Grayson: The Review
When I was making the SHH Fan Film list for my article: Fan Films A-G0-GO. I had list of films that have caught my attention over the past few months. I wanted to spotlight just a few for the first article, I was all but ready to post, when at the last minuet I stumbled upon GRAYSON.
After receiving a dozen emails from Hypeâ€™sters about â€œthis cool Robin movieâ€ My gut reaction was â€˜who wants to see a film about Robin, heâ€™s the sidekickâ€, but I thought I would check it out. After seeing the film, and then realizing that it was made by a friend of mine that I hadnâ€™t talked to in years, well I had to add it to the list, Pronto!
First off, GRAYSON is done as a trailer for a film that doesnâ€™t exist. (so donâ€™t ask where the real movie is â€“ there ainâ€™t one) Most fan films are done without any legal right to the character(s), so donâ€™t be fooled if you see a legit looking â€œComing Soonâ€ tagged onto the front of a fan film. I was totally blown away by Grayson, it caught me by surprise, it held my interest, it moved, it was fun, it kicked ass, and looked professional!
The story is simple: BATMAN has met an untimely end. By who? There lies the mystery. Dick Grayson, now a family man married to former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, they both live the suburban life with their young daughter. Dick hasnâ€™t put on the tights in years, and has 'retired' for the sidekick business. But after the death of his mentor he is forced back into action. My first thought about the costume was OKAY, heâ€™s gonna wear the old familiar red, yellow & green outfit, that could look a bit odd â€“ a grown MAN wearing the TEEN WONDERâ€™s togs, but to be honest once I was into the film I never gave it a second thought. The action staged here by writer, star and director John Fiorella is unbelievable! My jaw dropped more than a few times. Granted there is nothing as gutsy as Dan Poole hanging seven stories up a building in full Spidey attire with nothing but the rope heâ€™s holding onto for safety, but Fiorella comes close in a few action packed scenes.
The film is shot like a trailer, so the full scoop of the story is left largely to your own imagination, but the images and teases we are given really make you wish this were a real trailer for a real film. And that is the sign of a good trailer - DAMN YOU JOHN FIORELLA! The film does contain quite an ambitious gallery of heroes & villains. Superman is the most obvious, as he has a important roll in the film, there is Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Joker, Riddler & Penguin but the most unexpected is a 5 second shot of the Green Lantern, these brief shots really make GRAYSON stand out and a lot of fun to watch.
Overall the level of professionalism, and thought given to the â€˜storyâ€™ and attention to detail really make this fan film stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Grayson: The Interview
I was able to finally hook up with John Fiorella and ask him a few questions about the making of Grayson.
What was the motivation behind making GRAYSON?
JF: Having spent the last nine years writing scripts and making shorts to please studio executives, I decided to put something on film that I wanted to see. The reality was, when I had a script for an idea - producers wanted a treatment. When I had a treatment, they wanted a script. And when I had both, they wanted a short film!! It got to be too much. For all the talking that goes on about making movies in this town, so few people are actually making them.
The fan reaction has been great towards Grayson, is it what you expected?
JF: Wow - absolutely beyond expectation. I'm getting hundreds of emails a day! From the soldiers fighting in Iraq, to a first grade class in Korea! The other day I got an email from a priest in Rome - a PRIEST IN ROME for crying out loud! The support and reaction is out of this world...
When you thought up the idea for Grayson, did you have a larger "script" in your head? Or did you just write & shoot what you needed for a mock trailer?
JF: I have the whole idea for the bigger picture (and believe me, it's bigger) Whether or not I'll get the chance to put it down on paper - that's up to DC/Warners.
Grayson gave me goosebumps... I'm a cynical 42 year old, that's not supposed to happen!
JF: Goosebumps â€“ awesome!
What was the toughest shot in the trailer?
JF: The toughest shot... probably the underwater shot. Normally, I would have found an above ground pool with a small window in the side of it (pretty standard), so we could set up the camera on dry land. However, I wasnâ€™t finding many above ground pool owners who were willing to let me jump into their pool wrapped in chains (Iâ€™m a good producer, but not that good!). So I had to use the pool in my apartment complex. First making the â€œKleenex Boxâ€ (*see note), which collapsed under the water pressure. Then I fashioned the â€œArkamissâ€ which managed to work.
*(note: the Kleenex box & Arkamiss are detailed in the making of Grayson, â€œPieces of the Puzzleâ€)
The film looks very professional, what did you shoot it on?
JF: 16mm. Itâ€™s the anemographic lens which makes the film look that pretty - well that and the fact that (my partner) Gabe Sabloff is a walking light meter! Keep in mind that most of the budget was spent on the FILM TRANSFER, which averages about 300 bucks an hour (gulp). Yes, you can find a cheaper rate around town, but color correcting is an art form and often, you get what you pay for.
Was Grayson shot MOS? (without sound)
JF: Yup. Thereâ€™s some pretty funny video footage of Gabe and myself re-enacting all the scenes, all the little sounds, like pouring the orange juice and the cops running. The bigger sounds were lifted from real movies (T3, X-Men, Die Hard). I mustâ€™ve rented about 80 DVDs to get all the sound effects. And the voices are all added after the fact too in post.
Hereâ€™s some interesting trivia: Gabe is the voice of superman! We slowed it down in post to give it a deeper resonance. And if you see Brian Bethel walking down the street, donâ€™t ask him to do the joker laugh. Cause thatâ€™s me!
The ROBIN costume, why this version and not "Nightwing"?
JF: Nightwing isnâ€™t a character Iâ€™m really familiar with. Iâ€™ve made a place for him in the storyline of Grayson, and I can appreciate Dick Grayson growing up and wanting to do his own thingâ€¦ but for me, itâ€™s like picking up a Steel comic when you want to read about Superman.
What guy hasn't dreamed about racing down the freeway in the BATMOBILE, what was that like in full ROBIN gear?
JF: Honestly, that shot was way too chaotic for me to actually enjoy. Reason being, Gabe was holding the camera over the street! He squeezed down, in front of the car seat, and then held the camera against the mirror! He couldnâ€™t see through the lens, so we had no idea if I was framed correctly - and on top of that I was racing after Semi-trucks so that I could pull up alongside them! Remember, Iâ€™m dressed as Robin, so if I get pulled over, the cops would have probably impounded my cousinâ€™s car, taken the camera and fined me for endangering other motorists. Like I said, too chaotic!
The roof jump, are you nuts?
JF: Oh yeah, that was really dumb too. I practiced it in the costume in the park, but well, thereâ€™s no justifying it, that was moronic! Letâ€™s just say I have a newfound appreciation for Jackie Chan!
There are plenty of guest heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern) were there any others you wanted to include?
JF: I really wanted to include the Flash, but I couldnâ€™t afford to make the costume and well thereâ€™s a couple other heroes that are in the feature length idea, but (even while the chances are slim) in the event that I get to make it, I canâ€™t ruin the surprise!
The actor playing Clark / Superman looks awesome, who is he?
JF: Paul Hasenyager - awesome guy. One of the nicest people youâ€™ll ever meet. (and a pretty talented actor on top of that).
Your Joker is by far the creepiest ever put on film - any particular version inspire you?
JF: Jim Lee, Alex Ross, Frank Miller (The Three Tenors). When it comes to the Joker, these guys have conjured some truly frightening imagery. I tried to squeeze aspects from all of their Jokers into one.
Did you get hurt doing any of the stunts?
JF: No, anything I did I made sure to plan ahead of time. For example: in the underwater scene I had a lifeguard on hand, the chains were plastic, and I rehearsed it thirty times before I got in costume. So if youâ€™re a young filmmaker out there be smart about what youâ€™re doing and remember that the actors are never at risk of getting hurt (unless theyâ€™re not thinking clearly and they jump between buildings! Man thatâ€™s putting a kybosh on my Safety-first message!
You shot most of the film in your apartment parking garage - Your neighbors - Love or hate you?
JF: Oh man, grinders making sparks, hoses spewing rain, and me in the cape and mask running around plugging in extension cords all over the place. Heck, if the neighbors are entitled to throw a bongo party at three in the morning and I would have to grin and bear it.
Most fan films focus on the main heroes, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man: what made you go with the sidekick, ROBIN?
JF: I guess because I thought this would make an interesting story. Robin however, without Batman, is not really a movie Iâ€™d want to see. The two go hand and hand.
If you and any shot to do over again, what would it be?
JF: Man, the shot that always bugs me is the simple shot of me walking down the corridor. I wanted to do all three shots of me walking away from the camera (walking toward the gates, toward Wayne Manor, and down the hallway) with the image of me dissolving on top of myself, to draw a comparison, like the window placement in the opening of Citizen Kane. However, we shot that at USC and since we were trespassing, I couldnâ€™t push my luck.
Funny story, to get that shot, I put the camera on this librarianâ€™s desk - with her still sitting there! She was eyeing me like crazy, but I never looked at her. Instead, I just started moving things off her desk that were in the way! I moved her plant, I moved her computer monitor and then, because the shot was to low, I started piling books on her desk to put under the camera. Finally, when the shot was close enough to working, Gabe got behind the camera and just before I called action, the librarian stood up, folded her arms and asked, â€œAre you guys with the film crew?â€ I looked at Gabe, Gabe looked at me, and I said, Ummâ€¦ yes. To which she replied, â€œWell, youâ€™re early!â€ and stormed off. As it turns out, a major studio had rented out the place and was gearing up to take over the library in an hour! Ahhhh, independent filmmaking.
Any response from Warner's? Get a cease and desist yet?
JF: Nothing from Warnerâ€™s yet, but itâ€™s only been a week. Who knows with any luck, this will open up a door over there and lead to bigger and better things.
JF:As far as what's next, there's a lot of balls juggling in the air at the moment. Itâ€™s too early to speculate as to which project I'll be going forward with. As far as Grayson is concerned, of the three major agencies Iâ€™ve met with regarding Grayson, all the agents have felt the need to impress upon me the "million to one odds" against Grayson from developing further â€“ a statement which seems a bit ridiculous to me. Of course the odds are a million to one! Hell, the odds were a million to one against me pulling off Grayson to the level of success itâ€™s having now. The way I see it, at the very least itâ€™s worth an attempt. And if in the end, Grayson serves as merely a demo reel, then so be it, itâ€™s already opened up some incredible doors. So, to the agents and executives Iâ€™m scheduled to meet with in the coming week, save me the speech about the odds - a million to one â€“ obviously Iâ€™m the kind of guy who takes that betâ€¦
SHH would like to thank John for his time and for a great Fan Film!
Please check out www.UntamedCinema.com for more info on John Fiorella.
If you havenâ€™t see the film click here to: WATCH GRAYSON - I also highly recommend you watch the making of Grayson â€œPieces of the Puzzleâ€ while you are there..
Source: Chris "Excelsior" Mason