It started as an idea for a comic book.
Or in this case, it might be more appropriate to call it a "spark."
And in a move that could point toward the future of comics-to-movies, Sparks is now a full-fledged film, produced and directed by the comic's creator.
"This movie is one guy's dream," said Clint Howard, one of several familiar faces in today's exclusive release of the trailer for Sparks, a movie based on the comic of the same name. "From the beginning seed, this one guy wanted to make a film and he was really smart about it. He took it from comic to movie. And I like that. That appealed to me."The movie, which is filled with superhero-based mythology, is the brainchild of director Christopher Folino, who based the film on the Sparks comic he co-wrote with actor William Katt of Greatest American Hero fame.
It's one thing to self-publish a comic, but Folino decided to take it one step further and self-produce a movie based on it. Howard said it's not the first self-funded project he's encountered in Hollywood lately. "It's a whole new ballgame out here," Howard said. "There are so many ways to distribute your story to the world that I think you'll see a lot more of this, where people take something like a graphic novel and turning it into a movie or series on their own, which is great, because they own all the rights."Sparks centers on a former superhero played by actor Chase Williamson, who's best known for his role next to Paul Giamatti in the comedy-horror film John Dies At The End.
The movie also stars Katt as the creepy villain Mantaza, along with fan-favorite genre actors like Jake Busey and Clancy Brown. And of course it's also got a role for Howard, who's been seen in genre favorites like Star Trek, Heroes and Fringe. He's also shown up in most of his brother Ron Howard's big-budget movies, like his control room character in Apollo 13 that he reprised for an Austin Powers film.But Howard has also done smaller, more quirky films, and even recently appeared in a Rob Zombie-directed commercial because he knew the metal musician personally. With Sparks, he said he recognized that although the film had a smaller budget, there was a lot of potential.
"First and foremost, it was a really cool story," Howard told Newsarama of his decision to be in the film. "I've been in this business a long time, so I recognized that it was, at its foundation, good material. And then when Chris pitched me the idea, his enthusiasm showed that he had a real passion for it. And that inspired me."That's not to say Howard worked for free. "I'm a professional actor," Howard admitted with a laugh, "but I did take into consideration the size of the project. He made me a fair offer."
Folino said Sparks, which he's hoping to release in the fall, was completely self-financed. "I worked countless projects, big and small, and saved as much as I could," Folino said. "And while it was a very scary step to take, I believed in Sparks and felt that the worse thing I could do was not try and live with regret later on. So for me, Sparks is really about following my dreams and taking a shot. It's been one hell of a risk, and I've aged greatly, but at the end of the day, I simply invested in great actors and a great crew and the results are amazing!Howard said he was impressed with the way Folino handled the filming of Sparks. "I've been in this business a long time, and I've been really lucky," he said. "I've worked on some of the biggest, glossiest movies that you could make. And I've worked on a lot of films that have been really blood, sweat and tears — real guerilla filmmaking. And it's the same process. Ultimately, whether you have $150 million or $200 million to manufacture a piece of entertainment, or you have a few hundred thousand dollars, the problems are still the same. And with my experience working on a lot of guerilla films, when I see somebody trying to do it right, that really interests me. And that's what I saw with Sparks."
Folino said the Sparks graphic novel will be released in the fall, at the same time as the film, although the director hasn't determined which direction he's going for distribution of the movie. "We're in the final stages of post-production," Folino said, adding that he's already got distributor interest, but he's trying to figure out the best way to release the film to fans. "We look forward to going down that road when it's the appropriate time."Howard said he plays a reporter in the movie. "My scenes were with Chase [Williamson], because he's the protagonist of the story," Howard said. "And you know, I'm kind of a wily veteran, and getting the opportunity to work with Chase as an actor was a lot of fun. He's a really cool dude and he's great at what he does. I just think that's kind of invigorating for an old bird like me."
The actor said the film's style was also something that interested him during filmmaking. "It's a graphic novel on film," he said. "It's based in a world just like ours, but the movie is very stylized. One part of it is period, but then there's one aspect that's not at all. And it turns out that it's a very human story."And although Howard has shown up in a lot of genre TV shows and movies, he said his "geekiness" is more related to the outdoors. "I'm a golf geek, which some people think is different from being a geek about other things, but it really isn't," he said with a laugh. "Everybody's geeky about something. And comic books are a very artistic, fun, thought-provoking type of hobby. And with Sparks, that sort of comic book approach makes what I think will end up being a cool looking movie."
He said he hopes Folino blazes the trail for other comic creators and enthusiastic filmmakers to take their ideas to film on their own.
"Here's the challenge," Howard said. "If you have a story and you have an idea of what you want that story to look like and how you want it to feel, and then you have tools that you can use to try to make that happen, like acting and set dressing and music and the way you shoot it, then the possibilities are endless. There are all sorts of interesting choices you can make when you take something to film, and I love that. I love that kind of thing."