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Q&A: Matt Ogens, Director of ‘Confessions of a Superhero’

One of the first things I learned about writing screenplays back in the day: Nailing down the concept in as few words as possible — 25 or less — was the ticket to Hollywood. It didn’t take me long to learn and practice the concept on the thousands of movies I’d seen in my relatively short life. (I could never quite master that same skill when it came to boiling down my own screenplays into salable, simple stories, however.) All the moneymakers have a hook that grabs your attention and won’t let go until you’re compelled to see it (and buy way too many DVDs too).

After reading the short Variety news item late last month about Matt Ogens’ directoral debut, Confessions of a Superhero, concerning the further “adventures” of real people completely convinced that dressing up as superheroes eking out a meager existence posing for pictures with tourists along Hollywood Boulevard was their ticket to “fame and fortune,” I had to see this film.

It’s one thing to wear your favorite superhero costume at the five-day “Geek Vegas” party known as Comic-Con International: San Diego. It’s quite another to count on it to survive without superpowers or billions of dollars of weaponry. Besides, what kind of person is really capable of doing such a thing in the real world?

Seems Ogens, a veteran of episodic TV and commercials, had been thinking precisely about the same thing traveling around Hollyweird…

Comics Alliance: How did you come up with the wonderful concept for this film?

Matt: Like everyone else in Los Angeles, I drove past these characters many times and was passively curious. As fate would have it, I was directing a commercial on Hollywood Boulevard right where the characters work for tips. In between shots, I spent every minute talking to Christopher (Superman) Dennis. It was like we were two animals curious about each other. Two weeks later, we started production.

CA: Obviously, you had many costumed “characters” from which to choose on Hollywood Boulevard. Aside from Christopher Dennis — truly a natural and almost a dead ringer for Christopher Reeve — how did you come to find this more interesting version of Fantastic Four for your film?

Matt: Superheroes are timeless and iconic. They are recognized everywhere. And I wanted a consistency in the type of character I chose – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Hulk.

CA: I don’t think anyone could develop a film with a concept like this one without having at least a bit of affection for fanboys in him. Right or wrong? And, do you like superhero comics, and the growing number of movies about them?

Matt: Hmmm. I have not been enamored with some of the superhero movies of late. I like what is real. That doesn’t mean I’m not into people with powers. I just feel many of the movies aren’t dark enough. And, real life can be dark at times. I was more of a fan as a child and grew out of it, but I miss that place when I was a fan and, perhaps, I’m trying to get back there with this film.

CA: Just curious, who is your favorite superhero?

Matt: As a kid, I always liked Spider-Man.

CA: I very much liked the very few scenes with Maxwell — aka Batman as George Clooney — “confessing” his dark secrets to a silent psychologist, and hoped to see more. Is there more of his story left to tell on the cutting room floor that’ll make it into the DVD release?

Matt: His story continues to evolve. I just don’t know if I have the energy for a sequel. But the DVD has some great extra features: Commentary by Chris Dennis and his wife Bonnie and many quirky scenes that complement this quirky film. It’s definitely going to be a unique DVD.

CA: I suspect a lot of people will be rooting, as my wife did, for Joe McQueen who sold his Super Nintendo for a bus ticket to LA, then lived on the streets for four years just to chase his dream of becoming a working actor by posing for pictures on Hollywood Boulevard as the skinniest Hulk anyone could ever imagine. Still, his story seemed the most relatable out of all of them in your movie. Agree or not?

Matt: I agree 100 percent. His story is very touching and emotional and real.

CA: It was uncanny that the superhero costumes Christopher (Superman) and Maxwell (Batman) wore very much reflected the kind of people they appear to be in real life. Without channeling Freud, do you feel those men borrowed some of that fictional super-persona to fill in the gaps of their lives?

Matt: I do. I really do. Did they choose these characters because of their personalities or did their personalities/stories change after years of dawning these costumes? I’m not sure myself…

CA: How did your “cast” react to your finished film? Were they satisfied with how you depicted them?

Matt: With the exception of Batman… I wouldn’t say he’s angry with how I depicted him because I certainly never put words in his mouth. He said what he said and I knew nothing of his “past” until he said them on camera. As you can see from the film, he’s just angry in general.

I feel they were all happy with the film overall. I know Jennifer (Wonder Woman) watched it for the first time with 200 others at AFI Fest and said she felt uncomfortable at times. She’s not married to her husband in the film anymore so she’s in a different place in her life now. I’m sure its odd watching yourself on screen going through a difficult time.

Joe seems the most pleased watching himself on screen.

CA: How are they doing?

Matt: Batman is not allowed in the 90028 zip code until 2010. The others are plugging along. Their stories continue to continue.

CA: I’m a little disappointed the movie is being released on a “roadshow” track, rather than an nationwide arthouse run. Was the plan all along for this film to be available on DVD shortly after a short theatrical release?

Matt: It’s hard to even sell a film, especially a documentary. I am biased, but with the feedback we’re getting, I, of course, feel we deserve a wider release. Tell your friends to go see it Nov. 16 at the Laemmle Music Hall on Wilshire in Los Angeles. Tell them to buy it on DVD Jan. 22 or rent it from Netflix.

CA: Bet you’re done with the superhero life at least in the documentary world for now. What’s your next project?

Matt: I have some narratives I’m working on. All based on true stories.

CA: A personal aside: I loved the understated ambient soundtrack! Who did it, and will it ever be available on CD or iTunes? Where can I hear/buy music from this composer?

Matt: Greg Kuehn of Peligro Music is our composer. He’s wonderful. It was really great collaborating with him. Working with Greg was probably the smoothest part of the entire process. It just worked. He can be reached at peligromusic.com.

If I’ve done my job, and you’re looking for more information about Confessions of a Superhero, check out their Web site. And look for screenings of Confessions in LA at the Laemmle’s Music Hall, starting Nov. 16.

Also, I strongly advise checking out fellow Austinite Gordon McGregor’s site for some gorgeous photographs, and learn how he stumbled onto Christopher Dennis in front of The Ritz downtown Austin last weekend.

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