A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with Ted Raimi. Starting out in his brother Sam’s films, he’s built quite a career for himself with a very diverse resume acting in both film and television. From Invader Zim to Evil Dead, Ted has been in some of my all time favorite films and television. His new webseries, Playing Dead just wrapped its first season and Ted is behind the camera, this time as director. We discuss what it’s like directing as opposed to acting, and what its like going from the more traditional media to working in the uncharted waters of new media.
For fans who aren’t familiar with you Playing Dead, could you tell us about the premise?
Playing Dead is story of an out of work actress who, to pay the bills, takes a part time as Death himself. Herself in this case. She of course, is not that good at it at first, but learns the ins and outs of mortification, so to speak. The series takes us through her taking people to the other realm. It’s a show that lends itself really well to the web.
Why do you think your fans will enjoy Playing Dead?
I think my fans will enjoy because it falls really squarely into the stuff that they know me for, which is horror and sci-fi and fantasy. I think it misses the mark on the sci-fi, but the horror and fantasy, it certain hits. It’s also a good dose of comedy. It afforded me as the director, the chance to really put in a lot of gags and schick and bits. One thing that I think was really good about the script, was that there weren’t too many death puns in there when I got it from Suzanne Keilly. I thought it would be loaded with death jokes, but it really wasn’t and the humor comes from the character of Grace trying to adapt to her new life as Death. As she does that, good bits of comedy come out of there.
So I thought that from a writing standpoint it didn’t go for the obvious, it went it for the character and what was funny about the character, which I think ultimately is much more lasting and makes you want to tune in again and again. As opposed to watching squirrels pee, or watching someone get kicked in nuts a hundred times on YouTube. I tried to make something that someone would want to come back to more than once to watch. Although I must say, Keyboard Cat is very funny, still. I still laugh at Keyboard Cat – it’s just frigging funny.
As someone already well established in more traditional media films and television, what inspired the move to new media and doing a web series?
I produced once before for MTV, the show was called Normal Joe, which only ran one episode and then we got canceled. I remember when I did that, the execs at MTV, some of them having nothing else to do but come into my office and sort of mosey around and see what I was up to. I thought to myself that I don’t want to pitch a pro show just right now, I’d like to do something that’s my own thing that I’d have complete creative control over. Then I thought if I did something on the web, then not only would I have creative control, story-wise, then I would also control time lines, and style wise.
There wouldn’t be any particular delivery date, I would be setting every thing because I was the creator and the distributor, it was really an ideal situation. It wound up being such an awesome experience that I’d do it in a second heartbeat. In fact, I am doing it again. I’ve got another project in the works for the web right now and I’m looking forward to getting that off the ground soon.
What are some of the differences you have noticed in doing a web series as opposed to typical movies and film?
They are different experiences, because this is directing and what most people know me for is acting. So this is very different, from different sides of the camera. I did take my experiences as an actor for many years and translate that to behind the camera stuff. I can communicate with actors fairly well, I know sets, I know what crews go through. I’ve been a crew member my self, and I’ve been an apprentice editor, a PA, a driver, I’ve done all sorts of odd-jobs on set. I certainly wouldn’t go in there and just start barking orders, cause I know how goddamn hard it is to crew something. That certainly was helpful. Now that I’ve seen the other side of the camera, it’s going to be very hard for me to step back in front of it. All I can think about now is directing.
Is directing something you have been interested in for a while?
Yeah, it really is. The last couple of movies and tv shows I’ve done, I would be acting, and acting my heart out But I couldn’t help thinking of what the director was doing, and how the shot could be changed to create this effect or that effect, and I thought, I think I should get to the other side of that camera now. I think that’s what led me to do this and I’m really glad I did it.
I also read you going to be directing a horror anthology for the internet. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Right now I’m currently writing stories by myself, and also I’m writing some stories with Curtis RX – my composer of Playing Dead. Curtis is kind of a renaissance man and he can write and compose music and he’s this really theatrical guy. He is unique because he can compose a piece of music well from a to b to c, and he can really fit it in with the story. It’s a natural collaboration of two horror guys doing horror. So we’re excited to be doing that. But any more than that I can’t tell you, but it’s really more in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock Presents rather than say Creepshow. It’s less gore and more suspense.
I heard that you are working on a script with Bruce Campbell, could you tell us about that?
No, I’m not working on a script with him, but I am going to be in a Bruce Campbell movie of his. I can only tell you that I’m playing a very beloved character. Anymore than that I cannot say. It’s for Dark Horse Entertainment. I can’t say anymore or the goons from Dark Horse will come and get me. They will fly down from Portland with their cups of coffee in hand and kill me. That’s next for me in terms of pictures, but until then I’m going to be just writing this new web series and looking forward to this stuff in New Media that I get to do. It’s a new part of my life and I love it.
I just have to ask this, I read on Wikipedia that Bruce Campbell was your babysitter when you were younger is that true?
He was my babysitter, that is true. When my parents would go out of town, for vacations and that sort of thing, Bruce would come over and babysit me for a while. He’s about six years older than me, when I was about 11 or so and he was about 16 or 17, he would come over. He would come over for dinner a lot and my parents would say, if you are going to be here three nights a week for dinner, you are going to have to work that off by taking Ted to his cello lesson and piano lessons, and he would, he was really great about that.
You worked with the writer and star of the series Suzanne Keilly on your previous short My Treat could you tell us about how you met and started working together?
Sure, I met her a few years ago. I was directing a music video and at that time she was strictly an actor. Anyway, I needed background dancers for this video and she came into audition for one of the dancers. She was a really good dancer, so she got the part. We met and we became friends. Then we collaborated on a few projects, some that went through, some that didn’t. I was directing a pilot for an internet show called Rebooted with Alex Albrecht and we had an extra day that we’d already paid for, but I’d shot so efficiently, that we finished a day early.
The equipment was sitting around and it was a Sunday and we couldn’t return it, so we decided to shoot My Treat, which is a comedy short that she and her partner Kirsten Roeters toured around the country with. We shot the thing and it did really well, we played it at a bunch of festivals, Palm Springs and in Seoul South Korea. Now the short is going to Cleveland International Film Festival next month, so we are pretty excited. For kind of a freebie short, we got a lot of mileage out of it. After it plays in Cleveland, I’m going to release it on the net.
For some reason, film festivals hate it when it’s on the web first, so we had to keep it off the web until it ran through the festival circuit. As soon as that’s done we are going to put it up online.
Any plans for season 2 yet?
Yes, Ms. Keilly has jotted some things down already for Season 2, and I’ve been helping with some story ideas for the season. But whether she’ll take those ideas I don’t know it’s really her show. We do know that we are going to kill some more celebrities in season 2. We are going to up the ante. I’ll probably get killed in season 2, possibly Bruce Campbell, possibly Lucy Lawless, we’ll see, I’ll bring all my old pals together and I’ll murder them one by one.
Any plans to release the full season on a DVD?
We’d really like to do that, and we probably will, to release a really high quality, high def version on DVD. But I think in truth, people want DVDs less and less these days. What we will probably wind up doing is delivering in some format, or other kind of high def codec. So they can stick it on their XBOX 360 or PSP’s or whatever that they have to watch whenever they want, wherever they want.
We are sort of debating that. We definitely send it out as a collection and hopefully these bands that are all in it, will want to do it. There are some legal issues and once we get through those we’ll get around to doing that for sure.
For my last question, I know you were in Philadelphia last year for Wizard World. What were some of your fonder memories of our lovely city in your time here?
The Amish Bakery in Reading Terminal Market, that place man, I would eat there, breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of my life if I could. That was the best food I’ve ever had in my life, it was insane. I still think about that place, I love it. Also, there is a noodle shop in Chinatown that I cannot remember the name of it, had the best fricking noodles ever. That was awesome, I wish we had a place like that in LA, but I don’t know of any. I’m sure there is one, I just don’t know of it.
I also like in Philly how all these empty spaces were filled with art. All these spaces had these great giant pieces of art and I thought it was great and it brightens up the whole place and it’s great to see that. I wish we did that more in LA, but we don’t.
Check out the first episode of Playing Dead below!
Thanks to @mainpa for her help in transcribing this great interview.