The Santa Barbara Film Festival is underway now, and amidst the screenings there is also a series of panels going on. Aint it Cool have had their man Quint on the scene, and he’s filed a report from the writers panel.

Moderated by Variety’s Ann Thompson, the remainder of the panel was made up of screenwriters: Dustin Lance Black, writer of Milk; Robert Knott, writer of Appaloosa; Tom McCarthy, writer-director of The Visitor; and Andrew Stanton, co-writer and director of Wall-E.

Quint managed to glean a few solid nuggets of news, not only from the panel but from a luncheon beforehand.  We already knew a fair bit about Stanton’s plans, but here are the new bits and pieces:

– Yes, his John Carter will be a Civil War soldier. No fanbase-rattling updates into the modern day here. Presumably still a Johnny Reb – but that wasn’t confirmed and political sensitivity may just curb this.

– He hasn’t got the same kind of development and pre-production time for this film that he’d be afforded on a Pixar production, but he has been a fan since he was a kid and has therefore had plenty of ideas percolating for decades. I could say the same about a few books myself and, actually, there are definitely a few key scenes from literature that I’ve planned, filmed and edited in my imagination over and over, so I know exactly where he’s coming from.

– Not wanting his film to look or feel like Star Wars or any of it’s derivatives, Stanton is taking on a more naturalistic aesthetic here. He said that the film would be akin to what we’d see should a National Geographic stumble across a long lost civilisation in a cave – not unlike some of what Peter Jackson said about his Lord of the Rings films, in fact. More evidence that Rings is now a key genre paradigm just how Star Wars was for so long.

– The second draft of the script is now complete.

– Stanton doesn’t want to shoot in 3D, though he feels Disney may try to push him in that direction.

Personally, I respect Stanton’s decision to shoot 2D precisely the way I’d respect a filmmaker’s decision to shoot in black and white, or to make their film silent – not a decision I’d necessarily make, definitely not every time, but a valid artistic choice. It’s now so viable to shoot a decently budgeted studio film in 3D that I’m thinking I’d always approach it as the default. No matter the genre, no matter the style, I’d now see the possibility to film in 3D basically as a license to shoot in 3D, not just an option.

Casting and crewing info on John Carter is bound to start breaking within the coming months, but so far I’ve got no idea what to expect. I simply can’t second guess Stanton’s thinking on this. Can you give it a shot? Who do you think he might go for? And who would you like to see in the film?

The other writers on the panel no doubt gave good talk too, and Quint has some of the best of it in his story. Well worth reading for yourself.

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