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'Watchmen' Creator Alan Moore Talks Movies, Magic, and Comics

We interviewed the famous graphic novelist about his series of surreal short films.

Poor Jimmy…he’s lost his way and suddenly finds himself in one of the strangest gentlemen’s clubs in the world. Through five interweaving short films written by Alan Moore, collectively known as Show Pieces, viewers get a taste of the strange attractions, rules, ceremonies, and terrors of the gentlemen’s club. Now available online and as a physical box set, Show Pieces is just the start of a much larger tale. Moore the comic creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, is also a novelist (Voice of the Fire, and the upcoming Jerusalem), musician, and magician. We interviewed Moore about Show Pieces, his screenplay for The Show, and his creative process.

Jimmy (Darrell D’Silva, Left) learns his fate from the stripper Beryl (Khandie Khisses, Middle) and the clown (Andrew Buckley, Right).

The Creators Project: Can you tell us about the genesis of Show Pieces?

Alan Moore: Some years ago, in 2009, I had a compulsion to bring out an underground magazine, which was the beautiful but doomed Dodgem Logic. For the second issue, I was contacted by my great friend, the photographer Mitch Jenkins who offered to do a burlesque shoot. This corresponded with an article that my wife Melinda Gebbie was doing for the issue about burlesque. Mitch decided that we’d use a local working men's club in Northampton as our setting and we’d have the various burlesque girls and a few random characters to sit in the background.

That original photoshoot led to the collection of short films?

It was some time after that Mitch turned up and said that he was getting a little bit frustrated for being known for all of his glorious high end celebrity portraiture when back in the day he’d done a bit of directing. He was talking about doing a short film for his reel. At that point, perhaps unwisely, I said ‘Do you want me to write a screenplay for it?’ and he said ‘that couldn’t hurt.’ And this was the genesis of the project.

Jimmy realizes he’s in some trouble in the bathroom.

From there you created a total of five short films, and now you’ve written a script for a feature-length film based in this world called The Show. How have you found writing for film different than writing for comics?

Prior to this, I’d only been writing scripts for comics. Yes, I’ve done novels, lots of other things, but in terms of narrative writing I had only really been working in the comics field, where you can more or less do what you want to your characters, because they don’t exist, they’re made out of paper. All of the things I’d done to my characters, sometimes horrible things, had only been done to paper individuals. And when I saw Siobhan Hewlett’s performance in the rushes it was very gruelling and I began to rethink some of my approach. [Note: Siobhan plays Faith, a woman who dies from an unfortunate erotic asphyxiation accident. Moore says he declined an invitation to be on set for that particular shoot.] I’m not saying I would not want anything bad to happen to any of my characters in film, I’m a little bit tougher than that, but it certainly made me think that I wouldn’t want to do any of that gratuitously.

Faith (Siobhan Hewlett) prepares for a daring night of lovemaking.

Being who you are, I imagine people will come knocking looking for a comic adaptation of all this. Is that something you’d consider?

No, that’s never going to happen. [Laughs] One of the things I don’t like about modern cinema is that everything has to be realized upon multiple platforms. This gives us comic books that really want to be films, it gives us films that really want to be lunchboxes. Everything is trying to be eight things at once, to the detriment of what it was meant to be.

What were some of your influences going into these projects.

One of my biggest influences was Jean Cocteau. He was a poet, he was a magician. This is already a pretty irresistible combination as far as I’m concerned. He was profound. Cocteau's thinking upon movies is one of the things that has inspired me. I mean yeah, Hitchcock did some brilliant things. I don’t think he was a very pleasant man. I think he would have gone along to watch Siobhan being choked to death in the wardrobe, that would have been one of the perks of the job for him. But as a filmmaker, there is stuff to be learned from him, from all of these people, and I’d be an idiot if I didn’t. But we’re trying to make this a piece of our own cinema. This is me, and Mitch, and the wonderful people we’re working with.

Jimmy and Faith stick together in the gentlemen's club.

Do you approach writing for the screen any differently from the way you approach other mediums?

My approach to comics, when I was starting, was to look at them, read them, observe them, and look at what was being done in the field, and more importantly look at what wasn’t being done. This has basically been my approach to everything. It’s basically the only way I know to approach anything. You play. You roll your sleeves up, you try to understand the medium that you’re playing with, and then you play creatively until something emerges.

Looking out into the grim beyond at what lies past the gentlemen’s club.

Nice work if you can get it.

Well yeah, [Laughs] it’s certainly been the work that’s been sustaining me for the past 35 years of my life. This is the only way I know how to do things. To look at the possibilities of a medium, to try to understand them, and then get in there. Make some shapes. Put some ideas together. Think it through, think about the structure, think about everything. I tend to work in a lot of different areas. I know that the comics that I wrote in the early to mid-80s tend to dominate a lot of people’s thought. But I’ve done six or seven albums, there’s a lot of bands that don’t get that far. I’ve done a couple novels. I’ve always enjoyed performing, I’ve always done an awful lot of things. One of the things about The Show is that it enables me to do all the things that I find fun. This is very, very liberating for me. And I hope that comes through in the finished product.

Show Pieces is available online and physically via Lex Records and other streaming services.

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