Michael Wayne: Unboxing Batman and Me

February 6, 2021
There's a lot more to this local documentary about a Batman merch collector than meets the eye, just like The Dark Knight, really.

What got you initially interested in the topic of your documentary?

“Imagine loving something so much that you set aside a room in your house to build a shrine to that thing. Imagine dedicating eight solid years of your time and income to building your shrine, which is largely made of children’s toys. Imagine having to run your obsession (or quirk, if that goes down smoother) by prospective partners. Imagine being stuck with your shrine years later, when the thrill was long gone.

“Now imagine you never actually loved that thing at all.

“To me, Darren Maxwell’s story had all the elements of a great movie. As a kid, I was aware that blockbuster movies were accompanied by an avalanche of merchandise; I wanted as much of it as I could get. These films, particularly superhero movies, have come to dominate the box office in the years since (34 superhero movies were released during production of our documentary), and that merchandising has gone beyond even the excesses of that late ‘80s and early ‘90s era. This stuff is explicitly designed to be collectible, so a lot of people are doing it now. Back when our subject Darren was collecting, however, it was an odyssey of his own making. I felt there was something in his story – and his self-awareness – worth reflecting on at the moment.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while making your documentary?

“The biggest challenge we faced was bringing to life Darren’s tales of obsessive collecting from his past. A talking head documentary wouldn’t have suited the subject matter, so we literally went outside the box to find a way to make his stories pop on screen. Going by the response we’ve had, we succeeded.”

What was an important story, scene or interview you had to leave out of your documentary and why?

“Many collectors are fiercely dedicated to keeping items mint-in-packet. I thought the audience would want to see Darren open a sealed collectable, given how he was firmly against ever opening anything. We filmed a scene of him opening a sealed item and captured his horrified reaction; amusing, but ultimately it just didn’t fit the film. Maybe we’ll save it for the sequel, Batman and Me Returns.”

What has been the reaction towards your documentary?

“The film has fascinated those interested in the psychology behind collecting, largely thanks to Darren’s no-holds-barred confessions and insights. For me, the most entertaining and revealing reaction has been the polarised reception of collectors themselves, who’ve either sympathised with Darren’s situation and reconsidered their own habits, or were absolutely offended.”

What are you most proud of about your documentary?

“That we treated our subject fairly and told the story we wanted to tell without compromise. There were stories and scenes we used that Darren didn’t want us to include, or stories that he told us reluctantly, but ultimately he didn’t object to their use because he could see it was necessary to paint the fullest picture of how things were.”

What aspect of your documentary are you unhappy with and why?

“Launching it right at the start of COVID-19 wasn’t the greatest release schedule a film has ever had, but it’s finding its audience.”

What’s next for your documentary?

Batman and Me is a part of the Docs Without Borders Film Festival in March 2021. We’re also seeking a distributor so we can take Darren’s bizarre story even wider.”

What is the next project you’re working on?

“I’m looking to tell the little-known story of how arcade games were manufactured and distributed in Australia. It may not sound like it, but it’s truly one of the wildest untold sagas in the country’s modern history. I’m also working on an adaptation of the life and times of John Glover, the “Granny Killer”. If you thought Batman collecting was weird…”

Batman and Me is screening at Cinema Nova at 7pm on Sunday, February 7, 2021

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