|Q&A With Gary (Part 2- Directing) - 12:07 pm, 25th Aug 2014|
1) IMDB is notorious for listing false information, so lets make sure that you currently have directed 4 projects. If it's more than that, what were they?
Four where I was directing first unit solidly, I have also done a host of stints as 2nd unit and effects director...as well as once jumping into the directors chair after our director was taken to hospital. The Producer just tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Looks like you're directing now!' - I had to got sit with the director in the ambulance before he left to get his notes and shot list!
2) Within The Rock is credited as your first gig as a director (and you wrote it too). How did that project come to fruition, and what was it like being a director on a full movie for the first time?
Wow...seems SO long ago now!
I had just done a film starring Robert Patrick called 'Last Gasp' which was directed by Scott McGinnis and Produced by Stanley Isaacs. After they finished the movie they formed a production company called 360 Entertainment, they then came to me with a script for 'Humanoids From The Deep 2' figuring they would get me to direct it and I would do the effects for a low number. I read the script and it was pretty awful so I pitched them the idea for 'Within the Rock' and they responded by saying 'send over the script' - problem was I didn't have one! - So that night I banged out about 50 pages and sent it over and got a pretty positive response...I hurredly knocked out the rest, then did a couple of re-writes and Peter Atkins did a polish - we pitched the script to Prism Pictures and 6 months later I was shooting a $1.2 million dollar feature in Hollywood aged 27.
The experience was a 'mixed bag' - I enjoyed directing more than any person should be legally allowed to enjoy ANYTHING, I truly found something I REALLY enjoyed and felt comfortable (if at times challenged by) I loved the technical and creative aspect of the whole thing and loved working with my actors and crew...everyday began and ended with me smiling and loving the whole gang, I tried to take all the lessons I had learned watching other directors and tried not to do all those things that directors did that I had a problem with. I thanked people, encouraged them, was open to ideas and always knew which direction I was headed in...very quickly I bonded with my DP Adam Kane and my first AD James Deck. they were both awesome at helping me achieve my vision.
The 'mixed bag' part was Stanley Isaacs, some people are put on this planet to test other humans faith, to squash creativity, to moan, complain and basically be a conduit for negativity...even when everything is going well. Here was guy who had basically spent little time on set, had little knowledge of production and who wanted to make a 50's sci fi movie. We quickly butted heads and eventually during post production I was asked to 'walk away' where he then (as the editor told me at the AFM screening I attended) 'ruined your movie' There are few people I wish physical woe upon on this planet...actually I take that back, there is only one person I wish physical woe upon...Stanley Isaacs...wherever you are Stanley...you're a prick.
But hey the film came out, we garnered some good reviews, I (like an idiot) turned down other directing offers...holding out for something better (what an idiot!) and basically it served as my 'film school' and I am grateful for that...years later I worked with both Robert And Scott who had since separated from Stanley and seemed to hold him in the same regard as me....wherever you are Stanley...you're a Prick!
3) Hansel and Gretel was a bit of a departure from the blood and horror that a lot of fans are used to from you. What attracted you to the project, and what memories have you from that shoot?
Indeed! - I was on Halloween: Resurrection in Vancouver and my old friend Gary DePew called me and said they had just lost their director on 'Hansel and Gretel' and would I be interested?...cool thought I, a dark, adult Hansel and Gretel...let me at it!...turns out it was a PG 'Hansel and Gretel' and they had already locked 'Cindy Loo Whoo' from 'the Grinch' (the now incredibly hot Taylor Momsen from 'The Pretty Things') Hmmm...why me I thought..because I know you can do it said Mr DePew. A couple of days later the producers flew up to meet me and a few days later they offered me the job.
What memories do have of the shoot? - Easiest question to answer I will ever be asked in an interview EVER.
Our second day of shooting was Tuesday September the 11th 2001....and we were the only production in Hollywood that kept filming that day.
I'll never forget directing a scene and my script supervisor (Jennifer) walking over to me, her eyes glazed and face pale and saying 'The Tower has collapsed,' we all just walked into the meeting room at the stage and watched the tv. It was hard to stay focused..but we simply had no choice, we were an independent movie, on a very tight budget.
AS a crew we were all drawn together by the tragedy of what was going around us..I have some fantastic memories from that shoot like...
Directing this young, as yet unknown actress called Dakota Fanning who was giggly and hilarious, but who was the consummate professional. I used a pink polar bear from the bedroom to communicate with her (for some reason I made him talk in a Russian accent) when she did a good job, after every take she would giggle, wide eyed and say 'Is the Polar Bear gonna talk!?'
Or doing Mogwai voices with Howie Mandel in between takes
The great fun we had letting the kids 'eat' all the cake and food in the 'Old Ladies' house. I shot a bunch of takes (as safety's first without touching the food) then on the last take (since we only had limited time and budget) I said "Right, go for it...eat it all!' - and that's the take we used, when you watch it you see Jacob (Hansel) just grab handfuls of cake with his bare hands and shove it in his mouth...they were laughing SO hard by the end of the take!'
4) No More Souls caused quite an online stir on it's release both positive and negative. What prompted you to make it, and would you approach it any differently now?
No More Souls was prompted by Claire Jane Vranian and Mike Regan really, we had just got back from shooting Deader and Hellworld and I was complaining that 'that was it, I'll probably never get a shot at directing a Hellraiser movie!'. They were both very vocal in saying 'Well why don't you?' and the idea sort of blossomed from there. The only negative I have ever really seen (and it gets probably 99% great responses and reaction on youtube) was to the fact that Doug didnt play Pinhead but you have to understand it was made a as a 'bit of fun', it was like amateur dramatics!....we barely spent any money and the total crew was about 7 people hahaha. We shot it and then people kind of jumped and helped out (on post production), but it was never meant to be a big, professional production...although I (we) worked on several of the movies and we were pro fx artists it REALLY was made as a fan film. In regard to me playing Pinhead, I was only with an English accent!...if it had been an American character I probably would have had someone else play it...trust me I didn't particularly enjoy directing wearing that make up...its a nightmare trying to look through the camera with all those pins!...I ripped part of the make up off as soon as I was done for the rest of the shoot so I could handle the camera!
But It's been a joy to read the reaction and meet people who really liked it, I was overjoyed when Paul Kane included it in his book about the Hellraiser Legacy and when Dimension asked to have it on the Deader dvd as an easter egg!
5) Jack and the Beanstalk took you back into family film territory, did your experiences on Hansel and Gretel make for an easier shoot on this? Also, what were the main (if any) problems you encountered?
Jack was an awesome experience and I had a great time making that film! Sure it was tough, we had a very tight shoot (15 days) but I had a great cast and crew and more importantly the support and help of a great producer (Gary DePew) which makes a huge difference.
By the time I got to film Jack I think I had a pretty good idea of what I consider the 'directing process' and I did (do) a great deal of prep with my Director of Photography and first AD, we roughed out scenes, compiled shots list, discussed camera moves, equipment and how best to achieve our days (which is REALLY critical) I personally hate being on sets where everyone is asking 'What are we doing?' - I consider those 12,13,14 hours a day to be the most valuable time and if you waste any of it you're a fool...you have to stay focused and constantly push forward. Some crew might find that tiresome, but I actually think people enjoy it, the day goes fast and there is momentum, I'm also very vocal about thanking people and trying to make the day as fun as it can be...without it getting silly. I had an amazing cast and was especially happy that Chloe (Grace Moretz) was with us, I had met her MONTHS before we shot and we hit it off straight away and I thought we would lose her...but luckily she really wanted to do the film and she was a BLAST on set (as were ALL the cast ) as soon as we were done she got the part of Hit Girl in 'Kick Ass' and the rest of course is history! But look at that cast!!!.... Wallace Shawn who I adore and got to homage Princess Bride on camera, Christopher Lloyd!, Chevy Chase, the very sexy Katy Sagal, the very filthy Gilbert Gottfried (who I still keep in touch with) Colin Ford, (Big) Dave Mattey, my great friend Danny Roebuck and of course Darth Vadar himself James Earl Jones!
The hard thing about that movie was a making a G rated movie, its very tricky to make something live action, G rated and humorous without being so safe, so neutered that its boring and uninteresting. I know its essentially a children's film but I really wanted to make something a parent could watch with a child without anything offensive and still have a good time. Its been great to read reviews where people embrace it, or reference movies like Labyrinth and Never Ending Story or thank me for making a piece of 'safe' entertainment.
I know it's just a silly little film but I am very proud of some of it, especially how it looks considering it was shot in just 15, 11 hour days..with no re-shoots or additional photography! I love the 12 frame - black and white sequence with great piano soundtrack ( inspired by all the Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy I watched as a kid) and the crazy frame ramped Ninja pillow fight ( I love that people critique being able to see the asian stunt double for Chloe not realizing that it was a joke!)...even the 'hi-tec' opening with my nod to cyclops! (my favorite x-men character)...and wrting wise I am so proud of the whole backwards scene with Chevy Chase and my tip of the hat to Monty Python's Lumberjack/Pet Store sketch..especially since I got to play a Lumberjack!!!
6) Do you prefer directing your own material or others?
Hmmm...interesting question, honestly I haven't really ever directed 100% something written by someone else...I tweaked the hell out of Hansel and Gretel and I did two full re-writes and a polish on 'Jack and the Beanstalk'...I'd honestly LOVE to direct something written by someone else that I believed in enough to 'leave it alone'
7) Any future plans to step back into the directors chair?
I'd LOVE to, and there have been possibilities and rumors...unfortunately things just haven't fallen into place, I'd love to direct, certainly love to be paid a decent amount to direct, the reality is that until you get into the decent budget world there really is NO money in it!...getting paid $60 -70k might sound like a lot...but trust me, you're going to be on the thing for a year to two years...and by the time you're finishing post you are BROKE!...especially when you start dumping parts of your fee back to production for extra visual effects shots or music!
How Ironic, I've just ended up back in the directors chair and what a great time I had!...sure it was only one day and it was a fairly in-expensive shoot but it was awesome...and I cant wait to share all the details!!! (and show the pics!)
8) Which directors do you admire the most and why?
I suppose the directors I admire the most are the ones who are consistently good, there is a lot of 'chance' in the film industry and a lot of collaboration...so you cant judge a director on one film, especially if you weren't there to see how much 'they' actually did.
Names that spring to mind are legends... Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Scorcese, Coppola, Hitchcock, David Fincher and of course Stanley Kubrick - the one director whose films i TRULY believe get better and better the more you see them (in the same way a fine champagne tastes better with every glass and cheap champers makes you want throw up after the 2nd glass)
I also have a huge amount of respect for Martin Campbell, Bryan Singer, JJ Abrams, Robert Wise, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Joel Cohen etc
Of the directors Ive worked with I love working with Patrick Lussier, he knows what he is doing and is a joy to work with, most of the directors on the above list I haven't worked with...except for David Fincher (Gone Girl) ...and all I can say is that for the few days I was lucky enough to to be hired by him I watched very closely (treating every second I was there as a 'paid for' master class) and I saw a genius at work, a man who wasted no time, understood every facet of the production around him, a man who did not suffer fools gladly, who LOVED the process and the random situations it sometimes created and always seemingly knew how to deal with them, who welcomed collaboration (when he asked for it - hahaha) who knew what he wanted, but whose ego wasn't so big that he wasn't open to change if something different was better...a man who simply wanted you (as a crew member) to do exactly what HE wanted, to the best of your abilities, without compromising him....and I relished and enjoyed every minute of it.
My reward? A firm handshake, being looked straight in the eye by the man himself and hearing 'Great job Gary- thank you!'
Honestly?... I'll take that over a gold statue.