BATMAN BEYOND: The Series is a fan-made, non profit, live action, film project funded by fans, family, and friends,that will be broken down into an eight episode web series. We got to sit down with the minds behind the series, Nathan Lyles and Rick Niedt, to discuss the fan filmed webisodes.
Derreck: Why did you pick Batman Beyond, the future?
Nate: It was a blend of Batman and science fiction. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres. When the show first came out, I was kind of skeptical because it wasn’t really Batman, but after watching the show, it reminded me of some of my favorite sci-fi like Fifth Element and Blade Runner. So this particular Batman blew my mind and I wondered what it would look like live action. I got so excited. This series is the result of the very script that I completed all the way through. So I would say to myself, ‘well, how am I going to get the budget? I’d have to take out some of the fights to dumb down the script a little bit, but I don’t want to do that for this.’ The fights are staying and we’ll figure that out later.
It’s not really an origin story, just something to remind you of the show and all the love that goes into it. We skipped a lot of that origins stuff. Once we got the budget and the script, we got really lucky and ran into a lot of people that wanted to help. When I visited California last year, I was doing a work transfer at Walgreens, and one of the guys working on the project now, he said he got laid off. I started talking about Batman Beyond and how next year I wanted to start a live action Batman Beyond series, and he got really excited about it, wanted to work on it and told me not to worry about paying him, he’d do it for the love. I went home and finished my script and then moved out to California.
It’s all about putting Batman and sci-fi together; that’s the reason I did it.
Derreck: Your series is going to be live-action. How close are you planning for it to be to the original show? Are you doing your own thing or are you going to try and follow some of the stories they put in place?
Nate: The story takes place a year after the series ended, so we kind of found a balance between that. And, Rick, that was one of the things he kept in check as the Story Editor. Once you get the characters down, they still have the same attitudes, they’re still recognizable to the fans, but, you know, you adjust for age. Terry’s not in high school anymore, he’s doing his own thing, he’s balancing being Batman with everything else. It’s very similar to the cartoon, but the story itself is new and refreshing.
Rick: I think there’s a really nice balance there, though, because Nate was able to pull off making it seem like a natural extension. This is where the show left off and we picked up but still having, you know, the characters sound like the characters. The fans of the old show are going to recognize them on this show too. And then he was also able to, like you said, add the new slightly darker, more adult element to bring in some new fans who maybe weren’t watching the show but are hardcore Batman fans, or even Beyond fans who came in more from the comic book rather than from watching the show.
Derreck: This is a fan project, which is a really big deal. How did you go about funding a project like this? It’s no small task, so how are you guys able to pull this off? You have so many people involved, how are you able to do that?
Nate: Well, Rick, you wanna take that?
Rick: Yeah. You need me to write another check? That’s what we were trying to imply earlier. To really do this right, we had a substantial inflow of cash from me, but we also did have a number of significant volunteer efforts, both in terms of acting resources and locations and equipment and crew members and the VFX specialists. So many things that were just volunteered to us or at least deeply discounted to make our budget stretch a little bit more has made all the difference. You know, the technology itself, even within the last few years, has exponentially increased in its ability to do great effects that we feel are going to take the neo-Gotham stuff over the top. Joel and Nate are working together on the visual effects, and we think that will pick up a lot of (what’s lost) because we don’t have the multi-million dollar budget of a big studio.
Nate: I didn’t write it thinking it was going to have a lot of special effects and action sequences that would take up a lot of the budget. The story is where it all started. Every member of the crew who has read the script is 100% behind it and I like to think it’s because of the story. If it wasn’t for the script, they probably wouldn’t be volunteering their time, equipment, things like that. I was looking into getting a green screen room, and the actor that plays Curare’, she said her school has that and she volunteered her school’s space, so that saved a lot of the budget. And Joel took care of a lot of the visual effects. I didn’t have to pay a lot for that. The things that I couldn’t really get around were the locations, so that took a lot of the budget. Most of it, though, is people volunteering to be a part of something great, just to have their names be attached to the project, which really helped get us through the budget that we had. The guy playing Batman, he had a demo reel of him flipping around, doing a lot of Parkour. When he came around, I said, “I know you’re an actor and able to do stunts. Would you like to play Batman?” And he said, “Hell yeah.” So he’s playing Batman, doing all of the fight scenes, when we were going to hire a stunt guy, and then we got him! He’s just another example of people volunteering their services. I feel blessed.
Rae: In all fairness, if you asked me to play Batman, I, too, would say, “Hell yeah.”
Derreck: Let’s talk a little more about some of the characters. You’re going to have Bruce Wayne in it, the old, old Bruce Wayne. How much is he going to be featured in it? Are you going to keep the balance that the cartoon had or are you going to step him back a bit?
Nate: No, he’s our second lead, so he’s in it quite a bit. The series takes place in one week, so a lot is happening. Terry, of course, consults with Bruce, so now that he’s Batman, he feels he has to listen to the original Batman.
Derreck: So all the episodes take place over the course of a week?
Derreck: That’s a lot of characters to fit in during that time frame. Is everyone going to have a little spot or are there a lot of cameos?
Nate: It’s a bit of both. There will be some cameos. There’s the main story and then a love story going on in the background. And we were also trying to get in as much of the fan favorite stuff as we could without cutting anybody short.
Rick: Nate’s very careful with how much he reveals about plot. So your question has caused him to dance around. You’ve all seen the type of thing where some behind the scenes force is generating a little more heat for the hero. Suffice it to say, it’s one of those types of things.
Rae: So aside from Terry and Bruce, who were you most excited about adapting?
Rick: I’d have to say the guy who plays King from the Royal Flush Gang. No, just kidding. That’s me, actually. That’s my 90 seconds of fame cameo. Curare’, for me anyway, is one of my favorite villains, I think her look is great. Nate probably doesn’t want me to mention too many. I mentioned her because I know she’s already got a teaser out on the site.
Derreck: I know you don’t want to give a lot away, so maybe this is not a good question, but are we going to see multiple villains throughout this? Or is it more of one big bad that takes him multiple days to take down?
Nate: There’s multiple villains. I got a question over Facebook asking me if I’m going to over saturate the story with a ton of villains. Quite a few of the characters are just sprinkled in there. I wish I could put more in there, but I don’t think we have the time.
Rick: In addition to getting a significant amount of the rogues’ gallery into the show, he’s also managed to bring in a lot of characters from Terry’s personal life. You can’t have Batman Beyond without Nelson Nash, right? You have to get him in there. The jerky big man on campus who teased you from high school. And Maxine Gibson, Terry’s best friend and computer expert, had to be in there. He’s sprinkled in there everyone you’re expecting to see. He did a really good job with that.
Derreck: Since you have so many characters, and you said a lot of them volunteered, what has the routine been like, getting production done? Everyone’s on set for a few weeks? Are you bringing people in as needed? What are you doing?
Rick: Kidnapping and coercion.
Nate: The scheduling has been the most difficult part about getting this done. Everyone has to be available the same time, the same hours. That’s what’s taken up the most time.
Derreck: So now that everything is all said and done, how much time was taken since the first camera clicked?
Nate: It’s probably been about six months now, between filming and editing.
Rae: Did this project turn into what you expected it to be? Was it larger?
Nate: It was definitely bigger than what I expected. I moved out here from the east coast, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to take it, or how it was going to evolve. I originally thought I was going to have to use my own budget, so it was going to be small. No matter what it was going to happen, but it might have taken longer. If it was going to take 3 years, I was going to make it happen.
Rick: Nate’s a very ambitious guy. You know, when I got ahold of the first version of the script, I was thinking to myself, “Wow. This is a big project.” But I think we intelligently controlled the number of scenes and locations enough that it was manageable. When you do this kind of a thing, you can have the seedy side of Gotham and not have a huge high-tech operation in every single scene. I was still thinking, budget-wise, “how are we going to pull this off? This many moving parts?” I think it’s been amazing. The creativity of how to get around some of those types of problems, most of which has come from Nate, or his crew (other guys like Dimitri and Joel) was impressive. Some of the cast members have been helping out as additional crew. I’m not there every day, like Nate is, but even on the days I was there, watching them interact and pull together, saying, “You know, we’re doing something pretty large scale here, but we have to do it fast and on budget, so let’s get it done.”
Rae: Were your families surprised when you said, “I’m going to make a live-action Batman series,” or were they behind you?
Nate: Well, my family has supported me. This is very different, though. I moved to California to make a Batman movie. I was like, “That’s what I’m doing.” They just said, “Ah, you’re good.” My friends and coworkers and everybody else, they were all very supportive. A lot of people were reaching out, offering help to put some fires out, everybody was very excited about it, especially my mom.
Rick: My wife has long known that I am a comic book nut and we have a 4-year-old son, who, despite all my best efforts, is a Superman guy, not a Batman guy (but I’m still working on him.) So… when I told her this, she was like, “Oh, really? That’s nice.” It was just one more thing she knew I was wasting valuable money and time on. I’m kidding. She’s totally supportive. I think Nate alluded to it earlier, but the reason we even met up was because I’ve been focused on writing some screenplays recently. One of the things I tried was a featue length Batman Beyond. And just surfing around, I stumbled upon Nate’s project and said, “Oh, we’ve got to hook up.” And that’s really how it went from there.
Derreck: So you’ve got the 8 episodes, they’re nearing completion, so what are your plans for it at that point? Are you going to make anymore? Are you waiting to see what the support is after the fact? What’s your plan?
Nate: We’d like to get some attention from the Warner Brothers or D.C. executives. Ideally, I’d like to make a film or have a Netflix series, like Daredevil. But on the lower level, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Mortal Kombat, but Mortal Kombat has a few series online now, along the same lines as us. I just want to keep taking this to the next level, and if all else fails, if I’m lucky to do anything else, then that would be great. I don’t want it to stop here. I think there’s a lot more that can be done by bringing Batman and sci-fi together.
Derreck: What are some things you’re most excited to tell people about?
Rick: Just to reiterate what Nate said, we have the second kickstarter campaign, so anything we can squeeze into the quality of this project will be great. We greatly appreciate any help from the fans. What I want to express is that I think the unique combination of Nate and I has sort of brought out something that the Batman Beyond fans have been waiting for. You know, DC hasn’t done it. There have been a couple teases where we thought they were going to do it, but if they are, they’re not going to do it any time soon. And life is just too short. So we basically took it upon ourselves to just make it. And we’re hoping that we’ve done it with enough quality and enough excitement that it’s not just a reward for Batman Beyond fans, but we’re also going to make some new fans.
Derreck: It sounds awesome. I’m a huge supporter of that. As a Trekkie, fan films are huge and to see that in the Batman world, is great.
Rae: Thank you so much for spending your night with us.
If you’d like to pledge to the Batman Beyond: The Series kickstarter, you can go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/naturnal/batman-beyond-the-series-dvd-pre-order
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