13 Nov

Why I Made a Spider-Man Movie

With a lot of help from some friends, this past summer I made a Spider-Man movie. Specifically, I made a Miles Morales movie.

Why did I do this? I thought it might be interesting to break down the film and my thought-process behind it in a brief blog post. So, without further adieu…

Reason 1: I’m a Nerd

When Marvel Studios announced that the Spider-Man character was returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (instead of remaining a Sony property), I got unreasonably excited. After two mediocre Spidey films created solely because a large monolithic corporation didn’t want to lose licensing rights to an extremely popular character, here was a chance to try something new. No Peter Parker…no dying Uncle Ben…no Mary Jane! I thought for sure Marvel was going to give us the Miles Morales movie that we have all been clamoring for (with Donald Glover as the lead!) But, nope…I was wrong. A few months after the “big news,” I saw that the MCU Spidey was going to remain Peter. So, what’s a good nerd to do? Make it yourself!

The Miles character really resonates for me. Morales feels like a character who is more a reflection of today’s Brooklyn teenager—a  smart, but not super-genius kid who is forced to take up the mantle of a fallen hero. And, not to dig into race too much (I am a white Jew after all), I think we need to see more non-white superheroes on screen. This may seem like a semantic thing, but I do think it’s an important notion on a base level for impressionable kids to see their action figures come in all sizes and colors.

Real directors point at things. Photo Courtesy Jonathan Zuck.

Real directors point at things. Photo Courtesy Jonathan Zuck.

Reason 2: I Wanted to make something people would actually watch

In general, the larger, mainstream population doesn’t watch short films. Keep in mind: I make this statement as someone who writes and curates for one of the leading short-viewing platforms on the web. This may sound cynical (I did it all for the clicks…lol!), but I was genuinely interested in seeing if a known intellectual property would actually get people to watch a short film that I made. Let’s see if Hollywood was indeed correct about all the this “brand recognition” they keep on babbling about (this, folks, is how Battleship got made).

As a somewhat aside rant, the backlash against comic book movies annoys me. “They’re not original!” people say…”they are killing ‘real’ film.”  

Well, here’s the deal: I only have a problem with movies that aren’t good, and in general, the MCU movies are actually pretty darn good (if somewhat cinematically safe). If anything, big budget tentpoles don’t worry me. As a young filmmaker, it’s the incredibly overcrowded indie market that scares me the most. It’s not sustainable to have so many micro-budget films every year. This is the “screaming into the abyss” phenomenon I have written about before.

So, was I successful? It’s kind of too early to say. That being said, the film has already racked up more views than anything I’ve ever made in two days. And, despite my issues with the film (yes, I know I cast the characters too old, I too wish certain things were more polished), fans seem to genuinely be enjoying it. Plus, Brian Michael Bendis liked it. Achievement unlocked, I’d say.

Reason 3: I Wanted to Do Something Different

It’s simple, really. As a director, I wanted to try something new. No high-concept rom-com. No character dramas. No docs. Here was something that was totally outside my wheelhouse. A comic book film? With special effects? And, an action sequence? I was totally beyond my comfort zone, and ultimately, that turned out to be a good thing. It forced me to don new hats, while handing over other hats to more qualified and suitably trained people. This resulted in numerous new connections (hello, stunt team!) and provided for a tremendous learning experience (I now know how to use x Particles, y’all).     

Is the film perfect? Hell no! It has a ton of flaws, many of which are primarily my fault. But, I’m really glad I tried, blemishes and all. And, now with my experiences on this film behind me, I’m eager to take all that I have learned to make a better product for the next go-around.

So, that’s why I made a Spider-Man movie.

If you’re interested in checking out more about the film, a brief BTS documentary. There’s also a slew of on-set photos to peruse.

In the meantime, here’s hoping the higher-ups at Marvel give us a big-screen Miles Morales film. And, for me personally, well, I’m excited to tackle the next challenge.

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