The RISE of an X-Men Indie Film: Miami Natives Create Their Own Nerdy Fan Film

Kickstarter campaigns have been used to fund everything from albums to video games. It is only natural that Miami natives and long time X-Men fans Miguel Ferrer and John-Paul Bermudez took to the platform to help fund their fan film, RISE. RISE is comprised of three scenes as a way of prologue devoted to the, well, rise of X-Men villain Apocalypse.

These guys are not your run of the mill nerds with a video camera. Looking at their Kickstarter video, it is clear that Ferrer and Bermudez have the industry chops to pull this film off successfully. Ferrer in particular has years of industry experience including award-winning music videos and commercials. So far, they have lined up actors and have begun shooting in L.A., but they need your help to finish the film. At the time of this writing, the campaign has already achieved $24,731 of their $38,700 goal with four days left.

Cultist: Why choose Apocalypse as the subject of your film?
Ferrer: First, he's never been used. Why has he never been used? He's one of the greatest and most powerful Marvel villains of all time. He's an incredibly complex character that would translate very well to the screen. He is the first mutant, born in Ancient Egypt. To me, he is the embodiment of pure evil. One, he never disappears. He always comes back. His consciousness is always transferred into someone else. Two, he doesn't believe himself to be evil. There's a great line in the comics where someone says his evil needs to be stop and he says, "Evil? I'm not evil. I just am." He's here to purge the Earth and everything around him of the weak and build a new Earth in his image. Michael Gonzalez, our executive producer said it best: "Apocalypse is Darwin meets Hitler."

Why use Kickstarter to fund the film?
Ferrer: As far as the Kickstarter model and putting a fan film together, it just makes sense.

Bermudez: Miguel, coming from the industry side, had some peers that used that model and were successful with it. Thought it was a good idea to apply it. There's a lot of tech blogs I read that have broken down the Kickstarter model. It was interesting.

Can you give us an update on your funding progress?
Ferrer: We feel really good about it. The amount of support we've gotten is amazing. We're at 70% [of our goal]. We had a fundraiser last Thursday. We were screening all the stuff we were doing, had a showing of the teaser, and we were raffling off items (signed posters, signed autographs). It was a really good event.

Bermudez: After Thursday, I felt really good about it. Not just the money, but the support overall.

Ferrer: The general public has been really impressed.

You're native sons! Tell us where and how you got your start in filmmaking.
Bermudez: We all grew up as great friends from high school. It's kind of our first venture in the film world in the last five or six years. Miguel would do this thing every summer, where he would do little music videos just for us. Two years in a row, it was De La Soul songs. Filmed all over Miami, different houses, it's pretty funny.

Ferrer: We went to the University of Miami, went to Belén together. When I was in UM, I did a video for the Spam All-Stars, a band I loved going to see. As a UM student, I went over to them, pitched them an idea, they agreed to do a video. It came out nice enough that I got the eye of other producers at a showing of it at Panama Studios. It's how I got my start in the industry.

You were partially inspired by the "notoriously underwhelming" X-Men: The Last Stand. How'd that happen?
Ferrer: The first time I visited LA was 2006 for a film screening, when Last Stand was about to be released. There were posters everywhere. It was X-Men town. I said, "Wow. I have to be here." It was such a massive tidal wave of a movie. Even despite the bad reviews, it broke the record for the first weekend. It goes to show how giant of a following this franchise has. How do you not do it justice?

It was my inspiration to take the wheel. At that moment, I had no idea about anything involving getting the rights to characters, it was very early in my filmmaking career. I thought, What if we write a short film? What would it be like? We got together and wrote a short.

Your site says that RISE is a series of prologue scenes hinting at a full-length feature. How does that work?

Ferrer: It's three separate scenes, going to feel like the beginning of an X-Men movie. We'll wrap it up so that it leaves you satisfied, but also leaves you wanting more. The scenes that we're doing and the storyline that we're hinting at -- everything you see on screen is pulled from the comics. Everything ties with each other.

Bermudez: It's going to be so obvious to the fans. They're going to know which thread we're pulling in. It's exciting to think about that thread. For non-fans, it's going to seem like a very good prologue and they're going to want to see more.

You had the actor playing Apocalypse in full costume at San Diego Comic-Con. What were the reactions like?
Ferrer: It was Ian Roberts, an Australian actor. 5.5 hours of make-up. He was pretty much in character, about a 70-80% interpretation of how it's going to look on the screen. We stayed outside the convention hall across the street. The reactions? Ian's already huge --

Bermudez: -- and ripped.

Ferrer: The shoes made him 7'3". Already, people are looking at him. It went from "Wow, that guy is huge," to "Holy shit, that's Apocalypse! Let's take a picture with him!!!"

Bermudez: You see him, and you think, "Wow. This guy is really committing to it. This guy IS him." It's amazing how many people were bowing to him and pledging allegiance to him.

Ferrer: Ian studied the character. He read the comics -- and this is just for eight hours at Comic-Con. The whole time he is in character, grabbing people's heads, making them his subjects. That was incredibly rewarding.

When are you planning on completing the film, and are you planning on hosting any Miami screenings?
Ferrer: We want to have it ready by the second week of November. We'll definitely have a premiere of sorts in Miami. It'll be open to the public. Even those who are still non-believers will be quickly converted -- I am that confident in the quality of the work of the craftsmen and women on this film.

Well, we back here at home can't wait to see it. Follow the film's progress and throw some money their way at jointheultimatebattle.com. Their Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday at 2:58 AM.

--Elisa Melendez

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