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Interview: “Riverdale” Producers on Live-Action Archie

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on February 27, 2011

In a world of superheroes and war heroes, John L. Goldwater set out to create a comic about a normal boy to whom readers could relate. This being 1941, a simpler time in the midst of the Great War, the result was Archie Andrews, “America’s newest boy friend,” an average kid who enjoyed wholesome adventures, a PG love triangle and innocently snappy repartees with local authority figures.

In a vastly more complicated world, Cross Eyed Bear Comedy set out to re-imagine the comic about a normal boy to whom readers could relate. This being 2011, a confusing time in the midst of interconnected madness, the result was Riverdale, a fan parody film trailer in which those wholesome adventures have been replaced by the modern-day travails of the on-screen teenager.

Elementary child’s play has given way to sex, drugs, guns, abortion, homosexuality, even arson and mass murder — sock hops and malt shops turned into Columbine and Cruel Intentions.

So impressed with the viral effort that’s now been seen by about 100,000 people (as of 8 am Sunday morning, many from our gushing post on Friday), we managed to track down the trailer’s producers to find out exactly how and why this became reality. We caught up with the Point Blank Creative duo, Jorah Porteous and Nathan Lusignan, on a non-Festival Express train across Canada to talk about the project.

Point Blank’s Nathan Lusignan takes time for his first U.S. interview about Riverdale…

HV: Did you guys really shoot this whole thing for $3,500?

NL: The budget was actually a lot less than $3,500. Nobody got paid. We shot eight different videos, including Riverdale, on that $3,500 dollar budget. We literally begged, borrowed and stole everything we needed. We’re happy with the final product, but never again, my friend. I think we’re still recovering from that shoot.

HV: Who came up with the idea to do the live action Archie trailer in the first place?

Mike Cope and Rhys Finnick from the Cross Eyed Bear Comedy troupe.

Who’s idea was it to make it a dark Cruel Intentions-type trailer?

Definitely Mike and Rhys. They are some sick bastards. But Point Blank Creative was 100% behind the creative direction. We added some little twists of our own.

Were there any plans to play it straight at any point or was this the first idea and you ran with it?

I don’t think straight was ever an option. We wanted to take it over the top. Take the original characters and exaggerate their challenges and flaws. Even when Point Blank does political videos, we’re usually pretty edgy. Mike and Rhys are always in your face, and [director] Andrew de Villiers loves drama.

How did you find all the actors? Were they excited to be part of it?

The actors were fantastic. Lori Watt did our casting for us free of charge and worked really closely with Andrew. The actors, like the crew, were really excited to part of it because it’s Archie. How often do you get a chance to play a comic character you grew up reading about?

What’s been your reaction to the immense response it’s received? Would you consider shooting more scenes and turning it into a real film?

We had a feeling the trailer would be well received, because of the production value and people’s connection to the Archie franchise. We didn’t expect the mainstream media to embrace it like they have though. The Province, CBC, Maclean’s and Entertainment Weekly have all posted or done stories about it. The online reaction has also been overwhelmingly positive.

Would you ever think about pitching this as a miniseries or Skins-type show in which each episode follows one character and they all build on each other?

A trailer and a mini-series are different beasts, but would we love to do one? Of course. We don’t own the rights though, so we’d have to get the Archie folks to buy in. We think our project has put their franchise front and center, and we hope they have embraced this as a fan trailer.

You managed to hit on just about every point in our culture — sex, drugs, even school shootings. Were there any aspects of our society you wanted to introduce that didn’t quite fit into the trailer?

We definitely touch on some hot-button issues. I don’t remember there being any scenes that we cut because we thought they were too brutal or controversial. We do have tons of good footage that didn’t end up in the trailer and you might see some of that leaking out due to popular demand.

What other projects are you working on? Any more live action trailers in the same vein?

We love the idea of taking older franchises and reinterpreting them. Mike, Rhys and Andrew are serious comic geeks. Jorah and I had some substantial collections too. Next up for this crew is actually a project called Mr. Forgettable. You’ll be hearing more on that soon.

How long did this take to shoot, edit and get out there?

We did a month of pre-production, two days of shooting in late June 2010, a couple pick-ups in August and then took six months in post-production. Because nobody was being paid it took longer to get this done. But people were so passionate and saw it through.

Was it difficult to convince the actresses to get on board with the Betty/Veronica Cruel Intentions-type kiss at the end?

Haha. I actually don’t really like talking about that scene, because I’m a little jealous. I was busy dealing with waivers, budget and food while Jorah, Sean and Andrew shot that. Courtney Hojenski and Morgan Davies are great actresses and super professional and saw the value in the scene. It has generated a lot of interest in the online lesbian community. I don’t think straight males mind it either.

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