Brett Culp Inspires Us With ‘Legends of the Knight’
Batman is a name that everyone knows. He brings joy to the hearts of little children who believe he is one of the coolest heroes around and reminds adults that even a person without powers can make a difference in the lives of others. His impact goes beyond the pages of comic books and action scenes of the movies. Sure, you can feel like Batman as you smash buttons on your game controller but that only lasts for as long as you keep playing. If you allow Batman to be more than just a character in your life and allow him to inspire your actions, you will start to feel like you are the hero in your own adventure.
I came across the Kickstarter funded documentary Legends of the Knight through the retweet of someone else. I was instantly drawn to the project after reading about what the documentary was aiming to convey. Legends of the Knight was started and created by director Brett Culp who has been inspired by Batman since he was a child and wanted to explore how the mythology of Batman has inspired the lives of others. I contacted Brett Culp and he was happy to answer my questions about the film that is currently in the editing stage.
All Geek to Me: You said that stories and Batman are two important parts of your life but what was the first story or moment that made you stop and think that you wanted to make a documentary about how The Batman affects our lives?
Brett Culp: The concept of this film evolved over a period of years. I am personally a lifelong Batman fan. On many occasions, I have been asked why I am so drawn to this character. I am convinced that my love for Batman is rooted in something that goes beyond flavor-of-the-month action films, cool gadgets, & gothic artwork. The Batman character that has developed since 1939 has elements within it that speak to us on a mythological level. The creators of these stories have consistently tapped into the challenges we all face, but in telling these stories about a uniquely human superhero they have inspired us to find the best in ourselves. I believe it is Batman’s humanity that has allowed him to be reincarnated into so many different styles, approaches, & versions and attract a passionate fan base for each incarnation.
So, if this is true – if Batman is truly contemporary mythology – it arouses curiosity about WHY. Why is there power within this story? And how is this story impacting us? I have heard countless interviews with Batman experts who say that the Dark Knight is modern myth, but I have never had the opportunity to see that mythology working in people’s lives. Our goal with this documentary is to demonstrate that hero stories like Batman are essential to our growth as people, and they play a vital role in our society.
I’ve spent my career as a filmmaker capturing and sharing stories, and I have seen first-hand how they impact us. I have been privileged to produce documentary films around the world. There is power in the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell each other. This film is my desire to showcase this truth through the lens of a story that I have been drawn to my whole life.
AGtM: What are you hoping people will walk away with after watching Legends of the Knight? Personally comics have a major influence on my life already, so I’m excited to see what you have captured.
BC: I hope people who view the finished film will feel a renewed sense of empowerment… in a belief that they can take their challenges and use them as motivation to create a better story for their lives.
We all encounter struggles. We personally experience pain, and we see suffering in the world around us. We are very tempted to look at these circumstances and use them as the reason why we are stuck in misery, unable to change our lives, and fated to fail.
The fictional story of Bruce Wayne has shown us a different path. He experienced a devastating loss at a time in his life when he was most emotionally vulnerable. Combine this with the fortune he inherited, and he has EVERY reason, EVERY excuse, to live a completely wasted existence. He could use his money to medicate his pain and try (in vain) to control circumstances that he was unable to control as a child.
But he chooses the exact opposite. Instead of using his pain and resources as an excuse to retreat from the world, he instead engages with the world in the most direct way he can think of. There is no “trickle-down” crime fighting. No simple contributions to the police force or charity. Bruce Wayne moves directly to the front line and vows to personally make a difference.
We live in a world where it is easy to disengage. With our video games, movies, mobile phones, and serial TV shows, it is easier than ever lose ourselves and the challenges of our world in a self-absorbed haze. In every comic book panel, in every movie scene, Batman says NO to this lifestyle. He implores us to re-engage. He inspires us to overcome our circumstances. He affirms that no dream is too crazy. He ignites the hero within every one of us that longs to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
In the stories, Batman is a symbol to the citizens of Gotham City, but he is also a symbol to us. Every person we are featuring in this film has manifested some attribute of Batman’s character in their own lives. In doing so, they have shown that there is truth in the Batman legend. Within our moments of deepest frustration, despair, and depression are the seeds of world-changing greatness.
AGtM: You mention on the site that the devastating event of the shooting in Aurora, CO was painful for you and your team to see because you had to see the character that inspires hope be at the center of much heated discussion. How did this impact your documentary?
BC: When the events in Aurora first unfolded, it emotionally derailed me for a many days. It was very difficult to engage with the planning & production of the film without the images & stories from Aurora coming to mind. Like everyone, I was hurting for the people who suffered loss. I was also sad that it happened in the context of storytelling about Batman.
Hearing the mainstream media question the moral values of the Batman story was painful. I had a strong desire to be part of that dialogue because of the experiences I had planning & filming this documentary. My interest wasn’t to promote the film, but to speak to how the Batman character seems to be positively affecting the culture as a whole, rather than the approach of some to analyze the storytelling through the lens of a single act by a single person.
But the moment when the killer first appeared in court, and so many of the survivors & loved ones appeared in the gallery wearing Batman shirts, I knew that the concept of our film was true & important. They were choosing to define Batman as a hero, and they used him as a symbol of their willingness to fight against evil. The actions of one man don’t change the truth of the Batman mythos. I remain convicted that for the culture at large, Batman is a symbol of hope.
It is still unclear for our team what role – if any – the Aurora tragedy will play in our film. For some people, it seems like our film must address it. But I’m not sure that the mission & message of our film is truly connected to this tragedy. And I’m not sure if we can effectively explore this event without short-changing its complexity or derailing the original purpose of our film.
It is yet to be determined what the experts and legal system will decide about this killer’s motivations. I am currently unconvinced that the Batman mythos itself had any real impact on his actions. I think it is more likely that he chose to fixate on it in the same way other killers have fixated on people or stories that were not responsible for their actions. Time will tell.
AGtM: Has there been anyone you have interviewed that has personally affected you more than the others? Or has surprised you?
BC: Without question, I was most personally affected by the trip to Arlington, TX, where we captured the inspiring story of 7-year-old Kye, who has leukemia. Kye & his family were offered the opportunity to have a special wish granted for their family by the organization A Wish with Wings. Because of Kye’s love for Batman, his wish was to be in a Batman movie. The community of Arlington – including the police & fire departments, a local bank, and a team of actors & video producers – rallied together to make this a reality for Kye. You may have seen the online news articles about this event, but the behind-the-scenes stories that led to this special day really touched my heart. I cried throughout the interview with Kye’s mom, Tina.
We also got to spend an inspiring 3 days with Michael Uslan, executive producer of every Batman film since 1989. He has an immense love for Batman, and his story of getting the first Batman movie to the big screen is amazing.
I could go on & on because each of the stories we captured is so unique, personal, and powerful. And each one has a different type of connection to the Batman legacy & story. Fans of Batman, superheroes, and the power of storytelling are going to love this finished documentary.
AGtM: Can you share anything about your experience on this documentary?
BC: Although these stories are diverse, one theme has come to the surface again & again: Stories change us. They affect the people we become. Every story we have captured for this film has affirmed that for me.
I am more convinced that ever that stories about heroes and their deeds accomplish the same purpose today that they served millennia ago. They bring out the best in us. People who love and cherish Batman stories are NOT strange… they are VERY human. Being captivated by these stories expresses a desire to grasp the noble and powerful parts of ourselves.
While it may seem like Batman fans are overly devoted to Bruce Wayne’s story, the truth is every person on the planet is holding tightly to a story. Unfortunately, many of us are fixated on broken stories. These broken stories lead us to push ourselves to long hours in jobs we hate for money to buy things we don’t need. These broken stories lead us into relationship cycles that constantly leave us feeling disconnected and lonely.
A story like Batman has the power to inspire us to live within a new story that values human life above selfishness, giving back above wealth, and action above complacency. And the stories I have captured consistently show this to be a real possibility in each of our lives.
I believe we need to be surrounded by more inspirational stories like Batman to help us repair and replace the broken stories that many of us are living. This documentary will show the importance of stories and the responsibility we all have to share stories that lift us up.
As we begin the editing process, it is a very exciting time for us. We are planning to have a 3 minute Trailer ready by early 2013, and we are planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to finish & distribute the film. This project is totally not-for-profit, so once we cover our production costs, our goal is to allow this film to be seen by as many people as possible!
Follow Legends of the Knight on Twitter at @BatmanFilm and on Facebook here to get updates on the film and when you can see it. I am personally on pins and needles waiting to watch the finished project but as the saying goes, all good things come to those who wait.