3D has become a tiresomely divisive issue in the film world. Its biggest supporters, like James Cameron or Dreamworks’ Jeffery Katzenberg, say that 3D is the future, the future in the same way that sync-sound and color once were, that it is an integral remaining step towards what our viewing experience should and will be. Its biggest detractors dismiss it as nothing more than an obnoxious gimmick to get rapidly evaporating butts back in cinema seats, a gimmick that will eventually run its course like it has before. Either way, lame gimmick or the future of cinema, we’re still in the upward growth phase of 3D currently. The technology and its applications are still expanding, and expanding rapidly.
The real trump card for those who think 3D is the future is 3D’s fast leap to television and gaming (where 3D seems most fitting, I think), a reality that will ultimately and ironically destroy the butts-in-seats glory that the studio bean-counters currently love about the technology.
Personally I find 3D both annoying and exciting. It bothers me that studios of hefting the technology and format onto filmmakers who aren’t thrilled to use it, especially now, before all the kinks have been worked out of the tech. And I’m sure at some point the Ted Turners of the world will raise my bile by issuing post-con 3D versions of Vertigo, The Searchers, Singing in the Rain, and a funeral march of other classics. But as with any technology applicable to art and entertainment, I’m dying to see how different artists and entertainers use it, what heights it can reach. I would love to see what David Lynch or the Coen Bros would do with 3D, or what some indie gonzo filmmaker will do once the tech gets cheaper. Beyond this, I want to see the Minnesota Vikings play in 3D, and I most certainly want to destroy my friends in a 3D game of Mario Kart.
So it is with some excitement that Mr. David Oliver and I will be attending the 3D Film Festival this coming weekend. The fest (Thurs September 30th- Sunday October 3rd), presented by RealD and The Los Angeles Film School, is produced by 3D live event pioneer The Dream Factory, and will feature four very full days of events spread out across five city blocks in Hollywood with screenings and red carpet premieres being held at the Los Angeles Film School’s new RealD 3D-enabled screening room.
The festival kicks off this Thursday with the US premiere of Streetdance 3D, starring Charlotte Rampling, and closes on Sunday with Joe Dante’s The Hole. In between it will give an opportunity for those in and around the LA area to catch up on some 3D films they may have missed on the big screen, like My Blood Valentine, Piranha, and How to Train Your Dragon. The fest also offers some 3D workshops, and some interesting panels, like “2D to 3D: A Producers Guide to the Universe of Conversion,” featuring Charlotte Huggins (Journey 3D), Buzz Hayes (Sony), Jeff Mainard (Piranha 3D), and Jim Mainard (Dreamworks) and “3DTV: Content & Distribution Panel,” featuring speakers from HELLO!, RealD, 3ality Digital, TEisiontvision Systems & Kerner. I can already tell you something that will be talked about at “Designer 3D: Eyewear for a New Generation” — sunglasses that work as 3D glasses. The future is now!
Hosting 3DFF is genre fan fav Thomas Jane. If Jane seems a random choice for a 3D film festival, it likely will make more sense to learn that this Saturday will be the LA 3D premiere of Jane’s directorial effort, Dark Country. Sony released the film on DVD last year, which was no small disappointment to Jane, considering that he had shot the film in 3D. Last week I sat down with Jane (who happened to be wearing a snazzy orange pair of 3D sunglasses) for a brief chat about the third dimension. Here are some snippets:
ME: How did you get involved with the festival?
JANE: Well, I directed a film in 3D; I’ve been very interested in 3D, in the process of it, the filmmaking, for a long time. These guys heard about my interest in 3D and they asked me to do it, and I think it’s a perfect fit for me. It’s something that I’m passionate about.
ME: What are your thoughts on how the technology has evolved from the red’n’blue glasses days?
JANE: We are in sort of the digital version of 3D; much more accessible and standardized way of showing a 3D film, but it’s by no means a new technology. This stuff has been around since the 1800’s. And in that effect, the technology is extremely simple. You take two images and marry them together in a way that forces one eye to see one image and another eye to see another, and whether you do that with color or polarized glasses – like the ones I’m wearing – or a combination thereof, you know, so far that hasn’t been any new developments in the way we create it. But the way we distribute it and show it has evolved into the digital age. So that’s what makes 3D films so exciting. It seems like we’re at the dawn of creating a permanent 3D market. And as the technology for distribution and exhibition of 3D material grows and solidifies, we’re going to see a lot more content which is a lot more readily available to the general public. And that’s terrific for us, because we love 3D.
ME: Now with your film – had you gotten it your head that you wanted to do something in 3D when you went looking for a project, or was that decision made once you were already in pre-production on Dark Country?
JANE: I was working on a film to direct, developing a small story that I could be part of… [something occurs in the room that briefly distracts Tom, but he soon returns to his line of thinking] I’m a member of the Southern California Stereo Club, so when we starting projecting and showing digital imagines I realized you could make a live action 3D film with it – and this was before Hollywood had caught the 3D craze. I had my film set up at Lion’s Gate, and when I told them I wanted to make it 3D and they said “not here you’re not.” So I took it over to Sony, who for some reason, bought the film right away and told me I could make it 3D, even though it was for Sony Home Video.
ME: And this was all happening before the recent 3D boom?
JANE: Dark Country is the first live action film to be shot purely digitally in 3D. Journey to the Center of the Earth came out first, but they used tape in capturing their images. Dark Country is the first purely digital 3D film and we broke a lot of ground. We had to sort of invent a lot of material, a lot of rigs, to make it work. And we did. And I’m very proud of that.
ME: Were there any particular 3D films, old or new, that you looked to as a good example. Or even as a bad example.
JANE: I watched some great 3D movies from the 50’s. Saw some terrific uses of 3D, and some not so good uses too. But at the end of the day we’re creating the visual language of 3D. That’s what is exciting as a filmmaker, to be on the ground floor and help create that film language. It’s a brave new world.
ME: Can you gimme just a couple 3D films you really like?
JANE: You should see John Wayne’s Hondo – very good. Alfred Hitchock, Dial M For Murder.
Information about attending the festival (much of which is free to the general public) can be found on festival’s website.
The complete list of films screening is thus:
STREETDANCE 3D (Directed by Max Giwa & Dania Pasquini) – US Premiere & Opening Night film. In order to win the street dance competition, a dance crew is forced to work with the Royal dance school in exchange for rehearsal space. Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Rachel McDowell and Nichola Burley. Screening Thursday September 30th at 7pm.
DARK COUNTRY (Directed by Thomas Jane) – LA Premiere. A couple, en route from Las Vegas, are forced to deal with a body out in the desert, making their honeymoon one hellish ride. Starring: Thomas Jane, Lauren German and Ron Perlman. Directed by Thomas Jane. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 10pm.
IRON DOORS (Directed by Steven Manuel) – World Premiere. A young man must escape from a mysterious locked vault before he dies of dehydration. Starring: Axel Wedekind, Aungano Nyoni. Screening Friday October 1st at 6pm.
THE HOLE (Directed by Joe Dante) – Closing Night film. THE HOLE was named the best 3D film at the Venice Film Festival in 2009. Two brothers stumble upon a mysterious hole in their basement which leads to the darkest corridors of their nightmares. Starring: Teri Polo, Nathan Gamble & Chris Massoglia. Screening Sunday October 3rd at 6pm.
KIDS AND FAMILY FILMS:
Despicable Me (Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) – When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds himself profoundly changed by the growing love between them. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 12pm.
How to Train Your Dragon (Directed by: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders) – A hapless young Viking, who aspires to hunt dragons, becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed. Screening Sunday October 3rd at 12pm.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Directed by Zack Snyder) – Soren, a young barn owl, is kidnapped by owls of St. Aggie’s, ostensibly an orphanage, where owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers. He and his new friends escape to the island of Ga’Hoole, to assist its noble, wise owls who fight the army being created by the wicked rulers of St. Aggie’s. The film is based on the first three books in the series. Screening Sunday October 3rd at 4pm.
MIDNIGHT HORROR FILMS:
My Bloody Valentine (Directed by: Patrick Lussier) – Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, however, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one will believe he’s innocent. Screening Friday October 1st at MIDNIGHT
Piranha 3D (Directed by: Alexandre Aja) – After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to prevent themselves from becoming fish food for the area’s new razor-toothed residents. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 7pm and MIDNIGHT.
3D Sun (Directed by: Melissa Butts) – Stand above the artic circle and witness the most brilliant auroras on Earth. Take a ride on a solar blast from Sun’s surface to Earth’s Magnetosphere. Witness the most powerful explosions in the solar system – equal to the force of a billion megaton nuclear bombs. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 11am.
African Adventure (Produced by: nWave) – Join zoologist Liesl Eichenberger and wildlife filmmaker Tim Liversedge as they explore the Okavango Delta, one of the most spectacular wildlife reserves on earth. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 10am.
The Butler’s in Love (Director: David Arquette) – The love story between a butler and a guest during a fancy party one night in 1912. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 5pm.
Extreme Nature of Bats (Director: Greg Passmore)- The Extreme Nature of Bats explores not only the truths, but the myths and dark legends that have been associated with bats for hundreds of years. Bats. The film contains never-before-seen footage of some of the largest bat caves in the world and explores Central Texas, Romania, Transylvania, and the deep jungles of Mexico to capture footage of the infamous vampire bat and expose vampire lore. Screening Thursday September 30th at 9pm.
Microworlds (Director: Greg Passmore) – An educational exploration of the micro-worlds around us. Produced in 3D with specialty microscopes, the viewer discovers the hidden world of snails, ladybugs, worms and butterflies. Screening Thursday September 30th at 9pm.
Monsters of the Deep (Produced by: nWave) – If you think that the great white shark is the scariest creature in the sea, you’re in for a serious reality check! Screening Saturday October 2nd at 10am.
Natural Mystic (Directed by: Joseph A. Zaki) – Screening Friday October 1st at 4pm.
Physics of Surfing (Director: Greg Passmore)- Through the magic of 3D technology, audiences will explore the science of ocean waves and learn about surfing’s deep influence on modern culture. While following professional surfers Julie Cox and Kyla Langen as they surf around the world. Locations include Hawaii’s breathtaking North Shore and California’s greatest surf spots. Screening Thursday September 30th at 9pm.
Safety Geeks (Directed by: Roger Tonry) – The comic adventures of a semi-elite force of safety experts; the P.O.S.H. (Professional Occupational Safety Hazard) team. Obsessed with making the world safer, the CSI-like team investigates accidents. Their involvement causes far more damage than they prevent, leaving a trail of chaos and destruction in their wake. Screening Sunday October 3rd at 2pm.
SOS Planet (Director: Ben Stassen ) – Deforestation, the green house effect, shrinking polar ice caps, polluted air, overfishing – SOS Planet lists the standard crimes committed by humans against our fragile planet. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 10am.
Turtlevision (Produced by: nWave) – Experience the ups and downs of life on land and sea in this coming-of-age story starring the cutest sea turtle on the big screen. Screening Saturday October 2nd at 10am.
The Viewer (Directed by: Graham Reznick) – Participate as an observer in the telepathic interrogation of a murder suspect. New technology allows you to see through the eyes of the prisoner – but be warned: higher levels of telepathic viewing can cause unpredictable psychological damage. Screening Friday October 1st at 4pm.