We made a lot of hub-bub on the site for the Back to the Future 25th anniversary a few weeks ago with a contest to give away 5 copies of the DVD, a controversial Blu-Ray review from Nick, and coverage of the well-timed details coming out about the videogame.
I’m happy to say the contest is still open for entries, but only for another day or two. To remind you why you need to enter for your chance to get the disc from CHUD, here’s a quick chat I had with trilogy screenwriter and producer Bob Gale. If the talk gets you too excited to wait for a contest, make sure to grab your copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray from CHUD through Amazon!
R: So this must be very exciting to have this Blu-Ray coming out with so many new feature. It’s really packed-to-the-gills with things I haven’t even broken the surface of yet.
B: Great package, it really is. It’s got all of the old stuff on it, all the new documentaries are fantastic, this new little nuclear test-site piece we put together is really cool, but most importantly the movies look and sound better than they ever have, ever, and that’s the best.
R: Tell me a little bit about your specific role in producing this DVD, or at least the new generation of content.
B: Well, knowing that we had this new format out there, it seemed it was finally taking off when Sony won the war, we started thinking a little over a year ago — and I was hearing from a lot of back to the future fans– “wouldn’t it be cool to have a Blu-ray come out for the 25th anniversary?” And you know, Universal’s got to do something to celebrate the 25th anniversary…
R: Yeah of course, that’s a big one.
B: So I started rattling on cages over at Universal saying, “We gotta do something guys, we gotta do something. It only has one 25th anniversary.” And on about February of this year they came around and said, “Yeah, okay, lets do it, lets bring out the Blu-ray in the fall.” Somebody was even wise enough to say, since we won’t hit the real 25th anniversary of the movie’s release, which would have been July 3rd, let’s release on the anniversary of the day Marty went back in time, which was October 26th, 1985, so that’s kind of cool that they were fans enough of the movie over there in the video department to come up with that.
R: I think that probably works better for the fans than actually releasing it on the theatrical date.
B: It really does, it really worked out well. And then they turned it over to their technical people and there was a guy, an outside consultant who was hired, David Martin, who supervises all the Amblin stuff at any studio, and I have to give David a whole lot of credit for knowing what to do, because I hadn’t even taken the Blu-ray plunge yet. I went from being an early adopter, I bought one of the first betamax’s in 1976, and then the pain of throwing away all of my beta tapes 15 years later I said, “I’m not gonna be the first guy on my block with the new technology anymore.” So I’ve gotten older, or wiser, or cheaper or whatever.
R: Probably a wise decision, the way things have accelerated since beta.
B: With the HD/BLu-ray war, I said, “I’m sitting this one out. I’m not taking any plunges on any new technology yet.” And an awful lot of people had the same idea. Anyway, Dave was really there to say, “this is how we can do everything…” dirt clean-up, and how to reduce the grain, but it shouldn’t go away completely- and in fact, I have to give Dave a lot of credit, because I was ready to sign off on the transfers, David says, “no no no Bob, we can do better. It’ll cost a little bit more.” But he showed me the DVD of Twister, compared to what it looked like before, and even the technical guys at Universal said, “Yeah, we can do better.” So the movies look as good as they do because of Dave Martin rattling some cages, kicking me in the ass a little bit, which I appreciate and the smart folks at Universal saying, “you know what, these movies are so good, we’ll spend the extra money and go the extra mile to make sure they look and sound as great as we can do.”
R: Well as great as the Blu-ray format is, there have definitely been some edition of a few movies that have dropped the ball on the image transfer, so I’m glad to hear they went that distance.
B: Yeah, and I know there’s a contingent out there who think that you shouldn’t reduce the grain at all, and to those folks I just want to remind everybody that when you go to a movie, you were looking at a fourth generation element- because you have the camera negative, the inter-positive (which is used to make the inter-negative), which is used to make the release prints. So every step of the way you’re adding grain, you’re adding dirt, you’re adding aberrations, so when you can go back –and in this case we went back to an IP [inter-positive] we made in 2002 for the last DVD release, that had been rarely handled– and they used all of the state-of-the-art equipment and all the greatest software that they have and the grain that’s not there, is grain that’s not supposed to be there!
Video is an electronic medium and film is a chemical medium that reacts different to light than a light-sensor does, and that’s one of the reasons why film and video look different, when you reduce the grain, it should still look like film if it’s a chemical process.
R: Shifting gear a bit to your experience actually making the films, especially the two sequels- Obviously in screenwriting the priority is to show, not tell, but obviously with BTTF you have a lot explain, plus you had the advantage of the actor who might be most gifted at delivering exposition-
B: Christopher Lloyd, yes.
R: -ever. So when you’re writing did you ever find yourself giving him a little more to explain through dialogue than you might have otherwise?
B: Oh absolutely, absolutely. That is a great luxury for a writer to have: to know what actor’s going to be delivering those lines, and to know what the actor’s speech cadence is, what he’s capable of doing, what he’s not capable of doing and with Chris, we knew we could give him those big long lines of technical stuff and he could get it across and make it clear and understandable. We still needed a chalkboard though! In 1985A, we still needed that.
R: Even Chris Lloyd needs a little help with the complexities of time-travel.
B: We needed it too, writing it. We had all this stuff on bulletin boards in our office
R: I can only imagine what the outlines and sketches looked like for mapping out the time travel. And with that in mind, we’re kind of in a cool little age where smaller films have been able to play with time-travel, and I’m not sure how much you’ve been able to keep up with them, but there’s a number of these smaller time-travel films about- Primer, Timecrimes…
B: I saw Primer, I’m not familiar with Timecrimes.
R: It’s a little Spanish film, very similar vein. It’s interesting though that the cinematic mythology of time-travel have been contributed to by these smaller films, a mythology that was hugely influenced by Back to the Future.
B: Yeah, I read all kinds of time-travel books when I was in high school and college and so forth and one of the things that I’m most proud of that we were able to present in a way that everyone could understand it in Back to the Future was the duplication paradox, where Marty sees himself at the end when he goes back to the mall. Which, that’s a hard concept to get your head around and in fact, when we were shooting it I vividly remember having conversations with Dean Cundey, the cinematographer, where he said, “Well, how can this be? How can there be two of them?” but when you see it, you understand it, and that’s very cool.
R: Right, well the last question I have is that it seems you’re fairly involved in the video game that’s coming, tell me a little bit about your role with that. [Alex’s coverage of the detailed information out there about the game, which starts next month]
B: Well I won’t say heavily involved, but I’m a consultant, I’m not there on a day-to-day basis. The great thing about the video game is that the guys that are doing it at TellTale Games are big fans of the movie. They want to get it right, they really do. The want to capture the spirit and essence of the movie in this game. It’s not Back to the Future 4, how can it be? It’s a video game, it’s not a movie. But they’re using our time travel concepts, Christopher Lloyd is voicing Doc Brown, Michael J. Fox has approved his likeness. They’ve run their overall scenario by me, which I have deleted, changed, added-to, revised, and given them some “atta boys” on, and as they continue to develop, since it’s going to be released one chapter at a time through a five chapter series, I get the new scripts and we have conference calls and discuss them or we sit down face-to-face and these guys really want tot get it right, and I think they’re doing a real good job.