We recently visited New Orleans for a look at the upcoming franchise continuation sequel Final Destination 4, which is being shot in real-time 3D. Director David Ellis, the man behind Final Destination 2, returns to stand behind the camera once again. And Producer Craig Perry, who has been there from the very start, is also doing his part to make sure this is one of the most spectacular FD outings audiences have ever experienced. After taking as look at his 3D clip reel, which was put on exhibition for the journalists in attendance, I'd say he is well on his way to making one of the best horror franchise films of the later part of this decade.
To read the first part of our on-set coverage, where we take a look at the actual film itself as well as talk with director David Ellis (Cellular and Snakes on a Plane? anyone?) and his young cast, CLICK HERE
During the second half of our Set Visit, we got a chance to talk with producer Craig Perry, the original face behind this fine franchise. I'd first talked with Perry while doing the press junket for Final Destination 3 back in 2005. He is hands down one of the most personable producers I have ever met on the circuit. Good-natured and a lot of fun to chat with, he is definitely one of our favorites when it comes to hearing about a movie in the making. Good or bad, the man had us sold on Final Destination 4 a scant few seconds into our set visit. Here is our conversation with the great Craig Perry, producer extraordinaire:
Why did you decide to do a fourth Final Destination film? Did you guys just come up with a great script this time out?
Craig Perry: No, we had a crap script! Of course I'm joking. When the third one opened, we had a nice little weekend. It wasn't like we said, "We have to immediately go make another one!" It took some time. Once all of the worldwide grosses came in, and we saw that it was the most successful of the three, and then we saw all of the home video sales, it became, from the studio's perspective, an economic decision. We initially wanted to make the third one in 3D. Interestingly, at the time, the technology was there to capture it. But the technology wasn't in place to properly distribute it. It didn't make since to spend a ton of money capturing something that we couldn't exploit for many years on in. Which is what landed us here. The technology and the screens needed started to catch up with each other. It suddenly made sense for us to go ahead and make this one in 3D. When they saw how these 3D films preformed on a per screen basis, they thought it would be cool. The Final Destination movies have a formula that works. I think the reason they have worked is that at the core of all four films is a great central thesis. It's not just a guy in a mask hacking people up. Don't get me wrong, I love those films. I have been watching them since I was a kid. But this particular idea can cover a number of different realms. You can do it over and over again as long as the characters are slightly different. And you have them reacting to that central idea in a different way each time. I think we lucked out with these first four movies, because you have an interesting fulcrum to rest everything on. Having this one in 3D allowed for us to come up with new ideas that were original and fresh, and familiar. I think one of the things you can all agree upon is that shit happens in your bathroom. It happens in your kitchen. Granted, it has become harder to find common places that we all go to. In fact, there was a sequence in one of the earlier drafts for part four where one of our characters goes to the supermarket. I was like, "I go to the supermarket. Sometimes twice a week." We wrote a whole sequence, and then we realized...This just blows! There isn't an enormous amount of instant threat. We were reaching to have a guy putting in light bulbs up on the ceiling, and we were mixing it with all of this other dumb stuff. It was just crap. David Ellis suggested another place, which happened to be a low hanging fruit that the franchise had yet to pluck. And it worked out great for us.
He plucked a Dorian fruit?
Craig Perry: No, a low hanging fruit. You know, an apple or an orange that just happens to be lying around.
I thought you meant Dorian because they have the spikes on them.
Craig Perry: That is a very good call. But no, it wasn't a Dorian, because David couldn't pluck it. He's got meaty hands. Anyway, at the end of the day, New Line said, "You know what? FD3 is the most profitable film, and the biggest weekend that we had that year." At that point they were like, "Okay, lets see if we can justify another one." So, they commissioned a script. Like any contracted script, there was no guarantee that this was going to get made. Eric Breast, who, with his partner, wrote Final Destination 2, wrote this script. They had been working on their own individual projects. Eric came on board and wrote this draft. And it was distinctive and interesting enough, and it had one extra overlay that further distinguishes itself from its predecessors in a good way. It adds an extra dimension, no pun intended, in how to look at death interacting in our world. The studio said, "Let's go for it. Let's see if we can pull it together." The challenge, of course, is budgeting. Finding a way to do it. 3D is not inexpensive. This new 3D technology is extremely expensive to do. Much of that has to do with time. Other films that haven't had the track record we've had, have gone way over on schedule and on post. We took examples of what they experienced, and we worked with Pace to come up with a plan that has thus far kept us on budget and on schedule. Once again, most of the challenges come in postproduction. Because you essentially have two movies. You have to render all of your visual effects twice, and then marry them together. Imagine the amount of time that takes to do. With each shot, you have the inner-ocular, and the convergence that has to be matched up as well. We are taking all of that convergence and dealing with it now, so that when we get to post, we just have to worry about making the movie. We hope that within weeks we can start previewing the film in 3D. Its something the other 3D movies in production haven't been able to do. So, the decision to make Final Destination was earned. It was earned by audience response. It was earned by the third one being successful enough that we could try this. We were able to get everyone interested in the script. Everyone said, "This is kind of interesting. This is kind of cool."
Are you going to be able to show a 3D trailer in theaters as well?
Craig Perry: That is something we have to work with Warner Brothers on. There are a number of 3D movies coming out next year. Unlike some of the Disney CGI animated films and the 3D concert films, Final Destination 4 is a blissfully R rated gore film. We will not be able to put a 3D trailer for it in front of a G rated film. Oddly, the only time we may be able to put a 3D trailer in theaters is in front of "My Bloody Valentine" in 3D. Which I look forward too. Because, quite frankly, we are going to Rodney King that fucking thing. It is going to be spectacular, because if we have our trailer in front of that movie, which I think is going to be a dry heavy of a movie, it is really going to set the bar. I don't say that because I think they are trying to make a bad movie. I don't think they have given themselves enough time to do it right. You can't just go make a 3D movie and think you can get it finished in three months. There are a huge amount of things that I think are being taken for granted. Those things are going to come around. I think we will be able to present a movie that best glorifies what a 3D movie is capable of achieving. But I think that is the only movie we can show our trailer in front of. The interesting thing is, we will have Final Destination 4 playing on about one thousand 3D screens. At the same time, it will also be playing on a number of conventional screens. What you do is shoot the right eye for a 3D movie. That's where most people's perspectives go. And we are taking great pains to insure that what we are capturing in 3D is not hokey. Remember that old spaghetti western Comin' At Ya!? It was in 3D, and they were just dumping things on the screen. "Look at me! Look at you! Look at this stick in your eye!" That gets pretty old after awhile. It doesn't hold up. We are looking at 3D capture as a storytelling tool. Only occasionally do we use it as a gimmick. What we are looking at is the depth of the screen. There is a world behind that screen, and you can really lose yourself in it. The more that we have applied that aesthetic, the more we have seen that it is the right way to go. Because you become completely enamored and engrossed at every turn. And yet, you are not constantly being reminded that you are in a 3D movie. This is something that Vince Pace, who runs the whole operation, has been trying to hit hard. Because he has been running this operation for ten years. He says, "Don't shoot a 3D movie. Shoot a movie that just happens to be in 3D and you will be fine. You will be better served." And he has been right every single day.
How did the decision to shoot in New Orleans come about?
Craig Perry: It was one hundred percent economic. What we discovered is that crews love working down here. It is great to be in a community that loves to work. And they want this to become a production center in the United States. We, as a country, are lacking something like that right now. In Hollywood, it is all about economics. But there is a community here that really wants to live up to that economic opportunity. This is the place that everyone should come to, to film here in the United States.
Are you guys going to be preparing special Final Destination 4 glasses that are just for this movie.
Craig Perry: No. Not just for this movie, we aren't dealing with the red and blue glasses. That doesn't work anymore. We have these prisms. They are polarized lenses. They actually look very stylish. You will see them, and you will see that they are slightly fashionable. In the next two or three years, they will start selling them at retail. And everyone will have their own pair of 3D glasses that they buy and take to the theater just like any pair of glasses. 3D will have made that kind of impression on the market place. Right now, one of the discussions we have been having between producers and distributors, is who bares the production cost of five thousand pairs of 3D glasses. How you go about washing and caring for them. The number may be smaller, because there aren't that many screens at the moment. Glasses are definitely part of the discussion. We are trying to come up with a plan that works out economically for both sides. Because we wanted to get as many screens as possible. And we want to get this worked out before Avatar. Let's be honest. Avatar is driving the market place right now. A year after this Christmas, people are going to be lining up for that. Because it is going to be one of the biggest event films that you have ever seen.
Using Avatar as an example, couldn't we all say that we've heard this 3D spiel before? It seems like producers were saying the same thing forty years ago. Beyond Avatar, what is driving this consensus that 3D is going to revolutionize the theater going experience?
Craig Perry: Look at the Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. It proved the notion that people will seek out 3D as an experience. Just in that format, which is pretty simple. It's a concert movie. I will say, without any humility, that it is this movie that will prove that a simply, regular movie in 3D can be an entirely different communal experience in the theater. I know that sounds grandiose and sort of like bullshit, but you really do get that sense when you look at how a movie in 3D can impact you viscerally and emotionally in a far different way. I don't mean to sound trite. And I know that people have said this in the past. Back with the old 3D, the palate design was different. You couldn't even have red. The technology was so bulky. There was no sense of movement. It was static and locked up. Our new cameras? You can put them on steady cams. It is a totally fluid, normal thematic experience. It just happens to be in 3D.
Can you talk about the casting of the actors in this film?
Craig Perry: Well, we were sort of looking for people that were teetering on the edge of the rest of their lives. Not college or high school kids. That is just another microcosm. A smaller sense of your peers. When you are prepared to graduate college, and you are setting out to find what the world holds for you by virtue of what you've studied, you don't know what is out there for you. And, if you look at the characters in the last three films, you will see that they all have a tendency to mope. We are very aware of that. We wanted to slightly change it. The tone will still be serious. The characters will still be affected by the deaths that they see happening around them. But younger people are different emotionally. There is a huge boon of websites dedicated to watching people get hit in the balls. Or getting bonked in the head. When guys are taping their skateboard videos, and they see their buddy wipe out, they are screaming, "Dude! Did you see that?" They get excited. That is where our kids are at. There is a weird sort of numbness to this type of violence. And that is how they react to this opening set piece. They are stoked to still be alive. They say, "Did you see that shit?" And I think that is pretty real. If you survive something that leaves you with this angst ridden mortality question, you are going to be saying, "Fucking eh! I made it!" Yet, the next step to that, when you escape death, and it comes back for you, it erodes that sudden feeling of immortality. That idea helps to distinguish it from the other three films. It is tonally a little bit more on target as far as the kids of today react to violence and spectacle. They are more selfish. They say, "How cool is this? Look what I captured with my camera."
The opening of the second film was a show stopper...
Craig Perry: Have you seen the version someone did in Lego? It is unbelievable. You have to watch that! (to check it out, CLICK HERE)
The third one was a little disappointing, with the rollercoaster. What are you doing to insure that this one is as good as the second one?
Craig Perry: I think the things that David Ellis brought to the opening of Final Destination 2, he is bringing x10 to this movie. They both involve cars, but it is a different thing. This one is at a modified stock car racetrack. Instead of it being, "Oh, look at the cars!", we wanted it to be more visceral. We didn't want it to just be the cars crashing on the track. This is more about what happens in the stands. I don't drag race cars. I do go to events. A concert, or a sporting event, or a car race. And I am in the stands watch ing things happen. In that particular situation, I am looking at the fence thinking, "Is that going to hold in case something goes wrong?" I googled car crashes, and I have seen how things happen. Then, when I am under our stadium, I notice that the overhang doesn't look too stable. Why is there dust coming down on top of my head when people stomp their feet? It is that feeling of being in a place, where getting out is not going to be easy. It is crowded. Things aren't going to move very quickly. So, with that, we have things coming into the stands. Which takes advantage of the 3D. It also puts you in this position where you are surrounded by a bunch of people and you can't get away. And all of this stuff is coming at you. I think that is a fear that everybody can access.
Is Tony Todd going to be doing the racecar announcing at the track?
Craig Perry: Tony Todd, at this stage, will not be joining us for this round. Never say never. Maybe, there is a small chance we would put his voice in somewhere. But for the most part, he will not be joining us. And there are many different factors that played into that.
You have the racecar crash, and you have the movie theater. It looks like you have two giant set pieces this time out?
Craig Perry: We learned our lesson last time. Normally the third time is the charm. We will say that the fourth time is the charm here. With these movies, we tend to open big and then end on a quieter, more contemporary note. But then we've had to do reshoots on every single one to address that factor after the fact. We took great pains to have an opening set piece that is balls out cool. And this set piece that takes place in a movie theater? It is a smaller incident that takes place in a much larger setting. And it has turned out really cool. That is the challenge. You have to get people into the theater with that "What if?" And then you have to beat it or match it at the end of the film. I think here, we have matched it. I don't think we could ever beat it, because when you see some of the stuff we are doing at the racetrack, you will see that it is badass. But we have done a good job of making things work to support the middle structure.
Are you working to make the mythology a little bit more understood this time out?
Craig Perry: Here is what I would say. In as much as any one tries to explain déjà vu, if you try to explain it anymore, it becomes inane yattering. It's like a homeless man yelling at a street sign. In the past films, our explanations have become a little bit overwhelming. We have become restricted by the rules that have been set into place. By having a fresh group of people coming into this thing, they aren't regurgitating the roles. We see the rules come to life in actions rather than through discussions. Yeah, we kind of boned ourselves with 1 and 2, trying to make things work. And now we are like, "Oh, fuck." So, that has been a challenge. This time out, we don't go into any great explanations. We wanted everybody to feel as though they could have one of these premonitions that one of our four characters have had in the beginning of these films. If you make it a rarified thing, then I, as an audience member, am removed from that idea. That's no fun. That's like the medichlorines when you are a Jedi. All of a sudden my childhood is ruined and pissed on by George Lucas. Suddenly I can't be a Jedi, because it's not in my DNA. Well, that sucks. Thanks, George.
Is there any connection between Final Destination 4 and the previous movies?
Craig Perry: There was. But we decided to make this where there is no direct connection. We are trying to distance ourselves. We aren't trying to make this a stand-alone feature, we just wanted there to be some space between what happened with these individuals. We wanted to show that this is happening all over the country. To everybody and everything. We wanted it to feel like a bigger notion, more than a smaller notion. So we tried to take it to a bigger place. I have always said, not that we are going to do that with this movie, but you could take Final Destination to the Old West. Why not? Death lived back then, too. You could do it in medieval times. Don't worry. I'm not saying we are going to do that. I'm just saying that it could be done. That is one of the interesting things about this simple idea that the movie is based on. This time, we wanted to play on a bigger landscape.
Final Destination 4 will open sometime in 2009.