Jason Contini talks about RED CIRCLE INVESTIGATIONS
RED CIRCLE INVESTIGATIONS is a new fan film from Archlight Studios and writer/director Jason Contini. RED CIRCLE INVESTIGATIONS follows private investigator Walter Whitney as he starts a new case that leads him to discover his true identity. But what does his identity have to do with the disappearance of The Mighty Crusaders 30 years ago? When a mysterious woman by the name of Maria comes to Walter for help, it sends him on a strange mystery that just may have put Walter in over his head. Jason Contini was nice enough to stop by First Comics News to let our readers know about his film RED CIRCLE INVESTIGATIONS.
First Comics News: Why a Mighty Crusaders fan film?
Jason Contini: I’ve been involved in filmmaking since I was 20. Over the years I slowly made the transition from being in front of the camera to behind the camera. One of the things that I find myself drawn to as a writer or a director are film projects that I personally would want to see in a movie theater, even if I had nothing to do with the film. That’s what interests me, making the kinds of films that I would watch.
So when it comes to fan films, the ones that I am always looking out for are fan films revolving around The Mighty Crusaders because they are hands down my all-time favorite comic book characters! But what I’ve learned is that no one has ever really made one on them, or at least if they have I haven’t been able to find it. So, I finally got to the point where I decided to do it myself.
Jason: My Dad got my brother and me into comics at a very early age. When I was about 10 years old, I remember him saying to me “Hey, it looks like they’re gonna bring back The Mighty Crusaders again!” And I believe my response was “Who?” So he explained who they were to me and then promptly bought me the first issues of all the Impact Comics titles when they debuted so that I would have all the first appearances of these new versions of the characters. And I fell in love with them. And to this day, of all the comics in my collection, the boxes that hold all my Crusaders comics are the most priceless to me. Especially The Impact run.
Jason: Because there are so many iterations and different takes on these characters there is no one definitive version to go off of like there would be for say, Captain America or Superman or anything from the big two. So for our purposes, we chose not to limit it to just one run or just one fan base. What we have decided to do is go all the way back to the beginning with Blue Ribbon Comics #1 and pick our favorite bits from each incarnation and essentially add our own take to the history. What that does is it gives us the freedom to tell a good story that holds the essence of who each of these characters are, and at the same time helps us load the film with Easter eggs for the hardcore Crusaders fans.
Jason: I don’t want to give too much away here because some characters are a surprise and others are teased for potential future chapters to this first story. Plus, the more money that is raised through our Indieogo campaign will mean that we get to add more characters to this chapter. What I will say is that you will see The Shield, The Jaguar, The Eraser, and The Hangman for sure. Aside from that, we will have a few villains from the Red Circle era that have just been added to the most recent draft of the script. And for now, I’ll just leave it at that.
Jason: Walter Whitney was the first MLJ hero to appear. So it seemed only fitting to us that he be the focal character in this film. The audience will experience everything through his eyes. He is also the one character that we have taken the most liberties with. We have really tried to stay true to most of the characters that appear, but where Walter is concerned, we wanted to treat him with the respect that we felt he deserved, being the first. As for whether or not he is Bob Phantom….you’ll just have to wait to see the film to find out.
Jason: The idea that The Mighty Crusaders are constantly being revived roughly every 10 to 15 years is, in a way, the basis of where our idea came from. When our story starts, it has been 30 years since the world has seen The Mighty Crusaders. Back in the 1990s, they were engaged in a battle with a mind-controlling tyrant that called itself The Brain Emperor. During the battle, The Mighty Crusaders vanished, much like they do from the comic book shelves every 10 years or so, never to be seen again. At least until they return.
Jason: The costume designs are one of the most fun parts for me being an artist and a huge comic book fan in general. I’ve decided to turn to my brother Nate Contini to assist in the designs. He and I have been creating our own superheroes since we were little kids and he has always had an eye for costume design. And with him as a producer on the film as well, it really helps because he designs with an eye towards what is feasible with our resources. So we’ve gone through each and every costume design and incorporated elements from all of them so as to somehow connect to every era of these characters. We’ve also looked at those designs from a standpoint of practicality. If a guy is wearing a suit of red, white and blue chest plate armor, how does that work? How does it attach to him? And how do we do that when we don’t have something like a Weta Workshop or major studio in our corner without making it look cheesy?
Jason: The number one thing about fan films that people need to understand is that the filmmakers that are behind them are making films based on intellectual properties that they do not own. And the property owners are well within their right to step in at any time and shut the productions down. What keeps many of them from doing that is the fact that no one really makes any money on these projects. There are no DVDs that get duplicated and sold anywhere. No tickets get sold for screenings. And the filmmakers make no profit in the film at all. They are strictly made for fans, by fans, for pure enjoyment. With RED CIRCLE INVESTIGATIONS, we are making sure that no one on this film is getting paid. Our complete cast and crew are working on this project out of passion alone. And with the final product being uploaded for free on Youtube, the only DVDs that are even being made are the ones that we are duplicating ourselves and giving as gifts/perks in our Indiegogo campaign.
Jason: For this film, a film that will only run about 25 to 30 minutes, we plan on using the funds to acquire new equipment that will increase the quality of the film as well as the materials to build the costumes. Then there are all the supplies that people never think about like tape, staples, paper, water on set, hairspray, towels, bug spray (depending on when and where you’re shooting), safety equipment, food for cast and crew on set each day, etc. We have all been in film production for some time. A few years ago we joined with Pirate Pictures to produce an original feature-length comedy/drama set in the world of comic book creating and collecting entitled FOUR COLOR EULOGY. That film’s entire budget was only around 15K. What we learned there is how to stretch the dollar on a film set without risking quality. We plan to do the same with this one.
1st: Indiegogo allows for partial funding. If you have to scale back, what is the minimum to start this project?
Jason: The minimum to really make this film sizzle, is about $1,000. That will really make the costumes pop and get the equipment that will give the project the quality that these characters so richly deserve. But the way the script is structured, the more money that is raised, the more characters from Crusaders history we’ll be able to add to the film. However, having said all of that, we plan on making the film either way. If we only raise, say 20% of our goal, we’re making the movie and will just have to get extremely creative in how to pull off different things. If we raise anywhere close to the complete goal, then we can really give people something that would hopefully spark a renewed interest in these characters. And if we raise more than that, well….we’ll bring you as many Crusaders in this film as we can!
Jason: We hope to announce casting soon! Most of the production team on this film has a history rooted in professional regional theatre. Because of that, we strive to find the best actors in our region that we can find. People who do this professionally and really know how to direct a script and analyze a character and allow themselves to connect with their fellow scene partners on set. This was the same approach we used for FOUR COLOR EULOGY and it’s accompanying music video from Taylor Pietz, “Color Me” and it paid off in extremely rewarding ways. Not just for the production team but for audiences as well. We have been using the same model for an original feature western called RETRIBUTION we’ve been developing for some time when we needed to shoot test footage for that. So if you have seen FOUR COLOR EULOGY on DVD or on Amazon, or watch “Color Me” on Youtube, you’ll likely see many similar people from that in this.
1st: Who is involved in the production of the film?
Jason: Our St. Louis based production company is called Archlight Entertainment. We do a lot of different things like original comics (Archlight Comics), music (Archlight Records) and, of course, film. All of our films work under the banner of Archlight Studios. Aside from myself, the production team on this particular film includes John Contini, Nicholas J. Hearne, Nate Contini, Taylor Pietz, and Corey Leher. Many of us on the team have years of theatre and film production experience. I would guess collectively we have about 70 years of film experience between all of us on this project. There are complete bios for each member on our Indiegogo page and of course, you can find more info on us on IMDB.
Jason: Because our company is based in St. Louis, Missouri the film will be shot in and around this area. What many people don’t realize is that Missouri and Western Illinois have quite a few varied locations and many different types of locales that can be utilized here.
1st: How long after the film is funded until production begins?
Jason: We are always in pre-production on this film despite being in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign. Because of that, we hope to have everything in place to begin principal photography sometime September or early October at the latest. We’ll be able to fine-tune our shooting schedule more as we near the end of the Indiegogo campaign and know how much we’re working with.
1st: When could backers expect to receive the final product?
Jason: We don’t currently have an official release date set, but we are aiming for late January 2020. As is the case with all low budget films, things happen and sometimes post-production may take an extra month or two than expected. We don’t want to rush this film. This is the first fan film based on these characters. We don’t want to cheapen it by trying to push it out by January of 2020 if there are just a few more weeks of work that need to be done to make it better. But that sort of info will be constantly shared with our backers and fans on Indiegogo as well as all of our social media platforms.
Jason: The rewards that we are offering are pretty cool if I do say so myself. We designed the gifts/perks based on what we as collectors would want from something like this. We are offering standard signed movie posters, signed shooting scripts, and concept design prints. But we also offer DVD copies of the film with special features that are exclusive to Indiegogo backers only, DVD copies of our film FOUR COLOR EULOGY, a behind the scenes book, and T-shirts. And the top tier levels include things like prop replicas from the film, custom action figures of our “movie versions” of Shield and Jaguar and even a custom Pop figure of Shield. But I think the stretch goals will interest people as well. Who doesn’t love classic 80’s style trading cards based on the film, or recreations of classic Mighty Crusaders comic covers with our “movie versions” of the characters in place of the originals, or how about a Blu Ray upgrade instead of just a DVD?
1st: What makes Red Circle Investigations so cool, no true comic fan should miss it?
Jason: In a strange sense, this is like history in the making. Not only is it the first fan film based on The Mighty Crusaders but, as far as I am aware, it will the first time these characters have ever been brought to life, either in film, television or even animation (something we plan to utilize for the beginning of this film). With the exception of The Black Hood, who did have a radio show in the 1940s and was featured on the second season of RIVERDALE. So this is a first.
But more so than that, these are some of the most influential superheroes in comic book history and comic fans, I think, would love to know more about them. The Shield was the very first patriotic superhero. The Comet was the first superhero death in comics. The Fly had strong influences and connections to Spider-Man. The villain team The Anti-Fly League predates The Sinister Six. They even influenced Alan Moore’s Watchmen. These characters deserve to be recognized more. And hopefully, we can bring a brand new Film Universe of these characters to Youtube that fans can enjoy and use to show other friends and get new Mighty Crusaders in the process.