Kera Hildebrandt aka 162 is an award winning Machinima film maker. She is also an actress, writer and cosplayer. In this interview I wanted to get a sense of where she came from as well as where does she see herself going in the future.
Give us some background about yourself.
I was born in a small town in the Michigan countryside. Always had an inclination to the arts, stories to tell, and an overactive imagination. At first, I tried prose writing, but most of the stories I tried to tell wouldn’t translate so well into prose (due to the scenes themselves and my lack of skill). I tried comic/manga, but that didn’t pan out well either (again, lack of skill). But all that changed after two events- when I saw Kill Bill, whose aesthetic opened my eyes to the potential of film, and when I took a film class at a community college my high school allowed dual-enrollment with. After graduating, I went to the same college (Lake Michigan College) I took the film class at, taking the two other ones the school had to offer and slowly realizing my love of film. After getting an Associate’s in Art, I transferred to Columbia College in Chicago and got my Bachelor’s in Film/Video. I first became interested in machinima while I was at LMC, but really kicked it into high gear when I was at Columbia. During that time, I released the first Ke’s Tales-related videos and got some attention in the community. It was also at Columbia that I met my film partner David Perry (in the financial aid waiting room). Me and David would eventually team up (me screenwriting, him directing) and make a indie horror film called The Symbol (it’s in post-production right now). I’m also a voice actress.
What about Kill Bill that impressed you the most?
The poetry behind it all; even the most violent of moments. Any film can include outrageous amounts of violence. But with Kill Bill, it was handled carefully. Everything about it was almost poetic; the dialogue, the visuals, the story, everything. It took itself seriously, as opposed to just splattering on the violence just to satisfy the bloodlust of the audience. It’s the main reason it’s not just another action film.
What was the biggest thing you learned while taking that film class?
That there was a whole world out there. A whole world of movies I needed to see, artists I needed to discover, perceptions I needed to look at movies through, and a community I should look into. Basically, take film as a serious medium and look into it.
What was some of the different movies and TV shows you grew up watching?
In regards of movies, I started out with Disney films like most kids. But my mom got me involved with older movies like Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. (It would be the older fantasies that drew me.) Of course, there were a few action movies in there (courtesy of my dad); the interest would eventually span out into Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez films. But I always had a fascination for horror. Even as a kid, I would go to the horror section of the rental store, reading the backs because I know that my mom would never get them for me at the age I was. (Plus she wasn’t and still isn’t a horror fan.) When I was a teenager and we had Direct TV, one of the channels we got- Chiller- was a 24 hour horror channel. While we still had it, it was horror movie after horror movie. (And by god, it was glorious.) As for TV shows, it was typical Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network stuff (Batman the Animated Series, Powerpuff Girls, Rocko’s Modern Life, ect.). But when I was around nine, I really got into anime (japanese animation); namely with Sailor Moon. Other ones (Inu-Yasha, Tenchi Muyo, and Cardcaptors) would follow. Plus there were horror-based shows like Tales from the Crypt and Twilight Zone; those were among my favorites! Of course, I was always a fan of something with kick-ass heroines (i.e. Wonder Woman, Buffy, what have you), so that was also something else I watched.
Who is the writer or film maker that influenced you the most and why?
I have a lot of idols, but if I had to pick one- Quentin Tarantino. Not just because of his style (as amazing as it is), but because he was the one who got me to appreciate film. Once upon a time, I was a devout otaku, namely a fan of manga and anime (japanese comics and animation, respectively). (I’m still a little bit of an otaku, but not as much as a big one like I was.) At the time, I thought of film as having a sort of “typical aesthetic” that didn’t attract me. But then I saw Kill Bill, a violent film that was not only poetic, but had an aesthetic similar to anime (at least the first one did). So many connections were made. Suddenly, film style didn’t seem so cookie cutter-like. I realized that I could use film to tell my stories.
What led you to start using Moviestorm to start making content?
Years upon years of having story ideas (namely regarding Ke’s Tales), but never having the way to express them visually (outside of prose). I’ve tried making animations before, but it never panned out. Then I saw Red Vs. Blue, as well as a new possible method to finally getting some KT stories out there. After searching though various programs in Machinima for Dummies, I found out about Moviestorm and decided to give it a shot. I did and the program just worked out for me.
How did you come up with the name 162?
Again my otaku past rears it’s kawaii desu ne* head. `\(^^)/’ Out of all the manga I read, there was one called Sgt. Frog. In it, there was a character with the nickname “326” (his real name being Mutsumi, which means the same thing in japanese). When I was fifteen, I just started using the internet as much as I do today. (Internet connection is hard to come by where I’m from.) On the first forum I ever signed up on (RPG Maker Pavilion/pavilionboards.com), it asked for a username. While pondering a cool name, 326 popped into my head. So I thought- “Hey! How many people have numbers for usernames?!” and thought 162 was the coolest number. (594 is overrated. Deal with it.) *I have not idea what this actually means. This one spazzy girl was screaming it a lot at this one anime convention.
What was the first Machinima you created?
Literally the first one I ever created? Same one I’m pretty sure every machinimist does- a “I wanna test out the software so I’m gonna make a doodle vid” video. It was a trailer to this idea I might never do. It just featured a girl in a hospital gown sitting on a park bench as Barry Manilow’s “I Can’t Smile Without You” plays. The camera pulls back revealing the place being consumed by purple fire and some guys in black suits lying around- dead. The end title card says “It runs in the family.” Again, I was testing the software out. Though maybe I might use this story angle somewhere else….
Tell us about the birth of Ke’s Tales.
The series began as these stories I would come up with as a kid; something most kids with overactive imaginations do. Over the years, I kept them up. As I did, the world and characters with in it slowly evolved into what it is today. (For example- the whole series used to take place in another world, but that was dropped in favor of our world.) On a side note, Ke’s Tales also switched mediums. As I mentioned before, I used to be into prose writing. KT used to be a short story series, but such an effort would ultimately collapse when the scenes didn’t pan out to well into prose. (Not to mention my writing skill at the time could use some serious help.) Also at the time, I flirted with the idea of it being a manga, but that didn’t pan out far. But once I found film, the rest was history.
How would describe the main character?
As for basic info- “Ke” Blazer’s a revenant (someone who returns from the dead usually to torment the living) who works for SAVIOR, a government-funded agency that employs people as “agents” to deal with paranormal/supernatural threats they are requested to. (So basically they’re like cops, but with paranormal stuff.) Ke’s a second-class (and largely unpopular) agent and her “duties as a heroine” are more or less a nine-to-five job, as opposed to some sacred duty or something. Oh, plus there’s the feisty/geeky/culture junkie/borderline-homicidal factor. Now, in regards of the juicy stuff- I tried to make her an antithesis to the common sort of heroine you find in contemporary fantasy. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but a lot of heroines seem to be the same sort of character! They all seem to be some sort of chosen one that is forced to fight evil, complaining about how they want to live a normal life along the way. (I know the aspect of a reluctant heroine is compelling, but it’s so overdone!) Where most heroines are normal people forced to live in an usual world, Ke’s (what a lot of us geeks see ourselves-) an usual person being forced to live in a normal world. She accepts that she could never be normal and doesn’t mind being “one of the freaks.” But that isn’t to say she’s 100% happy with her lot in life. You see, whatever forces made her how she is also put a few dents in Ke’s sanity, leaving her a crazy girl in a world that just happens to be crazy in a different way. It sort of disconnects her with the world (both normal and usual) and many of the people in it. If anything, her story arch throughout the series is about making peace with herself and the world, possibly regaining her sanity in the end (or not).
How much of her is in you if any?
I was going to say my darker side, but you know what? That’s not right. If anything, Ke’s a representation of my id (that’s the part of your brain that deals with natural impulses and urges). Take away my ego and superego- not to mention my daily need for protocol/courtesy, social restraint, and inability to run away from any physical retaliation for something I said- and you probably got Ke. Otherwise, personality-wise, we’re different. Granted, we both can be selfish and our opinions can be similar, but she’s far more outspoken and aggressive.
Is there a plan for more episodes of Ke’s Tales?
You better believe it! I plan on there being full-length episodes (30-45 minutes) laid out in seasons! Not to mention some more parodies, PSAs, and what have you. Unfortunately, due to some issues in regards of time and commitment to other projects, development has slowed down. It will take some time to get the whole season up and running, but I plan on releasing the pilot once it’s completed (I at least owe viewers that with all the broken promises I made). Ideally, I want to get to a point where I can release an episode once a week during a season. This year, I hope to at least release two parodies I’m working on- one for Tron and (at the request of one viewer) The Grudge. I also want to release a monthly, stand alone serial to better establish the vibe of the series as a whole. It will be a ten-minute part of a whole episode per week. Either way, production will resume after I finish my scenes for Libertaria. Either way, I might be putting out a call for arms on the main season, so if you’d like please follow my twitter (@Miss162) and keep an eye out on the Moviestorm forums and my Facebook if you might want to be involved!
How did you find out about the I Fight Dragons contest?
Moviestorm blog. Yerp….Right there…Hadn’t done a video or took part in a contest in a while. Seriously wanted to… …Yep.
What was it like to win first place in the contest?
You ever have it when you’re so shocked and happy that you’re shaking and your heart isn’t beating? Like that. Of course, there was the little bout of jumping up and down while squealing like a happy puppy (yes, puppies do squeal). Before I even opened the page, my spine was still tingling as I thought that I might have had a chance at winning. I would like to say that the other entrants had good videos too! (Logan’s gave me chills!) It was a pleasure to compete with them!
Describe your entry.
It’s based on my initial impression/interpretation of the lyric- having your expectations/dreams/perception of your current situation rocked off its feet. At the time, I attributed it to a relationship not working out. I tried to match the lyrics up to what was happening in the scenes themselves (such as “Staring vacantly” being put up against our hero doing the same as he follows his dream girl). On a side note, once I saw the other contestant’s videos and reevaluated the lyrics, I realized they could have a different meaning- having a career that never worked out. Once I had this theme in mind- after the contest was over (and won)- I had another idea for the video! I still kick myself over it because I have broken free from the usual love-based message found in songs! (But, maybe I’ll make it someday anyway…)
So what’s next project you will be working on?
In regards of machinima- scenes for Libertaria- the Virtual Opera (please check it out!) and, of course Ke’s Tales. I’ve also been drafted by Kinte to write/direct/animate an episode for a horror anthology he’s developing (which also made me squeal like a puppy). I would like to say that there’s a Kickstarter for Libertaria right now! If you’d like to visit it, here’s the link (every little bit helps!)-
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/virtualopera/electronic-musical-of-the-future-libertaria-cast-a In regards of live-action- David (my partner in crime), a director named Travis Legge (hopefullY), and myself are working on another indie horror/drama flick called Paper Dolls. It has been rejected from the Sundance Producer’s Summit, but we’re trying to find opportunities elsewhere. At the moment, I’m rewriting the script I wrote. In regards of VO work- I have been casted to play Sarah in the remake of Shirley Martin’s Ring of Time (again, squeal). I’ve also recently become involved with Richard Posh’s radio adaption of Cerebus the Aardvark (I’m playing Katrina). And Kinte has once again flew in from the heavens and gave me another kick-ass assignment- the lead in his original, based-on-a-true-story project- Lockdown (working title, I believe). So…yeah, a little busy. Makes me wish we lived someplace where time moves slower.