Exclusive: Adi Shankar Talks Digital Shorts and Future of Film

Adi-Shankar

Adi Shankar discusses a digital revolution and his “Bootleg Universe.”

Adi Shankar has been called the Quentin Tarantino of digital film. With his controversial adaptations of pop culture characters and outspoken perspective on the film industry, it’s easy to see how that description fits. During our interview with Adi, he gave us an interesting perspective on where film is going and how the industry may have lost its creative flow. He gave this interview all while having the flu and still gave a clear, coherent perspective on his vision for the future and his controversial shorts adapting “Power Rangers,” “The Punisher,” and “Venom.”

Adi Shankar:

Hey Ryan.

Film Fad:

Hey Adi, How are you?

Adi Shankar:

Good man.

Film Fad:

Hey well I have to say that I’m really excited to talk to you. It’s really a treat to talk to someone that’s having such an impact on digital film and the digital internet generation.

Adi Shankar:

Thanks man, that’s good to hear. I don’t feel like I’m having an impact. (laughs).

Film Fad:

Well I think it’s kind of revolutionary. I think I heard awhile back Joss Whedon talking about anyone with a camera, a vision, and the internet can actually produce a film and I think you’re pretty much the epitome of his words there.

Adi Shankar:

Thanks man.

Film Fad:

So most recently you got a three picture deal. I know that’s the big news that’s going around right now for a few digital projects involving some superheroes. Could you speak to that a little bit?

Adi Shankar:

(laughs) They actually asked me not to talk about it. So…yeah I’m not supposed to talk about it but it’s a really cool deal.

Film Fad:

Well that should show your impact going from just a couple digital shorts. Going through some of the ones that you have done that have been some big YouTube sensations. “The Punisher Dirty Laundry,” the new “Power Rangers” short that caught a lot of controversy but also gave us a different perspective on Power Rangers, and then the “Venom Truth in Journalism” short. Do you feel like those just opened doors for you in general?

Adi Shankar:

I don’t know. Yes, on some level they definitely opened doors but on another level they definitely closed them as well.

Film Fad:

How would you say they closed them?

Adi Shankar:

I know they pissed a lot of people off. Hollywood has become more about consumerism and the whole idea of consumerism just favors the middle of the road, the things that don’t offend, the things that aren’t controversial. Along that line of thought, it kind of disqualifies me from family-friendly content.

Dredd-2012

Adi Shankar was the Executive Producer for “Dredd”

Film Fad:

Would you say it was more of the controversy of taking adaptations and giving them a new spin or was it just the dark nature of what you’ve done in general?

Adi Shankar:

Definitely both. I think in a lot of ways they go hand-in-hand with me you know? I made the “Dredd” movie and then I made a thing that was unauthorized by “Dredd” (laughs) and that in of itself got me into trouble. And that was a relatively small endeavor compared to some of the other things I’ve done on the internet. But at the end of the day, the reason I did it wasn’t to cause controversy, it’s because I wanted to thank the fans who took a movie that was terribly marketed and turned it into a cult film. I was like, “If the studio doesn’t want to make things for them (the fans), I will.”

Film Fad:

Yeah and I agree. One that I would like to cite in general was “The Punisher: Dirty Laundry.” You looked at a Punisher film that received poor reviews, had poor box office numbers, and then you revitalized Thomas Jane to a point where people were saying, “I want to see him as The Punisher again, even though I didn’t like this film.”

Adi Shankar:

Yep.

Film Fad:

So where did you catch the most heat? Would you say it was from Saban with the Power Rangers short or did you even catch heat from the Venom or Punisher shorts?

Adi Shankar:

You know “heat” is an interesting word right? Because any revolution doesn’t happen over night. It starts slowly, it starts very quietly, and generally the people in power ignore that revolution until it gets out of hand right? I had three wide release movies come out the year “Dirty Laundry” came out. It was “Dredd,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “The Grey.” And to tell the truth, “Dirty Laundry” was nothing more than an after thought, if that. No one really knew what to make of it, no one really cared. I know fans cared because when I went to Comic Con fans were like, “Oh man, you did that ‘Dirty Laundry’ thing” and I was like, “Oh sh*t, people care.”

Adi Shankar:

Yeah and honestly you mentioned the word “revolution” and I think that’s something you started especially with internet buzz. The internet is powerful nowadays as shown by other films and the change in variation of marketing in general. It’s a tool now used by Hollywood to promote their films. Youtube is huge for trailers now!

Film Fad:

You see that’s…you nailed the problem right? It’s a tool used to market product right now. The real revolution is going to happen when it’s not used to market the product but it is actually deterring from the product. That’s what everyone’s afraid of right? Right now YouTube is seen in a lot of ways as a marketing platform, as advertising for the main event. The place where you can watch the trailer for the movie that you should go and watch. Well, at some point people are going to wake up and realize, “Oh man, I don’t need to just be the marketing gimmick behind the machine, I can be my own machine.” And that’s slowly what’s happening. And I’m a small, small piece of that. But it’s been cool. There was a Dragonball Z fan film thing that dropped on the internet last week? I got a message from someone in France saying, “Just so you know, literally you and you alone inspired this.” And I was like, “Oh Damn.” I think the impact I’ve had with the whole “bootleg universe,” it hasn’t really been on Americans, it’s been internationally.

Adi Shankar:

From my perspective, I think you’re kind of selling yourself short. I mean you’ve had a huge impact rather than just being a piece of the puzzle. I think you’re a vital part of this machine that’s building right now where people are trying get their stuff out there. I wanted to address a quote from Darren Yan where he said you were “the Quentin Tarantino of the digital generation.” I want to know what you thought of that.

Adi Shankar:

It kind of scared me to tell you the truth. Those are massive shoes to fill. (laughs) It’s a big undertaking. Everything I have done or tried to do has been a big undertaking. But that in and of itself has been a big undertaking. What’s interesting is, I had some guys I worked with years ago and I kept telling them, “Hey guys, I want to do some shots on the internet,” and they kept laughing at me. It was the weirdest thing. And I finally told them, I was like, “Guys, you either adapt or you perish.” The movie business as we know it is crumbling and I think this is the future and I want to support this. I remember telling them that the guys that you not only worship right now but treat like they’re infallible. The Soderbergh’s, the Tarantino’s, the Rodriguez’s, those guys right? They came up through independent film in a time when that really wasn’t a thing. If you said you were making an independent film, people looked at you kind of sideways and wondered what you were talking about. Because independent movies just didn’t get distribution. They were kind of a fool endeavor. But then they started being made better and better and just a couple years ago we were at a point where independent movies were almost indistinguishable from studio movies…at least in the mid-range right? And all of those guys, every single one of them, if they were alive today as teenagers today, they would go to the internet, that would be their life. That’s just how they would get noticed, it wouldn’t be like Cannes, it wouldn’t be Sundance. Those things started off pure but they’ve completely sold out to the same companies that everyone else has sold out to.

Film Fad:

Well let me ask you this. I know you’ve acquired this three picture deal but your foundations do lie with the internet. In the future of your career do you see the internet generation as something you’d like to pursue and something you’d like to be known for or do you see yourself falling into a more studio-driven type of filmmaking?

Adi Shankar:

I don’t even think there’s going to be a difference.

Film Fad:

Do you think it has to do with some of these digital mediums like Netflix Originals and things like that where they’re just trying to get their way into the industry just through streaming or do you think it’s more of a revolution of the internet generation as a whole?

Adi Shankar:

I think Apple and Google are the movie studios of the future. It’s Apple, it’s Google, it’s Amazon. These are the movie studios of the future. Right now they’re the underdogs and they’re the flashy new kids in town but make no mistake about it, at some point they’re going to become the corporate overlords. It’s going to take 20 years for that to happen but at a certain point YouTube will become the man…the machine.

Film Fad:

Do you think that this provides less barriers to entry? For instance was that one of your reasons for going to the internet for making your films?

Adi Shankar:

I don’t remember how many movies I’ve made before doing full-time internet stuff but I had done a good amount of movies at that point. So for me it wasn’t even a barrier to entry thing, it was more of a barrier of ideas thing. You’re only allowed to tell two stories in traditional media in movies right now.

Film Fad:

I agree, it’s either the reboot or the adaptation.

Adi Shankar:

Either the world blowing up and you have to stop it or your daughter got kidnapped and you need to save her. Those are the only two stories you can tell. Unless your name is Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, or Wes Anderson or something…who I’m not.

Film Fad:

What do you think has happened to Hollywood over the years for things to become so cookie-cutter?

Adi Shankar:

It’s not a Hollywood thing, it’s a “corporatization” thing. The guys who were making movies when this all started, they were just trying to express themselves and this was the medium by which they did it. It really started in the 80s as mega corporations started buying up the movie studios. And it became more about the bottom line. That gave rise to the movie stars, movie ads kind of bullsh*t. All this is is just a massive market correction. Literally just market correction. It’s the market going, “No, No, No, you’re not worth what you think you’re worth…actor.”

Film Fad:

So Hollywood, a lot of their basis and a lot of their groundwork comes from, “this is guaranteed to make money.” How do you justify to Hollywood taking a risk on a film with an original idea where it’s not going to be guaranteed money? How do you sell originality to Hollywood?

Adi Shankar:

No disrespect but your question in and of itself is kind of flawed right? Because it assumes a few things like that Hollywood is a singular entity, which it is not, that there’s only one distribution mechanism for a creative endeavor to get out there which is not true. And I think really your question speaks, not the answer to your question, but the question in and of itself speaks to the issue at hand which is, the whole mechanism is broken. The entire machinery is broken. That’s like if I’m trying to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles and all the roads have been blown up. The issue isn’t what kind of car I’m driving, the issue is that there are no roads.

Film Fad:

Okay, yeah. I know that was kind of a broad question. It was more geared towards major studios.

Adi Shankar:

But think of major studios. Think about the words “major studios.” What makes something a major studio? Like the way we define major studios is having a franchise and that’s it. That’s literally it. Like Lionsgate is considered a major studio because it has “Hunger Games.” That is it.

Film Fad:

So I guess what you’re saying is that we need some sort of major outcry coming from the internet or some other studio where they establish their own franchise in some way?

Adi Shankar:

Or not. It could be something as simple as a new distribution model. Something that completely retools the status quo. The problem really is the status quo right? The problem isn’t that you’ve got untalented people, that’s just not true. The problem isn’t that you have bad actors, that’s not true either. The problem isn’t even that you don’t have access to technology, that’s not true. The problem is that there’s some massive disconnect between when someone makes something and getting it to the people that want to see it. That’s where the market correction needs to happen right? If I asked you right now, “What kind of movie do you want to see right now?” It doesn’t even have to be a movie, what kind of thing? You’d probably have a great idea of exactly what you want to see. But the process of the person who made that, getting it to you, is costly and inefficient.

The-Grey

Adi Shankar was the Executive Producer on “The Grey”

Film Fad:

You know, I have to say, I can see why they called you the Quentin Tarantino of the digital era. I think it’s great that you have such outspoken ideas rather than a lot of these cookie-cutter, generic, answers to questions.

Adi Shankar:

Thanks man.

Film Fad:

So I’m not relegating your entire career to just digital media or the internet, I know you’ve had a couple other projects, major projects like with “The Grey” and as you mentioned with “Dredd” but I just see so much impact coming from what you’ve done with these shorts online. Where do you see yourself going in the future? Where do you want to be?

Adi Shankar:

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I truthfully just have no idea. I’m really sick right now (laughs), I have the flu. So right now I just want to be playing video games and sleeping (laughs). That’s all I can think about. If you had asked me last week, I’d have inundated myself with so much stuff and I’d be like, “Hey, I can take on more.” I really have no idea because it’s such an evolving, shifting landscape right? It’s at the point where it becomes impossible to make any sort of resemblance to a plan.

Film Fad:

Well you know what, that’s an answer right there. It just defines the progression of the conversation we’ve had. You’re just constantly evolving with your ideas. Adi I wanted to thank you for your time and since you have the flu, I’m going to let you go man so you can get some rest (laughs).

Adi Shankar:

Thanks man, appreciate it.

Film Fad:

Well thanks so much, feel better.

Adi Shankar:

Thank you.

Tell us if you agree with Adi’s perspective or just what you think of it in general. He makes some interesting points!

Ryan

Author: Ryan

Ryan has been fascinated with film and pop culture since childhood. Throughout college he "played it safe" taking the more lucrative route of being a computer programmer while squeezing in film related courses where he could...but even during his post college career, he could never escape his true passion. After following one of his favorite blogs for a long time, he approached the site's Editor about writing and they reluctantly gave him a shot. He later became their Senior Writer which led to a variety of other projects, radio show appearances, features, and high profile celebrity interviews. Despite his success with blogging, he still wanted more so in order to expand his creative addiction, he merged his IT skills and blogging know-how to create FilmFad.com which has continued to grow into a creative Mecca of pop-culture fun and integrity.[email protected]   Film Fad

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