For every pop culture phenomenon, there is a humble beginning. Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman series, had his beginning as a young child who simply had an undying fascination with comic books. He would later go on to spend 10 years working towards becoming a producer for the first Batman film. Little did he know how much of an impact he would have on the entertainment industry.
A native of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, Uslan is one of the highest-grossing movie producers of all time, has several awards under his belt, including a Daytime Emmy for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, a People's Choice award for Batman, and, most recently, a Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to films, his work spans numerous comics (most notably The Shadow for DC comics) and books which chronicle the history of comics.
In a recent interview, Uslan opens up about the forthcoming film, The Dark Knight Rises, his comic book course, and where he plans to go moving forward aftering receiving the Lifetime award.
How has social media changed your way you think about marketing the films?
I’m not as involved with the marketing of the films as I am with making films more marketable. I am not a believer in the idea that really good marketing can sell a really bad film, so I focus on doing what I can to help filmmakers simply make better movies. And I hear the criticisms in the media about how Hollywood has lost its originality. Something in the range of 23 movies slated for 2011 were sequels or remakes of past films, and that seems to have some people’s noses out of joint.
My view is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sequel, and now that we are on our eighth Batman film, I realize how people might think that opinion on the subject is a bit tainted. They’d have a point, but it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. A good movie is a good movie, period. Some of the highest grossing and best regarded films in the genre have been sequels. Ask Star Trek fans which film in the franchise was the best, and they’ll resoundingly tell you Star Trek 2. Ask Star Wars fans, and they’ll say The Empire Strikes Back. James Cameron made two sequels that are better regarded than the originals – Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
That’s not to say that the industry couldn’t use a little injection of fresh ideas, but in that same breath I cannot understand how anyone could see JJ Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek and say it wasn’t original. To a guy who didn’t have a computer until he was in his 30s and who still can’t seem to get his Droid phone to work right, my feeling is that a good film finds its audience and most audiences will find a good film. Social media is another way of getting people aware of a movie, but it can’t save a bad one.