In the middle of the first day of the San Diego Comic Con, Hall H broke from showing thunderously loud movie clips to present a conversation between Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. The ‘Visionaries’ panel, as it was called, was a low-key talk that was more about the personalities of the two participants than the movies they’ll soon be making. So there wasn’t a lot of news about The Avengers or Star Trek 2 or even, for the most part, Abrams’ ‘secret’ movie Super 8. But in the case of the latter, Abrams gave a little bit of backstory that explains his connection 8mm movies.
We’ll have a transcript of the full Visionaries panel up shortly; in the meantime, hit the break for all of Abrams’ comments about how he first came into personal contact with the early films of Steven Spielberg. And get to the end, when he seems to take a certain humor in the audience’s reaction to the fact that the film won’t e in 3D.
Moderator: JJ, you grew up making films on the Super 8 camera. You also grew up loving the films of Steven Spielberg. And now you are making a movie called Super 8 with Steven Spielberg. Is that like a total coincidence?
JJ Abrams: It’s sort of a dream come true, honestly. The strange thing…this is a weird story. When I was 16 years old, Matt Reeves and I…Matt directed Cloverfield, and we created Felicity together. Matt and I were at a Super 8 film festival in LA. And the LA Times wrote a story about it that came out the next day.
And we got a phone call that day from Steven Spielberg’s assistant, who at the time was Kathleen Kennedy. And she said, “Steven made films when he was your age, and they are damaged. The splices are sort of coming off, the little tape splices. Would you guys be interested in repairing them?” And Matt and I were like, “Yeah, we’ve got finals, but we could probably also repair Steven Spielberg’s movies that he made.” And they said, “Oh, great. Well we’ll drop them off.”
So someone comes and drops off these two original films, Firelight and Escape to Nowhere, that Steven Spielberg made when he was a kid. And these are the…There are no copies. These are the original movies. And it says on the film, which, of course we watched them, it says: “Written and directed by Steve Spielberg.”
And I was like, “Matt, we must take the frame of this. We have to.” And he was like, “No, no! We can’t do that! They’ll know!” So we
didn’t steal it. Anyway, a lot of almost theft in my childhood.
So we repaired these movies. They were shot on regular 8, not Super 8. And we like peeled off every splice and put it back on. And just watching these movies that he made, it was insane, and it was just so inspiring.
I had no idea why this was happening. It felt like a complete joke. Because isn’t there like a building somewhere at Universal that is
designed to house the team that restores Steven Spielberg’s films that he made when he was a kid?
So we repaired these movies and they picked them up. They gave us $300, and that’s when I knew why they had us do it.
But anyway, years later…this was a couple years ago…I called Steven and I said, “I have an idea for a movie called Super 8.” And I just sort of pitched him. And he was very excited about it. Because I knew, in a weird sort of way, having worked on those movies, I had a sense of what he had done when he was a kid.
Moderator: What can you say about Super 8? Is this also like a little too soon or can you say anything?
JJ: I mean it’s way too early. I would love to show you footage, but we haven’t shot any yet. My favorite thing about the movie though is that someone will go to the theater and see the trailer and hopefully say, “Oh my God, that looks bitchin” and have no idea they are starring in the movie. So we’re shooting in September. We haven’t shot the movie yet.
Moderator: What has been the collaboration then, like, with Steven so far?
JJ: It’s unbelievable. It really is surreal. I mean because there is a genre element to the movie, it’s impossible to work with him and not constantly reference the work he has done, and you don’t want to sound like you are being a sicko fan. But it’s been incredible, and he’s been beyond helpful. And the movie is, I think, very much in the spirit of some of the Amblin films that he made years ago.
So it is a dream come true. And I couldn’t imagine working on something that is more sort of personal and also hyper real. It’s not
like the movie is some kind of autobiography, but there is a lot of stuff in it that feels very personal.
Moderator: Will a film called Super 8 be in 3D?
JJ: Very interesting. You’re welcome.