Frater Tinnell Adapts his Creative Work to Digital Age
FAIRMONT, W.V. - Since first dabbling in the world of film-making with homemade Super 8 mm productions of Frankenstein shot from his brother's bedroom in Worthington, award-winning screenwriter, director and author Frater Robert Tinnell (Theta-Delta, Fairmont State Univ.) surely has come a long way.
The 1983 Fairmont State graduate helped kick-off the university's homecoming celebration a little early with a public lecture on "reinventing ourselves in a digital age."
The lecture was part of the Celebration of Ideas series hosted by the university.
For about an hour, Tinnell took the audience of students, faculty and community members through his career, which began primitively with the Frankenstein film and a long-time dream to eventually become a horror movie director.
And from living in Los Angeles and receiving significant success for production work on the low-budget cult film "Surf Nazis Must Die," to winning MTV awards for producing a Paula Abdul video, to producing big business commercials and finally just finding success as a writer and then a screenwriter, Tinnell finally ended up back in West Virginia.
He said he never really wanted to leave his roots, which were planted in Fairmont, Worthington and Rivesville, and finally came back, got married and started a family, splitting his time between his home at a big house in Deep Creek Lake, Md., and Montreal and Los Angeles for his work.
But after 9-11 hit, the big productions stopped for a while, and Tinnell eventually started making local films. From there, after being devastated by the news that his young son was diagnosed with autism, Tinnell's priorities changed.
He began lending more time to being a dad while still keeping his vision and trying to find what defines him as an artist.
Shortly thereafter came the jump into today's technological world. After also becoming a graphic comic book writer, Frater Tinnell used the worldwide web to publish his book, "Feast of the Seven Fishes," which is being turned into a movie to be filmed in Follansbee in the near future.
Taking place during Christmas of 1983 in West Virginia, this book may have actually been the root of the local traditional Italian Catholic festival.
It was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album-Reprint. Tinnell, who will serve as director of the film, hopes it will begin production before the holidays.
When pitching the idea, Tinnell said his wife - and everyone else - basically thought he was crazy for using a free medium to produce what was looking to be a great, money-making film.
But, he wanted to get his work out there in today's digital age, and when he did he received an exceptional response from Internet surfers.
And it was from these positive responses and the leaps technology has made that make it possible to get pretty much anything written, drawn or filmed out to the greater public by way of the Internet that made Tinnell realize that he had been narrowly focused for a long time, he explained. But this new venture really defined him as a writer, a director, and an artist.
"The Web has democratized everything," he said. "Now, instead of wondering how we will make the Web pay, let's just get on it. The Web validated me."
Frater Tinnell said he kept his original vision throughout his whole journey, which is still going on, and encouraged the audience to do the same.
In addition to awaiting the launch of the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" film, Tinnell is also working on the graphic novel "Crash," as well as various other screenwriting, comic and directing projects, including a Web comic that deals with his son's autism.
His works include the films "Frankenstein and Me" and "Believe," and he has worked with high-profile stars like Ryan Gosling, Burt Reynolds and Elisha Cuthbert. He has also produced a number of graphic novels which include "The Black Forest," "The Living and The Dead" and "Sight Unseen." He has received several awards for his works as well.
While attending Fairmont State, Tinnell received a liberal arts degree in 1983, and he was active in student government and the Theta-Delta Chapter.
Today, Tinnell has a residence in Morgantown and also spends part of his time in Los Angeles. He said Thursday that he was just happy to be able to come to FSU to deliver this lecture.
Adapted from the The Times West Virginian News Story. If you would like to see your chapter news here, contact Director of Communication Tom McAninch.