BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Last week, we talked with Mike Oeming about his experiences on The Celebrity Apprenticewith the Men’s Team KOTU. Today, we’ve got a piece with Ivan Brandon about his experience with the winning team, the Women’s team. Brandon began, “Team ATHENA were incredibly focused ….”
THE PULSE: I thought it was so cool to hear that some comic creators were going to be on The Celebrity Apprentice. How did this opportunity come about?
IVAN BRANDON: I got a call from Joe Keatinge at Image Comics on a Monday, I think? He explained that they needed a comics creative team for The Apprentice, and put me in touch with the producer, who let me know more details. I put together my team, which consisted of artist Paul Azaceta, colorist Matt Wilson and letterer Kristyn Ferretti; and Paul and I went to Trump Tower on Tuesday (or the next day, anyway, if I’ve got my days wrong) to put the whole thing in writing. The shoot started that Wednesday. On our way out from paperwork on Tuesday, we saw our Celebrity team shooting the first episode (we didn’t know at the time that it was OUR team), selling cupcakes down the street from. We briefly considered sneaking into a camera shot, so that on our episode we’d appear to be stalkers who’d been following them around.
THE PULSE: When did you learn which team you’d be in charge of?
BRANDON: When we got in the day of the shoot, we were assigned to the respective teams.
THE PULSE: Who were you the most familiar with on Team ATHENA? Had you met any of these celebrities before?
BRANDON: On my team, Joan Rivers for sure, and her daughter [Melissa] by extension. On Mike Oeming and Joe Kelly’s team, Dennis Rodman… I was a big basketball fan when he was playing for the Bulls.
THE PULSE: Did you get to meet the men’s team?
BRANDON: Not formally, no. We all sniffed around the craft services table when we got there, but both board rooms were closed to the other teams once the projects started.
THE PULSE: You guys were only on screen for a few minutes, but how long did it take you to actually do the work there?
BRANDON: We were on camera for about 15 hours. Those film editors are impressive craftsmen.
THE PULSE: Wow! We saw a lot of heated discussions on the men’s side. What surprised you the most about how the women responded to this challenge?
BRANDON: Team ATHENA were incredibly focused … none of this made it out of the editing room, but I was impressed with the kind of research they did to supplement the little information they had to work with. I don’t think I can get too particular with stuff that didn’t make it to the screen, but that team’s laptop left no internet stone unturned. I was also REALLY impressed with how quickly they understood the process, once I explained to them what we’d need to go through to make the presentation. My own family knows less about the process of making comics than those women absorbed that day.
THE PULSE: What were you allowed to do for them? I mean, we didn’t really see too many guidelines there … so what were you told to do for these teams? How involved could you be?
BRANDON: It’s kinda hard to explain … I gave them the general procedural details on putting the thing together and on the creative side I gave them as much input as I could on what goes into creating superhero characters, and the reasons why I thought people found the most popular characters connected with people. But I couldn’t, for example, tell them if their idea was any good. I had to give them the tools to create their character and then let them succeed or fail on their own.
THE PULSE: That’s what I thought, because I never could have seen Mike Oeming or Joe Kelly letting the men’s team call their character “EEE,” so I figured you guys had to be like parents, supportive of whatever the kids did, but not saying, “This is wrong!” What was it like watching how quickly things unfolded in that board room?
BRANDON: Well, things didn’t really unfold all that quickly, again … it was a 15 hour process, and it probably took about eight hours just to get to the point where there was even the beginnings of a character to develop. What looked like a half hour on NBC was a giant workday with three meals and lots of deliberation. Watching it unfold was awkward at times, because there were things I might have done differently, but my lips were sealed. Their interaction with the focus group, for example … it was much more of a collaborative conversation where it should have been a reactive one. But in general I was very impressed with what was achieved in a day.
THE PULSE: How did you put together your team? What made Paul, Matt and Kristyn ideal in your mind?
BRANDON: I’d worked with all three before and I knew they could do an excellent job in the timeframe, which isn’t something you always know about your collaborators and wasn’t something I could risk with a deadline that was specific to the minute. In Paul’s case, he was mostly picked because he’s pretty and works well under fear of being deported, even though he was born in NJ.
THE PULSE: Got it. How long did you have to create the actual comic after those fifteen hours in the board room?
BRANDON: Those 15 hours included the creation of the comic. We created it live on camera with the lettering and coloring done remotely in real time and sent over to me via FTP.
THE PULSE: Wow that is quite quick! What happened to the pages afterwards? Were they the property of Trump?
BRANDON: I honestly don’t remember. We provided them with hi-res digital files but I don’t remember if Paul kept the original pieces or not.
THE PULSE: How long ago did you guys do this?
BRANDON: October 2008.
THE PULSE: Wow that was a while ago! Did you know then which team won or did you find out when it aired?
BRANDON: I didn’t officially, know… the boardroom stuff happened the next day after we left. But I had my suspicions.
THE PULSE: What was it like seeing yourself on television there?
BRANDON: I expected the worst. It was an anxious bunch of minutes, waiting to show up on the screen. But it was pretty painless, all in all. I kinda plugged right back into the moment… “That was hour 8” “There’s Joan Rivers’ abandoned quiche in the background”… Remembering they made me turn my shirt inside out to hide the art on the front of it for copyright concerns. It was interesting to see how well the women held their frustrations, how much venting they all did outside the room, while being composed in front of each other. I spent an entire day talking to them, it was weird to see there was even more going on that day.
THE PULSE: How do you think a challenge like creating a comic book character helps the field of comics in general?
BRANDON: Eh, I think people come from a very submissive place when dealing with other media…. The Dark Knight just grossed a billion dollars, we’re accepted by the mainstream, we’re only hindered by our own imaginations in getting our work out to the world. I think the real question will eventually be how comic book characters can help them, not how they can help us.
THE PULSE: Got it, so speaking of comic book characters, what do you have coming out soon that you’d like to tell our readers about?
BRANDON: The only things I can officially speak of are VIKING issue 1, out April 1st, which is by far the best thing I’ve ever written and FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: ESCAPE which is out on May 13th and is probably the creepiest thing I’ve ever written.
Original interview link can be found HERE