HELLBLAZER - The Making Of A John Constantine Fan Film
by Harry Locke IV
John Constantine and Hellblazer are both in the news thanks to the pilot that NBC is producing. Filmmaker Harry Locke IV has beaten them to the punch, however, with this fan film, which he goes behind the scenes on in this excerpt from a "making of" piece.
Hellblazer, my fan film based off the DC Comics/Vertigo series of the same name, was birthed from frustration.
I spent the majority of 2013 working exhaustively on a pitch for an episodic series rooted in the Batman universe called Gotham. The concept focused on the home of the Dark Knight viewed through the eyes of its citizens' greatest threat, themselves. The treatment landed me a writing agent, attracted an experienced show runner, and offered first taste of the maddening frenzy that composes “pitching season.” But before we could even step foot on the Warner Bros. lot, the Bruno Heller-led project of the same title was announced with a straight-to-series order, leaving my vision effectively defunct.
Defeated but not completely lost, I returned to working on original creations, and began studying mature graphic novels as reference material. My journey led me from the usual suspects (i.e. anything and everything by Frank Miller and Alan Moore) to Vertigo Comic’s seminal body of work: Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, and the all-star team of writers that produced Hellblazer.
My initial introduction to John Constantine came by way of the often frowned upon 2005 filmed interpretation, Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves. Up until late last year, I could never understand the condemnation that film received from the fan community. It was not until I began delving into the runs authored by Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano that I began to understand their frustration. Lost in a sea of slick aesthetics and usual luster that comes with a blockbuster production, was the aura of dark bravado and conniving bastardry that has made the adventures of John Constantine such a provocative read for the past 25 years. The issues produced by writer Andy Diggle galvanized me to experiment with what could be accomplished with the character in a Post-Christopher Nolan/Post-Avengers world. Where Constantine served as an interpretation of the series aimed to appeal to a larger demographic, I viewed Hellblazer as an adaptation of the work oriented to offering fans of the series a more faithful representation of the dark magician.
In his writing debut on the series, Andy Diggle, author of Hellblazer #230 – “In at the Deep End (Part 1)" - does a fantastic job laying out all things great about John Constantine. The plot finds John handcuffed to a post in the River Thames by an opportunistic mobster looking to make a name for himself. As the tide quickly rises around him, we see John’s skills of manipulation at play as he gambles for his life. Translating this epic, London-based scenario, to a low-budget shoot in Los Angeles presented the first difficulty in taking Hellblazer from concept to concrete.
I began toying with ways of stripping down the issue to its core. John is faced with a villain, Webb, who has an almost fetishistic interest in murdering his victims in water. Fortunately, I had just worked on a short film using a large water tank to submerge a girl for some pretty wild dream sequences. The director was generous enough to loan me the tank for the shoot, and the next obstacle came in finding a place to house it. I had been in contact with the location manager in charge of the same house used for the pilot of American Horror Story, a gorgeous historical mansion with a basement cellar that looked like something straight out of Saw. Perfect I thought, until I was slapped with a quote of $4750/day and a $12,500 security deposit. I wanted to give Webb an environment that looked as if it would be a location that could wind up in a Hellblazer story, while also being a practical torture chamber that fit into the film’s total budget of less than $1,000. The solution ended up being much less expensive, my garage. With the location locked, I had successfully convinced myself that the project was doable, and began moving on to the exciting phase of casting.
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