Answering the question of what happens when ordinary people get extraordinary powers seems to be a popular one these days, with shows like Heroes and Misfits providing very different views. Now, Ben Enke, Steven Hoff, and JD O’Brien are giving their own take on what superpowers would be like in the real world in their new webseries Superhuman. We had a chance to talk to these super filmmakers to learn more about the project, which is currently in its final days of a KickStarter funding campaign.
AP2HYC: Can you tell us a bit about what Superhuman is?
Ben Enke (Producer/Director): Superhuman is a superhero webseries which blends the iconic imagery of superhero media with a deeply intimate, character-driven story. Our throughline has always been that [the characters’] powers relate to who they are as people, whether it’s related to their personality, where they come from and their origin, or a crutch to overcome a weakness in their lives. As most shows and films use over-exaggerations to say something about the real world, we use superpowers as a vehicle for talking about power issues in real life, and what these differing personalities would do with great power if they had it, how they use it, if they use it for good or selfish purposes, etc. So our main characters have extremely different personalities, and how they use the power they’re given becomes a key aspect of the storyline.
AP2HYC: Without spoiling too much, can you tell us what superpowers we can expect to see in the show?
Steven Hoff (Producer/Screenwriter/Stunt Coordinator): One of the things we all talked about in the beginning of this project was the challenge of using powers that were uncommon. No super strength, flying, mind reading, etc. However that being said, we do play off those thoughts a little bit to make them unique. Rather than reading thoughts and being telepathic, we have one who is, what we call, ‘telempathic’. Being able to read people’s emotions and actually feel what they feel. The powers are also extensions of the person; it feeds off who they are, either their weakness or strength, to help that individual where they need it.
JD O’Brien (Producer/Screenwriter/Assistant Director): With a very limited budget, we worked long and hard to create powers that we could do well, while not compromising our story as well. I’ll also tell you that each of our characters’ powers are actually born out of character flaws. So their power and their kryptonite are often opposite sides of the same coin.
AP2HYC: You mention in your KickStarter video that the series is partly inspired by shows like Heroes and Misfits. How will Superhuman differ from those series?
Ben: Heroes and Misfits are obviously both grounded in a very real world, similar to Superhuman, and all three have very character-based stories that endear us to different characters. In the beginning when I came up with this idea two years ago, it started as sort of a blend of both (and for the record, I had not seen Misfits before I decided I wanted their powers to relate to their personalities!) But to keep the show grounded in real world, we chose themes and situations that were more grounded than Heroes and more broad-reaching than Misfits, which led us to the idea of sex trafficking as Season 1’s primary evil and the use of superpowers as a means of talking about having power in the real world. It’s hard following in the footsteps of two incredible shows such as those, but it’s also an exciting challenge to be able to create another chapter in the superhero universe like those shows have.
AP2HYC: Were there any specific comic books you drew on for inspiration as well?
Ben: Specifically, no. I reference a couple choice Clark Kent quotes I enjoy (I’ll let the diehard fans identify which ones!), but nothing specifically inspired our story in particular. What inspires me from comic books is the imagery and the story and how the two correspond. As a director, my style has always been about a balance of intimacy and spectacle, which is what I enjoy so much about the superhero genre. It’s these larger-than-life, spectacular moments that we’re guided through by these tremendous characters that we love and cheer for, and it’s that balance of great characters and epic moments that has inspired me from the page to the screen.
AP2HYC: You said that sex trafficking is the evil that our heroes will be facing. Can you explain a bit more about how that factors into the story and your reasons for incorporating it?
JD: Sex trafficking is a global issue of epic magnitude with greatly insufficient awareness. We felt that this realistic, real world evil was a good match for the real world style we had created for our protagonists. As we’ve become more aware of the reality of this evil, both in our hometown and across the world, we’ve become more convinced that we need to use this platform to bring light to the situation.
Ben: A lot of filmmakers dream of being able to tell a story which could impact people’s lives, and here we’re talking about endangered lives, which many people aren’t fully aware of the gravity of. That we might be able to use this medium, and this story, to help bring awareness to the issue is something I never believed I would get the chance to do, and I know I can speak for the whole team by saying we hope to be able to make even a small difference with this first season.
AP2HYC: Why did you decide to use Kickstarter? How is the campaign going?
JD: We’ve been very blessed and honored by the support we’ve seen from our fans and friends so far. We still need a big push here at the end, but we’re pleased with where we’re at coming into the home stretch. Having said that, the all-or-nothing nature of Kickstarter certainly makes us a little nervous until that $5,000 barrier is crossed. We chose it because of its reputation, and what it says about our trust in both our product and our supporters that we aren’t deterred by that all-or-nothing format.
Ben: The decision to go with Kickstarter vs Indiegogo became a very long and drawn out decision. In the end, though there are small things here and there about why we prefer Kickstarter over Indiegogo, it came down to beginning to build a loyal fanbase. We started out on Facebook just sharing with friends and family, but Kickstarter was the ultimate test: Will people outside our main circle like the story we are trying to tell? So far, we’ve all been incredibly humbled by their show of support, from every corner of the US and even abroad, and we absolutely could not thank them enough by how amazing they’ve been helping us build a following, even without having shown them much to believe in us. I think it shows that while people love The Avengers and The Dark Knight Trilogy, etc, there’s still room for great, intimate, home-grown superhero stories, which is absolutely the answer to the question of why we will never let the superhero die: There’s too much of us in them, we want to be them, we want to root for them, they really are our heroes, and so to take that into a modern context like we have, I think has been incredibly well-received, and we couldn’t be more humbled.
AP2HYC: If the KickStarter is successful, how soon can we expect to see the first episode of Superhuman?
JD: Superhuman will be released on December 1st. If the Kickstarter is unsuccessful, it will still be released on December 1st, but we’ll be homeless with maxed out credit cards.
Ben: What he said.
AP2HYC: You mention on the KickStarter page that you hope to create two further seasons of Superhuman. Have you began developing the story for these seasons?
Steven: We have been spitballing ideas for the future seasons before season one was even finished! I think many writers get that feeling where they have a beginning and a bunch of things that they would like to write about or in our case, film. But the challenge is making all those dots connect and form a good solid picture. We have great ideas, plans, and actors who wish to partake in this series, but haven’t written a character for them for season one. We hope that this show will capture many people who want to see more of Superhuman so these “spitball” ideas will turn into actual scripts in the near future!
JD: We have some broad ideas that we’ve kicked around. We know what all our main characters will look like at the end of the last episode of season 3. What we don’t know yet, is how we’ll get them from where they are at the end of season 1 to that place in season 3.
Ben: Two years ago when I created it, I always imagined it as three seasons. The first is the hero’s introduction, and we meet the key players of the world and start the heroes journey. The second, everything goes to hell, and we put them in a place where they seemingly can’t recover, and the third, the hero accepts his path to becoming a hero, and conquers evil and whatever darkness he has had inside him since his journey began. It’s a classic, timeless story told time and again in so many great ways, and we’re hopeful to be able to make it so far as to say we’ve told such a story worth watching again and again.