Talking with Aaron Schoenke – “Patient J”


Aaron Schoenke is no stranger to the fan film or the Batman mythos as his films in the past couple years have been one in the same. Patient J is his crowning “BAT” achievement to his fan film trilogy as he exits the foray for his own concepts.

FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): For those who don’t know, Aaron is no stranger to the fan film community or Batman with his past films being Batman: Year One and Batman: Dark Justice.  How has Batman Beyond: Year One and Dark Justice been received?

AARON SCHOENKE: With both films, the objective was not just making an entertaining film, but to learn all I could, and get the experience to do better the next time.  Some people loved Dark Justice for the machine like fighting of the Batman.  Others really liked the story of Terry in BBYO.  In both cases it’s always a positive gain for me.

FFF: Patient J, another Batman Fan Film.  I remember from our first interview back in the summer of 2002 you mentioned you were working on a psychological Joker story.  Glad to see you kept on it.  What was the genesis of the project from mentioning it in 2002 to releasing it in 2005?

AS: The story for Patient J was just an outline for about 5 years waiting for the right moment.  It was based on an improv scene I did in theatre class way back when.  It wasn’t until I met Paul Molnar (the Joker) that it took off.  I met Paul at a party and within three months the script was done and we were filming.  The pieces came together really quickly, locations and actors all fell into place.  It took a total of 15 months to complete.

FFF: I thought you were done with the “fan film” and off to pursue your own licensed properties, but again I realize this was a story you had in your head for a long time.  Is this it for the fan films?

fffinterviewaaronschoenke_002AS: This is it.  I really can’t see myself doing another fan film.  I have a lot of job offers coming in, plus I have a lot of interesting original ideas and characters I want to explore.  With a bigger budget I can see myself getting closer to making this happen.  I will say though that doing fan films was a good place to get started and learn filmmaking.  Also it allowed me to get some exposure that I might not have got otherwise.

FFF: You really have brought yourself up to the next level of filmmaking with Patient J.

AS: Thanks, I appreciate hearing that from you.  Besides the constant learning curve of filmmaking, I have always loved the psychology of the Batman and the Joker.  It’s what goes on in their heads that I find the most entertaining.  This time I was able to bring my film experience and the psychological knowledge of the characters together.

FFF: Let’s go through the cast.  I’ll throw them out there and you can comment.  Dr. Henny Youngman (take my wife please!).  The first thing that popped into my head was the late comedian.

AS: I definitely know who you are talking about.  That was intentional to use that name.  Many young fans have never heard of Henny Youngman.  He was a pioneer stand up comedian from the 30’s through the 60’s.  Go check his bio on IMDB.  The reason I went with that name was to make the psychologist appear unstable, as if he was trying to pull off a joke on the Joker, which he was.  Then the payoff is at the end when he says take my life please (instead of wife).  The actor who played this character was Kurt Carley.  He was Lex Luthor in Sandy Collora’s films World Finest and the Alien in Dead End.

FFF: The Joker was perfectly cast.  Both actors who played Dr Youngman and Joker did a great job and I know you like that psychological aspect of your films.  They pulled it off nicely.

AS: Kurt has worked with Paul many times doing live improv on the comedy circuit in the Hollywood area.  They were already comfortable with each other’s timing and performance.  Even little things like just hanging out between takes was really important.  At first, I did a test film of them improving the outline to see what they could bring to the table.  It was hilarious.  I’ve got some good outtakes of that.

FFF: Who was your Batman this time out and who was the poor kid in the Robin suit that got the crap kicked out of him with a crowbar?

AS: The Batman actor I can not say, and he asked not to be listed in the credits.  The Robin actor is Robert Tovani.  He drove down from the bay area for two days of filming.  It was cool, after filming we went out to dinner and talked superhero nerd stuff.

FFF: And the beautiful Harley Quinn.

fffinterviewaaronschoenke_003AS: That was Rachel Nicole.  She is a natural in front of the camera.  She brought her own style and flair to the Harley character.  You might also recognize her in BBYO as Quinn.

FFF: Did I see Barbara Gordon’s breasts in Patient J?

AS: Yes you did.  I debated on showing this for some time, it was a little graphic and bloody, but I liked the sense of realism and shock value.  I used the pictures straight from the Killing Joke as a storyboard.

FFF: I see each time we cut to a flash back or possible future in Patient J we see Bruce Wayne sporting new duds.  How many bat suits were in the film?

AS: There were three different era’s of the Batman.  The first was the old Bob Kane Batman with the wide ears, short gloves and a classic golden age belt (probably my “fav” in the film).  Next I went for the Neal Adams Batman with the long ears and blue cowl and cape, set in the 60’s TV style look.  Finally, there was a flash forward with a Jim Lee style Batman.

FFF: Nice wink to the Batman mythos with the Red Hood, A Death in the Family, and The Killing Joke.

AS: Exactly, I knew the die hard fans would appreciate seeing this, but I also wanted to present this to new fans as a brief history of the Joker.

FFF: I see your dad is still involved musically in your films.  That is a great relationship you have going.  You are like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.

AS: My dad has been writing music his whole life, what can I say, I’m his biggest fan.

FFF: Where can everyone watch the film?

AS: Online at Bat in the Sun Productions.

FFF: I had seen a trailer I would say a year ago with the “official” Metropolis Superman, Mad Hatter, and Poison Ivy.  I see some of those pictures from it on the Bat in the Sun page.  What was it called and what ever happened to it?

AS: I get asked this all the time.  That was called “Madness.”  It was intended to be a short film like Dark Justice about 10 min long. Unfortunately most of it was unusable for different reasons.  It just wasn’t coming together as I had hoped, but as a filmmaker I learned more from that project than all my other films.  At the same time Patient J came up and I decided to run with that and shelve Madness.  I did however rush a quick trailer of Madness which popped up online somewhere.  After the New Year I’m thinking about redoing a new trailer edit of Madness.  There was a lot of stuff I didn’t use.

FFF: I think that would be great.  I would definitely like to check out footage from it.  We talked Batman films previously.  Batman Begins. What did you think?

fffinterviewaaronschoenke_004AS: I’ve only read maybe one or two reviews that I thought were really accurate.  This movie, like the original 89 Batman, both have great style but where each one lacked is where the other had strength.  I feel the best movie would be somewhere in the middle of the two.  I love them both, but I have such personal feelings when it comes to the Batman that I’m a tough critic.

FFF: The Batman cartoon.  What do you think?

AS: Although the Batman TAS had a great mythos quality I thought sometimes it didn’t acknowledge Batman as a master of many fighting styles.  The new animated Batman series shows editing and angles that I think give the Batman more of an impressive fighting look and feel. Also since I’m talking animation, I thought the MTV Spiderman was very under appreciated.  I thought it was accurate and done very well.

FFF: I agree. I have the DVD set at thought it was the best TV interpretation to date.  So what next for Aaron Schoenke?  What are you involved in now and what do you see coming our way in form of your future productions?

AS: I got some music videos to work on but after that I’m looking at doing my first full length feature film.  I like character driven stories, even a romance comedies, something fresh and original.

This interview was originally conducted back in late 2005.  You can now find the “Madness” montage clips mentioned in this interview at Aaron’s official site, Bat in the Sun Productions.

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