Getting Under the Red Hood with Director Brandon Vietti
BV: I’ve never worked on anything this realistic in tone before. One of my favorite things about this is that there weren’t a lot of superpowered guys in this one. This was a good old fashioned Batman story. I think when you take the superpowered guys out of it you’re dealing literally with mortal men. It raises the stakes. Death feels closer and that is totally underlined by the death of Robin in the opening of the movie. I think that’s the biggest thing. The fantasy that comes with superpowered heroes and villains is removed and you’re left with real people to deal with. I think that really grounds the story in reality and we really tried to play to that too in the filmmaking.
With a show like Brave and the Bold I try to choose cartoony camera angles and shots that could be straight out of a comicbook panel. But with Red Hood I tried really hard to be cinematic in a realistic way. I mean use the camera like a live-action movie director might. That would be a big difference from some of the shows I have worked on and this movie.
RD: How was the transition from being storyboard artist to becoming a director?
BV: It’s a great progression. You start out doing storyboards with easier sequences like conversation sequences where you are focusing on the very simple, but complex dynamics of moving people around the room. And then you graduate to action sequences, which are very complex and very difficult. Once you grapple and learn to balance those two things – action and drama –you eventually get a battlefield promotion. Maybe a director will leave to go to another project or a new project is starting up and they need people and you put your name in the hat and hopefully someone draws your name and you’re bumped up to director.
It’s funny, you actually learn so much more about storyboarding once you get to directing. In a weird way it’s almost as though I wished I could have directed before I storyboarded. You’re learning in reverse in a strange way. With directing you learn so much about the larger picture rather than working on just one act. Now you’re taking three acts and having to weave them all together and making sure there is a proper pacing that will bridge all three acts. You have to track multiple story points instead of only the few story points that might happen in one act.
BV: The animation was done by Answerstudio in Japan.
RD: There seems to be a combination of CG and 2D animation in the film?
BV: Yeah a lot of the vehicles in the film were CGI.
RD: What are you working on next?
BV: Right now I am producing a series called Young Justice with Greg Weisman. Right now Greg and I are plotting out all the stories together. We’re in the middle of storyboarding it.
RD: Is there a story in the DC canon that you’d like to see turned into an animated DC Direct feature?
BV: That’s a good question. I’ve always wanted to see some of the lesser known characters. I’ve always been a fan of Jack Kirby’s The Demon stories. I’ve always liked the supernatural element of those stories. There would be a lot of fun stuff to explore there. I really like the Fourth World stuff. There is the Superman/Batman Apocalypse coming up, which I didn’t have a chance to work on, but I’m a really big fan of that. I would also love to see The Sandman stuff.
RD: The last question is a geeky one. If you had one superpower, what would it be?
BV: (laughs) I would love flight. Getting to work would be awesome.
Rick DeMott is the director of content for Animation World Network, VFXWorld and AWNtv. Additionally, he's the creator of the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks, which was recently named one of the 100 best movie blogs by The Daily Reviewer. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.