In 2005, Sam Loeb, the son of television producer and comic book writer Jeph Loeb passed away after a battle with bone cancer. The following year, Jeph and frequent collaborator Tim Sale teamed up to create the short comic, “Sam’s Story,” which was published in Superman/Batman #26 which featured a lead story written by Sam and illustrated by some of the most popular artists in the comic book industry.
I first became aware of writer/director Zachariah Smith’s film, It All Goes Away, from his father several months ago. I saw it, and it was good, but had some technical issues. Last week I had the privilege of watching the finished version and was blown away. It uses “Sam’s Story” as a springboard, but tells a story all it’s own.
FOG! is proud to present It All Goes Away below as well as an interview I conducted with Zachary.
FOG! Chats With Zachariah Smith
FOG!: It All Goes Away was your thesis film from the School of Visual Arts. When it came time to putting this together, was it always your intention to do a Superman film?
Zachariah Smith: It All Goes Away was for my thesis film project for my undergrad degree at the School of Visual Arts. And in regards to my intentions about it always being a Superman/Clark film, yes absolutely. I honestly can’t imagine myself from a year ago doing any other type of story.
The film is based on an issue of the Superman/Batman comic, “Sam’s Story” which was written by Jeph Loeb, and was dedicated to his son, Sam, who passed away at 17. What was your first exposure to the story and what made you want to adapt it to live action?
My first exposure to the story was when I was twelve. I had found it in a back issue story of a Superman/Batman comic and it was just this beautiful and most importantly, honest story. It really stuck with me as a little kid. It obviously read like came from a place of truth. I’ve always been more interested in “Clark” stories more than “Superman” stories. Don’t get me wrong I love seeing him fight aliens and swooping in to save crashing planes, but moments of that character dealing with the turmoil of everyday life have always resonated with me the most.
Your screenplay is incredibly moving and actually much richer than the original story, utilizing To Kill a Mockingbird as a metaphor. Where did the idea for that come from?
Oh my god, thank you so much! Well I had read in an old Superman issue that To Kill A Mockingbird was Clark Kent’s favorite story and movie. And I always wondered why, I thought that there was an interesting story to tell in there. And thematically, I think it tied in really nicely to the plot of the script. To Kill A Mockingbird also is just flat out the best. That story and film still hold up and it’s message is even more relevant today.
How was the film financed?
We had gotten financing by crowdfunding through Indiegogo mainly. But we also had received a grant from my school. It was great seeing that people were supporting this story. Additionally, we had some really really great and generous companies that specialize in storytelling like Loyalkaspar Inc. and the Spring Lake Theatre Company donate and support our team from the early stages and all the way to the end. It was amazing knowing that people were rooting for us and helping us out.
The cast was exceptionally fantastic. Matthew Giunco, who plays Clark, does an exceptional job with an iconic character. How did you find him?
This movie would have been nothing without Matt Giunco and the rest of the cast. I actually used to do musicals with Matt at the Spring Lake Theatre Company for years. He always was this outgoing kid who clearly was beyond talented and hard-working. I remember scouring all of these casting sites looking for a kid to play Clark and eventually, it became clear that all I had to do was look home and see that Matt was the only person for the role.
He wasn’t familiar with any of the Superman lore, but plays Clark in such an honest, matter of fact way. I always have seen Clark has wearing his heart on his sleeve, and Matt really delivered on that. I would always geek out big time watching him do scenes with Mark Megill who played Jonathan.
Who or what were the biggest influences on your work?
I really tried to look at movies and art that I loved as a kid for influences on this movie. The big one was Spielberg and all of his Amblin Entertainment films from the eighties. You know, movies like E.T., The Goonies. Films like Days of Heaven and Stand By Me were also big influences. I also love Stephen King’s stories about childhood relationships, so that was always kept in the back of the production team’s back pocket during shooting. We looked at a large number of paintings by Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell as well, to help us form an aesthetic for our compositions. Most importantly, we looked at Tim Sale’s original art from the comic book.
We aimed for having the look of an almost timeless movie. Like someone could look at it and say, “This looks like a movie set in the fifties that was shot in the eighties”, if that makes sense. Adi Shankar’s “Bootleg Universe” films were also a big thing that we learned from to inform our approach to the material. We never wanted to make a “Superman movie” by any means, we thought it would be fun and new to treat it like a different type of genre than go full on into the superhero department.
I also felt like the score had to have that “old Hollywood” feel to it. And our composer Jochem Weierink really made that happen. I had seen his music featured in a trailer for Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups and he was gracious enough to help us out. He really elevates the story with his work.
I think it’s really cool to see that there’s this big influence of Amblin movies in our culture lately. It’s so amazing to see shows like Stranger Things and movies like Midnight Special embrace that form of storytelling. It just validates how strong, fun and important those original movies are to our culture.
What’s next? Is this going to festivals? Have you contacted Jeph Loeb?
We wanted to keep this movie online for as many people to see who are fans of either Superman or those old style films to see. And I had looked online to see if Jeph Loeb had a social media page but couldn’t find one. He’s a hard guy to get in touch with. But I really hope that he is able to see it and understand that his story is so incredibly touching and how know important it is. A lot of my friendships with my loved ones have been informed from that story. I love what he did for Superman in the comics and on the Smallville TV show. Easily one of the best writers in comic book history.
Why do you think Superman still matters?
I think Superman still matters because he is ultimately just a normal guy who happens to have the best superpowers ever.
I think it’s wonderful that he decides to just go to work, pay his rent and have a relationship with Lois Lane, and save people on the side simply because it makes the most sense to him.
Like he’s just a guy who puts on a pair of tights and does his thing.
I think we really need a character like him right now and further into the future. He represents that we can live our lives just as we want to, yet still rise to the occasion in the face of difficulty. That character did so much for me when I was growing up.
I think that people will always have tragedies and problems in their lives, but I do know that characters like Superman will always be there to show us that we can surpass them and demonstrate that it is absolutely more than ok to just be yourself.