Robbie Amell on his new sci-fi project Code 8
Ten days after the trailer was dropped at FanFest Chicago, Code 8 has officially launched on Indiegogo. The short film was shot over the summer to give fans a sample of what the full length movie would be. It stars Robbie Amell (The Duff, “X-Files”), Sung Kang (Fast and Furious), and is executive produced by Stephen Amell (“Arrow,” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows). We had the chance to have an exclusive chat with Robbie Amell about the film, working with his cousin Stephen, and attempting to create a cool new sci-fi world.
The story follows a young man with special powers (Amell) struggling to find work as a day laborer. After a dispute over payment, he finds himself in a confrontation with a police officer (Kang) and the autonomous robots backing him up. Code 8 takes place in a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being wealthy superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.
Director Jeff Chan, who co-wrote the film with producer Chris Paré, had previously helmed live-action shorts for Activision ’s “Call of Duty” franchise. The Indiegogo campaign is full of exclusive perks, the most notable being “Go Fast and Furious” where you get to race Robbie and Sung in gocarts or “Big Time Birthday Party” where fans can celebrate Robbie and Stephen’s birthday. The Indiegogo campaign will run for 31 days and can be found at this link.
ComingSoon.net: Watching footage from the short definitely sparks a lot of curiosity. What sparked the idea for the film initially?
Robbie Amell: Well, Stephen and myself wanted to work together for a long time and we got to do a tiny bit of it on air with “The Flash.” My friend Jeff Chan directed, we’ve been trying to work together for almost six years now. And then the three of us were just talking one night and we decided, “Well, why not do it ourselves?” None of this can be published until Tuesday, but we just decided to shoot a short film. We prepped the whole thing, and then, of course, at the 11th hour, Stephen booked “Ninja Turtles,” and we were unable to have him for the short film, but we have such a great cast already in Sung Kang and Aaron Abrams and we had our crew. We had everything locked down. We decided to proceed without him. We just tweaked the story a little bit, knowing that if we didn’t shoot it now, we weren’t going to have him during “Arrow” anyway. So we shot the short film. Stephen stayed on creatively and he will be a part of the feature, but we shot a 10-minute short. We had three days of filming in Pasadena. And then, we posted in Toronto.
So what we wanted to do was just to prove to people that we could make something really awesome that they would be proud to be a part of. And Stephen and I had met so many incredible fans and we just figured we’d take a shot at making something with them. So we launched an Indiegogo campaign on Tuesday to try and raise just enough money to get the film off the ground, and we’re going to take that and partner with some financiers and production companies and people we’ve already been talking to. We’re not trying to fund the entire movie through fans, but just enough to get it off the ground.
And we have this amazing network of people in Toronto, Playfight Visual Effects, this amazing visual effects house that did all the VFX on the short and will work on the feature. We can pull all the tax breaks through Canada because Steve and myself and Jeff, we’re all Canadian. We just figured this was our best shot at making something really cool that people would be pumped to be a part of.
CS: How are you able to work on it with how much other stuff that you have going on and that Steven has going on? How are you able to juggle that?
Amell: So that was the problem with scheduling the short film. We weren’t able to get Stephen for the short, but we’ve designed the feature film to shoot upon his availability. Not only that, there’s a couple other people we want to be in the movie, like Victor Garber and my fiancée, Italia Ricci, and just some people that kind of live by those network TV schedules. So we knew we were going to have to shoot in hiatus anyway, so that’s our plan. The other thing is, we just tailored the script that way, so that we can block shoot certain people out, so that we can get the best cast possible for the least amount of work.
The other thing is, all of these people are friends and family, and that’s kind of our whole M.O. behind this is we want to work with people we enjoy working with, who are still extremely talented, and we have that network of people in Toronto, and then as far as friends go, who are in the business and we all consider to be super talented and great individuals. So we always had to plan around it and plan accordingly, but it hasn’t been easy, we’ve just found a way to do it because we’re passionate about it.
CS: In the short you gave us a little taste of crossing high technology with urban warfare. How much of the rest of the film is storyboarded or pre-vized and planned out?
Amell: So the short film that you’ll see on Tuesday is 10 minutes, and it’s not necessarily a scene from the movie. It’s more of an example of the world that the movie will take place in.
CS: Like a proof of concept?
Amell: A proof of concept of how great we can make it look. A “Code 8” is a criminal incident involving someone with a superpower, so this world that we’ve created, people have developed just minor superpowers, mostly minor superpowers, but there are the occasional ones that have grown into something a little more dangerous and a little more powerful. And most people who have powers are really just trying to scrape by. They also make up most of the arrests. So we weren’t necessarily trying to comment on anything happening in the world today, but we did want it to feel relevant and just kind of take a world or a story that so many people have seen, and that we are such huge fans of and just put our own spins on it.
CS: In the synopsis, you make a clear delineation between the privileged, exalted superheroes and the superpowered beings in your world, who are living as pariahs in society. What makes this different than something like the “X-Men” franchise?
Amell: It’s glorified. You know, these powers and nobody’s wearing superhero costumes. It’s much more grounded. The deal was to try and make it feel, and really did develop their minor superpowers, although of course, some are a little stronger than others, but what would it be like and what would people do and how would people use them? And it kind of helps us that we’re working on a limited budget because the scale can’t grow too out of control. So we’re not going to have anybody levitating a stadium in the air. It’s awesome. I mean, I’m a huge fan of those movies and those franchises, but that’s not our world. This is more along the lines of a grounded character piece that just happens to have fantastical elements.
CS: Kind of a little bit of “Chronicle” maybe?
Amell: A little “Chronicle.” Again, though, “Chronicle” is very big, a lot of flying and destruction. This is going to be more contained than that. But you know, at the same time, we’re going to flex the visual effects. I think “District 9” is a good example of the world that we’re kind of looking at. “End of Watch” with superpowers would be a good example.
CS: That’s a very good reference. Yeah, and you get to juggle the social commentary with the action sequences and everything.
Amell: Exactly. And you know, the other thing is, with the “End of Watch” side of things, these are good examples, but the other thing is, we don’t want to give too much away about the feature. We just don’t want to spoil anything for anybody, so this is something that Chris and Jeff are the main writers on the project. They’re writing partners. They’ve been putting it together for a long time, and Steve and I have just put in our two cents whenever we’re asked. But these guys have been thinking about this for a long time and they have some really, really amazing story points that we just have all decided as a whole that we don’t want to give away. We like to show the world in the short film, but we’re not going to give a whole lot more than that. I think a lot of trailers today are too long and you find out too much about it before you actually see the movie.
CS: Right. And once you gather all your Indiegogo donations and you start gap financing and other companies that are going to contribute to the budget, what would be the ideal budget for the film?
Amell: We’ve talked about that. There’s a few different versions. We’re not really ready to say how much that we want. But you know, because of the people that are working on it and the people that are passionate about it, we don’t need a crazy amount of money. It’s going to look a lot more expensive than it actually is. We’ve set our goal on Indiegogo at $200,000 because we don’t want to feel like the fans are really more just helping us get it off the ground. I don’t think it would be fair to ask everybody for money. We’re putting our own money into it. If we’re not willing to take a chance on ourselves, then why should we expect anybody else to? But the nice thing is, because of people like Sung Kang and because it’s a genre movie, we can presell territories. There’s a lot of ways to get this off the ground. We’re very confident that we’re going to make something people are going to really be able to enjoy and lose themselves in.
CS: Cool. And once they do contribute, how will you keep fans updated on the progress of the film?
Amell: So I believe the $10 perk gets you access to all of our updates. The nice thing about social media and technology is we’re just going to have people film stuff on their phone as we’re going through preproduction. We’re going to send out email updates. We’re going to keep people in the loop. If you’re willing to help us get the movie made, then we want you to feel like you’re a part of it. And whether you’re spending $10 or $10,000, we want to make sure that you feel like you’re a part of the team.
CS: Do you see it as a potential franchise?
Amell: We’ve talked about it, but we want to get the first one made first.
CS: That makes sense.
Amell: It’s a cool world. We’ve thought about developing TV wise first, just because there’s a lot of story to tell, but this made the most sense.
CS: Right, exactly. I was fortunate enough to meet Sung Kang on the set of “Bullet to the Head.” He’s a really cool dude. How did you rope him into this?
Amell: Well, we were looking at casts and Jeff, he and I are huge fans of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. And Jeff and I were sitting around one night, and he goes, “What if we get Sung Kang?” And I was like, “Dude, that would be unbelievable.” And luckily, we had a connection. Jeff and Sung have the same manager and Sung and I are both at William Morris. You know, the other thing is, we’re very proud of what we’re putting together. We didn’t think we were just going to ask him to do some weird short film as a favor. We knew that we had something special, or at least we hoped we did. And we figured we would take a chance and our agents and managers setup our meeting, and Jeff met with them over dinner, and luckily they hit it off. Jeff gave him a pitch and then the two of them came and met up with Lee after. And the three of us sat around, had a beer and talked about it, and Sung left and Jeff and I just kind of crossed our fingers the next day, emailed, and he was like, “Let’s do this. I’m excited. Let’s make a movie.” So Sung has been awesome. He’s incredibly talented. I always wanted to work opposite him.