Producer Adi Shankar has been making “bootleg” versions of his favorite copyrighted characters since he realized that “the movie business had become more about the business than the movies.” Noting that these characters had become “watered down or downright butchered” in the hands of their owners (who, more often than not, weren’t the characters’ creators), Shankar decided to “rebel” via “Bootleg Universe,” through which he’s put out short films like “Dirty Laundry” and “Truth in Journalism,” the first of which has generated over 5.5 million views on his YouTube channel.
Today, Shankar’s miniseries “Dredd,” based on comic-cum-film character Judge Dredd, joins the other bootleg videos on the producer’s YouTube channel. You can watch the series here and read more about what Shankar had to said about its inspiration (along with his general thoughts on the entertainment industry) below.
How did you decide to start making “bootleg” films on the internet?
When I moved to Los Angeles, I made an Excel spreadsheet of all the characters I loved as a kid only to realize they were all owned by multi-conglomerate entities and usually not the creator. As I saw some of the adaptations of my beloved childhood properties become watered down or downright butchered it finally dawned on me that the movie business had become more about the business than the movies. I guess the “Bootleg Universe” was my way of rebelling.
I assume you turned to the internet for such projects because that was the only place they could go, being what they are. Is that the case, or were there other motivations?
Honestly, making them and having them exist is my only motivation.
A much older friend of mine told me last year, presumably as a compliment, that Andy Warhol made a Batman fan film and would routinely show the film to his houseguests. “Dirty Laundry” wasn’t made with the intention of putting it on YouTube; in fact I didn’t have a YouTube channel until a few weeks before we had to screen it. I didn’t intend for the “Bootleg Universe” to become a thing — it’s just something that I really enjoy doing. A few weeks ago, a British magazine compared me to Banksy because of our apparent “war on copyright.” At the end of the day, I’m doing this because I love it and because it seems that my fellow fans love it too.
You attribute a lot of the success the recent “Dredd” movie did have to it resonating with fans. Is that part of what attracts you to creating for the internet, the level of fan involvement/the passionate fan base therein?
Yes 100%. I made this for the fans if it weren’t for them it wouldn’t exist. I’m making them for “us.”
You first said on Reddit that “Dredd” would be a short film. What made you change your mind and turn it into a miniseries?
The project kept growing. The fan support was so overwhelming I had no problem going overboard to give back.
Who’s animating the “Dredd” miniseries? “Judge Dredd” was also a comic — does the style mimic the comic? Is that important to you or not as part of your whole bootleg repertoire?
The “Bootleg Universe” is about doing things differently. I wanted to do something that played up the satirical tone found in the comics. Also, I love love love cartoons, so I wanted to mimic the look of 90’s MTV, “Ren & Stimpy,” and Liquid Television, with a dash of “ReBoot” and juxtapose that with the trademark violence found in everything I have done.
The series was animated by an animation company I’ve setup with Luis Pelayo Junquera called Angry Metal, to produce violent, sci-fi, R-rated, animation for adult audiences. I want to give America its “Akira” and “Ghost in a Shell.”
What are some of the pros and cons to making movies for theaters vs. making films for the web?
After having seven movies get wide theatrical releases in the last four years, I can tell you that the cost of a theatrical release today is so high that most films today are being released on VOD. That means in today’s world most films are made-for-TV. Most films are therefore competing with the top television shows on their platform.
With that in mind, I find the idea of a movie theater antiquated. The idea that you are going to spend millions on ads to convince people to hire babysitters, get out of their houses, avoid the plethora of potential distractions, drive, park, and buy an overpriced ticket and concessions is insane. Up until this decade, theaters used to be a destination; they would drive traffic. Today, they are relying on content to drive traffic. The idea of seeing an ad on the web, clicking that ad, and then being taken to a site where I can buy the movie seems more cost effective and efficient for everyone involved.
Additionally, the fact that disparate release dates for films exist from country to country is a concept that I find archaic. Thanks to the internet, we live in a borderless world, and the idea of nationalism seems very last century to me. Also thanks to the internet, we have two days to make an impact on our culture until the news cycle generates another glut of “breaking news stories.” So the idea that we would stagger releases of films around the world is silly. As far as I’m concerned, films should be released at the same time in theaters, on the web, on the iPad, iPhone, and DVD/Blu-ray — everywhere in the world, at the same time, and allow the audience to consume it in whatever manner they choose.