Exclusive: The Brothers Strause Talk Skyline Part 2

DC: And if nothing else, that “ending” presents a microcosm for the macrocosm of Life and Death and that which defines character.

Greg: Right. What would you do in that situation? Are you the hero or are you going to cower in fear and die? It’s that defining moment that’s such an interesting thing about people because sometimes the biggest, strongest people cry like little girls when something bad happens and it’s the other people who really rise to the occasion. It’s kind of fascinating to watch who shines and who doesn’t.

DC: How much Practical FX are there?

Colin: When it made sense to do smoke and steam from places where you’d see it, we tried to do that in camera. Obviously all the creature stuff was digital. We had ADI [Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc – Academy Award winning creature design firm operated by Tom Woodruff, Jr and Alec Gillis and known for their work in the ALIEN / AVP series, STARSHIP TROOPERS, DEATH BECOMES HER, WOLF, and TREMORS] do designs and build maquettes and things like that for creatures. We actually pulled off some really convincing earthquake stuff with literally just having all of these PAs and bottles on wires and people shaking the blinds and the way we shook the cameras and got the actors in sync. Normally, you’d be building a million dollar gimbal.

Greg: It actually worked better than it did in a very big movie I saw recently. I was a lot happier with our effect.

DC: You mentioned ADI … How much did Tom and Alec do? Was it just the creature designs?

Greg: Yeah, they did some really cool creature stuff for us and that was one of more fun processes for us.

Colin: We wanted to reteam with those guys because they were the shining light of the AVP: R experience.

Greg: Just the coolest dudes ever.

Colin: They do what they say they are going to do. They come through. They’re just such solid guys.

Greg: They have the same mentality as we do of wanting to do their own little independent movies. We’re all kind of cut from the same cloth. When we started the creature design process, we were like, “Guys, do you know the first ten designs you do that are so cool, but they get rejected and then fifty designs later, those first ten are what ends up in the movie? What if you could stay with the first ten? Let’s try that.” For the creature stuff, it was probably like Number 3 on one of them and it was like Number 2 on the other one. We were like, “Holy shit, you guys nailed it!” There was just no reason to keep micromanaging them and over-designing the thing. As soon as they got it, we were like, “OK, that’s awesome, let’s see it in clay.” They made this big ass maquette which I’m looking at right now in my office and from there we would laser-scan it and have the digital artist make it eighty feet tall.

DC: I don’t understand why someone would hire people as creative as ADI and then, as you say, micromanage them…

Colin: And not listen to them. These guys are amazing designers. They said, “Give us the design specs.” We said, “Ok, this is how it breathes, this is how it moves, this is basically what it has to do in the movie.” We basically just gave them a paragraph biological analysis of what we thought the creature needed to do and the space in which it had to fit or not fit, and then those guys just went nuts, man. And that’s what they’re supposed to do! It’s so frustrating for them when they do all this amazing work. Even on AVP: R, we had some ridiculous designs, but you have to get them through the machine.

Greg: It’s like the studios go to this super expensive French restaurant and ask for a can of Chef Boyardee. “Oh, people in Ohio…people in Cleveland aren’t going to like that! We have to water it down…”

DC: I’ve heard other FX artists talk about how bummed they get when most of their work – the work they’re the most proud of – never sees the light of day because someone up the chain nixes it.

Colin: We see that all the time even on the Visual FX side. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve worked on these giant movies where literally the top three or four FX look pretty fucking awesome and have our stamp of approval, but we get asked to do sixty or seventy revisions over the next four or five months. Then, four weeks before the movie comes out in the theater, they come back and say, “You know… let’s go back to that fourth one.” And you’re just like, “Holy shit! Are you kidding?” That stuff happens all the time. If shareholders for the studio knew how often that shit happens, they’d lose their minds. It’s inefficient and it’s not the way you should do movies.

DC: You both obviously have the technical aspects of filmmaking locked up, but… Do you consider yourselves more visual directors or story-based directors?

Colin: We’d like to be both. I don’t see them as being mutually exclusive. They’re both important elements of the type of movies that we want to do. It’s like a Cameron movie… You want to have a cool story, but you also want to have the big visual. The most important thing to me is making movies that are fun because, at the end of the day, we’re not making some heady art film.

Greg: We’re making a fun commercial movie.

Colin: We’re making a PG-13, fuckin’ cool, crazy Sci-Fi movie that you’ll want to watch over and over again. One that’s not so deep that it hurts the replay value, but it’s also not campy. While this movie takes itself extremely seriously, there’s no campiness. There’s no weird self-referencing or any of that kind of stuff that you sometimes get in more Summery, blockbustery kinds of movies. This is a deadly serious film, but at the same time, we wanted to have fun. We wanted to be like, “Let’s have a King Kong-type creature stompin’ around…” I want to see that. I want to see some crazy shit. That’s what’s fun for us. That’s really what it comes down to. Those are the types of movies we want to make. It’s also the type of movie our friends go see... Like when eight of us go see something like RAMBO and we’re all high-fiving each other when he starts shooting the fifty cal. at all the people. [laughs] You know, that’s what we like.

Greg: We’re hoping people like this thing. I think it’s going to be different. I think it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be visually epic. I think it’s really going to blow people away. People are going to look at this film and think, “Yeah, that could have easily been a hundred million dollar movie.” That’s really the biggest thing. We’re walking this thin line where we’re this little indie, but then you have Relativity and Universal pushing this thing big time. They’re treating it like it’s The Big Movie and it’s going to look like The Big Movie. It’s just that we did it in a way that I don’t think most people will be able to believe or understand, but that’s because how many directors own visual FX companies? How many have worked on this many films?

DC: So, looking forward… Are there stories you guys are dying to do? Do you have a “wish list”?

Colin: There are a bunch of things we want to do. There’s another script that Liam’s written called, WAR OF THE AGES. And then, there’s another one he and Josh are working on right now that’s another top secret project. It’s a big action Sci-Fi movie that will be fun as hell. The next movie is going to have a lot more of a disaster film / BOURNE SUPREMACY-ish vibe with a Sci-Fi thread running through it, you know? That’s the kind of thing that excites us. The combining of those genres…

Greg: It’s an American Bond franchise with a huge visual idea. We just want to make the kinds of movies that we want to go watch. We’re in our early thirties. Liam is in his late twenties. We ARE the target audience. We’re the people whose asses the studios are trying to get into the seats. We’re their demographic. So, we’re just trying to make shit for ourselves to go see.

Look for SKYLINE in theaters November 12th, 2010.

Exclusive: The Brothers Strause Talk Skyline Part 1

- Carnell

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