I used to host a web series called Hot Topics With Vera Drew, which is the only web series with the express purpose of getting Vera Drew sponsored by Hot Topic.

Did it fulfill that purpose?

Hot Topic never sponsored me, even though the show had like a little niche following. They did follow me on Twitter eventually. Now I just wanna go on the record and say my door’s closed. They are no longer welcome to sponsor me.

So you found money some other way.

It was on that show that I announced that Bri and I were making The People’s Joker. It didn’t go viral. It didn’t even go soft viral. It just got a lot of attention from various artist circles, which was so cool. It was just like, oh my god, OK, this is what the movie is.

It’s a mixed-media movie. It’s Natural Born Killers or Pink FloydThe Wall. It’s a coming-of-age Batman parody, but it’s also a big colorful collage of an impressionist media hellscape.

But also one that has a through line in your story.

My face is on camera for most of this movie. It’s my story, it is my life, but mythologized in this way.

I really wanted everybody involved to feel like they were bringing their like personal artistic vision to the table just because everybody was just so into the idea. I think it already felt like everybody’s movie. The People’s Joker—it invites you to be like, OK, I wanna be a part of this magic and what about my identity can I shove in here?

Did people end up volunteering?

It started all on a volunteer basis. As the scope of the project grew, it was like, I can’t justify all these people working for free. So I did end up doing a money crowdfund. I raised like $25,000, which was great, but all of that ended up going into our shoot. Our shoot was only five days, which is crazy.

So that money burnt up real quick, and I was like, “Well, now I have this movie with, uh, 1,600 VFX shots in it and an army of people that wanna help me finish it. How am I gonna do this?” So I did what they tell you to never do—they told me this like my first day in film school: I took out a huge loan to finish this movie.

I would imagine this went to paying you and everyone else.

I will totally go on the record and say every single person that worked on this was phenomenally underpaid, myself included. A lot of people didn’t end up taking money if it was offered. Then there were the people that were like, “You know what? I’ll definitely take this amount of money.”

“I have to make rent.”

Yes, exactly. I never wanted this movie that is anti-capitalist, very pro-labor, very pro-queer, very pro-sex worker to ever exploit anybody involved in it. We all walked away with everybody feeling, more than anything, blown away at the attention the movie’s gotten. I think everybody involved is just like, “Geez, I just thought this was like a weird thing I was doing with my friend.” [Laughs] I don’t know. It’s really magical, I think.

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