Interview | The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance (GFF16, Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 19.03.2016 1

There were many things to see and do at this year's Glasgow Film Festival, with one of the major highlights being the highly impressive French documentary, Marvel Renaissance, which had a limited viewing at the UK event. Following on from Cubed3's review of the film, Sandy Wilson had the chance to sit down with its directors, Philippe Roure and Philippe Guedj, to ask about why the documentary was made in the first place, and some of the inspiration behind it.

Image for Interview | The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance (GFF16, Lights, Camera, Action!)

Cubed3's Sandy Wilson: What inspired you to cover this part of Marvel's history?

Philippe Guedj: There have been lots of documentaries about superhero culture and the rise of superhero culture. These started to appear in the early 2000s but none of them really addressed the specific story of Marvel and what happened to it in the late 1990s in detail, the way it rebounded from its low and how it evolved, letting it invade Hollywood and mainstream pop-culture even more than anyone had so far. None of the documentaries had covered that so far, so we thought as huge comic book fans it was a good time to write the story to fill in the gaps that no one had up to this point.

Cubed3: When you were starting out, was it hard to get in contact with Marvel?

Philippe Roure: When we tried to contact Marvel through Disney France at the beginning, we met the people from Disney who were very enthusiastic about the project and they were ready to help. They were thinking of arranging broadcasting with ABC being a Disney subsidiary. Finally, we tried to contact people at Marvel and we met a wall that put a stop to everything. We aren't sure why, but we think it's probably because Marvel didn't want to hear about this story anymore, but especially concerning Marvel boss, Ike Perlmutter, they are very secretive.

It took many months of waiting for an answer from Marvel. It gave us its answer on 31st December and it told us it wouldn't help with the movie making but that it wouldn't stop it from being made, and for that we are grateful to Marvel. In the end, Disney couldn't help us make the movie as it did not want a conflict with Marvel.

Cubed3: Did you find it hard not being able to use any Marvel clips or products?

Philippe Roure: We originally wanted to use movie clips but it wasn't possible, but in the end the documentary works well without them. In a way, we are glad that Marvel said no to the movie clips as the licence would have been very expensive. We decided to work out something else as our documentary is a financial thriller and we have to focus on the story and make sure we don't distract from the story at its heart. We didn't want to take the risk of showing comic book covers and pages - we didn't want to step on Marvel's feet.

Philippe Guedj: We had to be very cautious with copyrighted material, so before the documentary could be shown, the producers watched through it all to make sure it was locked down in terms of breaching the law.

Image for Interview | The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance (GFF16, Lights, Camera, Action!)

Cubed3: When you were choosing the interview clips are there any you wanted to add that you couldn't?

Philippe Guedj: There are some clips we really wanted to add and it was hard to get rid of them. One was a long interview with Adi Granov who we met at his house in England. We recorded for about half a day, he was very patient with us, and he told us many very interesting things. We actually used parts of his interview in another documentary we did called Marvel Universe, which was a kind of follow-up to Renaissance. We had wanted to include some of his interview, which is why we put him in the additional documentary.

Another one was with the CEO of Metropolis Collectables in Manhattan. We had originally scheduled a section within Marvel Renaissance to talk about comic book merchandise, yet unfortunately we had to trim down the movie to focus on the story.

Philippe Roure: We had to trim it as it was originally a 90-minute movie, but we had to make it 52 minutes for French television. We also wanted to talk about the Spider-Man rights case, so we met with lawyer Karol Hendler and she told us how she discovered a legal loophole in the Spider-Man contract that allowed Marvel to get Spider-Man back.

Philippe Guedj: We interviewed a total of twenty people, but only twelve made it into the final cut.

Cubed3: Was it difficult to find Marvel employees and previous employees who wanted to talk about it?

Philippe Roure: There was only one who was still working for Marvel - Mark Wade. He was enthusiastic about the whole thing and replied very quickly when we got in touch with him. He was very open and talked freely about Perlmutter. We are sure he asked for permission, and we are very thankful to Marvel for not stopping us from making our documentary. Both Mark Millar and Mark Wade were very eager to talk and were not afraid to tell us all the different stories from the time. It was funny in the movie because Mark Wade joked about us "going to get him fired." He said everything he wanted to say - there was no censorship.

Full English Trailer Link

Cubed3: Did you find out anything about Marvel that you maybe didn't know before?

Philippe Guedj: We learned how secret Marvel can be. We didn't expect that level of secrecy and heavy handedness. We had wanted to show people how Marvel worked filming whole sections within its offices, etc… We thought it'd want to help as it was an interesting story and a very positive one for Marvel. We discovered the cold face of Marvel.

We should really have known it before but we were very optimistic about the idea… maybe a little too much so.

Cubed3: It's odd that it'd take such aversion seeing as it is a tale about Marvel rising from the ashes and becoming something much larger and more loved than it was before and causing the comic book boom and the superhero movie market to bloom into existence. The way the film was made really showed how much love you two have for Marvel, it's almost love letter like in its execution. Do you think Marvel might come to you after the movie premieres and talk about it with you?

Philippe Guedj: We don't think that Marvel will ever do that. It would be beyond a dream if Marvel was to care about this film. It knows we exist, but we are not very important to the guys at Marvel.

Philippe Roure: If there was a chance that Marvel had helped us, it might not have ended up being such an earnest story as it may have controlled more of the content that was in the movie. It is also possible that Marvel didn't get involved with us as it is planning its own documentary about its own version of the story. It's too late for it now, though, as we have Marvel Renaissance so everything is already out there *laughs* We sought to tell the whole story with as much detail as possible.

Image for Interview | The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance (GFF16, Lights, Camera, Action!)

Philippe Guedj: One of our contacts told us that there was interest from Hollywood in making a feature length film about the story - like we have told - of Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad saving Marvel. It would be a great story in a movie. It is unlikely to happen, though, as Marvel has huge respect for the private lives of its staff and Perlmutter is very much the invisible person, as he is in our movie. We tried to get in touch with him but we couldn't. However, Marvel never came back to us about the movie, even after its release in France. It is unlikely it would ever pay attention to small fry such as our film.

Philippe Roure: We would be extremely grateful if Marvel took interest in the movie and put it as an extra on a DVD of a movie like Civil War. Maybe with the help of the Glasgow Film Festival we can get enough coverage for Marvel to notice us.

Philippe Guedj: As you can see, we are totally naïve like back when we started. We still hope and wish for Marvel to interact with us about the documentary.

Cubed3: Even though you couldn't interact with Marvel directly, were you pleased with the support from former employees and creators?

Philippe Guedj: Absolutely! It has been one of the most enjoyable things while making this film - meeting those creators who were the most passionate and endearing and really moving guys. You could tell that while we were talking to them, they really had great passion and love for this culture. Like Avi Arad said, comics are like The Bible to them. From the very start, you could tell that guys like Mark Millar, Mark Wade, Desanto - all of these guys were supportive, patient, and they didn't have to be as we are nobodies to them. We were thrilled and full of respect for them and thankful for their help in bringing our vision to life. Talking to them was the best thing about producing this documentary.

Philippe Roure: We are very thankful to them for giving us two French guys, who don't speak much English, so much time and support.

Image for Interview | The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance (GFF16, Lights, Camera, Action!)
Philippe Guedj and Philippe Roure were both very thankful to Marvel for letting them work and would like to extend thanks to all of the people involved for letting them fulfil this particular project. Cubed3 is very thankful, also, to the organisers of the Glasgow Film Festival for arranging the interview, and for both Philippes for taking the time to answer all of the questions. If you haven't read the review of Marvel Renaissance yet, be sure to check it out here.

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Didn't know this guy was behind so many things I am a fan of. Nice interview.

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