HDvision editor in chief David Fakrikian goes head to head with Thomas Jane on the subject of 3D, Classic Horror Comics, punk rock, and The Punisher sequel that never was.
DF - All right. my first question would be two questions actually : how did you end up shooting a film in 3D, before Avatar came out, and how come, unlike many films these days, you actually have well defined characters in the script ?
TJ - I worked on the script for a year before taking the idea to Lions Gate, who bought it and paid Tab Murphy to write, based on his short story. When I told Lions Gate I wanted to shoot in 3D they looked at me like I was crazy. No one had made a 3D picture since the 80's. So I took it to Sony home video, who knew that the 3D televisions were coming out, and agreed to make the picture in 3D. So we had a long time to work on the characters. I didnt have a lot of time for improv, so we stuck to the script.
DF - This was an indie film, a mix of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, blended with film noir, which ended up being financed by a major corporation. Did you had any creative interference created by this situation ?
TJ - Yes and no. Its a low budget movie, which means Sony left me alone. I had to tell them I was making a horror film, because they never would have said yes to a psychological film Noir, which the film really is. It's a love song to film noirs like DETOUR. But Sony being a huge corporation, there were many rules that I had to conform to, like running time. Film noirs were usually short - sometimes 70 minutes! My film came in at 82 minutes, which was perfect. Buy Sony made me expand it 88 minutes, which is why the beginning is slow!
DF - (laughs) With the choise of 3D, you have basically injected shelf life into a film that was supposed, as most DTV do, to have a very limited commercial window span. I suppose your interest in 3D go back to before the recent resurgence ?
TJ - Yes I am a member of the southern california stereo club, and knew that digital technology allowed a much simpler approach to 3D. I saw the 3D wave coming, and I wanted to be the first. Dark Country is the very first 3D film to be shot completely digital. Journey to the Center of the Earth used some tape in production. They beat us coming out because we were in post production so long, over a year, mainly because the 3D workflow hadn't been worked out- no one had done it before !
DF - Tell me specifically what were the cameras you used.
TJ - I hired Ray Zone from the SCSC to help me work out 3D, because no one had done it before digitally. He helped me work out the best way to shoot the 3D. I knew Ray from all the 3D comics I had read in the 80's. Ray has been working with stereo images for 25 years, so he really knew his stuff. We decided to go with two RED cameras rigged together. But I wanted to move the camera a lot, and noted that steady cam had never been used in a 3D film before! So we found cameras by Silicon Imaging, very small cameras that we were able to incorporate into a special steady cam rig that could do full 360 degree motion, from the ground to about 4 feet overhead and back again. This 3D steady cam allowed us to be very dynamic within our low budget.
DF - Do you think these cameras should be used more by beginners director's doing short films, instead of regular DV ?
TJ - 3D is well within any budget if you do your homework. Sometimes you can even get equipment 'donated' if your project is interesting enough. But you must ask yourself whether shooting in 3D will enhance the story you are telling; first and foremost, 3D must bring something to the STORY that 2D could not.
DF - Some of the effects shots in the movie do show an EC comics influence. Basically, the tone of the movie is very 50's / 60's. I'm assuming this intemporality is a deliberate choice.
TJ - Yes absolutely. I grew up on E.C. Comic books and The Twilight Zone. This film is very much a love song to the classic 'twist' ending that both employed to great effect. I am also a fan of Bunuel and the Surrealists. These elements, combined with film Noir, define the film I wanted to make.
DF - Let me get this straight, you were born in the late 60's, so all these influences must have come from reruns ? You must have read EC comics when they were republished in the 80's in deluxe anthology editions.
TJ - Yes all my major influences came from the decades before I was born. I found little in the 80's that inspired me, except for Punk Rock, and comics like Twisted Tales and The Rocketeer.
DF - Are you a comic book collector ?
TJ - Yes I collect the old E.C comics, especially the original art with several covers by Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein Wally Wood, etc. I also collect 'good girl' art.
DF - What is you High Def Blu-ray set up ?
TJ - I have a DLP projector and a multi region DVD player and BluRay player. I also have an old VCR deck for out of print film Noir.
DF - Excellent ! Now let's switch a bit to your career as an actor -- could you tell us what happened with Punisher 2 ? Thought the theatrical cut of the Punisher received criticism, the Director's Cut on DVD fixed some of those, and people were expecting you back in the role.
TJ - Well they never got a script that I liked. Without a good script we couldn't attract a good director. Finally I brought Walter Hill in to write the script and direct. They turned us down. After that, I quit the project. I didn't want to make a crappy Punisher film. The sequel had so much potential. They went onto do the film without me, and it was a disaster. It made something like 3 million opening weekend. I was sad to see such a great franchise go to waste.
DF - So now we are stuck to the Punisher playstation 2 game being the only sequel. Any news about it being updated in High Def for PS3 / X-Box ?
TJ - No news. But that would be great!
DF - Do you know if the director's cut of The Punisher will come out on Blu-ray (so far it's only on DVD) ?
TJ - No idea. We saw a version of the film with no music, until the final sequence. That was the best version of the film I ever saw. I'd love to see that released.
DF - You starred in two episodes of Medium. How was your experience of working with Glenn Gordon Caron, who I think is one of the most creative TV shows producers out there ?
TJ - Glenn is great. He works well under pressure. He always waits until the last possible moment to complete a script. It's almost always worth it.
DF - So what's your next move as a director. Do you plan your next film in 3D, maybe with improved cameras, as they have evolved a lot since you shot Dark Country ?
TJ - I have been writing a Western. A gothic Western in the vein of High Plains Drifter. I very much look forward to directing and starring in that. There is talk of doing it in 3D, which hasn't been done since the 50's with John Wayne's HONDO.
DF - Sounds great ! I'll be in touch ! Let's speak again soon !
TJ - Wonderful !
Interview by David Fakrikian
Dark Country 3D is available on Blu-ray from Metropolitan Filmexport.