Saturday, October 18, 2014

Interview with, Inc Sr. Vice-President, Steve Surine

Jason Kuder: Tell me a bit about you, who is Steve Surine, Co-Founder and Senior. Vice President of Incorporated?

Steve Surine: I am a husband and new dad, which has pretty much been the coolest experience ever so far. I'm also the youth pastor at Oakwood Bible Church in Kalamazoo, MI. I love the opportunity to work with people and help them on their journey of faith. I also consider myself a writer and storyteller, which is my favorite part of being involved with 3twins.

J: And would you please describe your role at 3twins?

S: I'm one of the cofounders of 3twins, the third twin - which is a story unto itself. In the early days I was about as involved in everything as Jason and Andy. I wrote a lot of the scripts and helped develop the stories for The Adventures of Hatman & Indigo, Midieville, and Star Fetched, and I also did a lot of the artwork and concept drawings. As time went on and my other responsibilities in life increased, though, I had to take a few steps back. So these days I serve as more of an advisor and confidant, weighing in with ideas and being someone Jason and Andy can use as a sounding board. I like to think of myself as the Chief Motivating Officer. At the heart of 3twins we are storytellers and we want to use creative mediums to tell those stories. All along the way that has meant having to learn as we go. How do you make an online comic book? Or a motion comic? And now, how do you make a video game? It's fun blazing new trails, but it can also get discouraging when you hit roadblocks. So I try to be the guy that encourages everyone to keep moving forward.

I also do voice work, including Gidju the Dragon who will be a playable character in Of Mages and Pages and I'm part of the level design team.

J: The main storyline of the game is based on a series of short cartoon scripts you wrote. Can you tell us a bit about that?

S: Wow, that was a long time ago! Let's hope I can remember this correctly! For starters, one thing you have to know about Jason, Andy, and I is that we can never just write a simple story. We always start to fall in love with the characters and want to flesh the story out to the nth degree. You see that start to happen with Midieville if you watch all of the shorts in order on We came up with the Tale of the Spellbook, and Jason wrote a really great story where that would culminate in an epic wizard duel between Marvin and Naaj. The duel ended with the pages of the spell book getting scattered, and that's where I stepped in with an idea for a story where the heroes and villains would be locked in a race to try and gather all of the pages - the villains doing so to gain power, and the heroes doing so to thwart the villains.

In addition to being a cool quest for our main characters, the story was also going to be an opportunity for us to finally explore the land of Midieville beyond Marvin's hut and Anell's castle. We would get to see the various lands, creatures, and races, plus introduce a lot of characters that we'd had in mind all along but hadn't had a chance to incorporate into the story.

J: You mentioned that you are the voice of Gidju, what is your inspiration for that character, how do you prepare to voice him?

S: Gidju was a tough character to come up with a voice for. On one had he's a massive, fire-breathing dragon. On the other hand he's just a big, lovable dunce. So I went through a lot of trial and error trying to find a voice that worked for both. At one point I remember sitting in Jason's recording studio literally with a mouth full of cotton and speaking with a bad cockney accent.

But ultimately I found my inspiration in Pinky of Pinky and the Brain - another lovable dopey character, and one with a big enough personality to fit the size of Gidju. Hopefully my Gidju voice isn't a direct copy of Pinky, but if you listen to it with him in mind I think you'll be able to tell that he's where the inspiration came from.

J: In addition to voicing Gidju, you co-created the first 4 characters for the web-shorts (Marvin, Gidju, Anell, and Black Knight). Can you go into some detail what that creative collaboration was like?

S: As Andy shared in his interview, he initially created the concept for Midieville, and I think he and Jason came up with the initial origin stories for the main characters. I think Andy had even written a pilot script before I got involved. But I did do the artwork that you'll see in the Midieville shorts on It's really interesting how actually seeing a character finally brings them to life. It definitely influences the storytelling, and even helps the actors hone in on a voice.

Midieville was our first attempt at full animation and so there was a steep learning curve. Rather than just drawing characters in static poses, I had to draw the characters in separate, moveable parts so that Andy could animate their movements. For every character I had to draw multiple arms, legs, and even faces. To give a character the ability to turn and walk across the room meant drawing a completely new torso and head. It was difficult to do it in such a way that all of the parts would always line up to make a complete looking character. There were a lot of glitches in the early shorts, but we got better along the way.

J: So, I have teased several new characters for the upcoming game. Are you going to be voicing any of those, if so, what ones?

S: Officially, no. But hopefully, yes! Of Mages and Pages is going to drastically expand the Midieville Universe and introduce numerous new characters, many of whom have only just been created as the game has been developing. So there's actually going to be a tryout among the 3twins crew and a few other friends to cast voice actors for these characters. I have ideas for at least two of them, George the Brown Wizard and Peter the White Wizard, and so I plan on throwing my hat into the ring. We'll see if I land any new parts!

J: I'm going to shift gears here a bit and discuss the lost Hatman story: Beakman. Would you like to discuss that story and what happened to it? Will we see it again? Will it ever be completed?

S: The Beakman saga was actually one of the first Hatman stories I ever wrote. But getting it into print has been a very difficult process. To make a long story short, two different artists took up the mantle of drawing it, and both left 3twins before finishing it. The first two parts of the story were on at one point, but we removed them when it became uncertain when the comic would ever be finished. I'm not content to let the story die, though, even if it means one day drawing the rest of it myself, especially since there are a few more scripts in our archive for future Beakman stories. They include some really funny and exciting moments that we can't wait to publish.

J: That's exciting! One of the mantra's of 3twins is "never, never, never give up" would you like to expound on a brief highlight of this "never say die" attitude and your direct role in it over the years?

S: At our heart we're storytellers. Over the years we've gone from two brothers and a friend who liked making goofy videos, to pursuing making a full length movie, writing a novel, making a comic book, ultimately creating, and now making a video game. Obviously some of those things I mentioned never came to fruition, others didn't quite work out the way we originally intended, and others that are still on the back burner. It's been a long process and it's been very difficult at times. Not only have we lost partners along the way, but I think it would be fair to say that at various points Jason, Andy, and myself have all felt like quitting. But that's probably the blessing of being in this together. With three people at the core of this, there's always someone to pick the others up and encourage things to keep moving. There's a fairly well known verse in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:12, and at the end it says, "A three-fold cord is not quickly broken." That about sums up 3twins - we've been down before but we've never been broken.

J: That's an excellent verse, and I think a great place to stop the interview. We all look forward to hearing you as Gidju again very soon.

S: Thanks

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