Earlier today, ComicBook.com exclusively debuted "Cooped Up," a short film starring Falk Hentschel, reprising his role as Carter Hall/Hawkman from DC's Legends of Tomorrow. It was the first time he's put on the wings since leaving the show at the end of the first season, and while it isn't canon (the first draft was written by a ComicBook.com writer, not a Legends of Tomorrow one), it was a fun chance to step back into the character and see what he (or a version of him, at least) would be doing during the pandemic lockdown. But how did it all come together?
There's a couple of different answers to that. As mentioned in the initial story, this writer (ComicBook.com's Russ Burlingame) offered to organize some fans' creative endeavors into a video anthology that serves as a "love letter" to Legends, its cast and crew. But how Hentschel (as well as his former Legends co-star Ciara Renee) came to be involved is a little more complicated, and involves filmmaker Taylor Morden.
Morden, who directed a documentary film called The Last Blockbuster, had spoken with both ComicBook.com and my Emerald City Video Podcast about that film. He also shepherded Project 88, a fan-made remake of Back to the Future Part II done in quarantine. It was that project that inspired the Legends anthology project, and when Morden heard that, his answer was surprising: "Hey, I know a guy who used to be on that show!"
After the short was completed and we were getting ready to debut it on ComicBook.com, I spoke with Morden and Hentschel about it. For the purposes of this Q&A, ComicBook.com will use my real name instead of the editorial we for the questions, since a few of them were framed in the first person.
Russ Burlingame: How did the two of you meet?
Falk Hentschel: Taylor met my life partner, Kim, first. I always get that story twisted.
Taylor Morden: We are in Bend, Oregon, which is a pretty small town so we were bound to meet eventually. They do a 72-hour film competition every year, the Film Society does, I did one and I don't know if Kim did one or if she was just part of a team, or she produced one.
Hentschel: Then she ran home after the competition, we had started the Bend Film Group, the meetup group, we got up to 250 members. Somebody from that group made something and then she ran home and she was like, "You've got to meet this filmmaker, he's amazing! I found someone! I found someone we can collaborate with!" That was the beginning of a friendship.
Burlingame: Falk, Legends has now become this cult favorite show, and the first season is such a wildly different show. For you as somebody who was in on the ground floor, is it cool to see the success that the show has had? Or is it a little bit like, "Oh, come on!"?
Hentschel: Here's how I feel about anything I'm a part of, or any artistic endeavor: I'm always happy when things are successful. Artists deserve the recognition, they've worked their way into it, their time, their money. Obviously I'm really happy for everybody. It's always so fun to play more, and there was no negative feelings about, just positive.
Burlingame: I know how you responded to the pitch of doing this crazy little project, but how did Ciara respond?
Hentschel: She was excited. I had done a live chat, where I encouraged people to send me writings, monologues, any creative work, and if I can produce it or act it out for them, [I would]. I wasn't thinking this elaborate either; I was like, I'll use my camera, set it up, and I'll shoot something myself. She was there for that live chat, she was like, "If there's anything I can ever help." Then I called her. We've become really close friends, she and Casper are the two that I really, really stay in touch with. She was in right away.
Why Blockbuster Video?
Burlingame: Taylor, one of the things that kind of is weird, I didn't realize at first, because I figured at first, he can just self tape with a cell phone if he wants to do something with it. I didn't realize you were going to be directing it. But the Blockbuster has not only been there since the first draft of this, but the Blockbuster was our framing device before you and Falk ever got involved. I don't know if you knew that. That's always been in the DNA.
Morden: Were you planning for it to be the Blockbuster? Or just a Blockbuster out of time?
Burlingame: In the context of the framing device, it's basically a cosmic Blockbuster. But it didn't really occur to me until Falk did it in the script that Siri really can call Blockbuster for you guys.
Morden: That's all you need, it'll call all of them, which is the one right down the street from us.
Burlingame: Your film The Last Blockbuster should have come out by now had COVID not happened. Was it kind of funny that you ended up doing this and then it's just by coincidence there's a Blockbuster in it?
Morden: I think maybe other people would've been taken aback by that like, "Oh this is a silly script." But at first when I read it I was like, "Yeah, that's normal. People call Blockbuster every day." To me, yeah it's a normal thing, this script takes place now in this town that I live in.
Hentschel: I think it's so funny.
Morden: I think it's crazy that you put this thing together and you're like, "I have a script for you, it's about Legends of Tomorrow and Blockbuster Video." And I'm like, "Well one of my best friends is Hawkman, and I've been working with Blockbuster for three and a half years now."
Falk Hentschel: We were going to be over ambitious had COVID not been so tricky, and shoot a little landing scene in front of Blockbuster. We were going to try and get it in there, but it didn't make it.
Burlingame: That'll be for like the Snyder cut in five years! Now Taylor, I've never seen your narrative work. I've never seen any of your shorts, just documentary. But for this, you guys brought in visual effects, which is not necessarily something you'd expect for a two minute short that takes place in a living room.
Hentschel: We didn't expect it either.
Morden: We didn't actually shoot for that. That was an idea we had afterwards, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could add in the wings?" And the wind blowing the hair back, that was practical, we just did that. But the wings are obviously digital. I think they look pretty good, they look almost as good as they did on the show.
Hentschel: Also, you can give a big shout out, just in general, everybody that ended up working on it, it's really cool to see during COVID that people did that, just like from the wings, to the sound, and the soundtrack, that people came together. It was really cool to see.
Burlingame: That was actually the thing I was going to talk about, you put together this crew, and obviously like I said with Taylor's Project 88, that was all done in little pods, where it was the people you're already with working with you. What was it like working with a team during all of this? Where you can't just go stand at a monitor and say, "Oh no, move that two inches to the left."
Hentschel: I'll let Taylor talk on that. I thought it was very funny, because my girl Kim, she was holding my iPhone. My friend from L.A., Jesse Lumen, was camera operating and Taylor was directing us through FaceTime, I don't know how it was for you Taylor.
Directing while distancing
Morden: It was really weird. That was part of why I was excited about doing this, was because it was going to be a totally different style of film making than we had ever done before. I've done remote interviews for documentaries before, but that's totally different. You're not trying to get a performance or specific shots like we were with this. And doing it over FaceTime was... It worked better than I thought it was going to work, honestly because you can hold the phone up to the back of the camera and see the shot you're about to get, I could say, "Oh okay, pan left a little bit." Or, "Let's change that thing in the background and make the frame a little more interesting." Or whatever you would do in real life, but there was a little bit of...
Hentschel: There was a limitation to it.
Morden: Yeah, and a delay too. Like a game of telephone, where I'll say this and then he can tell Jesse, and then Jesse and Falk can make it happen and then it comes out.
Hentschel: And I go, "Hey Taylor, what did you think of that last performance? Should I go more on this?" And he's like, "From what I could tell..." On the phone, on the middle monitor.
Morden: We definitely did extra takes, I think. More than we would have because I wasn't 100% sure we've got it.
Hentschel: More than Taylor would. Taylor works so fast, that guy just knows his shots. He had his shot list that we could use that he dropped off, and he dropped off the gear and I picked it up safely.
Morden: I sent gear and storyboards in a box.
Hentschel: "Here's the filmmaker box."
Morden: Yeah, here you go.
Hentschel: The person who was quarantined with me, Jesse Lumen, is a filmmaker as well, so he knew how to operate camera and do that. That was the nice, that's how we got the production value on the day.
Morden: That was a lucky break.
Hentschel: Then, to be honest, I brought in people that I've kind of come up with in the industry, Joe Trapanese, he was so lovely to go through his music and put something together to give us music that we can actually use and we didn't have to worry about rights. And then we had a friend of us here start with the wings and prep them, and then we had a kid in Germany who saw me do an interview over YouTube that I then connected with who's a visual effects artist in Germany work from Germany on these wings for weeks. It was cool, it was just cool to see it come together.
Burlingame: So the idea here is, at least in part, to sell the mace and some other stuff for charity. But how did you come into possession of a mace for the short? Was that something you had?
Hentschel: No that was part of it. I called up a friend of mine, and on that call I was like, "Do you want to create?" He's amazing with props, he had made this medieval armor for me before and it was really lovely work and I was like, "Hey how do you feel about quickly making a Hawkman mace?" And he was like, "All right I'll get on it, give me like three or four days." Then that was sort of the kick-off, it was dropped off at the house, leaned against the door, and I wasn't even there. I was taking my dog for a walk and I came back and there was the mace. I was like, "Damn."
Returning to Hawkman
Burlingame: The funny thing is, originally when I sent you that first draft, I wanted to give you as much plausible deniability as you wanted, so that you don't have to be Carter if you don't want to, you can just be a guy who has a bunch of Hawk jokes in the story. Was it fun for you, even though this is obviously not remotely official, to give him some kind of closure in your head?
Hentschel: Yeah, it was lovely to bring him back and to sort of do a different take, a lighter take like you said what Casper got to do. And a bit of sensitivity too because I always wanted to bring some of that to the show and we just never got around to it. It was really lovely, it was really nice to mess around with that, put him in a pink bathrobe and fluffy, weird slippers. I enjoyed it.
Burlingame: That said, next year is supposed to be aliens on Legends, if they were like, "Oh we're going to do something with the Thanagarians, do you want to come be a Hawk cop for five minutes or something?" Would that be something you'd be down for?
Hentschel: Yeah. Absolutely. I've always said, the fans are still asking on Instagram, "When are you coming back? What's happening?" I always refer to the writers and I'm always like, listen it's up to the fans, if enough fans make noise maybe they're interested in something like that. But I've always been really open about being totally cool to come back and I was having a blast doing that. Especially if it's like a fun thing, what this show has become is just like let's have fun. Of course.
The mace used in the "Cooped Up" short (as well as other props from the anthology) will be auctioned off to benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which works to bail out small bookstores and comic shops struggling with financial hardship, and The Conscious Kid, which describes itself as "Parenting and Education Resources through a Critical Race Lens." The Conscious Kid is aimed at helping kids understand identity, and is the nonprofit that will receive funds from Falk Hentschel's newly-created Cameo account. For the first month, 100% of his revenue will be directed to The Conscious Kid, and after that, 50% of all revenue he raises for the first year will go to the nonprofit.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, following episodes of DC's Stargirl. The fan-made "Legends of To-Meow-Meow Project," which will include Hentschel and Morden's video, will be available to watch on YouTube on June 9, one week after the show's season five finale.