school was I guarantee most of us have a very strong feeling about it, so if we can get you to in some way relate to those feelings again by the nature of our story then you will be that much more pulled in and invested.
MV: You and Darren have known each other since you were kids. When you were creating films back then did you ever imagine that you would one day end up filming together on the other side of the world?
Clint: It took me a while to realize this, Darren and I are more than friends, we are family, we are brothers at this point. No one knows how to make me laugh quite like that guy, we finish each other’s thoughts, we build off each other, we tell each other brutally honest opinions, we bicker, we help each other up… I love the guy and working with him like this still makes me feel like the world is a magical place in a way that I still can’t quite wrap my head around.
MV: Does it still feel like you are kids pretending in the backyard, but just in a bigger ‘backyard’?
Clint: Yes, yes and yes!
MV: Working in the horror genre you are constantly immersed in stories that leave their mark. What are a few shows that have really gotten under your skin?
Clint: Pretty much EVERYTHING on TV right now. We really are in the golden age of television. I am constantly blown away by how good it is. It’s almost too good, who has the time?
Here’s a quick run down of my latest favorites:
Stranger Things (I’m only on episode three but I’m full blown, IN LOVE), Game of Thrones, Mr Robot, Fargo, Silicon Valley, Happy Valley, (Got another valley for the hat trick?), super excited about Principals, Better Call Saul (Breaking Bad is the best form of entertainment mankind has ever known), Sherlock is better than most of the movies out there, plus a million others I am forgetting right now. Oh and the Westworld and American Gods trailers look beyond amazing. It’s just such a wonderful time for dramatic TV pretty much across the board.
MV: Great choices! Do you mind sharing your journey of leaving the corporate world for the creative world?
Clint: Well my journey is weird just like everyone else’s I’m sure. I took a corporate gig in my 20’s between college semesters, wound up falling in love with the pay, hating the work and then finally I was, thankfully, laid off. I decided to swing for the fences, jumped into advertising and TRULY realized who and what I was. I will always be an ad guy in my heart, it’s in my DNA, I couldn’t shake it if I tried but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how useful the skillset could be for screenwriting.
MV: For anyone who is contemplating a change in careers what advice would you give them to make their transition a bit easier?
Clint: I can sure try and relate the lessons I have hopefully learned along the way and I’ll probably go at this sideways but maybe we can get there and untangle my crazy brain…
I think true success comes from being open to opportunity and being ready to strike when it comes. Saying WHAT you want is a big step and hey, that’s really, really hard sometimes. Saying what you want means that you could FAIL. Sometimes you aren’t failing right now because you aren’t admitting what you want or we talk ourselves out of it because we want to be comfortable. If you are like me though and you know you have that spark of something inside of you, that THING (mine is creative) that you have, exercise than just remember you don’t always have to take that GIANT leap to get to where you want to eventually be. You can take the smaller steps that lead to bigger ones. No one just BECOMES the thing they want to be because they decide on it, you work your way into it with actionable steps along the way. I think that’s where a lot of people with a burning passion get stuck… They want that instant, honed talent. I am as guilty as anyone for feeling that way for a long time. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
A lot of true success comes down to luck too.
So do what makes YOU happy and see if others respond to it. If they do maybe you can grow it into more. If they don’t and you still want to keep going, find out why they feel that way and see if you perhaps are not communicating your heart and soul like you want to. Often it’s just one or two little pieces that aren’t coming across because I really think if you’re passionate and doing what you love someone, somewhere should respond to it and if they still don’t… *&^% ‘em!
Remember, William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything… “. So do it for yourself and earn your keep at a job that doesn’t drive you nuts!
MV: Great advice! Thank you. Last question, now that you have researched cloning for Crow’s Blood what mythical or prehistoric animal would you want to clone?
Clint: I am going to cheat on my answer and just admit that I am 1,000% OBSESSED with Norbert the dog on facebook. Have you seen this magical creature? He is too cute to possibly even be real! He is my every thing. He gives these little high fives that melt my heart. I could be in a traumatic life threatening accident and all I would need to calm me down is a video of Norbert. MY KINGDOM for a Norbie high five! You can also talk to him on facebook and his wonderful owner will reply in his “voice”. It’s amazing!
They also do tons of charity work and he is a therapy dog for sick children in the hospital. SO, I have to say if we could get more Norbert’s I think the world could maybe, just maybe, be a near perfect place.
MV: Agreed! He is absolutely adorable. Thank you for hanging out with Movie Vine today, Clint. We are bravely looking forward to watching Crow’s Blood … with the lights on of course (laughs).
Clint: Thank you! This was great! I hope you like the show.
*Be sure to follow Clint on Twitter (@clintisawesome) to see exclusive Crow’s Blood behind the scenes photos. Stay tuned to Movie Vine for the Crow’s Blood U.S. release dates.