Will debut documentary this weekend
Just as a movie franchise alone, Batman has grossed more than $3.7 billion at the box office worldwide, and has touched millions of people.
Yet the character of The Dark Knight is giving back in so many different ways beyond the movie screen and the pages of a comic book. It’s touching people’s lives, and making a positive difference in society. Something one Land O’ Lakes resident has put together in a new documentary premiering this weekend in Tampa.
“This character has been around since 1939, and multiple generations have experienced Batman,” said Brett Culp, a wedding videographer turned independent filmmaker. “I wanted to create a film that expressed how people do things for others, and I was looking for a way to do that. Batman was really an ideal way to do that, with a story that has been a powerful and constant part of our culture for a long, long time.”
Culp used his own money mixed with a little more than $50,000 raised through crowdfunding websites like Indieogogo and Kickstarter to produce “Legends of the Knight.” In this film, Culp traveled around the country finding out how the Caped Crusader influenced our culture today with a range of people as young as 5, and as old as retirement age.
The stories surprised him, but the people behind those stories amazed Culp even more.
“This one guy we featured is 19 years old, and is one of a kind,” Culp said. “He is a junior college student, and when he puts on his Batman mask, no one knows who he is. He raises $50 here and there for different organizations, and then he’ll go downtown and do pretend fights with bad guys just to entertain people. He’ll then go to places like the Boys and Girls Club and take pictures with the kids there.”
On the other end of the spectrum is a retired businessman who, once he sold his company, decided he was going to live the life of Batman, right down to creating his own $200,000 replica Batmobile from the 1960s television series. He drives around to children’s hospitals, and makes that his full-time mission.
“It is really beautiful, interesting, connectable and inspiring,” Culp said. “The connection that it has to Batman, it’s just so fun to watch people interact with the character.”
“Legends of the Knight” was a two-year project for Culp, the grandson of former Tampa mayor Lloyd Copeland, and a fourth-generation native of the area. When Culp and his wife Tricia get together with friends for dinner, they spend the time sharing stories with each other, many on how popular culture has impacted the world.
Culp is a lifelong fan of Batman, fascinated by the character’s ability to solve problems with only his superior intellect and innovative technology, not through a need for superpowers. Batman also is much more relatable to fans since he was born out of tragedy (his parents being killed in front of him as a young boy), and his commitment to never turn his back on the people of Gotham City.
Movies based on comic books are dominating theaters, but comic books themselves still haven’t earned the respect they deserve, Culp said.
“Comic books are perceived as irrelevant, stupid, or something just for kids,” he said. “We all had that experience growing up, where nobody takes us seriously and think our ideas are stupid.”
Yet, these characters have been a part of many lives for decades, covering generation after generation after generation. And more than 70 years after its creation by Bob Kane, Batman is still finding his way into the hearts of young people. That includes Kye Sapp, a 5-year-old in Arlington, Texas, diagnosed with leukemia. It took a character like Batman to inspire him to continue on.
“He is part of a home with a single mom who has two other kids, all younger than Kye,” Culp said. “It was a really difficult time in their lives, and it was also a time when they felt a lot of weakness and vulnerability. But that was until Kye adopted Batman as part of his own identity.”
Kye would check in to the hospital as Batman. He would wear Batman pajamas to his chemotherapy sessions. When he would feel sick, he would stay strong, because he said Batman wouldn’t whine, and he won’t either.
There have been documentaries about Batman in the past, but never one that explored how Batman has affected the real lives of people who enjoy the character. That made “Legends of the Knight” a passion project for Culp, keeping him going despite the thousands of miles travelling, the long hours planning, and countless sleepless nights stressed about how he can make the project a reality.
But now it is real. After months of talk, film trailers, interviews, and a small promotional tour that included one of the nation’s biggest comic book conventions in San Diego, Culp is ready to premiere “Legends of the Knight” at Tampa Theatre. The family-friendly event will take place Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the theater, located at 711 N. Franklin St., in Tampa.
Along with the 12 stories, Culp also conducted more than 60 interviews with Batman “experts,” including producer Michael Uslan, the man who owns the Batman movie rights, and is responsible for the Dark Knight’s rebirth on the silver screen in 1989.
But what happens to “Legends of the Knight” after this screening is anyone’s guess. Culp said he’s working with his team to figure out the next step, which most likely will include finding a distributor to take it to theaters, or direct-to-DVD.
“This is a grassroots film,” he said. “It was not made with Hollywood connections, or funding from a major studio or anything like that. It doesn’t have any big names in it, just everyday people.”
So Saturday’s event might be the only time in the near future they’ll get to see Culp’s hard work.
“For the path we have gone down so far, I just feel so overwhelmingly blessed,” Culp said. “I don’t have any doubt that this whole project is just special, and that something really cool is going to come out of it.”
For more information on the film, how to get tickets, and even to watch a teaser trailer, visit www.WeAreBatman.com.