With the rise popularity of indie fan films such as the beautifully shot Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and the ultra gritty (and quite possibly ‘better than the official remake’) Power Rangers Fan Film –  it is clear that aspiring directors are learning just how powerful a calling card indie fan films can really be. The fact that they are neither fully commercial nor fully alternative allows filmmakers to gain popularity among an established fan base, without the expectations of producing a large budget video with Hollywood level VFX. Broken Slate caught up with Michael Malko – Toronto based director/cinematographer to learn a bit about his recent Batman fan film Crane, to learn about the process, and get tips on how you too can make your very own indie fan film!

What inspired you to create Crane?

“Well I love the Scarecrow (he laughs) What really inspired me to create Crane was I needed a solid introduction back to filmmaking, I had taken a good portion of three years off to focus on the art of cinematography and work on others sets to get a better understanding of what I could achieve. It’s far from perfect and I have my own little qwirks about the end product but when you look back at all the work I have done up to that point (April 2016) Crane was the creative outlet I needed to get back into the indie film scene.”

Tell us about the process of creating an indie fan film.

“When creating an indie fan film you really have to lay out your goals from the start. What do you want to show or tell, what’s your budget and how are you going go about to get the end result. You can easily be-derailed and either spend a lot of money or come up short with something that looks campy. And follow through with your goals, the worst thing you can do is give up half way through.”

How do you stay true to the source material while working on a much more … efficient budget?

“I’m not a huge comic book fan, so I did a lot of reading on the wiki’s and talked to die hard Batman fans. I believe not being super close to the material gave me a different perspective on the content (Kind of like J.J. Abram’s take on Star Wars). I think alot of times, people are so passionate about the subject matter that they are overly ambitions and don’t realize how easily a budget can get inflated. They simply give up on making their film because not everything is ‘absolutely perfect’. For me, that was never a problem.”

Were there special considerations you had to make because of this? (above question)

(Michael chuckles) “I had to watch a lot of Batman, I also watched a lot of other indie fan films and tried to see what they were missing and what I might do differently to stand out in the crowd. It really opened my eyes to a market I hadn’t before considered. Just because you make a fan film today doesn’t mean you can’t make an amazing original film tomorrow.”

How did you make your film stand out against the original source material?

“I knew I would need a bad ass Scarecrow mask, but I didn’t want the piece to center around Jonathan Crane being the Scarecrow I wanted it to be a bi-product of what happens during his encounter with Selina Kyle. Jonathan Crane is clearly insane and I wanted him to dominate the entire conversation. Even from the TV shows and films he has a flare about him that he thinks he’s better than everyone else. I hope I was really able to sell that feature about him and do something unique.”

What was your approach to casting? Was it important to stay true to the look and personality of your inspiration’s material?

“I am very blessed to have worked with both Zach (Jonathan Crane) and Kayla (Selina Kyle) before and it was almost perfect that they kind of look like them, Zach really sold the performance and I feel it’s more of the flare about Crane that makes him so interesting. The newer batman video games have given us a more modern looking Cat women so I am hoping people can be accepting of the choice I made for her role.”

Were copyrights an issue? What was your process?

“Indie Fan Films have a really gray area on the internet, I talked to a few of the more successful fan film directors and asked for suggestions in dealing with the copyright issues and they told me as long as I didn’t try and monetize it or sell it I would be okay. It also doesn’t hurt to give the appropriate copyright holders proper credit, but like anything a short film is calling card. Although you trade the ability to make money off of it you’ll see high traffic on the video because of the material.”

What are your top three tips for anybody making an indie fan film?

“My top three tips for anyone making an indie fan film would be,

1: Write something within your means. Don’t go off writing about some epic car chases and big fight scenes if you know you can’t do it or have the budget for it, there is no shame in crafting a tale that is the exact opposite to what said hero / villain does.

2: Push yourself, make sure it’s the best piece of work you can do at that point in your career, and then don’t get hung up over it if it doesn’t come out well. It’s okay to make bad movies, we all do it. If you learn from your mistakes then they weren’t mistakes it was a lesson.

3: You can’t please everyone: There will always be someone who thinks you casted the wrong person for whatever role their in. You have to realize that you can always re-make the short again or use pieces of it for a much bigger project (if you ever decide to make another fan film)”

Be sure to watch Michael’s film Crane by clicking on the video at the top of this article, or learn more about his work by visiting his Vimeo page here!


As always … leave your very own tips and tricks on how to make an indie fan film in the comment section below.