The Fan Film Follies was fortunate enough to catch up with Jonathan Markiewitz, film maker extraordinaire to talk about his production Batman: Revenge. What makes this film stand out from other Batman fan films is it was totally done using Legos. Welcome Jonathan.
JONATHAN MARKIEWITZ: It was definitely a pleasure to take part in this interview, and I want to say thanks for having me as your guest!
FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): Let’s start with a little background. You look like a young guy so I am guessing you are in high school or college. What is your educational background and how does that tie into your film making?
JM: I am a college student with an educational background in English and Mass Communication and Journalism. Filmmaking, to me, incorporates many elements learned in both of those studies. A writer needs to know how to structurally develop his or her script depending on the nature of the film (e.g. comedy, drama), how the film incorporates into the overall media as a whole, and the medium in which it is included.
FFF: Why a Batman film? Why not Superman or Spiderman?
JM: Batman has always been my favorite superhero, and the films made by Tim Burton with the portrayal of Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight made me like the Gotham City environment, and the character, that much more. “Batman” and “Batman Returns” were large influences for “Batman: Revenge”.
FFF: What comes first your love for Batman or your love for Legos?
JM: The movie was created first from the love of the Batman storyline, and my desire to create a Batman film. It was filmed with LEGOs for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I knew that by using LEGOs I could create whatever was needed for each, particular scene, and because of the film’s low budget, I may not have been able to incorporate many key elements necessary if it had been a live action “traditional” fan film. Using LEGOs allowed me to incorporate every element I wanted to see on screen, whether it a bat-vehicle or an entire city block. Also, at the time “Batman: Revenge” premiered on December 12th, 2003, and its Internet premiere of October 5th, 2004, there were no Batman fan films created with LEGOs, so I wanted to bring a new type of Batman movie to the fan film community.
FFF: This is more of a question and a comment. I think you made a very good choice of trimming the film. Less is more as they say. A lot of times Fan Films don’t know when to stop. What was your decision in cutting the film?
JM: At the time of its Internet premiere of 10.05.2004, the film length was 14 minutes, 10 seconds. The decision to trim the film to the current 11 minutes, 54 seconds was made because I felt that a few scenes, though fitting precisely with the music track, were a little too long. The re-edit trimmed such scenes, and required a slight adjusting of the music to again accompany the action on screen. I feel that the new film edit is much more enjoyable, and keeps a better pace than the original version.
FFF: Excuse my ignorance of everything Lego. How much of the sets, characters, and vehicles were designed by you and how much was actual product on the shelves. Do they sell Batman Legos at your local Walmart?
JM: Elements I designed, which are the majority in the film, include the interior of Arkham Asylum, the interior of Wayne Manor, the interior of the Riddler’s lair, the batmobile, the batwing, the taxi cab, all city streets and alleys, accompanying buildings and statues, the Batsignal, the Riddler, the Riddler’s henchmen, and the Dark Knight. Only a few elements with no modifications, like street signs or trashcans, were parts of other individual sets, placed into the Gotham City sets. At the time I was filming “Batman: Revenge”, the C3 Batman line by Art Asylum had not yet been made, and to this day, the LEGO group does not carry Batman LEGOs. The Batman figure is composed of a computer-printout “bat chest emblem”, a cape of felt material, and the mask from the “Quick Change Bruce Wayne” action figure from the Batman Returns action figure toy line, specially formed to fit the LEGO head.
FFF: That’s impressive. In essence you pretty much made a silent movie. What was the thinking behind not adding voice work?
JM: It was definitely a conscious decision to make “Batman: Revenge” a silent film in terms of dialogue, relying on the music, sound effects, and the action on screen to tell the story. Many LEGO films I had seen at the time of filming “Batman: Revenge” had no dialogue, so my movie was created in that similar fashion.
FFF: There are many fan films on the net and many Batman fan films on the net done well and then done not so well. What is your take on the current fan film trend overall and then exclusively to the Batman franchise?
JM: I think that the fan film in general, as long as it is not commercially promoted, is an excellent way for young and experienced filmmakers with large, small, or zero budgets to produce something that will entertain many fans of the genre in which the film takes place. As for the fan film trend, its definite growth will hopefully be met with definite professionalism and direction. In the past couple of years, the number of Batman fan films has definitely been increasing, and some really great work has been produced.
FFF: Have you seen this Batman “New Times” Lego Fan Flick? I’m sure you have.
JM: I did see “Batman: New Times”, and I thought the computer animation, voice work, and the overall quality of the film was superb. It is definitely a great work of art.
FFF: Has anyone from DC or Warner Brothers seen your film and if so any comments or warnings generated your way?
JM: I haven’t been contacted by any representative from DC or Warner Brothers. My film is for non-commercial, non-profit purposes only, so as long as DC and Warner Brothers allow fan film production and distribution for non-commercial reasons, I’m sure they’ll continue to have no problem with “Batman: Revenge” or any other Batman fan film that is freely distributed with no personal income, commercially. A notice regarding the non-commercial nature of “Batman: Revenge” is clearly written on the promotional website and during the ending credits of the film.
FFF: It was the 2004 San Diego Comic Con (and other cons I’m sure) DC wouldn’t allow fan films based on their properties publicly displayed. Lucasfilm did this also during the first prequel by banning Redemption from the internet, but then laxed on that policy. What is your take on the position of Warner Brothers and their banning of these films?
JM: As far as I know, Warner Brothers is allowing fan films on the Internet only if they are non-commercial, and are produced with the intention of earning no profit from its production or distribution. As for the banning of fan films at conventions, I would hope that they once again allow fan films to be shown, under contract with the convention managers and filmmakers that no money is earned simply by the showing of the fan films, and that it is understood that the fan films shown are in no way officially associated or sponsored by DC or Warner Brothers.
FFF: I’ve done many interviews in the past with creators of Lego made films. There are conventions and competitions for this specific type film. Are you involved in these and the people who attend them? What is your take on the “Lego” film community?
JM: I haven’t attended or been a part of any convention or competition in regard to “Batman: Revenge”, though I think it’s a great idea, and something to look into. I think that the “LEGO” film community is composed of many talented filmmakers who, like fan filmmakers, put a great deal of passion and drive into their projects, and create a lot of great work ranging from comedies, to dramas, to action adventures.
FFF: One that comes to mind is Brick Fest. I know there are many more out there. What is next for Jonathan Markiewitz? Will you continue to make fan films be it Lego or live action? Is filmmaking a future goal or an intense hobby?
JM: I’m going to be acting in another independent film later this year and directing an independent comedy in early 2006. As for fan films, it would be a lot of fun to make a sequel to “Batman: Revenge”. Right now, I don’t have the necessary amount of time to make such a sequel, but it’s definitely on my mind. Filmmaking is very much an intense hobby that has allowed me the fun of directing and producing “Batman: Revenge”, attending independent movie premieres, and being recognized by name at several venues, and while at the moment filmmaking doesn’t “pay the bills”, it may someday.
FFF: Thank you for your time Jonathan. Please keep me and the Comic Book Book Bin updated on your future film efforts.