Fan films take many shapes and forms. These fan films are the product of a director’s interest, or they can be the collaborative effort of a group of fans that share a common interest. Inspired by a film, television program, comic book, book, or video game created by fans rather than by the source’s copyright holders or creators.
For Jordon Foss, his interest in creating a fan film stemmed from his interest in comic books–as with many that undertake to create a fan film, he was a “big comic book nerd”–an interest that earned him the nickname “the Batman guy,” as he was often trying to work Batman into conversations.
Identifying with Batman and wishing to join a larger conversation about comic books on film, Jordon started to write about the Caped Crusader to release his personal grief after losing so many family members and friends.
After working on the set of “Batman V Superman, ” which had filmed in Detroit he and his best friend, Tyler Burke, who plays Jason Todd/ Robin/ Red Hood in what would become the “Knightmare” series, teamed to create the story on which their fan film is based.
“(Burke) was the guy who pushed me to keep writing the story. He helped me write every draft and then we eventually decided, that we just had to do it.” as Foss tells it.
Jordon Foss, writer, director, and producer of “Knightmare” consented to this interview. In it, he talks about how a perceived identification to the Batman character lead joining forces with his best friend to writing a series of stories on which his Knightmare fan film series would be made.
The trailer for your third episode of the “Knightmare” series has dropped. This has been a fan film series. This is an exciting development. Before we talk about “Knightmare’, let’s sketch out your background., How did you get started in the film industry?
Hi David. I was formerly a film student at Arizona State University shooting low budget music videos for friends. I got my first job in the industry as a co-producer’s assistant on a small feature named “Car Dogs” out there. Then I moved back to Michigan during the boom of the first tax break and started work as a camera assistant from thereon. Eventually, with my experience in production, I became a co-producer on the horror film, “Eloise.” And continued on balancing my time between camera work and producing indie films.
Yes, I can remember seeing “Eloise”. It was filmed at the old Eloise Psychiatric Hospital located in Westland, MI. What was your experience like working on this set? It is supposed to be haunted.
Haunted place. Haunted movie. I enjoyed our crew and the team around it were all formative in my creative journey.
From there where did you go? How did you come to not only direct (is this correct?), but produce the first of the “Knightmare” series.
Direction has always been my strongest skill. I don’t always refer to it first as my career(because it doesn’t pay my bills). But it is everything I do. Whether behind the camera or in production, I’m trying to direct the creative into what I think is the best we can make. Especially on small budgets. That’s where I work best.
After Michigan ended its tax credit, I ended up traveling to other independent film markets such as Boston and Vancouver. Trying to apply myself toward educating myself in different departments. I became an actor’s assistant to learn how an actor thinks. I worked in post-production shortly to work on my edit workflow skills. I’ve always wanted to be a costumer, however, I didn’t get there.
Interesting journey. Obviously, you must also be a big comic book fan. Where did the inspiration for “Knightmare” come? And how long did it take you to develop the concept prior to filming?
I am a HUGE comic nerd. Most people call me, the Batman guy. I guess I deserve that for often I can shove him into a conversation. But for me, Batman is a greater representation of every young man’s wish fulfillment and equal parts trauma. Hence his popularity. We all agree he’s just a guy. But because he’s a guy at peak human capability, he’s much cooler than the other guy that flies. Because it’s a power that’s obtainable for any of us with the discipline.
I personally resonate with his trauma. And “Knightmare” is partially me wishing to join a larger conversation about comic books on film. And other parts, release of my personal grief after losing so many family members and friends. After I lost my brother, I began seeking stories that spoke to my pain and Batman was the only character who said that often. I’m hurt. I’m human. And I want to be better. That’s why I started writing Batman.
Understood. I feel your pain. This is a particularly dark time in Batman’s life. He suffers the passing of his young sidekick and has to confront his worst nightmares. Your loss can be seen in this first episode Where was “Knightmare,” the first episode in this series filmed?
It was all over. But we started in Detroit. Honestly, I never actually intended to make “Knightmare”. It was more about writing Batman for a release. But then in 2014, I got the opportunity to work on “Batman V Superman” when it was shooting here in Michigan. And I just couldn’t get out of my head how much Detroit was the perfect Gotham City. And after I saw the film, I felt like they hadn’t captured us at all. How much Gotham’s decay was synonymous with Detroit’s. So I started stealing shots of Batman walking around in Detroit at night just to get the vibe I was missing from the big Hollywood productions. That was back in December 2016.
My best friend, Tyler Burke, he plays Jason Todd/ Robin/ Red Hood. He was the guy who pushed me to keep writing the story. He helped me write every draft and then we eventually decided, that we just had to do it. We knew we could. It wasn’t about money, it’s always about taking our time and doing it our way with what little we could ask for.
The results were amazing. Speak of how you assembled your cast and crew. Apparently, many of them came from the same source. At least members of your cast did.
Okay, this was tough. I actually had to fire my first Batman. He was a good looking guy from New York but he never believed in our project. He didn’t think we could make Batman on a shoe-string nothing budget in Detroit. So I had to part ways and start from scratch. That’s when I met Bennie and Jon Tomus Talent. We had met through Henry Frost, our Two-Face, who was also helping me block all of our stunts. All of his stunt team were Jon Tomus Talent. And they were all the most professional driven actors I’ve come to work with. Every one of them loves their craft and wants to be on set. Every one them heard my vision and felt it could be accomplished.
How long did it take you to complete the principal filming of “Knightmare”?
We collectively shot for 14 days over 4 months from December 2016 through March 2017.
And in total how long did it take to complete “Knightmare” before it received release?
I spent two years building up the budget and materials starting in 2014, and we were editing all the way to our release date on December 1st, 2017. So about three years.
Now your next film, “Knightmare: Killing Joker,” where was this produced?
We shot both “Knightmare: Killing Joker” and “Knightmare: Man or Bat” simultaneously in Los Angeles, October 2018.
Okay, this explains why the actors are not recognizable names to a Michigan
audience. When did you go out to Los Angeles? How do you find it working out there? Is it everything you had imagined?
I moved to Los Angeles in 2018. Less than a month after “Knightmare” first released. Most of my film community friends had already made the big jump and it wasn’t for me for a long time, I just liked the east coast grit I had grown up around. I can now proudly say today that LA is dirtier than all those places. Maybe grimier is the better word for it.
But non-jokingly, I enjoy it here. I get to do what I love every day and I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.
So have you surrounded yourself with other Michigan transplants? Do you see yourself returning to Michigan anytime soon?
Well, one thing I like here is that everyone is a transplant. A lot of my folks here are Chicago natives. But I’ve got 3-4 Detroiters here I see on every set, always working. I try to come home as often as possible for work. I was just home last summer for an indy feature, that sadly didn’t turn out after it lost funding, but it was really inspiring to see how many talented folks did turn out. There is so much opportunity that hasn’t left this beautiful state. Someday, I’ll bring Batman back to Detroit and it won’t be on a shoe- string.
Follow Knightmare on social-media for an inside look Behind the Scenes: