You do a studio film, it’s not as easy. Things don’t go exactly the way you want them to. You come to the end of it and you appraise it, and you do another one, you come to the end of it, you appraise it. Still, Hard Candy is the one that you go, “That’s the one that…” And nobody is interested in the boring stories about why whatever didn’t get done. It’s just about the fact that it is now, and will forever be. Therefore, we serve the film. The film does not serve us. If the second and third films weren’t as good, well that’s fine, because that’s chaos theory and here we are now.
So we finished and we got [composer] Brian [Reitzell] to bring his Dario Argento magic. Brian writes magic. He’s been informed by so much horror cinema music and just great, great music and sound making. And we watched this cut, and by the time we were finished, we were quite scared because we were like, “This is really good.” [Laughs] You know, “If pride is a sin, we’re sinners. We’re pretty proud of this. This is probably the best thing we’ve done since Hard Candy.” And then my wife saw it and said the same. Art Jones’ wife was also said it was the best thing we’d ever done together, very established editor in her own right. She was like, “This is the the best thing you’ve done together, probably ever.” We were like, “Oh, my gosh! Fuck! We better not fuck it up from here on!” [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s great.
But it was really good. There are always struggles in making films. It’s fucking hard work. If someone tells me their film was really easy to make, I don’t expect it to be very good. I’ll put it that way. It is really hard work, but you shouldn’t complain about hard work. It’s par for the course. When you see it and you go, “This is going to work,” it’s not like you were faking it and you didn’t think it was going to work. You always knew it was going to work, but it’s astonishing when it does. It’s still a phenomenally exciting thing when it does. Even if what you had in your mind is exactly what is on the screen, it’s still amazingly fun and rewarding to see that happen.
And yeah, there was a lot of stuff, technical stuff, that I really jumped into. I want to make films…I want to make images, and films, and tell stories that excite me. Part of that is trying to find something new to do, always. Trying to find a new way to tell a story, not for the sake of it, but just to keep progressing and to keep learning and to keep challenging yourself. You get excited about everything you’re doing.
So we got to this point where we had these fucking video cameras. We shot on the ARRI Alexa’s, which are digital cameras. My feelings with digital cameras are that in five years they are going to be great. Television, because of various reasons, there is no option. You don’t get to shoot film anymore. You always have that discussion with the studios of, “Maybe we should shoot this on film?” And then they go, “Yeah, right…” You go with a really solid argument with great power and strength. And then it gets hacked to pieces and eventually you are there with a digital camera.
To me, getting into trying to make this visually arresting was like tearing apart a digital video camera and figuring out what it does really well, embracing it, not rejecting it and saying, “Film is so beautiful and so much better quality,” which it is. But, still, saying, “This is what we’ve got. Let’s work the best we can with it. How can we push this as far as it can go? And how can we make this look as cinematic as possible? How can we make this camera, which as far as a lot of people are concerned, including the DP, is not the best you could be shooting on in the world, but it just happens to be the common choice right now because of the way the industry has formed, how do we make this more interesting than it possibly could be? How do we make this camera work for us?”
And we did. We did a lot of camera testing and we pushed the Alexa. What we ended up doing a lot of was just being very, very careful. The latitude of digital cameras is not great. You don’t want to get into noise. Signal to noise is a really big issue with digital because it’s only going to fall apart further down the line upstream. So you have to kind of understand that at the end of this thing it’s going to be compressed to hell anyways. You’ve got to think about that because certain things don’t look good compressed. You have to consider the entire point of television of doing a television pilot if you are truly there to create the look of the show. You can’t just go, “Well, this is just how the character is going to look and I’m going to paint it red.”
You have to kind of consider everything all the way down to how is it going to be distributed, on what? I’m used to that. When we did Hard Candy I checked every print that went out, back in the day when we had print, seven years ago. On this, we had screenings at Sony, and I would go, and I would go and I would pull the gamma down on the projectors. I would check the sound levels and make sure it was all in the right place. I went to Sony and they went, “What the hell are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m turning the gamma down on this projector. It is way too bright.” “You can’t do that!” “There’s a reset. There’s a standard reset to where it was before I started.” “We’re all going to be fired!” No.
You have to be obsessive. I know I’ve probably come across as obsessive now, and I just have to admit it. You have to be obsessive to do this and to love this. Otherwise, it’s just too big. It’s a Leviathan. It will swallow you. The only way to not be swallowed by the Leviathan is you get a ton of tenacity and a small spoon and go, “Well, I’m going to eat this fucking beast before it eats me. It’s going to take 10 years, one tiny spoonful at a time.” And that’s how you make a film. That’s how you make anything in this industry. You deal with the immediate and you deal with the long term rejection. And you have to consider both.
Hannibal airs on NBC, Thursday nights at 10e/9c