March 7, 2015

Go Way Behind the Scenes of the Insane 'Power/Rangers' Bootleg Fan Film

Power-Rangers Katee Sackhoff James Van Der Beek

While the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show was pretty tame, the new "bootleg" fan film directed by commercial and music video director Joseph Kahn is anything but (he also directed the features Detention in 2011 and Torque in 2004). You may have already seen the film, but if you haven't, and haven't followed the saga, the Saban company, who owns the rights to Power Rangers, briefly took down the short with a DMCA copyright notice.

The film, produced by Adi Shankar — who's produced some major Hollywood films along with a few fan films, or bootlegs as he calls them — is now back online with a new disclaimer. There are two versions of the film, a harder cut on Vimeo with more blood and brief nudity, and a softer cut on YouTube that doesn't contain any nudity and should be more safe for work. We've also got some terrific BTS videos, including a VFX breakdown, and some info from Kahn about why he decided to make the film and what happened with Saban.

First, here are both versions of the short, simply titled Power/Rangers (first is the NSFW cut, followed by the softer cut):

How It Was Shot

The film was shot on the RED EPIC DRAGON (with both OLPFs) with Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphics by Christopher Probst. There is an absolutely fantastic ASC article with Christopher detailing how he shot some of the scenes. Here is a little snippet:

The Korean-compound interior was shot at the Sun Chemical warehouses on the outskirts of downtown L.A. Because the location features dozens of glass skylights, we opted to shoot the entire fight scene at night in order to control the light coming in the windows. The interior space at Sun Chemical is very sparse. There are no actual lighting fixtures remaining in the building. My idea for the fight scene was to create some interesting shafts of warm sodium-vapor light coming in through the windows, ostensibly from towers outside. To augment that, I’d create a more industrial feel inside with rows of ND’d-down fluorescent fixtures fitted with cool-white bulbs.

To rig the warehouse space, I called upon Russell Griffith, who I knew had a storage container full of 8-foot fluorescent “shop lights.” To mount the rows of fluorescents, I first had the grip department hang four 60-foot lengths of pipe from various pick points in the ceiling; this created a common-level straight line from which we could drop chains to suspend the fluorescents, which were spaced about 1 foot apart. Next, several production assistants and I cut rolls of ND.9 gel into 6-inch sections, just wide enough to wrap cleanly around a fluorescent light bulb, and clear taped the ND to every bulb in the scene. We had to gel about 64 individual tubes to get the ambience down to the level I wanted. But without the ND, the room would have felt like a grocery store. Finally, the art department, led by production designer Brett Hess, brought in some old tungsten scoop lights that we hung in the middle of the room. After a prescribed amount of haze was added, individual shots were augmented with some floor-based Kinos, a Kino backlight mounted on the Max Menace Arm, and judicious use of bounce fill and negative flagging.

Behind the Scenes

Also we have a VFX Before and After:

https://vimeo.com/120835426

Why It Was Shot

While he doesn't actually enjoy fan films, Kahn was interested in the concept of taking a ridiculous property and doing his best to make it something adults could enjoy, while also commenting on the fact that the entire idea is silly. In a reddit AMA, Kahn speaks to the over-the-top nature and whether the film should be taken at face value:

It's a parody in that it is a conceptual straight faced hyperbole. Every scene is straight-faced and serious and believable. If you watched it and enjoyed every minute of it dramatically, literally - you're not stupid, you're honest. That's what I wanted. And when it ended and you laugh and go what the fuck did I just watch, you're acknowledging you just legitimately enjoyed a fucking Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie where they fucked porn stars, did coke, and blew people's brains out a face value. THAT'S irony, THAT's the comedy, THAT's the parody.

The entire film was a passion project, and was funded out of pocket (most, if not all, by Kahn himself). Many people donated their time for the project, and while Kahn is hesitant to talk about the budget, he does say that people were paid, mostly low-budget feature film rates of $150 or so. He's not quick to brag about shooting anything for little money and doesn't like people that talk about how little money they spent on films — because in the end somebody had to donate their time and resources.

He also mentions that he hates the idea of famous people using Kickstarter and crowdfunding, as many of them can afford to fund their own projects. He puts his own money right back into his projects, rather than spending it on things he doesn't really need. Kahn did a terrific podcast with /film where he mentions all of these details, and you can listen to it here (it's just the first half with Kahn):

And here's producer Adi Shankar, who has wanted to make this kind of film for a while:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDKR_2HqymU

How It Was Allowed Back Online

While it was initially pulled offline, the millions of viewers and lawyers on both sides had a say in bringing it back. He can't talk about all of the details, but here is what Kahn said when he was asked by io9 how the film is now back online:

I can't really talk details but you can see there are now extra disclaimers at the start of the short, new titles, and on YouTube, an age gate, and a nicer demeanor from me with an awesome new haircut. As to why they relented, I can't speculate. I still feel strongly we are protected by Fair Use and parody laws. I had zero intention of making any money on this. I was giving it out free. I had something to say with this short. But ultimately I'm just thankful Saban graciously allowed us to put it out. It's the right call and I respect Saban for it.

And he also talked about free speech and the need for artists to be able to parody and tell stories that may have copyrights associated with them:

This gets even scarier when you realize every story being told to you is copyrighted and owned by someone. And especially when it comes to the young, their stories are owned by corporations. Comic books, movies, television, whatever, the youth is only being told stories by businessmen. So when you combine this idea that the vast majority of morality tales told to young people are controlled by corporations with a legal restriction that these tales cannot be personally interacted with, there's some pretty absurd results. Like if this were true, it would now easier to to change and start a new religion than tell an alternate story about Power Rangers. You literally have more control over Jesus than Tommy Oliver.

Look, I make commercials for a living, so I know the shakedown. You may not agree with what we did with the Power Rangers, but you must feel more powerful as a human being if you live in a society that lets artists critique the imagery that dominates your lives. Whether it's Banksy fucking with Ronald McDonald, Warhol with Campbell's [soup], or us with Power Rangers, you want to let artists interact, test, and kick the tires being sold to you.

The fact that the film has been allowed to remain online is a win for free speech. While you might disagree with how he has handled the property (and certainly Saban disagrees, especially as they put together their own Power Rangers reboot for 2016), it's important that artists can comment and do what they want with characters and material that might be owned by someone else. If the creators aren't making money off the project, and are doing it because they love the characters and the stories, and they aren't using any footage from the films, they should be allowed to make these fan films (presumably with disclaimers).

Be sure to check out all of the resources above, as there is a tremendous amount of info online about the making of the film.     

Your Comment

7 Comments

Is it only me or is it something wrong with the audio-mix? Can barely hear hear what they are saying sometimes... Strange.

March 7, 2015 at 7:11AM, Edited March 7, 7:11AM

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Joakim
305

Yep -- I thought the same thing.

March 7, 2015 at 5:07PM

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I agree. The mix was awful. I didn't make it the whole way through the film because of it. Dialogue levels were all over the place.

May 3, 2015 at 6:52AM

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Mark Harris
Sound Recordist
81

This is a fascinating look at the story - thanks for sharing!

March 8, 2015 at 12:07PM, Edited March 8, 12:07PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1253

It was a cool short, I enjoyed it, but this guy is a thief pure and simple. His "bootleg" Venom story an "homage" to Man Bites Dog, give me a break. He uses others IP for publicity and then cries "free speech" when he gets sued. It's one thing for a bunch of nerds to get together in the garage and make a fan film, it's something totally different for a hollywood producer looking to helm the next franchise. Wait I've got an idea we'll do the Spider Man arc "Kraven's Last Hunt" and tell it backwards like Memento........as an homage of course and we'll hire Tobey Maguire, not that I want to promote myself, just for funsies.

March 10, 2015 at 4:56AM, Edited March 10, 4:56AM

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Howard Roll
Boss
202

I totally agree with Howard here. I loved the film. Don't get me wrong. But this was not a free speech issue in my mind. Howard's example is spot on.

Imagine if Marvel Studios made a Spider-Man/Avengers short "concept" film w/o Sony's permission and didn't make any money from it. Just did it as an homage to Spidey and claimed "Free Speech." That would never fly. I don't see how this is any different.

March 13, 2015 at 6:28PM

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Ron Dawson
Filmmaker & Host of "Radio Film School"
179

OH MY GOD! Amazing post! Really really enjoyed the visual fx behind the scenes... Thanks a lot :D

March 10, 2015 at 8:07PM

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Rodrigo Chichierchio
Director, Video Editor & Creative Director
81

Putting aside the question as to whether it is fair to use the intellectual property of others in such a way, I do like the idea of taking something that has been done to death and twisting it around back on itself. It was done to the Western by Sergio Leone and I think that it may be time for the superhero movie. Surely they are getting a bit samey samey.

Lots of people have superpowers. Some are really good people and some are really wicked. They split into superheroes and supervillains, have a battle and the heroes win. Westerns without the horses, but they might as well be wearing white hats and black hats.

If you had super powers you would surely want to save the world, but ask yourself this, would you not use your X-ray vision in inappropriate pervy ways if you knew you would never be found out? How about a superpowered hero that struggles to decide just what sort of superbeing he is?

I remember the British superhero "The Spider" from when the stories were reprinted in the Vulcan comic. He saved the world, captured the villains but he was really an unpleasant man. His two associates planned to rid themselves of him on several occasions but each time they failed, his vengeance was dreadful.

March 29, 2015 at 4:34PM, Edited March 29, 4:34PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
963