|Photo by Alex Minkin|
I am, obviously, writing this after the fact. I’m not
entirely sure it’s even possible to write a production journal during shooting.
There is just absolutely no time. Maybe on a bigger production when you’re not
shooting between 7 and 10 pages a day, when there’s slightly more downtime and
you don’t have THAT much to worry about when you’re home at night.
I’ll say this though, despite the amount of material we had
to shoot in only five days, this was probably the least stressful shoot I’ve
ever directed. I had an amazing production team, led by producer Orlin Dobreff,
AD Otto Penzato and 2nd
AD Ron Dempsey,
who really allowed me to do my job and focus on the actors and camera, except
when it was absolutely necessary to talk about any production related issues
(more on that later).
It was also my ninth project with Director of Photography
Paul Niccolls, so we were able to easily slip back into an easy relationship
that we’ve perfected over the course of working together since 2004.
For those unfamiliar with Anthony E. Zuiker’s Digi-novel
series “Level 26,” of which “Dark Revelations” is the third and final in the
trilogy, the concept is this: you can consume the novel like any other, read it
cover to cover, without missing a beat. However, about every 40 pages, you’re
given a code to log in and watch a “cyber-bridge,” which is a several minute
long piece of motion picture footage that will continue and/or dive deeper into
the narrative of the book. The last two sets of cyber-bridges for “Dark
Origins” and “Dark Prophecy” were written and directed by Zuiker himself. This
time however, he’s handed both duties off to myeself and it’s a huge honor.
Travis and I co-wrote the cyber-bridges together and I directed them.
Each version of the cyber-bridges has been, if nothing else,
an experiment in how this multi-media experience works. After readers got a
hold of “Level 26: Dark Origins” we heard that they felt like they were missing
a part of the narrative if they were unable to watch the bridges, say if they
were on a plane or at the beach. We corrected (maybe over-corrected) for “Dark
Prophecy” by making the bridges their separate, yet related, self-contained
movie. Many readers then felt that watching the cyber-bridges wasn’t really
On this one, Zuiker allowed Matthew Weinberg, the President
of our company Dare to Pass, Travis and myself to come up with a solution. Anthony
was interested in exploring the villain, Labyrinth, in the bridges, so together
we turned that on its head and not only made Labyrinth the subject and focus of
the cyber-bridges but decided to explore his mission from his point of view,
essentially turning him into the protagonist (hero) of the cyber-bridges.
Travis and I relished the idea of giving the audience a
glimpse into the humanity of a man who believes he is on the right side of
history. It’s that famous quote from Joseph Campbell; “The villain is always
the hero of his own story.” And so we dove in and began a historical journey through
the great revolutions and revolutionaries of the past several hundred years.
I’ll let you decide when you see it in the end, but I think Travis and I were
able to present a sympathetic character, despite his actions, and may have even
pushed you so far as to be on Labyrinth’s side by the end.
We did several drafts of the script, all the way up to
shooting, each time building Labyrinth’s arc, building his humanity, his
argument and in the end, based on everything the crew and cast said to me, we
succeeded, with many thanks to Anthony and Matt’s guidance. Almost everyone
came up to me and said, “You know, it’s funny, because I actually agree with
Labyrinth.” That was gold because my goal as a filmmaker is to challenge your
preconceived notions about how things are, how they should be, to make you
think. NOT convince you of one way or another, mind you, but to push you in a
direction you might not have thought of going.
I did the same thing with Dig
. We took a Nazi, probably one of the least sympathetic
characters you can think of, and really did our best to find the humanity in
him and I think it shows. We don’t excuse what he did but we do show you a
three dimensional human being. Many people have told me, after seeing Dig
that they actually felt bad for the
guy and were a little weirded out by it.
I want you to feel watching Dark
. Not that you should feel bad for Labyrinth but that you should
find yourself on his side even though he is, by definition, the “bad guy.” (However,
I would ask you whether you believe that to be true once you’ve finished
watching the bridges and reading the book.)
It’s really a testament to Zuiker and Matt, that they let
Travis and I go in this direction but we’ve gotten so many compliments from
those that have read it that I really think it was the right thing to do.
Overall, Level 26: Dark Revelations
is about revolution.
It’s about the very thing that is going on right now with #occupywallst and the
protests around the country and the world. Labyrinth believes this world can do
better. Maybe his methods are questionable, maybe not, you be the judge. But
the parallels to what’s going on across the globe are ridiculous. I really
can’t wait to hear what you think.
Tomorrow: Day 1 of Production.