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INTERVIEW: Creators of Ripper – Batman Fan Film

Written by Davidde Gelmini

Batman going up against Jack the Ripper makes for one hell of a thrilling story, as producer Adam Bouabda and writer/director James Campbell describe with their new movie, Ripper.

A Place to Hang Your Cape: Firstly, Batman against Jack the Ripper seems like a cool combination. What makes the characters work so well together story-wise?

James Campbell: They are both dark, visually and character wise… both lurking in the shadows waiting to strike. Plus there’s the silhouette that they both cast, both very iconic… you know when you see a Jack the Ripper image – top hat, long black coat, bag and a knife. And you certainly know when you see a Batman image. What also makes them a good match is that you would have to think that Jack was insane and there’s probably not a better fitted character to deal with someone who’s criminally insane other than Batman.

Adam Bouabda: The greatest detecive of them all (sorry Sherlock), against the most elusive of killers. I suppose James’ story gave us chance to play with the idea that maybe Jack the Ripper was actually caught, just no one ever knew about it.

AP2HYC: I understand that the film pays homage to Italian horror movies?

JC: Yes it does. I started watching Italian horror a few years ago after a friend showed me ‘Suspiria’ which visually blew my mind. Then that lead to more Dario Argento movies followed by work of Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. The music was another huge part of the films I’d begun paying attention to; so distinct and sometimes strange, but it somehow worked. So from the very beginning of Ripper, I wanted an original score that could essentially be its own thing and stand out on its own.

AP2HYC: What is it about Batman that makes the idea of the character work so well regardless of the time period?

JC: I think it comes down to the fact he is someone who lost his parents and is left with this great big hole of anger, which can be transferred to any time period really. Plus, his wealth is also a great thing to play with. There’s always been someone with more money than someone else throughout time. What is also very cool about the character is the costume, which can be adapted to any time period – which is fun. Everyone has their favourite costume and Batman.

AP2HYC: There are a number of Elseworlds Batman stories set around the era of the film, such as Gotham by Gaslight. Were these an inspiration?

JC: It most certainly was. How could it not? But I remember sitting in my room and wondering what to make next. I wanted to do something that would be visually paying homage to Italian Horror, and I had always been intrigued by the Jack the Ripper murders, so I thought trying to combine both of those things would be pretty cool. Then suddenly it came to me, like a BAT smashing through a window, that the guy living in the same building as me was a prop and costume maker and had the Michael Keaton Batman suit in his room. A week or two later, the first designs were sent to me and we were making a Batman film. We had discussed Gotham By Gaslight as an influence, but definitely not story-wise. Our story is completely different. The only connection is it’s Batman vs Jack the Ripper.

AP2HYC: And what makes Jack the Ripper so damn terrifying?

JC: In all honesty – it happened in real life. Any time I’m watching something that is based on a true story or real life events, it seems to have more impact on me. David Fincher’s Zodiac is one that I love, but also terrifies me, and with that film too – they don’t catch the guy. Depending on what you believe, Jack the Ripper was never caught. Plus, the murders were so horrific – brutal stuff.

AP2HYC: Will we see familiar aspects of the Batman mythos, such as the Batcave?

JC: There is no Batcave in this one (the sequel, maybe), as we have our hero travelling to London from Gotham on his own personal ship… with the help of his trusted butler, of course. We then have a few primitive Batman gadgets too that make an appearance.

AB: The Batship, which we haven’t named yet. I was thinking “The Wayne Enterprise”. There is a location we have in mind as a Batcave, if we do a sequel.

AP2HYC: Can you tell us about the cast?

JC: The cast is made up of a mixture of TV & film actors, plus young, up-and-coming theatre actors who want to make the transition into film. That’s the thing with ours that we hope will make it stand out from previous Batman fan films, is the acting talent on screen. We’re attempting to make a proper period piece with elements of horror and drama that just so happens to have BATMAN in it. (No cosplayers in this)

AB: We have managed to get some great people on this film. Bill Fellows (Abberline) is a former local boy, who has worked on Downton Abbey and Broadchurch in recent years. When he heard about the project, he was really interested. He wants to see more things like this happening in the North East. The rest of the principal cast were hand picked, which was made much easier due to one of the other cast members, Jacob Anderton (Dodge); he should have a casting credit on this flick. For the featured extras, we used a lot of people who we have worked with during our time at University – people who we knew were good, local, and reliable. James saw Donal Standen (Batman) in a trailer and just knew immediately, he was our Bat.

AP2HYC: And what can you tell us about the Batsuit itself?

JC: The batsuit is made by the talented Judd Marriott who has just graduated from university and wants a career in props and costume. We wanted to make the costume legit and to be made from things that would’ve been around in the Victorian era. Judd’s research was very extensive, and he would send me reference photos of what the police would wear and how this certain boot was worn by the military etc. A lot of time went into this. The design inspiration came from Gotham by Gaslight, but he then wanted to put his own stamp on it and I believe he has.

AP2HYC: Would you describe the film as a superhero story or more of a horror story?

JC: I’d say it’s bits of both, if I’m being honest. It starts off as a period horror piece with dramatic scenes, but as the film progresses, it slowly becomes what we wanted it to be all along… a BATMAN flick.

AP2HYC: And what else is unique about Ripper that Batman fans will love?

JC: My goal for this is to bring fans of Batman, horror, and fan-made films together. Visually, this will stand out from previous Batman films, and by adding the Victorian element, I hope we have enough going for us that people will want to see it (The next one is going to be mega).

AP2HYC: How are you creating 1888 London? I understand that you feature a lot of costumes and props?

AB: We have graduate Andrew Glazebrook on board who will be creating some beautiful matte paintings that we will digitally insert as backgrounds, basically to world-build. Our wardrobe manager, another graduate, Charlotte Harman, came on board with only two weeks to go; she managed to source and create amazing costumes in such little time, all of which added to the effect. Also, with just a few weeks to prep, yet another graduate, Simon Burgon, was brought on board as prop master, which he excelled at. It’s safe to say we have claimed them for the next one.

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AP2HYC: Can you talk about the filming locations?

AB: Preston Park Museum is a fantastic location; it’s like stepping onto a Victorian street. We had very little in the way of set dressing to do on the outdoor sets. The big set dress came when we changed a cafe into an Opium Den. Our production designer, Rebecca Wight, did an amazing job with such a little budget. Hartlepool Historic Quay and the HMS Trincomalee were our grandest locations. The production value in the ship alone is just beyond anything you will ever see in a little short like this.

AP2HYC: Do you have a hectic production schedule?

AB: It was insane, but we had an amazing crew who just wanted to get it done. We shot over four consecutive days, and still have a day of pickups to schedule. Our camera and lighting dept are all pros from Manchester and London. They worked like troopers; everyone else were students or graduates. Batman being on set for the final day really boosted everyone, especially for our production runner, Matt. It was his 20th birthday and he recieved a Batman Cake from the Dark Knight himself.

AP2HYC: We’ve seen impressive fan films lately, such as Predator: Dark Ages and the works of Adi Shankar. Do you think they have a bright future?

AB: Absolutely, There are some fantastic short fan films coming out, all with different budgets. We have mananged to do this so far for just under £9000. We will need a little more cash for the pickups and post-production. It’s not about the money, though; we are doing this because we think it’s cool. We know that we can’t make money at it. But while people are willing to invest in us, we’ll continue. There is always the hope that Warner Bros. sees and likes this film. Machinima, Inc. has a great thing going with them. There is no reason we couldn’t get a look in.

Are you excited to check out Ripper? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Davidde Gelmini