The Cape of SuperGuy:
An Interview with Director Bill Lae
few years ago, two guys laboring in the trenches of television
got together to make themselves a movie. Both had writing
backgrounds, but had drifted into different areas of the business.
Together they created a mockumentary that garnered critical
praise and more importantly, a loyal following.
Turn-offs: Kryptonite jokes.
That film, SuperGuy:
Behind The Cape, got tangled up in stops and starts
involving development deals, flattering phone calls from
the big boys and even at one point a television pilot. But
eventually, what those two guys, Mark Teague and Bill Lae,
wanted was just to have people see their work.
Next week, on June 22nd, the masses finally have a chance.
Creative Light Video (an advertiser on this site) will be
releasing the DVD of this surprisingly moving comedy that
captures why those of us who love comics love them, but
still acknowledges there's a reason they're best left to
We'll be speaking with SuperGuy himself, Mark
Teague (also co-writer and co-director), later in the
week. Today, writer/director Bill Lae talks about his participation
in the project, and the perils of being true to yourself
in the Hollywood machine.
Planet: From your perspective, how did the SuperGuy
Lae: Basically, it was a true co-creation. Mark and
I were sitting down one night. And he's a big superhero
fan, as you of course must know. I wasn't quite that kind
of a fanatic growing up, but Mark came to me with this thought
about what if we do a short about an aging superhero, someone
that's past his prime, or a bunch of superheroes who are
out of it?
that's kind of funny, but it seemed more like a Saturday
Night Live type, where you can get maybe five or ten
minutes out of it. I took that idea from there and said,
why bother going to that extreme? Why not play this as straight
as possible? What if there really was a superhero?
I was thinking that would probably be just as funny, and
we could get a heck of a lot more out of it.
there, it pretty much springboarded into SuperGuy,
just playing it really straight.
Planet: So regardless of subject matter, you two were
determined to make a film?
Lae: Pretty much. We were doing a TV pilot on our own
called The Couch Critics, which was a movie review
/ comedic sketch show. So we had been working already together.
And we thought it would be a great idea to do a short film.
We were talking about it.
was pretty much always wanting to do a superhero sort of
thing, and I'm a big visual effects guy as well, so that
certainly fit right into the realm of something I wanted
to do. But I also really, really love comedy.
flavor of comedy, though, is a little bit more than just
the one-liner. I'm into the sarcastic, sort of introspective,
social commentary type of comedy.
just sort of clicked. Once he started talking about a superhero
not fitting into society, I was thinking, hell, if there
really was a superhero, there would be no way he really
could fit into society.
in the real world.
took it from there. Right away I could see it would be a
great vehicle to do what he wanted to do, what I wanted
to do with effects, and what I wanted to do as far as sort
of taking society to task.
Planet: Let's back up for a second to talk about your
visual effects background. From the Internet Movie Database,
I see that you worked on The Outer Limits, and…well,
that's all it has.
Lae: The thing that most everybody knows is that I did
Buffy The Vampire Slayer for years.
Planet: No. I didn't know that.
Lae: I didn't do the initial six months of production,
but right when it came into its own, I pretty much designed
the vampire disintegration. I was doing that for about three
years. I used to joke around that I was Billy the Vampire
Slayer, because I was really the one killing them off.
Planet: The man behind the disintegration.
Lae: That's probably the more popular thing that I've
done. I did some of The X-Files and a few things
on TV, but the most consistent thing I've done is Buffy.
Planet: So you move onto your first-time directing job.
Lae: Well, first time directing a feature. I'd directed
a lot of short films and little TV project stuff. But this
was our first big undertaking.
Planet: Was it everything you thought it would be?
Lae: It definitely had its moments where it was harder
than I thought. It was a pretty enjoyable process, as well.
that the hardest part, like with any project that you're
doing that is a non-funded weekend endeavor, is that it
just seemed to go on forever. We spent about two years doing
it, and absolutely about a year in, you're in the middle
of the tunnel. And you can't see the light at either end
and you're thinking, oh, my god, are we ever going to get
was the hardest thing. We amassed such an amount of material,
because we started shooting it just as if it were a documentary.
Before you know it, we had eighty hours of footage. Now
you're talking about a serious amount of stuff to get through.
Planet: What kept you going?
Lae: I think the sheer investment, number one. And number
two, just knowing that we had something really good on our
hands. I always believed in the project, and I still think
it's an awesome vehicle that I hadn't seen anybody do anything
like it before. I really want to see it get out there.
Planet: When did you know you had something? Mark (Teague)
has mentioned, I think, a great reaction at Slamdance.
Lae: Dances With Films, maybe? There's so many Dances
Planet: Maybe. I've lost track of them all. (It was
Dances With Films.)
Lae: To tell you the truth, I thought that we had something
maybe a quarter of the way into the project. It sounds kind
of funny to say it. But it just struck the heart so…it was
clear this was good. You could tell this is funny, this
has a message, this is something, and if we can manage to
get this sutured together, it's going to be something great.
if we did it to our liking, and even if it wasn't critically
acclaimed in the end, we wouldn't have felt bad about it.
Because it was one of those things where we really didn't
sell out. We did what we wanted. And then, of course, the
great news was that once we started getting it out there,
we haven't gotten any bad commentary. Everything has been
pretty high on the praise end. That's like frosting on the
cake. It's nice.
I guess it just firms up our own confidence. We didn't sell
out and people like it. After that, we really knew
it was going to be good.
first screening, when we finished it, had over 300 people.
And it was just non-stop. People were laughing every fifteen,
twenty seconds at the whole thing, and we were high for
a week. It was verification, or validation, whatever you
want to call it. Sometimes you wonder, is it funny, or is
it just in your own head?
proved, yeah, it really is funny, too.
people don't really get everything, but they can still enjoy
it for entertainment's sake. That's saying a lot, I think.
My favorite kind of movie, I think, has a good message but
is still entertaining. So if you miss either one, you still
get something out of it.
Planet: Have you dived into fandom yet? I guess the
better question is, are we going to see you in San Diego?
Are you steeped in fandom?
in more than Fanboys...
Lae: Not really, not yet. Of course, we will be at ComicCon.
We did have a little appearance there a couple of years
ago, which is how we got involved in Creative Light. But
it's not my arena so much. It will be interesting.
some degree we're making fun of the fanboys, and I was a
little nervous about that. Can these people really enjoy
this? The odd thing is that they seem to embrace it. They
seem the most willing to laugh at themselves.
Planet: Comics fandom is a very self-deprecating lot.
Lae: They're willing to take it, and just laugh.
Planet: We got beat up a lot in junior high. We're used
Lae: Exactly. It's been really well received. It definitely
fits a niche, where everybody loves it in the Fanboy world.
from my perspective, it's odd. Mark's a Fanboy; I wouldn't
consider myself a Fanboy. I came at it from the perspective
of this is a great comedy, it's fun with special effects
and all that, but it's great social commentary. One niche
that it fills is the Fanboy thing, but I'm looking at it
from a much broader spectrum. So when we've had great exposure
with the fanboys, I'm just thrilled with it. Wow. Amazing.
Planet: You finished shooting this three years ago.
So what's next for Bill?
Lae: Right now, I'm feverishly, torturedly, working
on two scripts. I've got one that's a comedy, which I really
want to get done. Because, obviously, we're going to be
releasing SuperGuy, and it's good to have something
else ready to go. When we had the great Variety review
a couple of years ago, we had a couple of things to pitch,
but nothing in hand. So that's what I'm working on right
a comedy with respect to Aliens. I like to think
of it as Ghostbusters meets Aliens, but Evolution
sort of killed off that whole pitch. So I don't know how
to describe it now. What's next is getting that off the
I also have another product, oddly enough, that's Halloween
themed. It's going to be distributed nationally this year,
called Big Scream TV.
pretty much the first ever Halloween themed novelty video
to be used as a decoration. You know how they have sound
effect loops and things like that? Well, no one has ever
done a visual one, and so we have this thing.
three different volumes. They have different monster heads
talking on the screen, telling corny jokes and stuff like
that. You can take the TV and stick it in your window, or
have it at a party. There's different tricks you can do
with it, to take plexiglass and make it look like the head
is floating in air, stuff like that.
Planet: It has instructions on how to do that trick?
Lae: Yeah. We've got a little how to section. We've
got a tamer version, and a less tame version. I used to
do this at home, because I'm a big Halloween fanatic. Since
I did visual effects on TV, I would always try to see what
I could pull off live.
one of the oldest tricks in the book, using a piece of glass.
But this puts a bit of a new twist on it. You can lay the
TV screen horizontally, with the monster head playing on
it, then take a piece of plexiglass at a 45 degree angle.
Angle it towards your window so it looks like the head is
floating in the middle of the air, and everybody's totally
amazed by it.
of my friends says I'm selling water to the masses, because
it's such an easy, old, odd trick, but…
Planet: But nobody knows they can do it themselves.
Lae: Nobody. It's funny. It really is. People are baffled
by it, until they can get close enough to look into the
window and see the TV there.
Halloween, we sold it at about six stores locally, and they
sold everyone of them out. A couple of thousand, gone. This
year we've got a national distributor, and they're going
gangbusters. You should be able to find them at party stores.
definitely a fun little thing. And it can be as easy or
as complicated as you want it to be. You can just stick
the DVD in and play if that's all you want. But most people
that are into Halloween are really into it, as you
probably know. They get carried away and do all sorts of
kooky stuff. You can really go nuts with this.
perhaps we will. It sounds like fun, and if we can get our
hands on Big Scream TV, we'll tell you where to get it,
too. In the meantime, you can order SuperGuy:
Behind The Cape from Creative Light's outlet, The Pulp
Shop, at a price cheaper than Amazon. Would we steer you