Welcome to part 2 of our exclusive Duncan Jones interview! If you haven’t already read our the the first part of our Duncan Jones interview I would suggest checking it out before reading the following, although it is in no way necessary.
As I’ve already said, Duncan Jones was a pleasure to talk to and his new film Moon starring Sam Rockwell is absolutely amazing and will be in theaters this Friday. The second part of our interview is probably more for you film geeks out there than anyone else, but is equally as interesting.
In this interview we talk about:
- Why Sci-fi films have stopped being popular and how Jones is changing that
- Sam Rockwell’s contract to be naked on film
- Art vs Entertainment
- Sam Rockwell almost giving up on two Sams at once
- Getting a film made in the UK
- Learning how to take criticism: the good and the bad
Check it out now…
In recent years there haven’t been that many successful Sci-Fi films, in fact it seems like the sci-fi audiences are not watching comic-book remakes. Are there room for both in theaters?
Jones: I think there is. I think there are a lot of science fiction films getting made. The problem with the Sci-Fi films getting made right now tend to be quite dumb down compared to the science fiction films that used to get made and they are certainly no where near the cerebral nature of science fiction writing. In literature whether it is Phillip K. Dick, J. G. Ballard, William Gibson, George Orwell—whatever sort of Sci-Fi film you are looking at, it is a hell of a lot more heavy weight. And it is about how human beings are impacted by the future as opposed to the kind of films that get made and called science fiction in big popcorn films.
As far as comic films go, I guess, with Watchmen they tried to make sort of an adult fare in comic book films, I don’t know if it has quite worked yet. I think there is quite a few graphic novels, which people are starting to look at now that more traditional comic book films have done quite well. I still think there is many ways to go as far as doing more grownup content, in that realm as well. It is totally understandable though because it’s generally done by studios and it is usually studios spending a lot of money on something they want to make as safe as possible that is going to most likely going to guarantee a return. So they have to keep their audiences as wide as possible. And by doing that, the necessity, unfortunately of making a film that is very accessible to a guaranteed audience is that you have to hit certain markets, you have to appeal to the adolescent boys, you have to have the special effects, the explosions, and the half-naked women; and all of the things required to make a successful movie.
You have the for a moment!
I do, I have Sam Rockwell named in a shower. That was in his contract, he demands it. [Laughs] And he has to dance as well.
Is a guaranteed audience something that sounds appealing to you as a director? Or do you think of your films as a piece of art that you’re putting out there to the world and if people see it great, if not no biggie?
Jones: I wouldn’t call Moon art. No I don’t think so. I tried to make a film that was entertaining. I mean hopefully it’s a little bit smarter and there is an awful lot of personal stuff in there, but I think it’s smart and personal in a very universal way. You know, it talks about very human issues about what it would be like to meet yourself, you know, about loneliness, you know about relationships and long distance relationships and it talks about things that everyone can kind of understand and relate to. So I think that makes it accessible in some ways.
What would you say if you met yourself?
Jones: I would definitely, if the me of now, met the me who was sort of young, frustrated, angry, the guy at grad school, I’d tell myself to just chill out and relax, it’s all going to be okay.
Everyone always says that you have to be in L.A. to make films, but it has been shown that a lot of great filmmakers are form the U.K. or other great parts around the world. Do you find that a challenge, being from the UK, or does it help being in L.A. now?
Jones: I have to be careful about what I say about the UK film industry. It is at a very closed society. I kind of got this film made, not through traditional channels because of the contacts I had on the commercials side. The UK film industry is very conservative about the films they make. Normally they go for period, the go for romantic comedies, and if it is not, than it is very, very difficult. A little independent science fiction film is not their cup of tea. Now that I have made the film and it seems to be going pretty well all of a sudden they really want to help, but it’s good, I understand that. But as far, if you want to be ambitious in Britain, you really do have to be somewhat ingenious in finding ways to make it appeal or just find independent ways of financing because they are very conserved in the kind of films they make. But I hope that maybe it is starting to change in a way.
Many smaller films decide that it’s better and safer to stay in an indoor, set environment, bu not you. How did you set up some of those outside shots? What made you make that decision knowing how hard it would be?
Jones: Well, that was one of the decisions we made earlier on, and Stuart (my producer) was very supportive of me, and I said, “Look we could make this feature film, we could make an independent film, but wI am not making a feature film that looks like everyone else’s little first independent film, I want to make something that feel like a big film and this is how I think we can do it.” We used model miniatures, we built a piece of lunar landscape about 30 by 40 feet, not much bigger than this room actually. And we had sort of these Tonka trucks style models that we were dragging across the landscape with fishing line. We had an amazing company called CineSite, and they were able to clean up all of the stuff that I was able to shoot in live action.
How did all of the stars, the moon and the earth and everything like that? Because you also start with a wide shot, which couldn’t have been you? Was it?
Jones: Basically—you ever use photoshop?
A little bit.
Jones: The nice thing about photoshop is that everything gets broken up into layers, and you can isolate those layers, and when you start thinking that way, when you are working in special effects, all of a sudden all of those things become possible. It’s just a matter of basically imagining a shot in your mind and then working out how to make that shot by breaking it up into separate layers and then compositing those layers together. There are all sorts of ways that you can—that’s really the special effects background and that is what I use to do in commercials for such a long time that makes me think that way, I kind of know how to do that.
What was one of the hardest things to shoot? Was it going outside or was it two people being one person?
Jones: The hardest was a very difficult special effects shot where there is a shot of the two Sam’s, face to face and they have a physical interaction. One of them helps the other guys with his fly and then puts his hat on. That was something that no one else had really done before and for an independent film to actually be able to push the envelope and the technical level is something that we are very, very proud of. That is shot that no one else really has done.
How long did it take?
Jones: That little sequence was probably about a day shooting just to make that work, and in fact we had to come back to it because it as so complicated we couldn’t make it work the first time. And Sam was getting frustrated because he was trying to stay in character and me demanding all of these technical things from him. What we did was we actually did some other effect shots first, and sort of showed him what the results were going to be, and he was able to go “oh I know what you are doing.” The he felt more comfortable doing it. And then we came back to that sequence and it went really well.
What was your greatest moment on this film?
Jones: I don’t know if I have had it yet. I mean I am proud of it and I think we have done an amazing job, but I am very self-critical, I have always been, and I find it difficult to be happy with anything that I have done. So as far as I am concerned, this is a great first step, I’ve made the film, it seems to be going well, it gets released on June 12th, and I am hoping that perhaps I will feel a little bit more relaxed and happy with things when it is released, and we’ll kind of see if there is an audience out there for it. But I am already sort of getting all flustered and ready to do the next film, hoping I get the chance to do another film, so that is what I am concentrating on now.
So no sense of satisfaction?
I know it’s pathetic isn’t it? [Laughs]
Is it hard for you when you see the film to take a step back and watch your film as an audience member?
Jones: Sometimes I can watch the film, but I still have problems at the start of the film. When you go through the first ten-fifteen minutes of the film; oh I wish I could have done that, but you know, it must be a pretty good film because about 15-25 minutes in I actually get sucked into it and I just kind of watch it and enjoy it. So that’s a good sign. I’m very, very aware of the things that I would of loved to have done, that I didn’t get the chance to do, but I am also aware of the limitations of the time and money that we had, and there are really only a few areas where we could have done things any other way than we did. We kind of stretched and maxed out everything that was possible for the time and money we had.
For young film-makers looking to do what you have done, would you recommend going the commercial route?
Jones: I would certainly say, do commercials. There are some talented guys like Chris Cunningham that are just the most amazing technical directors with the ability to visualize and create things, who should be making feature films and who are never going to. Some get trapped in the money because commercials pay very well and then if you go off and make an independent film like I have, I have just spent the last three years of my life not making commercials and you don’t get paid to not make commercials. And you certainly don’t get paid to make an independent film.
You sort of have to find a way to leave that life style and just do the sacrifice to do feature films and for a lot of people they don’t want to do that. And then there is another crowd of directors who do commercials who are just not that interested. They make amazing visual things and they like doing it, and the like having a new project every sort of month in a half, and working with actors in any sort of deep way doesn’t interest them. And some of them do try to make feature films even though some of them are not particularly interested, and those are the guys that make feature films that maybe are kind of a bit shallow; some of them do sort of big budget ones.
You say that this is your calling-card, but what if this film becomes a huge hit at the box office?
Jones: We’re going to Vegas! I can’t even imagine that, but it would be fantastic. I guess the only thing I would hope that it would give us the kind of films we want to do for the next film and that it would give—it would be wonderful if the actors that I admire all of a sudden were like, you know I wouldn’t mind doing a film with that guy. That would very cool.
Jones: There are people I would like to work with, and people who I have sent my next script to kind of, a little bit, ambitiously, I don’t think they actually end up doing it, but I’ve got to try and if they did it would be amazing.
Are you excited for any upcoming films?
Jones: On the science fiction front I’ve got to see James Cameron Avatar. He’s one of the top sci-fi guys I love and admire everything he does. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but I’ve always been a fan of Terry Gilliam so I want to see The Imaginarium.
Do you follow the news online about your film?
Jones: It’s difficult, I can’t help sort of wanting to know if people are seeing it and what they are thinking.
What’s that like?
Jones: So far it’s been okay, I haven’t wanted to kill myself, which is a pretty good reaction. I’m kind of a mad twitter so I’m kind of on the all the time. I’ve been kind of lucky, I’ve built up a group on twitter and I’ve personally been running these sort of really silly competitions online to giveaway Moon posters. I know that Sony is doing everything in hand and they’re taking care of it, but I can’t help myself thinking” what can I do to promote the film, how can I make sure people go see the film.” And I started this twitter thing by doing these competitions.
What is it like hearing the bad/good criticism of people?
Jones: It’s really hard—I’ve developed a really thick skin for my personal life as far as people attacking me, I can deal with that. If people don’t like the film, I always want to immediately defend it, but I think that is something that I am going to have to learn how to deal with. Everyone has his or her own taste and I can’t please everyone and I have to be confident that at least I have made something that I can be proud of. So I guess that I am going to have to learn that, I mean I know about it because obviously my dad’s an artist and he’s had to suffer from severe criticism over the years at times and he is very good with dealing with it so I certainly can learn from him.
Thank you so much for you time!
Go see Duncan Jones new movie Moon, in theaters this Friday, June 12th starring Sam Rockwell.