Thursday, March 25, 2021

INTERVIEW - DAVID PRIOR -THE EMPTY MAN'S DIRECTOR

 

Today, I've got the honor to post the interview I did to David Prior; who After being in charge of production video documentaries and have worked alongside nothing other than David Fincher, arrives with his horror film THE EMPTY MAN, making his directorial debut. THE EMPTY MAN is based on the Boom Graphic Novel called the same way. David, Tells us the unfortunate fate his movie went through all due bad management and bad luck to be in the middle of a transition between companies, addition to that, the company launched a misleading trailer, ttransforming the movie in another weird horror teenage movie, totally opposite of twist-thrilling horror film. THE EMPTY MAN is a top notch production with a great cast and crew team. The film got to us on October 23, 2020 in theaters and on Digital on January 12, 2021.

The director also shared with us the film creation process, the rocks he had to apart away from his path to get the film off the ground, his insights and learnings from all this exhausting but comforting filmmaking labor.


EFF: First off, thanks for letting me interview you, I know you are a busy person. David, where are you from?

DP: My pleasure. I’m from Massachusetts originally, but I was transplanted to Los Angeles at six years old, so I’ve lived in LA most of my life.

EFF: You have a long track working in the film industry working on the documentary area, why have you decided now to dabble into fictional films?

DP: Well hopefully I’m here to do more than “dabble,” since the truth is that directing feature films was all I ever wanted to do. Movies were my earliest and most passionate love — I think I was five or six when I informed my mother of my plan to be a director. So all the other jobs I’ve held, from visual effects to acting to art directing and making documentaries and everything else, were things I was doing in the meantime while trying to get films made.
Director's Chair

EFF: How did you start your work relationship with David Fincher?

DP: I happened to be the right man in the right place at the right time in the early days of DVD, and after the unexpected success of my first special edition project for 20th Century Fox, for a wonderful movie called Ravenous, I was offered the chance to do another one. I was already quite smitten with Fincher’s work and wanted to meet him, so I chose Fight Club, which was just being finished at the time. He very generously let me run with it, which I’ll be eternally grateful for.

EFF: Let's commence with "The Empty Man", I have heard that it had a tumultuous development... First, how did you get involved in the film?

DP: Ross Richie at Boom Studios and I had been in touch for a couple of years at that point, talking about various possible projects to do. He sent me a trade edition of The Empty Man and I found it intriguing.
"The Empty Man" Graphic Novel

EFF: A lot of critics and viewers comment that the film could reach a certain "cult horror film" level, what do you think about that?

DP: I’m not exactly sure I know what a “cult horror film” really is — maybe it’s like pornography; you know it when you see it. But given the alternatives, I welcome that possibility with a hopeful heart. Obviously everyone who makes a movie hopes to have a roaring success out of the gate. But that often doesn’t happen, and for almost as many reasons as there are movies. It’s like a debutante’s ball, you hope you glide down the stairs to cheers and applause, but sometimes you trip on the hem of your dress and fall face-first in the dip. A movie can be ahead of its time, like Blade Runner, or too extreme for its time, like The Thing. Or expectations can prevent an audience from appreciating the film that’s actually in front of them instead of the one they thought they would get, like The Exorcist III or Return to Oz. Sometimes they’re grossly mis-marketed, like Fight Club, or they’re intentionally buried by their own studios, like Ravenous. Sometimes all at once. I’m not comparing my film to any of those films, all of which I revere and aspire to. But I do know that whatever “cult” movies really are, they tend to have more longevity than a lot of movies that are openly embraced at first. Cults don’t form around things that people don’t feel passionately about, and that’s something that would bring any filmmaker joy. And besides, the better party is usually the one out behind the venue, where the cool kids help wipe the dip off your face.
The Empty Man (2020) 
IMDB WEB | AMAZON | APPLE | MICROSOFT | 

EFF: The film was based on Cullen Bunn work. When you were trying to adapt it to the big screen, what were you thinking? I mean, what kind of style you tried to put on it? Maybe inspirations from other films?

DP: I don’t want to put Cullen Bunn, who I have a lot of respect for, on the hook for my decisions, but essentially it’s an adaptation in spirit, not in detail. I didn’t know how to adapt the graphic novel in a way that was slavish about the details, but truthfully I don’t think that’s necessary. I thought about it kind of Platonically, as in the world of forms, versus the world of things. In all the concrete, tangible ways the movie is entirely different from the comic, but in a larger and deeper sense they’re closely intertwined. The script was my own invention, portions of which were based on material I’d been wrestling with and writing in one form or another for several years. But adapting the comic catalyzed and helped express all those things. The script is its own beast, but it wouldn’t exist without the comic, and I think the most interesting things Cullen was wrestling with find expression in the movie, however obliquely. At least I hope they do.

EFF: What style did you try to print out to the film, speaking in visual terms? Any homage to other films or directors?

DP: All I know is how I see a scene when I’m writing, and I know what’s right and what’s not intuitively. I don’t know how much control anyone really has over their own style. I try not to overly analyze that stuff. But consciously, we talked a lot about limiting the color palette, using minimal light sources, denser shadows and letting highlights blow out, achieving contrast with soft sources. I like things to look beautiful, but more than that, I like them to look photographed, with all the limitations that implies. Maybe someday there will be a capture medium with 30 stops between the knee and the shoulder and you could shoot night interiors at T16, but for the time being we know the limitations of photography and what “authentic” images feel like. And the more authentic a film looks, particularly one that has wild, operatic elements in it, the more rooted in some reality the images are, the more the audience can buy in. I think. I hope.
Trailer

EFF: Can you tell me what setbacks you found during the film making of and how you solved them out?

DP: Where to begin? No film has ever been made without setbacks. Filmmaking and setbacks go together like champagne and piss … there just isn’t the former without the latter. Sometimes the best solution to a problem in shooting is just to cut the scene, which I did a couple of times. We did have all of our wardrobe held up in South African customs, leaving our Illinois team to work overnight fabricating duplicates just in time for two feet of snow to drop and shut down shooting for months. That was fun.

EFF: How long did it take you to shoot the film?

DP: Around 55 days, not including a few splinter-unit insert and element shoots — the smallest of which in fact was just me and my DSLR.

EFF: Although you are not any new kid in the industry, this has been your first feature film, what lessons left you this experience, talking in filmmaking and business terms?

DP: I imagine if I ever made a film and didn't learn anything doing it, it would be time to wrap it up and play golf. There were a lot of lessons on this one, some painful, others pleasurable. You find out who you can count on, who you can’t, how to foresee certain kinds of outcomes, the way people can quietly announce themselves to you if you really pay attention. I learned that James Badge Dale is an even more fascinating screen presence than I already knew him to be. I found that the film industry is even more insular, petty and vindictive than I already knew it to be, while also remaining host to some of the most wildly talented and interesting people I’ve ever met. I learned that wide audiences truly resent having their expectations of film structure or running time undermined, and thus the importance of managing those expectations. If the opening sequence had been five minutes long and the film in total no longer than 90, it would have been as everyone seemed to want it to be, but then I doubt we’d be talking about it right now. It’s one thing to say to yourself “stick to your guns” and another to do it under heavy fire.
"The Empty Man"

EFF: What advice would you give for those want-to-be horror screenwriters who are undecided in how to make their first film?

DP: The best and only advice has ever been “go make a film.” When I was coming up that was MUCH easier said than done. Film was incredibly expensive. But now there really is no excuse not to just go do it. Anyone who has the NEED to make films don’t need much advice, but one thing I would strongly recommend is getting off social media, putting down your devices, and having a real life. Have kids, ride a horse, build a piece of furniture, travel... if you don’t live, you won’t have anything to talk about and your films will be useless.
"The Empty Man"

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to write a remake of a horror film, what would it be and why?

DP: That’s tough…. I can’t think of any horror films I’m dying to remake. My favorite monsters growing up were The Wolfman and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. But I know what the institutional process of re-making films of that importance to a studio would be, and it would probably drive me nuts. That’s part of it — I could gather wool and think of films that could be remade artfully, interestingly, like Cronenberg’s The Fly, but then there’s the practical reality of the enterprise, which is a whole other animal. If I was going to do one I would probably aim for something out of the way, a little strange, like The Crawling Eye or The Abominable Snowman. There is one particular novel and series of remakes that seems perennial and that’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unlike Dracula, or Frankenstein, the premise is so rich that there will always be something new and current to bounce it off of. There have been four official adaptations, two classics, one really interesting close call, and one misfire with a few terrific elements. That could be interesting. There are books that have been made into films before that I would like to re-adapt, but mostly because I see qualities in the book that have never been expressed on film. For decades I’ve been pondering what a deeply unsettling and adult movie could be made from Pet Sematary. I haven’t seen the recent one, but I read the script, and they still haven’t found the cold center at the heart of that book.
Making of 

EFF:What camera did you use for the film and why?

DP: We shot with the Red VV Monstro in 8k (actually 7.5k since we were shooting anamorphic) with Panavision G series lenses. I love the Red, I love Jarred, the responsiveness and fleet-footedness of the company, the R&D, his cavalier attitude toward “how things are done.” Jared’s a maverick and I respect mavericks. But also the sensor is beautiful, the dynamic range, the color fidelity, the way it resolves highlights, its low light performance, how you have to REALLY underexpose to see any fixed pattern noise (which we sadly did once). I wanted to shoot large format with as close to full coverage of our lenses as we could get, and the VV allowed for that. It’s an amazing camera. I’ve shot with the DXL since then, and a little with the Xenomorph, and the whole Red ecosystem is just really impressive. I do love 35mm, and I’d love to shoot with it again someday, but honestly it’s hard to imagine going back. We’re living in a time when all the professional digital cameras are very capable, I love the Alexa, I love some of the results I’ve seen from Blackmagic and Canon, but Red feels like home.

**David Prior's | Imdb | **

The Empty Man (2020) 
IMDB WEB | AMAZON | APPLE | MICROSOFT | 


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