‘Batkid Begins’ Saves Social Media

“Batkid Begins,” which expands its theatrical run this weekend, chronicles the heartwarming story of Miles Scott and his Make a Wish adventure. The lad’s battle with leukemia caught the attention of the noble nonprofit, and a plan to have Miles play “Batkid” for a day took root.

Only no one could have predicted this simple wish would become a pop culture phenomena, even grabbing the attention of President Barack Obama’s twitter feed.

Batkid Begins Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Documentary HD
For Mike Jutan, a software designer who played the Penguin to Miles’ Batkid, the film captures a little-seen quality in modern life.

“I was reading an interesting article in the New York Times about how our culture is ‘awe deprived.’” Jutan says. “People don’t have that feeling often.” The Batkid adventure gave people “a feeling I use to have as a child by a medium that’s very often not positive.”

The medium in question is Twitter, a place where people find outrage in simple jokes or hurl the nastiest comments possible at strangers. For one day, Nov. 15, 2013, to be exact, Twitter glowed with a communal, positive spirit.

“You don’t very often see a story where social media is used for such a wonderful and community based purpose … we really showed what’s possible,” Jutan says.

Patricia Wilson, the executive director of Make a Wish’s Greater Bay Area chapter, says one news headline summed up that Bat event perfectly – “the day the Internet was nice.”

The original plan was to have Miles don the Batsuit and scrap with both the Riddler and Penguin for a small crowd. Instead, Jutan had to play the part in front of thousands of San Francisco citizens hanging on their every move.

“I’m not a real actor by any means. I didn’t have any history or experience to pull on … I had to go with my gut to see what felt right,” he says. To prepare, he researched the role like he does at his day job, software engineering, and hope all that homework would pay off.

All the while Jutan understood his role in making Miles get his wish fulfilled.

“How do we make sure [Miles] doesn’t get distracted or get nervous about the crowd? If I do that I’ve failed miserably,” he says.

“Batkid Begins” director Dana Nachman knew she had a scene stealer with young Miles, but she was careful not to stress out her little leading man. That meant no probing interviews or other approaches that might be suitable for other film projects.

“I have three little kids around his age … my kids are much more talkative than Miles .. having him play with his Batman toys [for the film] was plenty,” Nachman says.

Jutan says the documentary is allowing everyone who took part in that special day to re-examine what it meant as well as the moment’s legacy. To him, it’s much more than just a movie.

“It’s a way for those involved to direct people’s attention to the conversation of community service, doing something for someone outside of yourself,” he says.


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