Canadian actor, writer and gamer Joel F. Gardiner, aka FPS Doug, shoots first and asks questions later in Clinton Jones’ acclaimed short film Cardboard Warfare II. In the film, which is set in World War II, Gardiner plays Sarge — a tough as nails American sergeant tasked with leading his men to kill a Nazi officer.
The most unique aspect about the film is that the weapons (guns, tanks, etc.) are made out of cardboard, yet they bear the same deadly consequences as their real-life counterparts. In addition the film was shot throughout the greater Atlanta, Ga., area — the same location where AMC’s television series The Walking Dead is currently filming episodes for its second season. Since CW2 debuted on YouTube in late September, the project has generated more than 1.7 million views.
Gardiner, who starred in the cult web/TV mockumentary series Pure Pwnage, chatted with Comics Bulletin about landing the lead role in CW2, writing his own original comic book series and more.
NOTE: This Q&A is the second of a two-part interview with the cast from Cardboard Warfare II. Read the first interview with Coty Galloway here.
Andre Lamar: How did you link up with Clinton Jones and land the role of Sarge in Cardboard Warfare II?
Joel Gardiner: Clint actually contacted me through Twitter. He was a fan of Pure Pwnage and had been listening to my podcast (Stuck in the Middle of Somewhere) for some time. It’s such an amazing time we live in, having the ability to contact and reach out to people we weren’t able to even 10 years ago.
Lamar: What was your experience like playing Sarge?
Gardiner: It’s really hard to sum it up in a few words. It was really like no other filming experience I have ever had. The entire crew grew so close within a matter of a few days, and doing things I had not done on a film set in the past made it one of the most exciting and memorable moments of my life.
Lamar: Considering actors in action films, by nature, pretend to sell the idea that they’re using real guns, how strange was it to convince yourself that you were a military hero capable of taking down Nazi’s with merely a piece of cardboard?
Gardiner: Getting up at the crack of dawn and being on these awesome sets until the sun went down, blowing up tanks, setting guys on fire, running in the 100-degree heat, getting eaten by bugs and having to watch out for poison ivy — it really felt like we were in a war zone at times; so it was pretty easy to suspend our disbelief.
Lamar: Given that you successfully portray a stern, cold sergeant on camera, do you think you have what it takes to lead a group of real soldiers in battle?
Gardiner: I’m not sure I have what it takes to lead myself into that kind of situation. Real life is a lot different from cardboard and controllers [laughs].
Gardiner: We filmed the end half of the film on the same set that The Walking Dead had, and [is] currently filming. Being a huge fan of the series and the graphic novels, it was very surreal for me.
Lamar: What can you tell us about working with Clinton Jones? Where do you think he’ll be in the next five years?
Gardiner: Clint will be in that same group of awesome filmmakers like Freddie Wong and Digital Corridor, and will — without a doubt — be one of the most watched up-and-coming directors. He has an incredibly bright future.
Gardiner: The story takes place in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s in the Southern United States. A new sheriff has been appointed to try and bring peace and calm to a town that has been plagued by racially driven crimes. In the midst of this, a local preacher’s daughter has been raped and physically abused by a couple of members of the local chapter of the KKK. Her brother stumbles on the scene, killing one of the men in her defense. Seeing the trouble that awaits his family, the girl’s uncle (who is also a hoodoo shaman) steals the dead man’s body, captures his soul and reanimates his corpse in an attempt to wreak havoc on the local white population.
Lamar: Now what inspired you to write the series, and what message do you want people to take away from it?
Gardiner: The horror and zombie genre is one that I have been fascinated with since I was a little kid. It was always my goal to one day write a zombie film. Not having the ability at the time to bring a zombie film to life, I chose to take another route and brought it to the comic pages instead. It wasn’t my goal to try and teach people a lesson with this story — nor were my zombies meant to be a metaphor or symbol for anything else in our society — as other zombie flicks and stories have been accused of being in the past. The story is grounded in reality where other zombie stories may not be, bringing in elements of religion (Christianity and hoodoo) and rituals that are even currently practiced today in countries like Haiti.
Lamar: Describe your transition from being an actor to writing a comic. Were there any unforeseeable challenges that you ran into?
Gardiner: I have always been a writer first. I started writing short stories when I was around seven or eight, so writing a comic was just another outlet for me. There were a lot of unforeseen challenges writing a comic book. The number one being the resistance we felt from the comic book industry itself. It was shocking how unsupportive they were in trying to bring in new IP’s. Unless you had a known name in the industry already attached to your product, we found that there were very few people that wanted to hear what we had to say. What made it even more shocking to us was that the comic was released at the same time Pure Pwnage premiered on Canadian television and still no local stores wanted to touch us.
Gardiner: I have been throwing around the idea to the other writer [Jeff Hodgson] and artist [Ian Navarro] about releasing the rest of the series digitally. Book two has been near completion for a while and it’s something that may be pushed forward within the next couple of months. We had originally planned a second series of comics under the Lore title, but until the first series has been completed there are no future plans to do any more comics.
Lamar: Now that CW2 is completed, what else can we expect from you?
Gardiner: I have several films planned for th
e end of this year and upcoming in 2012, including a couple shorts that I will be working with Clint on again, which I’m super stoked about. We are also continuing the podcast on a weekly basis. We release audio episodes every week with the odd video special every couple of months. We will be trying to pump out more video content in the New Year.
Lamar: Even though you coined the popular catchphrase: “Boom, headshot!,” what achievement are you most proud of: the success of inventing the catchphrase or landing the lead role in CW2?
Gardiner: It’s hard to compare the two. Pure Pwnage was essential in being a pioneer in story driven web content that became a cult hit that was praised by gamers for years, but unfortunately it didn’t get its proper ending. CW2 is something that I still have yet to see the entire effects from. Both were amazing experiences in their own way.
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