As I drove through the winding streets of Beverly Hills, I was pretty sure I was lost. I knew for sure I was going to be late to meet Mark Miller, Vice President of Seraphim Inc. I went to grab my phone to inform him of my delay, but my signal wasn’t strong enough to even make a call, let alone send a text.
Silently cursing, I continued looking for my destination. Within moments, like a beacon of light on the horizon, I saw a pillar with a face on it to my left. Slowing down, I looked closely, and realized it wasn’t just any face. It was one contorted into an eternal, agonizing scream, with nails protruding from his skull. I, along with most horror fans, would recognize that face anywhere.
And that’s when I knew I was in the right place.
I quickly parked, and walked over to the gate, with the Hell Priest seeming to stare me down with every step. On top of the pillar to which he was attached was a statue of a raven with a woman’s head. The other pillar seemed to have a thorny sculpture welcoming guests.
I buzzed the intercom next to Pinhead, only to realize that the gate itself was ajar. In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have thought twice of walking in and just knocking on the front door. But this was the office of Clive Barker, the master of horror himself. Who knew what awaited trespassers who foolishly wandered onto the property.
With the “Beware of Dog” sign the least of my worries, I took a tentative step onto the grounds, praying that chains with hooks wouldn’t instantly tear me to pieces. Thankfully, they didn’t, and I made my way up to the front door. Looking more like something from a medieval castle than anything else, I knocked on it a few times and waited.
I was greeted by Ben, Clive’s personal assistant and all-around awesome guy. He led me into the hallway, where Mark was waiting. I did my best to say hello, but quite honestly, I was overwhelmed. From the second you walk into the Seraphim offices, there are tons of things for a horror fan to geek out over. And geek out, I did.
“Holy shit,” came out of my mouth, quite a few times, which caused Mark to laugh and say “Welcome to Seraphim!”
The Seraphim offices are a thing of beauty. The walls are lined with various Clive Barker ephemera from over the years; clap boards from his films, book covers, original paintings, awards, and much more. It’s a true horror geek’s dream.
“Excuse the conference room,” Mark told me as he showed it to me, “We’re getting all these ready to send out.” He was referring to the hundreds of copies of Clive’s latest book, The Scarlet Gospels, which were signed, stacked, and being shipped out to readers shortly. Boxes lined the walls, awaiting their contents, before getting in the hands of people who would surely open them faster than a Lament Configuration.
After that, we stepped into the ‘library,’ where copies of Clive’s books have been stockpiled as his literary estate. Looking over his work, it’s mind-numbing to think of all this man has written down on the page. In addition, there was a shelf filled with “unused ideas,” as Mark called them, that could be used for future projects.
There was also an archive-like room, where two people on staff scan and catalog Clive’s artwork daily. He already has thousands of paintings, but he continues to produce 3-5 new hand-drawn ones every single day. To put it in perspective, Mark took me down to the lower portion of the house to show me the paintings themselves. Two floors, literally filled top to bottom with gigantic canvases, were stored here. Looking at them, it made me think “What the hell have I done with my life?” It got worse when Mark informed me that these paintings were just from the last couple of years. This was but a small dent in Barker’s massive body of artwork.
Right next to the storage area was something I can only think of as a ‘torture room,’ with its walls painted black, weird textures coming out of it, and a bizarre cross hanging on the wall. It looked like something out of a haunted house, but naturally felt right at home here.
Did I also mention there was a secret passageway in the closet, complete with two-way mirror?
Yeah. Seraphim is pretty damn cool.
It’s also a damn cool place to work, it seems, because as Mark and I sat in his office to chat, the other folks at Seraphim wandered in and out of the room, getting business done, but also laughing while trading barbs back and forth.
“We clearly don’t have an HR department here,” Mark quipped at one point. It made me wonder how the hell I could get a job there. Their laid back, open and casual atmosphere would make anyone feel welcome, despite the horrific visions from Barker’s head lining the walls.
Mark Miller’s path to becoming Vice President of Seraphim Inc. is a strange one. A graduate of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts (which just so happens to be where I work, and where I first met him), Mark concentrated on directing before getting into the writing side of things.
After graduating, he spent his hours going from one non-union film set to the next, helping out his friend’s productions. He even worked for his friend, Justin Lin, best known for some of The Fast and The Furious films, along with the upcoming Star Trek Beyond.
“By not fucking it up, it went well, and I continued to get work,” Mark told me.
But he didn’t stop there. He would get home every night, and write until 4AM, before starting the cycle all over again the next day.
“It was a stressful time, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Eventually, he heard through the grapevine that Clive would be doing an art show, using the human body as a canvas, and he wanted in.
“I used to model, too, so I got Clive’s number from my uncle, and lobbied to get myself into the show. He literally tore apart a shirt, glued it to my back, and painted me to make it look like my spine was exposed. It was so simple, but extremely realistic.”
After the show, he and Barker continued to chat, and hit it off. When Mark mentioned he had been writing for OC Weekly, Clive asked to see his work.
“I sent him a few of my pieces, which he liked, and shortly after that, he asked if I would like to intern for him. When someone like that asks, it’s not even a question. You say yes!”
Mark continued to intern for Clive for almost four years.
“Basically, when he called, I would drop everything I was doing. When one project was done, I always found another to help out on. I found ways to make myself valuable, and Clive saw that in my work.”
Eventually, the role of “creative executive” opened up when someone left, and Mark stepped in. While the position was only meant to be temporary, eventually Barker stopped looking, and Mark’s new role became a full time, Vice President Position.
“I am basically learning every day what a Vice President does,” Mark joked. “I somehow fooled Clive into hiring me.”
Despite his joking, it was easy for me to tell that Mark, and his great team, are what kept Seraphim running…and that he does a damn good job of it, too. While the joking continued amongst his colleagues around us, it was obvious that his “work” is also filled with a lot of fun.
“There are plenty of days where I work…answering emails, setting things up, getting them ready for Clive. But there are also plenty of days where I play, as well. No two days are the same, and it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
Mark went on to tell me that the projects change constantly and, as a result, so do the tasks that need to be accomplished.
“Generally, I send emails out and have a few conference calls. Most nights, I’ll meet with Clive to go over the day’s business and discuss notes for things we’re working on, or bring him things for approval.”
But that’s just the office stuff.
“There are also jam sessions we’ll have with Clive, where we do nothing but break story for hours. I also go to a lot of conventions on behalf of the company. It’s insane.”
That said, there are some weeks Mark doesn’t leave the office because they’re coming up against a deadline, and Clive’s assistant, Ben Meares, is emailing him handwritten notes from Clive that he’s incorporating into the final draft of the book or comic or screenplay that’s due.
“Every day is unique and challenging in its own way.”
Case in point, there was an interesting issue with the Hellraisercomic that Mark had to help fix.
He gave notes on the first 8 issues of the most recent run. Then, when the writer that was hired to continue the series couldn’t do it because of a new gig, Clive asked Mark to step in.
“The writer had only written a few pages of issue 9. BOOM! Studios, the publisher, called and basically said the comic had to go to the printer the next day. I wrote 18 pages in 12 hours. I must have done a good job, because they asked me back to finish the run.”
That wasn’t his only run-in with comics. He also co-wrote Next Testament with Clive, and is about to team up with Joe Lansdale on Steam Man over at Dark Horse.
“I sent Joe a copy of Next Testament, with a little note that said thank you, and if he ever wanted to possibly work on adapting one of his stories, I would love to help.”
That note paid off, because before he knew it, Lansdale agreed, and the two started discussing what made the most sense to adapt into comic form. They landed on Steam Man, and Mark went to Dark Horse with the concept. If it all goes well, there might be another Lansdale adaption in his future.
Needless to say, Mark is pretty instrumental in getting a lot of things done around the office. Based on our conversation, I felt that Clive’s latest book, the long awaited The Scarlet Gospels, would not have happened without Mark’s help.
“Clive had been working on it for years, and had to keep stopping to work on other projects. Every time he gave me a bit to type up, I would help him find the dead ends, and help find the through lines to connect them.”
Mark had basically been working on it, it seemed, since he started working there. And now, six years later, the book is out.
One of Mark’s biggest achievements at Seraphim, especially for hardcore Barker fans, is the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed.
“Clive never really liked the theatrical version. He always wanted to make a director’s cut, but there was tons of missing footage. I just made it my mission to find it,” Mark said.
He spent a lot of time cold calling people, trying to find anything he could get his hands on, before eventually finding the things he needed on VHS tapes in Clive’s own collection. While the quality wasn’t great, it was enough to make a composite cut of the film, which they then took on the road to sold out shows across the country. Eventually, Shout Factory was interested enough in it to take on the task of finding the original footage to restore, and then release, on Blu-Ray.
“There was a lot of people saying they didn’t have the footage, or they wouldn’t look, but Shout Factory wouldn’t take no for an answer. They kept pushing and pushing, until eventually they found it.”
Original reels were found in Idaho, spread throughout 800 shoe boxes, give or take. Shout Factory, and Mark, went through every single frame to find the missing footage to cut the film together. Unfortunately, the reels didn’t have sound, but they were able to restore the audio from the VHS tapes enough for it to work.
After 6 years of trying to find the footage, they had only a month to edit it, restore the sound, and color correct the footage. But, it all worked out, because the film looks fantastic.
“It’s a completely different film than the original version, and frankly, better.”
I’m totally inclined to agree with him on that.
I just started to ask about his favorite horror films when one of the archivists came in to have Mark sign some comics for Grant Morrison. Grant just purchased one of Clive’s paintings, and they were getting it ready to bring over later that day.
“Please don’t draw a dick,” he joked, while handing a copy of Next Testament to Mark.
“No promises,” he replied, silver sharpie in hand.
Again, how the hell could I not love this place and these people? It was all organized chaos, and an absolute blast.
Getting back to it, Mark began to rattle off some of his favorite films: The Shining, the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Mist, The Evil Dead (“Which, by the way, is a great example of getting your foot in the door of the business”), Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and finally, “How the hell can you NOT love The Shawshank Redemption?!”
Even now, hours later, Mark is emailing me going “Wait, I remembered some more movies! Island of Lost Souls, Hardware, The Maniac remake!”
When asked about his own future, he has a ten year plan of things he’d like to do.
“Eventually, I want to write and produce my own films. I want to direct movies. My main goal, however, is to die on camera in a horror film. How cool would that be?!”
Don’t worry, though, Mark isn’t leaving Seraphim anytime soon.
“We have had a lot of ‘almosts’ the last few years, but we’re just on the verge of some big deals. Things are going to take off again, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of Clive’s work again in different arenas.”
I don’t know about you guys, but as a horror fan, I’m excited as hell.
Looking around, soaking it all in, I could tell what a blast Mark has working there. His personal office has decorations ranging from a painting from Lord of Illusions, a figure of Ash from Army of Darkness, fan art, Clive’s art, Ernest P Worrell’s face, and even a poster that read “Get N*Sync With Reading” with the band on it (that was probably my favorite, honestly). His interests were all over the map, so I wasn’t too surprised that he said he enjoyed frequent visits to Disneyland as well. Clearly, we were kindred spirits.
“We go a lot,” he told me, referring to him and his wife. “I grew up loving horror, but it terrified me as a kid. I had to build up a resistance to it. But to me, Disney and horror come from the same branch, the same vein of imagination. Horror can be anything. Disney can be anything. They are both heightened reality, and both are places I’d like to live.”
But horror still dominates his life. Even though he helps keep the Seraphim machine well-oiled during the day, he still goes home and watches as many horror films as he can.
After spending a little over two hours with Mark, I took my leave. He was already more than gracious with his time, and was incredibly nice to chat with.
As I walked out of their office, I couldn’t help but think of, in my brief time there, how much the other guys and gals had gotten done while Mark and I spoke. All of them were hard-working, but having a great time. To me, I didn’t think it was fair to say they had jobs; it was more like fun. Mark Miller, and the rest of the gang at Seraphim, get paid to have fun. They may work in a master of horror’s ghastly sandbox, but damn, do they have a good time doing it.