Creating A Dream – An Interview With Robbie Bryan
Take a moment and watch the video, please.
Now that we all know what Black Hat is all about, I wanted an opportunity to talk to the man behind the vision and Robbie was kind enough to sit down and talk with me about some of the things not necessarily covered initially in the promo video. So without further delay, I give you an inside look into the mind of a kindhearted visionary. Enjoy!
1. What was the definitive moment that made you fall in love with the cosplay community?
You know, this is a great question. When I first set out to write BLACK HAT, about three years ago, I really didn’t know much at all. So I contacted the Cheshire Anime Club in Cheshire Connecticut where this lovely woman Kelley Gile had anime club every third Friday in the school library after school. SO I went up, drove several hours and I got to know her and her students, about 30 of them, who would sit and watch anime and eat Pocky sticks and drink Ramune. I sat with them, and I interviewed them, and I got to know a little about their world.
They suggested I go to a convention, so I went to my very first one, Arisia, in Boston, and then Anime Boston and Otakon. I was amazed by the creativity, the dedication, to creating these cosplay for months and months and then travel hundred of miles to hang with fellow anime/cosplay fans, and it was a real community. You could see that they may be a little shy in the outside world, or at school, but in this environment, they felt they could be anyone they wanted to be. They were home. The moment I was totally hooked, was when I saw This 19 year old guy with the 60 year old man, both dressed in steampunk. I was completely curious as to what this relationship was all about and went, with camera and asked them. To my surprise they were father and son. The father was a college Professor, who taught medicine, but wanted to relate to his son, so he joined him at cons. This showed me this world brought all kinds of people together in a wonderful,, creative way. Plus the fact the 30,000 would descend on Baltimore for Otakon to celebrate this world, was amazing to me.
2. Who or what was your inspiration behind Black Hat?
Well, it’s kind of a multi-layered answer, A few years ago, a Producer friend who worked on Phone Booth with Colin Farrell, came to me and said he was working on a play with an actress who was 15 and wanted to find an independent feature project for her to use as a star vehicle and did I have a relationship-type movie script for a girl that age and maybe another family member. I said, “no”, but I was a writer and for once, the money was there, so let me put something together.
So I decided to make the story about a teen and her grandfather, but what would the story be? I began to surf the Net and came upon a story about Death Note, which has since become my favorite anime. However at the time, I knew little about the genre at all. But the more I read, the more I got hooked. I decided I wanted to not rush and really learn about this world and develop the script properly, carefully making certain that I was doing right by the Japanese culture and the true hard core fans.
The inspiration for the main character of “Dandi Chiapetta” is loosely based on a wonderful girl named Vada from The Bronx in New York, who had been a victim of gang violence and left in a coma. She had such eclectic tastes, loving horror movies and the music group Slipknot, but even though she had less than conventional tastes, was the sweetest of girls and I got to meet her family and her, when she began to recover, and I knew I had to make my main character have the energy and spirit of Vada. She is different but wants you to like her for her and wants to like you for you. That’s “Dandi”.
3. Was the current concept of the movie the only choice or were there others?
To be honest, it has always been this. About following dreams, no matter what. About surviving bullying
in high school, when it seems so hopeless when you are in it, but in fact, means nothing to what your life will be once you go out into the world, and about making this sub-culture genre more exposed and hopefully even more accepted in the main stream. The script has been re-written many many times, but the central story and themes have not changed. It’s about regret and hope and friendships. The best idea, which was not original, was to intersperse an actual anime film into the narrative feature
and tell “Dandi’s” back story and pain of her dad running away, into a fantasy anime. I love that.
4. How difficult was it to cast the right people for the roles?
The difficulty in casting roles isn’t all that hard, from knowing who you want. If you clearly define the characters, and write them well, it’s not a question of figuring out who will be great in playing them. The real trick and catch-22 is that in the film world, the money people want to see you have cast “names”, famous people in your movie, but the actors, or more specifically and understandably, their agents, want to know that the money is there, so their client doesn’t get excited to do a movie that never happens. We were very lucky that Jodelle Ferland’s agent (She starred in Case 39, Silent Hill, and Cabin In The Woods) got excited that our film’s Facebook page had so many likes and agreed to meet with me. She gave us a bunch of choices, but I had my eye on Jodelle for “Dandi” for a long time. AND she’s a huge anime fan, which made it even more perfect that she play “Dandi”. I am really excited also, that we have the possibility of casting Michael Gambon as the grandfather, “Harry Mancini”. You guys know him as “Albus Dumbledore” in the last 5 Harry Potter films. He is interested and we just need to lock in the money to make his offer official. We have financiers, but we are required to show 10% of the financing. That’s why this crowd funding campaign through Seed and Spark is SO critical. We need to show that the community is and willing to support this film. It’s so important and we have over 222,000 fans on the Facebook page! So we need to show they would be with us!! The rest of the roles we have some great ideas for casting, and we are lucky that Judy Henderson, who casts “Homeland” will be our Casting Director.
5. How long did the anime sequence take to envision and create?
That was tricky because although I have written 10 scripts in my day, I certainly haven’t written an anime
before. So, it took a few months to come up with and idea and write it. But I am very excited about it and MORE excited that Masao Maruyama, who co-founded Madhouse, will be teaming with his company to create the approximate 11 minutes in the film. He will be working in Japan, so it will be a whole new world to be coordinating it. But Wow, I will have my own anime created by a legend, who I got to meet at length at Otakon this year. I feel like “Dandi”,lol!
6. Will there be any surprise cameos the audience should look forward to?
There are absolutely some cool surprise cameos in the film. One, we are talking to, comes from the Superhero world back in the day. A cool retro cameo. Then we have awesome cosplayer Jessie Pridemore and hopefully another famous one. We also, schedule permitting, will have Shinichiro Watanabe playing himself as the famous Anime Director “Dandi” dreams of meeting. Well, I can list more, but then they won’t be surprises 🙂
7. In closing, what would you like to say to everyone?
I have said this since Day One: I am not the long time fan of anime and manga that you guys are. I am new
to this. But I LOVE making movies and I have fallen in love with your passion and creativity and want more than anything to tell this story. To honor you guys, to share your stories you have told me. To stand up for those of you that have been bullied because you love something a little different and love to dress up and to share this world and I am here for that. One of the toughest things, even on a Facebook page that will soon have a quarter of million people on it, is to get you to go to the Seed and Spark page and pledge whatever you can to make this dream, my dream, a reality. The reason I decided to crowd fund is because people came to me and said, “Can you imagine if everyone just gave $10, the whole movie could be financed!” Independent movies these days tend to rely on the fans’ support. You control what you want to see and I can’t imagine you wouldn’t want to have this come out to the world. I’m just a guy who has a dream and is asking for a little help.
I promise to do right by you all; promise to make something that will properly represent you and your wonderful world. This is my sincerest request to say, pledge what you can, spread the word about what I am trying to do, and just share in something positive. Help me fight bullying and help me shine a light on cosplay and anime! God Bless and thank you all for listening.
To pledge support to Robbie’s project, visit the Seed & Spark page HERE!
Visit the project’s Facebook HERE!
Follow them on Twitter @BlackHatAnime
To see some of Robbie’s other works and credentials, visit his IMDb page HERE!
Until next episode…