Interview With Superman Fan Film ‘Red Son: Genesis’ Director, Luke Harris

At first glance, Superman: Red Son may seem like a niche Superman story to make a fan film of but to Director and Project Lead Luke Harris it makes perfect sense as inspiration comes from two things – his interest and past studies in international relations and love for Superman. Harris always has had an interest in filmmaking since he was ten and finally got the chance to do so independently (as well as internationally) in 2017 in Lebanon with an actor and writer friend with a short film at the time of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. 

Harris became interested in creating fan films after seeing ‘Mortal Kombat: Rebirth’ as well as some Power Rangers and Predator ones. ‘Red Son: Genesis’, a proposed nine-episode fan series based on Mark Millar’s Elseworlds story, was the resulting project with filming taking place a couple of years ago. A trailer for the first episode, shot on a budget of $30,000 and in Estonia, was released earlier this month with a release date for the end of May. In anticipation of the release, Luke Harris sat down with us to talk about the making and inspiration of ‘Red Son: Genesis’. 

Sam Rakestraw: What made you choose Red Son as the source material you wanted to base it on?

Luke Harris: “A couple of things; I studied international relations, so I love the whole Cold War backdrop and the ‘what-if?’ I was a fan of The Man in The High Castle, so that was kind of an inspiration of mine for making this. But also, I felt like going the fan film route, if I was going to do this, I needed to do something different. Otherwise, audiences would just see it as a knockoff of better stuff that already exists. Especially with Superman and Lois already running – that was a well-made show. I was a big fan of the Snyder films too.

Kingdom Come is probably the other comic book I would want to adapt – if I could choose a comic to adapt it would be Red Son or Kingdom Come. Every Superman fan that I’ve met when I ask them about Red Son, every single one knows it and it’s almost always a very positive response.”

How was filming in Eastern Europe?

“Estonia was actually perfect because it was part of the Soviet Union as part of the Russian Empire and it had all that architecture and a lot of Russian-speaking actors. So, it was pretty easy to cast there. All of the costumes, in the Russian theatre actually helped us out. Even if the war didn’t break out, I feel like Estonia would’ve always been the best place to film anyway. So, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. With making a Superman fan film there, there are a lot of technical challenges – it’s part of the reason it’s taken so long. I’ve been working on it for about two years. Between filming abroad and getting the script translated into Russian and on the set making sure the translation was good. My producer helped a lot with judging how good the takes were.

I knew someone in Estonia, and she was tremendous – she helped with the casting and finding locations. She was my producer on set and she’s a Russian speaker and would tell me, ‘no, we need to run that one again,’ like the way the actors delivered their lines. I had been learning Russian for a year and a half now, but you know, I’m not anywhere near good enough to be able to judge line delivery like that.”

How did the Superman costume came about in production? 

“Getting the suit made, I shopped around a lot for that. I found a company called Replica Industries, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them on Instagram or anything, but they had suits especially their Zack Snyder Superman suits that looked exactly like the ones in the films. So, I contacted them, these guys are really good if you look at their Instagram and the variety of suits they make. They do incredible work. It’s funny with cosplayers having suits that are almost as good as the ones in TV shows and movies.”

What makes your version of Superman: Red Son unique?

“It’s funny because whenever I describe the project to people that I meet, one of the most common things they’ll say is ‘Oh, evil Superman.’ I’m like, ‘No, Utilitarian Superman.’ You know, evil Superman has been done a bunch of times –you have Homelander, Brightburn, and Injustice. I like this aspect that it’s more nuanced. It’s Utilitarian and you don’t really know if he’s a hero or a villain, it’s almost like an anti-hero Superman. I’m loosely adapting the miniseries so obviously there are some things in the comic book that would be really hard for a fan filmmaker to adapt. The ‘Genesis’ kind of alludes to the fact this is the first part in what I hope will be a nine-part series. So, as you said, it does show a bit more of him growing up and really what I want to do with this one is just kind of build the world and get audiences really interested and I hope that they want to see more.

I do want my universe to be science fiction, not fantasy. I feel like the comic book does venture into fantasy territory and what I mean by that is that I want to have explanations as to why Superman has his powers and why Kryptonite weakens him. I want, to the best of my ability, to have a really heavy science component. I also do want it to be a political thriller as well. Especially with having a smaller budget, I think that’s a lot easier to attain rather than having like these big Michael Bay-style explosions everywhere with aliens fighting.”

What does the future hold for the release schedule?

“Genesis is going to come out in a couple of weeks. There are some things with sound that we have to correct and just little things like updating the credits and all that – that’s basically done. I financed ‘Red Son: Genesis’ and I’m willing to finance the next part, but Genesis was about $30,000. I’m able to do the next one, but I don’t know if I’m able to do that every single year. So, I’m hoping to build a fanbase hopefully with this one and the follow-up, and then be able to start crowdfunding for the next one. So, that’s kind of my plan with this. I didn’t want to ask audiences for money before I had something.” 

A huge thank you to Luke Harris for taking the time to speak with us about ‘Red Son: Genesis’, we can’t wait to see how it turns out!

For more information on the project, check out the press release. You can follow also Luke’s project via his social media page.

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