It's easy to miss some of the amazing, creative things happening in Cincinnati on any given day. The city itself has come to life in a genuinely surprising way, offering fertile grounds for music, art, and film for creators of all ages, shapes, sizes, and talents. It's been fascinating to watch, even a little exhausting if you're like me and trying to enjoy and support as much as you can in the limited amount of time you have to do so.
Then you meet someone like Mark Borison and you realize, really, no matter how hard you try, you're not going to do half as much as he does, with nearly as much energy, passion, and let's face it, style and maybe even a little bit of pizazz.
Creating something original, regardless of the genre or media, is a daunting task. But one he seems well equipped to handle, even thrive on. This weekend, Mark, his creative team, and Sonic collaborator and Cincinnati music mainstay Braeden Firebrand are premiering their latest creation, a Black Mirror-esque Sci-Fi short, "Subject Six-Alpha Two" at what's been dubbed a "secret screening," but we have the details from the man's themselves.
Read on to find out more about the film, what it takes to bring something original into the world, and a little about what's coming next for both Mark and Braeden.
Let's get started by introducing yourselves to our readers… tell us about who you are and what you do.
Mark Borison: I’m a local filmmaker, and had a lot of success with my last short, a comedic conspiracy thriller about Cincinnati-style chili, Chiluminati. In addition to film work, you’ve maybe seen me acting on TV or in national commercials, and when I'm not doing that, you might even catch me performing music on stages around town. I also am one of the hosts and producer for radio show and podcast, The Weekly Hookup, airing Fridays at 5pm on Radio Artifact/WVXU. The only thing I don’t do is find time to relax, ha!
Braedon Firebrand: Local musician, active since 1996, formerly of Noctaluca, currently in Luscious Dogs and Eden Park Band. I've been a composer/producer for about a decade. Having the opportunity to work with producers like Ashley Shepard and Erwin Musper (queen, scorpions, Metallica) with my old band Noctaluca, I learned first hand what taking the time to make a million little tweaks can do for your song. As soon as I could afford them, I began amassing recording software, gear, instruments. I've been putting myself through a boot camp of learning and growth ever since. I like to hyperfocus on amazing projects, and I'm also a Trent Reznor fan, so when I saw Mark post one day that he was looking for someone to compose a Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross style movie score, I couldn't resist.
You've created a self-financed, original sci-fi short - that's no small task. Can you talk a bit about what it was like to create something like this, and to collaborate on something so unique and homegrown? What were some of the challenges you had to deal with in order to bring this film to life?
MB: Simply put - it always appears as an insurmountable task until you try to tackle the proverbial mountain built out of hurdles. Leading up to this, we had a solid script, but were ready during holidays and winter to shoot so there wasn’t a lot of activity as far as finding avenues to easily raise funds. This led to me self-financing, along with my co-writer, the entire project and shooting it in locations we owned. What better way to be a part of the community than by literally shooting it in the community where we live? Collaboration was huge for me, from writing the script, to ensuring it was visually prepared in a manner we thought fit the overall atmosphere. I should mention this was our first project as part of the Screen Actors Guild, so we learned a ton about production insurance and handling larger budgets as part of this which was terrifying for about 8 hours leading up to the deadlines, but ultimately created a sense of confidence as I was able to experience myself taking the next step in my career. Challenges were everywhere; lots of crew leaving the project, multiple editors before finding the final ones, and things of that nature. All pretty standard in the world of low-budget filmmaking. This led to me tackling a lot of tasks I otherwise wouldn’t have had to, but I feel like I’ve grown a ton through this experience.
So, a lot is spoken of when it comes to "inspiration," who or what inspired you to do a project like this, etc. But let's take a different approach… When it comes to original ideas, it can be hard to keep them original - so what did you try not to do when you were writing the script, creating the score, and filming? How did you make this film, and the music, wholly your own?
MB: This was born out of a podcast we’d listened to - I had been listening to The Darkest Night podcast on a road trip, as I love listening to creepy stories on long drives. The show was a serialized narrative, but I found myself hooked on one chapter and thought to myself, “with a few tweaks, this would be a perfect project for me to tackle.” I reached out to the producers of the show, got their blessing and a ton of help, and we moved ahead to write our version of the script. I would argue that, without spoiling this, my goal was to ensure that the mood of the piece was constantly felt through the visuals but more importantly through the score - which is why Braedon was so instrumental to this piece. I jokingly posted in a Cincinnati music page on Facebook something to the effect of “Yo, I need Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for a soundtrack but I only have value menu money.” Braedon hit me up and, no joke, within a few hours had sent me temp clips of his score and it was AWESOME. I can’t stress how much his work helped take this short to the next level. Beyond the music, the biggest section I try to always focus on is dialogue. I try to stay cognizant of how dialogue sets the tone for the reality of the piece you’re making. If the dialogue is awful, audiences will know. I liken it to my experience singing in bands - An error from one of the musicians usually goes unnoticed, but if the singer is a little off-key, EVERYONE knows it immediately. Ultimately, I tried not to be so full of myself that I was unwilling to see my own flaws and mistakes - and I think I got a better product because of that.
BF: I let the mood of the actors guide me in the intro. It's a sad and heavy situation but also intense, so my brain concocted this tune that sounded like a Peter Gabriel/Trent Reznor collaboration or some thing. I took it from there, but after the first few scenes, it's ALL dialogue, so I avoided anything too musical for the duration. A little rhythm starts to pick up toward the end, then the end credit tune comes thumping in, but overall just mood notes, sound effects, and drones in (hopefully) just the right spots.
The film itself is premiering at a "secret screening" at Urban Artifact this weekend. How did that partnership come about? What is it about Urban Artifact that makes sense to host an event like this?
MB: As a host for their radio station, Radio Artifact, it made a ton of sense. I had wanted to do a big theater premiere but the dates I needed were booked almost a year in advance, so I decided to go to my favorite brewery in town. Urban Artifact is very forward-thinking when it comes to their support of the arts, so when I didn’t have a traditional theater I ONLY called Urban Artifact. Is it a good time to mention that I love fruited sour beers? A huge thanks to Scott Hand and Jeremy Moore for their support over the years.
I know you're both heavily involved in creating content across a fairly wide spectrum in Cincinnati, and you have your hands in a little bit of everything. What else have you worked on recently, and what else do you have coming up?
MB: You’ll see me in a big series of Christmas advertisements coming up, and they’re doing a big billboard campaign for them as well - so keep your eyes peeled. We’re mid-production right now on a pilot for a series at a cable channel you have absolutely heard of, but one I’m not at liberty to mention yet. If that goes well, you will likely see us on way more screens than you’d like!
BF: *About to press the first EP for Luscious Dogs.
* My dad recently passed and left behind some unfinished songs that I'd like to see to fruition
*I didnt mention it before because it didn't seem relevant, but since you asked…
I'm also a nutritionist and occasional chef to the stars, and I've spent a couple of years coming up with a meal prep program based on all the recipes I've created for them, except its customized to your specific caloric needs. It's brilliant.
*I'm also going to be opening enrollment in my Temptology 101: Practical Applications of Functional Nutrition Masterclass before Christmas if I'm lucky.
*Eden Park Band is playing Hard Rock Casino's inaugural NYE bash, open to the public. We play all night!
Anything else you want to add or mention?
BF: Rest In Peace Dad, We love you
Feb 1953 - Nov 2019
Thanks to Mark and Braeden for taking the time to talk about the film. Tickets are still available for the "Subject Six-Alpha Two" premiere this Sunday, November 24 at Urban Artifact. You can find all the details about the event, as well as a link to purchase tickets, right here.