Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Peter Sciretta
In early November, Summit Entertainment invited us to the editing room of Source Code, the second feature from Moon director Duncan Jones. During the visit, Duncan showed us the first 7 minutes of the film, and answered a bunch of questions from myself, Collider and FirstShowing. After the jump you can read the entire interview, and watch a very short video blog I recorded with Frosty from Collider.
Keep in mind, a lot has happened since this visit. It’s a whole new year for one, a trailer was released which shows a lot of plot elements Jones would only hint at during our interview (and much of which we had not seen at the time), and composer Clint Mansell is no longer scoring the project (you will notice a couple questions and answers about Clint’s score in the interview).
For those of you not following the project, here is a quick recap: The script had high praise in industry circles and has a clever premise, basically a mystery thriller set in an eight-minute span of time Groundhog Day-style. Jake Gyllenhall plays a soldier who is part of an experimental program to ferret out the origin of a terrorist attack on a train. His psyche is projected into the body of a passenger on the train, and he relives the attack multiple times as he tries to trace it back to the point of origin. Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright are in the cast as well. The Source Code script has had some revisions done by Billy Ray but was originally written by Ben Ripley.
Source Code Video Blog Time Index:
:50 – Talk about the secret location in Santa Monica where pretty much every major filmmaker edits his/her movies.
1:50 – Intro the synopsis of the movie Source Code.
2:40 – Talk about the edit bay visit itself, seeing the first 10 minutes of the movie. Duncan Jones only wanted to show the first 10 minutes of the film.
4:18 – Talk about how Jones came to the project quite quickly. The film had already been greenlit when Jones came aboard.
4:33 – Talk about how the film is very different from Moon. Recount how Jones told them about filming an action sequence involving Jake Gyllenhaal’s character jumping from a train, but used camera trickery to make it all one shot.
5:55 – Talk about how trailers these days tend to give away everything.
6:22 – Talk about how Jones seemed like he wanted to cut a trailer for the film himself, but the studio was more comfortable with the marketing team taking it on.
7:23 – Talk about preference for teaser trailers over full trailers.
9:13 – Talk about hearing temp music from Clint Mansell in the footage they saw, but Mansell was subsequently replaced by Chris P. Bacon as the composer for the film.
9:59 – Wrap up/closing thoughts
Question: What got you interested in this project?
Duncan Jones: There was a couple of things. We had just finished Moon. I wanted to have the opportunity to sort of work out what it’s actually like to work on…not so much a Hollywood film, because this is not a studio film, per se, but I wanted to understand what it was like to work over here and through more of the system.
Stewart and I, who’s my producer, we sort of did Moon all ourselves, and it was very much our project. We controlled everything. We made all of the decisions. And I wanted to sort of go through the process over here a little bit and have the chance to work with, you know…Jake was a huge draw to me because I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s a terrific actor. Also ridiculously handsome in a very hetero way, but he’s a good looking guy, and he’s a leading man, you know. He’s a leading guy and I wanted to sort of work with him. I thought it would be really exciting.
I thought the script was really interesting, and there was specific things about the script that I think opened themselves or lended themselves to doing some really creative visuals. And there was some ideas that immediately came to mind when I was reading the script that I was thinking, “This is something I don’t think I would have the chance to use as a visual effect or as a visual idea in any other project.” So it became one of those things that was really difficult to let go of. It’s like, “If I don’t do this here, I’m never going to get to do this anywhere.”
So at that point I knew you either, to be crude, either shit or get off the pot. And I thought, “No, I want to go with this. I want to make this film.” And it was very exciting. We had ended up moving very, very fast, and things came together very fast. And then we got Michelle Monaghan onboard, and Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright, all of whom were people I really sort of went out to get, and I was so excited when they actually agreed to be involved in the film. I mean I’m a huge Vera fan. I think she’s an amazing actress. And, you know, it’s a real thrill to work with her, as well as the others. But Vera, I mean, was like a real [xx 2:06].
Question: In your own words, what is the movie about?
Duncan Jones: Well, let me tell you.
Duncan Jones: It’s a thriller. It has a couple of science fiction elements, but it’s contemporary and it goes definitely beyond science fiction. It’ s much more, I think, open than that. It’s about a guy who wakes up on a train, doesn’t know how he got there, finds…you’ll see in the first few minutes…finds that he is not who he thinks he is.
Let me show the first five minutes of the film and then we can talk about it a bit more.
Duncan Jones: Just so you know what the state of it is, effect shots keep on getting dropped into it. It hasn’t been graded. Clint Mansell, who worked on the score for Moon, is writing the score for this film, but only one piece of his music is in the film right now, and it’s just a rough piece of music for the opening titles. The rest of it is just temp score.
We’re still tweaking things here and there, but I’m feeling pretty good, and the effects shots are starting to come in. So that’s where we’re at right now.
[cut to after the footage]
Question: So you were going to go on….
Duncan Jones: Yeah, well I was just going to say, so that’s how we start. Colter finds himself in this environment which appears completely alien from his experience, and finds that he has to go back onto the train and, over the course of the film, learn what’s going on and why he keeps getting sent back to this place. That’s the nature of the film, the mechanic of the film.
Question: So it’s never explained to him why he’s going back?
Duncan Jones: Certain things are explained to him, but part of the experience of the film is, as an audience, we’re sort of with him in his dilemma. He learns more about who’s sending him back, why he’s going on the train, you know, why is the train exploding. And over the course of it, as he sort of gathers the puzzle pieces together, he hopefully is able to do something about it. So that’s how it’s set up.
Question: We witnessed a certain amount of time right there at the beginning of the film that he’s sort of back there. Does that stretch of time ever get longer or is it always the exact amount of…?
Duncan Jones: There is a certain amount of time, a period of history, of recent history, which he is able to relive or re-experience. And he re-experiences that a number of times, each time learning new things about what is occurring and why it’s occurring, and trying to come up with a way of stopping it from happening.
Question: So is he just experiencing that…or do his actions change history?
Duncan Jones: That’s one of the questions that he sort of has to address in the film. Yeah.
Question: Let’s address the fact that, being honest, today, at AFM, Summit is releasing, essentially, a synopsis of your movie. Can you sort of talk about, as a filmmaker, the amount of information you sort of want out there versus…you know what I’m saying—the delicate balancing act between hiding a movie somewhat so the audience can be surprised, yet still promoting the movie so audiences want to go see it.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, it’s very, very difficult. We were talking earlier about there’s guys like Peter Jackson who will take you along for the entire ride of what it’s like to make a film, and then you have guys like Chris Nolan who are just saying, “There’s a new Chris Nolan film coming out. I hope you’ll enjoy it.” [laughs] I mean that’s all he has to say! I mean, it’s really..there’s two very opposing strategies of how you promote your film.
Question: Where are you in that range?
Duncan Jones: Well, it’s tricky. I mean Moon obviously, when we released the trailer for the film, I was really concerned that too much was given away. But, it was a very small independent film. And frankly, giving away as much as we did is what got the audience to come and see the film in the first place. So sometimes you have to make that sacrifice.
And the good thing is I think that the buzz that Moon generated did mean a lot of people ended up coming to see the film who didn’t know anything about it and hadn’t seen the trailers. But I don’t think those people would have gone to see the film if there hadn’t been that other audience who goes to see films based on the trailers they’ve seen.
So it is a juggling act. And I think there is also a certain degree of expectation that’s set up by trailers, where even if you know what’s going to happen in parts of the film based on the trailer, you almost anticipate and look forward to those moments based on having seen the trailer.
I don’t know. You know, in an ideal world, people would just be intrigued and go and see a film without knowing anything about it, because that’s where you’re going to have the most experience of a film, the biggest, the most revelation of a film.
But at the same time, I think there are benefits of having seen a trailer where you actually look forward to seeing moments in a film knowing that they’re coming up. I don’t know which is better.
Question: How is it with Summit with…Have you been involved with…Some filmmakers are very involved with their trailer, and some go like, “This is way too much”, a certain money shot they don’t want to include. How has it been for you, this being your first bigger…
Duncan Jones: Bigger, studio feeling film? You know, it’s difficult. It’s difficult to know. I think Summit have an awful lot of experience doing this, as any studio does, and they seem to know what they’re doing. I was concerned when Moon came out and Sony proved to be right. And, at the same time, with this film, my nature would be to keep as many cards close to my chest so that the audience can experience for the first time when they see the film. But there are things which need to be shown in the trailer in order to let the audience know what kind of film it is that they’re going to be expecting to see. So I appreciate that. I understand that.
Question: If I could just do one quick follow-up, when is the first trailer getting released, and when is Summit amping up the promotional end…
Duncan Jones: Love and Other Drugs.
Question: Oh, so it’s very soon.
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: I want to ask about the story. I’ve actually read the script, or an early version.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you remember which one it was? Because there was a blacklist script that came out…
Question: That might have been what it was…
Duncan Jones: …which was the original writer, and then there was Billy Ray who worked on it for a while, and there was a couple of people who worked on it…
Question: I already noticed some differences from the footage I saw. But I was going to ask about if you are concerned…or how you address the repetition of what we see. Do you balance having seen so many moments so much that you just don’t show them anymore? How do you figure that out?
Duncan Jones: Absolutely. That was always one of the concerns I had with…it wasn’t actually the blacklist script, but there was a draft of the script where it was like, “Wow. I don’t know if we can go back to this and see this again, and again, and again, because there isn’t enough development there.” So that was one of the things, although it was a short development time from when I got involved, that I really wanted to hit hard, was, “How can we truncate things and concentrate the interesting stuff to as few number of revisits as possible?”
And I think we got to a point where it feels about right. And those events that you do see again make sense, but every time there are enough new things and enough new perspectives that it doesn’t feel too repetitious.
And also, the other thing that was really important was this kind of three main facets to the film. There’s what goes on in the train, what goes on in the sort of limbo land that Colter finds himself, and what’s going on…the people who are sending him on this mission. And I wanted to really make sure that the other two beyond the train also had enough interest and visually stimulating things to keep the audience engaged to make that revisit something that felt right.
Question: You said that there’s basically three parts to the film. Does that mean that we spend equal number of time or equal number of time in each of those sort of realms, if you will?
Duncan Jones: No, no. The limbo land is kind of the glue between the two main ones, which is the train and then there’s this other environment where Colter finds himself, somewhere that is totally alien to him that he’s never been before. So those are kind of these two main elements, and then the limbo land is what kind of joins those two, from him going back and forth between the two.
Question: Film versus digital and why did you pick which one?
Duncan Jones: We actually… I’m terrible at those kind of choices so we shot on both.
Duncan Jones: We shot on 35 mil for a chunk of the film and then one of the environments, the limbo land, we shot on the red camera. I was delighted. I saw the…there was a still image of a David Fincher test that he did of the red camera where he lit, I think it was Leonardo DiCaprio with a match, and that was the only light source. And I saw that picture and I thought that was incredible. And if we can use practical lighting within this environment and practical lighting only, and make it look good, that’s what I want to do. So we attempted that and got pretty close, and it’s an unusual looking environment. I’m glad I made that choice. As far as the image itself, I have no problem with digital media for shooting.
Question: I’m so glad that you were able to get Clint back for this film.
Duncan Jones: Me too.
Question: We heard a little bit of his temp score in the beginning there. Can you talk a little bit about how his score is going to be used in this film?
Duncan Jones: Well, we are in early days on that right now. Clint’s been working on the score for just a couple of weeks, so it’s early days. It’s coming together really well. There’s a real pace to the film. It feels very fast, the film. And Clint is aware of that and is helping us get the most of that. And then also, find ways to help inject the motion and slow things down, put the brakes on it where it needs to. But I think it’s a real challenge for him as well, because normally his scores are really on top of things and it’s very noticeable in some ways. And in this film it does that where it needs to, but it’s also underscoring at points as well.
Question: The plot’s repeating itself. Is the score going to repeat itself, have any repetition to it?
Duncan Jones: You know, it’s still early days on that and we’re learning as we go along. At this stage there is some repetition, but I have…It’s so early that I haven’t had a chance to watch the whole film with all of the new pieces of score. Depending on how that feels, that seemed like the natural solution when we started, but I haven’t had a chance to really watch it and see how it works on a practical level, and maybe it will feel right, maybe it won’t. But that’s where we’re starting off with. That’s sort of the first creative decision. And we’ll see if that pays off.
Question: I’m curious, what was your reaction the first day you’re on set and you look at a call sheet and it has more than, say, two actors on it?
Duncan Jones: I was like, “Well who do I talk to?” I thought there was just one actor that I would have like a bonding, brotherly relationship with. It was great. You know, I mean…one of the biggest changes for me on a practical level of shooting the film was having a second unit. Even on commercials you don’t have them, and on Moon we didn’t need one. So on this film I had an actual second until who went away and shot things without me, and that was weird. That doesn’t feel right to me. That’s unnatural. So that was a real learning process and we sort of cheated a little bit, and I was able to sort of keep engaged on what the second unit was doing more than I think what would normally happen. But that was unusual.
Question: If I could do a follow-up on that…
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: Some directors are very involved in the second unit because their name is on the film and the second unit director is choosing angles and…
Duncan Jones: Oh, absolutely.
Question: Maybe he’s going to do Dutch angles and like, “Fuck, what are you doing that for?”
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: You know, but seriously. Could you sort of talk about did you have a conversation, I don’t know who your second unit director was, about the look of everything, or were you shooting your way into those…?
Duncan Jones: Well, I was very lucky. The way we were able to make it work…When we were deciding who was going to go and shoot the second unit, I was very fortunate. The guy who was doing the storyboards with me, a guy called Ray Prado, a very talented guy, he went away and did the second unit. So we had worked together very much on framing shots and how the camera should move and things like that during the storyboarding process. So it became much easier for him to immediately understand what my sensibilities were and how to make sure that his stuff fit in with what I was doing up at Montreal, which is where we shot most of the film. So that’s how that worked.
Question: It’s weird, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with this kind of plot before, other than like, say, Groundhog Day. But Groundhog Day is nothing like this film.
Duncan Jones: Although there is more comedy in this than you might expect. There’s more humor in it. [laughs]
Duncan Jones: But there’s also Jake, who is a funny guy. If you ask him to sort of let loose and be himself, he is a bit nutty in a really fun way. So rather than let the film get too dark, which was always a concern when we were, again, looking at the script, I wanted to make sure that we could bring the levity to it. Because I think it helps drama. I think drama is more effective when there’s levity there as well. You get that dichotomy.
Question: You didn’t want to pull a Terminator: Salvation?
Duncan Jones: Ah, Terminator: Salvation. Who owns that now? Who owns Terminator: Salvation? Are they going to make more Terminator films?
Question: Someone owns that, but a lot of people say that the problem with that film was…it was very enjoyable…
Duncan Jones: Too serious.
Question: …but it never had those joke moments, just, as you mentioned, the levity.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, yeah.
Question: What did you look at to implement how you shot this film, or what did you go to?
Duncan Jones: I think it was strange, because my interest in the project, like I said, was more about…there were moments in the script where I thought, “Wow! I have a really strong idea visually what I could do with that.” And Jake had been talking to me about what he was interested in doing as far as performance. And so there was already these pieces that were coming together, and it was, “How do we make all of this come together as a single project and not just a bunch of eclectic ideas?”
And then we started talking about what kind of film could this feel like? And Hitchcock, for want of a better director…
Duncan Jones: It felt like there were real Hitchcock elements to the script. And I think that was certainly helping to steer the feel of the film. And there’s some shots in the film which definitely would feel at home in a Hitchcock movie.
Question: You definitely have the bomb and the ticking clock.
Duncan Jones: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. Trains. Trains, bombs, strangers on a train.
Question: Could you talk a little bit about the editing process and the fact that…did you end up overshooting the movie?
Duncan Jones: I wish. I wish I’d had time to overshoot the movie. Again, it was a very fast process and it was…I guess projects tend to expand to fill the resources which are available, and this was very much the case, where it was a big step up compared to Moon. But, you know, the scope, the ambition of the project was bigger than the budget was probably designed for.
So when I first got involved…I think it was in November of last year, so it’s fast. That was when I first got involved, was November of last year. Hawke, who was the line producer on the film, already kind of had a structure of how he was expecting the film to be put together. And I came in and kind of blew that out of the water at the last minute saying, “No, I don’t want to do it this way. I want to do this and I’ve got these ideas for these effects, and this scene’s going to be like this.” And his head was spinning at sort of how I wanted to make it.
But I think we really stretched what the budget and the scale of the project would allow. Like Moon, I think it feels bigger than probably what the scale of the project originally was intended to be.
Question: Well obviously, you mentioned limited…No filmmaker ever has enough money besides maybe a Chris Nolan.
Duncan Jones: I think James Cameron does alright. [laughs]
Question: You’re right. But I’m curious. Could you talk about the breaking down of where…there obviously must be specific moments that you wanted to spend money. Could you sort of talk about that?
Duncan Jones: Yeah. Well, I mean it’s like I said. There were these moments in the film where I thought, “This could be really fun. This could be a moment where we could do something that no one’s really done before.” And there was this thing I had in my head. We have a scene where Jake jumps off a moving train. You’ve seen that, whether it’s jumping out of cars, jumping out of trains, you’ve seen it in so many films, and you know what to expect. You know how people are going to shoot it. They’re going to cut their way around it, they’re going to get the stuntman involved, they’re going to cut back to your lead actor and he’s going to sort of brush himself off and get up. And I didn’t want to do that.
So I thought, “I want to do what they do in Grand Theft Auto, in the game, not the movie. I want to be there with a camera on my lead actor the whole time as he jumps off the train, rolls down the track, bruises himself, cuts himself up, and then gets up at the end of it. I want to do that because no one does that.” You can’t do that.
And we actually ended up doing that shot. So that for me was like…that was one of those special effects kind of little gems that I knew I wanted to do that I hadn’t seen anyone else pull off before. So there’s things like that where I was like, “This is really important to me. I can scrimp and save here. I can cut down on my ambition in this section, but give me this.”
So throughout the film there are moments like that where I’ve kind of given myself a little bit of rope, and then hopefully kept things nice and tight and economical at other moments.
Question: Well obviously…again, I ramble on with questions. I’m so sorry.
Question: In Goodfellas you have that crazy long, seven-eight minute shot which everyone talks about. And a lot of filmmakers obviously aspire to make that money shot…that kind of shot. Could you sort of talk about did you ever have any moments on this where you’re like, “I can do a really long one minute shot here or two minute shot.” Could you sort of talk about…did that movie influence you and are you still trying to match that kind of thing?
Duncan Jones: You know, our environments were never really designed in such a way that that kind of shot would work. I mean I’m a huge…I have a huge amount of respect for those kind of planned shots. Wasn’t there a Russian film where the whole feature was done in one shot, or one camera move? Yeah, I mean it’s incredible, but it is…you know, it’s a trick. And if that becomes bigger than the film, then you’ve got to ask yourself, “Well, why did you make the film in the first place? Was it just to show off that shot?”
And I think in this film what we wanted to do was my moments of visual…well, my visual ideas where I wanted to fit them into the film, they had to feel right for telling the story. And I think the stunts that we have or the special effects that we have all serve the purpose of getting you into Colter Stevens, who’s our lead character, into his head and his experience of what’s going on in the film.
I think if you look at Inception, Inception’s a good example of where as amazing as the stunts in the special effects are, when you’re actually watching the film, they make sense. They’re appropriate to what’s going on during the film. And I think that’s where I was trying to steer us, although Inception hadn’t come out when we were making it. So…[laughs]
Question: It seems like your first film there’s a lot of special effects that you were supposed to notice, or, you know, create this world….
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: In this film you’re using special effects that we’re not supposed to notice and it’s going to be seamlessly in there. Can you talk a little about that?
Duncan Jones: Yeah. Well, I guess Moon was really a matter of trying to make a film that felt much bigger than the resources we had. In this film, the special effects are used to help put you into the character’s mind and the fact that things are as confusing and surreal, and he is finding it so difficult to grasp what’s real and how it fits in with the story of how he got to be on this train or this other place that he ends up.
So the special effects are, in some ways…It’s almost…We almost make more of an effort for them not to feel real and to feel more surreal. So some of the inspirations for the look of the film were things like Lucy and Freud paintings and Picasso’s Cubist Period. I mean it’s just kind of weird stuff; stuff that doesn’t feel real. It’s not about photorealism, it’s about making the audience go, “What the hell is that? How does that fit in with this story?” But it all helps sort of explain what Colter’s going through.
Question: Do we get off the train or is the whole movie on the train?
Duncan Jones: No, you get off the train. [laughs] That was another one where we were looking at the script and it was like, you know, “There are certain things we need to do to expand this beyond the parameters that you’ve set up here, otherwise the audience is going to feel trapped when it’s too repetitious.” So we do get off the train, and that was part of it.
Question: Can you talk about working with the actors and shooting? Like, how many takes you do. Do you shoot the train sequences in sequence in terms of what he learns along the progression?
Duncan Jones: Yeah, it was actually a…Again, it was a compressed schedule, so there wasn’t room for…You know, I wasn’t able to take the number of takes that maybe a Fincher or someone would want to do.
Duncan Jones: We built a train; we built the interior of our train at a studio in Montreal. And we had the whole thing on a rig so it could be a gimble so that we could rock it and green screens for the windows. That was one of the first choices that we made where I would have loved to have shot on a real train, but it just wasn’t practical. And we did sort of talk to a number of, I guess, train line owners to see whether there was going to be some way for us to do that.
But what we ended up doing was we shot plates of the exteriors of what you see out of the train windows on a section of rail outside of Chicago, and then shot all of our interiors in Montreal. So those were the kind of decisions that were going on early on.
And no, not a huge number of takes. I mean it was…a lot of the time we were just trying to keep up with ourselves as far as all of the work that we had to do. The shooting schedule was not hugely much longer than Moon. So I mean it was not as much time as…I hope in the future I’ll get more days to shoot, but there was something we were having to fit into.
I think at the time Jake was doing the press for Prince of Persia, so we had to fit in within his availability and getting him out in order to do the Prince of Persia press. So there was not much room to extend beyond that.
Question: Did you shoot all of his sequences in the train as they should have been? So it’s sort of like where he’s discovering what’s going on…
Duncan Jones: Yeah, it was chronological…As much as possible we shot it chronologically. Everything on the train was shot chronologically, and then exteriors of the train were shot afterwards. And then we have this place that we called “the pod”, which is another environment where we built these amazing sets which were almost like metal sculptures. And we shot in there for about a week. And then finally, we shot this place called The Lab Environment, which was this dressed, very strange building that we found up in Montreal, and shot in there with Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. We were in there for about another week.
Question: I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about the…After Moon there’s a lot of buzz on you because the movie is fucking great. I’m curious, was there a lot of debate over which project am I going to do as my follow-up? Like, did you feel that sort of pressure?
Duncan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I was very fortunate Source Code was as strong a script as it was. I was given a few things. There were some really interesting projects out there. Then there were some offers for some things which were maybe not so interesting, like the obvious, “If I want to do a studio film, go make this.” And I wasn’t ready…I didn’t want to do that.
But Source Code kind of came out at the right time. We hadn’t really received as much of the critical acclaim for Moon at the time that I signed onto Source Code, so I was a little bit nervous. I wanted to make sure that I was going to get the chance to make another film.
But Jake came along and we had a meeting, and I got on really well with him. It was kind of like with Sam. When I met up with Sam Rockwell, it almost didn’t matter what the project was, I just wanted the chance to work with Sam. And I wrote Moon because I wanted to work with Sam.
And with Jake it was sort of similar. When we met and I got on so well with him…and I know that he was really interested in working with some different kinds of directors. I mean he had just come off of Prince of Persia. I think it was a very different experience than what he had on Source Code. And I think the two of us kind of bonded and knew that we could have a lot of fun. I could kind of open things up to him to allow him to experiment and to try things that maybe he wouldn’t get to try on other films.
I think that relationship between us was really built on trust and the fact that we wanted to work together. So Source Code is a script, it was almost just…We were just lucky that the script was as good as it was, because if it hadn’t been, we would have still wanted to work together and we would have done any other project. But Source Code was the one we did.
Question: You’re writing another sci-fi project, right? What’s happening with that? Is that just on the backburner for now?
Duncan Jones: It is kind of. Life and career kind of catches up with you. That project was always…Mute, it was called, and it was very dark. I still love it, but I’m also getting enough experience now that I understand what the difficulty is in getting it made. If I can’t get it made soon, what my plans are is to either try and get it made as a graphic novel so that I can look at it, sort of see the storyboard of the film, and convince people that way that it’s the way to do it.
In the meantime, I’m working on another science fiction project right now which is a much easier sell and something I’m very excited about. So we’ll see if that…hopefully that’s going to happen first.
Question: I was going to ask if you are going to stick with sci-fi.
Duncan Jones: Again, it’s not intended. It’s not some grand plan. But there are certain things about sci-fi that I find very satisfying. And I think you can talk about things and audiences will open themselves up to science fiction in a way where you may not be able to get away with that in any other genre. I think…
Question: Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I was going to say studios also seem to be very onboard with sci-fi projects. And it seems like if you have a decent script and you have a star, it’s a lot easier to get made. Or am I wrong about this?
Duncan Jones: You know what? I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t yet had a green light on my own project. Other than Moon, which didn’t need a studio, I haven’t been through that experience yet. This film was already going, and it was going because Jake and I wanted to do it and it just sort of happened, and it blossomed.
But as far as that experience of pitching a project to a studio and seeing…I’ve had studios say that they can’t way to see my script, but I think they say that to anyone because they just want to make sure they get the first look at whatever’s coming down the road. But who knows how easy it will be? I don’t know yet.
Question: This thing that you’re talking about, is this something that you’ve written yourself or is this…?
Duncan Jones: Yeah, but it’s based on something. It’s based on something that a few hardcore geeks will be excited about.
Duncan Jones: But only a very few! [laughs]
Question: Does that mean you needed to get someone’s permission to do this?
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: Oh, OK.
Question: This is the game that we all play. It goes back and forth.
Duncan Jones: I can’t say anything more about it. But as soon as I can I will, and I’m going to be…
Question: It seems to me, though, that maybe it’s something that exists in the UK?
Duncan Jones: I’m not saying anything else!
Duncan Jones: No, it was over here in America as well.
Question: I understand. Well, with Mute, though, and the possibility of a graphic novel, a lot of filmmakers are working with Radical publishing to do stuff. Have you talked to them or any of these…
Duncan Jones: I’ve had meetings with them. But like any director who’s working, you have meetings with everyone. I think it’s just part of the way things work here. Everyone wants to know what you want to work on and everyone wants to pitch you what they’re working on. And that’s just part of the process. And hopefully, at some point you find someone of like minds and you make a film.
So I’ve met with a lot of people and…yeah. I’m almost at the point where I’m ready to start taking my wares around to these people who I’ve just had meetings with before. You have a lot of meetings. I mean I only moved to LA for this film in May and I’ve had more meetings here than I’ve had in the rest of my life doing anything. [laughs] And that’s while I’m making a film and not asking to make another film. That’s just, you know, “You have to take a meeting with a guy.” “OK.” So I go along and I talk to them and see what happens.
Question: Well let’s ask the most important question of the day. Twitter.
Duncan Jones: Yeah. It’s good, isn’t it?
Question: That was a fake build up, by the way. No, I’m just curious if you could talk a little bit about your enjoyment on social networking.
Duncan Jones: Yeah! I mean as anyone who uses Twitter, it’s a strange beast, because back in the day you used to get on IRC channels and talk to people about a particular interest that you had. And just back and forth, and it would all be live and streaming. And Twitter is almost a step backwards from that.
But for some reason it’s really caught on. I guess it’s less geeky than IRC used to be. So you type your little note and hopefully people will respond to it, or they’ll ignore it, or they’ll come up with something totally unrelated.
I got involved with it because I wanted to promote Moon, and when I started to promote Moon, Twitter was kind of the new thing. And it kind of built up for me. I was spending like four or five hours a day on Twitter during the finishing of Moon promoting the film and running competitions and doing all sorts of silly stuff that really generated a kind of a small but loyal core audience who evangelized on behalf of the film. And I think they really did do that. They went out of their way to tell people about Moon and to hold events. I wasn’t paying them. I wasn’t asking them to do it. They were just doing it.
And I generated a lot of real friends doing that. And having done that, I’ve reached a point now where I consider these people, even if I haven’t met them in person, a lot of them, they’re friends of mine. And I don’t really want to leave Twitter, even though I don’t have the same need to be on it or have the same purpose that I used to have to be on it.
Question : In a few months you will.
Duncan Jones: Well, that’s what I have these wonderful people for. I don’t have to run competitions for Source Code out of my bedroom anymore like I had to with Moon.
Duncan Jones: So it’s very different, you know? It’s very different.
Question: One of the big reasons this film is being made is the blacklist and the script getting out and catching fire on the web. But also…I wanted to hear you talk about that, but also like your script….I’ve read it, it’s great.
Duncan Jones: Really? Do you really think it’s great?
Duncan Jones: Because there were some horrible things said about it that frustrated me.
Question: I think it needs a couple more drafts, but I think there’s something really there.
Duncan Jones: Because I think I know what the flaws are in it and I’m going to address them at some point.
Question: But what I want to talk about is that script got out there and it got this kind of, in one website in particular, some unfavorable review. What is it like to have something that’s not even ready for…
Duncan Jones: It’s horrible! It’s horrible! It’s a horrible thing! It breaks your heart because you work so hard on something. And we’ve gone quite a long way on Mute. We had beautiful concept artwork and it was really starting to click. The only thing that was stalling us at that point was casting the film. And then you get an early draft of the script which escapes your control, and all of a sudden it becomes like a poison challis and people don’t…because there’s a bad word on the net about an early draft of the script, all of a sudden it’s not something that people want to touch. And it’s kind of…you know, it’s just like they have no idea what the film’s going to be. And that’s very difficult. That’s frustrating, because you do spend…at least in my experience, I’m not Akira Kurosawa. He used to write…He used to write a completely new spec script over a couple of nights. I’m not like that. It takes me a long time to put a film together that I want to make.
So yeah, it’s heartbreaking when it escapes like that.
Question: You said you got attached to Source Code kind of late in the game, like after Jake and everyone had been attached.
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
Question: Did you do any work on the script yourself?
Duncan Jones: We did a little..I mean I did a little bit. Billy Ray was working on the draft of the script when I was involved. And like I said, we were…I got involved in November, and by December we were up in Montreal location scouting. So there was a really compressed period of time where I was coming out to LA and meeting up with Billy Ray, and seeing what he was doing, and then I was giving suggestions. We ended up sort of really intensely working on it right up until as late as we possibly could.
But I think we got to a point where we had really boiled down what it was we thought made the film really interesting and intense and had made that the focus of the film. So I think we got away with it. I think we made the script stronger than where it was when I was first introduced to it.
Question: Have you guys tested the movie yet? Or are you planning on testing the movie?
Duncan Jones: We did some very, very early preliminary friends and family type tests a while ago, back when…I think there’s over 800 effects shots in the film. Like I said, when we shot all of the train interiors, it’s green screen outside. So I think our early screenings were to friends and family who gave us some very creative and constructive advice on what was working, what wasn’t. But even for them it was difficult to really see the film for all of the things that were missing. There was no score, there was unfinished effects everywhere.
But I think there are some more tests coming up, and it’s a completely different film from those previous tests.
Question: How close do you think it will be…when you test it, do you think it will be just about done or there will still be some green screen, there’ll be some…
Duncan Jones: I think what the test audiences will see will be 90-95% there as far as effects. I think we’ll be pretty close as far as the effects go. Score-wise it won’t be; it will still be temp score. And it won’t be graded. So there’ll be a few things there which are unfinished, but I think there’ll be enough effects in there that I won’t be concerned that a lack of effects will negatively affect the audience’s ability to enjoy it.
Question: You haven’t gone through the test process have you?
Duncan Jones: Not in a formal way. Like I said, friends and family mainly. So it’s very different, I think, than what they will subject it to…
Question: Does that make you nervous at all?
Duncan Jones: Test audiences?
Question: That, you know, some group in a multiplex in the Valley is going to see this…
Duncan Jones: I was hoping that I could just invite people from Twitter. That would be fine. I could do that. [laughs] I could fill up a…Cool Posts From Around the Web: