TROUT   [5]

Sam Gaoa and Aidan: [1, 2, 3, 4]
  GOD came down to Earth. We met Him; you didn’t. He was here to share his Newest Testament, the film What Dreams May Come. We were blessed for He spake with us. We met Him (at the Sheraton), and these are His Words…

Sam and Aidan had been discussing What Dreams May Come’s reach #3 in the American box office list; a week later it would be #1. On this course, it is destined to become the most commercially successful film by a New Zealand director, surpassing even Roger Donaldson’s Goldeneye. Enter the maestro, Vincent Ward:

V(to REP Distributor’s agent, Donna Mackenzie): Did you fill them in on the background? Of where we’re at in America?

A: Congratulations, that’s great.

V: Thankyou. It’s a big relief for everybody.

S: I’ve been keeping tabs with the film through the Internet and checking out the reviews, etc. I notice that it’s doing extremely well at the box office. I saw it last week and I was amazed with all the visual effects; Monet and van Gogh in the Heaven sequences were very much the thing for me. I suppose it’s very reflective of your background, because you were at Ilam down in Christchurch and your earlier films seem to reflect that expressionist style.

V: Right; that German romantic that I respond to and I thought it was appropriate for the story; I always had a sense of some force that you can’t quite put a name on, some sense of the sublime.

S: This is your biggest budget to date from Hollywood and you didn’t write it: it was Ron Bass – Academy Award™ scriptwriter, Rain Man – so is this a first for you, taking someone else’s script?

V:Yeah, although I worked on the script for a year with Ron, so I was really able to shape it, not so much the characters, because when I first read it – it’s based on a Richard Matheson novel, a well-known American novelist

Producer Stephen Simon has] been trying to get this film project done for over twenty years, following his film production of Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve which came out in 1980 and was based on Richard Matheson’s book Bid Time Return. What Dreams May Come is based on a subsequent Matheson book. Reading [Carol] Adrienne’s book along with James Redfield’s Celestine book series will give key perspectives on underlying points of the film.’ [Carol Adrienne, The Purpose of Your Life.]

and he’s written a lot of TV series – and the main thing I did, because I thought that the relationships were very strong – wonderful character-writer, probably one of the best dramatic writers in Hollywood – the main problem I had with it was 75% of it is set in Heaven and Hell, and so when it first came out it moved me a lot; but I said “Look I can’t see a way into it.” Later I called him up and said “I’ve got an idea; we make Robin [Williams]’s wife in this film a painter, like in a 19th-century vein;” then he could wake up in Paradise, he could wake up in her painting to show how strongly he felt for her and it would give you narratively a way that they could communicate throughout Paradise, and that he could effect her painting and so on. I wanted to make sure it was a visceral experience that could operate as a quest and a love-story and a relationship, but primarily still as a drama; so that idea really seemed to support the narrative and support the idea that you can create a subjective afterlife.

S: That’s really the main component of the story, that fact that it is this love-story with her being this artist and then when Robin’s transported to this world it’s very nice, it links it.

V: Well, it had a strong dialogue-driven narrative and I just allowed for a very strongly visually-driven narrative to interact with that, so, much negotiation; every line of dialogue with Ron was kind of like a negotiation. He fights with every director he works with for his words; we all go, “Ron, too much dialogue, cut it!” and then you eventually reach a kind of medium. I think the reason he probably does it is – I don’t think the film has too much, I was very happy with the dialogue in the film – but I think it’s probably a strategy as a writer which is kind of interesting, the freelance writer, he probably wants to make sure that the narrative is really really really clear no matter how it’s shot; and then as soon as you bring in someone who’s used to telling stories visually, who can communicate the narrative, then you have to strip away quite a lot of the dialogue, otherwise you do it twice.

A: A lot of the scenery has been compared with specific artists, like the Hell sequences with Brueghel and Bosch and more the heavenly ones with the lighter painters, the French school; were you focussing on individual styles or artists at the time?
V: Yeah, there are certain particular artists, but often they’re the ones that are not quite as well known, like Hell is influenced quite a lot by Doré: the Hell in Annie’s world, his distant city is very much like a Doré engraving; the stairway is very much like a John Martin engraving, a 19th-century apocalyptic engraver; and I made a lot of images up – like, that thing, I drew; even though it’s in the style of a 19th-century engraver, it’s the type of stuff I do to give my people something to work with. We changed one of the ships to an aircraft carrier - they happened to be nearby - and we had a lot of miniatures of various other ships.

S: How long was the production?

V:It was seventy shooting days, but there’s been a lot of preproduction; we had a longer preproduction because you have so much to envisage in incredible detail.

S: With the sequences in Heaven where Robin’s splashing around, what is that process called? It’s a new technique?

V: Yeah. Well, Robin calls it “virtual van Gogh”. In fact, there’s not a lot of van Gogh in the piece; there’s more these 19th-century moody romantics, a little kind of pre-Raphaelite, I guess, too. One process was called Leidau which is adapted from the military and for nuclear-powered dams, where you take a device that looks like a bazooka; we shoot regular film during the day with my actors on location, and we send in the Leidau crew at night and they scan 3-dimensionally - it’s a mapping tool, it 3-dimensionally maps every surface for three hundred yards; it’s incredible. So, you can move in a computer; once you’ve transferred the information to a computer, you can move the camera around the trunk of a tree up or through its branches; it’s quite extraordinary. And then you combine that map with the live-action footage. And then you do another process which allows you to paint one frame, and then it automatically tracks to the next frame you paint, which might be frame 60. And that’s a breakthrough, it’s never been able to be done before; and that took two years of programming and experiment, right up to the end solving problems.

A: You had a Production House for that?

V: We had 4 different visual-effects houses but one particular visual-effects house did that part of the film; the different visual-effects houses use different techniques for different parts of the film and that has different problems to solve.

'July 8, 1997… POP Film, the visual effects branch of Pacific Ocean Post, has been awarded a number of VFX sequences in the show.’
‘August 4, 1997… A refuge from this summer’s Warner Digital death, Ellen Sommers has been hired as the Visual Effects Producer.
‘The effects work for the film has been split between Mass Illusions and POP Film. Mass will do the first half; POP will do the last half.’
‘August 25, 1998… Although they were called upon late in the film’s production, Digital Domain did contribute about 100 visual effects shots to the film.’ [Internet ‘insider’, Bob Hoffman.]

  © 1998