Student filmmakers Steve, Flor and Michael shot the twelve episode run of Superhero: The Unofficial Web Series using a mixture of live action sequences, stop-motion animation, and 2-D hand-drawn backgrounds. They refer to their unique approach as creating “a living comic book” — let the five year old in us all rejoice! — and their Kickstarter project will secure them the funds to complete post-production. Despite being on a self-imposed work-around-the-clock schedule to complete the series, director/producer Steve was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the current state of superheroes, rejection letters, and mixed-media filmmaking.
Read the Q&A below. Support the project here.
Why superheroes? What appeals to you about them?
I have been a fan of Superheroes since I was old enough to tie a towel around my neck to serve as an impromptu cape. The idea that a person decides to take what they’ve got, whether it be special abilities, money, or otherwise, and dedicate them to the greater good is really interesting to me. Everyone has a special gift — whether you use it to rule the world or to serve it determines whether you get the label “hero” or “villain.”
What inspired your use of mixed-media? I imagine it’s been a challenging medium to work in — how has it compared to “traditional” filmwork for you?
Mixed media animation has always interested me, and when we were conceiving the project, we knew we wouldn’t have the money to go to a farm and an office or build a full robot and crystal fortress, so we needed to find a creative and cost effective way to bring the story to life. 3D animation is great, but we really wanted to make this look as unique as possible, and having actual miniatures and puppets will really fit into our comic book style. In terms of workflow, stop motion animation is very time consuming, so it takes about as long as computer graphics. The only difference is once our stop motion elements are shot, they need to be composited into the existing shots, so in the end it takes a little longer. But the end result is different, and very worth it. All in all, we wanted to use our low budget as an advantage, and utilize it to think creatively rather than allowing our budget to stop us from telling our story.
Any cool anecdotes from the filming you’ve done so far?
We brought in some extras for an action scene that takes place in the pilot in a bank, and one of the older actors didn’t check his email before arriving on set. He walked into our studio space, saw lots of green material, guys with guns, but no bank. He was very confused. “Where’s the vault door?” “That green box.” I said. “What about the exploding wall?” “You’re looking at it. Use your imagination!” Needless to say, he was very confused.
Best rejection you’ve ever gotten (you don’t have to answer this)?
Rejection is a funny thing — they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; well in this instance, what didn’t kill our Web Series made us more determined! After we wrapped principal photography on the series, Flor (my producing partner) and myself left the country on another project, and we left our series in the hands of a very capable artist. Due to the remote areas we were working in, our access to computers was limited, so we could only assume the work was moving along without a hitch. Upon returning (almost five months later) I called up the artist to see if we had a rough cut, as was his goal. I’ll never forget the phone call — “Yea…I don’t have time to finish this. Sorry guys.” By finish, he meant “do more more than three shots.” So we were back to square one, but were resolved to find new, better artists. And sure enough, once buzz got going for the series, I reached out to artists/fans around the world who will be working on the project remotely, and their work is far beyond what I could have imagined. And we’re still looking! Success is the greatest revenge I guess…
If you could have a superpower, what and why?
If I could have a superpower it would definitely be super-speed. If you could go really, really fast, it would negate any other powers — you could walk on water, move out of the way of bullets, be basically invisible — it would also be really helpful when it comes to making deadlines…
How has your use of Kickstarter gone so far?
Kickstarter has been an unbelievable asset to our production — after uploading our materials to the site, we found a huge outpouring of support — both financial and otherwise — that really reminded us why we’re making the project in the first place: for superhero fans everywhere. Our ability to connect directly with people who want to see the project come to life is invaluable, and we would never have been able to finish this without having Kickstarter in our corner.
The most amazing part of the experience so far has been fans who email us and say “Hey — I don’t really have money to help right now, but good luck! I’m pulling for you!” Honestly, support (the non-financial kind) from people like that is what reminds us why we do this — from one fan to another, we appreciate people taking the time send the thumbs up. We had (and are still having) so much fun making this series, and we hope people have as much fun watching. Up, up, and away!