Martin Carr chats with Bad Samaritan director Dean Devlin…
Holed up in a local bar opposite Cowes yacht basin and looking out at glorious sunshine I find myself Transatlantic with Dean Devlin. Producer, writer, director and independent filmmaker of blockbuster tent poles including Independence Day, Stargate, Godzilla and The Patriot. With his latest directorial effort Bad Samaritan, we find him out of that comfort zone, deep in thriller territory and taking a certain Doctor along for the ride.
First we discussed what drew him to that material. From his slightly colder New York locale he discussed how Brandon Boyce, screenwriter for Apt Pupil, had come to him with the finished script looking for a second opinion. Having been friends for years Dean was only asked for his thoughts never thinking that the material might appeal. Having finished the piece he told me how he felt excited to the point of signing on to direct immediately. By his own admission the subject matter was like nothing he had done previously, but as with everything it was the story that had him hooked.
Knowing Dean primarily from his work as a producer I asked how his directing style differed in comparison. As he discussed this at length it became apparent that the defined roles of producer and director did not really apply to him. His working relationship with Roland Emmerich and the independent nature of his approach, meant Dean had more creative input than normal. For this reason his directing style us defined and reliant on good story telling. His focus therefore was always about making this the best story it could be through an openness and creative inclusion with all his actors.
Martin Carr chats with Jim Capobianco…
One overcast Sunday afternoon I found myself on the phone to Jim Capobianco. Affable, Oscar nominated and busy on post production work for Mary Poppins Returns, we talked about his career in animation and a passion project known as The Inventor.
MC: What got you interested in animation as a career?
JC: When I was growing up I just loved Sunday morning comics and started to get interested in cartoons and drawing characters, which lead to reading about animation. In high school I took a class which was about graphic arts and making t-shirts and photography and such, which contained one assignment on animation. I told my teacher that I wanted to do hand drawn animation. He looked at me and said I don’t know how to teach you that but here’s a book and go forth.
So, I started animating this little film, which I didn’t finish obviously because animation takes so long, (but) he noticed how hard I was working and just said keep going. So, for the rest of that time and into my senior year I still hadn’t finished, so I took the second unit of his course and sort of created an animation programme for myself. Then I got into the Californian Institute of the Arts, CalArts, near Los Angeles, which, was sort of a feeder school for Walt Disney Studios at the time. When I got into animation there was only Disney and Don Bluth Studios, so there wasn’t much hope of a career in animation, but I sort of lucked out. Roger Rabbit and Little Mermaid had just been, released and they would usher in this new era of animation.
MC: So what was the next step for you?
JC: When I got into CalArts I just wanted to be an animator and thought animation consisted only the person who drew the characters and movement through the scene. Then, I realized there were all these other areas of film making that went into animation especially storyboarding and story development. A wonderful teacher named Joe Ranft, a huge mentor in my career, pointed the way for me to go into storyboarding, so after CalArts I knew that’s what I had to do and Disney was where I had to go. They were beginning to expand, having had success with Beauty and the Beast and then Aladdin. They were gearing up for The Lion King and Pocahontas and needed to staff up, my timing was perfect. I came in on The Lion King as an apprentice storyboard artist.
MC: So how did you go from storyboarding to a story artist then contributing to that screenplay?
JC: On IMDb I am credited as both writer and story artist on The Lion King which I have never corrected because I believe storyboard artists contribute to the writing, they are writers with pictures on feature film animation projects. When I came in on Lion King there had been a script, but it wasn’t quite working so they were redeveloping it. Two new writers had been brought on, who have since become good friends, they were rewriting while we were storyboarding, then they would see what we boarded, and rewrite and we would see what they wrote and re-board. It was a very collaborative environment.
JC: One sequence I had an impact on was when Mufasa and Simba are underneath the stars, right before Mufasa dies in a stampede. So, I got this little scene and they didn’t really know what they wanted but knew Mufasa had to teach Simba a lesson for going away into the hyena graveyard. So, I wasn’t handed script pages or anything. I had to figure out how it connected with the existing movie which already had the ghost scene where he comes back to Simba. So, I did some research and looked into African tribal myths and legends, where they have the belief that their ancestors are in the sky and stars, which I thought was perfect. I wrote that in and that way it connected, seamlessly, to the later scene. Later for the song Hakuna Matata they needed Simba to grow up and didn’t know how, so I suggested they do it in the song. So, we created this simple little moment of Simba growing up as they cross the log, which achieved that. Sometimes a little idea solves what seems like a big problem.
Martin Carr chats with Opus of an Angel director Ali Zamani…
Where did the idea for this film come from?
I was always inspired by the thought of how someone would deal with the notion of losing everything that was so dear to them, what triggered them, when they were at the lowest moment of their life, to turn to suicide, and what stories they had to tell. One day while I was out for coffee, I saw a special ed class on a field trip. One child was visually impaired and had an infectious smile and life seemed to be so beautiful to her. It got me thinking of how these two extreme outlooks on life, if touched, would they be able to influence each other and to what extent.
How did you go about casting for the central duo?
For the role of Maria, I felt it was important to cast a person that was visually impaired to try to not only give the film a sense of authenticity but also be able to get an insight into the ‘perception’ and world of people with such a disability. Junior Blind of America, an organization based out in LA, was invaluable to our casting efforts for the role of Maria. When we reached out to them for recommendations of potential students that could play the part of Maria, Kaylynn’s name was the first on the list.
We actually auditioned more people for the role than I can count, but when I met Kaylynn in person it felt like I was actually meeting Maria. She read for the scene and I got goose bumps. It was abundantly clear to everyone in the room that the role was meant for her.
We audition dozens and dozens of great actors for the role of Stephen; ultimately William McNamara was a perfect fit for the role and instantaneously understood the deeper sense of grief of the character.
How did you decide on the look for this film?
Achieving a sense of realism was the main objective when it came to setting the look. Wanted the audience to really feel immersed into the journey of Stephen and Maria as they traveled across the City of Angels. I achieved this through a lot of visceral handheld camera shots and organic/on- location scenes rather than studio sets.
Martin Carr chats with director Blake Robbins…
Convivial, candid, passion and forthright are all words which describe director Blake Robbins in conversation. Openly collaborative, driven by a desire for unconventional methods of movie making and ploughing his own furrow with singular determination. It was my pleasure to talk to him early this week about his new film The Scent of Rain and Lightning which was released Friday.
Hi Blake, many thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your new film. What prompted your move behind the camera having been an actor for so long?
The simplest answer is career dissatisfaction. For my first movie The Sublime and Beautiful I basically created a starring role for myself, because no one was inviting me to do lead roles in their films. Equally important though was that I think there had always been a storyteller itching and clawing to come out. So it was one of those opportunities to do two things.
What interested you in directing?
My general observation on actors is that they fall into two camps. Those that are curious about everything, the entirety, the whole, while there are others who just want to run their race. Neither makes a better or worse actor, that’s just the reality, so you find some actors ultimately end up diving into writing, producing and directing stories. I always found myself in the former camp from day one of being interested in everything. So through twenty plus years of being an actor I put together my own film school of observation and what I responded to which others did.
Why this particular project?
The straightforward answer is the project made itself available and they asked if I was interested. For me when I looked at it I saw the characters were very rich and not cookie cutters. At the same time they were grounded in archetypes in a really beautiful way, like some of those movies I grew up on and loved. People like Elia Kazan and John Ford who did big American ensemble pieces, yet had really good actors in them with nuanced and interesting roles. I was drawn to the idea of a whodunit but have seen enough really good ones, so wanted to work towards really finding out who it happened to and why. Then my goal became that the reveal would carry enough weight to make that journey satisfying.
With both my films so far as a storyteller and movie maker I was much more interested in the questions than answers. Far too many movies give you an answer, then another one and after its done giving answers, you’ll go out have dinner and never think about this movie again. My hope was that I wouldn’t be the only movie lover who would love my movie. I hoped I would make it and this would find passionate fans, because there are enough movies made for the other person. There are five, six, seven movies a week which come out for the person who wants disposable or consumable content. Movies where you can go do the dishes while you watch and they’ll make sure to tell you what you missed. Whereas when I watch my movie I feel like I understand all of these people and not one person talks about motives.
Martin Carr chats with Jon Voight about his new movie Surviving the Wild…
Martin Carr: How did you first get involved in the project?
Jon Voight: I was given the first draft of the script and fell in love with it.
MC: What first attracted you to the part of Gus?
JV: Well the character reminded me of my father who was a golf professional and, so he was a teacher, but also a teacher of life. He was a very charming man, he never lectured when he was trying to tell us something, he always put his teachings in the form of humour, and so the character of Gus, reminded me of my father.
MC: Given the very specific circumstances of your character, how did you and your co-stars go about playing through scenes?
JV: The only adjustment that was made, was that some characters could not hear or see me. Only one character could hear and see me, and that was the character of Shaun, played by Aiden Cullen.
MC: Given the amount of location work involved were there any challenges which this film presented for you?
JV: We had wonderful locations in Kentucky, and we saw areas of Kentucky that only a very small percentage of people know about. Of course, the carrying of our equipment into these remote places was sometimes quite a challenge though. Sometimes we had to go up the mountains in ski lifts with the equipment on the chairs, piece by piece, which often took quite a long time. And there were long treks through small and beaten paths in the woods. Nature is very refreshing and good for the soul – so for whatever difficulties we had to endure, we were greatly rewarded.
MC: Was there any advice you gave to your young co-star Aidan Cullen which you could share?
JV: When you are working with a very talented actor, which Aiden Cullen is, you don’t want to say too much, you only want to encourage and keep the work fun. Because it is fun. I didn’t want him to feel self-conscious or inferior to me, because of perhaps my reputation and people telling him what a great actor I am – he is every bit as good an actor as I am when he plays his role properly, which he certainly did.
In the run up to season four of Black Mirror we were lucky enough to sit down with writer/producer Charlie Brooker and showrunner Annabel Jones. Who gave us their thoughts on advancing technologies, their unique writing process and how the series has evolved since moving to Netflix.
So you have obviously worked together for some time, how did you get to know each other?
AJ: We don’t know each other.
CB: This is literally the first time we have met (laughter)
AJ: We started working together seventeen years ago and just happened to be in the same building.
CB: Which was a weird place to work, and ended up working in the same company, and then you were the boss, and then so all the shows I’ve been involved with Annabel has been there as well. So all the sort of ‘Wipe’ shows and ‘Deadset’ and things like that. So we’ve always sort of worked together. (laughing)
AJ: We’re always so busy discussing other things that we never really discuss it ourselves which is a bit odd.
Thank you for ‘USS Callister’, I think it’s my favourite ‘Black Mirror’ and feels like the flagship of this season the same way ‘San Junipero’ was in the last season. I was just wondering whether ‘San Junipero’ influenced it in any way?
CB: Yes and no, in that it’s really hard to say which one is the flagship, because everyone has different favourites. So you guys have seen two episodes and so far I think of the people we have spoken to, they seem split as to which one is their favourite. Which is interesting and then there are another four you haven’t seen. And they are all very strong flavours this time around. But certainly ‘San Junipero’ influenced the decision because that was the first episode which was written for Netflix generally anyway, was the first episode of season three which was written, it was a conscious decision to try and experiment and expand what the show was and up end what the show is.
CB: And so ‘USS Callister’ is very dark in places but has moments of comedy that you maybe wouldn’t have expected, I think, like a few years ago from ‘Black Mirror’. So ‘San Junipero’ because we were pleased with the way turned out, I think it gave us the confidence to say, right we can play with the tone more than we have before. So certainly in that respect we were ‘so what haven’t we done yet?, we’ve done the Eighties and we didn’t think we could do the Eighties, can we do space’.
AJ: But often there are lots of things colliding and you know you’re either talking about a particular topic, or a theme, or a ‘what if’ scenario and sometimes they all just collide and Charlie will have one moment of ‘I’ve got it’ and it all comes together and you have a story. But sometimes it’s very different so they all evolve very differently. But in terms of flagships its interesting because if, and Charlie is absolutely right, we don’t think of any one episode as being a flagship, because if we did then we haven’t done our job properly, because all six should be great and all six should engage people in different ways and everyone should have a different favourite, because that’s an anthology show.
Coinciding with the home-entertainment release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D, Flickering Myth’s Martin Carr chats with screenwriter William Wisher about the 1991 sci-fi action classic…
Martin Carr: Hi William. How did you and James Cameron first meet and subsequently get involved with the Terminator franchise?
William Wisher: Well the short version is I first met Jim in late 1972. He had graduated from high school in Canada the year before and I knew his girlfriend at the time Sharon Williams and she said ‘you should meet my boyfriend because he’s into the movies and science fiction and all that’, and we did and we have been friends ever since.
MC: Considering the original Terminator was quite a dark film in comparison to Terminator 2 which seems more deliberately commercial, did you both consciously decide to go that way during writing or did it just happen?
WW: Quite honestly I think that’s just the way it went. Terminator had a budget of about $6.5 million I think, and I did a little bit of writing on it, but that’s basically Jim’s picture, and he was going for what he could get with the budget that he had. So when we got to Terminator 2 we had $100 million, so there were more things that we could do and technology had come a long way in terms of CG – not that there’s as much CG in T2 as you think. Jim would know the exact answer but I think there were something like fifty-two to fifty-five shots in the whole film. Of course Linda had a twin sister so we used her to put them both in the same frame, and the guard with the card at Atascadero (state hospital) were twin brothers. So there is CG which is evident when you see it, but there is also practical stuff which some people thing is CG but isn’t.
MC: I know this is a contentious question, but how do you think the subsequent sequels compare to Terminator and Terminator 2 which many people consider to be science fiction benchmarks?
WW: Well I have a rule about these sorts of things, which is if I didn’t work on it I’m not going to comment on it. They made their pictures and I made mine with Jim and I think it’s up to other people to decide how they feel about those other films. I wasn’t involved.
Martin Carr chats with Mark Jackson about The Orville, working with Seth MacFarlane and Jon Favreau, and more…
Just a short walk from Waterloo station I sat down to talk with Mark Jackson. Known to UK television audiences from The Royal and theatre goers in productions as varied as War Horse and Noises Off!, we discussed his love of science fiction and a need for optimism in the genre. Starring alongside Seth McFarlane in the Fox network sic-fi The Orville, he proved to be funny, self- effacing, passionately engaged and easy company.
Martin Carr: For those who don’t know, what is The Orville and who is your character Isaac?
Mark Jackson: The Orville is a space comedy/drama. It’s not so much a spoof. Although that was the sort of thing people might have been expecting, it doesn’t go that far. It’s set 400 years in the future and there’s a conglomeration of planets and societies, alien and human, called ‘The Union’. The concept is quite familiar to a lot of sci-fi series. Isaac comes from a planet called Kaylon and he’s an artificial life form. We don’t tend to use the term ‘robot’ – I think he probably gets offended by that. The Kaylon consider themselves to be vastly superior to biological lifeforms and actually they are, for all intents and purposes, but they are not part of ‘The Union’. So Isaac is sent as an ambassador and science officer to the USS Orville, which is a ship and exploratory vessel of the Union. He is sent to report back to Kaylon, to observe the aliens and the humans and determine effectively whether it is worth joining ‘The Union’.
MC: You’re the only English actor in the show. How did your casting come about?
MJ: Well, as you say, most of the other actors are American, but with a couple of the roles, Isaac and Bortus, they cast the net quite wide. I know they auditioned in America, Canada, Australia and here for Isaac. I got the audition through my agent while I was living here and went up for it. Obviously it was a sort of crazy concept that had Seth McFarlane attached to it. A sort of sci-fi, Star Trek-esque show. I grew up with The Next Generation and always wanted to be in it. I’d have killed to be in that show, so obviously this was a strange opportunity to live that. So in terms of the audition I was thinking this would be nice but, like with most auditions, actors are quite pragmatic in thinking ‘I’ll never get this’. We knew there was interest quite early on. Seth had already seen the tapes after about twenty four hours. The man works like a mule so I’m not surprised by that. There was a lot of dialogue going on, a couple of times FOX checked my availability to go out and do a test for the part which is quite common practice, and both times they said ‘well no, actually you don’t need to come’. Read into that what you will. Then six weeks after auditioning I eventually got offered the part. I was just stepping on a plane for a holiday to Barcelona so it couldn’t have come at a better time really.