We are very clearly in a Golden Age of superhero movies. From Marvel and DC duking it out over countless media streams, to a resurgence of fan fic and media taking over the Internet. It’s under this purview that we touched base with the team behind Electrogenesis, a short film taking a new twist on resident DC Gawd Level Electrician, Static Shock. Luckily, we got to sit down with the team via email and got all the full details.
Who’s your team?
Leon Langford: Our team consists of myself as key creative writer, Daniel Klockenkemper, our cinematographer, Gabrielle Shepard, our producer, and director Harjus Singh. I have to mention that just like the Martian Manhunter is the swiss army knife of Superheroes, Dan is the swiss army knife of film-making. He shot the film, helped with editing and color correction, and even worked sound design. He was awesome.
How’d the idea for the film come about?
HS: This is an idea that I’ve had for a while because I had grown up watching Static Shock, the animated TV show. It wasn’t until I got older that I explored the deeper and more grounded stories in the comics. I had always been a fan of comics, but it was the stories of Static’s everyday life with drugs and violence; the Death of Jason Todd; Green Arrow seeing Speedy shooting up heroin; the death of Gwen (to name a few), that made these heroes real for me. I related to them on that level because, even with all these powers, they still hurt and were human also. Static was one of those heroes. But I had felt a gap and an absence. In the DC universe, he had the show when he was younger, he was a Teen Titan, and then nothing. Not until he is older, quite a bit older in the Batman Beyond series, do we see him again. I always wondered: how does he go from Teen Titan to part of the Justice League? Electrogenesis answers that question.
LL: I was already on board when Harjus said “Static Shock.” Our school requires us to have the script read by a class, along with the professor (the awesome Jeff Phillips.) So we went through about 4-5 drafts with Virgil’s name changed to someone else, and no super powers. We wanted to be sure it worked as a character piece first. Then we revealed to the class that it was actually a superhero film. Jeff then gave us the best advice: don’t hide the hero, embrace him. From there we beefed up the ending a bit and the script became relatively easily to finish.
HS: After the summer, we got matched up with Gabby, our producer. Honestly, with her, we got the best producer we could for this film. She was able to produce the hell out of this story, execute the script, all why consulting and contributing to the script too. Gabby knew the story and how to tell it, and was an extremely valuable asset to all portions of production. Honestly without her, this film wouldn’t have been possible. She fought for it to happen and helped us ensure that the story was about Static and not a generalized superhero. Also our production professor Dave Kost was a huge advocate for us to make this film. He really helped us hone in on the character, but also helped us figure out how in the hell we were going to shoot this film in four days.
How’d you get into filmmaking?
HS: I have always had a love affair with films and storytelling. However, it never seemed like a viable career and with my undergrad being in BioMedical Engineering, my path was for medical school. I applied to some film schools on a whim while applying for medical schools, and got in. So the hardest decision was: do I go to medical school or film school? While I love medicine and I think I would’ve been a great doctor, I loved film just a little more. And honestly, I had literal dreams of directing films, but I never had dreams of treating patients. So I jumped into it with both feet and here I am.
GS: I’ve always had the bug for film going all the way back to Friday movie nights with my family. Growing up I understood that the movie-watching experience brings people together. My first undergrad film class sparked the idea of being the brains behind the operation. The following summer I interned, and, fell in love with pursuing it as a profession.
LL: I got into filmmaking because I realized I didn’t want to be novelist. I had started writing at a young age. But also, I’d go to the movies with my father every Friday. So naturally, everything I wrote I envisioned as a movie. I then realized that I shouldn’t be writing novels that get turned into movies; I should just be writing movies. So I shifted my focus in college to screenwriting. I spent most of my summers holed up in the kitchen writing screenplays, following the Kanye West approach of “lock yourself in a room doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers.” So far, I’ve written 5 feature scripts the past 3 summers.
How’d you begin and pursue the process of shopping the film around?
LL: Well, we started with raising money on Kickstarter. The school gave us a little bit of funding, but for a film of this scope we knew we’d need more. So we decided to energize the fan base and tell friends, family, and fans about our film. We posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Shout out to Tumblr for really coming out in droves to share our work and showing us love. We also did a table at the Long Beach Comic Con and showed off some test footage we had shot. Also, Harjus, being the low-key genius he is, set the Kickstarter to end on his birthday, of all days. We ended up raising $3,000 and from there we were set to get to work.
How’d you get to Cannes?
LL: We applied and were accepted. It was strange actually. As much as I love and support the film, I didn’t think it would be accepted into Cannes. It’s Cannes. There’s such a high standard and high barrier for any film to be recognized by them. So I’m happy our film got in. It shows that we all did our jobs and made something that wasn’t just recognized by the comic community, but high-brow film communities too.
When did your nerdom begin?
LL: My nerdom probably began when I was 5 years old. When Dragonball Z came out it was a wrap. In 5th grade I would write my own Dragonball Z style fights and stories. These were little 20 page stories I wrote and even sold at my school’s fair.
HS: End of elementary school, into junior high. I would lose myself in TV shows like Dragonball Z, comics and Star Trek. It was my escape along with video games (I’m a huge video game connoisseur.) I would get lost in the story, but also the competition (with video games). I was also a huge science nerd and am still in a love affair with science; always will be.
We live in exciting times, how do you feel about the explosion of comic book films in the past few years?
GS: I love it! The most incredible part is seeing so many different approaches and interpretations of the stories. Comic book films get a lot of backlash from the film community, but at the end of the day, these are characters that we’ve grown up with and love.
LL: I love it. I will fight anyone who is tired of superhero films. I felt that for so long, Hollywood was going to ignore nerd culture. But now, Hollywood is fighting to get into nerd culture. ComicCon is no longer just a place for comic book geeks: mega stars and major studios are now showing up. It’s great to see people being exposed to the worlds, stories, and comics we grew up with and love.
HS: I love seeing what I used to read and love when others didn’t and looked down upon me, on the big screen. There is a sense of vindication in it. But regardless, a good story is a good story, and a good film is a good film. Many of these good comic book films follow the same storytelling as any other good film. So in my book, these are just good films.
What are your hopes with this film? Ideally, your dreams?
LL: I guess it’s two-fold. I would love to hit a million views. That’s just a personal milestone. Our original goal was to make the film and find a way to show it to Warner Brothers and say, “Hey, look at the film. Look at the fan response. You should make a movie…and hire us.” We knew that was a long-shot, but we took a chance. Then a week after we finished filming, we found out that DC is developing a live-action Static Shock show for TV. We couldn’t believe it. So I guess my next long-shot dream is to work on that show in some capacity.
GS: Cannes and ComicCon Long Beach were amazing experiences and I would love to travel to more film festivals and conventions. Engaging with fans is the most rewarding part of this whole experience. I was blown away by the amount of encouraging reactions that we got after we released on YouTube. The film sparks a nice comic book dialogue but it also prompts conversations of race, culture, and social issues as well. Participating in more of these conversations would bring it all full circle.
HS: I just hope that people connect and understand Virgil as a human being. However, at the back of my head in the beginning I was thinking: if people see that there is a market for a film with a good story and this superhero done well, maybe we will be able to see that in the future (and if I get hired on as an assistant to the director or production team, I wouldn’t mind either).
How would you score the DC Universe on TV and Film so far?
LL: I’m happy with it for now. I think Marvel gets all the hype because the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been killing it for years, with hit after hit, while DC hasn’t had that ballpark hit in a while. But on TV, video games, and animated series, DC is sweeping Marvel. I think DC has all the smaller mediums on lock, but needs to find the best way to counter Marvel’s hit-making machine.
HS: I think DC does a fantastic job with much longer storylines and character development through TV than through their films of late. I think with how deep their characters are, sometimes you need that time (unless the character is already established) to really flesh that out. I am extremely excited for the new DC films coming out though and they have a lot of good material to work with (such as the ‘The Killing Joke’, ‘Kingdom Come’, or one of the favs, ‘All Star Superman’).
Static himself is black obviously. But there haven’t really been any black superheroes on-screen yet. Because of this, representation and race-bending have been big conversations lately. How do you feel about it, as it pertains to comic book films?
GS: The current state of race in America is begging for more representation of positive characters of color on the big screen. With the recent rumors of Jaden Smith as the live action Static Shock, as well as Michael B. Jordan as the new Human Torch, we are headed in the right direction. The smartest studios and executives invest in the need for more characters of color because there is a high demand and audiences worth taking into consideration.
HS: I think there should be more heroes of different races and background. Having diversity in our characters just makes the world that much more richer and more interesting. Change won’t happen magically on its own, but the new crop of filmmakers and audiences wants these things. I foresee it happening and us being the ones to make those changes.
LL: I understand the fan’s reactions to race-bending and genre-bending, on screen and on the page, and I feel some parts of it are valid. But you’re talking about a comic book world, a world that was built 10-30 years ago, sometimes more. Today’s comics and today’s movies should represent today’s world. Comics survive off of change, off of reboots, and resurrections. It has to change to represent the diversity of today’s culture.
It’s a great time to be a nerd. But more importantly, it seems as though nerds of color are truly coming into their own and controlling their own narratives. Is this exciting for you? Or not? Somewhere in between?
LL: It’s hella exciting on two points. Look at the term “black nerd,” for example. Black people in America are used to being the minority in any social situation. Nerds are also used to being the social minority. You put the two of them together and a black nerd shouldn’t be able to fit in anywhere. It was and is hard for black nerds out there to find people who can carry a conversation, from The Hulk to Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. But thanks to the Internet, we’re better able to connect to each other now. I think that for black nerds, it’s tougher now to feel alone or feel like we’re the minority when we have all this support and all these relationships online.
HS: This is very exciting. Filmmakers, content creators, and all-around media contributors are beginning to let their nerd flag fly. The beauty is that these narratives redefine social structures that have restricted characters of color for many years. For example, the main character of the upcoming film Dope challenges stereotypical images of African American men. He’s defined as a “nerd” which conflicts with typical definitions of black masculinity; however, this is currently shifting. The stories are becoming more dynamic and colorful as new areas are explored.
What’s next for you and your team?
LL: What’s next for us? We’re hoping this wasn’t a one off deal. We’d love to work together again, but I guess the stars have to align. Harjus is working on his thesis project for school and Gabby is also working on pre-production for her thesis. I just graduated, now working as a freelance screenwriter. So we’d like to work together again. But it might be a while, at least ‘till we finish our school responsibilities. So we’ll see where the road leads us.
HS: I’m working on my thesis with Daniel, based on true events about a Sikh who fought in World War 1 for the US Army. After the war his citizenship was revoked. He ends up taking the US government to the Supreme Court to contest the law that naturalized citizenship is only offered to Caucasians. This case is considered a milestone because it helped open the definition of US citizens those who weren’t just Caucasian.
If you’d like to keep in touch, follow the team @ReviveStatic on the Twitters.
The original Homeboy With A Keyboard ™, dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things. He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things. Find his rants and retweetery @dapisdope