Home Director Vincent J Roth of Surge, Making Cinema’s First Out Gay Superhero

Vincent J Roth of Surge, Making Cinema’s First Out Gay Superhero

Eric Roberts in Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel

Hi! I’m Vincent J Roth, Executive Producer at Surge of Power Enterprises, LLC, a small California based production company that creates fun superhero media with lots of celebrity cameos, featuring cinema’s first out gay superhero, Surge! We have 2 “Surge of Power” feature films in distribution, a web series in its 4th season called “Big City Chronicles,” and 2 new short films now screening. We recently conducted our first virtual screening of a new movie, “Surge of Power: Doctor Who Tribute,” a short parody celebrating over 50 years of the Doctor Who TV show, poking light-hearted fun at some of the most charming tropes of the program, with cameo appearances from over 25 Doctor Who actors, these are:

Peter Davison (The 5th Doctor), Colin Baker (The 6th Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (The 7th Doctor), Paul McGann (The 8th Doctor), David Bradley (The 1st Doctor), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts), Eric Roberts (The Master), Michelle Gomez (The Master – “Missy”), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Louise Jameson (Leela), John Lesson (K-9), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Emma Campbell-Jones (Cass), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Mark Dexter (Charles Babbage), Richard Ashton (Friday, the Ice Warrior), Sarah Louise Madison (the Weeping Angel), Jon Davey (Dalek and alien actor) and Nick Frost (Santa Claus).

The movie also features a special guest appearance by Nichelle Nichols (the iconic Lt. Uhura from “Star Trek”) reprising her continuing role as Omen in the “Surge of Power” movies.

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Nichelle Nichols in Surge of Power-Big City Chronicles (2017)

Coming right off the heels of the feature film, Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, Surge has only a quiet moment with MAVIS, the artificial intelligence of the Surgemobile (played by Shannon Farnon, Wonder Woman from the “Super Friends”), when Surge hears a news report from reporter Will E. Bee (played by Michael Gray, Billy Batson from the “SHAZAM!” TV show) about events that lead to the next Surge of Power movie, Surge of Dawn, but before Surge can do anything, he is distracted by the sudden appearance of a wormhole that whisks Surge away to London in an alternate reality where Earth is being invaded by Daleks, the most fearsome Doctor Who villains. No time to get his balance in this strange, unexpected world, Surge must immediately launch into action with the planet in danger.

Can Surge defend Earth from a Dalek invasion? Will any of the Doctor Who actors help Surge? Find out.

indieactivity : What is your experience working on the story, the screenplay, the production, premiere and the marketing?
Vincent J Roth : I’m the Executive Producer. I conceived the story, wrote the script, assembled the crew, recruited the talent. The “Doctor Who Tribute” started as a 5-minute episode of our “Big City Chronicles” web series with just 3 Doctor Who cameos. As we came across Doctor Who actors at various conventions, we invited them to join the party, wrote extra scenes to expand the story and now have 27 Doctor Who actors in an 18-minute short-film. Earlier versions of the “Doctor Who Tribute” screened at comic conventions and Doctor Who conventions to packed audiences.

This new version was ready in March. With the COVID-19 pandemic sequestering people at home, we decided to do a virtual screening and play our little comedy for free to help lift people’s spirits and provide some laughter. Two crew members and I introduced the movie on the Surge of Power Facebook page via Facebook live, then directed the audience to a link on Vimeo and provided viewers a password to watch the movie. Then we invited the audience back to Facebook live after viewing where we conducted Q&A and asked questions of the audience so they could win Surge of Power and Doctor Who prizes. We had a great turnout. It was a lot of fun, and we will likely do a virtual screening of another new movie, “Surge of Dawn” that follows the story from “Revenge of the Sequel” and chronologically happens in Surge’s timeline right after events in the “Doctor Who Tribute.” “Surge of Dawn” is a 46-minute short film.

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indieactivity : How did you put the crew and cast together? Did you start writing with a known cast?
Vincent J Roth : The “Doctor Who Tribute” is our 4th Surge of Power movie. The first movie, “Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes” is an 85-minute feature film with a cast and crew of 125 including 20 celebrity cameos, the likes of Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from “Star Trek”), Lou Ferrigno (“The Incredible Hulk”), and Noel Neill (Lois Lane from “The Adventures of Superman”). The second movie, “Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel,” is a 90-minute feature film with a cast and crew of 272 including over 50 stars the likes of Linda Blair (“The Exorcist” movies), Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”), Eric Roberts (“The Dark Knight,” “Doctor Who”). Our 3rd movie, “Surge of Dawn” continues the story from the Sequel with some of our prominent stars returning to reprise their roles.

So, we have a track record of hiring celebrities to play roles in our movie. The “Doctor Who Tribute” started as a fun little incidental project during one of our runs at a comic convention where we were interviewing celebrities for our “Big City Chronicles” web series and the director and I happened upon a set of the Doctor Who console room of the TARDIS, the time and space machine in the TV show. We asked to use the set, developed some lines, and shot some footage that later became the “Doctor Who Tribute” episode.

At that time, we had not thought of making such a big deal of it, but as we recruited more and more Doctor Who actors, it became apparent that we should go all out. So, now we have actors representing every era of The Doctor, the lead in the TV show. The Doctor Who TV show debuted in the UK in November 1963 and is the longest running science fiction show, with over 13 actors who have played The Doctor, and we have actors from every era in our “Doctor Who Tribute” short film – 5 actors who have played The Doctor, 3 actors who have played The Master, the arch-nemesis of The Doctor, over a dozen actors who have played companions traveling in the TARDIS with The Doctor, plus some special guest star actors. We wanted this little parody to celebrate the show and pay tribute to it. I think we even expanded on some Doctor Who mythology in ways the TV has not yet explored.

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indieactivity : What and how long did it take to complete the script? (Was it a team effort or solo?)
Vincent J Roth : I typically write with input from more than one crew member. In this case it was my director, another producer and another crew member who helped me refine dialogue. The movie has evolved over time, with dialogue being written to incorporate new Doctor Who actors, so it wasn’t quite like sitting down and writing one script. It evolved over time.

indieactivity : When did you form your production company – and what was the original motivation for its formation?
Vincent J Roth : Surge of Power Enterprises, LLC was organized in 2003 to bring back comedy to the superhero genre (long before the “Deadpool” and “SHAZAM!” movies) and to put cinema’s first out gay superhero on the big screen.

indieactivity : What was the first project out of the gate?
Vincent J Roth : The first movie was “Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes” an 85-minute feature film shot on actual 35MM film in wide screen cinemascope like any other big movie (at that time) with 20 celebrity cameos featuring cinema’s first out gay superhero, Surge! The movie began screening in 2004, was picked up for distribution, and then received a limited theatrical release in 2006 before home video release.

indieactivity : During the film production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot? And why?
Vincent J Roth : The expanded outdoor scenes were a little challenging because when outdoors you are vulnerable to the unpredictability to the surroundings and I was working with a crew that had not worked together before.

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Vincent J. Roth in Surge of Power-Big City Chronicles (2017)

indieactivity : What worked better in this latest production that mightn’t have worked so well in the last one you did?
Vincent J Roth : We have new specially designed equipment for green screen shooting that we used for the first time in the “Doctor Who Tribute” movie that allows us to do green screen shooting very economically and lets us shoot visual effects shots to make our superhero, Surge, fly in ways that we couldn’t before without expensive facilities and complex rigging. So, we can now shoot in more efficient ways that result in better visual effects than in any of the previous Surge of Power movies.

indieactivity : You must have donned several hats on this film, the measure of your input required intellect, effort, tenacity, skill (…you know better). What did it take you to put out all these qualities to get the film done?
Vincent J Roth : Yes, it takes a lot of effort writing, producing, recruiting, arranging locations, having props made, and I play the superhero, Surge. So, I put a lot into these movies (in addition to my own money), but I’ve been doing this for 17 years, so I’m pretty used to putting in the effort. Our Sequel won 4 award and our other new movie, Surge of Dawn, just won “Best Visual Effects” at the HBO Urban Action Showcase, so I think that’s a testament that we are putting out better and better movies.

indieactivity : What about independent filmmaking and the business do you still struggle with?
Vincent J Roth : Despite what some may perceive as more acceptance and representation in the entertainment industry, I find there is still a lot of homophobia when people realize that Surge is a gay male superhero. It seems society is much more comfortable with women being gay, but when it’s a gay man, I have noticed some subtle and some overt reactions over the years, which I sadly still encounter today when making Surge of Power movies.

indieactivity : Where do you think your strengths lie as a producer?
Vincent J Roth : I’m pretty committed to the Surge of Power projects and all the cast and crew know it. It’s self-evident. Everyone knows that I’m wearing multiple hats and that this is my passion. It helps me as a producer to motivate and push cast and crew to perform, take the projects seriously, and appreciate the love and dedication that goes into them.

indieactivity : Let’s talk finance, How did you finance the film?
Vincent J Roth : The Bank of Vinny. I finance all of the Surge of Power movies myself. The movies that are in distribution help a little with the revenues they generate. I have much more control in expressing my creative vision by being self-financed.

indieactivity : How much did you go over budget? How did you manage it?
Vincent J Roth : Every project always goes over budget. I’ve just come to the realization that that’s just how it is. When an opportunity presents itself to invite another celebrity into the movie, or to add another scene, or to add more complexity to a shot, like bringing in a jib or a drone, I typically bite the bullet and shell out the money because I always want it to be bigger and better, within reason.

indieactivity : How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make a dent without it nowadays?
Vincent J. Roth : Marketing is a must. I can’t imagine any movie making it without marketing. It’s an extremely rare occurrence that a movie is so amazing that word of mouth alone promotes it.

indieactivity : Tell us about marketing activities or efforts on this project – and how it worked or didn’t work?
Vincent J Roth : Sadly, our distributor for the first Surge of Power movie put very little marketing effort into the movie. We had a website, but didn’t do much more than that on our own. We got a lot of good publicity during our film festival screening run and got on TV a number of times and then got a bit more of a bump with a publicist for our theatrical premiere, but that was about it. So, when we were working on the Sequel, we developed our social media presence with Facebook, YouTube and a bit of Twitter activity and hired a social media company. Our “Big City Chronicles” web series is essentially a marketing effort for the movies, consisting of short episodes about Surge, the movies, the celebrities and the wacky world of Big City where Surge lives, which we post on our website, on our Facebook page and on YouTube.

When the Sequel got picked up for distribution, we also engaged a publicist for our theatrical premiere for the Sequel and the distributor has a “finding your audience” marketing plan that helps guide their independent filmmakers with social media marketing. We already had a social media company, so we expanded on our efforts based on our distributor’s guidance, adding Instagram and increasing Twitter activity, among the other efforts already in place.

With the “Doctor Who Tribute,” we engaged all of our usual marketing efforts and because of the nature of the subject matter – celebrating the Doctor Who TV show, we posted in a lot of Doctor Who fan groups and sci-fi fan groups in Facebook. It seemed like it worked pretty well because by the time we ended our introduction session on Facebook live the video had over 200 views before even starting the movie. We even had viewers from the UK asking if we would leave the password live a bit longer on Vimeo so they could watch the movie as they were waking up the next morning.

indieactivity : What do you hope audiences will get from the presentation of your film?
Vincent J Roth : I hope the audience got a few good laughs. The two Surge of Power feature films are comedies and while the new “Surge of Dawn” movie is a bit more serious, we stepped it up with the “Doctor Who Tribute” to make it not just a comedy but a parody. I know from previous screenings of the earlier versions of the “Doctor Who Tribute” movie that audiences realize that we are showing our fandom and appreciation of the beloved Doctor Who TV show, Surge-style. I also hope that Doctor Who fans who come watch the “Doctor Who Tribute” will get a little taste of Surge and his world in the fictional town of Big City and want to check out some of the other Surge of Power projects.

indieactivity : What else have you got in the works?
Vincent J Roth : We are just about to finish the first draft of the script for the 5th Surge of Power movie, tentatively titled “Surge of Power: Where There is Smoke,” which will likely be a short film akin to “Surge of Dawn” (likely 45-50 minutes). “Where There is Smoke” is the next step along the way to our third feature film, “Call of the Champions” where Surge forms a superhero team, which will wrap up the Surge of Power saga. We have an award-winning seamster (male seamstress) about to finish the first new costume for “Where There is Smoke.” A few of our stars have agreed to come back to reprise their roles. Plus, we have already shot the scenes we need for Nichelle Nichols who plays a powerful superhero named Omen in all the Surge of Power movies.

Nichelle Nichols took a shine to what we were doing with the first Surge of Power movie by putting a gay superhero on the big screen. Recall, she is renowned for her iconic role as Uhura from “Star Trek” with the importance of her role and position as a strong, black female character, so she made herself available for the initial adventure of cinema’s first out gay superhero by playing Omen in “The Stuff of Heroes.” So, it warms our souls that we already have Nichelle’s scenes in the can. Nichelle will continue to appear as Omen in the rest of the Surge of Power movies.

Tell us what you think of the interview with “Vincent J. Roth” What do you think of it? What ideas did you get? Do you have any suggestions? Or did it help you? Lets have your comments below and/or on Facebook or Instagram! Or join me on Twitter @oladapobamidele

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