Dragon Ball Runaways is a fan made film released in late 2012. No one knows the story behind the film’s creation or why it just suddenly appeared. Until now!
Join Ray Savaya, the creator of Dragon Ball Runaways, and myself as we discuss the film’s origin, what makes it stand out among fan projects, and where it’s headed in the future.
Runaway with Me
Derek: Thank you for coming on to The Dao of Dragon Ball. You’ve done something that few fans have done. You created a film about the Dragon Ball series. It’s very different from most. It’s not your standard battles, Kamehameha’s and so on. It’s a character piece. And that is unique. I think that’s worth exploring and there’s a story behind that.
Please introduce yourself and a little about your project.
Ray: I’m Ray Savaya, I’m a filmmaker based in the Toronto area. Ever since I was young, I was pretty much obsessed with Dragon Ball. I was really into drawing, so I would constantly draw the characters from the show.
Even though some people grew out of watching Dragon Ball and said it was a kid’s show, I grew older and I would still watch Dragon Ball.
Derek: I know how you feel.
Ray: I met a lot of friends at film school and we would constantly discuss how one would adapt a huge franchise, if ever given the opportunity. So we would discuss how we would adapt Batman, X-Men, Superman etc. One time, Dragon Ball was brought up and we thought of an idea of making it into a really subtle tone, set in a realistic environment and building from there, slowly hinting towards something greater. So I guess that’s really the beginning of the project.
Derek: Right. There’s a progression and transformation that takes place and you can watch the character development.
Ray: Yeah, I think the progression is what is most important, kind of like the actual show. Before Goku was the greatest fighter in the universe, the story was about a girl and a boy going on an adventure, so that’s what I thought the film should be.
Derek: I recognize the subtle trait. It’s very different from a short film that came out about the same time as yours. Fans were excited to see K & K’s production, Dragon Ball Z Saiyan Saga. Your film showed up a week before its premiere and I had no idea where it came from. With your directorial perspective it’s a very different experience. You could say the Saiyan Saga is the total opposite with action and over the top explosions.
Ray: Yeah, it is a very different approach to what I came up with, but I enjoyed theirs a lot too. K & K Productions were even nice enough to promote Runaways on their Facebook fan page.
Derek: Me too. I really liked it. There seem to be a lot of fans that enjoy your style as well, so can you touch on your approach for the film? Where did the idea to make this type of “subtle” Dragon Ball story come from?
Ray: In terms of films I enjoy, I like watching movies where they emphasize the focus on the character over everything else, and there’s an arc of gradual build up. So, in order to achieve that, I tried to treat it in that manner, while also ending it on a cliffhanger to get fans excited for the possibility of more. It also has to do with budget constraints.
The challenge when writing it was tackling a story that is still Dragon Ball in essence, on a thousand dollar budget.
I discussed the script early on with a friend, Roman Tchjen, and he helped brainstorm ideas. I felt like this is a Dragon Ball film I wanted to see, so that’s why I made it.
Derek: Sure. It’s a different directorial approach and I think there are a lot of fans who appreciate that.
Derek: What role did you play in making this film?
Ray: I have a film crew that I constantly collaborate with. My main focus is picture editing, but for this project, I wrote, directed, and edited the film. In terms of some of the core positions for this project, Vaishni Majoomdar was the producer, Chris Lew was the cinematographer, Andrew Chalk was the sound supervisor, Andrew Thiessen did visual effects as well as the incredible animated credits and Nick Grimshaw was the music composer. We had a crew that’s around twelve people to make my vision a reality. I’m grateful and very lucky to work with everyone on the team.
Derek: I didn’t realize it was such a big team. That’s a great collaborative effort.
Ray: Yeah, we’ve worked on many projects together and had classes together, so we are all very used to each other and we all know how to work with one another to make a film happen.
Derek: Where was it filmed? It seems to be a very mountainous location.
Ray: We shot in a forest, a small cabin and waterfall location in Hamilton. Vaishni Majoomdar (the Producer) gave me a bunch of locations during preproduction. We checked it out and liked what we saw. I’m grateful to have Chris Lew as the cinematographer because he knows how to capture exactly what I envision, also with the help of Lucas Joseph who was the camera assistant. I’ve got to thank them for working well as a team to really get the most out of our location.
The Cast and Filming
Derek: Tell me about the two actors you found to play Bulma and Goku.
Ray: Yeah, Breanna Maier and Jacob Bumanglag. I think they are both terrific. Early on, I recall going through casting and both their photos popped out to me more than anybody else that applied for the part. I just think they actually look like the anime characters they played.
They both auditioned and did great for what I was looking for.
Derek: So you put out a casting call for Bulma and Goku and you were off and running. How long did it take to shoot this?
Ray: One day. We originally planned it for two days, but because of bad weather we had to make it one. Bea Macapagal, the Assistant Director, figured out a schedule to do the entire film in one day without compromising anything. So I’m appreciative for that, and I think it all worked out for the best.
Derek: It turned out well. One of the things I thought was impressive was the subtle audio. The background sound effects make you feel like you’re there without it overpowering, and it helps tell the story. How involved were you as a director?
Ray: I oversaw the entire project from start to finish – the shots, editing, music, audio, effects etc. In regards to the subtle tone again, it’s a collaborative effort, as a director, you have to rely on your crew. In terms of the shots, the cinematographer (Chris Lew) and I made the decision of using all natural lighting and handheld movements to help compliment the story in a grounded reality. I also edited the project, and intentionally made it a slower paced film to help set the world I envisioned.
Audio was definitely a big part of this. I wanted the low-key sounds to be prominent to help the overall tone and atmosphere. This approach also helped sell the climactic moment when the loud gunshot is heard. A lot of key story beats relied on audio, so I have to thank Andrew Chalk, Dave Johnson, Kristi McIntyre and Connor Illsley. They were the entire audio team for this project.
The Fan Reaction
Derek: What has the fan reaction been like? You didn’t want to hype this up. You said you didn’t even want anybody to know about this before it was released. That’s a very different approach. Most people would want to put out a trailer, teasers, get people excited and then release it. Yours came out of nowhere and it was a surprise to everyone.
Ray: I wanted to surprise fans with it, I wanted to give them something they didn’t expect and the fans have been great. I’ve been getting messages and people keep telling me to make more, people are really interested to see where my adaptation of Dragon Ball goes. It’s a great feeling to know that people saw something you’ve made and actually respond positively.
I’ve been getting a lot of messages because a lot of people want this to become a web series.
I would like to get an even bigger fan base, and even more views with the first episode before we start to push anything else further.
Derek: I’m glad everybody was so positive. You mentioned a web series. What are your plans for the future?
Ray: As a web series, nothing is carved in stone, and we’ve been discussing the possibility of more episodes. I’ve written rough scripts for four more episodes. I’ve found a location near Toronto to shoot the episodes. The main issue that is holding us back is money. The first episode cost roughly $1,000, as would each episode. We are going to make a final decision probably in April.
Derek: Where do you want to take the story? Will Bulma and Goku meet up with other runaways and will they be members of the Dragon Ball cast?
What Runaways is all about is the relationship between Bulma and Goku – So that’s the main focus over everything.
I would like to explore that the most. If we do end up doing more episodes, Capsule Corporation and Red Ribbon Army become key plot points. I don’t want to give too much away, but some familiar faces from Dragon Ball will make appearances.
Derek: I can imagine it already. You mentioned that you’re looking for fan support for future episodes. Does that include financial support, and will you set up a Kickstarter or IndieGogo campaign?
Ray: That could be a possibility and something we are thinking about. We haven’t made final decisions on it. I’ll be making all announcements on our YouTube page.
If we do decide to go with more episodes, we will put out social media profiles for more news, updates and info. As of right now, it will all be on the YouTube page if there are any updates.
Derek: There’s one last question I have for you. It’s something I ask every guest that comes on The Dao of Dragon Ball.
What does Dragon Ball mean to you?
Ray: Dragon Ball, Z, GT is what I loved as a kid, the characters, the plots, who Goku is as a person, how insanely cool it was, etc.
When doing the Runaways Project, and watching it, it just brings me back to when I was a kid, and who doesn’t love that? So that’s what Dragon Ball means to me.
Derek: That’s a great answer. Thank you.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Ray. I think there will be a lot of Dragon Ball fans excited to see more of Runaways in the future.
Ray: Thanks Derek. That means a lot. Take care.
What do you think of Runaways, and how does it compare to other Dragon Ball fan films?
Be sure to let Ray and his crew know how you feel in the comments below.