Mike Pecci writes;
I believe that there is a way to create a better and more successful Punisher on screen. Not just for the comic book fans, but for fans of action films, fans of violence, and fans of the iconic antihero. Frank Castle is more than a man with guns – he is a dead man on a mission. He needs to finally be represented with respect. I believe I can do this. So I made a short fan film called The Dead Can't Be Distracted.
Like so many more before me, I have been a fan of comic books since I was a child. At around 12 years old, my parents were concerned with my lack of interest in books. In an act of desperation my mother purchased a few random comics from the local drug store. "Try these", she said. "Maybe comics will get you to read?" Those early issues of Amazing Spiderman (starting around issue #337) would expose me to visual storytelling, start my love affair with lighting and color, and would plant the influence I use every day as a photographer and director. Marvel comics started it all for me. It's ironic how twenty-three years later that same company would clamp down on my creative freedom.
My goal was to create a pilot for a potential web series, a pitch film to Marvel and the fans. An attempt to show everyone that the Punisher doesn't have to be a lumbering psycho that aimlessly empties rounds into a room full of thugs. He doesn't need useless supporting characters that just spit out shitty pop culture references.
Where can you see it? You can't. Some of you may have caught a glimpse in the quick teaser we released online or on the posters of the characters that had spread through the comic book websites and film blogs. The teaser alone started getting instant notice and acclaim with headlines like "Better than anything Hollywood has done." Fans were writing to me every day asking to see it. You can only imagine how excited everyone involved with the film was as we all raced to wrap up the shorts' post-production. Then it happened – I received a letter from Marvel!
"While we appreciate your affection for the character, we must demand that you immediately stop your unauthorized use, advertising, sale and/or distribution of any production of The Punisher or any other Marvel character-based films therefor, and any other use of the images, likenesses, artwork or other intellectual property owned by Marvel."
They demanded I take down all materials surrounding the film and told me that I was not allowed to release it. According to Marvel it would confuse the audience into believing that it's an official Marvel production. At first I was flattered that the quality of our work might even compare to the millions they spend on production and advertising, but then the reality of it all set in. Marvel legal was demanding that I don't release the film! Since when does Marvel go after fan films? Wasn't there a recent and heavily promoted Punisher fan film with Thomas Jane? What could I do about this? Before I try to answer that, let me start at the beginning.
A few months prior to the filming of TDCBD, I was reading the recent Greg Rucka run of the Punisher. For the first time ever, I found myself completely lost in a Punisher story and in love with the character. Rucka's version is about a man who has been changed by trauma, both emotionally and physically. He is a younger Castle (he talks about him being a vet from the recent middle east wars instead of Vietnam) who is at war and is taking a lot of damage. The first thing I noticed was how beat up Castle was and how long it took him to heal. He loses an eye early on in the series – that's new! The story gripped me. It's not a story of revenge; in fact this story catches up with him well after the fact. We meet a man who has deadened himself to emotion, to relationships, a man focused on tactical strategy and efficiency. Greg then introduces Seargent Cole-Alves, a woman who has lost her family the same way Frank did. She on the other hand, is actively seeking revenge and teams up with Castle with the hope to learn how to get it. Frank, however, looks down on her and her inability to control her emotions. He really only keeps her around because he can use her military skills. The story focuses on her struggle with her emotions and how detrimental they can be when you are a Punisher.
It's a genius way of showing us Frank's back story and development without flashbacks and constant reminders that his family was killed. I always hate how in the other Punisher books they constantly had to remind us that Frank's family was gone, and how he was constantly pining for them. He already got his revenge and he is over it. Castle now is at war and it's the only reason why he is alive. Rucka doesn't cheapen the story with some flimsy romance or physical attraction either, and the military speak between them both makes it all feel like a tactical operation. I was hooked! At that time I was in the middle of a music video production that had a scene that required us to tie up a man and torture him using electroshock treatment. The scene looked awesome and I remember looking in the monitor and saying, "I need to make a Punisher film!"
STEP 01: FINANCING
So I can't show you the film, but I can tell you how I made it. I am so grateful for the experiences it gave me and I hope you might be able to learn something from them. Fan films are not about profit. I firmly believe that you shouldn't make a dime off of someone else's intellectual property. For us it was never about making money, it was about proving that Frank could be cool again. The first hurdle for me was funding. No one in his or her right mind would want to fund something without a return, so I turned to my business partner (Ian McFarland) and pitched the idea of self-financing and producing it through our company McFarland & Pecci. It would only take a small amount of loot to pull it off and working with our best shooting team, some good casting, and calling in a lot of favors. We decided to put aside enough money for two days of shooting (giving it a short running time) and I would come up with creative ways to make the most out of the small budget we had using camera and lighting tricks. I also knew that we needed the perfect actors.
STEP 02: CASTING
With any production, no matter how large or small, its success depends heavily on pre-production, the creative vision, and the actors. Our film needed talent. Good talent. Not just actors I could afford, but also professionals that can work in my style of filming. I knew early on that TDCBD wouldn't have much dialog, so I needed faces on screen that would captivate the audience.
My first choice was Evalena Marie. This gorgeous and talented independent actress caught my attention with her film 'Serena and the Ratts.' She had a shaved head, a mean snarl, and was the perfect punk rock action star. I reached out to her a year earlier and begged her to shoot a scene for my Grindhouse DVD. We spent an afternoon in a dark basement with a chainsaw and yoga pants creating one of the most dynamic clips I had ever filmed. This dorky and skinny girl could step in front of a camera and transform into a strong female presence equal to Ripley or Sarah Conner. I was in love and there was no other choice for Cole.
So who would we cast as Frank? I wanted to stay true to Marco Checchetto's illustrations and cast a younger Castle. I loved the beard, the scarring, and physical abuse that the character continuously suffered in the book. I didn't want a Friday the 13th type Punisher that could walk through walls and hold up 6-foot men with one hand. I wanted our Punisher to be limber, sleek and smart. We needed a man that could take a hit, but would need a few days to recover from it.
Enter Nick Apostolides. I had seen him brilliantly lead a cast of astronauts in a student sci-fi film and was blown away. He has the ability to catch our attention with just a glance, he can steal a scene from the best of them – but more importantly, he can captivate us without saying a word. Nick loses himself in his roles to become a character and his commitment to his craft rivals that of Frank Castle himself. Getting him to agree to come on board made me realize that we had to shoot this!!!
STEP 03: PRE-PRODUCTION
I have spent years developing as both a director and a photographer. I grew up loving neo-noir, grindhouse, and 80s & 90s action and horror films.
Comic books have been the biggest influence on everything I create. I love how the medium is dependent on the picture, framing, and composition to tell a story. I was born to shoot a comic book film. One thing I gripe about all the time is that a lot of the big budget films these days tend to lean towards reality when it comes to the look. The footage is clean, the light is white, and the framing is more functional than anything else. A lot of the big comic book films feel more like and expensive TV show than a film. Imagine if Ridely Scott, David Fincher, or one of the hundreds of great visual directors made one? Of course there are beautiful exceptions to the rule, films like SIN CITY, ROAD TO PERDITION, CONSTANTINE, and BLADE 2 push the limits of cinematography (even the crappy WARZONE film did some cool color stuff). Generally, I feel like Marvel tends to play it safe and these giant budget productions strangle the art out of stories created in an artist's medium. Since we were making a fan film, I wanted to show the fans that comic book movies don't have to look safe. They can be dangerous! Vivid colors, heavy grain, experimental lighting, and intentional framing could still be done right. Even on our budget. I also wanted our film to feel timeless, make it feel like the films I grew up loving in the late eighties. I wanted it to "smell" like a John Carpenter classic with a sharp modern edge. It just so happens that around this time, I was obsessing over the resurgence of eighties synth pop and couldn't stop listening to Australia's electronic band POWERGLOVE. I later found out that POWERGLOVE had done soundtrack work for Hobo with a Shotgun and were in production for the score of the recent video game FarCry 3: Blood Dragon. These guys had somehow captured the sound from my youth and put it to this dark driving beat. They had to be in my movie somewhere!
STEP 04: DESIGNING THE FILM
My team and I spent a few weeks designing the look of the film. I knew that we only had two days on set and that meant keeping the locations to a minimum. I also knew that the film was going to be short and sweet so I wanted to cram as much cool looking stuff into it as possible. The plan was to film a scene that primarily took place in one of Frank's safe houses and showcased the chemistry between Nick and Evalena. We had to have guns in the film, but I didn't want the whole thing to be just a gunfight sequence. Filming an action scene the right way takes days to do, and on micro budgets you run the risk of it looking amateurish. You don't want to cut from really awesome acting and beautiful dialog scenes to bad choreography and crappy stunts. I also hate using fake (non-firing) guns. You can always tell when an actor is holding a plastic gun because their posture is different. When an actor holds something dangerous they have more respect for it and that shows on screen. When the gun actually fires it causes all sorts of natural ripple effects throughout the actors clothing and body making us believe that they are in danger. Anytime an actor fires a gun it's gotta be real! Luckily, my partner Ian and I have a relationship with a company that makes awesome blank guns. These guys had sent us some real cool front firing blank guns for our production of an As I Lay Dying video. These weapons were designed specifically for film and when fired they would launch a huge muzzle flash out of the barrel. It also spits out the empty shell and has sufficient recoil for the actor. After testing them I excitably said "Let's shoot the actors firing them in ultra slow motion!"
STEP 05: THE LOCATION
One of the most important things you can do on a limited budget is find the right locations. You need a place that works for the story, the blocking, and if you are lucky it comes with set dressing and inspiration. You want a place that you can literally take over for over 12 hours straight. Find a building manager or a homeowner who is completely excited about what you are doing, because you are going to test the limits of their patience. When a film production shows up on your doorstep with all of its crew members, cars, power needs, bathroom requirements, and an annoyed sound mixer you can bet that the property owner will be inconvenienced. We needed all of this for little or no money. Enter my uncle Paul. Paul has been a supporter of my films for years and has helped build sets, acted as a weapons consultant, and has weaseled his way in front of the camera on almost every one of my films. (Check out our music video for Meshuggah. Guess who the three-armed demon is?) Paul connected me to his buddy who owned several buildings outside Boston. These places were home to mechanic bays, workshops, and storage spaces. They are the perfect Punisher hideouts. We met up with this character and went on a day trip scouting some of the darkest and filthiest holes and got to peek at some of the coolest cars and tools around. The whole time I couldn't help but think that this must be what Frank does when he isn't killing people. He must go scouting the same way, only he would be carrying a bag full of money stolen from the bad guys and would purchase these buildings outright! I kept imagining a conversation between Frank Castle and a real estate agent. "How thick are these walls? What sort of power runs through those wires? How hard is it to get blood off these floors? The basement has drainage? PERFECT!"
We scouted a few places that looked pretty cool and met a guy with an awesome motorcycle shop who agreed to donate a bike for the filming. We still hadn't found the perfect spot. Then our guide says; "I do have this one spot that's loaded with crap. I don't think it will work though, but I'll take you over there." We pulled into the lot of this old New England mill and my eyes lit up. It was set back far from the road and the outside looked like Jim Lee sketched it! Inside there were over four floors of amazing spaces and each seemed to be transported from different time periods. Abandoned offices filled with vintage chairs, desks, and computers from the early 80s! Giant mill ceilings, awesome architecture, and the coolest service elevator to the basement, which was F'N PERFECT!!! Rows and rows of giant milling machines, huge dark cavernous spaces filled with shelves of machine parts. An old folk lift that still worked and chains hanging from the ceiling! This was Frank's home. This is where he cleans his guns, this is where he stockpiles supplies, and this is where he plans his war! We had a location!
STEP 06: THE OUTFITS
One of my favorite details in the Rucka/Checchetto book is the spray painted skull on Frank's vest. I never understood how or why the Punisher would get a perfect skull screen printed on shirts. Did he have a contract with a t-shirt company? Wouldn't that be an easy way to track him down? I know, maybe he had a silk screening setup in one of his garages. Give me a break! I was never a fan of the tights with the utility belt forming the skulls teeth. We are supposed to believe that this man is military and that he builds everything on his own. Stencils and spray paint make the most sense. That small detail in the book was really special and I definitely wanted that in our film. Body armor shopping is really difficult. The obvious option was to hit the Army/Navy store, but the big problem was that I needed vests for both Frank and Cole. Evelena is barely 5 feet tall and has the tiniest frame; so regular vest sizes were way out of proportion. I spent weeks hunting through online stores and making phone calls and finally decided to contact one of the companies that supply those private corporate bodyguards. I asked them questions like "Do you have children's sizes?" "Can I order just two?" and "Do I need a license to purchase these?" Of course I finally get asked the question, "Sir, why do you need only two vests?
"I'm making a Punisher fan film", I respond and her tone changed immediately!
I learned quickly that 'guns and ammo' people love Frank Castle, and would love to have their products showcased on him. Buying body armor did apparently require a license (because of that incident in LA where the guys robbed a bank and took out all those cops while wearing body armor), but we don't need one if I just get the vests without the body armor plates. The two vests cost some loot, even with the discount, but they were the closest I could find to the actual illustrations. With a few long phone conversations and strange measurements from my actors, I was able to get perfectly fitted vests. My buddy Justin Brooks, who is an FX guru, painted the vests for me and they looked so awesome that the one Evelena wore is now framed in my office.
STEP 07: THE GEAR & CREW
Let's get nerdy for all the techie fans. Digital technology and lighting gear have been through some amazing changes recently that make shooting the "Big Budget" look a lot more affordable. You can do amazing things with a DSLR camera, and LED lighting and other low power draw units that push out twice the light without the need of a giant lighting crew. On this piece I really wanted to show off the talents of my hard working crew. Our company has amassed a brilliant team of camera and lighting technicians over the years of music video and commercial work we have done. It's very easy for the audience to give credit to the director, but the truth of it is that I weigh heavily on support and the time and skill brought on by my crew. These guys are pros and wanted to flex their skills so I called in some serious favors and got some really cool toys to play with. The majority of the short was filmed using a Nikon D800 and Zeiss movie primes. We brought in a dolly for the longer camera moves and had a short slider for the close-ups. I wanted the film to feel like a down and dirty movie from the late 70's so strange focus points and the occasional camera bump on the dolly track were encouraged. Imperfections make it seem more real. Lighting is an obsession of mine and the goal was to have a large enough package to sculpt the large spaces. The cool thing about the sensitivity of these new cameras is that the lights don't have to be huge (I think our biggest was a 2k) but you still have to sculpt everything so we had an extensive grip package. The Key grip spent a lot of time creating these little pools of light and keeping the colors from clashing. Jarvis, the director of photography, was tasked with coloring the lights on set. Our gell roll alone was over $300.00! I wanted the film to have a colorful but truly dark feel to it. For the slow motion sequences my buddy donated his Phantom camera. It was an older model but could still shoot a super high frame rates. That would allow us to capture bullet shells in mid air and down the water in the shower. It's a really amazing look but come to find out takes a ton of time to shoot. The crew was around 15 craftsmen and women in total and everyone killed it!
STEP 08: THE SHOOT
The shoot day started early.
I love shooting. It's a short period of time where you can put your theories to work. You get to play around for a few hours, and learn your craft. It was the main reason for to even shoot this project and it had a lot to teach me. Working with two different types of actors, trying to keep a full team motivated through a 15-hour day taught me so much about pacing.
We shot all day at the mills and covered all the dialog and gun scenes. Once the team found a groove we were plowing through what should have taken two days. I followed my shot lists and camera maps through most of that day, but when we pulled out the phantom camera, the shoot slowed to a crawl. That damn camera destroys light! Not only do you have to blast a subject with blinding light, but it also seems to pull out all of the subtleties in the shadows and light sculpting. It killed over two and a half hours for just one close-up! Hick-ups like that kill the crew's momentum because most of them end up sitting around and waiting while the 10th hour starts to settle in. The shots we got did look amazing though and the camera was able to capture the gun blast and stop the empty bullet shells in mid flight! However, the camera trouble pushed us way over on time and forced me to throw out my shot list for the elevator scene. We had to just wing it. Moments like this happen all the time on set, and instead of letting it ruin my night, I embrace them. Often these situations create some of the most organic footage you shoot! We played around in a quick rehearsal and shot a sequence that I never would have pre-planned. It ended up being one of my favorites in the film!
The second day was planned to be entirely with the Phantom camera. After seeing how much time and energy that the one shot took the day before I decided to simplify my shots. All we needed were 4 setups. This scene was going to be difficult technically and required Evalena to be half naked all day, covered in blood, and sitting in running water for hours. Safety was key because we needed a lot of light and power and it all needed to jam in this small bathroom. I was up all night planning because a good plan will make an awesome day right? Wrong. The day was a disaster.
The Phantom was a technical nightmare. It kept over heating and crashing, took over 15 minutes to preview a 2 second shot, and the automated dolly was a bitch. The whole day was an exercise in my patience, and Evelana's stamina. The poor girl was shivering for at least 5 hours, but she had a smile through it all! At the end of the day the camera crashed, we only got one Phantom setup and I had to shoot the others with my DSLR. The shots we got are beautiful, but I learned that the super cool techie shit takes way too long! I should have staged a damn gunfight that day instead. Lesson learned.
STEP 09: POST PRODUCTION
The editing on this film was a lot of fun. We did all of it at our office here in Boston and I worked closely with my assistants Jarvis and Tony. Jarvis assembled a quick rough cut that followed the script and then I sat in and basically changed it up. I love experimenting in post. I find myself watching the footage out of sequence and sometimes in reverse to try and see it from a fresh perspective. This also helps me develop the visual style for the piece.
Most of the Punisher books use internal dialog so I knew that there would be a lot of voice over work, but I also wanted to experiment with when the actors were seen speaking and when they weren't. I wanted the whole piece to feel like a memory, so that meant messing with transitions in time and flashback effects. In the end, the piece is very emotional and focuses on Cole's struggle. It's on the edit that I feel a film is born and discovering it is by far the best part of being a director.
STEP 10: MUSIC
If photography is my passion then my second love is sound design. I was fortunate early on in my career to share studio space with an amazing sound recorder and designer. I learned how powerful sound can be to an overall story, and how it can increase the scale and scope of your film. You can always call shitty visuals a style, but no one will sit through bad sound.
When I'm writing I am always planning ahead of time for sound cues and hero moments with music. I like to have the music together before I start editing and, more often than not, I am sound editing while I cut the picture. I take pride in the way my films sound. The world of the Punisher is a perfect opportunity for cool sounds and music. I was still obsessing over that POWERGLOVE remix of Kristine's "Modern Love" and I wanted it for the shower scene, but I had to figure out what the rest of the music would sound like. Enter DJ Voltran. I have wanted to collaborate with Tran for a while now. His skills as a DJ are amazing and he was trained as a mixer and could master the films audio as well. Perfect. We had quite a few meetings before shooting started. He wanted to be on set, recording the dialog and grabbing cool sounds from the location. Having him involved from the beginning was the right choice because by the time he was writing music, he had a complete grasp of the films tone. I also exposed him to all the John Carpenter scores and the music in the early Nightmare on Elm Street films. I knew that if he could capture the essence of those scores that it would give TDCBD a classic feel. Mix that with his taste in modern electronic and we would have the edge that a new film requires. I was convinced that we would use the Kristine track (even though we didn't have the rights to it yet) so he had to write in music transitions that would tease the vibe of her track. Voltran had a ton to do on an unpaid project, but let me just say that working with Tran and his partner Tim at Knox Productions were fucking amazing! They created a sonic world that appeals to the twelve year old kid in me while giving each of the characters the gravity and depth they needed in the moments without dialog. Together we worked with Nick to create the voice of the Punisher, one based more in reality while staying far from the Christian Bale "Batman grumble." It was hard work, but a ton of fun! Check out some examples of the score. Awesome!
STEP 11: PROMOTIONS
I am always very conscious of and very involved in the marketing of a project. Both Ian and I believe that you shouldn't start a project without knowing where it's headed. With this piece we knew the fans needed to hear about it early on. We don't have big name actors or a budget for advertising; so it was just gonna require teaming up with fan clubs and bloggers. We needed our promotional material to look as good if not better than the studio stuff!
Photographer Gina Manning took the photos for our posters. She hung out on set with us all day, shooting behind the scenes stills and promotional shots. Her style is hyper real and color oriented. I knew with the right processing of her shots that we would get amazing posters. I cut a quick teaser that showed a few key shots from the piece while teasing the characters. It would also leak the title of our film "The Dead Cant Be Distracted." I cut a quick teaser that showed a few key shots from the piece with teasing the characters. It would also leak the title of our film "The Dead Cant Be Distracted." Armed with the teaser and posters, we sent out a few emails to comic bloggers and film websites who posted it as soon as they got it. We had the support!
STEP12: RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK
Once the fans knew about it, I was under the gun to finish the piece. The edit was locked, Tran was mixing the audio and Tony and I were tackling the digital grading. Coloring and picture polishing is one of the most magical steps in the post process. As filmmakers, we spend hours looking at the raw footage over and over again. It gets old to us, we don't have the same initial reaction. Once we start grading, it becomes something new. The colors pop, the focus shifts, and it starts to look like a finished film. We didn't have to do a whole lot and most of it was just darkening backgrounds and pulling out a lot of the reds. It was also important to get the Phantom footage and the DSLR stuff to look like it belonged together. I love putting color on the lights when we are on set. This sets our color contrasts early on and it always looks better than trying to smear it on in post. At this point the final edit still had the Kristine song playing during the shower sequence and this worried Ian. He knew that I had fallen in love with it and was concerned that the artist should at least be contacted. A month earlier I went through the process of trying to track down Power Glove. Those guys are notoriously hard to reach and after a while I gave up. Then it hit me – why don't we find Kristine? After all it was her track that they remixed. Ian tracked down the label that put out her album and spoke to her rep. He loved the film and gave us her direct contact. A few emails later, Kristine granted us the rights to use the song for free! She loved the film and was really excited to be a part of it. See, if you keep pushing forward and stick to your guns, good things can happen in this business. The music was done, the picture looked slick, and the promotional material was ready to ship. Then I heard from Marvel and everything came to a halt.
WE MADE A FAN FILM
When we decided to start this project I had some concerns. The big risk is that you are making something based on someone else's intellectual property, so you have no real rights. I did the research and watched the Wonder Woman fan film, the Judge Minty film, read the success stories with the Mortal Kombat fan piece and like everyone else, I watched Dirty Laundry with Thomas Jane and the recent Venom short. Those films in particular had a ton of press support and were posted everywhere, so much so that it seemed like Marvel was supporting them. This settled my nerves immediately. I figured that as long as we didn't make a dime on it, and that if the quality was good enough, we would be fine. It turned out to be quite the opposite. The lawyer from Marvel who contacted us claimed that the fans would be confused into thinking that our film was official. Even though the posters read, "fan film" right on them.
"Your actions confuse consumers into believing that they are viewing an authentic Marvel production or one sponsored or licensed by Marvel, when they are not."
I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, and figured that maybe they were just confused – maybe they thought we were trying to make money, or a feature? I had our lawyer draft up a response right away describing the project as a short fan film and expressing how we were doing it for our love of the character and how we weren't infringing copyright laws by doing a fan piece. How I wanted to transform the character into something that the fans would love. I even offered to send them the finished film before it was released and offered to just give it to them. None of it mattered. Their response was that we had no right to make it, release it, and that we had to pull it all down.
"Marvel reserves the right to take whatever remedies are available to it at law and in equity, and shall do whatever best protects its interests."
Who can we show it to? Can you put it in the hands of the folks at Marvel Studios? We know they will love it! We got no response. This guy didn't care. It's not his job to care. It's his job to protect their property. We were cut off by the legal department at Marvel and with the threat of the biggest studio on the planet suing us, we had a lot to consider. I don't want to piss these guys off. I love Marvel. Hell I watch and read almost everything they put out. I couldn't let our film die just yet. I went online and hunted for the contact info for the creators of the book and sent out emails to Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto. I didn't expect much, but keep pushing right?
So it turns out that Greg Rucka had seen some of the promotional material online and was already curious about the project. Once he saw the trailer he was more than excited and started posting about it in his blogs!!! He got back to my email right away and told me how flattered he was to have a fan film made based on his work. I immediately sent him the finished film and he absolutely loved it! He wanted the fans to see it! It was at that point that I heard back from the artist Marco Checchetto. His response was:
"HOLY SH$T!!! I'm very impressed!!! I don't know how you did it, but you hit the full atmosphere of my pages!"
Holy shit is right! Both the artist and the writer love the film! Not only is that the ultimate encouragement, but also to have the creator of the book like a film adaption is a rare thing. I got to speak on the phone with Rucka and we dorked out over comics and the Punisher. He was one of the coolest guys and was incredibly supportive. If I ever got to do a web series I would want collaborate with him on it!
Step one: the creators of the book like it, they feel that it properly represents the character. Step two: the fans are drooling over it. Step three: We gotta get it seen at Marvel Studios. Seen by the folks who hunt for creative people but cracking that egg is practically impossible. I have been trying to get it into their hands for over a month and it has proven to be almost impossible. So now what?
ARE FAN FILMS OK?
This is the big question. With one company now owning all of our favorite films, all of the movies that inspire fan fiction, the question is, do we have the right to tell our versions of the story? Are these stories just intellectual property? As fans are we just consumers, or do we help shape the mythology? If we could download it all for free or worse make money on a product by stealing someone else's property, it would just destroy the artist's ability to survive. But that's not what we are talking about here is it? We are talking about a giant corporate machine that is making billions on characters that they have bought from the original artists. Not that this is a bad thing though. Because of the support from this huge company we have boat loads of comic content releasing every year. Love it or hate it they are keeping us all entertained. However, this same machine promotes how devoted it is to the fans online and at conventions. They want us involved, they want us excited because after all it's the fans that keep them alive. George Lucas embraced fan films. He knew the power in happy fans that felt like they were involved in creating the universe. The promotion and advertising that comes from people making these films is worth its weight in gold. There have always been artists that embrace this. Stephen King would grant his story rights to young filmmakers who were aiming to hit film festivals. It's genius. You get to see your material on the big screen, you get to hunt out new talent, and even if your fans hate the film, they will be talking about your content.
So why is Marvel legal hassling us? Is it because I'm not a nineteen-year-old kid in my basement with flashlights and a home video camera? What about all the other professional fan films that are out there? It is all about politics?
It's about protecting the writer and artist's right? Protecting intellectual property. I mean what would I do if someone stole my work? Imagine if a comic book company took one of my photos and ripped it off for a cover and sold it for profit. What would I do? Turns out that did happen. Check out the cover issue of a recent Tank Girl comic. This isn't new. Marvel, DC, they all do the same thing. They pull stuff right out of films and pop culture for it's books. When they wrote the Ultimate's, the character Nick Fury was identical to Sam Jackson before the films. Hell in the Punisher book that inspired us the two cops are a blatantly inspired from Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en. It's what happens now in culture. DJs remix songs, films inspire artists, and people make fan films. As long as the creator is making the money it should be ok, right? I never saw a dime from sales of the Tank Girl book, nor did I get credit (the model did get a free copy signed by the artist). I sent the artist a note saying how awesome the cover turned out. It's amazing that my work inspired a comic book cover and as the artist I feel like it wasn't a big deal in the long run. All of this was going through my head when I read that letter.
So you have reached the end of my article and I'm sure you are wondering, "Will I ever see this film?" Why don't I just release it? Ask yourself the same question. What would you do when staring at a letter from one of the biggest, wealthiest companies in the movie business? They can put me out of business with the snap of their fingers. Do I have a beef with Marvel? Absolutely not. I think they have become so huge and that my film is lost in the belly of the corporate beast. I want the right people at Marvel to see this film, to rescue our film, and to hopefully be inspired by my love for this character.
I want to make a Punisher online mini series. I want to do it with Marvel. I think that Frank's story is not suited for the hour and a half long format. Short episodes with a longer story arch would allow us to see who Frank becomes and how his war changes him. We would be able to meet the characters he teams up with and the enemy he hunts. How does he buy his weapons? How would he take down a building full of trained men? How has he changed since he started? Let ride along with Castle and meet the people who are effected by his war. Let's make is rough, dirty, and raw.
A Better Punisher.
Written by Mike Pecci.
The Dead Can't Be Distracted was produced by mcfarlandandpecci.com