I’m getting the sense that a new era of fan-made films is upon us! The teaser video above is for “Joker Rising”, a film that will explore the dark underbelly of DC’s Gotham City.
This fan-made, non-profit, feature film, produced by Smoking Alien, seeks to show a love and respect for the Batman universe, with a focus on its robust criminal underworld, and in particular, gives fans Joker’s origin story.
What’s remarkable, is that this film was conceived of only four months ago. It is currently being edited with an expected release date of August (yes, a month from now)! The team is looking for support via their Indigogo and Kickstarter campaigns (which are over now), but still, if you have a moment, go check them out there, or fan them up on their Facebook Page, and show your support by spreading the news!
I had a quick back-and-forth with Alek Gearhart, the screenwriter and filmmaker of the film. He’s an enthusiastic creator who spoke about this story with great passion. As this project’s own origin story goes, after Gearhart met Hisonni Johnson–the filmmaker of the fan-made web series “Grayson: Earth One“–he was left with the motivating thoughts,
Yeah, that’s right, you can make what ever you want–maybe not any money off of it–but you can tell a great story in a universe that is already established. The Joker immediately popped into mind.
I’m a huge Batman mythology fan–and more a Batman-rogues fan than a Batman-family fan–and, I find Joker is a character that doesn’t tend to get lengthy character treatment. He tends to hit one note for me: he’s an insane, clown-makeup wearing, sociopath. Where’s the human component, I keep wondering. He is human, right? As far as origins go, and especially one that focuses on the “man before the clown”, it’s just rare to none-existent.
So, when asked about “Why the Joker?”, Gearhart had the following to say:
The Joker was chosen because, to me, he was always the most mysterious. There was always some sad story behind those eyes and that insanity. We wanted to elaborate on that. And besides, some of the comics, like “The Killing Joke”, he has never gotten a true back story. Also, because I have never seen a film that really portrayed a scenario of where he could have gotten his scars. And based on the scars, it wasn’t from somewhere pleasant.
When I watched the teaser, and especially the trailer video below, I sensed a bit of “Scarface” coming through. Gearhart lists “Goodfellas”, “Taxi Driver”, “Casino”, “Drive”, “Tree of Life”, and “Shame” as having influences on this project.
The film sort of works in two parts. One part crime drama, another part emotional drama. The last 30 minutes will have you at the edge of your seat. Many might even cry. [...] We did one day of casting and found Dylan Hobbs (Joker) and Katie Young (Harley), and knew that we were on to something.
I’ve always thought DC Comics could carry an ongoing series based purely on Gotham’s underworld. I was curious about the possibility of “Joker Rising” leading to other features getting made by Smoking Alien, focusing instead on other Gothamite criminals. Although Gearhart states that they’ve already thought of another crime picture set in Gotham, it’s not likely to get made and that this is most likely going to remain a closed story. Gearhart concludes with the following,
Goals for this film: showcase what we can do on no budget; and the intensity of the drama and acting that is portrayed on screen; push genre and comic book films into artistic and award worthy cinema.