It was our pleasure to interview FanFilm Awards 2018’s winner for Best Costume, Lead, Wardrobe, Writer and Director of FanFilm, Black Lightening: Choice Skinner. Leading the interview is our Founder & CEO, Stefanie Warner.
STEFANIE: You chose a character in the DC Universe that has only recently gained attention with the recent Black Lightning series (even so, you had created your film before then). Why did you want to tell Black Lightning’s story?
CHOICE: Black Lightning had been an unsung character for so long. The funny thing is he had been a MAJOR part of the Justice League in comics and on the animated series for quite some time. I knew I wanted to do a fan film and I knew I wanted to portray a superhero, so I put a lot of thought into a character that hasn’t been done yet in the fan film world, that way I would be able to respect the source material but also bring our artistic expression and originality to it, rather than a character that already has 20 fan films on Youtube to be compared and judged up against. With the success of Luke Cage I guess Warner Bros and the CW decided to fast track their version, which placed us in a mad dash to complete ours first. I proud to say that we did! LOL.
STEFANIE: Your suit design is quite different from the series. Again, your film had come out before the series was even announced. How was designing a character straight from the comics? What were your challenges? What style liberties did you take?
CHOICE: Once again we knew that we wanted to respect the source material. Black Lightning had a specific costume scheme throughout the years but the Justice League animation costume scheme and the DC DCEU Metallo iterations of his costume made the most sense, primarily because we knew we would be going after a “bald” version of Black Lightning. We originally had a cosplay costume creator design some armor which was quite costly but when we received the final product we realized that it would not hold up during the fight scenes and it restricted movement for choreography. We were devastated. James M. Black came to the rescue on not only the Static costume design and Gangbuster design but brought to life the Black Lightning costume and far exceeded our expectations. In regards to style liberties we wanted to make sure that the costume worked with the character. In the comics Black Lightning trained with Batman so we wanted to make sure a sense of that was implemented into the costume for stealth and similarity to that of Batman’s. We also to take into account a real world feel.
STEFANIE: The film is set in various locations, giving us an understanding of how the city has changed through the time. This theme seems to reflect in the characters as well, did this influence the way that the costumes were designed?
CHOICE: Well, a lot of the villain’s wardrobes were tactical, so you can’t go wrong with stuff that is readily available in today’s world. Once we got the basics together, most of the outfits were finished off by adding metal painted tactical elbow, forearm and knee pads. Motorcycle gloves and boots are ALWAYS great looking. You can’t go wrong with searching the internet and finding current wardrobe pieces to enhance what you may already have in your closet. Once again, the answer is insight, insight, insight!!!
STEFANIE: Returning to the theme of time in the film. There are two different generations of superheroes in the film. Was there a challenge in creating costumes for the older verses the younger generation? Did you go for a different aesthetic?
CHOICE: No not really. All of the actors were responsible for bringing in their OWN wardrobe. They researched their characters and pieced together clothing that would be close to the representation of the character but what would also give them the flexibility to act in and execute the fight choreography well. James M. Black did a tremendous job in putting together the Static outfit and helping create the Gangbuster look. He and I collaboration on the Black Lightning outfit but he took charge to finalize and complete it. Joan Moten gave us a hand in putting a final touch on it. We all worked together to make sure that everyone’s wardrobe overall had a quality and grounded look to it. We didn’t want things looking hookey or unbelievable. It had to look like the costumes were true to life. Chase Baker helped a couple of the actors out on their wardrobe as well. James and I had final say on wardrobe decisions and if someone got their look wrong, we would all work together to make sure we got the look right. It was very much a team effort.
STEFANIE: It’s certainly worth mentioning the fact that the film had a multi cultural cast. Something that Hollywood is still working towards. Bringing so many cultures into the film, how were you able to combine and incorporate these characters in the overall design of the film?
CHOICE: I’ve conditioned myself to cast diverse. Being that my acting studio is a multi-cultural community, I’ve always been able to cast actors of different ethnicity easily. Most of the scripts and films I have been involved with are ethnically diverse due to the writing. When I write a script, I make sure that I am cognizant and aware that I am writing from a real world mind view. Stories that take place in a metropolis or big cities have all types of people so the story should contain different cultures. James and I made sure to include a diverse cast across the board and found characters in the DC world who would have a chance to come across each other and actually engage with Black Lightning. It was the only way to make an ensemble this large work. It helped with the story in a tremendous way.
STEFANIE: After designing the costumes, would you create another superhero film with detailed costumes as Black Lightning’s? Any tips you learned that you would like to share with our audience who cosplays?
CHOICE: I would if there was a feature film budget attached. If Warner Bros contacted James and I to do the feature films for Static or Black Lightning we would definitely raise the bar. There are so many moving pieces that go into making a successful project. The most important thing is insight and thinking outside the box but also respecting the source material correctly. I think Marvel has done a great job with translating costumes from comic to screen. DC has done decent but still drops the ball at times. Everyone has gotten very “amour minded” in their designs lately which is very odd to me. What’s the point in having powers and abilities? How are the heroes able to truly move fast in those getups?! I think having the budget to do A LOT of designing and testing are key, as well as keeping in mind the choreography that the actors and stunt persons have to do. People have no idea the work that goes into making sure a costume is combat capable or the work that it takes to get into and out of a costume. Yes, if you do the work and put the time in to make a costume look phenomenal that’s great but then you have to be mindful on how hot the outfit is and be mindful of the comfort level of the person wearing it. Superhero costumes tend to be heavy and VERY tight which restricts mobility, so make sure you get ventilation and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Lastly, if you’re not doing an original design, don’t rush your recreation of who you’re cosplaying. People may say it looks cool to your face but behind your back they are laughing. If’s it looks cheap, it’s cheap. My motto is “Raise the bar” and “Strive for greatness” even if your finances are limited.
STEFANIE: Thank you for sharing your film with us! Are there any other project that will be coming soon from the production team?
CHOICE: Thank you for taking the time to interview me. Yes, we are currently finishing up on my second feature film “Keep The Faith” and venturing into my third feature film entitled “Alexus”, a sci-fi trilogy that I’m co-directing with Tony Germinario. James M. Black will be head VFX supervisor of course!