Gabriel Theis [Interview]


Hello, Folks! I hope you all had a nice spring break. We took a little time off to move our headquarters to Anchorage, as we previously discussed. And if I’m being honest, I truly needed a break. But, we shall show you that the wait was worth the….well, wait. So here we go!

Today we have a wonderful interview with a bright young filmmaker that we are so excited to have on the site. It’s Gabriel Theis, Everyone! Gabriel has been working in the world of film and television in several different capacities over the last few years, and has made great strides to becoming one of the greats. His latest project is one that was brought to my attention by our dear friend, cinematographer Brad Rushing, and we are so happy he did. This project is known as The Curse of Professor Zardonicus, a film about a young man who recruits a film student to help him prove the existence of an urban legend. It is a truly intriguing story that I am so excited to check out, and possibly share with you all here.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the newly beloved filmmaker, Gabriel Theis! Enjoy!




What inspired you to get into the world of film? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

 My father was a film critic, so cinema was ubiquitous in our household. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been hooked on movies, classic and new, arthouse and blockbuster, really good and really bad (my list of guilty-pleasures is insane).

So because of that, I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, even when I was too young to really understand what that meant.  I had no idea how films were constructed, all the nuances that go behind a successful production. If I’d had any appreciation for how difficult filmmaking could be, or how much failure I would experience in that quest, I might have been discouraged.

But, too late now. It’s the only thing I could imagine for myself, which has been an absolutely essential mindset. If I had the ability to really consider another career choice, I might have given up by now and gone on to become, I don’t know, a doctor? Accountant? Something more financially reliable as a career path. But filmmaking is too ingrained in my identity now, so I’ve never considered trying something else, even if that might have seemed like the more logical move. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of film? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

My first gig was being a Production Assistant on the “Sicko Mode” music video. I was a sophomore in college, and got the gig through one of my film professors (appreciate it, Professor Houk).

It was a 16-hour shoot day, and was the first set I had been on where the camera wasn’t something that anyone could get at a Best Buy. I went from making amateur short films to being on set for a music video featuring two of the most high-profile artists of my generation.

So it was both exciting and overwhelming at the same time, for exactly the reasons you’d expect. I got some extremely helpful pointers on being a production assistant, though, and the crew was very patient with me, knowing how green I was. 

The number of things I learned on that shoot was so long, I couldn’t possibly list them all here. It ranged from learning what a line producer was, to what Travis Scott’s favorite flavor of Fanta was. But the lessons I carried with me were all about work ethic and maintaining the rhythm of a functioning set.

While I’ve never produced a project of my own at that scale, the principles remain the same, of always being alert and prepared for a problem to arise, of staying in your lane and never interfering with someone else’s responsibilities.

So shout out to Drake and Travis Scott, my old bosses. And especially a huge thanks to Travis Scott, who was part of the reason why the music video was being filmed in Houston.



Can you tell us a bit about your exciting new project, The Curse of Professor Zardonicus? What made you want to bring this story into the world, and what can people expect to see?

The Curse of Professor Zardonicus is… honestly, I still have a hard time explaining exactly what it is. And that’s part of what I loved about making it.

Simply put, it’s a mockumentary dark-comedy about an eccentric young man who recruits a film student to help him prove the existence of an urban legend named, you guessed, “Professor Zardonicus.” It was shot with my colleagues, Alec White and Lucio Vasquez. While there are people to thank, including the rest of the cast, and many people who helped with production, most of the film was shot with just the three of us. Lucio was the Director of Photography and Editor, Alec played the lead character, as well as serving other services such as being a casting director. Without either of them, there simply wouldn’t be a movie. And without the enthusiasm to overcome all of the challenges to produce a film with such limited resources, I don’t know how we could have gotten it done.

Dating back to my freshman year, I had known that Zardonicus would be my debut feature film. Since it’s a mockumentary told from the perspective of a college student, it had the perfect framing device for my limited resources. It was also a chance to satirize the found-footage genre, and “monster-hunting” shows.

It was going to be a comedy, through and through. But then, as I started writing the screenplay, other themes started to creep in, ones about mental illness and conspiracy theories. The screenplay was written long before Qanon became a household name, I can’t imagine a more appropriate sociopolitical context for the film to be released.

We were never sure how audiences would respond, and that anticipation was the most suspenseful aspect of production, at least for myself. With such an off-beat sense of humor, frankly weird lead character, and bizarre title, I knew we had limited our audience. But John Lennon once said “being yourself may not get you a lot of friends, but it’ll get you the right ones,” and the same philosophy applies to creative endeavors and their audience. While Zardonicus has had a polarizing response, the people who have enjoyed it seemed to have had a unique experience watching it, and formed a very personal relationship with the film, it’s themes and characters. And that alone makes it worth it, even with the endless amount of frustration and disappointment that can ensue when you’re producing a film.

If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any famous figure from American history, who would it be?

I think the best biopics cover specific events of the subject’s life, rather than try to condense their entire life story into a single film. With that being said, there’s always been a specific moment in Charles Manson’s life I would love to cover, and that would be his relationship with Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson.

It seems that most people are aware that Charles Manson was associated with the Beach Boys in some vague fashion, but his relationship with Dennis Wilson was so much deeper than many people realize. They didn’t just do drugs together, they lived together, they worked on music together. Charles Manson is actually a co-writer on a Beach Boys song, “Never Learn Not To Love.”

But, most disturbing of all, Charles Manson’s relationship with Dennis Wilson was the catalyst for a key turning point in his life, one that would set him on the path to really becoming “Charles Manson.”

So, that Beach Boys song? Manson didn’t realize that Wilson would rewrite his lyrics. And when he learned that, he… didn’t take it well.

He literally handed Dennis Wilson a bullet, and said: “Every time you look at it, I want you to think how nice it is your kids are still safe.” And then… Dennis Wilson beat the shit out of him.

Then, later on, Manson would order his followers to go to a house and murder a record producer who turned him down. Except, that producer had moved out. And the new resident was… Sharon Tate.

The more research I did into their relationship, the more of a narrative I could see. These two infamous figures, representing two very different cultural movements of the ‘60s. Dennis Wilson, one of the Beach Boys, was a key figure in the development of Charles Manson, who would change the cultural perception surrounding the “Free Love” movement forever. 



What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Currently, I’m helping to develop a science-fiction screenplay with cinematographer Brad Rushing and director Shaun Paul Piccinino. I’m also in post on a horror short-film, The Face You Took Away, which we expect to be releasing around late April, early May.

If you’d like more updates, you can follow me on social media. When I’m not developing my own projects, I’m working on others, and I’m honestly just grateful to be working on sets after the misery of 2020.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Last night was the Golden Globes ceremony. While I’m not typically impressed with awards shows, there was an amusing bit where a bunch of kids are asked about movies, and give these very cute, silly answers.

But then the interviewer asked them, “who is Chadwick Boseman?” And every single kid shouted Black Panther!

It was such a moving way to honor Chadwick Boseman. It also took me back to when I was their age, seeing Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, or Christian Bale as Batman. It was a beautiful moment to remind us of just how much value cinema has in our lives, and how much they can inspire the imagination.


About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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