Tara Bennett is the author of several movie and TV companion books including the upcoming “The Art of Epic”, as well as “The Art of 300”, and “The Art of Terminator Salvation”. She also contributed to the media tie-in books for ‘The Official Firefly Companions Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3’ and ‘Firefly: Celebration’. She has also done interviews and features for print and online publications, including The Walking Dead Magazine, Once Upon a Time Magazine, SCI FI Magazine, Blastr and many more. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tara about her latest book and her love for pop culture.
Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with your latest book “The Art of Epic”?
Tara Bennett: I’ve worked with Titan Books since 2005 when I contributed to their Making of Fantastic Four book. I’ve been blessed to continue working with them over the last decade contributing to their Firefly Companions. As an individual author, I wrote for them all four of the 24: Series Companions, The Art of Terminator Salvation and Terminator Salvation Movie Companion. Late last year, they contacted me about writing The Art of epic and I was thrilled. I’m a long-time animation nut and this was my first opportunity to write a concept to creation book for an animated film so I jumped at the opportunity.
MG: Where you able to see the film “Epic” before working on the companion book?
I had the special opportunity to go to the Blue Sky Studios in Connecticut last September, where I got to meet the entire epic team. While there, I had a fascinating three hour presentation from epic Art Director Mike Knapp, who walked me through the entire conceptual evolution of the film. I got to see all of the concept art featured in the book, watched animatics, partially completed scenes and completed scenes. Just this past February, I got to go back to Blue Sky as part of my coverage for Total Film Magazine and watch about 25 minutes of the completed film. They only locked the entire film around the first week of April so I’m excited to see the final film next week.
MG: After working on “The Art of 300” and “The Art of Terminator Salvation”; how does “The Art of Epic” compare?
The common thread when doing any “art of” book is getting to see the early ideas that are developed for each film. “Art of” books are about documenting the creative path a film takes before it becomes the finished product, so all three books afforded me the opportunity to see, and explain, the design and aesthetic evolution of each film. I graduated with a degree in TV/Radio and Film so behind the scenes stories about making films have always fascinated me and as a professional who worked in the business, I know every project has a very unique story. So that being said, it’s hard to compare those three books because they were all very different types of films. But I think the epic book is unique in showing off the wide array of artists who contributed their ideas for environments, characters looks, costuming and more, and then how their work was all distilled into the final design after a long span of trial and error. I think the book shows off their work beautifully and just how much each design phase inspired what would become the final film.
MG: How much research is required for you to do before authoring these books?
It varies on every project. I do my homework with the materials provided to me by my editor and publisher. Often, I get to do interviews with key members of the production where I really get into the history and the practical decisions surrounding every aspect of making the film. My background and general love of the film and television industry also means I’m already always reading about, or keeping up with, trends and technology so I know the right questions to ask when I get the opportunity. Honestly, it’s the fun part of the job for me.
MG: I am a huge “Firefly” fan, tell us about your work on “The Official Firefly Companions Vol. 1-3” & “Firefly: Celebration”?
Hello fellow Browncoat! Working on all of the Firefly Companions has been an absolute dream. It’s got an incredibly passionate fan base so from the start I knew I would get to write for the real hard core fans who want to know the tiniest details about every aspect of that show which was exciting. Those books are not for a watered-down, mainstream audience; those books are for the true believers and that means I got to geek out in my interviews and with my writing. Also that cast and crew is just such a special collection of people so getting to talk with them and reminisce officially about the show was incredible. It’s always thrilling to meet a new Firefly fan, of which we are legion now and always growing, so those books make me very proud.
MG: Tell us about your print and online work including The Walking Dead Magazine, SCI FI Magazine, Blastr etc?
I’ve been an entertainment journalist full time since 2003 when I transitioned out of television producing into writing full-time. Along with writing books, I also cover television, film and pop culture for an array of online and print outlets. For Titan Magazines, I’ve worked on just about all of their series and film-centric specialty magazines from 2003 to today including most recently The Walking Dead Magazine, Once Upon a Time Collector’s Magazines and Grimm Magazine. I am the east coast editor for SFX Magazine and contributor for Total Film Magazine. I write for SCI FI Magazine. Online, I write for Movies.com, FEARnet, Blaster and more. I keep myself as diversified as possible because this business is rough and I never know when an outlet might disappear or not need me. Having a lot of places to write for makes my freelancing life a little more stable…if possible.
MG: What is your current obsessions now in pop culture, whether TV, comics, film etc?
Good question. Currently, I’m in Game of Thrones mode. I really love this season and am a little more invested because two of my graduating students work on the series in the visual effects department so their names in the credits every week always makes me smile. The summer movie season is here so I’m excited about Star Trek Into Darkness, epic (obviously), The Wolverine, Elysium and more. I’m a huge The Hunger Games nerd so I’m excited about Catching Fire in the fall. And then the upcoming TV season has some exciting possibilities and I love covering new shows anticipating if any will become one of my new favorites.
MG: What do you have planned next? In terms of “Art of Books”?
The book writing world is extremely mercurial. I’m at the mercy of a publisher or editor knocking on my cyber door to see if I’m available, so nothing is currently on my calendar but I hope something pops up soon and I’ll be back in the trenches again.