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page created: 7/31/01
the morning of Friday, July 19th, a panel of six DVD producers gathered at the
Comic-Con International show in San Diego, for the DVD
Producers 2001 panel discussion, presented by The
Digital Bits and sponsored by 20th
Century Fox Home Entertainment. Nearly two thousand people, movie fans and
film industry guests alike, crowded into the largest auditorium at the San Diego
Convention center to experience the discussion, and to get an exclusive first
look at a trio of upcoming DVDs. What follows here is a complete transcript of
the event. At three different points in the discussion, you'll notice a
different DVD cover (including MGM's Hannibal
and The Terminator special editions, and
Warner's Willy Wonka: 30th Anniversary Edition
release). Click on each cover to open up a separate page of menu images from
that disc. Also, if you click on the group picture at the end of the text,
you'll be taken to a page that includes brief bios on each of our panelists.
Special thanks to Sarah Hunt for taking the pictures of the event and helping
with the prize drawing. With that
Moderator Bill Hunt
Hunt: Good morning and thanks for coming to DVD
Producers 2001. My name is Bill Hunt and I'm the editor of The
Digital Bits.com. (audience cheers) Thank you! I guess a few of your
have heard of us. This is a really exciting time for DVD. Lots of long-awaited
movies are finally coming out on the format, and some really great special
editions are being released. And we're very fortunate to have with us this
morning a great panel of DVD producers here to talk about their work and some of
the things they do.
Before we get started, I have just a few announcements. Laurent Bouzereau was
unable to attend at the last minute - he's working on the DVD version of Jurassic
Park III and things got a little hectic for him. So couldn't be here
but he sends his regards. I want to thank 20th
Century Fox Home Entertainment, and particularly Peter Staddon, who
sponsored this panel. (applause) They graciously donated a number of prizes that
we're going to be giving away here today - a huge box of great DVD special
editions and boxed sets. I also want to thank
DVD Planet.com, who
provided a DVD player that we're going to be giving away as well. (more
applause). And finally I want to thank MGM and Warner Bros. for allowing us to
give you an exclusive sneak peek at a trio of very cool upcoming DVDs.
Now I'd like to introduce our panel. Starting next to me, we have David
Prior. David got his start producing DVDs in 1999 with the disc Ravenous.
He went on to producer the 2-disc Fight Club: Special
Edition (audience cheers), The Rocky
Horror Picture Show and Titus.
He recently finished the Big Trouble in Little China
Special Edition and the new Die Hard
Collection. And he's currently working on a couple of very exciting
discs that I'm sure he'll be able to talk a little bit about this morning.
Next to David is Alita Holly. Alita was
the senior DVD consultant for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, where she
produced such discs as Men in Black, Ghostbusters
and Bad Boys. (applause) Her company
Organa West is currently involved in a number of projects with New Line. She
most recently produced Frequency, Thirteen
Days and also has a number of upcoming titles in the works.
Our next producer is J. M. Kenny. J. M.
has been doing this quite a while. His company Two Dog Productions worked on
numerous titles for Universal and other studios. Some of his past credits
include The Blues Brothers, Fast
Times at Ridgemont High, The Mummy:
Collector's Edition, The Perfect Storm
and The Omen. J. M. is currently part of
the Television Production division of New Wave Entertainment. He most recently
produced the new 2-disc Dogma: Special Edition
(big cheers), as well as the upcoming Willy Wonka:
30th Anniversary Edition.
That brings us to Charles de Lauzirika.
Charlie first got involved in DVD when he was basically drafted by director
Ridley Scott to produce the Alien: 20th Anniversary
Edition. That went over so well that he went on to producer Gladiator,
The Cell and a whole bunch of very cool
upcoming projects that I think you guys are going to be interested in.
Van Ling got his start at Lightstorm
Entertainment where he worked with director James Cameron on The
Abyss and Terminator 2. His DVD
credits include The Abyss, Independence
Day, the Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition
and upcoming 2-disc special editions of the original Terminator
and Star Wars: Episode I, which I'm sure a
few of you are dying to have in your hands. (more applause)
And finally, we have Mark Rance. Mark
actually goes back to the days of laserdisc. He started at The Criterion
Collection, which I think many of you will agree set the standard for special
editions (applause). He then moved on to New Line, where he built up an
impressive list of credits, including Magnolia,
Nights, Austin Powers and Se7en.
He also recently worked on Buena Vista's Unbreakable
and Fox's Cast Away, and his company
Three-Legged Cat is currently in production on a number of cool titles which I'm
sure he'll talk about this morning. (applause)
The DVD Producers panel
I want to start out by giving everyone a good background on this
subject. So what are the basic responsibilities of a DVD producer? What kinds of
things do you do? When do you get involved in a project? What areas of the
production do you oversee?
Alita Holly: Well
it's a lot of
things really. It begins with conceptualization of what the DVD is going to look
like. We're hired by the studio, and we first start to work with the directors
to figure out what they want to do, what people are going to want on the DVD,
and what the creative team involved in making the film want to show to fans.
Then we have to physically sort through all the production materials to see
what's actually available to work with. Often that's the biggest challenge. One
of the things we don't do very much is sleep. (audience laughs) The hours are
Bill Hunt: And the deadlines are tough
Alita Holly: Yes
Van Ling: I think that all of us as DVD
producers are trying to be the champions of the film, for both the studio and
the filmmaker. And that's a challenge, because there's a balance between what
you want to do creatively, what the filmmaker wants to do creatively and what
resources and time you have from the studio to do it in. The idea is to please
both camps without perjuring yourself. So there's actually a lot of creative
work that goes into a DVD project. It's not just a matter of gathering up what
exists and slapping it together. I think that one of the things we all try to do
is to find a way to creatively enhance the movie experience. Somebody once said
that if the movie is the jewel, the DVD stuff around it - the menus and the
special edition materials - are like the setting in which the jewel sits on the
Bill Hunt: How involved do some of you get
with the technical side of things? Are you ever supervising film transfers or
disc authoring, for example?
Mark Rance: I think it's changed over
time. At Criterion, generally the producers did everything, including telecine,
packaging, interface, working with the graphic artists. Now, when you're working
with the studios, they generally have people assigned to each of those jobs. So
it's less frequent, although we still do some of that from time to time. I know
that some of us are involved in finding original elements. You know, when I was
doing Silence of the Lambs for Criterion,
finding and then legally acquiring the correct elements for that film was a
difficult and arduous process - it took months and months to get at it. And I
think that continues to this day. I think that you can have an impact on
interface design and you can, from that, go to what's called authoring, which is
the part of the process where the links are made and how the look and feel of
the disc is set. That can come from the producer working with filmmaker and
working with the executive in charge of the project for the studio, say like
Mike Mulvihill at New Line, to set the tone. And then the authoring house gets
their direction from that. If you look at the Nightmare
on Elm Street box set, there's an eighth disc in there that has three
different interfaces. And that was all set in a meeting maybe six to eight
months before we started production. And that came from us.
Bill Hunt: When do you get involved in a
given DVD project? How much time do you generally have to work on something?
David Prior: It's completely different
each time. Like everything else in this, it depends on the project. Being
involved in transfers and menuing - if you have the time for it, if a new
transfer is scheduled, I'm involved. But if there isn't one, or you're using a
pre-existing transfer, you just take what you have. With the schedule (laughs),
I think Big Trouble and
Die Hard were done over the course of a
year. And Planet of the Apes will be done
in maybe 2 or 3 months, and it's being done while the movie is still in
production. There's just no way to really count on any kind of standard schedule
for doing things.
J. M. Kenny: I think, speaking for myself,
I think most of us would love to be involved from the moment they green-light
the project. But it's a synergy between theatrical publicity and home video. And
sometimes, for whatever reason, it's really tough to get involved at the
beginning. Ultimately, what I'd love to see a lot more of us doing is EPK to
DVD. [Editor's note: EPK stands for Electronic Press
Kit.] So you have one producer involved throughout the entire filmmaking
process. That makes it easier on the filmmaker and the studio. We're able to do
stuff on the set, while they're making the film, that is specific to the end
result, which is the DVD. We can also get the kinds of things that Entertainment
Tonight needs. But we're able to go much more in depth for DVD. So
when the viewer buys that collector's edition, what they're getting is not just
a rehash of what they saw on the HBO special, for example.
J. M. Kenny
Mark Rance: I actually did that on Magnolia,
and the difference between what the studio's theatrical department needs for
promotion and what the DVD needs are sometimes so at odds, that it actually gets
to the core of why DVD is different from a theatrical release. But that's part
of that process that we have to negotiate with the studio - what the studio
wants and what the DVD audience is asking us to do.
Van Ling: That's exactly right. The people
who are promoting the film have a very specific agenda about what they want shot
- what kind of interviews, what kind of sound bytes, what sort of
behind-the-scenes footage. And what you try to get for DVD is a different
animal. As a DVD producer, it's very important if you can be on the set to try
to make sure that what you need for the disc is gathered properly, so that it's
not just the electronic press kits and other press material that gets handed
down to you after the fact, and all of a sudden, that's what you have to work
with as so called "behind-the-scenes" material for the disc. Stuff
that was shot basically in one or two days.
Van Ling and Mark Rance.
Bill Hunt: To basically promote the movie
release - fluffy sales stuff.
Alita Holly: Right. But that's also
starting to change, because directors are hip to the fact that no matter how
many people see their film in the theater, this little shiny disc is the thing
that's gonna live on people's shelves for a very long time. And they are the
link between the studio and the DVD producer, and they're the people that can
I want you on my set." They want their DVD to be a
really good product, so they've started to invite us in from the very beginning.
And I think that's going to happen more and more.
Charles de Lauzirika: But, in addition to
what's being shot - as J. M. said, EPK to DVD - I also think that a lot of the
best material is coming from directors' assistants, who are shooting their own
stuff with DV cameras on the set every day. What David had to work with on Fight
Club, for example, was a gold mine. And I think that's why it was
such an amazing disc - you have that intimacy that you don't get with stuff
that's produced by an outside film crew.
David Prior: Fight
Club was such a different case. The footage that we had was so
different than what you normally get with EPK stuff.
Bill Hunt: There's no agenda other than to
shoot what's happening.
David Prior: Exactly. There's no
flashiness, there's no elaborate camera movements - they're just documenting
what's going on that day.
Bill Hunt: My next question is
obviously, as DVD producers, you're all also film fans, otherwise you probably
wouldn't be going this kind of difficult work. So as both producers and fans,
what are the things that you each think makes a good special edition on DVD?
J. M. Kenny: Well
I'm a fan and I'm
often times star-struck as well. I get to interview a lot of these people, and
I'm thinking, "Wow
I'm talking to Kevin Costner," or whoever it
may be at the time. So I love to see the interviews and the documentaries. It's
hard to do a good retrospective documentary when the DVD streets maybe three
months after the movie was released. But the more in-depth you can go into it,
and give people a good sense of the experience of the making of the film, that's
what I'm a big fan of. I love a good documentary, and that's what I try to do
with each one of my titles. To put something on there that's a departure from
something that you may already have seen on HBO or Encore - something that goes
more in depth. For publicity purposes, they may just touch on a number of
topics. But for the DVD, you can go heavy into detail about visual effects or
casting or something like that.
Alita Holly: Two things I love to see on
well first, documentaries that really go beyond the movie. Like
for Thirteen Days, you want to know about
the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis - what were the real stories? Or on Frequency,
how do solar flares really effect radio communication? What's the real science
behind that? I think DVD is a really unique way to answer some of those
questions for people in an entertaining and interactive way. So any time a movie
makes me think about those kinds of things, I want to be able to delve into that
more. Normally, you'd go and get a book. But the DVD gives you a new way to do
that, right after you've watched the film. And the other thing that I think is
really fun to play with on DVD, is something that really uniquely uses the
technology. I'm not talking about the same old bells and whistles, but something
that you couldn't do with anything else. Like the scene edit workshop that we
did on Men in Black, where you can really
use the technology to explore the filmmaking process. You couldn't have done
that on laserdisc or VHS. With DVD, we can give you new ways of investigating
the subject material.
Van Ling: I think too, we really try to
address the uniqueness of the particular film. The publicity people are always
trying to differentiate what makes this film unique from a promotional
standpoint, but every EPK piece you see has that same shot of the director
behind the camera saying, "Action!" We try to go beyond those generic
things. I think the best DVDs are the ones that are really able to address, in
depth, what is unique about that particular film. And, as Alita said, it may be
using the new capabilities of DVD.
David Prior and Alita Holly
David Prior: For me, it's a combination of
two basic principals. I think one is that the goal of a good DVD special edition
should be to create some kind of living record or archive of the film, because
that's really what it's all about in the end, right? The other is to give you
supplements, and an interface design, that stylistically take into account the
film. And if you get those two, and there's a lot of content - you feel like
someone's really gone in depth and researched the film and really understands it
- and the material supports the film, that's really about it for me. That's what
I'm looking for.
Mark Rance: Let me take another tack,
which is that we have a lot of technology at hand that is kind of in contest
with the very nature of film, which is a straight narrative. There's an argument
to be made for simplicity. And at the moment, I think many discs are getting
loaded up with hours and hours of stuff, that's often editorially messy, out of
control and pointless. That's fine from a studio perspective, because you can
have a nice long list on the back of the package that helps sell the DVD. But I
kind of miss the days when a really great commentary was the single biggest
selling point - like Martin Scorsese on Raging Bull.
That's an amazing commentary - an amazing extra - and that's all the "film
school in a box" I need. I don't want any more. (applause) So no more
commentaries where they just turn the movie on, and they make the filmmaker say,
"That's a refrigerator, and I know who owns that refrigerator right now
(audience laughs) If I hear one more of those, I'm gonna get a gun and shoot the
guy who did it. (more laughs)
Charles de Lauzirika: Mark, I think
another big problem with DVD right now is that the schedules are just so out of
Mark Rance: Totally.
Charles de Lauzirika: There's just no more
time to sit down, take a deep breath and say, "What would make this a great
disc that serves this movie?" Right now, it's just like meatball surgery -
the studios are just cranking this stuff out.
Mark Rance: It's no accident that many of
the best DVDs are for films that are older than five years.
Charles de Lauzirika: Exactly.
Bill Hunt: There's no doubt that with DVD,
there's been a real rush on the part of the studios to get new films out on DVD
"day and date" with the VHS release. But the problem is that the home
video release schedules are all based on that old, VHS mentality, and DVD is far
more complicated to work with than that. And sometimes you're talking about just
two or three months between a film's theatrical release and the day it's
supposed to be released on DVD, so there's just no time to put this stuff
Charlie de Lauzirika: When I heard what
David just said about the schedule for Planet of the
Apes, I cannot
(turns to Prior) I totally feel sorry for you,
man. (huge laughter) That is just ridiculous - doing the DVD before the movie's
done? I mean, you have to see the movie to know what you're gonna do with the
Charles de Lauzirika
David Prior: What Charlie said, exactly.
(more laughter) For Apes, the supplements
are due three days after the movie comes out. (still more laughter)
Van Ling: It's true. I think that a good
DVD has great material. But a great DVD has great material, well organized. I'm
lucky, because I really haven't had to do any current release films. I haven't
had to deal with what some of these folks are going through. They've had to put
all this stuff together without the benefit of the kind of hindsight you get
after a film's been released for a while, where you can think about the impact
of a movie and what kinds of things you can emphasize.
Alita Holly: That also goes back to the
original question about whether we get to be on the set. If the DVD materials
are due just days or weeks after the movie is released, they have to let us on
the set. Otherwise, what else could you do?
Mark Rance: But then there's a really
funny conundrum, which is that we're dealing with things that have never really
been done before with films. Film is one of those arts that's historically been
the least documented, and it's very difficult to preserve all the elements that
go with it. If you look back at the silent era, or even the seventies, you
realize just how much stuff is at risk of being lost. At the same time, many
filmmakers, including one or two that I'm working with now, are very aware of
how much overkill is going into the analysis that DVD invites. So they'd rather
back off altogether. David Lynch's Straight Story
is a perfect example. The disc has no chapters. You hit play, and you see the
movie. There's no commentary - nothing. It's just the movie. And that's where
some directors are going these days. They want to take you back to some version
of the straight-up theatrical experience. One day they may wake up and realize
that they've missed an opportunity, but that's their reaction to DVD at the
David Prior: But it's also
big fundamental difference. When Criterion was starting, it seems to me as a
collector of the discs, that the mission was to take important or interesting
movies that people may not have seen, or may not have seen in a while, and to
give them some kind of special treatment. And that made a lot of sense. But now,
inevitably, the studios have picked up the idea, and so we're doing things for
movies that haven't even been released yet. We don't know what their place in
the world is yet
or if they even have a place in the world. And so the
danger there is that it starts to cross into salesmanship too much. It's not as
much about archiving and illuminating the film, as it is about selling discs.
Van Ling: Right. The term "special
edition" is starting to lose its meaning. (the audience applauds in
Bill Hunt: (laughs) Okay... this a pretty
ironic point to be giving you a preview of an upcoming DVD special edition, but
given our time crunch today, that's exactly what we're going to do. The first
disc we're going to be showing you was produced by Charles de Lauzirika. It's
the 2-disc Hannibal: Special Edition from
MGM. So Charlie, do you want to come up and do your thing?
Click cover to preview DVD
de Lauzirika: Sure. [Charlie walks over to the
podium and takes the remote as the lights dim and the DVD starts to play on
projection screens around room.] That of course is the MGM DVD logo,
which wakes me up every time I pop one of their discs in. (laughter) So this is
Hannibal, which comes out on August 21st.
And this is Disc Two that we're going to be looking at. Just for your
information, Disc One includes the feature in anamorphic widescreen, audio
commentary by Ridley Scott and audio in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. There's also
French and Spanish 5.1 audio tracks, a trailer for the new Silence
of the Lambs DVD and also a Windtalkers
teaser. [He looks out into the audience at MGM
executives.] Is that okay to say? Yes? There is studio representation in
the audience here today.
Van Ling: We've all got shock collars on,
in case we start to say the wrong thing. (big laughter)
J. M. Kenny: Otherwise known as contracts
Charles de Lauzirika: Exactly. So the
extras on Disc Two of Hannibal start off
with a series of five featurettes. And this is something that you're going to
probably be seeing a lot more of on DVD - rather than one long-form documentary,
you'll have a series of short featurettes. Because of various legal issues,
going over a running time of thirty minutes is discouraged. Is anyone else on
the panel having problems with this right now?
J. M. Kenny: There's a big debate going on
right now at the studios as to whether you can call something like this a
featurette or you have to call it something else. You can't call it a
documentary, because that causes a whole other set or problems for a studio.
Van Ling: Yeah. And these all sound like
just semantic terms, but they have a huge impact on what we do. If something is
under a certain length, like four and a half minutes, it can be considered a
promotional trailer, and therefore the studio doesn't have to pay certain
royalties and legal fees for it. Likewise, if something is over thirty minutes,
it becomes a documentary and the studio again has to pay the actors a royalty.
There are different legal guidelines, and each studio has slightly different way
of approaching them. So we have to constantly work around those.
Charles de Lauzirika: So what we did on
Hannibal to get around this rule, is to
make five shorter featurettes, and then give you the "play all"
option. (huge laughter) Basically, these all really add up to one long-form
documentary. So if you get the disc, please
just press "play all".
(more laughter) Each featurette covers a different aspect of the production. And
they were culled together from a variety of different sources - EPK, on-set
footage - much of which was shot by John Pattyson. I actually had to go to
Morocco to record Ridley's commentary. He was there shooting his new film, Black
Hawk Down. And so we got the commentary, and while I was there, I
shot additional material for him for the different multi-angle sequences on this
disc. So you're going to see a variety of different kinds of material - some of
it slick-looking EPK footage and some that's more raw, home video-looking. For
example, in New York, we actually go into the premiere, and we go into the after
party, so you'll get to see a lot of areas you wouldn't normally get access to.
You'll see actors just being themselves off camera and that kind of thing.
Charles de Lauzirika previews
J. M. Kenny: Charlie, quick question: how
would you categorize Ridley's involvement with DVD?
Charles de Lauzirika: Ridley really loves
the format. And that's been a blessing, because he gives me total access. He's
there whenever you need him for stuff. I felt really bad, because he's in the
middle of shooting his next movie movie, and I basically took him away from all
that for about six hours to get all the DVD stuff for Hannibal
while I was there. And he's totally fine with that.
One of the things I want to show you are some of the multi-angle features,
which are my favorite. Something I've always been interested in, since the day
the DVD format was announced, was its multi-angle capability. We were originally
told that you'd get to see the movie, and you'd be able to switch to another
camera angle while you were watching. And of course, as we found out, only porno
discs did that. (laughter)
Bill Hunt: And not very well. (more
Charles de Lauzirika: Exactly.
J. M. Kenny: Not that any of us own any of
those, by the way. (more laughter) We're all in the "legitimate"
industry up here.
Charles de Lauzirika: Well, I don't know.
I've heard stories
(more laughter) So basically, for Hannibal,
let's try it. Let's take scenes from the film and do them
Van Ling: You turned it into a porno
Charles de Lauzirika: Well
exactly. I'm not even gonna go into the whole cannibalism thing
But we wanted to take like six scenes from the film - some action, some drama -
so that you could see what they looked like in their raw form, from each camera,
as if you were there on the set when the footage was being shot. And
unfortunately that turned out to be a huge disaster, because once a film has
been cut, it completely leaves the reality of the way the film was shot on set -
it's been manipulated and time condensed. To make all the camera angles match
would have been impossible. So we ultimately took just one scene, which Ridley
predominantly shot with four cameras, which was the opening gun battle at the
fish market. You start with this menu page that gives you a sample frame of the
film. And at the top and bottom, we give you the technical specs for that piece
of film - what the scene was, what camera it was, the frame rate, the T-stop. So
if you're really into filmmaking, it's all broken down for you into the smallest
detail. That's why we called it Anatomy of a Shootout.
And if you don't know some of this stuff, these terms of cinematography, you can
select them and the disc will explain what they mean - just some good basic
definitions - so you can understand what you're seeing. The multi-angle feature
lets you start by selecting any of the four cameras, or a fifth piece of video
that's a combination of all four running simultaneously. So let's start with A
this is the raw footage from that camera as it was shot. And this
is all interactive, so you can switch from camera to camera as the action plays
out. The idea with action scenes like this, is that when you've got lots of
stunt work going on, and lots of pyrotechnics going off, you want to shoot it
from as many different angles as possible. As you watch this video, you'll see
that each take is a different portion of the larger scene. And with your remote,
you can skip from take to take, through the whole scene. So this is just one of
the multi-angle sequences on this disc.
Another multi-angle segment is called Ridleygrams.
As some of you may know, Ridley is not just a director, he's also an artist. And
he does a lot of his own storyboards. So here you can watch Ridley talking about
the storyboard process, with picture-in-picture images of the storyboards and
that exact scene from the final film. Or, you can switch to the second angle and
look at just the storyboard panels, or a third angle that is the storyboards
compared to the final film. And all the while, you can hear his comments about
the process. We also have another multi-angle piece which is about the title
designs for the film. That gives you four video angles and four audio tracks, so
that you can follow the process of the development of the film's opening credits
and some of the work that went into it.
There are also about fourteen deleted scenes, which you can watch either with
or without Ridley's commentary. There's the film's alternate ending. We have a
marketing gallery which gives you all the trailers and TV spots made for the
film, and you can view each by itself or all together using another "play
all" option. You can go as deep or shallow as you want. There's also a
still gallery with over 600 never-before-seen production photos, as well as a
poster gallery with tons of different unused concepts for the film's poster
campaign - and some of the artwork in there is very cool. There's also bios,
production notes and, of course, the most important feature
credits. (laughter) So thank you for looking at Hannibal.
Bill Hunt: Charlie, why don't you quickly
tell us about some of the other upcoming DVD projects that you're working on
Charles de Lauzirika: Currently, I'm right
in the middle of the Thelma and Louise: Special
Edition, which should be out sometime next year. I was told that was
okay to say. (laughter) As J. M. knows, we're trying to finish up an edition of
Legend (more applause). It'll get there, I
promise. It's coming. And then I've already started the Blade
Runner: Special Edition. (big applause)
Bill Hunt: The next disc we're going to
show you is Warner's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate
Factory: 30th Anniversary Edition. (more applause) So J. M
you're up. [J. M. Kenny approaches the podium and takes
J. M. Kenny: Thank you for the segway.
[J. M. has a little trouble getting the disc to play.]
Bill Hunt: This is what happens when you
confront a highly-trained DVD producer with a remote they've never seen before.
(big laughter) [Finally, the menus appear.]
Click cover to preview DVD
M. Kenny: There we go. Much better. Since this was the 30th
anniversary of the release of Willy Wonka,
the main point we wanted to emphasize on the DVD is, what are the actors doing
today? What are the kids, who are long grown-up, doing now? What's their
perspective on the film, all these years later, and what's Gene Wilder's
perspective? So we were lucky enough to get all five of the kids, Gene and one
Oompa Loompa (laughter) to participate in a retrospective documentary on the
film. It's called Pure Imagination, and it
runs again about thirty minutes. The disc also has an original documentary that
was done at the time of the film's production, which features Harper Goff's
fantastic set design. That's about a ten minute piece. And one of the things I
discovered when I was talking to Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt, was
that the actors who played the kids in the film had never sat down in the same
audience to see the film together. So we figured this was a great opportunity
for an audio commentary track. And that's what we did. When you listen to the
commentary on this disc, it's all five of the kids watching the film together
for the first time ever - Julie Dawn Cole, Paris Themmen, Peter Ostrum, Denise
Nickerson and Michael Bollner.
Bill Hunt: And an important point to make
here is that everyone you want to hear from, with regard to this film, is on the
disc, either on the new commentary, or in new interview footage in the
J. M. Kenny: Right. You know, Hannibal
is a good example of a DVD special edition where the film is recent, and the
director is heavily involved and the producer got to be in on it from beginning
to end. There's a ton of well organized material on the disc that takes you
through the filmmaking process. Wonka is a
little different, because this is basically a film that's thirty years old and,
unfortunately, no extra materials really exist anymore. There were a few deleted
scenes, but no one knows where the footage is or if it even survived. The film
was originally financed by Quaker Oats. (big laughter) True story - it's in the
documentary. Mel Stuart's daughter read the book Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and really liked it. So Mel
Stuart took it to David Wolper, who in turn went to Quaker Oats for financing,
and got something like three million dollars. The whole idea was that the movie
was a marketing piece for a line of candy bars - Wonka Bars - which were going
to come out at the same time as the movie appeared in theaters. When the movie
hit the streets, the candy bars came out, but they couldn't last on the shelves.
So the candy bars were a failure, but the movie has endured for 30 years now. So
our whole objective on this DVD was to bring everybody back to see how the movie
affected their lives, what it was like to be a part of it all, and what they're
doing now. And just to give you a retrospective look at a film that's got a fond
place in most of our childhoods.
Bill Hunt: J. M., when does this title
J. M. Kenny: It'll be in stores on August
28th, I believe.
[At this point, J. M. plays about a 3 minute piece of the
Pure Imagination documentary.]
J. M. Kenny previews Willy
J. M. Kenny: Anyways, this goes on for
about thirty minutes - you get the idea. The film on this disc, by the way, is
available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen. [Editor's
note: This DVD was originally slated to be released with anamorphic widescreen
video. Unfortunately, in a colossally bad move on Warner's part, it's been
revealed that the final disc will be full frame only.] There are also
several songs that are sing-along, so kids can interact with it. Warner's
approach all along was to make this disc very family oriented. This is the
studio's biggest family title, so it's going to be launched on DVD with a huge
marketing campaign. You're going to see a lot of publicity on this title in the
next couple of months. So that's Wonka. I
hope you have the chance to pick it up. Thanks. (applause)
Bill Hunt: Van, why don't you come up and
get our last preview DVD ready. And in the meantime, David, why don't you tell
us about some of the projects you're working on now.
[Van steps up to the podium and prepares the disc.]
David Prior: Well
as I mentioned I'm
in the last stages of Planet of the Apes,
which I'll be finished with in the next couple of weeks. And then I'm also
working on Pearl Harbor, which is huge.
Again, another major deadline crunch, but the supplements will be really great.
They had over three hundred hours of video taken on the set, which is a record I
think. On Apes, they had like ninety I
think, which I thought was a lot. And then after that is David Fincher's Panic
Room - the movie doesn't come out until next year, but we're already
getting ready to start working on the DVD release. And that's all I've got
scheduled for right now.
[At this point, the MGM logo appears again on the big
Bill Hunt: All right, it looks like we're
ready with our last disc. This is MGM's Terminator:
Special Edition, which streets on October 2nd. (big audience
Click cover to preview DVD
Ling: The menus on this disc, I should mention, were done by a really
cool company called Georgopolis Design. It's one of the few discs I've produced
where I haven't designed the menus. We've got a lot of interesting stuff here
for a seventeen year old movie. Remember, this movie was done when James Cameron
was just starting out, so he actually has no rights over any of this stuff, and
not any of the kind of control that he has had obviously on his subsequent
films. So it was kind of an interesting journey to go back to several production
companies that are now defunct and were bought up by MGM - I went into storage
to find most of this stuff. One of the things that a DVD producer does on
catalog titles, is we get to be like Indiana Jones for film historian purposes.
We go back into these vaults and warehouses sometimes, that are like what you
saw at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark,
and its just boxes and boxes of material. And you're going through it all trying
to find stuff for the DVD. So I was cracking open dailies boxes and film cans
that had not been opened since 1984 - it was a really interesting experience.
The other interesting thing about this title is, I actually started working on
it over a year ago. MGM actually released the version 1.0 of this DVD in Europe,
and then they chose to take a little more time with the U.S. domestic release.
So that gave me time to add a lot more stuff to the disc. I've put probably
another forty minutes of material on for the U.S. version. So anyone from Europe
- sorry, you're going to have to pick up the Region 1 version to get it all.
(laughter) As you can see, we've got trailers, which were very hard to find for
this film. We've got a couple of documentaries, one of which we did with Arnold
and Jim back in 1992. That had very limited release in the VHS box set, so I
don't think too many people ever saw it. I also did a brand new documentary for
this DVD release, for which I was able to talk to a majority of the people who
were involved in the show. It's a little over an hour long.
[Van shows a few minutes of the new documentary.]
Bill Hunt: Van, why don't you tell
everyone about some of the video and audio restoration that was done for this
Van Ling: Sure. As you may know, the
original film was mixed in mono - it was a low budget film at the time. And over
the years, a lot of people have wanted better quality sound. There have been a
few releases with sort of fake stereo, which was done without Jim's
authorization. So for this DVD, MGM just really wanted to do a knockout job.
They had a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix done - true 5.1. Lightstorm approved the
process and we actually mixed it up at Skywalker Sound. Brad Fidel even came
back and re-recorded all the music, because the original music was in mono as
well. The challenge there is, how do you preserve the flavor of the original
audio feel of the film, while being able to broaden it out and flesh it out and
take advantage of all the things you can do with surround sound these days? So
we had a mandate to really maintain the original spirit of the film, and say to
if we had had this kind of 5.1 capability back in
1984, how would we have mixed the sound then?" The last thing you want to
do is to alter the feel of the film - to take away any of the original appeal.
And so we really tried to pay attention to that. Also, you should know that the
video on the DVD is a brand new high-def transfer, which is anamorphic
widescreen as well. I think they did a knock out job on it - it really looks
The other thing I was able to find in the process of going through all the
materials, is a series of deleted scenes, which have never really been seen
before. Or "terminated" scenes as I call them. (laughter) There are a
number of them, including one that would have taken place at the end of the
film, in which you realize that the factory that they're in is actually
CyberDyne Systems. There are also a few scenes that were cut that actually set
up the second film. There was one in which Sarah actually finds out the address
of CyberDyne and says, "We've got to blow up the place." So it shows
that the sequel really came out of that. I was also able to get Jim Cameron to
talk about these deleted scenes, so you can choose to watch them with his
commentary. I managed to trick him into doing that, because he generally does
not do commentary for his films. We also have still galleries, sections on how
they did the tanker truck explosion with miniatures, and tons of other cool
stuff. Hopefully, you'll all enjoy the disc. There's also, I should let you guys
know, some forty minutes worth of Easter egg material hidden that you can find.
And just so you know, it's all on Side One of the disc. This is what's called a
DVD-14 format disc, which means that it's got two sides - one side is
single-layered and the other side is dual-layered. So explore, enjoy and see
what you can find. Thank you. (applause)
Bill Hunt: And happy hunting. (laughter)
We're running a little short of time, so what I want to do is to have everyone
else tell us about the projects they're working on now, and then we'll take a
few questions from the audience. So Mark, do you want to talk about what you've
got in the works?
Mark Rance: We just finished Cast
Away and Unbreakable. So we're
moving on to the Twin Peaks TV series (big
applause) and then, God willing, Bernardo Bertolucci's The
Bill Hunt: I know a lot of people are
waiting for Twin Peaks. Very cool. Van,
can you talk much about Episode I?
Van Ling: It's gonna be cool. (laughter)
We've got some classic material, we've got some brand new material that's really
amazing in terms of behind-the-scenes material. Steve Sansweet is going to be
talking about it a little bit tomorrow in his Star
Wars: Connections presentation here at the show, so I encourage you
all to go check that out. My shock collar is on high right now, so that's about
all I can say. (more laughter) But the Episode I
DVD streets on October 16th, and I hope you guys all enjoy it.
[Editor's Note: Steve Sansweet's presentation basically
played the now infamous DVD trailer for Episode I, which you can
here (courtesy of The Force.net) if you're interested. We'll have
more in-depth coverage of the Episode I DVD here at the Bits in
Bill Hunt: J. M., what have you got going
J. M. Kenny: There are a few titles we're
working on with MGM for next year, but those are pretty early in development at
the moment, so we'll keep that quiet for now. But I'm doing a Jerry
Maguire: Special Edition right now for Columbia TriStar, and the
original 1960 Ocean's Eleven for Warner
Bill Hunt: Alita?
Alita Holly: Right now I'm working on Rush
Hour 2, which will be an Infinifilm release from New Line - a very
complex disc. And I'm also doing MADE with
Artisan and a couple of other titles that it's too early to talk about yet.
Bill Hunt: (to audience) And you should
know that a lot of these titles we're talking about will be out at the very end
of this year or the first part of next year.
Alita Holly: Yeah. There's a big push for
before Christmas, but you know
that's why we don't sleep very much.
Bill Hunt: Very cool. Okay
have a few minutes left, and we still have to give all these prizes away. But
why don't we take a few questions
About half of the audience (we
literally couldn't fit them all in the picture!).
Question #1: This question is for Mark.
I'm just curious - whatever happened to all the rights for those great Criterion
commentaries? What's the process that those just kind of seem to disappear off
the face of the Earth?
Mark Rance: The short answer is that
Criterion still owns the original materials - the commentaries - but they don't
own the movies to which they belong. And for whatever reason, they don't make
deals with the studios to reuse any of it for new DVDs, as many times as they've
been asked. One of my duties for New Line was to basically recreate discs that
I've already done. And basically, just go back and remake Se7en
for example. Or to do Boogie Nights over
again. So I don't know what they're going to do with any of it. I've always
thought it would make a great book - to publish some of the better ones in text
format. It's a shame, because they talked to a lot of directors who are no
longer with us. At the moment, you really have to just consider it lost
Question #2: This is sort of for
everybody. Are there any sort of obstacles to producing DVDs that have an edited
version of the film as an added feature - like the airline edit or the TV
version? Is there any reason why we haven't seen that yet?
Charlie de Lauzirika: Would you really
want to see a censored version of the film? (applause) I'm just asking, because
I think no one's ever figured anyone would want that
Van Ling: You're talking about a parental
lock feature, or an alternate version of a film that's available by password?
Question #2 (follow-up): Well
you have kids, it would be nice to be able to watch a film with them and not
have to cringe all the time at what they're hearing and seeing
David Prior: I recommend maybe just
getting some G-rated films. (applause)
Bill Hunt: It's interesting that you ask
that question, because DVD players - the DVD format does have a parental lock
option, but I don't think any studio's ever really used it in their discs.
J. M. Kenny: The attitude with the studios
is that they really try to make these special editions the "be-all, end-all"
versions of the film. And I think that from a film purist standpoint, anything
that's edited, for whatever reason, is really not something the director
intended to be released. The theatrical release is often their "director's
cut" if you will. And that's what they ultimately want to end up on home
video, so you have to respect that I think.
Van Ling: David, didn't you do a G-rated
version of Fight Club, and it was like
just a trailer? (laughter)
David Prior: Yeah, but nobody liked it.
Question #3: DVD transfer quality seems to
really differ - some companies do a better on transferring their films for DVD.
So do you find that certain studios have preferences for which companies they
want doing their transfer work?
Mark Rance: Well, the studios each use
their own standards for determining quality, and they each have their own
telecine facilities that they work with and their own marketing plans. In the
case of Se7en, David Fincher decided to go
back to his original camera negative to do the transfer - he felt he never
really liked the original prints of the film. Other directors are seizing this
opportunity to use the high-definition transfer as one form of archiving their
film. But then you look at older films, and there just may not be a good
negative left to transfer from, so the studio may have to use an older transfer
done for a previous laserdisc or VHS release. Some studios are even using actual
theatrical show prints. So I think the quality varies for a lot more reasons
than just who did the actual transfer work.
Van Ling: I think that to the studios'
credit, they are becoming a lot more aware these days of the benefits of doing
new transfers of old films, and it's because of fans and consumers like you.
People who have said, "Hey
we don't want bad quality anymore. If this
is DVD, let's have the best high-definition transfers and let's take advantage
of the medium." The studios do listen to what you have to say. They do pay
attention to the websites and the newsgroups. So your feedback is very
important. These films are their future after all, so they have a big investment
in making sure they look great.
J. M. Kenny: I think also, we're very
fortunate now. Some titles that I did early on, for example Blues
Brothers and Animal House - any
footage that was not deemed important to be kept by the studio was simply
destroyed. Just thrown out. That was in the days before home video - before
there was a real perceived benefit to keeping it all safe and in good condition.
But the studios now are very good about saving everything. Anything post 1985,
there's still often material available. But anything before that time, good luck
finding anything associated with the original production. That seems really
outrageous at first glance. But you have to understand that anything the studio
decides to save and to store, there's a dollar value attached that. It costs
money to keep this stuff around at every step of the way. So before home video
came along, there was no reason to justify the cost of keeping stuff around. But
now they try to keep everything and to catalog it as best they can.
Question #4: Given that the DVD experience
is different than the theatrical experience, do you guys feel any responsibility
to try to preserve the original theatrical experience of the film?
Mark Rance: The original Criterion agenda
was to recreate the theatrical experience, first by careful transfer of the
film, and then by presenting the correct aspect ratio. Don't forget that VHS is
dead, and film is in the process of dying. So these new digital transfers - this
is really the way people will be watching these films in the future. If we don't
preserve it now, it will be lost as an experience.
Van Ling: I think also what you're asking
is if these new "special edition" cuts of films, with added scenes and
longer material - if these are what will be preserved exclusively, and the
original theatrical versions will be lost. I don't think most directors see it
that way. You know, they are relieved because they realize that with DVD, many
of the scenes that they loved but had to cut will get seen finally and
preserved. Or they feel like they finally have the opportunity to finish the
film the way they always meant to, but just ran out of time or money, or the
technology at the time just didn't let them get things as they wanted. So I'm a
firm believe in these director's editions. But at the same time, I still
consider the theatrical version to be the original version, and I think the
studios do as well.
Question #5: Because of its place in
cinema history as being the first feature film to be shot on video tape, does
MGM have any plans to release Frank Zappa's 200
Motels. And, if so, will you be including the making of documentary
that he did called The Story of 200 Motels?
Bill Hunt: Well, we have MGM in the
yeah or neigh? Maybe? You'll look into it? (laughter)
They'll look into it.
Van Ling: Actually, again
requests from people like you that help the studios decide what they release on
DVD. They really do listen, so keep sending them your feedback.
J. M. Kenny: If you hang out after, we'll
give you their home addresses
Bill Hunt: And if you drop them a big
check, you never know. (laughter) Okay
Question #6: Will DVD-ROM extras in the
future be less platform-specific. Because I love movies, but I'm a Mac person
and having to have PCs running Windows sucks. (big laughter and applause)
Van Ling: I'm a Mac person as well, and I
can't even look at half of the DVD-ROM materials on the discs that I work on. It
pains me to have to do menus were I have to put, "This DVD will not work on
an Apple Macintosh." I hope that's gonna be changing soon. Apple is really
finally starting to get their feet wet on the DVD side. We hope.
Charles de Lauzirika: Usually whenever a
DVD-ROM issue comes up on one of Ridley's titles, the first thing I say is that
we really should try to put some kind of Mac access on the disc. I'm also a Mac
user, personally. But Ridley directed the infamous 1984
commercial which really put Macintosh on the map. And it would be great if we
had Mac access on his DVDs. (laughter)
Van Ling: On the ID4
DVD, I included that TV spot about the Power Book that saved the world. And I
kept thinking, "Isn't it ironic that the Power Book that saved the world
can't play the DVD-ROM on this disc?" (more laughter) Hopefully that will
Bill Hunt: And with that, we've got to cut
things off, I'm afraid. We've got another presentation that's coming into the
room here in a few minutes - we're very tight on time. And we still have all
these cool prizes to give away, so everybody get your tickets ready. But before
we do that, I want to thank everyone up here - all our DVD producers - for
participating in the panel. I wish we had more time, because we could really
talk for hours about DVD, and we've barely scratched the surface. So please give
them all a round of applause. (big cheers) And thanks to all of you for coming
down here and making this fun for us. Have a great day at Comic-Con. (applause)
The DVD Producers 2001 Panel
(Top L to R): David Prior, Charles de Lauzirika, Van Ling, Alita Holly
(Bottom): Digital Bits editor Bill Hunt, J. M. Kenny, Mark Rance
(click the image for panelist bios)
Everyone who attended the event was given raffle tickets as they entered the
auditorium. After the Q & A period, we held a quick drawing and gave away a
number of prizes, including great Fox DVDs
(for the record: X-Men, Fight
Club, The Abyss, Independence
Day, The Alien Legacy box set,
The Die Hard Collection box set, Planet
of the Apes: The Evolution box set, a Schwarzenegger
box set, The Omen Collection box set and
all three complete seasons of The X-Files
on DVD) as well as an RCA 5215 DVD Player.
As they say, a good time was had by all.
The Digital Bits would like to thank
everyone at 20th Century Fox
Home Entertainment for sponsoring the panel (especially Peter Staddon!), and
all our friends at DVD
Planet for providing the player to give away. Thanks also to Gary Sassaman
and everyone at Comic-Con
for helping us to stage the event, and to MGM and Warner for the preview discs.
And we'd especially like to thank Mark, Van, Charlie, David, Alita and J. M. for
driving down to San Diego from L.A. at 6 AM on a Friday morning to spend a
little over an hour talking shop in front of a packed house of DVD fans. Anyone
up for doing it again next year? Maybe we'll see you at Comic-Con 2002. ;-)
As always, I welcome your comments.
The Digital Bits