Exclusive: The Brothers Strause Talk Skyline Part 1
These days big budget films are a staple of movie-going fare. Big stars, huge budgets, and giant “event” pictures are given wide release and fill cineplexes around the world. For decades it has been the formula that has fueled what many refer to as “Hollywood.” But times are changing. Technology is seeing to that.
And as the state of the art advances, costs of cameras come down, and with the advent of the High Definition Digital format, the “Hollywood Formula” is being adapted by some very gifted filmmakers, and they are using it to their – and our – advantage.
Enter visual FX wizards and filmmakers, Colin and Greg Strause. Years of working as two of the industry’s most sought after visual FX artists provided them with the opportunity to direct their first film, the highly debated Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. After enduring the promises and betrayals inherent with working in the studio system, the two brothers saw that the state of the filmmaking art had advanced to a point where HD filmmaking was more accessible than it had ever been. If one thing was clear from AVP:R, it was that the brothers knew what they were doing behind the camera.
I first met the Strauses on the set of AVP:R one incredibly cold Vancouver evening in December of 2006. Just prior to shooting the first of the night’s scenes, we sat and talked about what it was like to make their first film, the stresses of working on such a widely-loved franchise, and the hopes they had for the film. The two of them were creativity and optimism personified. Beyond their brotherly physical similarities, they have the habit of routinely completing one another’s sentences and give off the impression that they are so in touch with each other that it is almost as if they share one mind. Well, AVP:R came out, and while it was met with mixed reviews and some fanboy incredulity, one thing was clear: The Brothers Strause were competent directors who could deliver a film on time and on budget.
After the AVP:R release, the brothers returned to their primary job of running their effects firm, Hydraulx, and worked on such films as THE INCREDIBLE HULK, BEDTIME STORIES, JUMPER, FAST & FURIOUS, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, 2012, AVATAR, THE BOOK OF ELI, and JONAH HEX. Then, this last summer word came out of San Diego Comic-Con that Colin and Greg had a film they were introducing at a panel. The film, SKYLINE, was an alien invasion story, high in concept and, as one might expect, visually stunning. Then, a week or so later, a trailer hit the Internet that confirmed fan’s expectations. The Strauses were back behind the wheel of another film.
SKYLINE (in theaters November 12, 2010), which stars Eric Balfour ("SIX FEET UNDER", HELLRIDE), Donald Faison ("SCRUBS"), Scottie Thompson ("NCIS", TRAUMA), Brittany Daniels (CLUB DREAD), and David Zayas ("DEXTER", THE EXPENDABLES), is the story of a group of people who find themselves holed up in a high-rise apartment as the aliens attack. The group quite literally has a front row seat to what quickly becomes the end of the world.
Beyond its story, visual sense, and spectacle (and believe me, it has all of those things), what makes SKYLINE such a game changer is the way it was made. Its budget, the particulars of which are being held close to the vest by both the filmmakers and their distributors, is miniscule compared to other films of its ilk. The Strauses' use of the innovative RED camera as well as some other hi-tech equipment has effectively slashed the film’s price tag to shreds, especially given the way SKYLINE looks.
Beyond its engaging tale of survival amidst the apocalypse, SKYLINE serves as a herald of the way films will be made in the future.
Witness… the future of filmmaking.
Before we get started, I wanted to ask about AVP: REQUIEM. How was that experience and were you satisfied with both the end result and the public’s reaction?
Greg Strause: "I think what we’ve tried to do is to look forward rather than to dwell on the past. I’d say that there were a lot of lessons learned from it. I think like, with anything, it’s always like, 'Oh, wow… there’s definitely a lot of things we hope to set straight and do better with the next one.' So, no… The reaction was not what we wanted, to be honest. David Fincher’s famous quote about ALIEN 3 was that 'no one hates ALIEN 3 more than me.' [laughs] You always sit back and think about that quote… Words of wisdom."
DC: It’s always hard to do something and then look back on it years later.
Colin: "Look, the way we’ve been discussing it is that it’s very frustrating when you can’t do what you want to do, but you take the hit for it. Or you’re told you can do something and you publicly say that you can do it, and then they don’t let you and then you look like the asshole. That’s bullshit. So, I think that’s where we want to leave it. Lessons learned and there’s just a lot of better ways of going about making movies, which is why we’re doing SKYLINE the way we’re doing it. It’s why we worked with our own in-house writers, we controlled the story, why we’re completely doing all the post production here, why we shot it in LA instead of Vancouver. There are all these things that we couldn’t control before, but now, with this project, we control it entirely. We’ve taken everything that bothered us about the process or the things we didn’t feel were efficient, and we’re now able to do it in the way we thought it should be done."
DC: What was the film’s budget?
Colin Strause: "It’s a little bit difficult to discuss the film’s budget in conventional terms. I mean, we own everything."