Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Batkid Begins interview for Business Insider (Extended)

Wow, the last week of press for Batkid Begins has been epic! It's great to see the story coming up in the news and people remembering how affecting the day was. Good times. :) Business Insider posted an excellent article based on an interview I did with them: http://www.businessinsider.com/batkid-begins-documentary-2014-8

Here's the interview in full.

On the Indiegogo page, the filmmaker mentions that the film will be about "what happens when an event unintentionally goes viral." Why do you think Batkid got as big as it did?

On the classic philosophical debate of Hobbes and Locke, I certainly side with Locke -- that humankind is "inherently good." I feel like despite the hate and war and violence in the world, when things look terribly grim and finger-pointy, that deep down there is still joy and hope to be found. We can do better.

Cynicism in this world spreads like a disease, but I think we're in a beautiful place here in San Francisco where people here look at the world in a much brighter, more childlike light.

When I worked at Pixar, the management spoke of the "yes, and" principle (rather than "no, but"), encouraging employees to enhance ideas from others rather than focusing on why something wouldn't work. Rather, building an idea upwards and working together to make it successful.

So was the story of Batkid. The entire city said "yes, and...", with SFPD, the Fire Dept, the Giants, and stacks of tech companies like Twitter jumping in and asking how they could plus it up and help Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area achieve this. It was a beautiful combination of motivated people and child-like enthusiasm for a noble cause. All the companies and officials donated so much time and positive energy to this, there was such a ball of good will and optimism, I'm not surprised 25,000 people showed up to experience it. Positive news is a powerful force too, we just don't pay attention to it as much as we should.

People talk of how this event "restored their faith in humanity"-- I think San Francisco planted a huge stake in the ground that other cities should measure themselves against. People here shouted from the rooftops: "Humanity can do better!" It made me incredibly proud to live here.

What did you do when you found out how big it got (couple hundred people vs. billions of people)?

Thanks goodness I have a girlfriend who can help me keep me from passing out from stress. :) Originally, EJ and Sue (Batman and Damsel) came to a BBQ in my backyard and asked me if I wanted to dress up as a bad guy and get chased around by a 5 year old. We expected it would be in a climbing gym or something. A couple weeks out it was clear this was going to have (what turned out to be) 2 billion eyes on it. No pressure!

I watched through Batman (1966) a bunch of times and studied Burgess Meredith's Penguin performance, practiced the "Wah Wah Wahhh!!!" laugh over and over, and came up with a good waddle. My chosen profession as a Software Engineer doesn't generally prepare a person for such an event, but I had some improv classes in high school somewhere way up my sleeve, which made me comfortable with the thought of not screwing it up.

My lovely lady put things into glorious perspective: "it doesn't matter that it's gotten bigger than you all expected. You would have all put in the same amount of spirit even if only 5 people were going to show up. It's not for the crowds. It's for Batkid." I was so concerned about the messaging and making sure I represented the spirit of the day and the bigger, deeper messages of the event. But, of course, she's right. It was all for Miles, and that remained my focus on the day-of. The most important part was that he had fun and kicked my butt and saved Lou Seal. This helped me swallow the stage butterflies and keep focused on the true goal of the day.

What was your reaction when you were told this was going to be made into a film?

I heard from Patricia (Wilson) that this was potentially going to happen and my first thought was "How can I help?" I work in film (at Lucasfilm/ILM in SF) and so I figured someone at work could help with storyboards or volunteer their time to edit or color correct etc. With so many people In my personal and professional life so passionate about storytelling, it was instantly exciting to help with a project like this in whatever ways I could. I got in touch with Dana (Nachman) and she came over to the Presidio Starbucks on our campus and we chatted for a few hours one afternoon. It was very early, before she even knew if the project was going to be greenlit. We talked about a lot of these concepts here, and she loved the "Yes, and..." concept. She joked she might even call the film that, if it wasn't so esoteric of a title. Fast-forward to now, many months later, and after a great Comic-Con Panel last week in San Diego... I'm so excited to see what story she's telling with all the great source material from Batkid Day. My hope is that this film is a way to continue reminding people that there is, in fact, a whole lot of beauty in the world.

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