Superhero Shorts: Green Goblin’s Last Stand
Welcome to another edition of Superhero Shorts, where I take a look at a short film and have a brief talk with the filmmakers. This week I’m talking with Dan Poole and by far the earliest fan film I’ve shared on this site, his film Green Goblin’s Last Stand which came out in 1992. You can watch the first part of the rather long film, clocking in at over 45 minutes below or you can visit Spike.com to watch it in its entirety. I was also able to ask a few questions about The Photon Effect, the full length feature film that Dan Poole made just a few years ago.
As I mentioned, this is the oldest fan film I’ve shown on here, which is immediately seen by the video quality. After 20 years, amateur filmmakers are able to create professional quality movies, but in the 90’s, it was still relegated to the look of a home movie. For it’s time, the costumes for both the Green Goblin and Spider-Man are fairly impressive, at least as far as I could tell based on what I was able to see, it’s definitely a step up from a store-bought Halloween costume. The acting was way over the top, but in the best way, it captured the feel of some of my favorite cheesy superhero movies like Flash Gordon or Masters of the Universe. The fight scenes and stunts were also very well choreographed. Many of the special effects were obviously home grown, but it really fit with the charming feel of the movie. The story was also great, adapted from a comics run, and ended with the same kind of death scene that eventually made it into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. I will admit that being used to HD quality stuff, it’s hard to take that first step to get into this movie, but if you can look past that it’s a charming, fun little flick. But enough from me, let’s hear from Dan Poole.
Bubbawheat: Your fan film is by far the oldest one featured on my site. You finished Green Goblin’s Last Stand in 1992, the next oldest one I’ve featured was Sandy Collora’s Batman: Dead End from 2003, over 10 years later, and most of them have come from the past couple years. What gave you the idea to make a fan film, and how did it spread at that time?
Dan Poole: I’m not sure when the term, “fan film” was coined and used frequently. At the time, I thought I was making a demo reel. I read about Marvel and Hollywood trying to get a Spider-man movie off the ground and it immediately lit a flame inside me to be part of it. I started with a 20 minute one in 1988 where Spidey battles some mobsters, then I tried some FX stuff with Mysterio, next was a 50 minute video with Mary Jane, Kingpin, The Arranger and Bullseye – and finally, I left it all on the table with The Green Goblin’s Last Stand. That one was made specifically to get the attention of James Cameron who, at the time, had the intention of directing Spidey’s big screen debut.
None of them spread intentionally until I sent one copy to a magazine called Hero Illustrated. It germinated from there and I began to get word from all across the country that it had made its way into conventions and dubs of dubs of dubs had been made and passed around.
BW: I’m sorry to say, but the film quality is pretty horrid compared to today’s standards, do you still get people finding it for the first time and enjoying it?
DP: Surprisingly, I do. There was a period a few years ago where I found more negative comments than positive and just laughed them off because I knew they had to be coming from teenagers that had no clue what they were truly looking at. It seems that in recent years the trend has been for audiences to immediately understand the time period, budget and lack of technology. It is clearly not an offering from anything in this modern era of digital editing and effects. I hear more comments about the heart and passion it took than how silly Peter Parker’s hair looked.
One of the common themes I’ve noticed is that young filmmakers find out quickly how amazingly challenging it is to get even short films made – even with all the technology available today. So they look at a 50 minute live action superhero video, made in 1992 for $400, with effects and stunts and several locations, shot both day and night with props and kinds of action – and maybe scratch their heads a little bit. I’ve said for a long time, “Hey buddy – let’s find us a time machine and send you back to 1992. I’ll give you $400. If you can make something close to an hour long that’s better than that – you will be my hero.”
BW: I still think it’s a pretty impressive feat what you managed to accomplish back then. You mentioned some films you made earlier, but did you continue to make any other films after Green Goblin, or did it end there? How did you end up working on other films and actually making one of your own?
DP: Nothing has ever gotten me more inspired, motivated, passionate and excited as working on a project with Marvel superheroes. The idea of bringing any of those characters to life from the pages of my beloved comic books was euphoric. Alas, there is no true future in using someone else’s copyrighted material. I fought this concept for a long time and even set out to make a 10 minute Captain America movie. It was going to be presented as a chapter in a DVD feature of the Avengers. It’s STILL a cool idea, methinks.
However, that got real expensive real fast and I had to reevaluate. I still wanted to do something with a Marvel character because The San Diego ComicCon was going to show whatever I put together along with Sandy Collora’s next project, “World’s Finest”. That’s when I decided to keep it simple and do something with Wolverine – one location, claws and blood. You can find, “Last Call” online still (bw: right here actually). However, ComicCon bowed to studio pressure and in 2004 announced that they would not be screening any more “fan films”.
It was then I was absolutely sure it was time to move on. I set my sights on creating a character that I would own, produce and offer to the independent film scene. When my buddy Doug Adams put up a large chunk of money to get us rolling, we created an LLC and got busy. The Photon Effect was underway!
BW: What was the most difficult thing about making the Photon Effect?
DP: The most difficult thing about making The Photon Effect was the lack of proper resources. Yes, money. It was such an ambitious script that I knew right after I wrote it that we’d need more than Doug was able to invest. After several months of searching for more investors and coming up empty we forged ahead anyway and paid the price. We ran out of money about 2 weeks into shooting and that created tons of issues. Look, the biggest thing I learned is that there’s a fine line between ambition and irresponsibility. Without enough money, you don’t get all the shots you want. You don’t get to tell your whole story the way you envisioned it. It’s not fair to anybody.
BW: What was the most rewarding?
DP: The other side of that coin is ambition. For all the difficulties, pain and despair, I now have a feature film to have and hold, love and cherish, for better or worse, as long as we both shall live. It’s in a box, on a website, in comic book stores, available for sale. That’s pretty figgin’ cool. (Now please go buy a copy so we can get our investors’ money back to them!)
BW: If you were to re-make either Green Goblin’s Last Stand or the Photon Effect today, which one would you choose, and what would you do differently?
DP: I would definitely re-make The Photon Effect because it’s my property. I would certainly be sure to have the money in place needed to complete the costume the way I envisioned it, pay for more crew and get more coverage in each scene, perfect the running effect for Photon and most importantly, – have enough money for a proper marketing campaign. See, it doesn’t matter if you make the most amazing indie film ever . . . if no one ever knows about it.
BW: What has it been like promoting and distributing the movie yourself?
DP: It’s been nearly as difficult as making the movie itself. Creating any kind of online presence for it takes effort, which takes time, which is a pricey commodity for a freelancer with a busy household. It’s taking time. But, I’ve learned that it’s okay for things to take time. I’m getting involved with comic book shops and other outlets where fans will be able to pick up copies, so we’ll see if we can’t get the word out a bit more in 2013.
BW: And I ask everyone this question, what’s your favorite superhero movie?
DP: Well, The Photon Effect, of course!
However, if you are talking mainstream, big budget, Hollywood fare, I have to say far and away, my favorite superhero movie is Iron Man. As a fan of the books, and a purist when it comes to the gospel thereof, there has been no other movie that rocked from start to finish like that one. Kevin Feige at Marvel Productions made sure to keep the Hollywood suits out of it and Jon Favreau understood the whole Marvel universe.
They changed the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of the Middle East for his origin and it was seamless to me. And with the exception of Terrance Howard not being my favorite choice for Rhodey, everything else just seemed letter perfect. The characters, the armor, the effects, the story – it was the perfect character come to life from the pages of Marvel comic books. A+.
BW: That’s interesting to hear you say that, I personally enjoyed Terrance Howard as Rhodey more than Don Cheadle. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DP: There is a great new documentary out that highlights a lot of fan filmmakers, including me and my Spidey story. After you’ve secured your copy of The Photon Effect, be sure to check out clips from “Backyard Blockbusters” on Facebook!
Thanks for letting me know about that, it sounds like a great project. I’ll do what I can to help spread the word on the Photon Effect! Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.