'The Dark Knight' Has a Local Angle in Chicago

With the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan's “The Dark Knight” breaking records at the box-office, an intrepid group of Chicago filmmakers took to the streets in June to shoot a Batman “fanfilm” that bridges events between 2005's “Batman Begins” and the newly released Warner Brothers blockbuster.

“The Dark Knight Project” chronicles the adventures of Gotham Midtown students Heather Nolan and Mikey Bale, played by Allyssa O'Donnell and David Sanchez. Intent on being the first people in Gotham City to capture actual video of the Dark Knight in action for a school project, they set out with their video camera to interview people on the streets, witness the evacuation of a city block by police in the middle of a bomb scare, and ultimately encounter Batman in the middle of a back alley break-in where he saves both high schoolers from a menacing group of thugs working for the Joker.

“I always wanted to shoot a Batman story since he is one of my favorite characters, and since I doubt Warner Brothers will ever ask me to direct one for them, I decided to use the resources I have available and do one myself” muses Chicago filmmaker Jerry Vasilatos, who wrote the story and also produced and directed it.

“Everytime I am downtown, I am reminded of the fact that we live in virtual Gotham City” Vasilatos continues. “Shooting an HD movie and emulating the same universe that Christopher Nolan created for “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” allowed us to brand our short film with a certain authenticity and production value that we hope will have people thinking our story really could have taken place between the feature films.”

Assembling a talented group of filmmakers and cast from Chicago's creative community, Vasilatos teamed up with co-producer Zoe Triantafillou and director of photography J. Trevi Albin to produce the fan film on a shoestring budget, relying on the downtown locations and authentic costuming to bring the short story to life.

“This is a complete labor of love” Vasilatos says. “We're not selling it, we're not making any money off it… I just wanted the opportunity to shoot a short Batman story with high production values and share it with other fans in tribute to the character as well as director Christopher Nolan, who I think has finally nailed the type of “Batman” movie fans have always wanted to see on the big screen.”

Vasilatos' crew shot 5 days in using several downtown locations, leading to a climactic alley fight between Batman (being played by Chicago actor Chris Nendick), and the Joker's thugs filmed behind the Fine Arts building off Van Buren.

Vasilatos also created a Myspace page for his two fictional characters Heather and Mikey, where they have been blogging about their efforts to capture video of Batman to visitors. Their Myspace page is at: http://www.myspace.com/darkknightproject. The actual short film was released online July 14th, 2008 at: http://www.darkknightproject.com – 4 days before “The Dark Knight” hit theaters. The website has already had over 2500 viewer in its first week.

Vasilatos, who returned to the Chicago production scene last spring, spent 10 years in Los Angeles working as a producer, director and editor with clients including Universal Home Video, The Reelz Channel and Fox Atomic. His previous producing and directing efforts include the nationally syndicated entertainment news show “Made in Hollywood”, and the Chicago Christmas movie “Solstice” which was originally broadcast on Lifetime Television and is now enjoying a second life on Amazon.com under it's new title “The Night Before Christmas”. He also recently served as an editor on four episodes of the popular History Channel series “Gangland” during it's first and second season.

To view “The Dark Knight Project” or to contact the filmmakers, please visit: The Dark Knight Project.