Did working for Stan Winston have a big influence on your filmmaking aspirations? Of course. That was my first job. I was still a teenager when I started working there. It was whole new world... I learned so much from Stan and all the exceptionally talented artists that have worked there. It truly was a magical place. As a matter of fact, I'd have to say that my two biggest influences in this industry were Stan and Jim Cameron. I got to work with Cameron on THE ABYSS and even did some pre-production art for him when he was going to do SPIDER-MAN. He's extraordinary in every way. I hung on every word he said and every move he made. I even snuck on to the set when I wasn't supposed to be there, just to watch him work. His filmmaking knowledge and prowess is almost inhuman. Both he and Stan were quite influential in my early years as an artist and filmmaker.
Why do you think precocious artistic talents lean towards sci-fi and fantasy? Because there's more opportunity to explore otherworldy ideas and designs in the fantastic. I've never been someone who wants to make films about what you can see every day, on any street corner. I'm not a "Neat little slice of life" movie kind of guy. I wanna make films about aliens, monsters, far way solar systems and the supernatural.
This subject has been beaten to death and people can believe whatever they want... The bottom line is; I did it first and no one can argue that. I put a dark, gritty, real, living creature of the night on film. Batman in the rain, with the oversized cape, eye protection, disguising his voice, on 35mm film for the first time... Period. Now that being said, I absolutely loved BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT and was very public about that fact.
Were you disappointed you didn't get asked to do a Batman feature, or do you think you were not ready to take on such a film? Not at all... That's actually a big misconception. I think a lot people just assumed that's what I wanted or was expecting, but it's definitely not true. Though I certainly expected to be given at least a low budget feature, I didn't expect to be given a film of that magnitude at that point in my career. You know, a big franchise... That doesn't mean I couldn't have done it... Granted, I could do a much better job of it now, seven years later and after I've made a feature length film, but I believe I could have done it then too, no question. They made the right decision going with Christopher Nolan. He's exceptional and so are the films. I think the fact that he's such a fan of Ridley Scott's dystopic masterpiece, BLADE RUNNER, had a lot to with his success in handling Batman and Gotham City, etc... He's got a great eye and all the right influences. Brilliant filmmaker. Simply brilliant.
Has BATMAN: DEAD END been a hindrance or a help to your filmmaking aspirations? Both. A help in the fact that the film was well received and got a lot of buzz... It definitely put me on the map, but it's also been a hindrance because people expect everything I do now, to be superhero based and have that level of success... To be honest, it's a real problem that didn't really make itself obvious until this past Comic Con in San Diego. As I was walking around the con, promoting the film and giving out flyers, trying to get people to come to the screening, pretty much everyone that knew who I was, or saw "From the director of BATMAN DEAD END" on the front of the flyer, asked; "Oh cool!!! Is it a Batman movie?" They seemed disappointed that it wasn't Batman or some other popular character they recognized, and they didn't come. Response to the screening was very good, but it was nowhere near as full as I would have liked.
They just seemed kind of disinterested. I don't know if that was just the SDCC crowd, or the fact that HUNTER PREY isn't a big name, recognizable, type of higher profile studio project. They don't understand how much of a low budget, independent film HUNTER PREY really is. They have no idea how hard it is to deliver cinema like that for such a tiny budget. Batman or not, all my films come from my heart and I'm very passionate about what I do. I care... HUNTER PREY, to me, will always be the little film that could. There were SO many obstacles that had to be overcome to make that film, it's almost unbelievable... It's a simple film, with a simple story and simple characters. The approach I took with making the picture is very simple as well. It's a very handmade film, the epitome of indie, guerilla, sci-fi cinema. It's a grass roots kind of thing, that doesn't really have a "hook" like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. It just is what it is... People will either like it or not.
Do you think there is a place for fan films, or are IP and copyright restrictions hampering young filmmakers and artists from exploring ideas and expressing themselves? I don't know... That isn't up to me.
The film is a simple idea with a minimal cast. Your skills as a production designer helped make it look much better than the average low budget movie. Do you consider design the most important aspect for enhancing production values, or are there other considerations? Yes, I do. I'm an artist. I'll always be an artist. The way my films look is extremely important me. But that is innate in me... It just naturally kind of happens when I'm making a movie. I'm really looking forward to focusing more on story and character on future projects. I think there needs to be a balance. Films should of course tell a compelling story, but I think the visual aspect is important too. Otherwise, people would just read books or go to plays... There would be no need for the cinema. It's a visual medium.
Is there a place for fan fiction/movies outside of YouTube? Or is copyright/IP/licensing killing the chances of young artists/filmmakers to explore their creativity? Let's face it, nearly all Marvel and DC comics nowadays are licensed fan fiction. Only time will tell... There are so many things that happen in this industry, that are quite frankly, beyond my comprehension. I literally cannot believe some of the things that are popular on TV and in the cinema, or the direction certain aspects of the industry are going. In a lot of ways, it's very unpredictable... In others, it's quite predictable. I'll say this; If the studios see a way to make money from something, they'll exploit it, no matter how counterproductive it is to the artistic growth of the medium.
Is it important these days to be a polymath to get ahead in the competitive world of filmmaking? I honestly don't know... If I did, I'd be farther ahead, wouldn't I?
HUNTER PREY is out on DVD on 6 September .