Phil Kim is the new publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the venerable, influential, and sometimes controversial magazine for fans for horror films, especially the classics of monster moviedom. Mr. Kim has not only rescued the magazine from mishandling and a sullied reputation, but is taking the nostalgic brand name into the 21st Century with an expanded, multimedia approach that includes a website, video, and events and a focus on both classic and contemporary films.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Kim. The variant covers of the debut issue of the revived Famous Monsters magazine illustrate the conversation and can be seen to the right of the text. Mr. Kim graciously answered a few questions by e-mail and phone; our dialogue follows.
What's your first memory of Famous Monsters of Filmland?
It was 1977 or 1978 and I was 8 or 9 years old. I went to the library as I always had and saw issue #137 on the periodical rack. Of course every kid was nuts about anything Star Wars and I was no exception. Unfortunately history tells that to be the beginning of the end for FM 1.0. Anyway, I started combing through it and I was hooked. I started noticing the existence of FM after that. It was like when you buy a car, all of a sudden you notice that car model everywhere you go.
You once played a Martian in a film titled Flying Saucer Rock and Roll. Will we be seeing you in mask or makeup in the new FM magazine, in the tradition of former FM publisherJames Warren and former editor Forrest J. Ackerman?
I hope so. I came into this field as a filmmaker. I have produced two feature films in the last 3 years. The first was Radio Free Albemuth, one of Philip K. Dick's last published books, and Downstream, an original story I wrote. I was in both of them as a cameo.
Let's say I am a 20 year old college student who likes horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. (Let's say that because I'd sure like to be 20 years old again!) Why should I read Famous Monsters of Filmland?
Because it's awesome. Well because we are going to make it awesome. When I first took over the mark 2 1/2 years ago, I tried desperately to create something exactly like the original Warren- published FM. After spending an enormous amount of time beating my head against the wall, it dawned on me. Forrest J Ackerman's legendary following happened not because of puns or editorials but because of his love of the genre. He wanted to share the knowledge of film making, bring the nuts and bolts of movie magic to teenage boys that later went on to create unimaginable and epic worlds. He was the primer that gave us some of the greatest story tellers we have ever known. That became our mission.
Mimicking a 52 year old magazine 52 years later would certainly not excite the next crop of Peter Jacksons and Guillermo Del Toros. We needed to understand and reproduce the spirit of Forry with a cutting edge feel. The last 27 years was a historical remembrance of FM. The original FM was pretty cutting edge and risque at the time if you remember and it had to be for teenage boys to be interested.
Let's pretend I'm a 53 year old film buff who liked the original FM as a kid. (I say "Let's pretend" because I'm, of course nowhere near that old, and NO, you can't see my driver's license.) What will I like about about the new FM?
The new FM will have somewhat grown up along with its fans. The cover will be card stock with premium paper inside. It will be full color and well over 120 pages. It will cover the latest content not from a review side (fans can get the latest reviews and news from our website) but from a deep and in-depth editorial perspective. Much like the original FM, readers will find who is behind the masks, explosions and design of your favorite films past and present with lots of humor and reverence. We will bring you opinions and stories from the industry insiders. These are the people that grew up with the original FM readers much like yourself.
What's going to be fun about this for you? What is going to be the single biggest challenge about it for you personally?
Well, my job entails hanging out with Bela Jr., Sara Karloff and Ray Bradbury while we are throwing Carla Laemmle's centennial birthday in Hollywood. I get to open up the magazine to legendary artists like Rich Corben, Stout and Basil Gogos. I get to work with some of the most creative and experienced people in our industry like editors Michael Heisler and Jessie Lilley. I have the most diligent and intelligent staff any publisher could wish for and a family that is nothing but supportive. I have to stop now, cause I think I am the luckiest man alive or maybe I just took the blue pill.
My biggest challenge is having enough time to enjoy all of this with the people that I love. It really has become my whole life and then some. Good thing I enjoy it.
You're a writer. Name one genre film, new or old, you could write about with ease and affection. And do you see yourself contributing to the website and the magazine occasionally?
I love post apocalyptic, dystopic stories and Zombie movies. Ya, I kinda live there. My favorite film of all times? Well, I have two: Road Warrior and Dawn of the Dead. I plan on contributing my narratives in the future issues. The readers can take the journey with me as I write my next feature film.
Former publisher James Warren is known for his flair and drive; former editor Forry Ackerman was known for his enthusiasm and eccentricities. How do you compare with them in those terms? (And c'mon, you can share an eccentricity or two-- although I hope it doesn't involve ketchup where it doesn't belong.)
I really am fairly simple. I grew up an immigrant's son so I have a lot of old fashion values of hard work and loyalty. But I also love beautiful things and I especially live for a good story. I'd rather be known for the good I've done in the world than the bad. So I work hard to make that happen. I hope I succeed but I'll only know at the end.
I'm hoping you succeed too! And I'm expecting you will. But, um, isn't there even one teeny-weeny little eccentricity you can share?
Well, I always pick up the tab for lunch or dinner for my employees-- but with a caveat. They have to finish everything or give me the leftovers! Because I can't stand waste!
Sounds like you are someone we need in Washington. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.