With producer Adi Shankar‘s newest short film Truth in Journalism hitting the web this morning (watch it here), I recently landed an exclusive interview with him. Written and directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn II, Knights of Badassdom) and starring Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Truth in Journalism is sure to excite comic book fans, but to say any more than that would ruin the surprise. I just suggest watching it as soon as possible so no one can spoil it.
During the interview, Shankar talked about where the idea came from, casting Kwanten, the VFX, whether the shorts take place in the same universe, the reaction to Dirty Laundry, what they almost put after the credits in Dirty Laundry, and more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
NOTE: You should definitely watch the short Truth in Advertising before scrolling down as spoilers are discussed.
ADI SHANKAR: It’s based on an idea I had 5 years ago for a Duke Nukem movie and/or an even less commercial Judge Dredd movie. You take Man Bites Dog and mash it up with a well-known anti-hero. It’s a concept where you take a character that’s inherently over the top and you drop him in an overly realistic grounded reality and have everyone around him scratching their heads as to why this individual is behaving like a cartoon character. It works with characters who are really menacing, but to some degree self-aware, and are themselves parodies. I gave the idea to my friend Joe Lynch and he ran with it. Joe is a talent. I can’t compliment him enough. When I met Joe I was immediately impressed by his encyclopedic knowledge of international cinema and deep-rooted love of it.
Last year you premiered Dirty Laundry at Comic-Con. How did the reaction to that short hit you?
SHANKAR: Honestly, I was depressed. Dirty Laundry went viral and was getting more acclaim than I had ever hoped it would. I had tasted success for the first time a few months earlier with The Grey. I had Dredd, which was getting great buzz, and Killing Them Softly, which got great reviews out of Cannes, but I was in a really tough place personally. I went my whole life without winning anything and now all of a sudden after years of hard work my dreams were coming true all at once and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It felt like the world was changing its relationship with me but I had stayed the same.
Talk a bit about the philosophy behind making these shorts.
SHANKAR: The philosophy is simple: Let’s take some of the money made from these movies to make something cool. I’m here now, I’m inevitably going to die at some point, and as an artist I feel an ardent urge to constantly be creating. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that as a feature film producer I shouldn’t dabble in television, web content, or even comic books … that thinking perpetuates the consumerist mosh pit we are now desperately trying to dig ourselves out of. I have a burning desire to entertain and different mediums allow me to do this in different ways. These shorts are as much a part of my filmography as the movies are, I care about Dirty Laundry as much as I care about my upcoming movie The Voices. Kevin Smith called me last week after Comic-Con and encouraged me to make more of these. He told me that the vast majority of the people you’ll deal with in Hollywood won’t care about these shorts because they can’t make a buck off it. It doesn’t matter. It’s not for them it’s for the fans. Kevin’s really good at putting things into perspective, and it wasn’t till talking to him that I realized that I’m making these for the 14 year old me.
How did you guys cast Ryan Kwanten and was he a tough sell or did he jump on board?
SHANKAR: Kwanten signed on right away. He had worked with Joe in the past and although I don’t believe him he told me that he really likes my movies. All joking aside, Ryan’s the man. I keep telling everyone that he’s the Daniel Bryan of Hollywood but I keep getting weird looks because no one seems to get that reference.
Who did the effects on the new one and how did you pick them?
SHANKAR: Sam Balcomb and his team over at Rainfall films did all the VFX. They are a new company but also a top notch VFX company and I was lucky to be able to work with them. I’ve worked with a lot of VFX companies with the movies and I have to say Rainfall is one of the best and that’s why we picked them. Their attention to detail was impeccable.
When did you guys figure out the subject matter and did it ever change? Like did you think about doing a different type of short and then you decided on this one.
SHANKAR: Both Dirty Laundry and Truth in Journalism had pretty singular visions from Phil and Joe respectively. There are always a few tweeks here and there. For example, in Dirty Laundry I had an idea for a fun post credits scene where you cut to James Van Der Beek as Captain America (he would have made an amazing Cap) on the phone with someone upset that “that bastard Castle stole my shield.” We would have put Cap’s shield in the seat right next to Castle when he’s driving off in the final shot to tease the end credits scene. Ultimately, that wouldn’t have fit with the tone of the rest of the short but it’s fun to think about. The post credits scene in Truth in Journalism works because the whole piece is a dark comedy.
SHANKAR: Like Dirty Laundry the idea was to make something that stood alone as its own film. The idea of a shared universe is a really cool one but it’s a double edged sword. Dredd, Deadpool, Venom, Ghost Rider, Morbious, Grendel, Spawn, Punisher, and Wolverine exist in another world … at least they do emotionally and thematically. They are tragic anti-heroes rather than chiseled celebrity heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. Most of the Marvel Universe sees Frank Castle as a villain and he thinks they are “boy scouts.” The Marvel Knights characters generally lend themselves very well to adult themed films … also known as films with the 70’s vibe. Sticking all these characters in a shared universe becomes challenging because now you have to make a good DAREDEVIL movie and worry about how it fits in the context of the other movies in that universe. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the most iconic comic books are one-shot off continuity books like Dark Knight Returns or event books like FLASHPOINT PARADOX where the story isn’t beholden to the rules and parallel stories of the rest of the universe! Make a good movie first and worry about the source character and the universe later. What I think a lot of people missed was that Dirty Laundry is a western that happens to have the Punisher in it. The convenience store is the saloon and Ron Pearlman’s character is the bartender. Goldtooth is an outlaw in a town with no marshal. Thom’s character becomes the defacto yet reluctant marshal, dispenses justice, and rides away into the sunset. Dirty Laundry isn’t a “Punisher movie” by any means. Dredd by the way is a sci-fi Die Hard movie.
Speaking of end credits you make a cameo in this short. Are you going to be doing any more acting?
SHANKAR: I thought it was a fun role. It’s riffing off an iconic scene in Man Bites Dog. I acted in this movie with Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick that comes out next year. It’s a serious thriller but I play the comedic relief and I wear braces. I love acting. I’m able to express myself and not get made fun of for it.