"When Dolph was on the stage playing the drums, we needed to make it feel like he was playing in front of thousands of people"

 

What was Dolph's approach for the preparation and what he wanted the film to look like?
We brainstormed a lot, we looked at a lot of movies together, we spent a lot of time watching other films and saying where we wanted to go. From a lighting perspective, we looked at some Tony Scott's movies like MAN OF FIRE and we looked at some Michael Bay films like THE ISLAND and TRANSFORMERS. So that was the lightning approach because we wanted to have a very commercial feel. Then from a camera and lensing perspective, we looked at the BOURNE SUPREMACY. And THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, which is the second film out of the BOURNE films, was a major influence for us because it feels very realistic, it has a very interesting kind of documentary approach to the photography. That was a film that we studied quite a bit, and also western films, particularly Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone films like UNFORGIVEN, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, the character. We looked at a lot of those and we ended up coming up with a term which we used on the set called a "Bourne western". We felt that's what we were making: the film was like a western but almost in that BOURNE style so we called it a "Bourne western" and that was our short term reference to what we were doing and we understood visually what that meant: a film that was lit like a commercial film that was lensed like a Bourne film, and the camera had to look at from a western point of view, like a Clint Eastwood film.

It's a quite complexed high concept film logistically with the concert and the action, and without a huge budget, how did you approach it?
We didn't have a lot of time to make the film, I think we only had 5 weeks so it was about 30-36 days shooting. What we decided with Dolph that I'd seen at concerts that lightning wise, all our lights could be incorporated into the set. Because it was at a concert we spoke with Carlos [Da Silva] who was our production designer, and him and I see if we could incorporate our light into his designs. So movie lights become practical lights and that allowed us to shoot with 360 degrees sets so we could shoot very quickly, and shoot a lot of screen time, with three or four cameras at one same time. Rather than lighting each close-ups separately, I could light four or five close-ups at one time, just by allowing our movie lights actually being visible in the frame so we had our lights always in the frame, and they looked like concert lights, so concert lights you could see at a concert on stage, or fluorescent lights you might see in a hallway, or death lights that you might see in the Kremlin. That was the approach we went with to allow that to happen in that short period of time.

Did you discuss music videos?
We didn't really look at music videos because we wanted to sort of steer away from that, even "American Idol" we wanted to keep away from that, because we wanted the film to have a documentary feel so we actually looked at some footage from the 60s, like there's a concert by The Doors in England, particularly interesting to us because the camera really felt like it was there, and it was amazing to see The Doors playing for so many people, and that was the feel we wanted. So when Dolph was on the stage playing the drums, we needed to make it look or feel like that he was playing in front of thousands and thousands of people and I think that's the result we've got. And even with Melissa, who was playing the Venus character in the film, we didn't wan it t to have that music video or "American idol" feel to it where you got with sweepy crane shots and all that. The camera had to be hand-held, it had to be gritty, it had to be part of the location itself. That's we went with so we looked at Doors footage, even some Led Zeppelin stuff, and recently stuff like Metalicca concerts, Guns 'N Roses concerts from the late eighties: they were huge influences on the way we shot the concert footage. Because we wanted that feel, that when they're watching the film we wanted them to go "holy shit, that's actually Dolph Lundgren, in front of thousands of people, playing in front of them!" That was the feel that we wanted, we didn't want it to look like a music video. Because music videos tend to have that feeling like it's staged and that wasn't the feel that we wanted, maybe for a different film but not for this one.

You don't want it to look fake especially since the film is a thriller with a lot of tension going on...
That's right, that's exactly the look we were going for, I mean again the reason the BOURNE SUPREMACY was a major influence on us was because the film was so realistic, like it felt like a realistic situation, and that was totally the feel that we wanted. So we wanted it to have that feel like it is a real situation, the hostage takeover was real. We didn't obey the basic principles of cinematography in the film: we crossed the line all the time, the script supervisor was on my back about it. But in a realistic situation that happens, things aren't perfect. In a standard film, in every shot the make-up is perfect, the hair is perfect, the eye lines are correct and the background is great and all that. We didn't want it to be bad, but we wanted it to be real, so we would shoot rehearsals quite a lot of the times as well. So Dolph and myself would stand aside and be "ok well let's shoot the rehearsal and just let the camera department know about it, and they'd do a silent turn over. But the actors never knew we actually rolled. So when we shoot the rehearsals it's very realistic because suddenly the cast don't feel the pressure of the director and camera operators, the focus puller. So that's the approach we looked for, to get that realistic feel of what happens at that hostage situation, as if it was actual real footage from a scenario like that.

So did you work with storyboards though?
Well we did, we storyboarded quite a lot of the film. But we didn't obey the storyboards because, one of the things about documentary-style filmmaking you have to let things happen naturally, and storyboards gave it a general indication of what we wanted. But it wasn't the be all and end all because if we were shooting the rehearsal, often the rehearsal was not like the storyboard is set. But storyboard is a great reference for the crew to understand what we are trying to do.

When you're on the set you want to get to make the most out what you have and improve it…
Yes, the storyboard is a depiction of how you envision the film at first. With a film like this, which is unconventional photographically, you can't live by the storyboards. For any other film like HEAT or THE DARK KNIGHT, I'm sure those guys probably would have stick very closely to their storyboards because they had made theirs practically needed to tell the story. And the way we were telling the story was from a realistic point of view so, storyboarding was only used as indication for what we wanted, but it wasn't exactly what we were shooting. You never know exactly what you're shooting with a film like this until you have the cast on the set, and you're on the set itself and the cast are in their environment, they're dressed in their wardrobe, they have their make-up on, they look the way the way are. Things are very different to what you may have to see from when you did the storyboards.

© 2009 Cat Burglar Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

website concept, design, blog and interviews by Jeremie Damoiseau