In the vast army of comic book superheroes, Batman is one character that really stands out. As a young boy, Bruce Wayne witnessed the brutal murder of his parents and, as a result, started the journey that turned him into the Dark Knight. Batman’s courage and dedication to justice has inspired other people to find the strength within themselves to rise above their personal challenges.
A Bat-fan himself, filmmaker Brett Culp sought out those who have been inspired by Batman for his feature-length documentary, “Legends of the Knight.” When reached by phone for an interview, Culp talked about hthe film and his amazing journey connecting with all these fans.
Where did you find all these people to interview?
Google was my friend at the beginning, and my favorite search term when I was first doing research on the film was “Inspired by Batman.” I would just go down and down the Google pages. That’s how I probably found the first 5 or 6 people who were in the film. The rest of them came, once we started doing the project, from people on Twitter who would send me stories.
Ninety-nine percent of them weren’t the right fit for what we were doing. Occasionally, one would come across my desk and I would say, “This is a good fit. Let’s use this one.” It was an organic process over 2 years, and I am very proud of the fact that through all of that research and processing, I feel like none of the stories are super-repetitive.
There are multiples that deal with physical challenges, but they all have different angles on that. There are ones that deal with community service, but they have different angles on that. I’m very happy with that.
Daniel Scott is very impressive, especially playing a dancing videogame on crutches. It seems like there is nothing this guy can’t do.
It was really pretty amazing being around him. He definitely embodied that spirit of “You can’t stop me.”
And Jill Pantozzi as well. I don’t know many New Yorkers without Muscular Dystrophy who would tackle big city traffic on a good day.
It was delightful spending two days with her. She’s a fabulous person.
And then there’s Lenny B Robinson wearing the 35 pounds of leather and plastic while visiting children’s hospitals.
Yes, and not just doing it occasionally, but traveling around doing it. It’s really pretty amazing.
What prompted you to make this film, to gather all these different people together who have been inspired by Batman?
Several years ago, I had an idea about making a documentary that was about the power of story. And documentaries, that’s the essence of them, of every movie, of every play, of every book. Story is powerful, so we create these stories because we believe there is power in them.
I wanted to make a documentary that explored that. So, I started thinking I could talk to experts in literature and psychology and storytelling, but there’s not much punch in that. There’s not much impact in that. I need to show it in action
I thought about what’s a fictional story I could use that’s been around for multiple generations that has affected multiple generations. You know, there are only a few really in our culture today that still exist that have been around for the 75-year kind of mark.
And Batman was the ideal one for a couple of reasons; the first reason is that I am such a huge fan. I’m a huge superhero fan in general, and Batman has always been my favorite superhero. Always.
The second [reason] was the fact that there has been so many different versions of this character; that made it very intriguing to pursue. When you see Superman, Superman is Superman. If you are talking to a 60-year-old who says “I love Batman,” it’s different than talking to a five-year-old or thirty-year-old who says they love Batman.
“What do you mean by that? What do you mean you love Batman?” It’s different for every single one of them, and that’s what makes Batman such an interesting character to explore. Not only is he so omnipresent and powerful, he’s so malleable and so changeable and so adaptable.
When you think of Batman, who do you think of?
I could have given you a definitive answer 2 years ago, but now, after making this film, to me, when I see Batman today, what I see is a five-year-old child running through the backyard with a cape on imagining themselves as Batman. I think in this world that is the most important Batman that exists.