Walter Garcia: Raising the Bar for Batman Fan Films

A movie interview article by: Andre Lamar

Batman wastes no time jacking up nearly a dozen of Joker’s acrobatic goons in filmmaker Walter Garcia’s impressive fan film trailer The Dark Knight Rises Fight Scene. The clip features the first fight sequence from Garcia’s 14-minute, high quality fan film BATMAN The Last Laugh, which debuted this summer.

Garcia, 25, the founder of Enso Productions based in Orlando, FL, spoke with Comics Bulletin about the film, including what it was like to be the first filmmaker to land a replica of the Batpod in his production.

Andre Lamar: What was it like working on BATMAN The Last Laugh?

Walter Garcia: It was a project that I was originally just supposed to be the fight coordinator on, and [another production company was] supposed to use the guys from Enso Productions’ stunt team as the stunt performers to fight an actor that they had already had placed as Batman, and there was a director they already had. It was something that really didn’t belong to me at first. Well, actually, everything just kind of fell apart and we kind of picked it up where it was with Selman Markovic from Gotham City FX, who supplied all the costuming and who had pretty much all the Batman resources. I told him we’d get it done ourselves if no one wanted to raise the money for it, and we’d have a pretty kick-ass project. And that was the end of it.

Lamar: How long did it take you to complete the film?

Garcia: We started filming in the last week of May. We filmed it all in three days, so it was pretty fast. The pre-production we set up for all of it was about a month beforehand. So pretty much all of May was pre-pro, and a little bit before that in April.

Lamar: Despite being a fan film, the final scene in the movie -- where Batman is fighting Joker’s goons inside of an abandoned building in slow motion -- is convincing enough that you could mistaken it for a scene from Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. How were you able to pull that off?

Garcia: Enso Productions is really based off of a team of stunt performers here in Orlando. I kind of built a team of the most talented people I could find who work in the amusement parks here in Orlando -- Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. We just networked and built a team out of that. From there, we had the idea of making Batman kick-ass because all of the other films really just didn’t do it justice, I don’t believe, at least. So we wanted to make it more of like how the Arkham Asylum video game was. Everybody kind of went back and forth about how we wanted to do the fight sequences. At the end of it we were like, let’s make the goons a little bit more animated and give them costumes and paint their faces and give them a little bit of acrobatic skills, and let’s show them what Batman can really do.

Lamar: Similar to Arkham Asylum, The Last Laugh features a bit of Hong Kong cinema action slow-motion during its fight scenes. Do you think Chris Nolan and future Batman directors should start using this technique in Batman films?

Garcia: As far as Christopher Nolan goes, I think the way that he and his camera team films the fight scenes is right on par with how they film the rest of the film. I mean, nothing is really unrealistic or too out-of-bounds from what should happen in a real life situation. So, they keep it the way that it should be, I believe, in the film. We didn’t want to go down the Christopher Nolan route because I believe if we would’ve done that, we would’ve been criticized more than praised. I wanted to go down the route of what many comic book fans have seen Batman to be.

Lamar: Aside from The Last Laugh, I don’t think there are any other fan films that feature a replica of the Batpod. Did you include this in the film as a way of raising the bar for future Batman fan films?

Garcia: Yeah, of course. When we heard we had access to the Batpod, it wasn’t working at first. We had trouble with it all the way up to shooting date. We were on-set, when we were on property at Universal, and we were having troubles with it. We made it work, obviously, but we really wanted to set a bar, a standard, that we wanted to throw it all in and we didn’t want to hold anything back if we were going to invest all the time with all the fight scenes and makeup and characters and location scouting. Why not just get the Batpod in there if we had access to it?

We had Parker Brothers, who actually were the designers of the Tron motorcycles for the movie Tron: Legacy. They were the ones who actually built the framework for the Batpod with my buddy Selman, who is the owner of Gotham City FX. He’s the guy who has all the costuming and he builds all the bat suits and everything else as far as Batman props. Selman went to work after the frame was done, and he put the tires on and all the cosmetics, and he made it look real. He made it look as authentic as possible. Like I said, we had trouble getting it to go with the engine, and the battery and the brake system. But I had a couple of guys from the Enso team help Selman, and they put it together and it ended up working in the end.

Lamar: How much did the film cost to make?

Garcia: With everything involved as far as catering and fixing the Batpod up -- between Selman and I, because we mainly produced it out our own pockets -- it ended up coming to about $4,000. We definitely had a tight budget. We didn’t want to spend more than what we had to. Thankfully, he already had all the bat suits and all the Joker outfits and everything like that.

Lamar: How much was the Batpod?

Garcia: Parker Brothers, the guys who made the Tron bike, have made a couple of Batpods before; they priced it at $50,000. But [Markovic and Parker Brothers] worked out a deal so that the framework would be about $2,500, and all the extra cosmetic work was about an extra $1,000 more. So, a lot of the budget from The Last Laugh went into the Batpod more than anything else.

Lamar: How did you get started in filmmaking? I know you have a strong martial arts background and you taught yourself how to shoot and edit film.

Garcia: I lived overseas for a while in Korea. I trained and taught martial arts over there for a couple of years. While I was over there, I got a chance to work with a couple of stunt teams because of my martial arts background. In Korea, people know it’s very showy art, so I got to train with a lot of people who participated in that and they ended up being part of stunt teams here and there, and they worked on foreign films. I got to train with them and that kind of sparked my interest a little bit.

And while I was over there, I bought my camera and networked with them and just did a little bit of filming here and there. On late nights, I would stay up and I would practice editing fight sequences. By the time I came back to the States, which was right at the end of 2009, I got together with the team -- my primary friends who were still training in martial arts -- and I told them I wanted to put together a film and editing company so that we can actually have something to back ourselves up with once we want to move forward with stunt work or commercial work or whatever, so we could have something we’d be reputable by. And we built Enso Productions.

Lamar: You recently debuted the film Willing and Abele on YouTube. Do you have plans to turn this into a feature length film?

Garcia: Man, everyone’s been asking me that actually. They’ve said, Willing and Abele, turn it into a full feature, turn it into a part two, make it longer. I’m the type of person that when a project’s done, it’s kind of done. I don’t want to feed off of it anymore. I think it did well. It did what it needed to do. It won eight awards at The 2011 Action Film Challenge. We’ve been thinking about a similar concept for a full feature. We’re actually trying to pull some resources together right now and see what team members are trying to work on what.

Lamar: What’s your long term goal for Enso Productions?

Garcia: My long term goal for Enso Productions is to one day, hopefully, work solely on major motion pictures, whether it be stunt coordinating or as a fight choreographer or having the whole team come in and design the whole action design of action movies or any kind of movie. That’s really where I hope the team will be in the next, maybe, five years.

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