Those lucky enough to attend the Machinima panel Saturday morning at the Con were able to check out an extra-special treat in the form of a new fan film from director Joe Lynch and producer Adi Shankar.
As Con devotees will remember, Shankar arrived at Comic-Con 2012 with his own fan film in the form of a Punisher short called Dirty Laundry that starred Tom Jane, who also headlined 2004's Punisher feature film.
This time, Shankar recruited Joe Lynch (who was unfortunately unable to attend due to shooting on his next project Everly in Serbia with Salma Hayek) to create a fan film starring True Blood idol Ryan Kwanten as the character Eddie Brock, known to Spider-Man admirers the world over as Spidey nemesis Venom.
To celebrate the new short, called Truth in Journalism (a unique combination of the character Venom and the '92 Belgian crime mockumentary Man Bites Dog), we're happy to debut a few exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the production, plus a Q&A with director Joe Lynch. Enjoy!
Ryan Kwanten as Eddie Brock (aka "Venom")
Ryan Kwanten (Eddie B.) and "The Director" (JC Tremblay)
Ryan Kwanten (Eddie B.), "The Director" (JC Tremblay) & "Sound Guy" (Billy Khoury)
Ryan Kwanten (Eddie B.), Writer-Director Joe Lynch and Remy Plissken Mackay Lynch (Boy in Alley)
Q&A with Director Joe Lynch
1. Why choose the character Venom as the basis for the short film?
I distinctly remember turning the page on Amazing Spider Man issue 299 and being terrified by Mcfarlane's Venom creation. He was much more simple then, not the drooling, hulking mass that Venom has morphed into by now, but it was still a striking image. I couldn't wait for #300 to come out and that character has always been one of my favorite villains. When I met with Adi Shankar, we ended up talking more about our favorite comics and Venom kept coming up as well as our affinity for dark comedies, like Man Bites Dog, which is one of my all-time favorite movies (which likely says a lot about my twisted sensibilities). Little did Iknow he had something up his sleeve for another one of his short films, like the Dirty Laundry short, which I LOVED. So when he asked me if I would be interested in doing the next short for Comic-Con… inspiration struck.
2. How is this Venom different from what we've seen before in the comics or in Spider-Man 3?
I'll be honest--and this is with ALL due respect for Raimi since he's a hero of mine--I didn't care for that version of Venom at all. I wanted him to be this terrifying presence, even if he was changing from Topher Grace, an actor I admire. It just didn't mesh to me, you know? So when the opportunity arose, I was like "I want to do this the way I always wanted to see it." Of course, we didn't have the budget that they did on SM3, but necessity breeds invention and in talking with my good friend and VFX genius Sam Balcomb of Rainfall Films, we devised a plan that could actually work. Knowing his work, I knew we could pull it off.
3. Did you make this short with the intentions of getting to make a solo Venom movie with Ryan in the lead role?
No, this was one from the geeky heart. Would I love to do a Venom movie with Ryan as Eddie Brock? Absolutely! I know some will say that Kwanten is not their first idea as Eddie, and for a time I always thought Kenny Johnson from The Shield and Sons of Anarchy was a great look but that was the classic McFarlane version. I wanted the best actor who could not only embody Eddie Brock's complex mentality but ALSO that of Benoit, the serial killer in Man Bites Dog, which is the other spiritual ancestor to this film. Ryan had a lot of voices to carry with this and he did it amazingly well. I was so impressed.
4. How did Ryan get involved with the short?
Kwanten and I have been friends since we first met on Knights of Badassdom, that film Imade back in 2010 that's still in movie limbo. We became very close, leaned on each other a LOT throughout that very challenging shoot and came out brothers on the other end. We stayed in touch and I was always looking for an excuse to basically hang out, have fun and be creative again. When the idea of doing something like this came along, it was a huge challenge for me to find an actor who could embody two iconic characters. I really liked the idea of developing a revisionist version of Eddie Brock/Venom and Kwanten is SO fearless with his craft and I knew he'd be into going to the dark side, but with a smile. He is admittedly not a huge comics fan like I am, but when I pitched him the idea over breakfast one morning, he was very curious about it but then called me up a few days later after doing some research and said 'Let's go down this dark road together, brother." He's family to me and I love working with him.
5. Is this short tied at all to the existing Spider-Man movies?
It's not tied to the movies at all. The short actually exists in the Marvel Comics universe, mixed with the visual aesthetic of Man Bites Dog (16 mm, B&W) and set in May of 1988, which is when Amazing Spider Man 300 was published. The timeline of the short actually merges with plot points in the comic, even down to filling in the gaps when we don't see Eddie Brock in that storyline, like when he sneaks into Mary Jane's apartment to terrify her. When you hear Eddie in this say 'I gotta go meet a [girlfriend] of a… colleague", he's GOING to her apartment! That was very important to me, as I was trying, even on a minuscule budget, to create NYC in 1988. If you look closely in one walk and talk, you actually see the World Trade Center in the background! We tried very hard with music, fashion and dialogue to immerse the audience in that time and place, even if it was shot in 2013 in downtown Los Angeles, including the most disgusting alley in the U.S., complete with human feces and heroin needles. We barely made it out of there alive. Viva cinema, huh?
6. Are there any other superheroes or comic characters you'd love to tackle for a feature film?
Honestly, I was jealous when they did Dirty Laundry because I LOVE Frank Castle, especially the Garth Ennis story lines. But if I had to choose, and there are many, it would be PREACHER, DEADPOOL, CHU, Joe Hill's LOCKE & KEY, DEADWORLD… too many to choose! One of my favorite comics of the last few years, actually, was Posehn/Duggan's The Last Christmas. I'm a sucker for a good Christmas story and those guys devised a genius story around the idea of what happens to Santa and the elves at the Apocalypse. Comics have evolved into one of the best storytelling mediums around and there's so many titles and characters to choose from!
7. Fans are stoked to see Knights of Badassdom, when do we finally get to see it? What's the latest update?
Truth be told, you may NEVER see it, at least the proper version we set out to make. It's so mired in political and financial bullcrap that it could be one of those films that sits on a shelf forever, and if it's the version the company decided to cut on their own, it might be for the best. But you'd have to talk to the lovely folks at IndieVest-or is it MediaSociety? I can't keep up-that film is in their hands. They've cut me off and honestly, it's for the best. Life's too short to dwell on the past and I have more movies to make. I hope that movie comes out in the right version, the one we shot and the one we professed our love for at Comic-Con in 2011. Sadly, that might not be the case. Hey, there's always the chance of a director's cut in 15 years, right? See you then!
8. What was the genesis behind combining the Eddie Brock / Venom character and Man Bites Dog?
Adi and I spent a long time in our first meeting gushing about how much we love that film, which if you haven't seen it is one of the first faux-docs that felt truly raw and dangerous, yet strangely funny too. This was years before Blair Witch & Paranormal Activity, where found footage is a norm. These sick bastards created a fake documentary that felt so real you felt dirty after, but its one of those movies that stays with you and I really admire it's power. Morbid fact: my son's name is Remy, which is also the name of the real (and "fake") director of the film, Remy Belvaux. Sadly he committed suicide a few years ago, so when people ask where his name came from, we usually say 'You know, the Rat from Ratatouille!". Much better to talk about at dinner parties. Anyway, a few months after we talked about it, Adi called me up and asked if I'd be interested in doing his next short film, which I jumped at the chance to since I'm a fan of his films for sure. When he put the idea in my head to mix up the look and feel of MAN BITES DOG into a comic universe, my creative juices went into overdrive and a week later I had the script ready to go. It was that simple.
9. What was the timeline of this production, and how was the process working on the short as opposed to a feature-length film?
Adi and his team proposed the idea to me in March, the script was done a week later and then we prepped quietly on everyone's off time and on weekends (we all did this unpaid to put everything on screen) and then shot it over 2 weekends all over Los Angeles. Personally, I LOVE short films and the process. It's like music videos or commercials…you're in, you're out, done. Films are a year or more of your life (or almost 6 years if you count KOB!) so the satisfaction of conception to production to completion on a short film is much more gratifying. Plus with the advent of all the new technology to make things look better on a smaller budget, it's even more exciting to do shorts. I try to do one before every feature, to get me pumped up about being on set, working with actors and crew, etc. But I also try to have an ulterior motive; since EVERLY has a copious amount of dialogue not in my native tongue, I wanted to get comfortable directing actors in a language not my own. We were very slavish with the style and form of this short so it feels like a foreign film from 20 years ago, down to subtitling the belgian crew who many times speaks french-belgian. My "crew", JC (the director) and Billy (the sound guy) were very accommodating and great to work with. Everyone on the crew was a family. But the challenge paid off and now Im psyched to direct a bunch of surly Yakuza henchmen on EVERLY…
10. What can you tell us about your current project Everly? What’s it all about, and how’s production going?
Good segway! I'm actually in lovely Belgrade, Serbia in week 2 of Prep and it's going fantastic. Im in love with my crew, the whole city, it's going awesome, reminding me why I love making movies. What other job allows me to travel around the world, shoot guns, work with such amazing talent both in front and behind the screen, all of that? It's crazy. The film is about a woman, a reluctant lover of a powerful yakuza boss who has migrated to a US city to form his own satellite faction of his Yakua family, is discovered to be talking to the feds, so he decides to send ALL of his guys to deal with her…and she has to survive, not just for herself, but to save her daughter and mother. The film has one rule: The camera can NOT leave the room. Kinda my "Dogma 95" you know? I love rules in cinema and necessity breeds invention, so I love thinking on my feet and using my creativity to its highest potential to basically shoot my way OUT of the room. That we have Salma as Everly has elevated it to a truly global film experience and that's just the tip of the iceberg. This is my DIE HARD, this is my LEON…this is my love letter to cinema at it's most extreme and heartfelt as well. And TRUTH IN JOURNALISM was the best primer for the madness to come. I can't wait for Day 1! Anyone who wants to join in the madness can follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@TheJoeLynch) where Im posting pics from the production. I'll also be doing a segment from Serbia each week on my podcast with Adam Green (HATCHET, FROZEN, HOLLISTON, etc), The Movie Crypt, so please feel free to stop by!