An Interview with Adi Shankar – By Kirsten Walsh

Comic-Con in San Diego is one of the biggest events in the film and comic book scene today. Panels are packed out featuring the cast and crew of Walking Dead, Avengers and all of the anticipated projects. But in 2013, there was a fairly unexpected project that became a highlight of the convention- the showing of Venom: Truth in Journalism. Directed by Wrong Turn 2’s Joe Lynch and starring True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, it was just a short film about Eddie Brock. It was a passion project helmed by Adi Shankar (as producer), and it shows. Shankar’s career has sky rocketed within the past few years, and is showing no signs of stopping. 2014 kicked off with the release of Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg, and up next is The Voices starring Ryan Reynolds, and Liam Neeson’s new film, A Walk Among the Tombstones. Shankar took a moment from his ever-busy schedule to fill RC in on his latest and greatest!

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KW: You have an incredibly vast list of films! What draws you to the films you work on?

AS: While my filmography is vast for someone my age, I wouldn’t call it diverse. There’s a thematic through-line that connects everything I do. The projects I’m really drawn to tend to look like highly-commercial genre movies, but they always have a strong dramatic backbone.

KW: Can you talk a little about your "Bootleg Universe"?

AS: I need to be making things. If I’m not making something, I start panicking. Fortunately, the internet and digital video cameras have created the opportunity to make things whenever I want and however I want, and I seize that opportunity every single day. Making mainstream Hollywood films gives me access to talent, both in front of and behind the camera. But as a lifelong comic book fan, the Bootleg Universe allows me to explore and deconstruct characters I love, circumvent red tape, and portray those characters in a new and interesting way.

As for the future, I hope I get to keep making Bootleg Universe films.

KW: I think a lot of people are in agreement with you on that! You have been the producer or executive producer on some of the most popular action films in the past few years. How did you get started doing that? What is your favorite film you have worked on?

AS: I’m very specific in what I want. I’m not trying to produce every action script that comes across my desk. I know what kind of movies I want to make, and I know how to get others to participate in my vision. Second, I’ve never asked for permission or validation – I believe in what I’m doing, and if anyone has a problem with that I’m not going to wait around for their approval. Third is having an eye for giant holes in the marketplace – being able to create what people want before they know they want it. This is constantly shifting and impossible to master, but it’s essential if you want to create something original.

My favorite film of mine is actually a tie, between my short film "The Punisher: #DirtyLaundry," and my upcoming feature film "The Voices" starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick.

KW: What makes a good producer?

AS: I can’t really answer this question because a producer’s job description and key skills for success keep changing every few years.

The one unifying feature that I’ve noticed in successful producers is that, early in their careers, they were all information vampires, extracting every last drop of knowledge and insight they could from ever meeting, every seminar, every article they could get their hands on. In order to make something original that stands out from the crowd, you have to know what the crowd is and where it’s going.

KW: You’ve recently addressed the marketing system for films and how data is the future for marketing films to niche audiences. Can you talk about the future of filmmaking, especially for the independent filmmaker?

AS: Data will make it increasingly easy to match a prospective customer to a specific product. As long as the need for quality content grows, as it is today, filmmaking opportunities will grow as well. But I highly doubt that the film industry, in the form in which we currently conceive it, will continue to exist.

KW: What is the future of action films with the Hollywood big budgets shrinking? Is it having an impact on the quality of the films and the intensive fight sequences and special effects?

AS: Film budgets for spectacle oriented studio action films keep going up The economics that sustain highly specific R rated independent action films are forcing those budgets to going down.

KW: What is next for you?

AS: As always, I have about 50 projects in the works, most of which will unfortunately never see the light of day. But there are a few things I’m working on that I’m really excited about at the moment: a hardcore, hyper-violent gangster movie with puppets, a gritty crime drama portrayed using the sitcom format, and a hidden-camera prank movie based on a popular TV show.

KW: What words of wisdom can you share with prospective filmmakers (producers), Hollywood and independent alike?

AS: In an attempt to refrain from plagiarizing myself just read this

Also, in the brave new world of digital distribution, every filmmaker should think of themselves as an independent filmmaker. Do the work you want to do, that you think is the best work you can be doing, no matter what level you’re at. Be a punk, be a rebel, but don’t mistake iconoclasm for having something to say – those who add something tangible to our ongoing dialogue in film will be remembered for longer than those who simply echo.

Thank you Adi for taking the time to talk to us, and we look forward to The Voices, which currently does not have an American release date, but has recently been acquired by Lionsgate Films!

You can check out the Adi Shankar Brand YouTube channel here:

You can check out more about Shankar’s Production studio, 1984 Private Defense Contractors, here: