Fan films have been around for almost as long as home video cameras have been affordable – fans dressing up and acting out their favorite scenes from the comics. With digital technology so advanced it seems that just about all of us can have a go at producing our very own ‘masterpiece’. Hell I did, it was for a college project, which I got an A grade and passed my course on the strength of that film. It was Spider-man, I was only 16… that’s my excuse.
The fan film was given a boost last year by the arrival of Sandy Collora’s Batman: Deadend – a short film that pitted the Dark Knight against The Joker, Predators and an Alien! Loved by Fans, Critics and Comic creators, a follow up was just a matter of time.
Cut to July 2004 and Sandy Collora unleashes his World’s Finest trailer. Ripped right from the pages of DC Comics, this is a fan boy’s dream. “Collora has done it again” I cried!
Borrowing from storylines from the comics he has given us a trailer to a film that will never get made, and one that would without a doubt make more money than Spider-Man 2 and Hellboy together.
The trailer starts with Superman, and introduces a problem that threatens the whole world – Luthor wants to be President. Superman needs help, and it comes in the form of Gotham’s most feared crime fighter – Batman.
Sandy Collora sticks very close to the look of the comic book and doesn’t force anything on the screen that shouldn’t be there. The shots are lifted from the pages of the comics – in fact most of them are lifted directly from super star Alex Ross and I dare you to see how many you can spot.
The trailer is clearly a love letter to the characters, and it shows Warner Bros up in just about every way possible.
I spoke to Sandy about this ‘fan film’, his influences and more…
How long have you been a comic book fan?
All my life… I was into comics before I can even read them. Batman was always me favourite.
What titles are you reading at the moment?
Batman, Superman, Aquaman, JLA, Supreme Power… I also love indie books. I just Got Doug Tennapel’s Tommysaurus Rex at The Con yesterday… It’s brilliant.
Do you have any artists or writer that are your favourites or who inspire you?
Ross, Bisley, Miller, Jeph Loeb, Alan Moore…
Why make Batman: Deadend?
I remember when the news and pictures from Batman Deadend first leaked out onto the net. I remember the excitement from the fans and people in comic shops here in the UK; let alone what it must have been like in the US. What was that like for you to know your short film had “taken over the world”?
It was all pretty overwhelming really… None of us expected it to go that nuts… It’s actually happening all over again now with the Superman/Batman one, and it’s still totally surreal… The producers, and all the talented cast and crew that worked on both films with me are really excited that we’re 2 for 2. It would be great to have the same buzz when I do my feature. I’m hoping that the fans won’t mind plunking down their 10 bucks as opposed to downloading my movies for free.
What movies inspire you? Directors? Actors?
Star Wars, Raiders, Aliens, Blade Runner, The City of Lost Children, Gladiator, Amelie, A Clockwork Orange, The Wizard of Oz—
Ridley Scott, Jean Pierre Juenet, Kubrick, Spielberg, Cameron, Guillermo DelToro–
Morgan Freeman, Ron Pearlman, Michael Wincott, Russel Crowe, Michael Biehn, Audrey Tatou–
What comic book movie or TV series have you enjoyed?
I enjoyed Spiderman and Spidey2, Hellboy, The Crow, Blade 2, The Burton
Batman films, Richard Donner’s Superman, X-Men and X2… I don’t watch much TV.
You stick very close to current comic book appearances and roots of Batman (and Superman), were you not tempted to change or adapt anything? Put your own spin on things?
Not really… I have my own ideas for original projects I’m developing… I do more creative things there because they don’t have any source material… Certain things are what they are, and should be respected as such.
Do you have any advice for anyone following in your footsteps, and are thinking about making their own fan film?
Go do it.
What did you shoot your films on? Film/Video etc?
35mm Film. My DP, Vince “the green one” Toto is unbelievable… And he’s FAST. Nobody can believe how much we shoot in such a short time, and how good Vince makes it all look.
How long was the pre production process on both films
It was longer for Dead End, that one was 5 months… We had to build all those creatures and make the set. There was less to build on this one, so there wasn’t as much pre-production.
How long did it take to shoot them?
Dead End was 4 days, World’s Finest was 3…
How long was the post production process? What did you edit on?
Post was the same on both actually, roughly 2 months. My editor Toby Divine cut both films on Final Cut Pro… He’s amazing, as is the rest of my crew.
How much ended up on the cutting room floor?
Not much at all on BDE, quite a bit actually on the WF trailer, we shot so much cool stuff.
Do you have any plans to follow up with more comic book films?
Time will tell I guess… I have a lot of plans for a lot of things right now… None of them are shorts though. I’m really excited about doing a feature.
Just a question for the crazed Superman fan in me… if you were directing the new Superman film, how would you do it?
I think the way Superman and his world are portrayed in the World’s Finest Trailer is the answer to that question… I’d have more money than 12 grand of course, to do the flying stuff better and so forth. I’d also set the whole thing in the 40s or 50s and have him fighting giant robots that were invading the earth.
Was the Worlds Finest Trailer based partly on the Lois Lane/Batman/Superman break into the White House storyline?
Yes and no… The story line comes from a lot of different things… The B/S animated movie, the Luthor for President and WF comics.
Are most of the actors involved friends? Or did you put out a casting call?
Pretty much friends, I know a lot of fitness models and actors..
And finally… would you do it all again?
In a heartbeat.
A big thanks to Sandy for sharing his time with me, and answering a few of questions. Check out his site www.collorastudios.com for more information and also www.capedwonder.com to download the World’s Finest trailer!!
“The greatest hero the world has ever known, has sworn to uphold three things…”
We see a shot of Clark Kent, complete with raincoat and hat,
Clark Kent against a wall, the light from street lamplights up like a spot light, he takes off his hat
Clark removes his glasses and starts to remove his tie
“And the American way.”
Clark Rips open his shirt to reveal the famous S symbol.
All this to the music by John Williams, I am sold. The images in this opening sequence are pure Alex Ross, this is his comic book panels come to life.
What makes this trailer so good is that Director Sandy Collora and his team have brought to life the comic book panels, the angles and lighting is a direct lift from the comics. There are no crazy ‘Michael Bay school of film’ angles because it doesn’t need them to make this look cool.
The opening sequence reintroduces the Man of Steel to moviegoers; it’s been a while since he has been on screen so Collora shows us immediately he is alive and kicking. Using the Superman theme from Chris Reeve movies is the only way to go in my books. Everyone who has heard of Superman knows that is his tune – Brian Singer take note, you should keep this music – anyway the trailer sets up the Luthor for President storyline and like the comic, Batman turns up to help.
We are then treated to clips and images from this would be film (Warner will never make something this good, or true to the comic – but I have faith in Singer and Nolan, they will deliver good movies). Shots direct from the comics, the Lex suit – which looks excellent on screen – The BatMobile, Two-Face, Lois dancing with Bruce, Superman flying and a superb build up to the use of a Kryptonite bullet. I don’t want to give too much away so head over to www.capedwonder.com and download it (While you are there check out Mike Hill’s Super Christopher Reeve Full Size bust).
The trailer features Michael O’Hearn as Superman, with Clark Bartram returning as Batman. Both guys fill their costumes out, and I mean out! These guys are bodybuilders, and while I understand the argument (around the web) that Superman may be too big, I have to disagree. This is Sandy Collora’s comic book movie, it is a representation of the comic book and Superman is that big in the comics, see Superman/Batman issues 1 to 6 for evidence of this. If you look at the actor’s vital statistics he is 6’3, like Superman, and weighs 240, Superman is 225. Not a lot in it really, this is how the comic book Superman would look. If I have one complaint it’s make Jimmy ginger, he is the one comic book character that I could have been before I got tall and buff (ish). Batman looks great too, but we know that from Sandy’s other short – Batman: Deadend.
Michael plays his Superman very strong, but you can see the vulnerable side of the man of steel in his eyes, you can see some Chris Reeve in his face and the human qualities of his performance in Michaels’. Clark Bartram remains excellent as Batman, gruff voice intact and mean streak visible to all. Overall the casting is excellent and each actor portrays their characters to a tee even in the short glimpses we get of them.
The editing on this trailer makes it very exciting – we see just enough of each action shot to be interested and the pacing is very good. All done on Final Cut Pro too, there is hope for me yet. (I use the same software, so maybe I could spruce up my Spider-Man from 7 years ago… mmm)
I am trying hard to find something I don’t like about the trailer, I don’t want this to seem like a one sided review, but apart from the non-ginger Jimmy I can’t. Batman: Deadend was better, all the work that went into that, and the wow/surprise factor made it more exciting – but this good. I would love to see the team do a solo Superman adventure, similar to Deadend.
I really believe Sandy’s way is best way to do a fan film, make a trailer or a short under 10 mins – quality not quantity. I have definitely been inspired by Collora and can’t wait to make my own short or trailer, I have the filming tools I just need to befriend some body builders and learn how to make great looking superheroes costumes.
Check out this trailer and let us know what you think, remember it’s a live comic book – not a Hollywood movie. Sandy and team should be very proud, I loved it and look forward to seeing more.
4 bullets out of 5
I am off to download other fan films now, I have just finished Grayson – another trailer this time featuring a dead Batman and a retired Robin returning to avenge his death, it looks awesome!
PS: I played this trailer to a few of my video students (and the other tutors) and didn’t tell them it wasn’t real until after they had seen it. I can’t tell you how excited they all were, and they are not comic books fans at all. They all thought this movie was coming out and were very disappointed when I told them it wasn’t.
PPS: If you have made a comic book fan film, contact me, send me a copy, send me link and maybe we could do an interview!!