Interview with Sandy Collora

Sandy Collora created the short film “Batman: Dead End”.  The short is believe to be one of the best adaption of Batman on film.  Sandy recently completed his first feature film, “Hunter Prey” which was just recently released on DVD.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Sandy about his films and what inspires him.

Mike Gencarelli: What were you thinking when you originally made the film “Batman: Dead End”?
Sandy Collora: A lot of things. It was really just a big experiment. So much of what I was attempting to do, had never been done on film at the time. I wanted to present the Batman that I knew and loved from the comics. A dark, brooding, creature of the night, that didn’t need a rubber suit, nipples or a credit card. That’s really mostly what it was all about. A lot of people didn’t believe I could make the cloth and leather suit work. Even simple things like the white eyes, the over-sized cape, the rain, no one had done those things previously in a Batman film. I think a combination of all those elements is what made it unique. I chose Batman because at that point, I had already made a few short films. No one really seemed to care… I thought if I made a short with Batman in it, people would at least watch it. I wasn’t sure if they’d dig it, but at least it would get watched, as opposed to “Solomon Bernstein’s Bathroom” and “Archangel”, which nobody watched. LOL.

MG: Can you believe the reception it received?
SC: No. To this day, seven years later, I still get emails and requests for the film, autographs, interviews, what have you. It seems to resonate… I think the fact that so much time has gone by, especially with the Nolan films being so dark and realistic, people are realizing finally that I was on to something. That little film definitely put me on the map as a director, and eventually led to making “Hunter Prey”. It took much longer than I would have liked, especially with the reaction I got from “Batman: Dead End”, but I got to make a feature length film, that you can walk into a store and buy on DVD. That in and of itself, in this town, is quite the feat.

MG: How does it feel to have created one of the most beloved depictions of Batman?
SC: That’s definitely cool. To have people that I really respect, guys like like Alex Ross, Neal Adams and John Byrne, say that they really dig it and it’s still the best depiction of the character on film, is pretty damn cool. I run into fans all time at shows or the comic shop, who say it’s still their favorite version to date. To be honest, all I did was take what so many talented artists before me drew in comic books, and put it on film… That’s really about the long and short of it.

MG: Would you ever consider doing a follow-up?
SC: No.

MG: How was it working Stan Winston?
SC: That was a very special time in my life. Stan was cool guy… He and all the talented artists working there, kinda took me under their wings and taught me a lot. I learned so much in the time I worked there. I actually miss those days. It was at the beginning of my career. I was 18 years old. So young, so idealistic… So naive. Back then I actually thought this industry was different. I thought it was about making art and that I could make a difference. But it’s really about making money and what I think or what I do, makes no difference at all. Stan had a way of understanding all this, because he was very successful at being both an artist and a businessman. I admired him for that, and always will. Learning that Hollywood is much more of a business, rather than an entity that cultivates art, has been the biggest learning experience for me in my journey through my career.  Stan was really an integral part of that. I really miss those early days of my career and I miss him. Another really cool part of working there, was hearing all the Cameron stories from “The Terminator” and “Aliens”. Those guys all talked about him like he was some kind of God. They showed me his drawings and stuff and told me stories of working with him, and how awesome it was to be involved with a guy who knew so much about FX, creatures, making models.  I absolutely loved those films, but working at Stan’s was where I kinda got my first dose of what a juggernaut Cameron was and how much he knew about every aspect of the filmmaking process. You gotta remember, this is like 1988, there were no DVD’s with all the extensive “making of” features that are so commonplace now. Back then, you got all this stuff through magazines and word of mouth. It was almost like these guys painted Cameron as this unearthly apparition… A character, like Stan, who in and of himself, was such an interesting person. It was just a different time… There was so much more magic to it all then because you couldn’t just pop in a DVD and get the entire story behind the scenes. These days, director commentaries, documentaries, and all the special features that come with every movie, kind of ruin the mystique of the movies. Exposing the man behind the curtain, so to speak.

MG: You have worked in FX on various projects, what was your favorite project?
SC: “The Abyss” by far, even though the guy who ran the FX shop I worked for on that show, was the polar opposite of Stan. He was neither a good artist nor a good businessman, but getting to work with Jim Cameron is still the absolute highlight of my career. I learned so much, just by watching the guy. He’s brilliant. I would sneak on the set even when I wasn’t supposed to be there, just to watch him. I even got to do some pre production art for “Spider-Man” back in the day, when he was supposed to direct that film. In the short time I was around the guy, I learned more about being a director, than I ever have anywhere else, on any other set, or working for any other director. He’s just a pure genius in every sense of the word. Cameron is my hero. Period.

MG: Tell us about your latest project “Hunter Prey”?
SC: Well, I kinda got sick of waiting for a bigger studio movie.  So I just went out, raised a little money and made “Hunter Prey”. I simply thought it was time to make a movie instead of just pitching them. There were a lot of limitations, especially regarding the budget, but I did what I could with the resources that I had. I felt good to kind of get the monkey off my back and actually make a feature film. A film that actually got distribution. A film that you could walk into Target and buy, or a go into a video store and rent. It was a long two years and I sacrificed a lot to make it. A lot of love and hard work went into that little film.

MG: What are you currently working on?
SC: It’s winter in Southern California… When the waves are up, we surf. When the waves are down, we dive for lobster.

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