George RR Martin Talks North Korea, Unveils Dragonstone Studios
Author’s latest endeavor takes over old Desert Academy spaceArts ValveThursday, December 18, 2014
Completing the sixth installment of his epic A Song of Ice and Fire and soothing fanboys’ angst that the hugely successful HBO adaptation will catch up with it is not enough to force Santa Fe-based author George RR Martin to lock himself up in a sky cell and frantically type away on his DOS word processor.
Before posting on LiveJournal his reaction to Sony’s move to cancel distribution of Seth Rogan and James Franco’s North Korean romp, The Interview, (a move the also owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema calls “surreal”) Martin told SFR he wrestled with Sony in the interim of major movie chains yanking the film and it being scrapped all together, in hopes of showing it at his 123-seater.
“The level of corporate cowardice here astonishes me. It's a good thing these guys weren't around when Charlie Chaplin made THE GREAT DICTATOR. If Kim Jong-Un scares them, Adolf Hitler would have had them shitting in their smallclothes,” Martin continued on the post, ending it with, “Come to Santa Fe, Seth, we'll show your film for you.”
In the meantime, ever the entrepreneur, Martin has set his sights on refurbishing the old Desert Academy space on Camino Alire (a move, that he says grew out of storage needs) and transforming it into artist studios.
The space is named after an island located at the entrance to Blackwater Bay and the castle thereon in the Game of Thrones universe. The nod is echoed in other non-page endeavors, such as the LLC he formed to purchase the Cocteau, Faceless Man, and the Westeros Pack he supports at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.
In a candid chat, the Bayonne, NJ, native opened up about his ever-growing memorabilia collection, his plans on taking Game of Thrones’ Sibel Kekilli for a night on the town and Monopoly.
What prompted you to take
over the old Desert Academy?
Well, that’s a long story. I was actually just looking for storage space. I told my realtor to find me some because I have things that need storage, but all these storage unit facilities around town, none of them are for sale because evidently they’re, like, gold mines, you know? They’re a bunch of sheds and you charge people rent, so all the people that have them are determined to hang on to them. Meredith, my realtor, told me that I might be interested in the Desert Academy. I went and looked at it and yeah, I was interested. It’s a huge space, and I saw a lot of potential in it. We’re converting it and calling it Dragonstone Studios.
"We actually had three storage units that we were renting…I thought, ‘Well, I’d rather own the building and have other people pay me rent.’"
What’s your vision for it?
It’s primarily gonna be artist studios, with some offices. There’s actually three buildings side by side there. There’s a little casita that we’ve already refurbished and is for rent now, the main building and a prefab building on the lot next to it that I’ll use for my own storage and stuff. We’ve already got three tenants lined up and have 20 more spaces. [I’d like to] put some sort of restaurant in there, too. It’s zoned to have a restaurant, but only a very small restaurant—it’s limited to 1,000 square feet—but if we find someone who’s interested, I think that would be a really nice addition to the neighborhood. There’s the Tune-Up Café, which is right around the corner, but other than that, there’s nothing in that whole area.
So you’re not looking to open
up the restaurant yourself and serve up dragon eggs and Cersei biscuits or
anything like that.
No, no. I’m not interested in getting into the restaurant business. The movie theater business in enough to threaten my sanity.
What is the criteria for
artists who wish to have a space there?
The criteria is that they pay me rent [laughs]. Obviously, there would probably be some limits. We’re looking for painters, photographers, maybe some sculptors that work in clay, something like that. I don’t think we’re looking to anyone that is working with acetylene torches or, you know, anything that is too dangerous and/or toxic because these are basically former classrooms. The artists I’ve shown them to say that they will work very nicely as studios because the light is great in most of them. Also, Dirk Norris and the New Mexico Film Foundation will be moving in there.
So, how much stuff do you
have? When you said you were looking to buy storage, I figured you were
referring to a unit and not a whole building.
A couple of years ago, we actually had three storage units that we were renting. We did get that down to two at a certain point [laughs]. Those units are not that cheap, it seemed like a waste to me. I thought, ‘Well, I’d rather own the building and have other people pay me rent.’ A lot of this is just my books, my author’s copies. I get all these copies of my books; they’re published all over the world. I’ve got, like, 40 languages, they send me 10 copies each—it doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised at how quickly it fills up a house or a bookshelf and another bookshelf. The other thing is, my wife and I are both packrats. I don’t think we really want to focus on that in the article though, otherwise, I’ll have the people from Hoarders calling me up to see if I want to be the focus of a segment.
I come from a long line of
proud hoarders myself, so no judgment here. Now, you’re about a year and a half
into your relaunch of the Cocteau. How would you describe the experience thus
Well, it’s certainly been interesting. I’ve learned an enormous amount, I’ve had a lot of fun and I’m very pleased with what we’ve done. The people who come there seem very excited to have it back. I remember when I did my first press conference, I mentioned ‘Santa Fe’s most beloved theater’ was something I’d read online, and that’s certainly has been confirmed by my experience. We’ve done a lot of events and we’ve had a lot of fun with it. There are certainly challenges. You’re never gonna get rich running an independent, single-screen theater, and the competition for films is intense. We, of course, have Regal, which is the big bully on the block, taking everyone else’s lunch money because they can, and we also have the CCA and The Screen, which sometimes want to show the same films we want to show, so we’re competing with each other in terms of distributors and all that, but there are a lot of films out there, there’s no doubt about that.
There are some things that haven’t been as successful as we hoped. I’m still trying to work on those. I’m not giving up by any means. I thought the midnight movies would be bigger than they proved to be. Santa Fe, I guess, is just a sleepy little town, and it’s hard to get people to stay up past 9 o’clock [laughs]. I thought, perhaps wrongly, that the reason nobody stayed up past 9 o’clock is because there is nothing to do, and if you gave them something to do, they would come out for it in fairly significant numbers. Thus far, this has not proved to be case. But we’re gonna keep trying. You know, I’m doing this German show with Sibel in a couple of days. She’s coming in to present her movie, but the other thing is that we’re filming this German travel show called Into the Night.
Ooh, I hadn’t heard that.
It’s a show that goes around the world and goes to various tourist locations and explores the nightlife, so I’m supposed to show Sibel the nightlife of Santa Fe.
Oh my God! What’s your plan?
Fortunately it’s Christmas, so we have the farolitos. We’ll take a walk along Canyon Road and we’ll go to a few bars and restaurants. I’ll introduce her to New Mexican food and, of course, the Cocteau will be part of it. You have to admit that Santa Fe’s nightlife is not quite the equal to, you know, New York City, Hamburg or London, so the whole concept of ‘Into the Night’ is a little harder to achieve.
With the purchase of the theater, the academy and rumors about your involvement in another local flagship property, is George RR Martin turning into the Santa Fe equivalent of the Monopoly man?
[Laughs] I hope not. I have no pans to build any hotels or railroads. Wait a minute, if I could acquire all the railroads that would be good. The railroad stops right next to the Cocteau, so perhaps I should acquire that too, yes.