Interview with director Zack Russell Bartlett (QUESTIONS)

Zack Russell Bartlett’s short film played at the January 2017 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival. It was also the winner of “BEST MUSIC” at the festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Zack Russell Bartlett: I love superheroes and I’m particularly fond if the characters that call themselves “The Question”. The persona is really fun, a little campy, and has a great aesthetic style to it that I wanted to try and adapt to the screen. Neither versions of the Question have been depicted in live action media, which I think is a shame, because the characters would fit right into DC and Warner Bros’ current television universe. Bottom line, I love the characters that I depicted in this film and thought they deserved a little screen time.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

ZRB: I wrote the first script for Questions in August of 2015. Preproduction took place over the next several months and even into February of 2016. The film was finally shot during March 2016. Then, editing, scoring, and VFX took until July to complete. So the project was nearly a year long. Wow, I didn’t even realize it had taken such a long time.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

ZRB: “Good Attempt”

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

ZRB: The practical prosthetics used on the faces of our actors really made the entire process rather difficult. First of all, the materials to make the masks were expensive and took a long time. My makeup artist, Jack Hoppe, had to take several casts of the actors’ faces, carved several prototypes and spent dozens of hours working on constructing the masks. The prosthetics also caused issues on set. The practical masks had small holes in the eyes and mouth that allowed the actors to see and breathe, but the holes were quite small, so it made our fight choreography extremely difficult. The masks also took over an hour to put on each night, which slowed down our schedule a little. In post, the eye and mouth holes were covered up with VFX which was also a long process. I’m pretty happy with how the no-face effect turned out in the end, but it sure was a difficult process.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

ZRB: I was thrilled that the audience in Toronto was impressed by my lead actors, Nolan Sullivan and Lynn Twarowski, because without them this film wouldn’t have come together the way it did. They were given a really difficult task, acting and fighting with thick silicon covering their entire face. I’m also right onboard with the audience members who were dissatisfied with the fight choreography. The masks made it really difficult, but even still we could have done a lot more with it and I wish we had. Overall, I was really glad to hear primarily positive reviews of a fan film about characters that most of the audience had never heard of. Also, I was thrilled to learn that the audience liked the film’s score! Sam Quick really killed it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

ZRB: Again, I’m really interested in the character, so I specifically set out to write a script based on that character. This film was actually born out of a much longer script, which told the story of how Vic Sage, the male Question, groomed Detective Renee Montoya, the female Question, to take his place. Ultimately I decided that I wouldn’t have the resources to make such an ambitious film, so I decided to write a simpler fight scene involving both versions of the Question fighting alongside each other. This film fits into a larger cannon that exists only in my mind based on the original script.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

ZRB: It’s impossible to give an accurate answer, but my guess would be that its either the original Star Wars trilogy or Jurassic Park. These are some of my favorite movies and I’ve watched them many many times. Then again, it might be the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. I was obsessed with them as a kid.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

ZRB: I primarily fancy myself a cinematographer, not a director, so much of my time is spent working in the camera and lighting departments of other peoples’ films. In that regard, I have a lot of films that I’m working on right now! However, it also just so happens that I’m deep in the preproduction of a film I’ll be directing later this Spring. It’s what we’ve described as an “Environmentally-Friendly Kung-Fu Movie” about an owl that kills people who mistreat the environment. The working title is “Give a Hoot or Die”. Look out for it!

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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