Christopher Leone is filmmaker who has close to two decades of experience in the entertainment industry. Having worked on a myriad of film projects – from webseries like Suit Up to television miniseries like Syfy’s The Lost Room – and a comic book series, Leone has just completed Parallels. Both written and directed by Leone, Parallels centers on a strained family and mysterious building that travels through parallel realities. Produced by Fox Digital, take a moment to watch Parallels on Netflix by clicking here.
Wanting to learn more about Leone’s background and the production of Parallels, I was able to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, was there a moment in which you knew that you wanted to have a career in the entertainment industry?
Christopher Leone: I saw Star Wars when I was five years old and I decided I was going to buy a movie camera. So I started saving my allowance in kindergarten for a super 8 camera. The crazy thing is, I saved for years and finally bought it in 6th grade. Which is psychotic, looking back.
Yanes: You went to Carnegie Mellon University and earned a degree in Creating Writing. How do you think this college education helped you start your career?
Leone: I’d say the most useful experience is the beatings you take in writing workshops. Some of the feedback you get is useful, some is worthless, some is counter-productive, and you’re not always sure which is which in the beginning. I wasn’t a big fan of the process, but it gets you used to criticism and having to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Yanes: You have produced a comic book about monsters, We Kill Monsters, a webseries called Wolfpack of Reseda, and worked on several other fantasy, supernatural, and sci-fi projects. What is it that attracts you to these genres of storytelling?
Leone: I think I just like weird ideas. My projects gravitate to science fiction or comedy, usually I think because they have a concept at their core that hooks into my mind that is either deeply weird or deeply funny to me, or on rare occasion both. In Parallels it was the Building. In The Lost Room it was the Objects with surreal rules. In We Kill Monsters it was the addictive effect of monster DNA. They were all things I kept thinking about.
Yanes: The project that I wanted to talk to you about is Parallels. What was the inspiration for this story?
Leone: It started with a scene that came into my mind of a girl exiting a building into this wasteland and being chased by men with dogs. It wasn’t just the image, but the tone – this queasy feeling of stepping out into a world that’s not your own. And I got fixated the image of the Building as this monolith that stays the same on Earth after Earth after Earth. I always wanted to tackle some kind of alternate Earths story and the Building fascinated me enough to pursue it.
I’d also been going through a tough time personally – my mother and grandmother had just passed away and my father passed away not that long after – so emotionally that sense of a family disintegrating was very real to me.
Yanes: What are some of the stories that you feel inspired you and influenced how you shaped Parallels?
Leone: The biggest influence is probably the original Land of the Lost, which was a mind-blowing show when I was a little kid. Specifically the episode “Pylon Express.” The pylons used to freak me out – they had a control panel that looked like it was made of marbles, that you knew did something but made no sense. So the idea of the Building as a big pylon is probably not far off. I also outright stole a moment from that episode that has always stuck with me – “HOLLY DON’T” – for a message Ronan receives.
I think my first exposure to the idea of parallel Earths was Robert Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice, which I read when I was 13 or 14. There was also a show on in the mid-80s called Otherworld that blew my mind. It was about a family that accidentally crossed over into a strange, scary alternate Earth. Jonathan Banks, aka Mike from Breaking Bad was in it. The idea of a family traveling together was a conscious influence.
Lost is definitely a big influence. I wasn’t thinking about The Dark Tower when I was working on it but Stephen King is always an influence on me, and that one is now staring me in the face as extremely obvious.
Funny enough, Sliders isn’t a big influence on me simply because I don’t know the show very well, except in the broadest strokes. Sliders beat us to the parallel Earths concept by 20 years and as a model it’s the clearest forerunner, so we owe it a debt no matter what. But I’ve only seen maybe an episode and a half.
Also finally, it’s not really an influence because it premiered around the time we were shooting, but some of the greatest parallel Earth stories ever told are in Rick & Morty. I’m obsessed with that show.
Yanes: From what I could find about Parallels, it seems that Parallels was planned as the pilot for an ongoing series. What did this experience of creating a pilot teach you about the process of getting a TV show on the air?
Leone: I’d written a miniseries for SyFy some years back called The Lost Room, so I knew that process to an extent. Parallels is a different beast because Fox Digital isn’t a TV Studio – its original mission was to create content for the web. So we created Parallels as a one-off digital project knowing there would be more but not exactly sure what form it would take, whether it would continue a TV series or further 90 minutes installments or what. So we’re figuring that out right now.
Yanes: Though I deeply enjoyed the version of Parallels on Netflix, is there any way a full conclusion to the story you started will ever be created?
Absolutely yes. The response on Netflix has been FANTASTIC so that is accelerating things. I’m hoping we reach the full conclusion after five seasons of a TV series but yes, one way or the other, we are hellbent on making more.