Today on Whatever Inspires, I'm pleased to introduce Bob Magill, a local guy who is wildly dedicated to both his craft - producing films - and to the people and ideas that inspire him. I'm forever grateful to Bob for being my cover photographer for both Wake and War and Wonder. He spent a ton of time taking awesome pics of my gorgeous cover model, Cassie, who just happens to also be my niece. Being that we're both involved in projects that have a paranormal feel, we share a bit of a fan base. Today I'd like to share Bob with all of you who don't yet know what a brilliant artist he is.
Bob is a director and producer of film and television as well as creator and star of the original hit paranormal series – Ghost Bait.
He's the founder and CEO of Evolution Industries, a Pittsburgh based production company, and spends much of his time traveling to L.A. and NYC to promote his film and television projects. Most recently he completed his first screenplay for an upcoming feature film set to begin pre-production this spring.
When he is not behind the camera, Bob actually spends his “free time” authoring children’s books and writing and recording music for his video projects. Today, we're going to get up close and personal with Bob. He'll tell us about Ghost Bait, his children's books, and also a little about how he ticks and tocks.
Bob, tell me a little about yourself, how you came up with the idea for Ghost Bait and how you ended up landing the leading male role.
When it came to Ghost Bait I wanted to break into the entertainment industry. When I sat back to strategize the best approach I kept coming back to reality TV. I had all the right equipment with my production company and really I just needed an idea. Now getting back to my adventure comment. When deciding what the reality show focus would be I kept coming back to paranormal. I’m a huge fan of supernatural TV shows, so the idea of exploring haunted locations was very appealing. But I didn’t want to do “another paranormal show”. So rather than just sending brave ghost hunters into the haunted locations, I wanted to also send very scared people that did not want to be there into those locations…and use them as “Ghost Bait”. That is how it all began.
Regarding my involvement on camera it was two fold. Initially for the web-series I used friends and employees on the show for production cost reasons, including myself because I was building a lot of the technology we used on the show and we wanted to show that. I brought on a female lead that was our most experienced investigator (she had been on another ghost show) but the rest of us were there on camera for the first time. It became apparent quickly that the easiest way to direct for a show like this was from in front of the camera, so I found myself more and more involved as an actor.
The original intent all along was to have a female driven show with the two women leads because I was so tired of seeing all guys on these ghost shows. When it came to the web-series that worked well. However when we got to the network level with the show it became apparent that the demographic for these shows called for a male lead, and I quickly found myself going from a small part of it to being placed in the forefront of the series. I absolutely loved the opportunity and had a blast doing the show.
I never expected Ghost Bait to find the success that it did. We gained popularity quickly online with fans all over the world. To promote the web-series I had hats, shirts and stickers to sell online. We found ourselves shipping these things all over the world like Australia, Tokyo even Scotland. It was crazy. The online success was so overwhelming that we heard from network executives in Hollywood after just 6 episodes. We went on to premiere number one on A&E’ Networks “BIO Channel”. So what started as a simple web-series lead to a hit show, interviews, even making paid appearances at nightclubs and conventions. It was a whirlwind, but definitely an experience of a lifetime.
What's the latest Ghost Bait News and where can we watch the latest episodes?
Ghost Bait, in my opinion has the best fan-base. They are so loyal, always looking for new content and constantly reaching out to see when there will be more. The short answer, and the only one I’m allowed to give right now is…there is more in the works later this year. The TV episodes are available on iTunes and Amazon’s streaming service, just search for “Ghost Bait”. The web-series is no longer online because of licensing but we do have DVD’s of the original web-series available for purchase. If people are interested they can message me on Facebook. There are some teaser clips still out there on website and the “iamghostbait” you tube channel.
Do you really believe in ghosts and that these locations are haunted?
Well let’s just say I have seen some fairly unbelievable things with my own eyes, some things I can explain, and some things I cannot. Either way it’s always exciting to gain access to interesting historical locations that some people never get to see.
Did you ever have a ghostly experience as a kid or young adult?
Not really…but I wish I did.
What’s the biggest challenge in shooting an episode?
With Ghost Bait the biggest challenges were usually the locations. Most of them were either very old or not habitable; some even had condemned areas that were mostly off limits. That creates some interesting challenges for both the cast and crew. On the flip side that’s what gave us such cool locations to shoot at. The other challenge was the annoying fact that ghosts never listen to the director, so when I say action more often than not they don’t show up on cue. So we shot hours upon hours of footage which isn’t always evident in the final product.
What do you want your fans to know about what happens behind the scenes?
I absolutely love being on set, and I think you have to in order to work in this industry. However the process behind the scenes is not nearly as glamorous as most fans think. It is very long days (and nights) with an extremely hard working crew to get that final product everyone sits down to enjoy. It can take 2 days to get something that is 60 seconds on screen. On the flip side of that, and we shared this with viewers online with Ghost Bait, there are a lot of fun moments that never make it to camera. You have to remember at the end of the day we are normal people at work, and just like any other office we have a good time in between takes, we build relationships… great set is like family.
What’s your dream location for a shoot of Ghost Bait?
Well that’s easy…a castle. Ideally in Ireland or Scotland, something very, very old with lots of history. The best paranormal investigations seem to be the ones that have a rich history, so you can’t go wrong with a castle.
Yes, it’s called “Going on a Ghost Hunt”. I co-wrote it with a friend, the friend we used as our Ghost Bait on the original web-series. Ghost Bait fans and fans of the supernatural or paranormal love to get their hands on content, so we thought why not a kids book. What’s great about this book is it features characters inspired by Bill and myself along with a friend Zoe. It’s the adventure of us going on our first ghost hunt as little kids. It’s illustrated in a unique style, and of course has humor at its core. We plan on doing additional books in the series down the road.
The books can be found on my Amazon Author page:
What was it like moving from producing an adult series to creating a book for children?
It was definitely a change of mindset with the obvious shift in audience, but it was something I always planned on doing. Bill and I have co-written a lot of content over the years so these books were fun change of pace. In addition to “Going on a Ghost Hunt” I have also co-written and published an “Imagination Series” consisting of 3 additional books. These books are unique in that they have beautiful illustrations, but very few words. They are story-building books. It’s actually an educational approach that is meant to inspire children to tell their own stories and initiate conversations about that story.
What’s great about these books is they led to collaboration with “The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council”. They are an amazing organization that offers services that really make a difference. We are donating $1.00 for every e-book sold directly to The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. That’s $1.00 for each of the 3 imagination series books, as well as Going on a Ghost Hunt (which is also available in Spanish).
You can find them all on my amazon author page:
Any other projects on the table?
I also have a children’s TV show in development that’s both educational and fun. I’ve partnered with a university here in Pittsburgh for technical support as the show has a strong focus on science and robotics.
What I am most proud of is the screenplay I just finished writing. Just shy of a year ago I secured exclusives rights to the life story of a Pittsburgh man that is so inspiring it has already captured the hearts of millions around the world. I can’t get into details quite yet, but videos featuring his story have exceeded 65 million views, he has been featured on shows like Meredith Vieira and CBS news. I consider it a privilege to tell his story. We are currently working with finance partners on the film with pre-production set to begin in the spring and full production shortly after. This will be my first feature film and I can’t wait to move forward.
What are your career goals?
The end goal is to write and direct feature films. It’s been a logical progression thus far, from corporate and marketing videos, to web and television and most recently film. I want to continue along that path. I also have a number of drafts for additional children’s book series that I plan on publishing in the near future. Additionally I have been doing guest lectures to film students at colleges and universities like Thiel and Point Park. I absolutely love sharing my experiences in this industry with students who have a passion for creativity. I’d like to continue these lectures and someday do that in a more full-time capacity.
You are obviously an extremely creative and driven guy. When do you find that you are most creative? What inspires you?
I feel fortunate that “my gears are always turning”. If I’m awake I’m thinking about the next big idea. That being said I’ve come up with ideas at the strangest times. Ghost Bait was conceived while I was cutting my grass. I’m also inspired by real people. If you think about it us humans are pretty amazing. You don’t have to look far to find people making a difference, or someone overcome diversity on a large scale.
The Pittsburgh man that I wrote the screenplay about was a major inspiration. I sat and interviewed him once a week for 6 months. During that time I kept saying to him that I couldn’t make up better stories than his real life experiences. Every time I would think about how I was going to write a scene…the real way it played out was perfect. There was absolutely no need to elaborate.
Additionally I myself am a huge fan of movies, books and TV. So when I create content it’s usually inspired by something I want to see that isn’t out there.
Did you ever experience an “aha moment?”
I think so. I actually think that happens a lot. The biggest moment for me was early on in my production career. You have to understand I am not formally trained in film, production or writing. I actually have a Maters Degree in Social Sciences...which has absolutely nothing to do with what I have done for over 10 years now.
That being said I have wanted to make movies since I was about 6 years old. My grandfather gave me an old 8mm “wind-up” film camera…except I didn’t have any film for it. That didn’t stop me from putting together my own little movies with kids in the neighborhood as my actors. We thought it was so cool having that camera…we filmed for days with no film. I’d do anything to have that footage now.
The “Ah-hah moment” came for me about 2 years after I started my production company. I started it in my basement with just me and it grew into full-time employees and a studio with a sound stage. But early on it hit me one day that as intimidating as the film industry is, it’s something anyone with desire and drive can pursue. The almost intimidating “magic” of production became much clearer to me. By no means am I saying it’s easy, far from it. But it’s also not out of reach. That’s what has inspired me to not only create as much content in as many mediums as I can, but also to share my experiences with students who want to follow the same path.
Do you struggle with rejection and failure? What is the biggest challenge in your career?
Who doesn’t? Just like everyone there are times when being told you can’t do something makes you question yourself, but the difference between success and failure in my opinion is what you do next. I try to take that and use it to motivate me, to prove to myself that I can overcome the odds. Trust me I picked a very difficult industry to succeed in. Hollywood is a giant shark tank, and the only way to succeed is to jump in. It’s not easy to break into this industry. It takes time, patience and most importantly persistence.
Not only that but you have to first convince the Hollywood execs that what you have is viable, then you have to please the fans that in the end make the difference between success and failure.
I’ll never forget reading comments when Ghost Bait first premiered on TV. People were harsh, mean and vicious. I thought we had failed. I talked to my contact at the network and he congratulated me on the ratings. Confused I mentioned the negative comments online and he laughed at me. He said, “You actually read those?” He went on to tell me that only people with negative things to say post comments, so they all seem negative. He also said that most of them continue to watch the show and continue to post comments…but guess what…they are watching the show.
So with that I have learned that you cannot please everyone, it’s just not possible. All you can do is create content that you believe in and hope you are fortunate enough for someone to give you the chance to share it on a large scale.
What are your go-to websites and apps? Who do you follow on Twitter?
Well my agent wishes I visited Facebook everyday, I have to get better at that. I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had time to post much. I visit a lot of websites to research for things I am writing. As a writer it is great that there is so much content at your fingertips.
Regarding twitter I like to follow other people in the industry, directors that inspire me.
The one gadget I cannot live without is probably my laptop. It’s how I write, how I edit footage and record music. It’s my lifeline. I love to do concepts on good old fashion sketchpads, but at the end of the day I’d be in trouble without my laptop. I’m not sure I can pick just one app or computer program. I use so many because everything is so specialized, one program for writing, another for video, then one for sound…just can’t pick one.
Personally…hmm…what’s a personal life?
There’s so much going on professionally right now that I think I actually work in my sleep. If I am fortunate enough to be on my 4th or 5th film 5 years from now then I’ll be the happiest guy alive. I am a true fan of TV, books and film. For me a dark movie theater is an escape into a world that takes me out of the reality of everyday life, even if just for 2 hours. When I watch a film I allow myself to “buy in” to the world that the film puts in front of me, I accept it at face value. I create the shows and films I do because I want to do that for other people. Entertaining the audience with fiction or inspiring them with a true story is a privilege in my opinion, and that’s what I want to do with my life.
A huge thanks to Bob Magill for giving me the opportunity to ask the big questions and for taking the time to answer them.
Follow this talented guy, people.
Twitter - @realbobmagill
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/magill.bob?fref=ts
He is going places and doing really great things.