Category Archives: Press Release

Exclusive: Choice Skinner – Best Costume of FFA’18 (Interview)

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!

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Exclusive: Deborah Smith – Best Actress of FFA’18 (Interview)

It was our pleasure to interview FanFilm Awards 2018’s winner for Best Actress, Actress & Producer of FanFilm, The Force and The Fury: Deborah Smith. Leading the interview is our Founder & CEO, Stefanie Warner.

STEFANIE: The  Force and the Fury is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars fandom universe. You play a character that is on the path to the Sith. Can you tell us a little bit about your character? Were you able to relate to her on a personal level? 

DEBORAH: One of the reasons I was so excited to play Qira is that I felt like it was a wonderful throwback to classic Star Wars in which each character has a strong fight against good and evil. I believe we all have a mix of good and evil inside of us, and our surroundings and experiences push us to react in different ways throughout our lives. The director and I spent a great deal of time talking about her character and I created an entire backstory about how she related to Aiden and why she is seeking revenge against him. The key, however, was to still focus on the humanity of her character because even Siths have some good buried deep inside them.

STEFANIE: Most of the film hardly any words are exchange. In fact, your face is covered for a good half of it. What other ways did you find a way to communicate your character to the camera?

DEBORAH: I truly believe that the eyes are the most expressive part of a person, and therefore, an actor’s greatest tool. Because my face was covered, I made sure I truly understood Qira’s pain and depth  because it all came out through my eyes.  The eyes truly are the window to the soul!

STEFANIE: It’s to my understanding that the film was shot in a local forest. It made the overall film look breathtaking! The way that the characters moved through the set really added to the feel of adventure. What were the challenges in filming outdoors? With all of the levels of terrain how was working in such a set?

DEBORAH: The film was shot just north of Portland, Oregon, and we could not have asked for a more beautiful and perfect location. The locations are always important aspects in a Star Wars film and so we wanted to make sure we did tribute to that element of the franchise. It was challenging to film in the forest, especially for the fight scenes because it is difficult to ensure that your footing will always be stable. Of course, we had an incredible team to ensure our safety and so everything went off without a hitch! I would say the most difficult part was the change in weather. We shot over three days and one day it poured all day which made it difficult to match the color and environment to the other two days.

STEFANIE: There are some quick but brilliant fight scenes in this film. How did they tie in with the overall way that you communicated your character on screen? What do they aid to the overall plot of the story?

DEBORAH: One of the greatest strengths of this piece was the brilliant fight choreography created by Aris Juson. With the help of the director, Jason Satterlund, Aris made each fight into an emotional dance that showcased the relationship between the characters. In fact, the fights were choreographed backwards because the director wanted each fight to end in a sort of loving embrace that would contrast with Qira’s anger at Aiden.

STEFANIE: The ending of the film is when us as the viewers really see the depth ofyou and (actor) relationship. How did you two coordinate in acting to build up to the finale? What was the process through it?

DEBORAH: Aris Juson (Aiden), and I, spent a lot of time connecting on a personal level so we could easily trust each other and reach that emotionally turbulent ending. We talked about our characters, how they fell in love, what their future could have been, what they would have named their children; lots of different theoretical scenarios that could have been. Once we did that original emotional work, we thought about that entire future being ripped from us, and the rest came naturally.

STEFANIE: The beginning of the film, we are shown a black screen with the words ‘for Carrie’. What made your team decide to dedicate the film to her? Does this film reflect some of what she contributed to the Star Wars Universe? 

DEBORAH: The decision to dedicate the film to Carrie Fisher was an easy one. We were editing The Force and the Fury together when she died and it rocked the entire team to our core. She was such an important part of the franchise and the film industry in general. Carrie broke down walls with her important portrayal of Princess Leia and similarity, this film breaks down barriers because it is the first live action story about a female Sith.

STEFANIE: Thank you for answering these questions Deborah. Thank you for your stunning performance in The Force and the Fury. What are some other works that we can look forward to seeing you in?

DEBORAH: I have some really incredible projects coming out that I am extremely excited about. I starred in a feature film last summer called “Last Three Days” that will be released in the next few months. In this film, I play the wife of an undercover cop who ends up being dragged into an underground drug cartel and the impact that it has on her and their marriage. I also starred in a short film in March called “I Can’t Do This” about a woman who meets her birth father for the first time, only to discover that he has early onset Alzheimers. As an actor, it is often difficult to find characters with depth, but both of these roles have incredible character arcs. I truly enjoyed both of these roles and can’t wait to share them! The best way to stay on top of my many projects is to follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/deborah_lsmith) and I have a production company (Deep Sea Pictures) with a wonderful film in pre-production that you can learn about on Instagram as well (www.instagram.com/deepsea_pictures)!

Exclusive: Fernando Huerto – Best Choreography of FFA’18 (Interview)

It was our pleasure to interview FanFilm Awards 2018’s winner for Best Choreography, Writer, Director, & Producer of FanFilm, Harley: Fernando Huerto. Leading the interview is our Founder & CEO, Stefanie Warner.

STEFANIE: In the DC Universe, Harley has been growing in her popularity ever since the release of the film Suicide Squad. Was this the inspiration of your film? What did you want to add to Harley’s story by creating the film?

FERNANDO: Suicide Squad was indeed one of the inspirations of our film because the trailer had just came out at the time and Hot Topic was selling all of that version’s Harley Quinn costume pieces. They were easy to get. The other one was Batman: The Animated Series. Our Harley actress, Jacqui Verdura, already had a similar voice to Arlene Sorkin from the show, plus she looks like a Harley Quinn, so I felt like we had to do it. We didn’t set out to add to Harley’s story. We just wrote a simple plot to support our vision, which was an all out action film where Harley kicks ass. We wanted to explore her fighting ability which she definitely has. A lot of Harley Quinn fan films or DC fan films that had her in it in the past, had her do very little action or none at all. I think there was only one other video online before ours that had her do a fight utilizing a well trained stunt woman.

STEFANIE: Harley’s personality is one that is very impressionable. How did you incorporate her character into the choreography?

FERNANDO: When I created the fight choreography with my stunt coordinator, Kerry Wong (G.I. Joe Retaliation), I wanted Harley’s personality to show the entire time to give the character and scene more depth. It can’t just be a regular fight. So I had Jacqui add a lot of playground joy in the entire sequence, with one example being was her yelling, “Wee!” when spinning and throwing a guy. Throughout the fight she had to enjoy herself. This chaos is fun for her. So she smiles and laughs as she’s hitting people left and right.

STEFANIE: What style of choreography was used? Is this style popular in filming fight scenes? What does the fighting style lend to the overall aesthetic of the film?

FERNANDO: The style of fight choreography we used was a Hong Kong cinema action style and incorporating Tae Kwon Do and Pro Wrestling moves. Tae Kwon Do is used in a lot action films that have kicking techniques in them. Pro Wrestling, specifically the acrobatic style of Lucha Libre, works perfectly for Harley’s fighting style, which is rooted in gymnastics. So the Tae Kwon Do kicks and Lucha Libre moves suited her well. If you watch the animated movie, “Batman and Harley Quinn,” she does a lot of kicks. So it’s not far fetched for Harley to do these moves in our film.

STEFANIE: The character of Harley has her trusty bat! How were you able to incorporate that into the choreography? Were you able to use other props as well?

FERNANDO: I knew in the beginning that I wanted to have Harley use her baseball bat. Incorporating it into the choreography was easy. We treated it as if she was swinging a sword and sometimes playfully brandishing it like she was on the batter’s plate. Next time, I’d like to use her oversized mallet. That would be a fun challenge.

STEFANIE: Your film finishes with a montage of Harley taking on multiple men by herself. How was filming one verses many? Were there challenges in doing so?

FERNANDO: The one versus many warehouse fight was fun to film. Luckily, me and my friends in the film are professional stuntmen who have done these kinds of fights for over a decade. Me, Kerry, and my camera man, Eric Nguyen, have filmed and edited a ton of one versus many fights on our own separate productions, so creating the big fight for our Harley fan film, blocking it for camera, and framing it was not difficult. The challenging part was the timing of the moves with Jacqui across more than one person, since she has less experience than us. Though she has done a bunch of action films with me in the past, those were always one on one fights against me. This was her first fight scene with multiple opponents, so she had to be aware of the other performers on the sides and behind her.

STEFANIE: Is there any advice you would give to aspiring stunt and choreography directors? Was there anything new that you learned from making this film?

FERNANDO: My advice to aspiring action directors would be to trust your stunt coordinator and fight choreographer. Work with them instead of against them. More often than not, stunt coordinators/fight choreographers have technical film experience and cinematography knowledge to know where to place the camera and what angle is best for a combination of moves and for landed hits. Also, give them the time they need. Our warehouse fight took several rehearsals and filming it took almost 12 hours. You can’t rush a fight scene if you want it to look real good. I don’t remember what new thing I learned from making this film, but I’d like to say that a lot of things I learned from making films in the past helped to prepare me to make a Harley Quinn fan film.

STEFANIE: Thank you for sharing your version of Harley with us! Are there any further films from the production team in the works?

FERNANDO: What we have planned in the future is we have the Harley Summer Special Series coming up next and hopefully we will get to work soon on a second episode of our main Harley Quinn Fan Film.