Jason Ginsburg talks about his creative careers and the Fake Theme Park

"...Nostalgia plays a big part in the affection people have. If their favorite ride gets closed or changed, it’s like a part of their childhood has been taken away...."
Theme Park

A natural entertainer his entire life, Jason Ginsburg has built a career that spans writing, performing, and producing. Moreover, Ginsburg is a Swiss Army Knife of talent given that he can successfully work for radically different brands; some of these being National Lampoon, Home Shopping Network, Playboy, Science Channel, and more. One of his ongoing projects is @FakeThemePark, which provides a satirical look at theme parks. Wanting to learn more about his career, I was able to interview Ginsburg for ScifiPulse.

You can learn more about Ginsburg by visiting his homepage and following him on Twitter at @Ginsburg.

Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were forms of entertainment that you loved? Are there any from your youth you can still enjoy revisiting?

Jason Ginsburg: It’s a cliche, but I’m part of the generation that grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. So that instilled in me love not just for space fantasy but also for mythic storytelling. I also watched Saturday Night Live from a pretty young age, so it was a thrill to write sketches for National Lampoon and Second City Hollywood, along with my own L.A. troupe, the Naked Apes.

Yanes: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in entertainment? Was there a moment in which this goal crystalized for you?

Ginsburg: I was always a ham. I acted, sang, and did improv comedy in high school. Then I went on to USC and studied film and theatre. @FakeThemePark gives me the chance to write comedy that’s actually seen by thousands of people. It even allows me to perform occasionally. I’m fortunate that my day job is also in the industry, as I’m on the editorial team for the streaming apps of Discovery.

Yanes: The Sorcerer Beast was written by you and set to be released on Amazon Prime. How excited are you to see your project make it this far?

Ginsburg: I’m very excited, particularly since these weren’t my projects originally. I was hired by an independent producer to write the first film. He liked my work and invited me to help on the second. After that, he gave me free rein to write two more films, all set in the same universe he conceived, “the Age of Stone and Sky.” In a way, it was like a “real” Hollywood experience, where the writer is only one part of a much larger effort.

[Note: The film has now been acquired by ITN Distributors and will be released, somehow, by them. As part of the deal, it’s no longer streaming on Amazon]

 

Yanes: You have writing credits across a wide variety of genres. Is there a specific style of writing you prefer? On this note, is there a framework or approach you deploy when you are writing regardless of genre?

Ginsburg: My background is in comedy. I was in the improv troupe all four years of USC, and then I went through the conservatory program at Second City Hollywood. I’ve written and produced comedy web videos for National Lampoon, Home Shopping Network, and Playboy, and produced a comedy pilot for Oxygen.

In terms of structure, for anything longer than a sketch, I’m a firm believer in the Save The Cat structure, with its 15 story beats and its unconventional approach to genre.

Yanes: One of your ongoing projects is Fake Theme Park. What was the inspiration for it?

Ginsburg: I was a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood for many years. I also gave VIP tours, made announcements at the front gate, hosted the Backdraft attraction, and played a paleontologist outside the Jurassic Park ride.

After I left, I began working at an agency in the then-new world of social media. All these parody and fake and anonymous accounts were popping up, but no one was commenting on theme parks. Between Universal, Disney, Six Flags, and SeaWorld, it seemed like such a rich area for comedy. So I started posting — anonymously at first — and now I’ve been publishing jokes daily for over eleven years.

Yanes: Is there an aspect of Fake Theme Park that fans have gravitated towards the most?

Ginsburg: My intent was to entertain the general public, since everyone knows these parks. But I’ve found the most engaged fans are either current or former theme park employees. Maybe they appreciate my more jaded takes, since they’ve already seen behind the curtain.

Yanes: I am fascinated by theme parks. They are clearly just commercial spaces, but so many people want to lose themselves in these immersive fictions. Why do you think so many people love to experience theme parks?

Ginsburg: I think there are two answers: Parks are old, and they’re new.

Disneyland opened in 1955. The Universal Studio Tour started in 1964. Walt Disney World opened in 1971. So you have multiple generations who grew up with these destinations. Nostalgia plays a big part in the affection people have. If their favorite ride gets closed or changed, it’s like a part of their childhood has been taken away. I understand that feeling. For example, the new King Kong attraction on the Studio Tour is far more thrilling and immersive than what came before. But I still miss that giant puppet with the banana breath that attacked me when I was a guide.

The flip side is that the parks are constantly innovating and providing new kinds of thrills to audiences who are already used to 4K video games, and IMAX films, and TV shows like The Mandalorian whose individual episodes have movie-level budgets. If you want an immersive ride experience, there’s simply nowhere to go but one of the major parks. You can watch Avengers on your phone but you can’t experience the Spider-Man ride on your couch.

Yanes: What are your long-term goals for Fake Theme Park? More books? Maybe a show?

Ginsburg: First, thank you for plugging the books, which are available on Amazon. I’ve also co-written two songs, and turned one into a music video. I’m not sure what will come next. It’s hard to envision a movie or TV series when Universal/NBC/Peacock and ABC/Disney+ are immediately out of the running, since they wouldn’t mock their own properties. Also, there’s the unfortunate fact that the park doesn’t exist, so creating it for the screen would be a big endeavor.

Yanes: When people finish enjoying your Fake Theme Park content, what do you hope they take away from the experience?

Ginsburg: I hope they understand the satire comes from a place of love. I don’t hate my former employer, and I’m not settling any scores. But I’ve experienced the park as a union member, a performer, a Guest Relations rep, and a guest. My wife, whom I met in the breakroom, eventually went into management. So I’ve seen the theme park experience from all sides, and there’s plenty of absurdity to criticize. One of the comments that pleases me the most is along the lines “I thought this was supposed to be a fake account,” meaning that my parody has actually overlapped with reality.

Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?

Ginsburg: Well, I wrote three more films for the Age of Stone and Sky saga that should come out over the next few years. I also have spec TV pilots and feature screenplays that I’m trying to move forward. If any of your readers want to collaborate, they can drop me a line!

Remember, you can learn more about Ginsburg by visiting his homepage and following him on Twitter at @Ginsburg.

And remember to follow me on Twitter at @NicholasYanes, and to follow Scifipulse on twitter at @SciFiPulse and on facebook.

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