Q&A with NightFall Director R.A. Grimes and Star Kevin Sullivan
When you think about the ‘Super Hero’ film genre you think big budgets, big stars in what eventually becomes a convoluted mess of explosions, and huge CGI scenes. But filmaker R.A. Grimes and his star Kevin Sullivan decided to do a complete 180 and turn this genre on it’s head. Armed with a small budget, no car chases, no CGI monsters, no tights or capes, just plain good old storytelling.
We sat down with the creators to discuss this important project.
CineFile: So why did you guys choose the Super Hero genre to deconstruct? Is it because it is so popular right now and therefore ripe for the picking?
R.A. Grimes: Funny enough this project has it’s genesis way before this Super Hero renaissance. We started work on this maybe 15 years ago. I have always wanted to create a realistic superhero film. You can’t relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.
And that’s what we wanted to create here.
Kevin Sullivan: I think that is why it is so important that we start this origin story with the character having reached rock bottom. This guy is living on the streets, eating out of garbage cans and yet there is choice. A choice to grow from nothing…which is a choice we all have at anytime. We can all grow from the point we are at now.
CF: What causes this mass appeal, driving millions of people into movie theaters every year? Does audience interest stem from the action-packed story lines? Is it the improbably beautiful bodies displayed for all to see in Lycra Spandex-covered glory?
KS: Perhaps it is the simple promise of two hours of entertainment guaranteed to provide the experience of an epic adventure. But take a closer examination of the films themselves. I think there is a need that goes deeper than a basic need for entertainment. These characters are enhanced by super powers or abilities, the superhero as portrayed in today’s films displays an astonishing lack of humanity. They rarely cope with the human experience through these films, an experience with which audience members can identify. Viewers don’t really see a part of their own reality on the big screen through superhero characters. This is what makes the characters so untranslatable to the viewer. And I think in a sense they are entertained for a few hours but still there is this unsatisfying feeling. Almost like a Vegas Buffet…you know your full but you still leave unsatisfied.
RG: You know the movie industry sort of force feeds you this stuff. They want the comic book movie to work because they have a wealth of source material. The comic book movie are popular right now is not because it resonates with the audience…it is because we are trained to spend our cash on a the most recent blockbuster. This past decade it was the comic book movie but the next decade is going to be
SciFi thanks to the latest Star Wars Blockbuster. It is all a cycle.
CF: Do you feel that your film is at the end of this cycle?
RG: I think the film we are creating is outside of any genre. It is disguised as ‘hero’ film but the reality is that it is about universal issues that are timeless. We occasionally see fear on the faces of citizens, but it is always from the perspective of the superhero that is trying to save them. Indeed, we’ve been viewing the world through the eyes of the superhero the whole time. We fly, swing, and battle along side the superheroes. The camera – our window into the world – always seems to be mounted on their shoulders. The effect is that the superlatives fall away from the hero and what is left is a CGI ride. A movie without proxies to help distance us from superheroes can easily degenerate into a 3-hour CGI-fest in which everyone is supposed to be amazing but the result is that no one is particularly remarkable.
Filmakers need to understand that our investment in superheroes and their stories is rooted in that character’s role in the survival of the human race, as represented in the film by the actual human beings to whom we relate.
KS: But it is also a great book end to the ‘hero’ genre.
CF: So the million dollar question…is this a batman movie?
KS: This is the story of a hero who has fallen on some really bad times and is forced to start over. The questions are again universal. He has to reexamine everything in a sense all his motivations for being a hero.
RG: No…(laugh) this is not a Batman movie…this is the NightFall movie. But if you see a little batman in there so be it…but what we really want to you to see it is yourself in the movie. That was the entire motivation for making this film.