Fan Film, Fan Films

Book Excerpt: Building Batman: Dead End

With the nation going bonkers for The Dark Knight this week, it seems only fitting to unveil a related snippet of the upcoming fan film book, . Here’s an edited-down excerpt about one of the most popular fan movies of all-time, Sandy Collora’s 2003 flick, Batman: Dead End. As regular readers probably know, Collora is currently handling post-production chores on his first feature film, Hunter Preya story I scooped here on FCT.

The book chapter goes on to explore what the film did and didn’t do for Collora’s career—and fan films in general—but in this excerpt, we join the story already in progress as he develops the concept for his short.

Collora noticed that fan films got incredible support from, well, fans, not to mention decent attention from the press. If franchise devotees could rally behind such homespun efforts, what would happen if someone made a professionally produced fan film—and what if that someone was Sandy Collora? As a life-long comic book fan, it didn’t take long for the idea to emerge: He’d make a Batman movie.

“It seemed right; it felt right,” said Collora. “Batman is such a great character: dark, brooding, complex. He’s tough, man. Calculated, cunning…just cool.”

And “cool” was one thing Batman hadn’t been in a while, having last graced the silver screen in 1997’s box-office bomb, Batman & Robin. The unsatisfying movie series had always owed more to hype and stunt-casting than comic books, so by the time that fated production had come along—the fourth Batman feature film in just eight years—the public had wised up and moved on. The franchise had been milked dry, and Hollywood abandoned the carcass to rot while comic book fans were left to mull over what might have been, had the studios decided to follow the darker, more dramatic vision of the Dark Knight that graced comic pages every month.

Collora was one of those fans. He began mapping out Batman: Dead End, a $30,000 short that would present the flawed hero as mad, bad and dangerous to know. He needed to put the arch-villain Joker in there, but given his own background, Collora decided to bring something else to the table—namely characters he’d worked on in feature films. Certainly he’d spent enough time detailing the title character’s costume during the production of Predator II, so he could do one of those. Soon, the big baddie from Alien was added to the genre goulash, too. There was some precedent for the idea—there had been both Batman Vs. Predator and Aliens Vs. Predator comic books, the latter which eventually became a series of poorly received feature films—but the cross-pollination between a trio of Billion-dollar franchises was something that Hollywood suits would never allow in real life. If Collora could shoot it to look like a clip from a big-budget action feature starring the Dark Knight mixing it up with the Joker and two of genre cinema’s most potent bad guys, it would be nothing less than a fanboy fever dream. The cherry on top would be to debut the flick just like Troops—at the annual comic- and movie-fan destination, the San Diego Comic Con; now that would get attention.

“No, I didn’t do it for the buzz,” Collora corrected. “I did it to do it. I love Batman; I wanted to see him real—done like in the comics.” Of course, to say you spent $30,000 just “to do it” is a bit disingenuous; plenty of people talk about what they’d do if they made a superhero movie, but few go ahead and shoot one, and fewer still allot themselves such a budget. Pressed on the point, Collora rebutted, “No guts, no glory…. I pitched stuff for over two years; there was some interest, but ultimately, nothing happened, (so you’ve) gotta make your own dreams happen. No one’s gonna do it for you.”

The filmmaker had his work cut out for him. While keeping up a full schedule of the art and design work that paid the bills, Collora spent six months readying to shoot in April, 2003. Mere weeks into the prep, however, things took a serious turn for the worse: “My mom was diagnosed with cancer in December, 2002. Merry fucking Christmas.”

Collora was shaken: “It was the hardest time of my life. I’d work 12-16 hours a day, then go hang with her in the hospital while she was getting chemo.” While his mother Joann’s cancer made a Batman movie seem insignificant, she insisted that he keep plugging away: “You can’t let anything get in the way of your dreams; Mom wouldn’t have that.”

Despite the situation, Collora pressed on, casting the two speaking roles of the film, Batman and Joker. Before long, the cast and crew headed to an alleyway in North Hollywood for an arduous four-night shoot.

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6 Responses to “Book Excerpt: Building Batman: Dead End”

  1. Christopher Moshier

    I am actually talking to Mr. Collora tomorrow for the podcast so this is good information. Wouldn’t you know the first link that pops up when I put in his name was “Fan Cinema Today”. Good job!

  2. Sandy’s a cool guy–I’m looking forward to Hunter Prey.

  3. Michelle G

    Awesome stuff. I cannot wait for this book! Or Hunter Prey!

  4. Christopher Moshier

    I thought I would give a heads up. I spoke with Mr. Collora last night and he gave great insight into his new film. CHEAP PLUG TIME! His interview will be posted August 2nd at

  5. Looking forward to it, dude! :)

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