Superhero Shorts: Judge Minty
Superhero Shorts: Judge Minty
Welcome to another edition of Superhero Shorts, where each time I feature a different short film based around superheroes and have a brief chat with the creators. This time I’m talking with Steven Sterlacchini and his live action film based on the Judge Dredd universe, only focusing on one of the other Judge’s, Judge Minty. As usual, you can watch it right below or you can visit the official Judge Minty website.
I think right now one of the biggest superhero movies on my list that I haven’t seen yet is Judge Dredd and Dredd from last year, so viewing this short was my first experience in Mega City and it really makes me want to watch the two Dredd films to get a better look into that world (even though the Stallone flick isn’t a very good representation). The film follows the “retirement” of Judge Minty, who has gotten too old for the job, but not too old to abandon a life of that world’s vision of justice so he takes the “long walk” into the lawless wastelands which is typically a death sentence. Honestly, my favorite thing about this short was the look and feel of the mutants, they all had such distinct looks and personalities even though they never had a whole lot of dialog. In fact, the head mutant never had any I don’t think. Next to that, Edmund Dehn who played Minty handled the role very well. One of the biggest hurdles a fan film has to overcome to be great is often the acting, and that is where this short really succeeds. I also enjoyed the almost classic western sensibility in a sci-fi world, especially in some of the later showdowns not to mention Dehn’s fantastic voice over. But enough from me, let’s hear from the director, Steven Sterlacchini.
Bubbawheat: This is one of the longer short films that I’ve featured on my site, most clock in at 10 minutes or less. How did you come about at the running time, or did the story come first and the running time just came about because that’s how the footage fit the story?
Steven Sterlacchini: It was originally supposed to be around 10 minutes, the preferred length for many film festival short submissions, and was predominantly set in the Cursed Earth, with only a few minutes of Mega City scenes. However, Steve Green and Daniel Carey-George suggested technical ways we could expand on the city to include more of the original comic book story. So we let the run time grow to suit.
When it came to editing we asked Ben Woods to give it a fresh set of eyes to try and trim it back, to make it as lean as possible. I think Ben would’ve liked more time to refine it further, but we wanted to ‘get it out there’.
BW: I have to admit to not being a Dredd fan, while my site focuses on superhero and comic book movies, I have yet to get around to the new Dredd movie or the older Stallone Judge Dredd, so watching Judge Minty has really been my first experience in the Dredd universe and I must say I really enjoyed it. How would you say that the style or tone of your short compares to either of the other two theatrical releases?
SS: Because Judge Minty is aimed mainly at a fans we thought we’d try to keep it as close to the comic source material as possible, without having to worry about appealing to a general audience. We had discussed contemporising elements of the design, but in the end decided to make it an exercise in how close we could get to the comic. We didn’t have to worry about people believing in big gold shoulder pads, because they were already aware of the visual language of the character.
Dan and Steve did a superb job creating costumes, digital models and effects (since filming Dan used his costumes as prototypes and now has a license to produce them commercially at Planet Replicas).
We wanted to make it gritty, but still based in the fantasy world of the comic. The new Dredd film has taken a more ‘real world’ approach, which I think it achieves to great effect. I agree that the large shoulder pads and retro Lawmasters might look a little out of place to a general audience.
BW: One thing I do know based on what I’ve heard is that the new Dredd is far and away a much better representation of the character than the old movie, but is there anything that you think the new movie still got wrong, or at least didn’t get quite right? And is there anything similar that you wanted to make sure you got right for your short?
SS: I thoroughly enjoyed the new Dredd film. Karl Urban is especially convincing. I don’t think they got anything particularly wrong. They decided on a vision of Dredd and stuck to it.
There have been comments about the city not being crazy enough and the lack of flying vehicles, but that may possibly have jarred with the overall feel of the film. I can understand the comments, but it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the film. I just saw it as a stripped down version, or even an earlier period in Mega City One.
One thing I was impressed with in Dredd, was his matter of fact use of violence. It was functional without any acts of ridiculous skill and without any enjoyment or remorse. When Dredd walks into the drug lab, he simply shoots the two guards in the back. A normal ‘film hero’ would have felt the need to shout some sort of warning first. For me this is VERY Dredd.
I hope perhaps we managed to bring a little of that to our film. Although Minty does feel remorse, when in the heat of battle, he has the same attitude. It’s his job. He may be getting old, but he’s been doing it all his adult life, and he’s still got more than enough left in him to stand toe to toe against some punk.
Personally I like the fact that there are different ways to portray the same character. There is also a cool looking fan made animation in the works, which should give us another great vision of Dredd.
BW: There’s even another one I’ve heard about called Cursed Edge that looks pretty impressive, I heard that making this movie has been a very long process, four years in the making, what was it about this film that made you want to keep working on for all that time? And what was the hardest part about making the film?
SS: As soon as we starting getting other people involved we were ‘past the point of no return’. Getting it finished was always a driving motivation.
The hardest thing was logistics and locations. It slowed things down considerably. A few location problems meant that we ended up filming all over the UK. Which required numerous volunteers to travel great distances, just to have the pleasure of standing in a freezing cold quarry in North Wales.
If I were to do something like this again, I would need to spend more time trying to cut down the number of locations and characters, allowing us more time to actually set up and film. As it was, a few of the scenes were a little rushed, which required Steve Green to work twice as hard trying to fix them in post production.
BW: Fan films often have a difficult distribution model, what were some of the discussions involved on when to release it online and what film festivals & conventions to take it to? Is it more difficult to get into film festivals as a fan film rather than an original project?
SS: The plan was always to release it for free online. We toyed internally with the idea of DVDs, but considering that services like Vimeo are better quality anyway, there didn’t seem much point and we didn’t even approach Rebellion on the subject. It wasn’t planned as anything other than a labour of love, a chance to explore new techniques and perhaps a showreel piece for some of the people involved.
We knew we wanted to submit it to festivals and conventions, but we weren’t expecting many, if any to actually screen it. Though one thing we decided might help with submissions was to try to create a film with a traditional narrative. So you didn’t have to be a fan to watch it. This meant that we had to sacrifice some cool ideas in favour of simpler story telling. It also meant that in some places we over stretched ourselves.
Some festivals also require that films are not available online. So we gave ourselves a six month window to ‘hit the circuit’. We used the time to refine some of the digital effects before the online release.
BW: And finally, what’s your favorite superhero movie, aside from Dredd?
SS: That’s a difficult one. After Dredd – I’d like to say ‘The Dark Knight’, though I think I’ve rewatched ‘Avengers Assemble’ more times, perhaps ‘Scott Pilgrim’ is the one I most enjoyed. Sorry I’m not much use at picking ‘one film’.
BW: That’s a problem that I often have myself, as well as many others who I ask this question to. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SS: Thanks for taking an interest in Judge Minty!
I’d just like to thank everyone involved with the project. If any project was a team effort, it was this one. I feel a bit silly doing an interview when the cool stuff in Judge Minty is other people’s work. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about being involved with Minty is seeing the cool stuff and amazing enthusiasm everyone else has put in.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, it’s a great film and while it may be other people’s work, you were the one that helped bring them all together so feel free to take your kudos, you’ve earned it. And I’ll get on with watching the other two Dredd films sooner rather than later even though I know what I’m getting into with the older one. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.