The last re­duc­tion

Dig­i­tal trick­ery isn’t re­stricted to Be­owulf and 300. John Dahl used CGI to knock mil­lions off the bud­get for this new thriller, You Kill Me. It’s just an­other way to tell a story, he tells Barry Roche

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

JJohn Dahl, maker of the 1990s thrillers Red Rock West and The Last Se­duc­tion, knows how to sur­prise an au­di­ence. And he didn’t dis­ap­point those who at­tended his pub­lic in­ter­view at this year’s Cork Film Fes­ti­val, where he re­vealed some of the se­crets be­hind the film­ing of his latest movie, You Kill Me.

De­scrib­ing the back­ground to the blackly comic thriller star­ring Ben Kings­ley, Dahl dis­closed that it had cost all of $4 mil­lion to make. The au­di­ence seemed mo­men­tar­ily stunned, as You Kill Me has the look and feel of a movie that cost 20 times that amount.

Later Dahl, a rangy 51-year-old from Mon­tana, ex­plains that he was able to make the film so cheaply thanks to a tight 25-day shoot­ing sched­ule, use of lo­cal crews on lo­ca­tion in Win­nipeg, and, most sur­pris­ingly for a di­rec­tor who places such em­pha­sis on nar­ra­tive, clever use of the latest tech­nol­ogy. You Kill Me doesn’t trum­pet its use of CGI, but dig­i­tal ef­fects en­abled him to re­alise the wickedly funny screen­play so con­vinc­ingly within bud­get.

Much of the film is set in Buf­falo, New York amid snow-cov­ered streets. Dahl de­tails which scenes were shot with real snow in Win­nipeg and which were shot us­ing CGI. He al­lows him­self a mod­est smile when I com­ment that it doesn’t look like a film that uses dig­i­tal ef­fects.

“I think CGI has just be­come an­other tool that peo­ple use, and it’s al­most weirdly a re­turn to the old film-mak­ing of the 1930s, where they would set up a wide shot, say in Mon­u­ment Val­ley, and the painter would paint clouds on a piece of glass which they would set up in front of the cam­era.”

The tech­nol­ogy is con­tin­u­ing to im­prove and the sav­ings are in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially, he adds. For ex­am­ple, some 250 dig­i­tal ef­fects on Dahl’s un­der­rated war movie The Great Raid cost $1 mil­lion, while the 230 shots in You Kill Me to­talled just $100,000.

“The tech­nol­ogy is get­ting bet­ter and cheaper,” Dahl says. “We edited The Great Raid on an Avid, a very com­mon edit­ing sys­tem in Hol­ly­wood. To buy one new costs over $200,000, so two of them costs you $500,000. We edited You Kill Me on a Mac­in­tosh lap­top with Fi­nal Cut Pro for about $10,000.”

Not that ev­ery­one was al­ways con­vinced about us­ing CGI. Kings­ley, who car­ries the film with his en­gag­ing por­trayal of an emo­tion­ally awk­ward al­co­holic hit­man who is sent to San Fran­cisco to dry out, was ini­tially less than en­thu­si­as­tic about per­form­ing be­fore a green screen. “I re­mem­ber say­ing to Ben that we weren’t ac­tu­ally go­ing to shoot the bridge scene on the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s go­ing to be green screen. He said, ‘Oh, I hate green screen’. And I said, ‘Well, they’re not go­ing to al­low us use the bridge, so get used to it’.

“Ten years ago,” Dahl says, “the spe­cial ef­fects were pretty hokey but the abil­ity to do them has im­proved. That said, it’s still all about sto­ry­telling. Movies for me are still about some­body telling a story that en­gages and ex­cites me. Us­ing CGI is just an­other way to tell the story.”

Value for

money: di­rec­tor John Dahl (left) and

Ben Kings­ley and Tea Leonie in You Kill Me

(above right)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.