Sunday, January 11, 2009

(Insert Film Title): The Companion Material

In a world where content is divided up into 2 categories (Self-Indulgent and Insightful) it can be hard to learn from example of what to include as bonus content with your film. Does one simply make a 20 minute Behind The Scenes featurette? How important is commentary?

The best way to answer this question is think ask yourself another question; What is needed to enhance the viewing experience? In order to continually engage the audience we must keep asking questions. We must constantly keep them interested. As filmmakers, we love bonus content, we love to learn what the director was thinking or the writer, or the actor, very rarely do we get a chance to see anything beyond that outside of commentary of a BTS featurette.

In effort to make "Our Last Days As Children" as engaging and appealing as possible, both to our peers and our audience, myself and the rest of the production team (Toni Ann Baker & Diane St. Laurent of Two Sisters' Productions, Inc., as well as DP Seth Melnick and Composer Mauro Colangelo) have started to take inventory of all the bonus content from all the films we love. What we found is that there are not many projects that have more exploratory content. Recent studio films like WALL-E and The Dark Knight have done a great job of adding bonus DVD content, explaining the technology they used, or how stunts were orchestrated, and there is a great deal of those topics to explore in such films, but for those of us with an eye and ear towards the grand Mise en scène, its not always enough.

In order to best describe what we intend to do with the bonus content for "Our Last Days As Children" we'll point out a few features of other projects that we enjoyed and plan to follow.

"Heights" - The DVD has wonderful commentary provided by Director Chris Terrio and actress Glenn Close, but also includes a Locations Journal. Chris gives wonderful insight into not only the story of how they acquired these locations, but also why he chose them. One mistake that amateur filmmakers stumble across is that of locations and production design. "JOE LIVES IN A HOUSE" so the location manager finds a house for Joe and the production designer will make it look tidy. However, in this case, very rarely do filmmakers look beyond Joe. "Is Joe messy? Does he like Art? Is he utilitarian? is he a packrat? Does he fit the space?" Naturally, if Joe is a real person, his environment would be an extension of his personality. I've been seeing more and more films where the characters and their environment don't match, most recently a film in which a character was a deadbeat drug addict with no money, yet her home was very well furnished, very clean, very modern and technologically on par with the average American middle class family. Nothing about the character reflected that, and after a conversation with the director, it was also apparent that the director didn't think about that either. With Heights, Terrio does a wonderful job examining a few of the key locations and how they not only reflect the character, but also how they help scope the character. The apartment that Isabelle and Jonathan (Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden) live in is small, confined, and cluttered. Terrio took time to make sure that his characters lived within that space, even setting up shots in the smaller rooms to reflect their world closing in on them.

"Children of Men" One of my favorite special features; a featurette featuring futurists and various humanities professionals discussing the plausibility and functionality of the not-so-distant and familiar future they story takes place in; in many ways, a video-essay.

"Serenity" The Companion Books; "Finding Serenity" & "Serenity Found"

-In "Finding Serenity" this eclectic anthology of essays, former cast member Jewel Staite, "Kaylee," philosopher Lyle Zynda, sex therapist Joy Davidson, and noted science fiction and fantasy authors Mercedes Lackey, David Gerrold, and Lawrence Watt-Evans contribute to a clever and insightful analysis of the short-lived cult hit "Firefly". From What went wrong with the pilot? to What's right about Reavers? and how the correspondence between the show's creator Joss Whedon and the network executives might have actually played out, the writers interrogate the show's complexity and speculate about what might have been if the show "Firefly" had not been cancelled.

-"Serenity Found" the follow-up to Finding Serenity, takes the examination of Joss Whedon's canceled cult favorite even further, addressing the events of the film Serenity as well as offering even more thought-provoking, fascinating, and far-thinking essays on the Firefly universe. Contributors include actor Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Mal Reynolds, as well as noted science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. Behind-the-scenes details are explored, including why Firefly makes such a good platform for the upcoming Multiverse online game (with an essay written by Multiverse executive producer Corey Bridges), while other essays examine recurring issues from both the series and the movie, such as the Alliance's hatred of science, the role of smart-mouthed women, and the real reason the Firefly universe has no aliens.

These are wonderful, wonderful books for the true fan, but more importantly, they give insight into the universe the story takes place in. They spark conversation among fans as well as ask questions that don't always give answers.

Battlestar Galactica: Bear McCreary's Battlestar Blog - On Bill McCreary's Blog, the Composer offers up amazing insight onto how and why he composes the music for each and every scene and what its intended purpose is. His music and blog have such a following that recent DVD release of the first half of season 4 includes an entire film on his process.

An excerpt from his blog on it: Battlestar Season 4.0 is finally released on DVD this week. "I’m thrilled to announce officially what many of you have suspected since early reviews of the DVD leaked out: This DVD set includes my original documentary “Inside The Secrets Of The Behind The Making Of The Music Of Battlestar Galactica: Revealed.” This is a film I produced with Matthew Gilna and Kristina Maniatis that premiered last April at our Los Angeles Battlestar concerts. If you missed our shows last spring, here’s your chance to catch up. And since you’re reading my blog, I’m assuming you’re already a fan and will be checking out the DVDs at some point anyway. :) Many people came together to help make this film a reality, but there are several without whom it would never have existed: Matthew Gilna and Kristina Maniatis… You both went above and beyond the call of duty here, and poured yourselves into this project. And congratulations on your recent engagement! For all this, I owe you guys a wedding march or something. (Taiko drums and bagpipes??)"

These are just a few examples that filmmakers can utilize with their own projects and add value to their films. We certainly are.

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