Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quickee update

A few random bits-
* More Faith pages coming..... way delayed, pretty inexcusable, so I won't make any excuses.
* "Black Canary" went through a second fx test- and am planning a production schedule for next year.
Happy holidays to all, unless you hate the holidays, in which case, go to sleep then.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 010: Preliminary fx test

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 009: Origins & Progress

These are excerpts from the (rebooted) origin of the Black Canary, written by Alan Bennett, art by Joe Staton & Dick Giordano.

It's actually the version that we're planning on using. Don't get me started on the issue of reboots in comics- I don't mind them, but the frequency has been happening so often, it makes making any real creative attachment to any of the comics very unnappealing. Chris Claremont reportedly had been on 'X-men' as a writer voluntarily for 17 years straight- and while it's not perfect, the sense of something personal inevitably has to be part of the project, that makes the project far more interesting.

Anyhow- getting a team together in front/behind cameras is tricky. In many ways, the hours spent in hunting and tracking down comrades of like enough mind always reminds me of 'The Seven Samurai' or (the western remake) 'the Magnificent Seven' or (the scifi remake) 'Star Wars: A New Hope', wherein one gathers companions to embark on a journey with many unknowns.

But--- no matter what, it's an adventure to get to a certain destination creatively. Especially in these relatively darker times, going from the day to day life of work (or looking for work, depending on your situation) to a time of just joining others to create a waking dream in the form of video film--- it's like (at times) stepping into another dimension of make believe for awhile with others who don't mind helping out/joining you for the journey.

It may not pay the rent, but to me, in ways, it pays the creative soul in other ways.
It's something.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 008: BC- Male/Female?

((Yes, this is Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor & not Black Canary, but I'll get into why I'm posting that here in a bit...))

Before even shooting one frame of this project, doing 'research' has been extremely interesting, and has taken me to different creative corners- and dissolved some very deep set assumptions I've had on male/female hero archetypes. But before I get ahead of myself, let me introduce a few bits that have made me take a step back in my own approach at adapting Black Canary to the fan film youtube screen. ;)


Jennifer Ford, creator of the Black Canary/Birds of Prey website and unofficial expert on Black Canary lore (check out her excellent website- linked on the side of this screen) generously let me pick her brain a bit on what she thought made Black Canary great.

With her permission, I'll share my questions and her answers here:
Question #1:
What version of the character has had the best appeal to you/ what qualities of this particular version feels 'right'?
(Or which writer do you feel had the best interpretation of BC?)

Her early Bronze Age appearances in Justice League, Adventure, and Green Lantern/Green Arrow (Hard-Traveling Heroes) were the ones on which I imprinted, and Gail Simone’s run on the series came closest to matching and updating *that* version of the character. “Sensei and Student” arc is definitive for the modern era. And while I love the classic costume, I like her current one best (or Amanda Connor’s original redesign of it from the 3-part Terry Moore arc [BoP #47-49]).

Question #2:
What are the top 5-10 things that attract you to THIS character, as opposed to other characters in comics?

I think what I liked about her from way back when I was a kid reading Justice League, etc., was that she was different – not a female version of a male character but her own woman. She dated, she was in the JLA, she was very modern and independent and unapologetic about it back when that wasn’t a very common thing (Supergirl in that era, for instance, was constantly trying to quit being a superhero; Wonder Woman was never as accessible). In her GL/GA appearances, she was in a comparatively realistic world as a strong superheroine which was even cooler. Canary is like a Batman – a “normal” human (she rarely uses her superpower and relies on her martial skills) who has worked to become amazing at what she does.

Question #3:
Is Black Canary more appealing as symbolic role model or more as human being?
(i.e. Superman or Spiderman?)

Gail’s portrayal of her underscores what also made her a great character back in the 70s – she’s this amazing kickass martial artist and superhero who’s knows everyone and has saved the world a zillion times, but she’s also a normal human woman – she worries about people, she notices things, she pays attention to details, feelings, emotions, nuance – and that is never portrayed now *or* then as a weakness. That’s one of her strengths, that she can save the world and talk to you about what’s bugging you and help you figure it out.

Question #4:
Is there an 'ultimate' Black Canary solo story or storyline that stands out to you personally above all the rest?

Bronze age two-parter by Alex Toth (Adventure #418 & #419, also in the BC Archive collection) is a great solo adventure from that era

JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice is a great story for her as a super-team member (and just a great JLA story)

And most of Gail Simone’s run on the Birds of Prey title, (I would say Sensei & Student is the stand-out arc)

((Birds of Prey: Sensei and Student))
Again, thanks to Jenna Ford for granting me permission to share this!

BTW, I have to say, that I did pick up Gail Simone's "Sensei & Student" ((As well as between "Dark & Dawn")) trade paperbacks- and the story IS great- though a lot resonates far more, if you are familiar with the guest DC characters (Cheshire, Lady Shiva, among others) and their history in the DC comics' universe.

Anyhow- this, plus: Gail Simone's own words (wait towards the end when she talks about her favorite character ever and why) ---

Kinda convinced me that maybe what I saw in Black Canary and what aspects I thought were there and inspirational as a hero were possibly a bit different than what Jennifer and Gail see---but maybe not- anyhow I knew that I needed to figure out (for myself) just WHO is the 'correct' Black Canary before going forward.

Similiarly, it reminded me of a conversation I'd had with a feminist (that what she wanted to be called, not me labelling. I hate labels) friend years ago about Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in "Terminator 1" versus "Terminator 2".

To me, Black Canary is parts Sarah Connor (from T2) and Lara Croft, only BC came first a LONG time ago.

((Linda Hamilton/Sarah Connor from "Terminator" the classic James Cameron movie))

((Linda Hamilton/Sarah Connor from "Terminator 2" the almost as classic James Cameron sequel))

What's the difference?
According to my friend, she felt: "Sarah is a woman in "Terminator 1". In "Terminator 2", she's a man."

Huh? What? I didn't get it.

I thought she was someone that transformed from being an average person who would wiped out by a robot in T1, but that she was able to transform HERSELF into someone (male/female didn't matter to me) that could be strong enough to repress fear and insecurity when necessary and kick butt when need be.

To me, that's the appeal of a human super-character in comics. It's an empowerment myth, and when times are tough, and the spirit is low, stories of heroes (male/female) help us escape our every day world and uplift our inner ones to face it.

But my friend thought she 'just became a man' in the sequel. That she became a cold machine and that she wasn't really a woman in the sequel.

I dunno. I thought she was cool and I never thought of Sarah as having an internal sex change in T2.
But I always thought it an interesting point of view.

In talking about Black Canary, I don't think that she's AFRAID to have feelings or to show them- but when someone puts on a suit to be a powerful symbol to send a message to thugs, as a character, I imagine that if she were real, then it's a bit of role-playing, if you're going to brush your teeth, put on a wig, and go outside to beat bad people up. Just as people role-play to go to work (or look for work), or to give a speech before an audience, it's not just putting on an exterior suit/costume- it's putting on an interior coat of invincibility as well, I would think.

Does that mean that burying (some) feelings of very realistic human fears of death or capture make one male or female?
Does my friend mean that being a man=no feelings, being a woman=feelings?
I would hope that's not true, though of course society frowns on expressions of emotions out of control on either end.
("There's no crying in baseball Shouting and punching, that's much more civilized!")

In what proportions? It's a whole other discussion. But-
Back to conception of Black Canary and creating a correct view of her:

I like what Jenna said about her having feelings and being able to help others sort it out as well-
I'm reminded of a work acquaintence I knew who did social work for awhile: she talked out how her bosses trained her to
empathetic((understanding of the distress of others)) not sympathetic ((sorrow for the distress of others)) with those need- because if you did, then you could become 'pathetic' ((well, I think anyone can know what that means)) by becoming so identified with others' pain that you cripple yourself mentally and emotionally.

Like Jenna said, I don't think BC is afraid to have and show feelings, but I'd also like to think that there's a streetwise sense to her, too, that knows when to be nice. And when not to.

I don't think that makes her male or female. Just pretty cool. Much like Sarah Connor in T2.
(Well, at least the part AFTER she realizes that trying to assassinate someone for the sake of the future may be going a little too far)

Well... anyhow. Figuring out the specific personality and not only who Black Canary is, but should be, has been more than a bit elusive--- but Jenna's and Gail's answers have made it a little bit easier.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 007: Did I mention this already?

I thought I did mention this already in my blogs, but I guess I didn't after all.
I forgot to mention the BEST site I've seen for Black Canary and the Birds of Prey comic books,
created by Jennifer A. Ford- Check it out!

More BC film pre-production/planning stuff soon...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 006: First effects test

First fx test went well.

Also, although the outline is done and the idea is set for the film... I realize that one common mistake that I see in a lot of comic book films is that often it doesn't try to use anything from the comics- which is ok - (and sometimes necessary budgetwise)- but if you're going to go through the effort, why not try to study the best stories and work out there on the character?

The Black Canary I was familiar with (in the original JLA) has been re-invented and re-jiggered a few times. Despite trying to keep down a low-budget (that keeps growing through odds and ends- *sigh*), I went out and picked up the "Birds of Prey: Of Like Mind' TPB by Gail Simone (who wrote the EXCELLENT recent Wonder Woman animated film) and Ed Benes (Whose work here I actually like much better than his JLA stuff).

Originally, I HATED the "Birds of Prey" television show that shot itself in the foot by having a nice cast, great look, great concept--- and horrible horrible horrible writing.

The comic book, however... now, I don't know about the earlier issues, but the Gail Simone/Ed Benes stuff is just wonderful. Much like the WW Animated film (both that and the Justice League Unlimited episodes she wrote), there's a sense of fun and humor that goes through the book- but a great story and 'kickarsery' (is that a word? Probably not, but so what?) moments that make you stick to it. Reminded me of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' the tv show in many ways.

Anyhow--- after flying through the trade paperback (always a good sign that I dug it), I didn't find anything specifically that I could 'ape' from Gail Simone for the project- but.... I'm more than tempted to pickup the others by Simone, for reading enjoyment- and-like I said, it'd be silly NOT to crib SOMETHING if there's a great body of work on the characters already sitting there. And like I said, great read.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 005: The Titanic story and how it relates-

Years ago, I attended a CGI seminar, where Rob Legatto was the keynote speaker, and talked (if memory serves right) about how legendary filmmaker James Cameron asked Digital Domain if they could create digital water, so that the "Titanic" movie could actually be made the way that he intended.

Without knowing for sure, DD said "Yes, we can!"--- even though they had never been able (nor had anyone at that point) to create computer generated water at that stage. They essentially committed to figuring it out by a deadline, while the picture began shooting and the movie had already been set to be booked in theatres by a set date. If they couldn't make it work, then the movie would probably have been toast without that key bit, and it's probably not impossible to say that it might have sunk a studio as well.


I was shocked when I heard this story, and wondered: "Is this how all movies are made? You don't know if you can jump across the bridge, but do it anyways?"

Similiarly, cut to now.
The sucky thing of course is that, unlike working on a Hollywood project, a fan film usually is done whilst juggling the day job, so to speak, which has no sympathy for the ideal way in which you would like to work.

The outline for the three part Black Canary story is set, (finally), but the main thing (besides Black Canary's look and ability)- is whether or not we can deliver a kickarse action sequence worthy of the gigantic standards put out by both professionals and fan films nowadays. Like special effects, the audience is probably more picky than any other time in history with its creative demands. Time is (potential) money, so if an audience gives up their attention to watch a fan film, they damn well be entertained, and I certainly understand that unspoken contract between filmmaker and viewer.

"Vangelis", (the last film done prior to this current one), suprisingly was able to have its action sequences unscathed by nasty fan critics, a large part of that credit goes to Tom Miller and Boran Vukajlovic.

This time around, there are a number of options in regards to the action sequence. and very little time to enact it. Can we do it?
Not much choice.
"Yes, we can".
((Or else it'll suck and I'll have wasted a lot of time on these blogs. So, we can't afford to suck. ;p ))

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 004: A Canary and her Hog

BC on her hog---

And...Black Canary and her bike in the silver (or bronze?) age DC comics. (Art copyright DC comics, of course.)

Anyhow, shooting hopefully will begin in a few weeks.
The odd thing is how much of short (or long) filmmaking deals with having to do so many TEDIOUS things to even get to start filmming. But that's the way it goes, for million dollar films and one dollar films. (We're somewhere in between those two categories)

In an ideal world, we'd be having Black Canary doing amazing stuff on the motorcycle- but given that our playground is limited, and my ability to pay actors' hospital bills is next to nil--- we're not going to be having any realistic Jackie Chan-like stunts in the BC short(s).

But---to not have ANY appearance of a Harley Davison... well...

Not having BC's bike, is like having the Lone Ranger without his horse, Batman without his Batmobile, or Speed Racer without his Mach 5.

BC can do her kickarse martial arts without a motorcycle, but there are a few touchstones that, to me, scream out 'Black Canary', and the Harley-Davison is one of them.

So, BC's bike has to be in there somehow. We'll figure something out. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 003: conceiving parimeters

((Black Canary and art is copyright DC comics.))


I've done a number of short films over the years--- which doesn't mean that you should automatically like what I can put together- but... it means that I've actually completed projects and have some actual experience. Does it mean I'm a pro?
No. But-- it means that hopefully I'm getting better, as I see each short I've done as being a great lesson over the one previous.

Now, I'm not crazy about filmmakers that try to pretend to be bigger than they are, because...well, who's fooling who? On one hand, it could be argued that the final product is all that counts.... or it could be argued: sometimes the battle for the film is part of the whole story. I certainly know that I tend to learn more from others who have similiar budgets and somehow miss the mark, but are willing to share what might have gone wrong---

And in that spirit.... I humbly hope that the WHOLE experience- the final product and what it took to try to get there- turns out to be a worthwhile one for others, and not just for those directly involved.

So, this blog is to share the journey, and hope the destination turns out as great as it seems in my head.
If it doesn't, then maybe- just maybe- the gist of what was in my head can still come out to be enjoyed, in the bts stuff.

Hopefully. In any case, hope you enjoy. ;)
So, with that very long intro.... here I go:

Things I thought/think about in tackling BLACK CANARY:

In tackling Black Canary, there were/are concerns right away, that at least I knew we should be conscious of:
#1: Who would/should play Black Canary?
#2: What is the story we want to tell/ experience we want to create?
#3: What are the best things about the character that should be shown/attempted in a fan film?

History of the Black Canary can be best found here:

With multiple versions of the Black Canary in existence---the question came up: which one to pick to adapt?
The Silver Age one with the mask? The Bronze Age one where Black Canary came from "Earth Two" to join the Justice League?
The reboot Age where Black Canary has a daughter named Dinah Lance and wears a leather leotard?

Just like the "Spiderman" and "Superman" films had to choose an amalgam of the different versions, choosing a particular view was important. I get more now what they were talking about in first needing a singular creative view of a character, from many interpretations.

Also--- I didn't want to do this:

((This is Black Canary. According to CW's "Smallville", which has moments of brilliance- but unfortunately many more moments of creative laziness))

(photo by the cw)
I guess I can only say: uhh.... this is NOT what I see in my mind when I think of the comic character "Black Canary".
Is this what you see? I honestly don't know what the hell this is supposed to be, but it doesn't look like Black Canary to me.

Now- if this was part of a fan film, I'd give it some creative latitude, because most of us fans don't have... uh... money, and I'm sure that the catering bill for a CW show is probably more than what any of us makes in years. So.

Besides--- fan films to me are in a different category.
It may be self-serving to say so, but to me, anyone who at least tries to create/finish a project with no money and all heart deserves to at least not be picked on for putting themselves out there. So, you won't ever hear me bash another fan film (unless the star or director is a complete ass, but that's somewhat rare...) ;p

Having said that--- On the flip side, if we're not learning from one another to improve projects, and just kiss each others' butts, that's a mistake in the other direction.

So, going in, I can say I made a list going in on what I DON'T care for in projects that are based on comics (pro or not) that don't quite pass the mark (creatively) for me:

#1: THE COSTUME (Lack of, or too different from the comics).

The look/costume is far too important imo when it's comics.
Why? Because the image and the symbolism is what makes the particular medium memorable.

Believe me when I say that me and Ashley went through great discussions on hair, that still aren't over yet.
I had no idea before starting how important hair is to generating a look of a character. As you can see from the photos, we didn't go with the Silver Age look of BC's Farrah Fawcett hair, though not for lack of trying. Anyways--- maybe more on the hair issue later on. (Or not. Just know we paid a lot of attention to it)

#2: THE ACTION (Too cheesy when it's not supposed to be cheesy)

Having grown up on Hong Kong kung fu films, it's hard to look at any tv or film projects that aren't on the same level.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did a smart job in mixing/matching real martial artists in sequences with wire-fu and/or often, there was more going on than just the martial arts showcase.

Even in "The Matrix", the kungfu looked...ok. But that's with professionals and months of training.

So.... the challenge is: how to make the action in a BC fan film look good without martial artists who've trained since birth nor
the money and time of those who do films for a living. So....yeah.... the work is cut out for us, for sure. Check back on this blog for more later on that...


This goes hand in hand with the writing. A lot of my short films were campy on purpose, for many reasons I won't go into right here. But.... the acting and the writing will definitely go in hand. I've seen projects where the actor seems fine- but there's no way to tell because there's not much of a story. Which leads to the next issue...


This is/was tricky. There's not a lot of money available for this project, so the key thing is: For no money, can enough be produced to make the end result something that I would think is worth taking the time to see and enjoy? Ideally, we'd have crazy motorcycle stunts/etc.- but choosing what scale the production will be on will help determine the story. Kind of the size of the chicken affecting the size of the egg.

Been paying to all these all along.
Wish us luck as we go forward. Until next time...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 002: I'll tell you why

"Why Black Canary?" (and...why a fan film after "Vangelis"?)

A student filmmaker once asked me, "What's the point of doing a fan film?"

"I mean," he continued, "It's not like a real film. Don't you have any original ideas?"

As per usual, when someone makes a pretty rude statement to me, I either respond by tossing them across the room in slow-motion or I get extremely flustered and shut the hell up, to give the person the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn't mean the offense and shouldn't answer until I'm sure if the rudeness came out of intent or ignorance. I've rarely tossed anyone across the room in slow-motion, so usually it's the second response.

If I was smarter and less flustered, I think I would answer:
"Because what I see in my head is worth aiming for, even if turns out not to be real when I get there."

Pretty delusional, eh?
But then again, it could be argued that the world is split up into four types of people:
#1: Those who always try and succeed in hitting their targets.
#2: Those who always try, but don't always succeed.
#3: Those who never try (but love to tear others down who do)
#4: Those who give up and die.

Of course everyone wishes they were in the first category, but more often than not, I think it's fair to say most of us fall into the second category.

Why do a fan film? Why try if you don't have the resources to be the next "Batman Begins"?

Because I (a) want to see a great Black Canary film, and think it's possible.
And (b) I don't want to ever be in Category #3 or Category #4.

That's why.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project....1st blog

Been trying to wrap up a few projects before the end of this year-
One, being "Faith"---
The other, being...

...Black Canary.

This is a sample of a photo shoot I did with Ashley Burma as Black Canary. Creating a film (or video) project is always challenging for a multitude of reasons. When you have limited resources, it's even more challenging.

We've been actually doing prep work on the side for this project for awhile, and coming up with interesting challenges along the way, which I'll share in this blog later on. But, hopefully these images will picque your interest for the moment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Update: Faith Comic Pages - June 2009

Hi All,
Sorry for the extra-long delays for the story. Life and health matters have held this up a bit, but the story WILL be finished before Wondercon in San Francisco of 2010. Pencilling/inking takes time, especially when it's not paying the rent. Thanks for the interest. Hope to have more pages after a summer work stint. CAM