In a world where we need distractions now more than ever, North Of Neon may be the mental vacation we’ve all been waiting for. The film revolves around siblings Coin, Eido and Mars as they adventure through the Great Dragon War with their lovable pet Warby, voiced by Circa Survive/Saosin frontman/solo artist Anthony Green. Protecting their beloved baby Ghost Dragon from bad guys and monsters with intricate traps and gadgets, the trio continue the search for their father. The tale is as intriguing as it is visually appealing.
Creator Matt Stawski used his years as a music video director to create a bright-colored fantasy world with tons of potential jam-packed into a 20 minute pilot featuring some big names from our music scene.
He might not be a household name, but there’s a very good chance you’ve seen one of Matt Stawski’s music videos. Between Cee-Lo Green’s massive hit, “Fuck You” and Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” his work has graced your screen at some point. He’s also directed videos for such scene veterans All Time Low, AFI and Anti-Flag.
Stawski grew up in the Detroit suburbs filming shows in VFW halls and worked his way up, just like the bands playing them. Using his punk-rock ethos and DIY ethic, he brought a fresh perspective on directing that helped him climb the industry food chain. Once he teamed up with an acrylic painter named Serge Gay Jr., everything changed.
“I remember specifically it was an Anthony Green video and the Bled video. We had a low budget so we shot it on a green screen and Serge did all of these crazy paintings. Then we comped the paintings into the background, and I slowly started teaching myself how to do artistic music videos with tons of graphics and after-effects.”
Something as simple as budget restraints forced the duo to take on a new style that would jumpstart their careers. They landed a manager and agent who got them hooked up with major labels and commercial work. The team then pitched Stawski and Gay something they would have never expected.
“They knew I could tell short stories, but they wanted to know if I would ever want to do movies or TV,” says Stawski. “I’ve always wanted to do movies, but it’s such an abstract thing. If you do music videos for 10 years, how do you jump into it? Spike Jonze did it. Mark Romanek and Marc Webb did it. A lot of music video directors went straight to features.”
THE MUSIC CONNECTION
Warby may be the family pet, but he acts as a babysitter to the kids. Once they’re out on their own, he’s an adopted caretaker for the trio. Loyal, kind and powerful when he needs to be.
“It’s weird because with traditional fantasy, I feel like the go-to is to get an old British guy for any creature,” says Stawski. “Warby is technically an old character, but when Anthony does that spastic screaming stuff at audiences and they yell back, I thought, what if Warby has a high voice? Not like a surfer dude, but more like, ‘I’m your friend, man!’”
Saosin bassist Chris Sorenson and his brother own a studio where the band records and did the score for the film. Aside from a history with Stawski, the connection was another contributing factor to landing the perfect voice for Warby.
“It was easy for me to be like, ‘check this thing out.’ Just go into the booth and record it one day. [Green] was super-excited about it, but he was having his fourth baby and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to do it. So I told him to scream these lines out and be a spastic, wild out, coffee creature— and he did it.”
NORTH OF NEON
The first glimpse of North Of Neon is a low-budget pilot to help sell the series, but Stawski already has future plans in mind.
“The whole idea with the short is I want to see a fantasy show on TV that has puppets, creatures and things that can actually blink with no CGI,” he explains. “Tons of slime and hot colors like ‘90s Nickelodeon. Something with a Stand By Me and Goonies heart to it, where the stakes are high and people are dying, but they can still crack jokes at each other.”
As Stawski chats, he grows visibly more excited about the potential future of his series. After giving a long, convoluted explanation that went headfirst into the deep end, he toned it back and described North Of Neon with a simple pitch: Game Of Thrones for the Saturday morning cartoon crowd.
“If you watch this, it has matte paintings in it. It has practical puppets. All of the weird alien plants are miniatures,” Stawski continues. “There’s zero CGI in the entire short and that’s more or less how we’re going to pitch the series. It’s all hand-crafted. There’s something really charming about that.”
And when the time comes, Stawski is at the ready to call up all of his friends in the music scene to wrangle more guest voice artists to make Neon a must-watch for music fans in the scene.
“If we sold the show there would be so many more creatures. I would hit up friends to do weird voices and shit. It’d be like, ‘Featuring the voices of…’ and then it’s anyone who would want to be in it.”