Filmmakers Joshua Siegel and Juan Avilez first met as competitors in the Project Greenlight screenwriting contest. After working together on Joshua's short film The Cypher, they discovered a mutual love of anime and Hong Kong style cinema and soon began searching for a project to collaborate on.
"Juan was intent on making a live action trailer for an anime film, but I wasn't very keen on the idea at first because I wanted to create something original. Yet one of my dream projects has always been to make a live action miniseries based on the original AKIRA comics, so I mentioned this to Juan. Fortunately, he had seen the anime film and was immediately excited by the idea."
-- Joshua Siegel
Juan Avilez and Demetrie Livaditis (Kaneda) fix the laser rifle's battery pack.
After a flurry of casting and location scouting, production began on a rainy Sunday morning in downtown Los Angeles. Without professional sound or lighting equipment, the crew was able to do a large number of setups and takes in very little time, allowing them to quickly move on to the next location.
"We both love the anime movie but knew that we wanted to do more than to just recreate what's been done. So we went back to the comics and tried to convey the
overall feelings of AKIRA. It would definitely be an R rated film. Very dark and
-- Juan Avilez
Joshua Siegel (doubling as a soldier) and Jodie Thomas (Kaori) prepare for a scene.
Even though they didn't have the best equipment, this "In and Out in Thirty Seconds" style of guerrilla filmmaking helped the producers get the energetic feel they were looking for. Fortunately, the citizens of Los Angeles are accustomed to film crews and unusual events, so nobody gave a second glance to sights such as a spiky-haired boy in a red cape or a motorcycle gang racing down the street in evil clown makeup.
Of course, low-budget filmmaking does have its disadvantages. The filmmakers had to abandon many ideas that they originally wanted in the trailer, including shots involving Tetsuo's reconstructed arm and the destruction of Neo-Tokyo. But the lack of funds forced Joshua and Juan to find creative ways to do many effects in-camera.
"Somewhere along the line I dubbed myself the unofficial "Oldskool FX Supervisor" because I was always coming up with low budget stupid ideas like dangling painted foam "rocks" on fishing line or doing forced perspective shots with toys. These techniques may be dated in the age of CGI, but hey... they worked."
Joshua and Juan set up a forced perspective shot.
-- Joshua Siegel
By the time production wrapped, over four hours of raw footage had been shot for a trailer that was expected to be approximately four minutes long. Days were spent logging the footage and looking for just the right angles and moments to include. Then it was time to begin editing.
The raw footage and storyboards were given to a professional editor, but after several months he determined that he would be unable to finish the project. But during this delay, a talented digital artist from Wellington, New Zealand (home to Hobbits and Balrogs) volunteered his skills. A long-time anime fan, Sheldon Whittaker worked an ocean away with Joshua and Juan to plan spectacular new effects shots for the trailer.
When Sheldon's effects shots arrived, Joshua was able to edit the first official cut of the Fan Trailer. The response was overwhelming, and the AKIRA trailer soon became one of IFilm.com's most popular sci-fi shorts.
Juan started on his own longer cut of the trailer, working with musician Todd Andrews and vocalist Rosemary Laack. Joshua completed the final edit and sound mix, then created animated menus for a special edition DVD that was handed out as a free gift to anime fans at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con.
By giving away the fruit of their labor, the filmmakers at last completed their tribute to Katsuhiro Otomo and AKIRA fans across the globe. Joshua Siegel and Juan Avilez would like to thank all who contributed their time and talent to making this project a reality.
Behind The Scenes Stills