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Chat Transcript: DVD producers
J.M. Kenny and Jeff Lerner
on Home Theater Forum


The following is a complete transcript of the on-line chat with DVD producers J.M. Kenny and Jeff Lerner of New Wave Entertainment, held on Tuesday, November 11th on The Home Theater Forum. Thanks to Ron Epstein, Parker Clack and the staff the HTF for all their hard work, and for providing the transcript for all to read. Enjoy!

Home Theater Forum
http://www.hometheaterforum.com

Subject: J.M. Kenny and Jeff Lerner chat
Date: November 11, 2003

[RonEpstein] I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome DVD Producers J.M. Kenny and Jeff Lerner to this live chat.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Thanks for having us...

[RonEpstein] You guys have a huge body of work under your belt including Citizen Kane, Jurassic Park, Casper, The Blues Brothers and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Not to mention all of the Harry Potters to date

[RonEpstein] That's right. Right off the bat, I gotta ask you both, how did you end up getting in the business and eventually working with each other?

[jmkennyjefflerner] I (JM ) have been doing this for close to seven years but have been with jeffreyand new Wave for the past three years. I (Jeff) have been working with New Wave for nine years and spearheaded the creation of the DVD department here about three years ago.

[RonEpstein] Let's begin by opening the floor to anyone that wants to ask a question.

[ParkerClack] Mr. Kenny. Welcome to our chat. I was wondering if you could talk a little about your involvement with Willy Wonka...especially involving getting the cast together

[jmkennyjefflerner] finding the cast was not an easy task - but the web was an integral part.. i found a guy who wrangled all of the kids to a convention in NJ called Chiller. We were able to interview them all in one day adn create the commentary in one night. They were a blast to work with.

[RonEpstein] I understand you approached Warner about doing the Anniversary disc and that Gene Wilder was very helpful in pulling things together. Correct?

[jmkennyjefflerner] Yes on the Warner part and Gene was the last interview we did after we interviewed the kids. He was the crown jewel of the piece.

[Anthony_I] How do you go about finding interesting and useful material that people WANT to see for special features??? Especially for older movies where material may be harder to find

[jmkennyjefflerner] Great queston. We scour a variety of sources from the internet, libraries and archival houses and even personal mementos. We have a staff of researchers who help us gather the materials to produce the speciall features. Our best source is the studio and the filmmakers.

[RonEpstein] A question for each of you....what are your personal favorite Special Editions you have done and why?

[jmkennyjefflerner] (Jeff) I really enjoyed working n The Right Stuff Se which was released this past May. I met with director Philip Kaufman and talked with several of the cast and crew who were very helpful ingetting us materials. I also had the opportunity to talk with the Mercury Astronauts and the great Chuck Yeager. Also I loved doing the Citizen Kane and CAsablanca commentaries with Roger Ebert. And Harry Potter 1, 2...

[ParkerClack] The Right Stuff finally done right.

[jmkennyjefflerner] (JM) Well, Wonka is up at the top with Dances With Wolves, The Omen box set, MASH and Dogma. For me the retrospective documentary is the most attractive element.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Thanks for the Right Stuff props.

[MikeS] Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to enter the DVD producing field?

[jmkennyjefflerner] Mike, that's a good question. Everyone has a different story on how they became involved in the DVD business. We both recommend that you have a passion for a particular film and learn to research and develop interesting features that others would enjoy.

[Anthony_I] The average DVD costs ~$30, Of that how much do you get from each one sold, and how much is lost each year due to piracy?

[jmkennyjefflerner] Unfortunately, we do not get revenue from the sales of DVDs. We are work for hire producers who are contracted to produce the special features. On piracy, it is a very serious concern for all of us. We see a lot of DVDs on e-bay that are knocked off. We all suffer because the price of the DVDs to all of you will go up.

[RonEpstein] What generally happens when you start a DVD project....do you begin with a budget or do you gather materials and then give the studio an idea of what you need to produce the DVD? Perhaps it's a little of both?

[jmkennyjefflerner] We go through a proposal stage, literally kicking ideas around, get the studio to approve the proposal, and they set a budget. Then we start our production phase where we contact people, gather materials, shoot new interviews and start editing. The process takes from a few weeks to a few months to get finished.

[ParkerClack] Since the space on a DVD is limited do they also give you a time alotment to work with?

[jmkennyjefflerner] The delivery dates dictate what goes on a disc, and how long we have to find those hard to get people. We extend as long as we can to get people, but sometimes we have to move on without them.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Parker - great question. Absolutely. Space is always issue. We try to always come up as much material as possible.

[Anthony_I] Basically do you get to take movies home before the release dates?

[jmkennyjefflerner] no. Never. We have a secure vault where the film stays. We can only view it here at our facility. It never leaves the building and the studios appreciate that. And we take that very seriously. Although we do get to view them.:)

[ParkerClack] The production values and quality on the Potter DVDs was fantastic. Any inside stories about them?

[jmkennyjefflerner] (Jeff) Thank you Parker. We have a very extensive process in producing the DVDs. Paul Hemstreet (VP of DVD Special Features) at Warner Home Video gathered a great group to help develop the special features. Most of the fun stuff happens when we are in London trying to get materials for the DVD during the filming of the movie.

[RonEpstein] That has to be exciting. Can you gentlemen perhaps give us an idea on anything you are working on now for future release?

[jmkennyjefflerner] We just finished SWAT for columbia tristar. It comes out later in the year. It's hard to talk about titles that are currently in production, although we are trying to find one that we might be able to talk about.

[jmkennyjefflerner] How 'bout this. What do you guys like to see on a DVD SE?

[ParkerClack] The best possible picture and audio available

[MikeS] interviews, retrospective documentaries, commentary

[RonEpstein] Behind-TRhe-Scenes material that are not self-promotional

[jmkennyjefflerner] We agree

[RonEpstein] Those HBO/Showtime promos are really bad

[ParkerClack] Original Aspect Ratio and Original Audio. No rebuild of the audio from mono to 5.1, etc.

[jmkennyjefflerner] We always try to give you more than publicity materials

[ParkerClack] Set the menus so that the DVD starts with the film and doesn't make you jump through hoops to get to the movie.

[jmkennyjefflerner] We like that too.

[RonEpstein] You did a great job with Wonka because you got the entire cast together. MGM recently did CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and made no attempt to get the child stars included in the supplements.

[MikeS] At the beginning of commentaries, I like to know who is talking with who, instead of trying to guess it for 10 or 20 minutes.

[jmkennyjefflerner] We always have our guests introduce themselves. But when you have 5 or six people it can be difficult to follow who is who

[MikeS] You mentioned Gene Wilder - are there any other stars/directors you are particularly proud of getting to participate in a DVD, or some that have continuously eluded you that you'd love to get?

[jmkennyjefflerner] It can be extremely difficult to get people. We make every effort to try to get folks but there are a multitude of reasons why we can't. Location, health, commitments, etc.

[ParkerClack] I liked Costner's involvement with Wolves on the SE.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Mike, I (JM) love working with Kevin Smith, Wolfgang Petersen, and Kevin Costner. Costner gets DVD and respects the fans of his films.

[jmkennyjefflerner] (Jeff) I recently worked with Jonathan Mostow on T3 and he really was helpful and supportive of what we wanted to do with the DVD.

[RonEpstein] DVD has changed the entire industry as to how films are made, because I imagine the DVD extras are put together at the time of the filming

[ParkerClack] Do you get the chance to start with a movie from the git go with the idea that you are going to produce the DVD later on?

[jmkennyjefflerner] What we find interesting is that many directors will tell us they have saved materials for the DVD in production. Many of the direcors are becoming DVD savy and want us to captureand/or have access to things they feel are important to preserve during the production of the film.

[MikeS] I was wondering why the alternate ending from Vacation wasn't included on the DVD.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Good question Mike. We had heard that it was around, although the studio did'nt have it and the further we looked the more we realized that no one actually has it. We tried.

[Steve_Simon] Hey guys, was curious what your thoughts are on the future High Definition DVD format, and was curious if you guys have been shown any prototypes of the technology being you'r in the field?? Being this will be the future for us Home Theater , It must be exciting looking foward to your works being in 1080i

[jmkennyjefflerner] We have seen the Blue Ray technology, which was cool, and are being asked by the studios to consider shooting materials in Hi-Def. Right now there is no officially recognized format for hi def by the studios.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Anything that makes our stuff look better - we are for. done

[Steve_Simon] Is there any sort of timetable the studios are talking about, or will this be delayed In your opinion for years?

[jmkennyjefflerner] Hard to say. We don't think it will be years. As soon as a format is decided on, we will probably see fast movement to start producing content for Hi-Def. Keep your fingers crossed.

[RonEpstein] You guys have a lot of control over the content you put in a disc, or are the studios very controlling over what they will permit you to do on a DVD?

[jmkennyjefflerner] It is a collaboration, although they will always have final say. All the studios we work with pay close attention to what you guys like and try to come up eith stuff that is impressive.

[ParkerClack] I hear a lot of talk about 2K and 4K resolution. Is the hardware out there for this or still just in the development stage? Wouldn't it make sense to shoot in 4K and then just downconvert to 1080p or such for the end market?

[jmkennyjefflerner] The reality is who actually has the viewing capacity for the material at this time. There are ways to convert images, but until there is enough viewers who can watch it is hard to make the jump. New compression algorythms are being developed to maximize image and not take up huge amount of disc space.

[jmkennyjefflerner] You guys watch and review many SE's. What makes a complete SE?

[RonEpstein] That depends, Special Editions come in many shapes and sizes -- 1 disc, 2 discs, etc. Sometimes studios label a disc a Special Edition and it has nothing special on it.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Right, so what makes a good one?

[RonEpstein] My idea of a Special Edition is a top-rate audio and video transfer, followed with a commentary by actors or director (or production team), trailers (a must!), behind-the-scenes journals that are not fluff pieces. An effects movie should have a complete analysis of all the effects work

[jmkennyjefflerner] In Lieu of special features?

[ParkerClack] For me it is making the film look like it just shot yesterday. I like the extra features but give me the best picture and audio anyday over extras.

[RonEpstein] If given a choice, audio and video quality over Special Features

[Steve_Simon] I would love to see more of the added content be in Anamorphic if possible I hate it when your watching a perfect 16:9 transfer, and the footage seen in the bonus mats. Is 4:3 or non enhanced....

[RonEpstein] For the hearing impaired --- subtitles on all the extra content

[Anthony_I] I like to see things like how the movie was made/filmed, commentaries special effects info (Just think about LOTR special extended editions) I ESPICALLY love outtakes and deleted scenes (and picture/audio quality is must)

[MikeS] On older films, I love director and cast commentaries.

[ParkerClack] I like two discs sets because it allows you to have the best picture and audio on one disc and the extras on another.

[Anthony_I] Parker agreed

[peterkurpiewski] I really like seeing trailers on the discs and deleted scenes as well. Deleted scenes in particular because you get to see some of the other things the creators had worked on during making the movie.

[jmkennyjefflerner] We are shooting materials 16X9 . Publicity tends to shoot b-roll 4X3, but they are changing.

[Anthony_I] Outtakes on "serious" movies are the best

[RonEpstein] Agreed, Anthony

[Anthony_I] or movies like Monsters Inc, Toy Story, etc. [peterkurpiewski] I also agree with having very good picture/audio quality, but one would hope that the initial release would have just as good quality as well.

[jmkennyjefflerner] I agree anthony - they are funnier

[ParkerClack] I mean take a look a some of the best selling DVDs in the past year. They are all two or more disc sets with the extras on another disc. They all sell well.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Yes they do. Studios are putting their best effort into making their new releases special.

[Steve_Simon] Do you guys have a favorite dvd, which you would consider the pinnacle in dvd production, and why??

[jmkennyjefflerner] (JM) For me I am really proud of "An Evening with Kevin Smith" because it is truly an original production and is not centered around a movie.

[jmkennyjefflerner] (Jeff) I thought the recent 60th Anniv. Edition of Casablana really included a lot of variety from historic to fun like the "Carrotblanca' short.

[RonEpstein] Kevin Smith sounds like one of the best people you would want to work with. He seems like a genuinely "cool" guy who just loves to make films.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Kevin is a delight to work with. He goes into his movies thinking about DVD. My first experience was Mallrats then Dogma and having the ability to travel to 5 colleges and film his speaking tour was great.

[Anthony_I] Just general here, but i was always wondering why outtakes arent included on all DVD's i know there are bound to be tons of "goofs" during production of any movie.

[RonEpstein] Good question. You don't see many blooper reels, and I know many "wrap parties" show them to the cast after the film is done

[jmkennyjefflerner] Sometimes filmmakers would rather leave them out. Also, talent has approval rights on many films. They are shown to the cast a wrap parties because many of the "Gag reels" have inside jokes that we as a viewing audience won't get.

[ParkerClack] Besides I think Dick Clark has got the rights to all of those anyway. :)

[jmkennyjefflerner] No only the ones that aren't funny...:)

[Steve_Simon] What kind of experience does one need to get into your field of being a Dvd Producer.. I have a degree in Computer Science, and was wondering if Computer programming has a big role in what you guys do on a regulat basis??

[Steve_Simon] Is your field a growing field??? Alot of demand?? Or is it a pretty closed specialized field??

[jmkennyjefflerner] No computer experience required. Interviewing skills are a must and understanding the narrative process in telling a story.

[jmkennyjefflerner] There are a lot of opportunities out there,not only in content but in menu design, authoring, duplication, interactive content. Anyone interested should develop a knowledge of the industry and try to learn all they can.

[Steve_Simon] With DVD becoming so mainstream, what are your thoughts on the average GIA Joe out there viewing your works, inteneted to be viewed in 16:9... 5,1 Auido .. Buying cheap 80 Dollar dvd players, and buying HT In a box systems... I know you guys take a lot of pride in your works looking the best it can be, its a shame people can now buy 50 Dollar dvd players... What are your thoughts on the way Home Theater Gear pertains to dvd production??

[jmkennyjefflerner] We strive to put the best picture and audio quality out there in all of our features. We hope that the homeviewers will try to experience what DVD can offer. We also are aware that many of you have great home set ups and that's who we have in mind when we are producing content, Shoot for the best.

[Anthony_I] We cannot all afford top of the line systems with which to "enjoy" the DVDs and in most cases all poor people like me could afford is an HTIB or a cheap DVD player. What hardware/software do you guys use to master the DVDs when its all ready to go?

[RonEpstein] Anthony, nothing wrong with that

[jmkennyjefflerner] We don't master DVD's. We turn over the content on digital tape and the studios handle compression and duplication per their own specs.

[ParkerClack] What would you say over the past couple of years in the biggest change that you have noticed in the area of DVD production as a whole?

[jmkennyjefflerner] Shortened production schedules

[ParkerClack] 6 months?

[jmkennyjefflerner] it can be as little as 6-8 weeks. Catalogue titles tend to have a longer schedule, but not by much. The appetite for DVD's is immense.

[RonEpstein] On behalf of the membership, Parker and I want to thank you both for being here tonight.

[jmkennyjefflerner] Thanks guys. We really enjoyed being here.

[RonEpstein] We also want to thank you for some really outstanding DVD products over the years and for continuing to make these Special Editions with the fanbase in mind.

[ParkerClack] I really really appreciate all the great work that you have done. Keep up the great work.

[jmkennyjefflerner] You do the same. Thanks.

[RonEpstein] You guys are welcome to talk here anytime. Please keep reading our forum for feedback - we think we have the best DVD enthusiasts of any site out there.

[jmkennyjefflerner] okay. We wished there were more folks here, but we had fun.

[RonEpstein] We were surprised. Don't feel bad -- it always depends what is on TV that night. Good night, guys.

[ParkerClack] Good night all!

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