Superhero Shorts: Batfan
Superhero Shorts: Batfan
Welcome to this week’s edition of Superhero Shorts where I take a look at a different superhero themed short film and get the creator of the film to answer a few interview questions. This week I’m talking with Anders Wotzke about his Batman parody, Batfan. Where he takes a simple concept and goes all the way with it, coming up with something pretty funny. As always, you can watch it right below, or you can check it out on his YouTube channel along with his many video reviews, you can also visit his movie site MovieDex.
I’ve seen quite a few Batman parody videos out there, but I honestly have to say that this is one of the more original ones. Especially when you see the cape flying in the wind. It’s a simple concept, just putting a mask on a fan, but it’s done with such seriousness that the puns have that much more impact. The puppetry combined with the after effects are quite impressive, I would have never imagined anyone could get that much expressiveness and range out of a fan. I only wish it would have been an oscillating fan so there could have been a slo-mo “nooooooooo” scene in there somehow. It’s a ton of fun, but let’s hear what Anders has to say about it.
Bubbawheat: How did you come up with the idea for the video? It is pretty far out there.
Anders Wotzke:Every time a major movie release like The Dark Knight Rises approaches, I find myself wondering: how can I parody that in my review?
Usually, I can cobble together a costume and do a quick skit, but apparently I’m the only person on YouTube who doesn’t own a Batman costume. I have a Red Queen outfit, no problem. But Batman? Too masculine; where am I going to wear that on a Friday night? I like to get mileage out of my outfits.
What I did have, however, was a cheap $2 Batman imitation mask. This lead to the obvious conclusion of putting the mask on various inanimate things around my house and calling them Bat-something: Bat-ham. Bat-jam. Bat…taco?
It was at this point I had lunch, because I was obviously quite hungry. But then it came to me: Bat-FAN! I had a pedestal fan in my room, being unused because Australia is a refrigerator this time of year. So I rested the mask on the fan’s motor, pinned a bit of black fabric to the frame, and turned it on. The moment the cape began to flap in the wind, I pretty much lost it. It then became my solemn duty to waste the next week and a half of my life filming a fan. For science!
BW: It seems like it’s off to a good start compared to your other videos, how’s the response been so far?
AW: The response has been very positive, but then again, I’ve never really had a negative response. My subscriber base tends to be very supportive of my work, which is both flattering and kind of surprising. Outside looking in, YouTube appears to be this cesspool of negativity and intolerance, but once you get involved in the community, you quickly realise it’s definitely that… in other people’s pool. Thankfully, mine remains largely cess-free.
That being said, views are a commodity on YouTube, and I think Batfan still could do with a boost in that department. It can be a little disheartening to pour so much time and effort into something only to be out-viewed a million times over by someone who just put cleavage in the thumbnail. If only I was cunning enough to call my parody Bat-boob, I would be a millionaire.
BW: Were there any other ideas for Batman appliances that didn’t make the cut?
AW: Early on, yes, but I quickly realised an entire cast of inanimate objects would just completely overwhelm viewers. It would simply be too much silly for people to latch onto in such a short timeframe, so I kept the focus on Batfan to ease people into it. Also, I find puns tend to get funnier the more you pile them on. Sometimes, the lamer they are, the funnier they are, especially when it gets to that point when you know you should stop, but you keep plugging away regardless. That’s when it becomes a form of self-deprecating humour, which I’m a big fan of. (Hehe, fan… I’ll show myself out.)
Of course, the novelty of Batfan does eventually wear thin. That’s why I introduced The Toaster towards the end. Traditionally, it was going to end with just the shot of his calling card, the piece of toast, much like it does in Batman Begins. But it just wasn’t satisfying enough. It felt too much like the joke was now over, and that was that, nothing left to say. But I wanted to show people that this was just the beginning; I wanted to leave people wanting more.
Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I certainly want to see more of The Toaster. I’ve got big plans for him in episode two, The Dark Appliance, should there be enough demand for it. In fact, now that people are in on the joke, I can go for broke and introduce many more characters, such as Rachel and Harvey. Again though, none of this is going to happen unless there’s demand for it. As it stands, Batfan’s going to need to get a much big viewership than it currently has to warrant a sequel. So if you want to see what happens next, I suggest you get sharing!
BW: Were there times while making the video when you were thinking “What the heck am I doing?!”
AW: When my girlfriend called me to ask how my week was, I more or less replied: “Well I spent most it filming a fan. Oh, and a mug too. A mug with a stocking on his head. Did I just specify the gender of a mug? I believe I did. The stocking on his head is probably weirder, though, huh. So… why are you dating me again?”
Sadly, we’re no longer together.
(I kid. She actually helped me first develop the concept, so she just laughed and said “hurry up, I want to see it!”)
Honestly though, if you’re not left questioning what the hell you’re doing with your life after 20 attempts get an electrical cord to correctly hold up a piece of burnt toast smeared in lipstick, you should probably be in shackles. That, or you’re a true artist. So you should definitely be in shackles.
But to keep sane, I mostly shot and edited both in unison and chronologically. For every shot that required the green screen, I would edit it into the timeline immediately after shooting before moving on to the next one. I needed that constant reminder of progress, that confirmation that this wasn’t a complete waste of time. So every time I found myself giggling at a three second gag I just spent the better part of the day filming and editing into sequence, it was just enough to spur me on to do the next one. Just.
BW: I also enjoyed your Johnny Depp impressions video, what’s been your favorite video to do so far?
AW: Thank you! I do enjoy getting into character, particularly Jack Sparrow, because it means I get drink myself stupid and everyone just thinks I’m just acting. I actually have no recollection of making that video. I believe the recording cuts out with me staggering around the room, belting out ‘Wonderwall’ in my underwear.
But I digress; as much fun as alcoholism can be, it’s behind the camera where I prefer to spend my time. So Batfan was probably my favourite video to do, partly because I didn’t have to wear any face makeup, but also because I enjoyed the challenge and learning experience. For the first time, I had to really think about the composition of a shot, and how to achieve that composition, without actually being able to see it right in front of me. That can be pretty difficult for someone inexperienced like me in After Effects and resulted in a lot of trial and error, but once I got it close enough – which was all I was ever aiming for – it was very, very rewarding. The panoramic shot where the living room turns into the city and the cape appears to magically leap onto his back was one of those “wow, that actually worked!” moments.
BW: Most of the videos you do are actually movie reviews, what do you think is important to have in a video review, and which do you enjoy doing more, the reviews or the funny stuff?
AW: Well parody and satire are really just more entertaining forms of criticism; my comedy skits tend to point out a plot hole, ditzy character moment or poke fun at the stereotypes associated with the subject. It’s hardly “deep” criticism, sure, but it does have something to say. (Maybe not Batfan, but shush.) That’s why I kind of see my reviews and skits as being part of the same beast; they’re both there to inform my argument in different ways, and keep the viewer engaged.
And that’s really my golden rule of reviewing: be informative, but also engaging. You have to give people a reason to want to take the time to listen to your opinion over the millions of other opinions online. You might be the biggest film buff on the planet, but if you can’t package your opinion in an interesting way, don’t bother. Likewise, you might be an absolute magnet of a personality, but if all you can say about a movie is that it was “pretty good I guess”, don’t bother. Not everyone has to do a silly skit to be engaging; often, a well-formulated opinion expressed in a way that is unique to you is all it takes to keep people watching.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak out against a movie everyone else likes, or vice versa. That’s actually a big problem on YouTube; the fear of the down vote. Just make sure when you do go against the grain, you’re prepared to defend your argument to the death.
BW: And finally, what’s your favorite superhero movie?
AW: It’s cliché to say The Dark Knight, but it’d be true. It’s the only superhero movie where the characters are the story. To me, it’s such a fascinating take on the ebb and flow society, one that just so happens to feature superheros and villains.
The only other superhero films that come close to capturing that are the X-men movies. I really love the social commentary in those films, particularly X-men: First Class and its emphasis on character. Some people watch superhero movies for the big explosions and not much else. Not me. I come for the drama and stay for the action.
BW: Anything else you’d like to say to your *ahem* fans?
AW: If you enjoyed The Batfan and would like to see him return, please hit the like button and share it round with your friends and enemies! Thank you!