It takes an extraordinary woman to bring X-Men’s Storm to life, be it Halle Berry, Alexandra Shipp and now Maya Glick. Writer, musician, martial artist, this modern day Renaissance woman was dissatisfied with the portrayals of Marvel’s popular heroine, and successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a short film entitled Rain. The 23 minute flick, in which Glick stars as the Mistress of the Elements, has generated much buzz on the blogosphere. Today Glick discusses her love for the First Lady of Marvel, making a movie and being a lifelong geek.
Upkins: Maya, thank you for taking the time to sit down for this interview. For the unfamiliar, why don’t you introduce yourself.
Glick: Thanks for the invitation and the support of the film! Well, I’m a performer and writer and martial artist. RAIN is my first film so I guess I’m an actor now? In the 90’s and beginning of the 2000’s I was in rock bands in New York, but now I’m living in Austin and it’s been a desperately long time since I’ve done anything creative…until now!
Upkins: Do you recall how you first discovered the First Lady of Marvel?
Glick: When I was a kid, I was a total outcast in all the possible ways. I started school early so I was about a year and a half younger and a head shorter than everyone else, but most significantly I went to an all white elementary school. There might have been 3 other black kids there and I didn’t know them. I was picked on constantly. Well, it was called being “picked on” then anyway, but it was pretty severe abuse. Kids would spit on me on the school bus, throw rocks at me when I walked home, refuse to sit with me, call me all the names… all that good stuff. Kids who are bullied – for whatever reason – need fantasy and escape. They need heroes. I escaped into Star Wars mainly. Most kids have imaginary friends, I had an imaginary spaceship. So yeah, I became a big nerd too on top of everything else.
Anyway, even in the Star Wars universe, no one looked like me. I didn’t realize that it bothered me as much as it did at the time, that I still didn’t fit in even in a galaxy far far away.
Then one day in the 80’s I found her.
I was in the mall with my mom, walking past a movie theater. Up against the glass wall of the theater were arcade games, and one of them caught my eye and set my soul on fire. The whole side of one of the games was an image of Storm with the mohawk. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at but it stopped me dead in my tracks. That’s the power of artwork…and of representation. Here was this brown-skinned woman, clearly magical somehow with the unearthly eyes, surrounded by lightning… but wearing this badass black leather get-up with a white mohawk. I fell in love. It was like when people see visions of Virgin Mary in the dessert. That’s why I remember it so well, it changed everything.
I was aware at the time that Storm existed. I had seen images of her but I never really cared. To be honest, the way she was drawn before never caught my attention for long enough for me to want to know much about her. That’s what artwork and design can do. She had the long Barbie hair and the sexy swimwear kind of outfits that just have never made me think of power.
Floaty, regal Storm with the crown and cape shooting lightning bolts is lovely, but down-to-earth leather Storm looked like she could actually win a fight with powers or not. That’s the chick I wished would show up at my school and deal with the bullies! Black leather pants and mohawk on a black woman comic book character changed everything I understood about what a superhero could be…. what a woman could be… what I could be.
Upkins: As a black woman, what do you think it is about Storm that makes her resonate with other black women?
Glick: Just that she’s one of us in a genre that is mostly male and white. Of course there are others but she was first black female superhero a lot of us knew. And just like us, she was wildly powerful but always taken for granted and overlooked so that someone else could take the lead and the glory. (In films anyway)
Upkins: What other elements do you believe make her such a universal icon?
Glick: Storm is iconic because she really is the total superhero package. Whether you’re like me and you like her hardcore and punk rock with a switchblade, or you like her ethereal and Goddessy like a floating Iman… she’s got something for you. She’s fierce, but she’s cool because she has to be. Losing her cool might mean splitting the sky apart. That’s hot. That’s some electrified Incredible Hulk type shit if you think about it. And she represents those of us who are *OTHER* in so many ways. She is the consummate mutant in that way. She’s a woman and she’s African and she’s a mutant and probably bisexual….oh, and she can control the fucking elements. She’s just all of the awesome and no one can ever explain to me how a billionaire with a bat suit is more interesting than that.
Upkins: What are some of your favorite Storm moments in the comics or other adaptations?
Glick: My very favorite Storm story is Lifedeath. She has just lost her powers, she’s depressed and feeling sorry for herself… till she realizes there is something to rage against about it and Forge gets punched in the face and she goes off on her quest of rediscovery. I love that so much.
Upkins: Moving on to the X-Men films. 16 years, roughly 10 films in the Marvel Fox Universe. What are your thoughts? Clearly these movies left much to be desired for you otherwise we wouldn’t have Rain.
Glick: I dug the first X-Men film so much. For example I loved what they did with Magneto, making you understand his position and his friendship with Charles and the cruelty of a world that is intolerant of difference.
But of course Storm ended up just being the token pretty black girl in the background which wrecked my heart. There’s a scene where she sees a guy melt down and turn into water and she is so terrified by it she has to go run and get help from one of the white guys. WATER scared her, Denny. WATER SCARED STORM. Ugh.
Upkins: Let’s address the other highly debated issue. Halle Berry. Talented actress. Extraordinary human being. For the last 16 years it seems, to me at least, like she’s been unjustly vilified for Storm’s portrayal or rather lack thereof. She was given next to nothing to work with, but she gets blamed and singled out. A fact that was definitely proven with X-Men Apocalypse. Alexandra Shipp also got shortchanged. Is that your view or do you believe I’m completely off on this?
Glick: She does take the blame and it’s unfortunate. I’ve done it, too but I learned to stop. The main problem with Storm’s portrayal obviously is the writing and the fact that her character has never been important to whatever story they’re telling. In effect: her life does not matter. I know it’s hard to do these ensemble stories without somebody ending up just being a glorified extra, but after ten films they can’t make a woman who can control the fucking sky an important character somehow?
You can totally remove her and add in absolutely anyone else or no one at all and the main story isn’t affected. It’s like they’re telling the “Xavier/Magneto/Wolverine/ featuring Mystique” story again and somebody was like “Go ahead and throw in the black one, too”. Hey Hollywood? That doesn’t count as diversity!
Upkins: Have you seen X-Men Apocalypse? What did you think of Shipp’s performance?
Glick: I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been so focused on my own little creation that I am very behind on other films.
Upkins: This leads us to Rain. You were fed up with Storm being shortchanged and decided to take action. Did you have a specific strategy in making Rain a reality?
Glick: Well, the creation of Rain wasn’t all about being fed up with anything. It really just came out of my own need to create something and also tell a story that was important to me personally. I write a lot but I had never written a script in my life. This story just happened to come into my mind in a very visual way that I knew meant film somehow, but I had no idea how that was going to happen. I’m a musician, or at least I was when I lived in New York City, and I love to perform but I hadn’t done it in about 10 years. I wrote this story and thought, where the hell am I going to find a film crew? If I still lived in NYC it would be one thing, but I hadn’t done anything creative at all since I’ve leaved here in Austin, so I wasn’t part of a creative community and didn’t know where to start.
One day my husband Adam took some photos of me in “costume” (really just some of my own clothes with my hair whited out via photo editing) and when I posted one of them online people went nuts. People were like “You need to do a Kickstarter!” and I was like “Word? What’s a Kickstarter?”
So I had to figure that out, get a ridiculous amount of money from total strangers, and then go on the hunt of a lifetime for the right film crew.
As luck would have it, I was able to track down fellow geek and incredible director Zane Rutledge. Well, luck… and research… and a little stalking and being really annoying via email til he responded. When he agreed to take on the project I also got his co-director and writing partner Jeff Stolhand and their producer Matt Joyce as part of the deal, and the Rain-Making team was born.
Upkins: Was this your first Kickstarter campaign? What was that like?
Glick: It was like hell. I mean, it was great, and it was exciting to see how many people who had never met me or seen any work I’d ever done were willing to give me money for the project…. but it was a lot harder than I realized it would be. A LOT. You have to constantly beg without sounding like you’re begging, and I was on my own. Anyone else thinking of doing something like that, I’d recommend having a team of people who share your passion, or it becomes a heavy weight and an overtime job.
That said, it was amazing to see the community of support that grew up around the project beginning with my humble little fundraising campaign. It was also a pretty good crash course in promo and marketing.
Upkins: I’ll be honest, I was cautiously optimistic but fairly skeptical. But five seconds into Rain and it was obvious with the production quality that this wasn’t a fan film and you meant business. It seemed you had a clear vision and you had everything well planned of what you wanted the story to accomplish.
Glick: Thank you so much for saying that. I feel like it’s even more of a compliment when people go into it kinda with their arms folded and come away from it amazed.
I really was so fortunate to work with the team I had. Zane for one was meticulous about details and waiting till everything was exactly right to the point of driving me fucking crazy sometimes. But I know that it’s that kind of hardheaded perfectionism on everyone’s part which makes the vision come across so beautifully. There was a lot of raw emotion and heart in this story, and I’m glad it came across.
Upkins: In the film, our heroine is recovering from tragedy which I’ve learned hits home with you? With whatever you’re comfortable with sharing, tell us a bit of the ordeal you weathered and how that shaped you and played a part in making Rain.
Glick: Well, a couple years ago I had a baby boy. His name is in RAIN‘s opening dedication: Orion. He was stillborn.
I hit bottom pretty hard after that experience, to put it lightly. I’m still not right. It’s not really something you recover from- it changes you, and that can be hard to navigate. Anyway about six months after Orion’s birth (and death) I started taking martial arts classes. I was pretty angry, but I knew I needed to do something with that anger or end up hurting myself or someone else… so I found martial arts– and LOVED it.
That was the beginning of a slow rebirth for me. I was able to deal with my powerlessness, fight my way back to myself and find power again. That’s basically the story of RAIN. I was also re-reading Lifedeath during that time, Ororo’s story of depression after losing her power. You can see its influence in RAIN for sure.
I also deal with clinical depression even outside of grieving for my son, which obviously doesn’t help. I probably always have. That struggle of powering through endless nightmares and learning to fly again is also the story of RAIN that I think people can relate to. Personal resurrection.
One element of the character of Storm that is so fascinating to me is just her name and what it means. Storms are beautiful and majestic, yes…but they’re also unpredictable and harsh and destructive. The idea of watching this character have complex dark and cloudy emotions which match her name is something I can’t figure out why no one else has put to film yet.
Upkins: You obviously you didn’t do this film alone and it seems like you had a very solid cast and crew.
Glick: Absolutely. I’d love to call my team magicians but it’s not magic, it’s so much hard work. My main team – I call them The Band – is Zane Rutledge, Jeff Stolhand and Matt Joyce. Zane and Jeff both directed, both did some script revisions, and both did editing. Jeff did all the sound mixing and foley stuff as well and I’m sure everyone did lots of other things I wouldn’t know to mention. Matt was our producer and kept the whole ship running smoothly. Visual effects were about 95% Zane as well, which is one of the reasons it took a while to complete.
The cast was incredible. It was so great to be surrounded by so much pro talent for my first venture into film. It could have made everything really intimidating, but it just made things so much easier. For example the scene with the biker was really hard to shoot for obvious reasons. Acting out a violent sexual assault over and over for a couple hours is as intense and unpleasant as it sounds. DJ Morrison who plays the biker is a great actor so he comes across completely sleazy and gross, but I could not have asked for more of a compassionate gentleman to work with. I felt safe with him, which enabled me to get into it and get through it without losing my mind. Things like that which I didn’t realize I would need were there.
I was able to incorporate an important part of my musical past by bringing one of my best friends from NYC Luqman Brown in to do the score, but otherwise it was mostly people I didn’t know at all. Handing my baby over to virtual strangers was hard. There were changes made…some that I ended up loving, some not so much…but overall obviously it was other people’s artistry and skill that turned my little story into the work of beauty it became.
Upkins: I loved the fact that you included Easter Eggs in the film. Would you list a few that some of us may have missed.
Glick: A few people picked up that there are things hidden on the bottles in the bar scene. The big obvious one is the overhead shot of the bed in the motel room, which mirrors the first page of Lifedeath. There are lots more though: the graffiti on the alley walls…the motorcycle license plate…. the TV screen….the name of the motel….
Upkins: Thus far what has been the reaction to Rain?
Glick: People have been shockingly awesome in their response to this film. I mean I know I love it, I know what it means to me, but I was terrified to release it to the wild knowing how it is out in internet land. Comic book fans can be ferociously particular as we know and I was braced for that. Making up a story for a known character is asking for trouble, but so far there hasn’t been much! (Knocking on my skull.)
Upkins: Any chance of a sequel?
Glick: You know, if you would have asked me that about a year and a half ago I would have said “yes, of course!” But it took so much out of all of us just to get this done. And keep in mind that it’s a fan film so no one is profiting off of any of the blood, sweat and tears we spilled. This project was an emotional AND financial expense. So do I want to go through all of it again? It’s still too early to say. I have a story for a sequel, but I’d also like to spend some energy on original characters as well.
Upkins: What lies ahead for Maya Glick?
Glick: I definitely want to be involved in more films, my own and others. But right now the next thing on my mind is to get refocused on my martial arts training. I’ve been about a step and a half away from my black belt for a year now, but the film and an injury I had last year kinda knocked me out of my routine. I really need to get my shit together, get back in shape and get back on that road. Otherwise, I guess I’m going to wait and see what washes ashore after the Storm!
Upkins: Where can fans find you?