Creator Q&A: Geek A Week's Len Peralta
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When I first stumbled across Len Peralta's Geek A Week project, I knew I wanted to see more of it. I went out on a limb and sent him an email telling him as much, hoping he wouldn't be freaked out by this random person sending him fan mail. Not only did he write back, but he was every bit as cool as he sounds in his podcasts! As I learned later, Len's Geek A Week project was built on a similar premise -- if you see something you like, why not tell the person who made it? While you might think only someone with a lot of pull in the geek world can convince people like Stan Lee or Neil Gaiman to participate in an art project, Len Peralta's proved that it's more about coming up with a project that you really believe in and being unafraid to just go for it. Read on to learn more about how Geek A Week got started and support the project here.
Tell us how this whole Geek A Week project got started -- did you have a plan from the get go or did you kind of play it by ear a bit?
Geek A Week was a response to wanting to do more geeky themed fun artwork. At the time I came up with the idea, I was working on projects like w00tstock (the geek-themed traveling show put on by Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage), the Rifftrax live shows and the book "Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children" by MST3K's Trace Beaulieu. I was having a lot of fun and selfishly wanted to work on more of it. I kicked the idea around for an afternoon with Paul and Storm and came up with the idea of doing trading cards. I had always been a fan of Star Wars trading cards and Wacky Packages and borrowed a lot of my creative inspiration from those two ideas. The project was definitely a "wing it" sort of endeavor at first, but after a few weeks working on it, it became pretty apparent very quickly that it was gaining momentum and was turning into something bigger than I had imagined. It took me a bit to come up with a a pattern of how to work on the project, but once those creative portions clicked into place, it got easier as it went along. The great thing about this project was that a lot of the creative pieces fit together really quickly. There wasn't much re-treading or re-thinking of idea and concept, so in that regard, the project was and is a joy to work on.
Was it hard to get notable geeks on board with the project or were people generally supportive of the idea?
I started the project talking to people who were my friends already and who I knew would be agreeable to participating. As I worked on the project and it started to gain some momentum, approaching people definitely got easier. You know the scene in The Social Network where Justin Timberlake explains to Jesse Eisenberg that what they have with Facebook was a product that was "just cool"? That was definitely the vibe I was getting when I would approach people about participating in Geek A Week. I would explain it to them and they got the idea quickly. Many of the people I talked to were like "Yes, this is great! What do you need and when can you do it?" I was a little blown back by the response I was getting and it gave me a lot of confidence as I talked to more and more people. I think at some point I started getting unsolicited requests from people who wanted to be a part of the project. My favorite was getting an e-mail from Thomas Dolby (someone I've admired for years) asking "Did you want to talk to me?" I literally yelled out loud at my desk - "YES!!" It was pretty amazing that I was responsible for creating this project.
Having drawn so many geeks and conducted so many interviews, do you have a personal favorite (or favorites) and why?
One of my favorite interviews from Season 1 has to be Grant Imahara, because it was a really great conversation and not just an interview. I ask people the same standard questions in my interviews so that it levels the playing field between geeks I've talked to, so I'm not all fanboy during the interview. It's tough, but it's nice to have that backbone to fall back on, so I can avoid awkward silences. When I talked to Grant, it was just two geeks chatting to one another one on one. It was very honest, very real and very funny.
My favorite interview from Season 2 has to be comedian Paul F. Tompkins for essentially the same reasons. It was a great, funny, and real conversation and a lot of fun to do.
You've done Kickstarter-esque projects on your own before (like Monster by Mail). As someone who's familiar with engaging an online audience and mobilizing fans, do you have any advice you could offer for people out there wondering what it takes to build a career as working artist?
What I'll say is that it can be very hard to read an internet audience. I'll come up with a theme or an idea that I think will go gangbusters and it goes absolutely nowhere. And then other times, things I think will be a flop actually have great responses. My advice would be just to get stuff out there. If things don't get the response you want, don't get discouraged and keep rolling. I am definitely of the mind that you are only as good as your last piece of art. So draw everyday, work on doing the best work you can and engage your audience on a daily basis. What artists tend to forget is that what we do seems like sorcery. Not everyone can do what we do, so take advantage of that and try to view what you do as making magic. Sounds cheesy, I know. But it's true.
If you could draw and interview geeks from across time and space, real or fictional, currently living or from the past, who would they be? In other words, do you have a dream-geek lineup?
I would love to interview and draw *Joss Whedon (who was recently in Cleveland filming The Avengers and it killed me that I couldn't connect with him). Another person I'd love to interview Matt Groening. For someone fictional, I guess Spongebob would be fun or one of the characters from either Regular Show or Adventure Time. Those folks would be trippy to chat with.
*Editor's Note: If you're out there Joss Whedon, we'd love this too!