GS EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Wonder Woman Fan Film ‘First Impressions’ Director Leo Kei Angelos

leokeiangelos_bio_picA few days back I posted an amazing Wonder Woman fan film called First Impressions.  To find out more about the development of  the project I got in touch with the film’s director Leo Kei Angelos who was kind enough to talk to us about his involvement in the film.

Geek Syndicate:  So my first question is what made you decide to make a short film about Wonder Woman?

Leo Kei Angelos:  I’m a huge fan of comic book characters, especially Batman.  The Tim Burton movie adaptations were a big part of my childhood.  Recently the Chris Nolan approach has been a huge inspiration as well.  When my manager George Ruiz contacted me about doing a quick, fun Wonder Woman piece I jumped at the chance.  I read up everything I could on her.  We wanted to find the best way to reintroduce her to fans in under 5 minutes, as a surprise.

GS: Hollywood has tried numerous times to bring the Amazon princess to the big screen. Why do you think no one has been able to successfully adapt the character outside of the animated, comic projects and the old school TV show?

LKA: Well you can’t throw logic out the window and ask the audience to respect your story.  Moviegoers are smart and discerning these days.  Also, with Wonder Woman, she’s a fantastic character to begin with so you have to stay true to what makes her kick ass.  So it’s just a combination of respecting the story, and respecting the character.  We’ve got amazing movies and shows with strong female leads over the years (Xena, Buffy, Serenity, Kill Bill…) so I know a Wonder Woman live action adaptation is bound to happen.  I’m actually glad Hollywood is taking the time to do it right!

GS: How did you go about finding an actress to fill Princess Diana’s boots? What were the most important qualities you were looking for?

LKA: George Ruiz introduced me to Hailey Bright from the get-go.  I come from an old school Hong Kong action moviemaking tradition, so I knew how I could use stunt doubles for all the difficult moves effectively.  Hailey didn’t have to be a martial artist (though we did train her to do all the choreography alongside the stunt team and she rose to the challenge).  Her quality is that she’s got a friendly, down to earth demeanor and with Wonder Woman, it helps when you can connect with her, see her as the kind of girl next door… right before she turns badass and destroys every opponent around you.  She’s noble and trustworthy.  If you’re going to be friends with Wonder Woman, you want her to be someone you can truly trust.  She’s very wholesome that way.  Hailey brings all of these qualities to the character.

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GS: What was the reasoning behind having Diana in plain clothes with the merest hint of a costume? If you could do more films would you think of putting her in her traditional attire or sticking with the plain clothes/hints?

LKA: As I mentioned, we wanted to covertly introduce her to the audience.  Not let fans realize it’s Wonder Woman to begin with.  It’s easier to connect with a normal looking, friendly girl you’re on a date with.  If we saw her in her costume right away we’d be asking the fans to emotionally connect with her based on their own notions of what the character should be.  You lose that immediacy with the superhero.

If I could do more films…  personally I’d absolutely love to see her in her traditional attire.  However it all depends on what’s right for the story.

GS: We got the briefest of glimpses of some of Diana’s superpowered friends. Would you consider giving any of them the short film treatment?

LKA:  Absolutely.

GS: There’s some great fight choreography involved on display. How long did it take you to put the fights together?

LKA: We had two days to train and work out the choreography, then two days to shoot the whole thing.  Darren Bailey came on board as the coordinator, and I was able to bring on Brendon Huor, Vonzell Carter and Alvin Hsing, and we all had input into the choreography together.  Even though this is the first time I met them, I’ve seen their amazing works so far, and the East Coast stunt guys I worked with and trusted all vouched for them.  Jimmy Chhiu, Jessie Graff and Tamiko Brownlee also make up the stunt team and I was super stoked to have such a great group of people.  It really is a literal “first impressions” for everyone on board.  All the stunt guys picked up the choreography really fast and took hard hitting falls on the day of shooting.  We were literally shooting one or two takes for each fight set-ups before moving to the next one because everyone was so good.

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GS: With your Webseries AUROR’S TALE you’re tackling the world of Harry Potter and with First Impressions it’s DC Comics. Given the chance what other worlds would you love to dabble in if you had the chance?

LKA: I’m a geek, I love fantasy, sci fi, videogames…  There are so many great universes to draw inspiration from.  But with finishing Auror’s Tale and making DC characters come to life, I think I’ve got enough to play with at the moment.  I’d like to develop more original stories as well.  Of course, if anyone comes by asking me to do official adaptations of beloved characters, I would jump at the opportunity.

GS: Are you a Comic Reader? If so what titles are doing it for you at the moment?

LKA: Yes.  I just reread Frank Miller’s Batman Year One and The Dark Knight Returns.  I’m keeping up with the New 52 series.  I especially love the New 52’s Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, now that she’s recovered from her wheelchair years.  I’m also reading everything I can find on Catwoman…

GS: How did you go about obtaining the funding to make ‘First Impressions’ ?

LKA: George Ruiz was an excellent producer for this film (even though it’s his first production).  He raised the funds and a lot of people volunteered their time and talents.  The bulk of the budget went to feeding people and renting lights and equipment.

GS: What do you find is the biggest challenge you had to overcome in making the film?

LKA: Just nailing down the balance between creating a friendly, down to earth Diana in the first half, and a badass warrior Wonder Woman in the second half.  There were a lot of discussions on how Wonder Woman would do things.  Even though we’re not revealed it’s Wonder Woman at first, we still had to stay true to her nature the entire time.  Diana is Wonder Woman, she doesn’t have to put on a cape and become Wonder Woman.  So just getting that tone right.

That, and working with our modest budget.  There’s never enough lights!  And we chose to do an all night-time scene!

GS: What was you favourite moment of the process?

LKA: I want to say getting to work with the legendary Doug Jones, whose movies I’ve loved and admired over the years…  But that wouldn’t be fair to all the other brilliant people I got to work with.  Chester See, Hailey Bright, the stunt guys and girls, everyone brought their super-A game even though it was the first time we all worked together.

If I had to find one singular moment from the set, it was when we shot the section of choreography right after Alvin gets nailed in the face with a glass bottle.  Then stunt woman Jessie Graff does this exchange with Vonzell and hip-tosses him to the ground, and we have a circular dolly set up to capture the action as the world spins around them.  It’s my favorite moment in the whole thing because the camerawork and choreography came together really well, like a dance.  The music swells and you’re invested in the action so you’re like “YEAH!!!”  You get that rush from watching good action that makes you want to run out and be a superhero yourself.

GS: I would love to see a follow up to ‘First Impressions’, hell I’d take a web series. What do you see if the future of ‘First Impressions’?

LKA:  Personally, I would LOVE to see a follow up or webseries as well!  I think where we go from here is going to depend largely on how much people like “First Impressions” and their reactions to it.  So definitely share it with all your friends and leave comments if you’d like to see more!

If you’ve not seen ‘First Impressions’ yet then check out the film below and the teaser trailer for the other project Leo is working on ‘Auror’s Tale’.

Interviewer: Nuge

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