|Title:||The Dark Hours|
Other Movies Seen By This Director (1)
- Everything's Gone Green
|10.08.05||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2005|
After The Big White, I hit up the A Scanner Darkly panel next. Sorry Narnia fans but I am about ten times more looking forward to this than that. I am a big fan of Bob Sabiston's software and the unique animation style that it produces, and thought Waking Life, while meandering at times, was really beautiful. Today, producer Tommy Pallotta and (I think) animator Lance Meyers (hope I heard/remembered that correctly) were there to show a few bits of stuff, answer questions, and give us a live demonstration of how the rotoscoping software works.
Unfortunately, there were ongoing technical difficulties with the DVD player so the panel ended a bit short, but we managed to see everything they had to show once. Here's a rundown of what we saw followed by random answers to questions asked:
-An early version of the new trailer. It's a minute long and, while it doesn't show much of the drug stuff, it does contain a wink of the scramble suit. The other stuff you will all get to see when the trailer hits, so I'll spare all the details.
-They also showed two completed scenes, one short one with Keanu and Winona and another enjoyable scene with Keanu, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Rory Cochrane. The difference in animating styles between this and Waking Life is pretty huge. Where Waking Life was basically a moving painting, shifting from style to style with each encounter, A Scanner Darkly looks much more consistent and realistic. Instead of random abstraction, the animation looks to adhere to the filmed details pretty closely, but still allow for the quirks and benefits of their particular interpolated rotoscoping technology. The most striking difference in animations styles to me however was in the use of colors and lighting. A Scanner Darkly looks very much close to seeing a posterized image move. It's a tight color palette making up each shot, but they mentioned that there's a good 20-50 different color shapes constantly shifting and moving in each face. The effect is pretty sweet.
Lance then proceeded to open up a scene of the film (it's always so shocking to see the DV footage raw underneath) and work on a simple example while Tommy took questions. The arduous attention to detail and sheer consumption of time that this technique eats up became evident as the panel continued and we could check Lance's progress while listening to Tommy. Basically, the whole process breaks down to individual lines and shapes of color. Each one has to have key frames set and manipulated, so if you pause a frame of the trailer and try to count how many different lines and shapes you see, then imagine having to move each one manually to every key frame in the shot, you begin to understand why animators are usually aliens and sustain themselves on gallons of Diet Coke laced with methamphetamine.
-The project sort of started with Pallotta looking to get the rights for Dick's book Ubik. Apparently several people own share the rights to that and each wants complete control over anything done with it so, according to Pallotta, the chances of seeing Ubik in movie form any time soon are very slim. Scanner Darkly came up shortly after that though and Linklater got Keanu to sign on very early and, since they were going to have to animate the scramble suit stuff and the copious amounts of hallucinations anyway, they decided to go 100%.
-There is about 18 months of work put into the project to date, but although they're not scheduled to open until March 2006, Pallotta estimates that the movie will be done before the end of the year.
-The budget was 8.5 million, with all the actors getting paid scale. At its high point, 75 animators were working on the project.
-It took Linklater 5 weeks to shoot the video footage for the film, but as he did with Waking Life, he wasn't too careful about catching lighting equipment and whatnot in the shots.
-This is a tougher animation gig than Waking Life, not because it has any more action scenes or anything (although one car chase sequence was mentioned and there was a 360 spinning shot in one of the scenes they showed which looked amazing), but because they were tied much more closely to keeping the stars recognizable and consistent and also translating their performances correctly.
-Of the characters, Winona was the hardest to animate because, with guys, you can get away with a certain amount of distortion because it still somehow looks masculine. With the ladies however, it's a fine line between them being beautiful and them looking ugly and horse-faced. So Winona was a challenge to keep pretty.
-the way they actually tackle animating the movie is that the animators are divided into teams of 10, each with a lead, and are assigned scenes to work on. Within that scene, the work is usually broken by character, the lead assigning each individual animator to a person or aspect of the scene that suits their strengths.
-All work is done on Macs, with a single network server connecting them. No render farms or basements filled with nitrogen-cooled hardware. The program is straight 2D and, if thought about it in a very specific way, is basically a beefed up version of Flash.
-Charlie Kaufman's script wasn't really utilized or referenced in any way because Linklater had a personal vision for the project and the way they got the rights to make the film (the Dick estate actually gave them a deal, charging less than usual) was by basing the whole project on a very close literal translation from the book.
-The DV footage was all cut together and locked before animation started. It's coming in at about 100 minute long.
After all that, Pallotta mentioned that he wanted to see the trailer again. Unfortunately, it sort of broke midway through and that spelled the end of the panel. Still, it was pretty interesting stuff, and fun to see Matt Dentler running back and forth all over the theater with a wireless mic Phil Donahue style...
After that came Dark Hours.
Kier-la got up to introduce the film by stating that she is Canadian (Labatt Ice!!!) and she thinks most Canadian film, with the exception of Cronenberg's stuff, is crap. She hates Atom Egoyan. Canada also has a content quota for all of their film festivals, so when she was doing Cinemuerte, she'd always have to wade through frozen lakes of crappy Canadian film trying to find a few to fill that quota and get the funding. So, when she heard that Dark Hours was actually good, she was hesitant. Yeah, maybe it's good... for a Canadian film. But, to her surprise, she found the movie to be just plain good regardless of citizenship.
Now, this sort of contradicts one of Tarantino's big speeches during his last festival introducing a movie called Funeral Home during the all-night 80s horror movie marathon. According to QT, if you go down the list of great 80s horror movies, you'll find a surprising amount of them to be Canadian. Who knows, I'll let Quentin and Kier-la fight it out in a cage match some other time, right now I'm just interested in watching a horror flick.
Sweet! a Devil Times Five trailer!
Dark Hours starts out in a typical Desperate Hours vein. It starts out innocently enough with a woman psychologist discovering that the brain tumor that's been benign for two years has started growing and is inoperable. She has maybe a year to live. She tries to break it to her hubby but he doesn't have time. Apparently, if his editor doesn't get his finished book by Monday, he'll ask for the advance back. Yep, there's no time to talk, hon... I've got to bust ass up to our cabin to finish this book! of course I'll be bringing your younger sister along because she's my research assistant. You don't just sit on news like that though, do you... so she drives up to meet him at the cabin, where she finally tells them and they start crying or something. Enter the seemingly innocent kid looking to use the phone followed shortly thereafter by his older gay lover who also happens to be an ex-patient of little Ms. brain tumor. Cue the sadistic hostage games.
In an effort not to spoil anything, I'll just say that it's a decent to good horror movie, depending upon your feelings about twist endings, with several moments of top-notch violence and gore. I personally thought it was more good than bad but had several problems toward the end.
If you want a little more detail, Things were going well then I hit a BIG disappointment but then it actually managed to redeem itself just a bit before dropping another HUGE disappointment. I hate when that happens.
Oh, the short beforehand. Srendi Vashtar. 12 minutes of waiting for it to end. This is what happens when you want to make a movie but have no friends to help you. Why he decided to supply the voices for every character, I don't know. Whoever does know can probably explain the ferret with godlike powers and the importance of eating toast as well. I certainly can't.
-"pain doesn't lie"
-"best veal I've ever tasted. I don't know how they do it, but they breed em with no heads! Seen it myself."