Friday, December 21, 2007

SCAR 3D: Interview With Norman Twain, Producer

As requested by readers, I have some more info about the upcoming live action 3D horror film, Scar 3D. Norman Twain is the producer of Scar 3D and I had the opportunity to discuss the movie with him as well as details on his 3D technology and upcoming projects:

MarketSaw: Norman, you have an impressive background in the business - what has led you to producing "Scar"? This is your first 3D effort?

NT: After "Spinning Into Butter", which to some extent was a horror story in itself in the making of it, I decided I wanted to divert from the films and plays I had previously done and do a horror film. I'd be lying if I didn't say that the commercial applicability of horror pictures was an attractive lake to go swimming in, not knowing at the time that there were monsters lurking in the bottom of the lake. I was asked to see a demonstration by a minor 3D operator in New York, and one minute into the demonstration I knew Scribble Face, which was the title of Scar at that time, should be done in 3D. Then, the project took on a new life and a new challenge to become the first live-action 3D horror film in the emerging state of 3D. Incidentally, that new emergence has continued, and nobody is denying that 3D has been around forever. But nevertheless, it is having a rebirth today and Scar is on the cutting edge of all movies made.

MarketSaw: There has been some very exciting technological developments in the 3D movie industry in recent years - I have heard that you are using the same technology that James Cameron is using for "Avatar" currently shooting in New Zealand; exactly what equipment do you mean - the cameras, software or perhaps the entire Cameron/Pace Fusion System?

NT: With Jed Weintrob, my director, and Christian Bruun, my 3D maven, we looked at a lot of rigs, including that rig where I first saw that 3D presentation. We decided from a financial point of view and an experience point of view that the best rig for us was from NHK in Japan, which consisted of two Sony-950s mounted and converged on a platform. For so many reasons, this was the best situation for us. We talked to Pace as well as Sklar, not knowing what their rigs were, and after we made our deal, we found out that Cameron was using virtually the same rig. We took from nobody, except NHK. We never thought once of the Cameron/Pace team or the Zemeckis team, and we made our film with our rig and Cameron and Pace are making theirs. It's not going to matter what rig anybody uses. It will depend on the story and the audience reaction to the story.

MarketSaw: Was the Cameron/Pace team involved any further than providing the technology?

NT: As I said, the Cameron/Pace team, or whatever you would call them, did nothing whatsoever to provide us with the technology. We saw the NHK rig in the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas and starting our negotiations with NHK New York and made the deal without even meeting the camera team, who came from Tokyo.

MarketSaw: Scar is being credited as the first released, live action 3D HD movie ever. That is quite an undertaking! What can you tell me about the hurtles that you had to jump in order to get this project made?

NT: The hurdles were comparatively simple, because candidly we didn't know what the hurdles were. We did this independently, and for all intents and purposes green-lighted our own film. In answer to your question, we're still hurdling. Doing something new is always difficult. I doubt if we were a studio picture I could have gotten it made within the time frame we did, because what people don't know, they're afraid of. With information supplied to me by Jed, Christian, my co-producer Dan Hank and NHK, I made every decision and, fortunately, got lucky.

MarketSaw: What can you tell me about the storyline of Scar? Any teasers that you care to share?

NT: Scar has a simple storyline. Sixteen years ago, a high-school girl was lucky enough to escape from the torture chamber of a serial killer and, in that escape, violently killed that killer. Now, she returns for the first time to her hometown, and murders start occurring as if that same killer is back again. It's a bloody and disgusting mess. But I think fun.

MarketSaw: Thomas Jane is also filming in 3D HD right now in New Mexico for his movie "The Dark Country" - I know he is using one of the best 3D experts Hollywood has ever produced as a consultant to assist him in the shooting - did your Scar team use a 3D veteran as a consultant?

NT: Thomas is directing? Who is the consultant? And is it a consultant such as a stereographer type, or somebody who just is knowledgeable about 3D? In our case, we had the Japanese, who I would say are as experienced as anybody in terms of stereography and 3D. Additionally, I had Christian Bruun, my co-producer who has been involved in 3D and this technology for year. Jed Weintrob, my director, was no slouch either, and his knowledge was very helpful. Through Jed and Christian, we had a pipeline to Joshua Greer, Lenny Lipton, and Robert Turner, three major honchos at Real D (it was Lenny who invented the Real D polarizer). So, yes, I'd say we were very well staffed as far as expertise goes.

MarketSaw: Yes, Jane is directing for the first time and it is in 3D. Jane had John Rupkalvis on the set (whom I have interviewed here) and many others like Ray Zone and Geoff Boyle.

NT: John Rupkalvis was hired years ago by Dan Symmes as Dan's assistant. I've never worked with him. Dan can give more info as needed. I've never worked with Ray Zone on any production, but he has been a figure in 3-D for years. I first met him at the local L.A. Stereoscopic Club meetings back in the '80's. He and Dan are somewhat known as 3D historians, having both published books, etc. And the only thing I know about Geoff Boyle is he's a cinematographer on the "Dark Country" independent. Jane is a smart guy, and I'm sure he researched well. My reference of experts are all different. Maybe I should meet these guys.

MarketSaw: What was it like working with Angela Bettis, Christopher Titus and the rest of the cast? Any stories to share? Were there any other actors attached at some point that didn't stick?

NT: Angela Bettis is not only, in my opinion, one of the best, most underrated actresses around, but also just a sensational person. She's the only actress I know I just enjoy hanging out with. To say she's a pro would be underestimating the situation. She's also very reasonable when it comes to knowing what her job is and how important just doing the movie is. Christopher I didn't know that well. Unfortunately, he was right in the middle of an awful divorce when he was shooting. He also was in and out on days that he didn't shoot, but all in all, I found him also a real pro. I'd be happy to work with him again. It goes without saying about Angela. There were no firings and no actor hired that didn't stick. Jed and Aaron casted very competently. The only problem I think we had was with a mother of one of the younger actors who was, candidly, a pain in the ass. The daughter would be emancipated soon, and I'd use her again in a second, but not as long as the mom's around.

MarketSaw: For me, horror movies have gotten a little "been there, done that" lately and my opinion is that the industry was moving more and more to gore and shock value to generate excitement in the audience. Sort of a Roman coliseum effect where people demanded more and more blood for entertainment because they had all seen it before. But now with 3D and the immersive factor of almost being there when the blade is dropped - how are test audiences reacting?

NT: I don't disagree with your assumption about horror, but because we're in 3D, we're in good shape. The test audiences in the 19 to 25 demographic are liking the hell out of the film. Younger than 19 can't get in, and older than 25, I don't even know what they're doing there. But the testing we've done has been very positive.

MarketSaw: By adding 3D, you are essentially adding a ton of age groups! I know I will go see this pic whereas I would not have in 2D.

Have you signed on a distributor yet for next year? Any date or time frame you have in mind for the release?

NT: Getting close on a distributor for the United States and Canada. We hope to be in the streets in April. It's been tough -- two deals busted at the closing, and there have been a lot of turn-downs. But we're on track for April. Foreign-wise, the film has sold very well in Europe: Russia, Spain and Portugal, etc.

MarketSaw: You mentioned that you have another exciting 3D project coming up that is still untitled - a thriller about a group of teenagers that find themselves trapped in a deserted and now underground Eastern European factory who are being pursued by a character called "The Hunter". What can you tell my readers about this project? What technology are you using? Casting ideas? Will it follow in the isolated and brutal mold of the "Hostel" series?

NT: The untitled project is not a horror film, but a PG thriller also to be shot in 3D. It's about urban explorers. We'll use similar technology to what we used in SCAR, but not the Japanese crew. As I said, it's a thriller, as opposed to a torture picture, so it will be nowhere near HOSTEL.

MarketSaw: Can you give any ideas about casting? When do you go to shooting? Release window?

NT: I don't have a title for the project. I call it the "Untitled Urban Explorer Film". We intend to shoot around April 1st, and that could get kicked back a few weeks for the availability of a star. The first casting idea we all had that I could mention to you is Ellen Page. She was an idea from "Hard Candy". Since neither my director or writers or me are her best friends, we'll never see Ms. Page in 103 of makeup for our film. She's just in huge orbit. We wouldn't even talk to her connections. Too unrealistic. But then there are the other ten who do make sense. I like Amber Tamblyn, but she's busy, and I like Danielle Panabaker, but I believe she is tied up, too. So it will be one of those beauties. Don't know who. For the lead male, believe it or not, I was thinking Thomas Jane. But all we're having now is thoughts, not going out to anybody presently. After the first of the year, we make big moves. It will be in 3D and will again appeal mostly to the 17-30 audience.

MarketSaw: Where do you see the 3D industry headed in the next few years? What sort of 3D features would like to see get done?

NT: I think, in moderation, the films that are in 3D will attract a larger audience than if they were in 2D. I personally think that the only films that should be considered to be done in 3D are horror films, thrillers or martial arts. 3D would enhance any film, but, candidly, why? Take Peter Jackson's RING series -- it might have done a trifle more business if it were in 3D, but it was unnecessary. KING KONG probably would have been a better film if he did it in 3D. I saw a clip of SINGING IN THE RAIN in 3D -- what's the point? For me, thrillers and martial arts would be all, I would think, should be done in 3D.

MarketSaw: I will have to agree to disagree on that one Norman! I really want to see Jackson's movies in 3D.

NT: We're on the same page. You're not the typical audience, but more of a professionally-oriented 3D audience. You would be interested in seeing most films in 3D. It's got to be a case by case.

MarketSaw: Kind of. I have always been interested in 3D and bringing the movie-going experience much closer to reality. MarketSaw's audience is really interested in 3D and the direction that Hollywood is taking, but there is still some confusion out there: Many people believe that all 3D movies are going to look like the 'performance capture' Beowulf! Justifiably so, as there is nothing else out in the theaters yet that will tell them otherwise. How would you best describe what we are going to see in Scar that will embed some realization about live action 3D?

NT: This is a difficult question. Candidly, BEOWULF flopped. However, its 3D numbers were quite impressive. That has to tell you something. 3D will create a more compelling environment. That's all. It's never going to make a bad film good, and if a film is good and really good, then it doesn't need 3D. I'm very cynical about this, and I find myself kind of ashamed at saying while my original intent of doing SCAR in 3D was terrific and correct, the fact that it's in 3D is saving our ass.

MarketSaw: Lastly Norman, if you were giving advice to a young filmmaker wanting to create 3D movies, what would you say to them?

NT: The advice that I'd give to a young filmmaker is to just get a job wherever you can and keep working with your eyes and your ears open as hard as you can. Move from one job to another, and don't waste any time asking people for advice.


Contact Me

Jim Dorey
jim (at) marketsaw (dot) com

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