Back when I was living in NJ working a string of bad temp jobs, my roommate and I made it a habit to go through Comcast On Demand on a ritualistic basis and watch all the Something Weird videos, any music video we’d not heard of, all the Misty Mundae movies, and anything we’d deemed appropriately obscure. During this time, I swear we watched Dungeon Majesty. If we didn’t, my roommate and I watched it somehow, somewhere. And when we did, it was our equivalent of seeing the light. Part cable access camp (before Tim and Eric were names), part geek-chic and 100% brilliant, we both knew whoever was behind it was living the dream we’d always wanted to live.
Fast forward to present and my discovery of said genius, the video artist/photographer Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Much like Dungeon Majesty, I stumbled across her latest work The Multinauts but this time on the internet. If Dungeon Majesty was a 100% brilliant, this was a 120%. Incredibly ambitious the current two shows of The Multinauts run approximately 20 minutes each in length. Both shows boast an impressive array of visual effects, including model-making, 2D animation, various analog and optical techniques created by Stratford.
If The Multinauts only fired the visual neurons with pleasure, it would be enough. But The Multinauts is much more. It is funny, strange, unclassifiable, art-house Tom Baker era Doctor Who crossed with the Unearthed Arcana. To boot, The Multinauts features the music of Ariel Pink, Geneva Jacuzzi and has cameos of like-minded artist Leslie Hall.
I conducted the following interview with Stratford where she talks about The Multinauts and her other work as an artist.
Could you talk a little about the things that influenced The Multinauts?
On the surface level, The Multinauts is influenced by Dr Who (specifically Doctors 4-6), Max Headroom 20 Minutes into the Future, and Star Trek the Next Generation. In RPG terms it tips its hat to Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and my beloved Shadowrun. The use of the Multiverse is inspired by Michael Moorcock. The script is written by Christine Adolph, Riley Swift, and myself (Centari, Xanthor, and Gigs ) and we would constantly refer to all these references with our deepest affection and then would add our personal touches to the characters.
What was the hardest part of producing The Multinauts?
The Multinauts is a very ambitious project with a wealth of ideas to explore. Most people would wait until they had a network behind them before they made a TV show. However it is logical for me to go ahead and make it rather than wait for an outsider to green light it. Unfortunately because there is no funding, it is very hard to find help doing the post production. Thankfully my friend Brett Hanson offered to edit and completely dedicated himself. Without him I would have been lost. For the Flashback and Mirrorman Episodes, it was just us two. He did all the editing. In addition to directing, I did all of the compositing, effects, producing, and even programmed the website. I missed a lot of sleep, a lot of meals, and there were times where I had to hold back the tears wondering why I was doing it. I also believe that because it was so intense I became completely immersed in the realm and, as a side effect, the look and feel of the show became well defined and a distinctive style was born. In the future, I would love to find funding so that I could work with a team of people and make more episodes in half the time and go deeper into the saga.
Would you believe that they were Dungeon Majesty fans? Geneva sent me an email in the early days of Dungeon Majesty and we had a correspondence for a year or two. Ariel Pink even wrote a song called Dungeon Majesty that he never released but gave to me on cassette. Eventually I became friends with the two of them because we lived in the same town and were trying to achieve similar things in our work. They both appear in the show out of mutual love and their own desire to live out a television fantasy.
What is the best edition of AD&D?
- 2nd Edition has the best artwork
- 3.5 Edition is the most fun to play
- 10.5 Edition doesn’t require VR goggles like 10 did
Dungeon Majesty was made in the golden era of the internet when it was ruled by the nerds and the jocks hadn’t yet discovered its potential. There were no internet stars or video diary garbage to sift through. Everyone who was putting shows on the internet was doing it because they were pioneering in new media. The cast of Dungeon Majesty was playing a D&D campaign at the time and we simply decided to televise it. The show took off like a campaign itself. We rolled the dice and watched the show take off and develop. The Multinauts has a much more serious approach. It was created to take DIY television to the next level and is a serious attempt to make a sci-fi show that is completely in the genre. It is not a parody or aesthetic based rip-off. Dungeon Majesty will always remain the most treasured time period of my life because it immortalized the cast’s friendship at that time.
What programs/equipment do you use to do your compositing?
One super computer named Rocky IV and After Effects
Are you planning to do more episodes of The Multinauts?
Perhaps, because the threat of a mutant corporation taking over the world is very real to me. Currently I’m working on an immersive virtual reality project , getting more involved with analog equipment, and thinking of making a feature length film.
Music plays a big part in The Multinauts, and I love the extended disco-freakouts your work makes use of. Aesthetically, how do you see music informing your work?
I’m a huge fan of BBC Radiophonic Workshop and collect British library records. I love the concept of musicians aiding in telling a story through experiments in sound and on the side of library records, musicians writing pieces in hopes of it being attached to a visual. When setting out to make The Multinauts I knew exactly how it needed to sound. Luckily I know some really talented and dedicated musicians. Elan Polushko wrote the show’s riveting theme song and also lends his speaking voice in the role of Tetra. He grew up in London and thus was raised on BBC and ITV programming, which are sources of inspiration for the show. He did a lot of scoring for Dungeon Majesty so when it came time to make the The Multinauts, we had already developed a very good working relationship. Seth Nemec, who made a bunch of the show’s sound effects and wrote most of the music for The Mirrorman episode builds his own synthesizers and has a very unique vision. His music is in the lines of Michael Boddicker and John Carpenter. He signed up to help out the minute he heard we were doing something based in the Multiverse. Without much effort, the visuals and the sound are constantly influencing each other.
How does your photographic work influence your video work?
My photographic work is an exploratory diary. Nothing is ever set up or staged and I use it to help me understand my own life. Because I was raised in the heart of Hollywood and am obsessed with movies and television, my photos are often a record of the evolution of stardom and celebrate the beauty of fandom. I earn my living taking photographs and have worked on “real movie” sets and have photographed “real stars”. I have always wondered why there was a hierarchy in Hollywood. I never could understand why Reece Witherspoon was more important than LaTiza from Dungeon Majesty or why the CGI effects in Independence Day are considered good while the effects in Galaxy of Terror are considered cheesy. Everything evolves. All stars fade and all technology becomes obsolete. My photographs help me try and figure these things out and record the stages but somehow photographs weren’t enough for me. I was living in London having the time of my life and came home to Los Angeles with the sole desire of making DIY television. Three months after coming home, Dungeon Majesty was created. Four years later, The Multinauts was born. My photographic work and video work go together because they serve the same purpose. My photographs take me on adventures in the real world and show me what avenues to follow in the fantasy realm.
Can you leave us with a closing quote?
I hope that in my journey as an artist I may conjure up the wisdom of Buckaroo Banzai or Paul Atreides. Until then I’ll leave you with my favorite quotes by them. “Hey, hey, hey, hey-now Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are. …” Buckaroo Banzai “Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will permit it to pass over and through me and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.” Paul Atreides
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