I was interested to read this letter to US uber-critic Roger Ebert about why 3D cinema is doomed to fail, written by Walter Murch. (Most know Murch as the master sound designer from Apocalypse Now, but to me he’ll always be the director of the brilliant Return to Oz.) Although I agree with him entirely, all the evidence is that the format is here to stay. Every single genre film that comes out now is in 3D. For me this is heart breaking, because it means that the profession I’ve always wanted to work in – making 2D fantasy films – no longer exists.
Better change the subject, before I get too depressed.
Last weekend I uploaded the last in the series of Dark Side Guides: The Dark Side Guide to Digital Intermediate – check it out.
Here is the last of the Dark Side Guides: The Dark Side Guide to Digital Intermediate. I really had to muddle my way through post-production on the pilot, wishing there was somewhere I could get all the information I needed, but there wasn’t – until now!
This step-by-step guide takes you through the complex post-production route known as DI, whereby footage shot on film is transferred to the digital domain for editing, FX and colour grading, before being recorded back to film for distribution and exhibition. Invaluable tips on everything from telecine of your rushes to Dolby authorisation for your soundtrack are complemented by a sample budget laying out all the costs.
As always, if you have any questions that the guide doesn’t answer, please feel free to ask me.
This week I’ve been making revisions to the latest script draft, based on Quay’s notes. When you have spent this long working on a screenplay, you can’t see the wood for the trees, and I can’t tell you how great it is to have someone else give you a list of the things that need changing, rather than having to figure it out for yourself.
Lately I’ve been reflecting a lot on how dramatically the script has changed since I wrote the first draft in 2005 (between lighting set-ups while I was DPing a student film). Some of the things in it which were then very important to me have been eroded and in some cases removed altogether.
But the things that are important to me as a person have changed in the last six years too. I’ve got married, which inevitably alters my attitude towards the romantic elements in the script. It also makes my portrayal of women in the story more realistic, since I have one on hand to consult. And Katie’s period working for the Union of Concerned Scientists has opened my eyes to environmental issues, which have found their way thematically into the script. And of course I’ve shot the pilot, giving me the kind of insight into how it all works on camera that is normally only afforded to TV writers.
Whilst out searching for furniture bargains yesterday (ah, married life!) Katie helped me to work through a problem with Old Father Time’s motivation. What was great is that we were able to bring it back to one of the most common ideas of this character in mythology: the image of an old man who transforms into a baby on New Year’s Eve. Carl often says that in a fantasy film, it helps to tie your made-up world to existing made-up worlds, i.e. well-known mythology, and when you can figure something out like that it really strengthens the story.
So the script has evolved – for the better. Today it has a stronger, more logical plot, more defined characters and a richer – but not exclusionary – subtext of themes, literary references and mythological roots than it ever has done. Not to mention the fact that I’ve finally figured out what the sequel would be about, and let’s just say: Pink Floyd may sue.
When Aidan and Joe were working on the FX for the pilot, John Galloway gave them many excellent pieces of advice, but one in particular sticks in my mind because it’s equally relevant to writing. Make a list of everything that needs doing, and stick to that list. Don’t digress. Don’t start questioning how the list item you’re currently executing will affect another part of the job – just make the changes, cross them off the list and get to the end. Then you can look back and reflect on the whole. But if you try to do that as you go along, you’ll never get anything done. I think I’ve finally learnt to follow that advice when I’m writing.
I’ll probably regret saying this, but this draft seems to be going swimmingly. I feel disciplined. And it really helps to have a producer, a script editor and a novelist to turn to when you hit a snag. Thanks, guys.
Last week we had an interesting meeting with Film Education, a charity that supplies teaching resources about films. It seems there may be an exciting opportunity for the extensive behind-the-scenes material to reach a wider audience and spread the knowledge.
This meeting was in London, of course, and unusually I travelled by National Express. I have always preferred trains and didn’t even bother trying coaches until late last year, when I was surprised to find the leg room was superior and generally it wasn’t too unpleasant at all – which, coupled with the considerably lower price, threatened to knock train travel into a cocked hat. This time, however, the experience was less convivial. Partly this was due to my failure to take travel sickness pills, but mainly it was because the drivers were grumpy old farts who treated us like naughty schoolkids. Looks like it’s back to trains.
Well, we’re another year closer to hoverboards and flying cars. The self-lacing Nikes are already in development. It’s only a matter of time before they abolish all lawyers and ties become see-through.
Amongst the bounty Santa delivered this year was a t-shirt from my sister, bearing the legend: “COME OVER TO THE DARK SIDE. WE HAVE COOKIES.” Today I have indeed come over to the Dark Side again, having restarted work on the script, after a really, really, really nice two month break from it.
Another of my gifts, this time from my brother-in-law, was a Wii. With the odd exception (notably Ghostbuster: The Video Game, which I spent most of last Christmas in the States playing), I haven’t really played computer games since I was about 18. And whilst the main purpose of the Wii was to get Katie and I some exercise (we got the Wii Fit bundle), it’s also great research for the inevitable The Dark Side of the Earth tie-in game – yes, I have already made some notes.
Movie research is also easy to do at Christmas, as the TV schedules are packed with ’em, with no shortage of family fantasy films this year. I tried to watch as many as possible, but what did I learn from them?
1.There is an inverse relationship between the entertainment value of a battle scene and the number of digital extras in it. (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor)
2. Eighties fantasy movies are the best – even the ones with awful synth-based scores. (Ladyhawke)
3. I can’t hold enough characters’ names in my head to follow a Julian Fellowes film. (From Time to Time)
4. Cute kids who can act can really make a movie. (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium)
5. There is a bizarre trend in superhero movies to aim acts one and two at adults, but act three at small children. (The Incredible Hulk – see also Iron Man)
6. A strong theme, in this case war and the call of duty, can lift a genre film above the crowd. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
7. I can’t understand why this franchise isn’t making more money. (Prince Caspian)
8. Seriously. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) And the other thing I can’t understand is why anyone would want to watch it in 3D with all those shaky fight scenes. We made the trip to Malvern especially to see it in 2D, as part of my boycott of 3D movies, as I don’t want to see the format take over.