RICH INTERVIEWS: Don Handfield/Richard Rayner Co-Writers The Rift
Don Handield: I have always been fascinated with time travel stories, in particular magical realism. Stories that contain some bit of magic but in which magic is not just a story gimmick, it’s a rocket ship for character and emotion. I also grew up watching movies made by Spielberg and Amblin and wanted to create something that reminded me of those great movies and TV shows I watched as a kid. I was also always a big fan of movies with magical realism like Field of Dreams and loved the TV show Quantum Leap. It used time travel as a way to deliver a new character in a new situation with real emotional stakes every week.
1st: What is the basic story line of “The Rift”?
Don: A woman and her young son are traveling west, all their worldly possessions inside their vehicle, when a UFO crash lands in the road in front of them. It’s not an alien craft, it’s a man from the past. When he is captured by a government program tasked with closing the Rifts in space and time, the woman and her son are taken along with him. Then our heroine and our time-traveling pilot upset everything the government scientists think they know about these time anomalies…
1st: What happened to Cole will it happen to others as well?
Don: What happened to Cole has happened to others in the past, and will happen to more people in the future. For the first series at least, it will be almost one ‘traveller per issue’ so to speak.
1st: Is this story something that could happen for real?
Don: I like to believe anything is possible. Years ago I was adapting Buck Rogers for feature film and had a lot of interesting conversations with scientists, I should probably revisit those contacts to see if the science here is possible, but I always saw the Rift as something more supernatural rather than scientific anyway. More about faith and emotion than science. One of the central conflicts of the series is that the government scientists believe it’s a time anomaly and all about matter and antimatter, while Mary Ann believes there is a spiritual component — that these Rifts are opening because some higher power is sending people through who have something in their life or their past or future that needs ‘fixing’.
1st: How do you and Richard Rayner share writing duties on “The Rift”?
Don: We try to write together whenever possible, sometimes we tag team it. Our process is usually me on a treadmill desk, him sitting at a desk near me and we share screens. Then we print and take it home and read separately then input those edits together. It’s worked well for us.
1st: What will we see happen with “The Rift” in the near future?
Don: As the series progresses we will see that these Rifts are not exactly as random as they seem. Everything is connected…
1st: Would “The Rift” make a good movie and why if so?
Don: I think it would actually make a better TV series, just because it gives you more time to develop characters and situations over a longer span than two hours. We have had a wonderful time in
television on our series Knightfall and would love to do it again on the RIFT.
1st: Where is “Knightfall” in its production and release?
Don: We are shooting the last two episodes of season one as we speak. We are on location in Prague so we are answering these questions from our offices in the old Barrandov Studios across the river from the Old Town of Prague in the Czech Republic.
1st: You have many jobs writer, director, producer and author do you have one you prefer?
Don: I have a pretty serious case of ADD or ADA (Attention Deficit Ability) as some call it, so I actually like changing hats and changing positions. Seasons don’t change for us in California where I live, so it’s nice to have that kind of seasonal change in your work. Running a television show combines all those jobs nicely, so that is the direction my career seems to be moving.
1st: Why is Touchback-The Novel and Movie important to you?
Don: Touchback was originally conceived during the failure of my first marriage. It too is an emotional story that has a magical premise but is emotionally grounded and set in the real world. It’s a story that if you are feeling bad about your life when it begins, you can hopefully feel grateful when it ends.
1st: What is the best advice you have for other writers?
Don: Just keep writing. Just keep writing. Just keep writing…
1st: What are you currently working on?
Don: As I write this, we are in Prague finishing Season One of Knightfall. I also have a film I produced called The Founder starring Michael Keaton that is being released for an awards run, so I head back to LA soon for that. Richard and I just sold a feature film set in the world of the LAPD that is supposed to go in the Spring, as well as another film we wrote called CHAMPIONS we are putting together now.
1st: How do you spend any free time you get?
Don: With my family. I have two children, Robinson, 8, we call her Robbie, and Deacon, or Deke, who is 5. When I am not working, we are having pillow fights, wrestle-o-rama matches or doing arts and crafts.
1st: What would you most like to say to your fans?
Don: I am not sure I have fans, but if I do, I would say thank you for listening to our stories and I hope you enjoy them.
Richard Rayner: It’s a thrilling adventure with a story core that relies on emotion rather than story gimmicks. It’s imaginative – in a way its tone hearkens back the style and tone of those Spielberg movies which are a point of reference that both Don and I share.
1st: Who are the main stars of “The Rift” comic book?
Richard: Mary-Ann, a blue collar single mom who doesn’t eve realized what a heroine she is. A woman with amazing emotional instincts. Hyper-smart and tough though vulnerable. Her young boy, Elijah, who has a destiny that will drive the series. And Cole, a heroic WW2 fighter pilot who finds himself hurled through time into the present.
1st: What genre would you classify this comic as?
Richard: It’s SF, it’s time-travel, it’s adventure. It’s also its own unique world. And has a great emotional palette.
1st: Do you think “The Rift” could become a regular comic book series?
Richard: Of course! Hope so! Yes Please!
1st: Who or what most stands out in “The Rift” for you?
Richard: I love the main character, a young woman under huge pressure, thrown into an extraordinary situation who nonetheless behaves with empathy and courage.
1st: How would you react if you found a rift?
Richard: I’d like to say I’d go straight into it. Most likely I’d run a mile!
1st: Would you like to write another comic book, do you have any ideas for one?
Richard: Yes. Tho it’s astonishingly hard work. Much tougher in a way than writing a novel or a script because of the detail that has to go into every panel before you move onto the next. The process is both micro and macro. Linear and non-linear. I’d like to do something that mixes up history and noir. Two of my passions.
1st: You and Don Handfield are working on “Knightfall” what type of person will want to watch this?
Richard: Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Vikings’ and ‘The Tudors’. It’s a historical drama, a fictionalization of the amazing true story of the downfall of the Knights Templar, the warrior monks who arose out of the Crusades and who, as legend has it, were the guardians of the Holy Grail and other great Christian relics. Then the King of France had them all arrested on Friday 13th October 1307 – that’s why we have Friday the 13th! And a whole mythology began. It’s a rich, amazing story.
1st: What is “A Bright and Guilty Place” about?
Richard: It’s a true story about Los Angeles in the late 1920s and early 1930s, about a handsome young district attorney who crusades against mobsters, ends up rubbing out the then head of the LA underworld, and is involved in one of the great show trials of the era. He gets away with murder. Literally. Amazing. The book is under option to Christopher Nolan. Fingers crossed he makes it either as a movie or TV series.
1st: Who would enjoy reading “The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California”?
Richard: History buffs. It’s about the four cutthroat capitalists who created the empire of the Southern Pacific railroad and in effect owned and ruled California for fifty years. It’s a history of how the west was made – and stolen.
1st: What do you get out of teaching others?
Richard: I get a lot more from my students at USC and UCLA than they get from me probably. It’s a thrilling interaction, and as a writer it keeps you on your toes and in touch.
1st: What is next for you in your career?
Richard: Another season of Knightfall, I hope. The Rift as a TV series, I hope. A secret TV project that Don and I have is something that we’re both really excited about. The stuff Don mentions above. I try to hide while he keeps us busy! Oh, and having written a non-fiction book about my dad and me, I’m also now writing another book about me and one of my kids. A novel about a dad (that would be me!) trying to find redemption.
1st: How does one improve ones writing skills?
Richard: Write every day. Read as much as you can. Read with a critical eye, asking how did someone do this. Be passionate about the craft and never ever give up. Critical brickbats will come your way. Use them to make yourself strong.
1st: Any words for the fans of your writing?