Talking with Anthony L Fletcher – “Catwoman: Nine Lives”

In the late 90’s and branching over to the new millennium the cheapness of new technologies in addition to the power of the internet introduced a new realm of entertainment in form of the online film.  This included what we call at the Fan Film Follies. Fan Films aren’t a new concept, but the delivery system for wide consumption certainly is.  Star Wars was the big driving force as awesome and not so awesome films began popping up all over the net as a tip of the hat to the Lucas Juggernaut.  What followed and what continues to be happening in abundance is a branching off into different licensed characters.  Star Trek, Indiana Jones, and Batman films began popping up as regularly as the Star Wars fan films.  Now we come to 2006 and the fan films based on licensed characters is becoming extremely diverse with a Wolverine movie here and a JSA movie there.  A natural genesis from the Batman franchise is movies spotlighting characters such as Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman – more specifically, Catwoman: Nine Lives – a film by Anthony L. Fletcher.  Anthony was ex banker who always wanted to make movies as a kid.  He attended various film workshops while working for the “man”, till Anthony finally attended film school.  After graduation, he completed his first feature.  Since then, he’s completed 3 features and 8 shorts including Catwoman through his production company ABM Digifilms.

FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Fan Film Follies and the Comic Book Bin.

ANTHONY L. FLETCHER: I appreciate the opportunity, I’m a fan of the site.  This whole fan film culture is crazy, but fun.

FFF: How did ABM DigiFilms come to be?

AF: The original banner was ABM Productions for my first feature.  I finally became an official company a year after that, and I re-named it simply ABM DigiFilms, since I use both Film and Video.  Besides creating our own content, we occasionaly freelance for other companies in the fields of both editing and sound editing among other services.

FFF: How deeply seeded were you in the Batman Mythos going into this project?

AF: To be perfectly honest with you, before doing CNL all I knew about the mythos was what the average comic book fan would know.  Now, I’m a Catwoman expert!  I’m actually a Star Wars geek at heart, but I wouldn’t dare do a Star Wars fan film.  It’s the wholly grail to me, and it would never be right in my book.

FFF: Are you a comic fan or what they are affectionately called – Fanboys – or a filmmaker using that medium to further your resume?

AF: Like most kids, I had my share of comic books, mostly Superman, who is my favorite comic book hero.  But to answer your question, it’s a combo of both.  I’ve always enjoyed the comic book medium, and I wanted to make a promotional project.  However, I think you need to be a fan of your subject matter if you plan to make one of these things.  This was my first movie, using existing characters from another medium.  I found that very challenging as a filmmaker.

FFF: Catwoman is turning into a big character for these films.  I am all for more sexy women in leather.  I know you will be working on a Supergirl film, but why Catwoman as opposed to say Wonder Woman or any other of the Marvel or DC cast of characters?

AF: Indeed, people are finally realizing what a cool property Catwoman truly is, despite the movie that came out in 2004.  She’s kind of a female Batman on the other side of the law.  But as for other candidates, Batgirl was mention, but I wanted to tackle a secondary character instead.  Elektra was also considered.  I even thought about doing an Elektra vs. Catwoman short (an idea for someone), but that would have taken too much time.

FFF: That would have been cool to see.  What factors came into play to finally decide to go with Catwoman?

AF: What, besides seeing a chick in leather and holding a whip?  Well, I found the whole Catwoman Mythos interesting when I was doing research.  I never realized how complex she had become over the years.  Especially the fact, that she’s kind of retired from being a thief, and has become a protector.  I found the transition interesting.  Oh’ and that everyone was doing Batman movies out of the whazoo.

FFF: You have a basic storyline.  Clown of Crime kills cat, bat kills Joker, screwed up girlfriend of mentioned criminal psycho seeks revenge blaming resurrected cat.  What were the stories you came up with and how was it determined the direction you wanted to go and the DC characters used.

AF: Basically, I had to come up with something that could be wrapped up within a 30-minute time span.  But, let me tell ya, I had all kinds of directions I wanted to take this short, but due to time, and money constraints I had to keep it simple.  In earlier drafts, I had Slam Bradley, and at one time Black Mask was the main villain.  Batman was to actually come at the end of CNL and save Catwoman, but I cut it out, due to that it would be perceived as a Batman movie.  I actually have a sequel written already which includes Black Mask and Poison Ivy, but I decided not to produce it (but I should never say never).

FFF: Meredith Riley Stewart plays Catwoman.  She is a dancer by trade sounds understandable how she had the flexibility for the Cat.  How did you approach her for the part?

AF: First of all, if anyone could talk me into doing a follow up to CNL, it would be her.  She did a great job and I would do it only to work with her again.  I had a casting call, and she was one of the candidates.  I knew immediately she was the one, look at her.  She’s Selina Kyle in my book.  Since we were doing the Cooke model of Catwoman, my main approach was not to do a cheap impression of Ertha Kitt with the meowing and all that stuff, I wanted to make her real and keep her attitude closer to the current version.  Oh and by the way, she actually did use a 10 foot whip, and had became very good with it.

FFF: I don’t want to go through all the actors, but please feel free to make any mentions of the cast and/or crew and please extend an invitation to be interviewed or spotlighted at the Comic Book Bin to each of them.

AF: I would like to mention my costumer, Rita Squitiere.  She was hired only six weeks before shooting, and she created awesome costumes in the time allowed.  I wish there was an Academy Awards for fan films, she would win in my book.  She created everything from scratch on Nine Lives, and by hand!  Props to all the supporting actors, who did a fantastic job.  I don’t want to clog this interview, but I will give a special shout out to Tara Flynn (HQ).

FFF: Tara pulled off a great Harley.  A character I would find very hard to pull off.  What was the timetable from concept to script to casting to shooting, etc?

fffinterviewanthonylfletcher_001AF: Six months!  Of course the final revision of the script was completed a couple of weeks before shooting, but I had about a month of casting, three weeks of rehearsals and fittings.  Principal photography took a total of 6 days, and one pick up day for bluescreen and etc.  Plus, 2 months of post.  I could of actually got everything done in about four months if I didn’t have other projects going on at the same time.  But we did make our release date!

FFF: How has the film been accepted by the comic book and Fan Film Community?  Anyone involved with DC Comics or Warner Brothers contacted you or made mention of the film to you?

AF: Just like all art, some people like it while others do not for whatever reasons.  But, overall it has been well received by both fanboys and just plain movie watchers.  I’ve received so much support from every kind of people.  It’s appreciative.  Without them, there would be no fan films.  I’ve heard that CNL was screened at a couple of small conventions this year, but as for the bigwigs at DC or WB.  I’m sure they’re aware of it, like most fan films.  But no direct contact. .. . . yet.

FFF: On your home page it is written “Now, finally a BTS/Commentary of this underrated fan film…etc”.  How has it been underrated?

AF: Good question.  Personally, I do think that CNL doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  The accomplishment that it took to make it should be a movie in itself.  But I don’t want get into too many details on why I feel that way, just in case some individuals might perceive me as a complainer.  But I truly appreciate the response and support it has received so far.

FFF: I am interested to learn how you use this film.  For example Sandy Collora uses Dead End as a resume piece as John Fiorella used Grayson to try to show the studios that a quality Batman Movie (before Batman Returns of course) can be made (and I am sure also for a resume piece).  How do you present this to land a possible job?

AF: Any true filmmaker that puts that much time and money has an alternative motive.  Sure, we love the content and all, but the final result is to become noticed!  I made CNL because I thought it would be fun to explore someone else’s property and give my spin on it, but my main objective was to create something that would bring attention the ABM DigiFilms.  Mission accomplished.

FFF: Any memorable stories about making Catwoman: Nine Lives?

AF: I do have a good one.  Meredith was doing a fight scene at the warehouse.  When she bent down after being hit, her backside split right open.  Her butt was hanging out, for all to see.  It was funny, and I got it on Camera, but it won’t ever see the light of day.

FFF: We here at the Comic Book Bin are now putting together a collection of dead presidents to bribe you with on that one.  What can you tell us about the upcoming Supergirl film you plan on making?

AF: I thought for sure that CNL would be my first and last fan film. But never say never.  And just like Hollywood, I decided to make a trilogy over the next couple of years.  I came real close to doing a Gotham trilogy (see, another idea) with Batgirl, and perhaps Birds Of Prey.  But I decided to go a totally different direction, something lighter, perhaps funnier and something during the day!  The current script written by Tom Conard is awesome!  I can’t say much, but Lex is in it, and it’s tied to the upcoming Superman movie.  Since it won’t shoot till next summer, we might have to change the script after SR comes out, well see.  But it will be made.

FFF: On your site it is mentioned a “Women of DC” trilogy, who will be the third character?

AF: As for the final subject, I have a couple of ideas, and Troia (Wonder Girl) is a candidate.  There aren’t many interesting female characters in the DC Universe.  Marvel definitely has more interesting Female Characters.  But I it will be someone that doesn’t get much attention.  People can send us ideas!

FFF: I am 36 (YES! An old geek and I don’t even live in my parent’s basement!) so I haven’t been raised with the Internet like so many youngens these days.  I am a product of the 70’s and 80’s so I knew what it was like before Internet film and of course how huge it is becoming.  My point is how has the Internet changed the way you approach or distribute your films.  Now blow that up to entertainment on this planet.  How has the Internet changed film as a whole and what do you see yet to come?

AF: Hey, a fellow eighties kids!  The Internet is a godsend for all independent artists.  It allows for self-promotion and distribution in your own bedroom.  Without it, fan films wouldn’t exist.  Sure, comic book conventions would do underground screenings, but the Big Boys (studios) would crush them.  The Internet has already changed the industry in a big way.  Now the big studios will begin distributing motion pictures over the net in the next five years.  Still, there’s nothing like going to a movie theatre, it might shrink in the coming years, but it will never truly go away.

FFF: You’re located in PA a whole country away from the movie capital of the world.  As a filmmaker what are the advantages or disadvantages of being stationed in Pennsylvania as opposed to Hollywood?

AF: Not being in LA is a serious advantage in my opinion!  I’ve visited LA on a number of occasions, and it’s not my cup of tea.  I won’t go into the gory details about LA, but all I want is their money (from the studios) or perhaps shoot on some of their soundstages, and then comeback to the east coast for everything else.  The east coast is (not to sound cliché) Real!  The film community on the east is more “team”oriented and not “I” oriented.  I’ve been in the Philadelphia area for about eight years, and even though I’ve completed some excellent projects with some excellent people.  It’s time to move on, as I’m trekking to New York in a couple months.

FFF: TV, Movies, or Fan Film and don’t be biased now, but who do you think played the best version of Catwoman and why?

fffinterviewanthonylfletcher_003AF: Yeah, I can’t help but be biased – Meredith Riley Stewart is my favorite!  But I’m anxiously awaiting Colin’s movie”Copycat”.  I’ve met Amber, and I can’t wait to see her do her thing.

FFF: Copycat does look to be a great film.  To put on my best Fat Bastard accent from the Austin Powers movies Amber and Meredith are “dead sexy!”  What did you think of the theatrical version of the Catwoman released in the summer of 2004?

AF: I finally had a chance to see that movie on HBO recently.  Let me just say, that everyone was right!  I’ll say no more.

FFF: YEAH!  It stunk.  A double jeopardy question.  Firstly, if you could make any superhero/comic related film with a big Hollywood budget what would it be and why?

AF: First, I would love to make a real Green Lantern movie!  He’s my second favorite hero (he and/or they).  It would definitely be a 200 million dollar movie.

FFF: Secondly, if you could make any dream movie, TV series, cartoon, etc, with Studio money what would that be and why?

AF: As for a TV series, I would want to make a live action series of my original characters, called “The Metro Four”.  It would be something different on the Comic book trade, and it would have to be seen on HBO, due the violence, language, and whatever.

FFF: What is in the future filming plans of Anthony L. Fletcher?

AF: Well, along with working on various non-ABM projects, I’m currently re-editing my current (and third) full-length motion picture for its DVD release next year, and I plan to shoot my next original short next spring, with Supergirl shooting late summer.  I have a busy 2006.

FFF: Thank you so much for sending along a copy to view on my big screen and agreeing to field some questions on your film for FFF. I hope you enjoy answering them as much as I enjoy asking them!  You have the last word so promote yourself crazy!

AF: Thanks for the opportunity!  And would like to personally thank everyone who has ever supported CNL, and if you enjoyed that. . . you haven’t seen nothing yet.  To all the supporters of fan films, thank you for being there and digging what all fan filmmakers do.  Not only do we do these projects for ourselves, but for you as well.  And finally to Fan Film Follies, you guys were the first fans of CNL, thank you for all your continued support of all things fan made, I’ll keep you posted on all upcoming projects. . . . Cheers!

Shortly after this interview Anthony has been rethinking going forward with another fan film.  Here is what he had to say:

AF: I seriously thought, “Why are we making this movie for?”  It’s not that we don’t like Supergirl, it would have been made for the wrong reasons, not because we cherish the character and would like to see a proper version, but because I saw ABM getting caught up in the whole “Fanfilm Making Thing”.  I really appreciate all the positive feedback and support from those who enjoyed it, but CNL was made for promotional reasons, and not to brush our filmmaking egos.  It just doesn’t make sense to the spend money on something that isn’t our own.  So, ABM DigiFilms has re-dedicated itself to making original projects starting with a live action version of our own superhero comic, The Metro Four.

Although Fan Film Follies would have loved to see Supergirl in live action how cool will it be to see a whole new property in the making.  We certainly wish Anthony great success in his film making endeavors and we’ll be watching.

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