RoboDoc: The Creation of Robocop is coming in the very near future, and it will forever change the way movie documentaries are made. Robocop is one of the greatest sci-fi action adventures to ever grace the silver screen. But it wasn't an easy road to get there. Co-directors and co-writers Eastwood Allen and Christopher Griffiths are working together with producer Gary Smart to bring the behind-the-scenes tale of this unique cult classic to the screen. They are still in the midst of post-production, but today they've shared a brand new exclusive 19-minute preview with us which takes a look at the unique way the franchise saw a vision of the future, in a clip they call: Robovision of the Future.
RoboDoc: The Creation of Robocop will fully explore every avenue that went into creating this behemoth franchise. From the very early seeds of development, all the way through the sequels, TV shows, toys and and its continued presence in the American pop culture landscape. RoboCop arrived to shock and stun audiences around the world in 1987. Since then, he's never really left, most recently appearing in KFC commercials and the recent Mortal Kombat 11 video game.
Today, we have an exclusive look at the upcoming RoboDoc that explores the unique POV shots used in the movie, along with the creation of the iconic SFX, which bring an undeniable soundscape to the proceedings that has never quite been recaptured, but is often imitated. We also have some new insight from Eastwood Allen and Christopher Griffiths, as they take us through various stages of this production, giving us an update on where the movie is at now. We've learned that the movie will be split into three separate entries, each focusing on one of the three movies in the trilogy. This is truly an epic undertaking. There isn't a release date set at this time. But Allen and Griffiths assures us that we're definitely getting there.
We've seen by the trailer and previews you've released so far that you're taking a different approach to the normal 'making of' format, what do you think makes RoboDoc different from other documentaries?
Eastwood Allen: We want RoboDoc to be a lot of fun to watch. We're trying to incorporate visuals and sound in an effort to do something different with the talking-head format. I thought it'd be cool to go to town on the green screen setups and integrate our interviewees within the production itself, having elements 'interact' with those on screen, even at times placing them in the movie to 're-live' iconic scenes. We want the overall look and feel to reflect the time period of those movies. It didn't feel right having people's living rooms as backdrops, given the subject matter. Sit-down documentaries like this are built in the edit and it's what I get a kick out of. Basically the challenge is, how do I make this as informative and enjoyable as possible? The extensive run-time we're facing means we have to keep the energy up in a fluid and dynamic way.
Christopher Griffiths: This whole project was originally set to be a solid retrospective on the original film and touch on the subsequent franchise. Instead, we have now created something unlike anything seen before. The first part runs at approximately 4 hours in length covering every aspect of the film from conception to a scene by scene making-of RoboCop (1987). With what co-director Eastwood is meticulously creating with the aid of the film's personnel, we are practically breaking the film down and assembling it together again. Even for me, it is incredible see the work he has created with the visuals in After Effects that I can't even begin to try and recreate myself, and it is that kind of work that will make this lengthy runtime fly past. As an avid fan of movie documentaries from mini featurettes to the epic works of Tommy Hutson's Crystal Lake memories and Charles De Lauzirika's Alien saga retrospectives, I know that RoboDoc is something completely unique.
Eastwood: We did a lot of digging in recent years to try and locate rare or unearthed materials we had heard whispers about during our chats with the cast & crew, and with the generous help of some of them we have uncovered footage that will be a world first. I received VHS tapes from the US without any labels on them, these tapes were over 30 years old and had been left in storage. I had them transferred to digital. I remember the first time I hit play and literally screamed out loud with excitement, then giddily called Chris to tell him what we had. We've got dailies of Robo, stunts, the Boddicker gang causing carnage and alternate takes of scenes, a lot of which has sound. We were both ecstatic. It's surreal witnessing clips from scenes you're so familiar with but this time the angle is new, or the lines are delivered differently. We've got hours of BTS material from the making of Robocop 2 as well and home movie tapes from RoboCop 3.
The fans will be happy to know that we cover the notorious deleted scenes from the RoboCop movies in addition to some scenes that were never shot, so we took the decision to have some of these play out as 2D animations, to try and re-create what the filmmakers originally intended if they were ever fully realized. We have a friend of ours who is an insanely gifted illustrator called Marten Go. Marten is working externally on the artwork for these animations. His detailing is extraordinary and we've been gobsmacked at what he's rendered for us. I think the 'what ifs' and 'what could've beens' make for good viewing and gives us a better understanding of the evolution of a film's development and how final scenes ultimately came to be.
So between, BTS footage, props B-roll, sound recordings, storyboards, production documents and animations we've got a lot going on to keep people engaged I hope.
Across the span of the franchise, RoboCop has had some pretty cool and unexpected weapons. Do you have a particular favorite? And Did you discover anything interesting in the archives that wasn't used in the movie?
Chris: The franchise is rife with cool weaponry from the cobra assault cannon to Robo's arm gun in the 3rd film but nothing will beat his auto 9 Beretta and we do not overlook its significance and how it came to be as demonstrated in this preview.
Eastwood: We go into detail on all the key weapons across the movies. The first film in particular is famous for how many different weapons it utilized on-screen. Ed Neumier was so passionate about getting to pick out everyone's guns, many of which were movie debuts or one-offs. I tried to pay tribute to that in our end credits and showcase the weapons with icons as the credits roll.
Randy Moore who was the Weapons Master on the movies told us about how he didn't think the Robo pistol needed sights, as RoboCop would never need them to aim manually because of his assisted abilities, but Paul Verhoeven insisted on having sights on the design. When you think about it, it doesn't make sense for the gun to have them, but it sure does add to the overall aesthetic. The Robo pistol is said to have been the most powerful 'stunt' gun in movies, thanks to Randy Moore. This was certainly a fun chunk to piece together in the documentary.
Chris: A unique and somewhat strange story we have uncovered actually happened in the second film's production where weapons master, Randy Moore eluded that director, Irvin Kershner had actually made a request to have all guns repainted white on RoboCop 2.
Eastwood: The white guns concept was Kershner's idea of the future, he wanted his weapons in Robo 2 to reflect more of the 'Star wars' kind of look he was obviously familiar with after directing The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, he actually started to repaint the weapons, which was quite an undertaking for the crew.
Chris: Despite actioning this request, it was overruled by Jon Davison who had heard about this, and all guns were once again painted black, which I think most of us would agree is for the best.
Eastwood: As for archives, I have copies of all of the original production documents from the first movie, so being able to dive into the very earliest treatments from 1984-1986 has been incredible. I still speak to Michael Miner (Co-Creator and Writer) and Jon Davision (Producer) and I'm fortunate to be able to pick their brain as I edit. The original treatment for Robo was quite different, Michael and Ed (Neumeier - Co-Creator and writer) originally wanted RoboCop to have these 'stimulant cartridges' he could inject into his armor to give him a burst of ferocious speed to chase criminals "Like a hound from hell" this was in the very first drafts from 1984. Can you imagine how terrifyingly cool that would have been if it made it to picture!? They did feature RoboCop murdering his creator Bob Morton in the OCP tower once remembering who he really is. The lead character is a lot more sinister in those first drafts, and once Verhoeven and Weller were involved the tone shifted. Weller had some unique input as well which you'll get to hear about in the doc. We have trivia on the first RoboCop that nobody will have heard before. The majority of what we cover is new information. We're well aware of what's already out there (and huge fans of it ourselves) but we're adamant to give the fans something new. There's so much more interesting things to learn about that first film and I think people will be surprised.
RoboCop is right up there with Star Wars in some of the iconic sound FX used in the movie. Were there any surprising elements in the sound mix that you discovered? We know that George Lucas' team hit spoons against telephone wires to get the sounds of a laser pistol firing. Were there any weird or shocking means of achieving any particular sound in the movie?
Chris: I think the most impressive aspect of the film's sound FX is that they were all created from scratch as Stephen Flick tells us. In today's age, anybody can locate sound effects on an abundance of websites or plug-ins. These guys had to record sound FX from the strangest of places to create these incredible sounds.
Eastwood: The entire RoboCop soundtrack including its sound design, sound editing and mixing is the best from that era of filmmaking, in my opinion. The sound work was crucial to bringing those characters to life. There was some serious ingenuity and dedication that went into every single piece of sound you hear in RoboCop and RoboCop 2. The team even won a special achievement Oscar.
With RoboDoc, we explore all of the sound work, in great detail. The sound process for the most part has been absent in previous docs and I think it often gets overlooked or glossed over in a lot of 'making of' documentaries. Throughout the doc we cover everything from RoboCop's servos, mechanics, footsteps and voice to ED-209, the weapons and even how analog synthesizers played a part in the sound design.
The sound of the documentary is something I've put a lot of time into as well. I'm very sound orientated in my editing work, I'm of the mind that you paint with sound, the visuals are almost the icing, the added bonus. If a story can work on sound alone then you're onto a winner. We have a beautiful orchestral score from Sean Schafer Hennessy. I happen to be a gigantic synth-wave fan also, so the doc itself is very sound centric. We're aiming to reflect that 80s sci-fi era in the soundtrack and we've been fortunate that synth acts like Lost Years, TimeCop 1983, Kalax, Meteor, Gunship and a dozen others have music featured in RoboDoc. I get to work with the music I'd normally listen to in my spare time, it's great.
The original RoboCop has one of the more interesting and inventive POV shots in any Sci-Fi movie leading up to 1987. The preview goes into real depth about the meticulous efforts the effects team had to go through. Why do you think that particular POV has been so enduring in keeping the RoboCop Mythos alive?
Eastwood: I think it's such a memorable design and partly because it's quite simplistic. The all-green text and interlacing lines are so identifiable. it was important that we paint the picture of just how painstaking the visuals were to create back in the 80s, for such a small crew at Peter Kuran's VCE. I spoke to both Peter and his colleague Kevin Kutchaver (Robovision Animator) when I was constructing this scene (in the preview) so i could guarantee the details were correct for how they created the RoboCop HUD. Using Kevin as a reference he guided me with the recreations I made to demonstrate the process they went through back in the day. I think we all take for granted the artistry and skill it took to make something appear as digital without the use of computers. There's plenty more to be heard about the visuals too.
We delve into how digital tech came into play during the production of RoboCop 2 and began changing the industry. I think this is an aspect to the documentaries that general film fans will appreciate as well as the Robo-nerds like us, and of course there's the blue screen in RoboCop 3, which Robert Burke (RoboCop) talks candidly about.
Chris: Yes, the RoboCop HUD is iconic. It is the very first thing we see in the wake of Murphy's transformation in an incredibly well developed reveal and has been referenced in the likes of Edgar Wright's Spaced and countless other genre pieces.
We've noticed there are even more new faces in the documentary since we last talked. Do you plan on any more interviews? Can you give us an update on Peter Weller? We know you met him a few months ago and discussed the possibility of him being interviewed?
Chris: From having 15 people confirmed upon the documentary's production, to achieving 60 interviews during principal photography, we have outsourced and executed a number of interviews over the past 3 years including, director of photography, Jost Vacano in Munich, the TV series cast in Vancouver and even members of the visual FX team along with the wonderful, Sage Parker (Dr Tyler) who basically makes up a big portion of this Robo HUD sequence, last year. Hopefully this showcases that whilst Eastwood badgers away executing a teams worth of VFX, we have made sure not to sit around and do as much as we can to enhance this documentary with further interviews and archive hunting.
Eastwood: We managed to track down beloved stuntman and RoboCop double Russell Towery too who spent the most time with Peter Weller on set over the first 2 films. His interview is fantastic and he talks about his down-time with Weller and how he shared the same frustrations with the suit and strenuous stunt work when he was hospitalized. The guy really had it rough. Of course he goes into the motorbike work in RoboCop 2 as well.
Chris: We've tried to get Dr Weller involved since the project started and he respectfully declined on several occasions, we were told he didn't want to talk about RoboCop anymore in interviews. We've got a collection of archive material so he's present in the doc. Then just last year, we actually met him at an event and he did very much express interest in being involved in the project, but only for a certain fee. Until the fat lady has sung, I still hold out a miracle might happen.
What is your plan with the two original sequels in the RoboCop franchise? It originally looked like you were planning to include those in the first movie. Will RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 be getting their own individual documentaries after the release of RoboCop?
Chris: We had promised fans on our original Kickstarter video back in 2016 that we would be looking into the 2 sequels, which certainly have a mixed reputation but for most fans of the franchise, are still very much loved. As mentioned before, we didn't expect to garner as much material as we ultimately have and now they are their own stories and have their own dedicated doc each. So, considering how much we made on this crowdfund and of course how long this has taken, we will have created a package which gives a nuclear bang for their buck.
Eastwood: So fans can expect a 4+ hour documentary on the first film. Then standalone docs for the sequels RoboDoc 2 (currently 2.5 hours) and RoboDoc 3 (expected to be 2 hours) then additional special features on the Canadian TV series, the original Marvel RoboCop comic book line and the original Ocean video games. We have parts of the toys, video games and comics pop up during the movie discussions too, where relevant to each movie. That's the total line-up. For those wondering, we aren't covering the 2014 remake. We like to think of this as the Orion Pictures set.
Between RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, which has the more interesting backstory to be explored in a documentary? And which one is your personal favorite?
Chris: For me, the second film is the closest thing we have to the original. It certainly drops the ball in a number of areas, but from a childhood perspective to even now, Robocop 2 utilities a lot of the materials that were attractive in the original film. From the blood soaked gore albeit, less tongue in cheek and more mean-spirited, to the incredible stop motion work, which hit it's pinnacle in this film's climactic battle. That's not to say there's no love for 3 on my part, as I was still a youngling at the time of its release and still harness those fond memories of my mother renting it every weekend for me.
As for their documentary counterparts, I have come to the realization that each film has its own unique story to tell that very much reflect them. RoboDoc is an in-depth celebration of one of the greatest films ever made, meticulously detailing all the cool things audiences witnessed for the first time. RoboDoc 2's story is a bit of a mixed affair where issues on the film's script are very much highlighted but then we have a 45 minute section detailing the conception and two notable sequences of RoboCain. The third film has less players involved but we have some incredibly rich stories from Fred Dekker (Director) who is unbelievably candid on the film's reputation and even boldly states at one point "Anything wrong with this film, is my fault". You really feel for the guy as he talks through the film's script and all his intentions. Robert Burke (RoboCop) is an absolute class act who repeatedly shows his admiration for what Peter Weller had achieved in the first two movies and just how hard it was working with a suit that was not exclusively fitted to him and yet he still did a top job despite being mortified by the use of his own voice, which he comically critiques on throughout his interview.
Eastwood: We have a few surprises in behind the scenes material to including footage of RoboCop visiting his own grave in RoboCop 2. We discuss the deleted scenes and the many "what could have beens" from both sequels.
Can you talk to us about the release?
Eastwood: Firstly let me just say, that I can appreciate this is taking a while to be completed and if I was on the other side I'd also be asking "When the hell will this be ready to watch!?" I get it. We started this in 2016. I just want to let people know that this entire project is being crafted together by just myself and co-director Chris. Since we decided to take the route of expanding the project into an 8+ hour ROBO-MAMMOTH, our current workforce consists of just the two of us. Everything you've seen in previews from the first RoboCop was made by me in my spare time in-between my full-time job as an editor. That means the editing, the visuals, green screen, sound design, music editing, and all the Robo research in-between was done at home by me on my iMac. You'd normally have 5 or 6 people doing each of those roles.
Chris has his hands full on assembling the RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 timelines and fleshing out those stories with over 30 plus interviewees, again in-between a full time job. We then need to begin all the visuals, green-screen and sound work for the sequel docs. So there's probably a good 5-6 hours of material left to completely flesh out.
We currently don't have the resources for a larger workforce. I did get a couple of my editing pals involved years ago to assist, but it's too much to expect other people to work on this for free also. Whereas it's our passion project so we're happy to put the hours in. I absolutely love making this stuff, knowing there's people itching to see it. We want it to be the very best it can be
Chris: I think I had been able to achieve about 35 minutes on RoboDoc 2 over a period of 6 months prior to Covid-19. Within the first 2 weeks of lockdown, after spending every day and night on the edit, we now have a 2.5 hour assembly cut and never in a million years would I have imagine we would have such a substantial story to tell for RoboCop 2. With that, I have now moved into editing RoboDoc 3, which itself is set to be 2 hours as well. It is incredibly challenging but ultimately rewarding to be constructing these documentaries.
Eastwood: It's tricky for us to give any sort of release date because we work on this stuff as and when we're able to, it changes on any given week. We've pretty much quadrupled our workload since the original proposal because this franchise means a great deal to us. Sure, we could have had a 2 hour version of the project finished a few years ago, it would have been fine, a little trim on new materials and would've likely covered similar ground to what previous docs have done but it would have been ok, but we want to create something that sits proudly alongside those movies and works for both the fans of the franchise and filmmaking enthusiasts alike.
Thanks to a lot of work and persistence we now have all the materials to hopefully make something really worthwhile and standup against some of the best filmmaking docs out there. We appreciate everybody's patience, I just want to clarify that this the smallest of teams making this stuff. We'll look to give people another taste of what's to come from RoboDoc 2 and 3 once we begin to add all the bells and whistles.
Chris: If we don't make this documentary then I doubt there's going to be anyone else taking it on, and with all the new material we've acquired it only makes sense to put in the extra effort to really make it worthwhile. Not only for the fans who watch this, but for the 100+ cast & crew members who all gave up their time for free.
Can you give the RoboCop fans an idea on how this project will be bundled up? For those of your earliest backers? How can they expect to see this when it's done?
Gary (Producer): With the Kickstarter pledges we wanted to give fans a number of collectible options. We offered standard DVD/Blu combos, Blu-rays with special slip cards and the most popular being the VHS style clam case. The set will contain all 3 documentaries plus special features. We want fans to get something special when they purchase from us. So we'll be looking at a special Blu-Ray set with slip cover and booklet for the initial collectors edition release. This will be followed by a standard blu-ray release. It will also be available to the general public too, not just our backers. We'll know more further down the line. We just ask that people continue to be patient. A project like this unfortunately, does take time.
RoboDoc: The Creation of Robocop doesn't have a firm release date at this time. Updates are imminent as the filmmakers race towards the finish line. You can learn more about the upcoming release by visiting the official RoboDoc Facebook. And be sure to keep track of their progress at both the RoboDoc Twitter and RoboDoc Instagram. The films are directed by Christopher Griffiths and Eastwood Allen.