By now, a good majority of you guys have probably - hopefully - seen the 35 minute Casey Jones/Ninja Turtles fan film. It’s been posted on just about every major nerd site there is (including us), and I recently had the chance to talk to the filmmakers and star of the short film about the movie and what they’re planning next.
It was interesting for me to talk with these guys. In all honesty, it felt more like I was sitting and chatting with friends more than doing an interview. Frequently during our discussion we kept going off on tangents about other nerdy topics and subjects...That’s just how cool and laid back these guys were.
Let’s give a little info on them before getting right into it. Polaris Banks is the director (and just about everything else) behind this self-funded project, and his brother plays the titular role of Casey Jones. It’s a project they’ve been working on for years and are glad to have been able to share it with everyone else. After some brief introductions I started off getting some basic info:
TMP: So have you guys had a good response so far to this movie?
Polaris: Yeah, we get several emails a day just from people wanting to say thank you. And that’s pretty much it.
Hilarion: We actually get several emails a day of people basically just saying thank you.
Polaris: Well a lot of them have said that they want more, or they want a sequel, or for us to make it into a feature, but that’s probably not going to be able to happen. I was tapped out money-wise. So I’d love to make another one, but that probably won’t happen.
TMP: I remember several months ago when news of your film being made first came out, all the other nerd sites were reporting that this was actually going to be feature length. Was that originally the plan or misinformation?
Polaris: I would like to make it into a feature, but that’s probably...maybe, a decade in the future from now...We got a lot of great response and we’ve even got the original Danny from the 90s movie actually contacted me and said he liked it.
Hilarion: But we did discuss possibly doing a webseries with more episodes. It took a long time to make this movie, where we could do 4 or 5 episodes in the same amount of time. But again, we do have some other projects that we’d like to get out of the way first.
TMP: I know it was self-funded so I’m sure that was a big drain on you guys.
Polaris: Yeah, but you know if it wasn’t this movie, it would have been some other one I wanted to work on.
TMP: Well, even we’ve had a lot of response here at The Movie Pool about your short film, mostly with the same kind of responses, that they want more. I think that people at this stage, because we’ve waited so long for a new Turtles anything, that everybody is just desperate for something Ninja Turtles.
Polaris: The funny thing about it, with Ninja Turtles, is...especially with our generation, it’s like everybody is a fan. Even people who can barely remember which turtle is which, they still love them. It’s really fun when everybody is so enthusiastic about it, even the casual fans.
TMP: You guys are both obviously into film, so how did you get into it?
Polaris: Oh man it’s something I’ve wanted to do since before I even knew what the job was. When I was a kid, 6 or 7, I knew I wanted to make movies; I saw them and said I wanted to do that. When I would play with my toys in the backyard it was more like I was setting up scenes instead of just mashing them together.
When I got older I found out that that’s basically what a director’s job was and I thought that’s the only thing I want to do.
TMP: So was there any particular movie that just made it click?
Polaris: Probably Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Or Jurassic Park or Terminator 2, any of those big 90s adventurous films, I really just latched onto those. Sadly some of those styles are starting to disappear and a lot of the responses we got to Casey Jones is that it was kind of old-fashioned or felt like an early 90s movie.
TMP: You definitely seemed to nail the feel of the original film, which is of course in that same time period.
Polaris: Oh well thank you.
Hilarion: Well for me, there was definitely a point in my life when I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at least once a week. Our Dad had it on Laserdisc and I would sneak into his room and put it on about once a week for a good month or two.
When I was a kid I really wanted to be Indiana Jones and I almost spent every penny I had to buy a bull whip...but I wasn’t allowed to have it. But the turning point for me, was when I was...(to Polaris: Well you were 8) so I must of have been 9, our dog had puppies and our Dad got a video camera to film it. As soon as I saw my Dad with the camera, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
After that, every school project was a movie, and every weekend was some quick stop-animation thing we were doing.
TMP: So how long did this, from idea to release just a little bit ago, actually take you?
Polaris: Oh years! [Laughs]
Hilarion: I remember the first time Polaris talked to me about was in the car Winter Break in 2007-2008. We started filming in Summer 2008, because I was in school at the time so we could only film during my breaks.
Polaris: It was funny because I wanted to film it quicker than that, but the Turtle suit was uh...We just kind of made it in our apartment, so we didn’t have the most sophisticated tools to do it. I mean I found a guy who helped with the make-up artist stuff, but a lot of problems arose. You have to make every piece separately.
So [Hilarion] would come in for one of his breaks and I had planned to film the whole movie, but the Turtle suit wasn’t ready, so we just filmed the first part of the movie in Dallas. Well then the next break came and the suit still wasn’t ready so we filmed all the ninja scenes where the Turtle’s not in the scene. The next break we filmed the hobo scenes, and finally when the suit was done we did all of the Turtle scenes.
So that really slowed us down.
Hilarion: And my hair was a problem. I had to cut my hair for a different role, so we had to work around me trying to grow my hair back.
Polaris: Some of them are extensions actually. [Laughs]
TMP: So how long was your post-production then?
Polaris: That was probably almost a year and a half, because after I was finished filming the movie, I was out of money. I had kind of a lump of money and then it was gone. It wasn’t the post-production took a lot of time, it just took me a long time to save up money. I would work for months, make a couple thousand and hire a music guy. Then I’d save up for another few months and hire a sound person, I’d save and hire a digital effects person and they could only work on it when they weren’t working on higher paying stuff.
So it really did crawl pretty slow. And a lot of the foley work took a long time. Like the sound of the nunchakus took me a little over a week to get right.
TMP: All right, so just out of personal curiosity...why did you go with Michelangelo and not Rafael?
Polaris: That’s a good question actually. The reason is because we kind of already had a Michelangelo. It’s not like we came up with the Casey Jones movie and then randomly picked a Turtle to use.
I had two roommates at the time and one was an special effects artist and the other was an actor kind of guy. And the actor was short, muscular, and kind of looked like a turtle, and he was a big fan of Michelangelo and he was really good with Nunchakus!
So I was like hey, we should do a creature suit with Michelangelo. Then I thought, my brother looks a lot like Casey Jones, we should do some sort of team-up movie. Then through research I found out Jones’ first appearance is a solo with a Ninja Turtle, so that works...
And then the fans totally rejected the idea of it NOT being Rafael! But the thing is Casey Jones has done solo issue with Donatello and even Splinter, but he hadn’t done one with only Michelangelo. So this was kind of new ground to cover
Hilarion: In the same way, it was better for the story because this is the first night that Casey Jones kind of lets go and does everything he’s thought about doing. So having the ‘nice Turtle’ on set, holding him back was better for the conflict.
Polaris: A better foil, because they are complete opposites. And we got Robbie Rist to do it!
TMP: Yeah, how did you do that, by the way?
Polaris: It was weird, I had posted a casting call for April O’Neil and a voice actor called wanting to play a Ninja Turtle. While we were talking he told me that he actually knew the guy who did the voice of Michelangelo [Robbie Rist], and asked if I wanted him to send an email. And I said sure!
[Robbie] saw the footage we had and realized that this wasn’t some crappy backyard thing and agreed to do it. I had to hound him for about 3 months to record it, but he finally knocked it all out in about 3 hours.
TMP: Like I said earlier, Casey Jones does a good job of capturing the feel of the original film, which I’m assuming was your biggest inspiration. Because even the other films kind of took the franchise in a different, more ‘kiddish’ direction...and yours did not. Not at all.
I know that took some people by surprise, so what was the reasoning behind going with the more Peter Laird version for your film?
Polaris: It’s more that that was the most interesting version of Casey Jones. [He’s] just not really that cool in any of the other versions. If you watch the old cartoon or the new one, or even Turtles 3, Casey Jones just kind of blends in. But in the first movie and in the Laird and Eastman comics he’s different than any other superhero. It just seemed to be the most interesting version of him.
You know it’s funny you say how much darker and more mature it is, but I still get emails from people upset that it’s not more mature!
Polaris: They didn’t like the jokes or that April O’Neil was in a jumpsuit and all that...The problem is if you do any more past [what we did] then it’s not Ninja Turtles anymore.
TMP: Well there’s been a pretty good reaction to your film with our readers here at TheMoviePool. So much so, that when I tweeted I was going to be chatting with you guys, people started sending me questions to ask! So I’m going to go through some of these quickly before wrapping this up.
First I have, “Was it your intention to use the original dialogue for the April scene, or did that just happen?”
Polaris: Yeah, that was written to be the biggest homage to the first film.
TMP: All right here’s another one that says, “How did it feel on set when you were wearing the Casey Jones mask?”
Hilarion: Oh it was awesome. I don’t have it with me right now, but if you looked inside, you’d see it’s covered in snot, and fake blood, and real blood and sweat and it smells....but it was fun. Really, really fun to wear it and I still wear it sometimes [laughs].
TMP: Okay here’s another one...”Did either of you guys see the other Ninja Turtles fan film that came out this year, Fight the Foot? And did that have any...inspiration?” I think that’s what they’re going for, but based on what we’ve talked about already, it sounds like you guys were in production long before that came out.
Polaris: Yeah we were. Strangely enough we were working on post-production (the sound), when Fight the Foot came out. But I liked it and thought the suit looked great.
Hilarion: I have an embarrassing story about that. A friend of mine came up to me (who didn’t know I was doing Casey Jones) and said “Did you guys see this movie, with Ninja Turtles that’s online?”
And I thought, “oh here it comes, I’ve been recognized”...and then they told me all about Fight the Foot. So I rushed home and looked it up and showed Polaris. I liked it, but I was embarrassed that I thought they were talking about us at first.
TMP: Another user asks, “Do you still have the [Turtles] suit, and if you do, do you still wear it for fun?”
Polaris: Remember in the film that scene of the Turtle swimming? Well that was just a dank creek. It was the last thing we filmmed and it just got saturated in nasty creek water and smelled like mildew and ass the next day it, so I threw it away.
But the suit was really in shambles by the end of it. It was falling apart.
TMP: That sucks. All right here’s another for Hilarion, “How heavy is the dumbbell you’re curling?”
Hilarion: [Laughs] That’s a good question! Uh...we had one weight that was a 35lb dumbbell, and the chair that I’m sitting in is cushioned except for that one part where I put my elbow. And that’s take 15, by the time we got it the way we wanted it.
Polaris: Yeah I took way too many takes of that shot. Hilarion’s arm was just worn out.
TMP: Finally, this is probably the most asked question, and one I have myself, and that’s “What’s next?” You’ve said you wanted to do a sequel but it’s not likely to happen, so what do you guys have coming up for you now?
Polaris: I’m finishing up audio design on a feature I worked on with a guy named Cruz Thomas. He directed something I acted in and we’re going to be putting that out [soon].
Then I’m going to just start writing and try to get started on pre-production on a feature. I’d like to...The thing is the movie Casey Jones really doesn’t represent what I would do now because I filmed it years ago and I’ve learned so much since then. So I’d like to do a feature that can show [studios] what I can do now.
Hilarion: I’m actually in post-production on a feature I was hired to direct this last year. And I’m doing pre-production for the original Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid. Then after that, I have a script called Indigo Road I’m going to be producing also in Texas. It’s also got a lot of creature costumes and special effects stuff like that.
All right, and that pretty much wrapped up our conversation. Like I said, talking with these guys felt more like chatting with old friends. They have some good ideas and we wish them the best of luck.
Be sure to head on over to the official Casey Jones Movie site where they now have a donation button option. The bonus here is that if you donate more than $20 they’ll send you a DVD of the film! So you won’t have to watch the tinier version they have on the site.