Sandy Collora

Sandy Collora
Growing up as a comic book artist, was directing a natural progression of your talent?
I think so. I did more artwork for movies than comics, though... I got into doing creature design and FX as a way to eventually get to the director's chair. I couldn't afford to go to film school, so that's the path that was available to me. Like everything I've done in this industry, what I've accomplished, I've earned. Nothing has ever been given or handed to me. I've done many, many jobs on the set before moving into directing. I learned a lot about filmmaking first hand, by doing the jobs of the people I knew I'd be someday directing. By learning as much as I could about every aspect of the process, I felt I'd be a more effective and knowledgeable director.

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.

Batman Dead End
BATMAN: DEAD END was a massive hit amongst the fan boys and showed that the public wanted a darker version of Batman. Do you think this had any influence over Warners' decision to make BATMAN BEGINS?
My mother always told me to never answer a question with a question, but in this case, I must make an exception; Do you think that it's mere coincidence that after all those years after BATMAN AND ROBIN, that they finally decided to a dark, brooding version of Batman, right after BATMAN DEAD END tore up the web? I mean, c'mon, call a spade a spade. They saw the reaction to my film and were convinced that a darker version of that character was what the audience wanted, and could totally work. It was proof of concept. It's just that simple. You have to remember, at that time, I wasn't some 21-year-old kid, fresh out of film school or that had just fallen off the turnip truck. I was working in the industry already - I knew people that were actually working at WB and DC at that time. I knew what was being said behind closed doors about my film and about me.

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.

Hunter Prey
There are clear influences of STAR WARS in HUNTER PREY. Is that inevitable for someone growing up in the 70s and 80s?
Absolutely. No question... How could it not? Those films WERE my childhood. They're so ingrained, it would be impossible not to be inspired by them. I'm paying homage not only to STAR WARS, but also to all the great sci-fi films of the '70s that came before me and paved the way. That's what Lucas did... Look at STAR WARS; visually, it's heavily influenced by 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. The story is quite influenced by the adventure serials he grew up with. He took that archetype, plugged in the visual stylings of 2001, and put his own spin on it. That's what filmmakers do. No one creates in a vacuum - except maybe Stanley Kubrick, but he's in a league all by himself.

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.

Hunter Prey
Now you made your first feature, would you like to make something more ambitious or are you happy working on a relatively low budget and catering for a specific fan base?
Doesn't really matter. If I like a project or write something that gets some traction, I'll make it for whatever the budgetary parameters given to me. Of course, I'd like to have bigger budgets. What ambitious filmmaker wouldn't? I mean c'mon, HUNTER PREY is less than a half-million-dollar movie... I'll always do the best I can with what I have, but I've realized it's nice to have a little more money than that, especially because I like high concept ideas. Bottom line; I just want to be working, making films, entertaining people, expressing myself and my point of view.

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 .

Related Content

Around the web