Interview with Topher Chambers (Director of The Black Book)

One of our recent promos was for the horror anthology film, The Black Book. Based on a book by the same name, the film is made up of a handful of shorts from different filmmakers (some of who were also involved with the book). We’re very lucky to have the chance to sit down with one of those filmmakers to discuss the film further. Topher Chambers is a modern-day renaissance man—not just an author and filmmaker, but also a podcaster, brand consultant, and archaeologist.

That’s Entertainment: Topher, thank you for taking time out of, based on everything it is that you do, your busy schedule to sit down and chat with us about The Black Book.

Topher Chambers: No problem, it is always fun to get away from the grind a little bit.

TE: The Black Book is based on a book by the same name, which you also had a hand in. It also looks like The Black Book has life as a comic/graphic novel. How did The Black Book originally come to be? What is it about this project that has pushed you to adapt in different ways?

TC: My uncle passed away many years ago and left me his extremely large book collection. As I was going through it, I found a perfectly bound, nice-looking book called Our little town of Sheridan with nothing on the inside. Completely blank inside. That inspired the story, The Odd Old Book, which was the first story in The Black Book. It grew from there, and as I got closer to completing it, I had other friends that I knew were writing, so I paid them for a story or two. That’s the story of the book itself.

The film, on the other hand, I wanted to adapt some of the stories to film but didn’t know how until I pretty much sat on The Odd Old Book, and how I could use it as a framework so to speak for an anthology feature film. The setup is so interesting, a cursed book that has caused the disappearance of anyone who has read it. Moving it over to a comic with all-new stories was something that just leaped out to us. The tag line for the comic says it all… It has so many stories to tell.

TE: Did the archaeologist part of your brain ever kick in to find out the history of Our little town of Sheridan? Doing a very quick Google search didn’t turn anything up for me, but the fact that a blank book exists would have me going down so many rabbit holes!

Topher ChambersTC: It did for me too, to this day I have not found any information about that strange little book. The author listed on the cover brings nothing up either. At first, I thought it might be a book someone trained to book bind on, but it looks a hundred percent professional. I don’t know, maybe somebody who reads this will have an idea, and it’s some mundane answer. I like the fact that there is still a mystery to it.

TE: It’s wild to me that no information about Our little town of Sheridan is out there! It makes sense how it became the inspiration for The Odd Old Book, which has grown so much. When deciding to adapt the book as a movie, what went into deciding which stories from the book would come over to the film?

TC: I knew that we were working off the framework of The Odd Old Book, and I wanted the person watching to be able to read the book in the same order as our collector. So, the first one I wanted to include was Date Night, and the rest were just a mix to make sure that my friends got included as well. Of course, I wanted most of my own works, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include some of the stories as well.  It was a hard choice, but I think we did rather well.

TE: Since the film and book have a similar order when it comes to the stories included, would you recommend reading the book or watching the film first? Does it matter? And since there was consideration for the book while making the film, do the stories differ much?

TC:  Some of the stories play out a little differently in the film than in the book. We had to cut things for time, budget, and feasibility. I would say read the book first since it was the first incarnation that came out. But either way is fine, there is stuff in the book not in the movie, and vice versa.

TE: It’s the norm for adaptations to change from the source material, usually for those reasons you listed. Did any of the stories in the movie improve from the book because you had to think on your feet to make them happen off the page?

TC: I can’t really think of anything. I like the stories in the book for the stories, and I like chapters in the movie because of what they are. I can’t really compare them because they are what they are. Some are almost line for line, others are different because they needed to be. They are all my babies so I can’t throw any under the bus.

It is always a discussion, while we want to grow as writers, directors, and as a production studio, having that universe that exists makes it both easier to know motivations while making some of the lore constricts, unless you can stretch and grow the lore in a convincing way, in the universe itself.Topher Chambers

TE: That is such a great outlook to have! I’m sure that comes from the fact that you’ve been involved with The Black Book from the beginning—is there a particular story that you are fond of? Has it found life in each adaptation?

TC: I think the thing that has stuck with me the most and is the driving force behind the broad scope of the book, film, comic, etc. is the story that started it all, The Odd Old Book. It provided a setup that as long as we kept coming up with stories, the book could just move from one person to another, each with their own problems and their own goals. The story has grown now to be something of its own, and the mythology we keep building around it has become more than just a short story.

TE: It sounds like you’ve thought about the future of The Black Book as the mythology has grown. What kind of future do you see for this anthology?

TC: We have the comic coming out, but other than that, the possibilities are endless. The story setup with the book is accidentally designed to make it adaptable to any new format. All we need is new stories and a new reader. I have toyed with turning it into a series, but we first need to find the backers that would like to see that happen. With the right budget, a series could be interesting.

TE: As you think about the future of The Black Book, where do you see it living? Another book or film? A series of comics? Another plate you spin is hosting/producing podcasts, could you see it living as an Audio Drama?

TC: We are in a constant conversation about growing and adapting vs. moving on to newer projects. My partner at Rutledge Productions has been really cool about letting me explore the world I built, and the next book we have coming out ties into the next movie we are making, which all lives in the same universe as the book.  So, we can grow, tell different stories, but it is building a universe for these things to lie in.

The Black Book Universe

TE: Oh, well that’s exciting! I’ve been a sucker for narrative universes for as long as I can remember! Comics taught that to us, though it was Kevin Smith’s ViewAskew movies that really solidified my love of universe building. How difficult is it to decide on what project to do next; meaning the one that helps build the universe vs. the one that sets out to do its own thing?

TC: It is always a discussion, while we want to grow as writers, directors, and as a production studio, having that universe that exists makes it both easier to know motivations while making some of the lore constricts, unless you can stretch and grow the lore in a convincing way, in the universe itself. Some things start out as an outside concept, but something ends up being able to be tied to the Marshalltown universe, and we just run with it.

It’s too good of a concept to leave, with each new media and the new story we get better, and I think that is what the story deserves.

TE: Since you’ve been involved with The Black Book for so long, did it make it easier to bring stories over one medium to the next? Did any stories prove to be difficult to adapt?

TC: It did, also allowing me to add stories to the mythology, playing with concepts that I didn’t get to play within other mediums, and looking at how we can give more life to the characters who surround the book, like the Bookseller who was played by Ari Lehman in the film.

TE: As mentioned at the top of this interview, you spin a lot of plates. One of those is as an archaeologist! How did you go from Alan Grant to Ian Malcolm to Steven Spielberg?

TC: To be candid, I have a heart issue, and that took me out of the field. I have always liked to learn and to write, and it just seemed natural that when I was no longer able to go into the field, I would take my time to write. The film side of things just evolved from a large amount of writing I was doing. I needed to see another outlet for my imagination. I think that is also where the podcast and internet-based radio stations came in. Something to occupy the time I was no longer spending on the road. When you are used to working twelve-to-fourteen-hour days for ten days straight, and only getting four days to go home and see loved ones, when that is gone, you have a lot of time on your hands that you didn’t realize you missed.

TE: First and foremost, I’m sorry to hear that your health took you out of your element. Though, it’s good to know that you’ve prioritized your health appropriately! It sounds like you’ve found plenty of creative outlets to help fill your time. Has your time spent as an archaeologist helped with your creative projects?

TC: It gave me a lot of time in my own head, between driving and working on units by myself, so much so that I started writing while I was on the road. I wrote stories about a group of archaeologists who were contracted to go up an Appalachian Mountain to survey, and they got waylaid and had to survive to get back down. It was fun to use things that we had to go through, and the safety meetings we sat through. Not sure whatever happened to that story though. One of the later stories in the book actually was written back then.

TE: As an outsider, it seems that the world of archaeology would be ripe to adapt into fantastical stories (maybe Indiana Jones has warped my mind a bit). But even from a non-fiction standpoint, there’s got to be stories to be told—any plans on expanding beyond The Black Book with either fictional or non-fiction archaeology stories?

TC: I have dabbled in the nonfiction realm a couple of times, but it is easier with fiction, I think. You are creating the story rather than just telling it. So, when something seems off, you can change it without having to worry that someone will call you on it. They don’t know how the story was supposed to go. Am I still going to do nonfiction? Yeah, I have a couple of things coming up that have been on the back burner, but they don’t really have to do with archaeology. More scientific research related, in areas that some wouldn’t think to focus science in.

TE: Topher, once again I want to thank you for your time to speak with us about The Black Book (and beyond)! Before we officially part ways, could you let our readers know the best way they can pick up a copy and/or watch The Black Book? Where can they keep up with your and your various projects?

TC: They can get the book by searching The Black Book Topher Chambers on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, the same for the film on Amazon. You can watch it, ad-supported, on Tubi, and you can purchase a copy from YouTube Movies or Google Play.  As for some of my other projects, they can check out Geek Public Radio, where they can listen to our streaming radio stations or check up on our podcasts.

Once again, a very big thank you to Topher Chambers for taking time out of his day to chat with us. The Black Book is just the start of an awesome universe he has planned. Be sure to read his book and watch the film! Once you’ve given it a read or watched the film, let us know in the comments below what you thought!

Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr
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