Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Chat with Lila Cheney director Arvin Bautista

I really got a kick out of that Lila Cheney video I posted yesterday ( and had a chance to chat with director Arvin Bautista of Greasy Pig Studios (

There's a live Q&A on Friday February 12th at 5pm PST:
Why the New Mutants? The comic book series is over 30 years old, how did it capture your interest?
I'm confessing; I read most of the pre-90's X-Books digitally through, uh, underground means, sometime in the mid-2000's while in college. I was a Jim-Lee generation kid who lost touch around the Onslaught Era (New Mutants Annual #1 came out the year I was born, 1984). But I always appreciated the rich history alluded to in the books, so I just devoured the old issues. 

I was far more into the normal X-Team as a kid so the New Mutants weren't that exciting to me, but reading through those issues really gave me appreciation for where these characters came from. For Dazzler especially, I started off resenting reading her books, but eventually I found myself craving the small-scale personal stories, especially as the darker stuff like the Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants were ramping up. I loved it all, I just ended up appreciating the variety.

How did the cast come together?
My music producer Taiwo Heard found both Gentry (Alison) and Sage (Lila), and I owe him a life debt for both of them; there are so many aspects one has to nail to get that character right that really limits your options as far as casting, especially in a low-budget production where we were going to have to really prove ourselves to the fans.
The New Mutants were a different beast altogether. This was by far the biggest cast I'd ever had to put together, so we went and had a casting call for them, and while none of them had to sing, they all had to look and sound good separately, AND as a team. Just having to coordinate and cast according to heights was an extra stressor I could've done without.

The costumes and special effects are fantastic. How did that come about?
Alison's costume was designed by Leetal Platt of Cozday Clothing, and she's become such a rising star in fashion and cosplay now that she wasn't available for Lila. I came to her with a very specific idea for the blue Dazzler costume and she exceeded my expectations all the way, adding details that I couldn't have imagined but seem integral now.
Luckily our producer John Cleland was friends with another designer, Will Brattain, who was also a giant geek (he had designed an X-Men group costume for Halloween a few months prior; that's his Colossus vest doubling for Strong Guy's). Aesthetically we wanted to do a "dance class uniform" look for the New Mutants, which made it a little easier on my wallet, but also worked for the period and the concept. I designed Lila's costume myself while Will focused on the team, and I just leaned heavily on the Joan Jett/Pat Benatar look that Bob McLeod also clearly took inspiration from. I just looked for a really badass leather jacket!
The effects were all done by me, and thank god they turned out as I envisioned them, especially with Lila, cause so much of the video is effects-dependent. I was most concerned about Guido's look, so he was the first shot I tackled. When it turned out well, that gave me the confidence to tackle the rest of the effects (first the New Mutants' powers, then Lila's teleportation, then the alien world). it was actually so much fun wish fulfillment that I would giggle while working on them.

Sadly, there's no New Mutants comic book being published now. What kind of new series or reboot would you like to see?
I'm nowhere near caught up with the new books out now, and with the current multiverse setup post-Secret Wars I feel like I'm even more confused. All I know is there's an X-Men '92 series out there so anything's possible, right? 
[And there was indeed a similar series, called New Mutants Forever that ran for a hand-full of issues in 2010]

Check out the Dazzler video as well:

And here's a link to the videos' official page -
and another 80's-themed sci fi short Arvin did in 2014 starring Tiny Lister and Bai Ling:

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