Adi Shankar is a talented film and television director/producer. His credits include The Grey starring Liam Neeson, Killing Them Softly starring Brad Pitt, Dredd starring Karl Urban, and Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg.
He’s also produced some of the best bootleg short films online — through his Bootleg Universe Youtube Channel — by taking franchise characters like The Punisher, the Power Rangers, and even James Bond, and producing alternative story lines and representations of those characters.
ScreenCraft and Buffalo 8 Productions have partnered with Adi Shankar’s Bootleg Universe on a unique short screenplay and story contest, dedicated to finding provocative reinterpretations of iconic stories and characters while celebrating fresh visions and voices. The winning script or story will be produced with Hollywood talent by Adi Shankar and distributed for free worldwide via the Bootleg Universe YouTube channel, which has over 30 million views to date.
We recently spoke with Adi about his background and delved further into his Bootleg Universe.
ScreenCraft: How, Where, and When did your producing and filmmaking roots begin?
Adi: It began as a child watching and wondering why every cool character was white and why every minority character was a caricature and/or a side kick. Keep in mind I didn’t grow up in America so it was pretty odd wondering why none of the people on TV looked like the population around me. These questions combined with an intellectual curiosity that frequently got me into trouble led me on a journey that’s still on going today.
ScreenCraft: What drew you to create the Bootleg Universe?
Adi: It wasn’t manufactured, it just happened organically. If I had to pick a moment it would have to be when I watched Terminator Salvation and realized that the movie wasn’t made by the creator and was a by-product of the rights being purchased in a fire sale. I don’t believe that our culture and by proxy our right to interpret it can be “acquired.”
ScreenCraft: How have studios and owners of the rights to the characters you’ve re-imagined responded to the bootleg shorts you’ve produced?
Adi: They secretly like them or that’s at least what they tell me.
ScreenCraft: Will we ever see studios take you on as a producer for the characters that you’re bootlegging?
Adi: Over the last year, I’ve had a lot of in-coming inquiries from studios about resuscitating and shepherding dying franchises. The issue I’m philosophically having is that I’m not trying to just make meaningless vapid entertainment at the moment, so it really doesn’t make sense for me to spend two years on “branded entertainment” when the world is in dire need of authentic artistic voices. There are stories that need to be told and points at large that need to be made on a global level and I really don’t think a $200 million dollar four quadrant Happy Meal is the way to do it.
ScreenCraft: What works and doesn’t work in Hollywood development these days and how do you see things changing?
Adi: Max Landis writes great specs and then hustles as his own producer to get meaningful people attached. He is by far the most successful writer of my generation… so do what Max does.
ScreenCraft: What words of advice do you have for screenwriters looking to break through as a genre screenwriter?
Adi: Say something.
Ever wanted to play in the sandbox of your favorite movie, TV, or literary characters? Now is your chance… and to possibly see them produced! Enter your short script or short story version in ScreenCraft’s Bootleg Universe contest!