You know the feeling you get while listening to an emotionally-charged song? Or staying up all night to finish a novel? Or watching the closing credits to a movie so you could remain in that world longer, even though the story is over? Imagine being able to combine all of those emotions into one comprehensive experience. That is what award-winning film writer and director Eric D. Howell is trying to build. Eric’s idea is called a Movella Motion Novel and is the combination of all the mediums that evoke the deepest feelings — music, movies, and novels — in one experience.
Tapping into his Studio/E community (which we encourage all members to do!), Eric is presenting his idea at our next Member Morning Series on Thursday, October 25. These events are designed for members to share challenges they’re facing while pursuing an idea, and we invite members to join us as we support Eric with our diverse insight and feedback.
We caught up with Eric about his many projects, his muse, and what about his idea scares him. (Yes, that is Eric pictured below with the mother of dragons, Emilia Clarke).
Describe your journey to today.
After several years working as a mechanical special effects technician with a Federal Explosives License and Federal Firearms License, I began performing stunts and doing precision driving as a SAG stuntman. I made my first short satire/action film The Interview, and while working on A Simple Plan as a stuntman, I got to share the film with my hero director Sam Raimi. He watched it in the makeup trailer and then sent me to some meetings at Universal Studios. They told me to “beat it,” but as I was walking off the lot I got a call from a producer who saw my film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He offered me a gig directing some terrible live-action kids adventure shows.
After a couple years of that, I quit and came back to Minnesota to get a degree in screenwriting. One of the scripts I wrote was a short called Ana’s Playground. Eventually I was able to get the film made and it was short-listed for an Academy Award. I didn’t get the Oscar, but I did get representation at Anonymous Content and United Talent Agency, which then got me my first feature, Voice From The Stone.
Now, my next project Killing Roma, which I wrote, is in casting and being produced by Sam Raimi’s assistant (now a producer) who I met way back in the beginning.
When did your passion for the motion picture industry begin?
My mother lived all over the world and used to pirate VHS movies every time she was back in the states. I’d live with her in various places and had this cool library of old movies to watch. My Dad gave me an 8mm camera and taught me how to make stop motion and silent action movies. While growing up on a houseboat in St. Paul, a film crew came by just after I graduated high school, and after helping the special effects team load lumber onto a boat, they offered me a job. I said “sure,” not knowing what special effects were. The movie was Drop Dead Fred, and in the words of Elmore Leonard, “I’ve seen better film on teeth.” But it was the catalyst for my passion: great parents and great timing.
Writing a screenplay must be difficult. Where do you find the will to power through?
The fear of not doing it.
Is there anything about building the Movella Motion Novel technology that scares you?
My fear isn’t that it will get stolen — I have a great IP attorney for that. My fear is not painting a clear enough picture of how this can be a game-changer for music subscription services and book publishers. Another fear is not getting the right meeting. I get one shot with this so it needs to count.
Why combine so many mediums that are great on their own?
Music subscriptions and audio book publishers have an opportunity to become more relevant with Movella Motion Novels. This is about turning storytelling into a customizable, collaborative, and sharable process. It’s a blend of physical and digital experiences that people want to participate in. For those who love stories, graphic novels, children’s books, music, and audio books, this is an exciting new adventure. Making a movie with your phone and friends is still difficult, but Movellas are easy to make — even from your couch all alone.
Do you have a muse you think about when working on this idea?
This whole thing came about because my management loved my script titled The Revolution of Cassandra, but felt it had too much of an opinion and voice to convince a studio to spend $100 million on a production budget. In the process of turning the script into a graphic novel, I was lamenting the loss of sound and music in my experience. I was sitting there listening to Spotify while working on it and thought, I’d love to create a soundtrack for my graphic novel. I’d like to add sound effects and dialogue — and boom — the Movella Motion Novel idea became a thing. Nobody is doing it.
You must consume a lot of media. What are you reading now?
A WWII novel, The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn, along with various choose-your-own-adventure books with our 6-year-old-son, Giovanni.
What is your superpower?
Eric D. Howell is tenacious, indeed — a quality one must possess when trying to build a technology as bold as the Movella Motion Novel. Truly an one of a kind, this idea is a great study into the practice of Ideation, or creating something that is an only.
Hear more about Eric and his quest to revolutionize the way we consume media at our next Member Morning Series, during which he’ll share details of his journey and tap into the audience for support and wisdom. Get your tickets here (this event is for active Studio/E members only).
If you’re interested in Member Morning Series events like this one, consider becoming a Studio/E member.