This is gonna be big…

Posted on Mar 31, 2000

Wow…this movie will be big. Just read this from reel.com:

The Real Thing

Now this will be something to see. The actual live bombardment (with ‘real’ explosives) of roughly fifteen Naval vessels moored at Pearl Harbor, to be captured by movie cameras within the next few weeks.

The movie, of course, is Pearl Harbor, Disney’s super-sized – $135 million-and-counting – World War II epic drama. Filming is beginning this week under producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay in and around Pearl Harbor. (April 8 is the official start date.) Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett will play the two male leads, with Kate Beckinsale reportedly playing their mutual love interest.

The ships to be destroyed along ‘Battleship Row’ are moored at the ‘middle loch’ on the rear side of Ford Island, which is located in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

A director friend told me Wednesday that Bay and Bruckheimer will be using actual naval vessels and real explosives. The U.S. Navy has been bombing and sinking its own vessels for years as part of military maneuvers (“sink X’s” or “exercises,” in naval jargon), but this level of realism is rare for a Hollywood movie shoot.

U.S. Navy spokesperson Lt. Melissa Sherman, currently in Hawaii, says she’s aware of the plan to use live vessels in the simulation of the Pearl Harbor attack. She declined to say how many vessels would be used, or what kind. However, she adds, “They’re not going to sink anything.”

The 11-year-old boy in me is thrilled. Real explosions! Real flying shrapnel! Stunt men leaping into a flaming sea! Something to see, all right · only I won’t see it. Not unless Bay and Bruckheimer change their tune about press coverage.

The general policy is to keep reporters and cameras at arm’s length, according to Pearl Harbor’s unit publicist Gabriela Gutentag. I called Gutentag a few weeks ago to ask about visiting Hawaii to watch filming of the Japanese bombardment, which Bruckheimer had told me earlier would probably be the most exciting thing to see.

The spectacle, Bruckheimer confided, would include Japanese bomber planes swooping down over the harbor, with scores of extras running around and simulated bomb explosions going off willy-nilly. When I mentioned this to Gutentag, she replied there would be a “closed set” policy during filming of this footage.

Given the scale of the action, I said to her, how “closed” do they expect the shooting of this sequence to be? An industrious photographer or video-shooter with a private plane at his or her disposal would be able to easily capture this.

The “live” bombing of the ships is said to be part of Bay’s effort to knock our collective socks off. Word is he’s trying to go the old-fashioned way as much as possible, with actual props and real explosives, instead of relying mainly on the computer-generated trickery that has become commonplace in the making of big-scale action films.

I think this is terrific. I’ve said time and again that CGI always looks like CGI, and that there’s no substitute for organic realism. Think how much better Jim Cameron’s depiction of the Titanic taking to sea would have looked if he’d been able to pay for a real vessel, instead of using that digitally animated version of the ship that looked · digitally animated.

Just you wait. Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight will work something out with Bruckheimer and Gutentag, and we’ll be seeing at least some of this carnage on one of their shows before too long. I’ll be watching from my desk in Los Angeles while eating a tuna-fish sandwich.

Pearl Harbor tidbits

Posted on Mar 22, 2000

Sources tell me that Michael Bay will most likely (if not already) hook up again with Jon Schwartzman as his DP for the 3rd time in a row.

Michael now lives in Bel Air (just in case you didn’t know). It seems like the production process for “Pearl Harbor” might change how movies are made. Keep reading, got this from Variety.

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Studio’s deferment deals could rewrite megapic rules

By CHARLES LYONS

Forty-five men and women stand motionless, staring at a small brass plaque.

They do not say a word.

Each silently reads about the hundreds of U.S. soldiers entombed, almost 60 years ago, in the sunken battleship Arizona. And each is transported, disturbed.

‘That’s why people are doing ÎPearl Harbor’ and deferring their salaries,’ said Todd Garner, co-president of Buena Vista Motion Picture Group, describing the reactions of crew members on a recent scouting trip to the Hawaiian site. (Garner gave director Michael Bay the idea for the project.)

But there are many other reasons why principal crew and vendors agreed to make deferments on the pic, which is budgeted at $135 million. And greater ramifications.

If the ‘Pearl’ model works, deferments could become the newest way for studios to produce more $100 million-plus films while avoiding co-financing pacts – pacts that reduce studios’ potential upsides.

Still, the ‘Pearl’ deferments have already caused rumblings among crew members, some of whom have elected to pass on Disney’s offer to work for less. And the new model could ignite already smoldering studio/union relationships.

With ILM agreeing to take deferments, other effects houses, many hurting for work, may find themselves forced to follow suit – and risk the consequences.

One key below-the-line pro was delighted when Michael Bay approached him to do the film but was taken aback by the director’s throwaway line: ‘I’m deferring my salary on this film. How about you?’ Reluctantly, the crew member accepted the offer.

Soon thereafter, Bay invited some guests to his new multimillion-dollar home in Bel-Air for his birthday party. ‘It was a nice gesture,’ the crew member reflected. ‘But looking around, I had to ask myself, ÎWhy am I deferring my meager pay?’ ‘

Bay countered that no crew members attended his party and noted that nearly all of his primary crew from past films are returning for ‘Pearl.’ However, at least three of them assured Daily Variety they are returning under normal terms, with one arranging for the deferred portion of his salary to be put into an escrow account.

Crew members on low-budget films frequently have to make deferments, but when the producers on a few bigger pics, such as ‘The English Patient,’ have tried this arrangement, the results have not always been happy.

Deferments mean that the crew member or vendor agrees to work for a lower rate, with money coming back once the pic turns a profit. In this case, Disney promises that if ‘Pearl’ reaches a domestic gross of about $140 million, crew members will recoup what they would have been paid under normal circumstances.

Over the past year, however, only 10 movies have surpassed the $140 million domestic mark, including ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,’ ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Toy Story 2.’

Unlike movies such as ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Star Wars,’ where below-the-line crew received considerable backend on the film, only producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director-producer Bay have ‘points’ on ‘Pearl Harbor.

Hence, crew members and vendors are in for considerable risk – something that sources say they would have balked at had it not been for the subject matter and the talent involved. Others have found Disney’s ‘point’-less proposal uninviting. Since these crew members are crucial to the production, Disney has signed them on anyway, under traditional terms.

Despite the rumblings, Disney is steamrolling ahead with its plans, having already arranged for the following savings:

in Many heads of major below-the-line departments have agreed to deferments, including the D.P., editor, production designer and lighting director. The total budget value of such deferments is said to be $5 million-$10 million.

Panavision and Technicolor have been asked to take deferred payments. A Panavision spokesman said that while such deferments were discussed, the camera house will work on ‘Pearl’ under its standard deal with Disney.

ILM has agreed to what one Disney exec called ‘meaningful deferments’ on some 200 effects shots, said to cost close to $25 million.

Disney says its use of the shots will make it look more like 500 f/x shots were used. While ILM has ostensibly agreed to the deferments because the company wants to be in the Bruckheimer-Bay business, deal could add additional pressure to the post biz’s bottom line.

A conservative approach has been taken regarding set construction: Instead of building full sets, it will at times build only what’s needed for a shot. Unlike the method used for ‘Waterworld,’ the studio will only build a section of some ships.

The Mouse will take an equally conservative approach to battle re-creations: While one scene will require a fleet of 20 ships, 12-15 camera positions and nine Air Force planes, Disney plans to digitally add in numerous more ships and planes.

Prop houses, wardrobe houses and labs – among other vendors – have offered up to 25% deferments in exchange for upfront payments. But some say that they certainly don’t want to make a habit of doing so.

‘I wanted to change the way $100 million movies get made,’ said Bruce Hendricks, the studio’s president of motion picture production and the man responsible to the studio for sticking to the ‘Pearl Harbor’ budget.

‘Nobody said to do this. It was something that I just came up with after seeing it done with such studio movies as ÎThe English Patient.’ I just wanted to try a different way of making the movie cost-effective.’

Under this strategy, below-the-line craftsmen and vendors, many of whom are undergoing tough times, may find themselves in an untenable situation, having to choose whether to work and take a pay cut or not work at all.

Even with deferred pay, they lose money. If the film recoups, they will get a salary in two years but will lose the interest they could have accrued if paid this year.

A DGA spokesman, who pointed out that a.d.s could only defer dollar amounts over scale, said he was ‘appalled by this trend.’

But Bay, known for such blockbusters as ‘Armageddon’ and ‘The Rock,’ emphatically said, ‘The business thinks they are rewriting the rule books, but this is a special circumstance. I am going into this thinking that I am not going to make a dime. But I would rather gamble on myself.’

Still, some craftsmen are unimpressed by Bay’s wager.

‘I am sure that there must be some people who must be unhappy with me because we are making every dollar count,’ said Hendricks.

‘Certainly the production won’t be as comfortable as people are used to. But no one was arm-twisted into doing this movie. Everyone knew that to do this movie, that’s what needed to happen.’

Production begins in Hawaii on April 8 with a relatively compact shooting schedule of 85 days. Bay hopes to bring the film in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, or under.

Pearl Harbor storyboard and Levi ads

Posted on Mar 19, 2000

The Unofficial Pearl Harbor Site has manage to get exclusive storyboards for “Pearl Harbor.” They’ve got a total of four storyboards ( thanks to Nick Medrano ). You can view two of them by clicking on the thumbnails below, and the rest can be view by clicking on the following link http://cinemenium.com/pearlharbor

Back in August of 99, I was speaking to Michael about his new Levi’s commercials. I was surprised to learn that he had made 3 commercials for Levi’s that summer. They are: The Invisible Man, The Artist , and The Train (AKA “Frayed”). The “Train?” Well, Michael told me he did decided not to finish the “Train” commercial because Levi’s was afraid to take chances with that particular commercial. Levi’s thought it was a little bit to risqué ( he also went on to tell me how the Levi’s “Elevator” commercial has the highest rating for any Levi’s commercial ever made ). So he decided not to put up with all the ad agency BS…and walked off the set.

Well, Levi’s has decided to air the “Train” commercial. I doubted that the cut you will be seeing is what Michael had in mind. But alas, it has Michael Bay elements. Click below to see “The Train”

Levi’s Frayed/Train (Quicktime 4, 1.5mbs)

Beckinsale In 'Pearl'?

Posted on Mar 15, 2000

Cinescape reports on the following regarding the lead female role for Pearl Harbor:

Kate Beckinsale (Breakdown Palace, Haunted) is the most recent candidate in talks to take on the female lead role in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor project. According to Variety, the lead role is that of a Navy nurse who falls in love with a pilot named Rafe (to be played by Ben Affleck). Eventually, she is reassigned to Pearl Harbor prior to the infamous day. The trade also reports that though Beckinsale is currently the frontrunner for the role, there are three other actresses in talks for the role should she pass on it.

Affleck speaks…

Posted on Mar 14, 2000

First of all, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to a friend of mine: Liz Olivera. I would give you her email so that you can all send her a wish…but she would stop being my friend after she gets bombed with all your emails.

There’s more rumblings of casting for Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor project. According to a number of sources, Alec Baldwin is currently in talks to take on the film’s role of the real life Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, a part that Kevin Costner previously negotiated for but chose to pass on when the production could not meet his financial requirements.

Ben Affleck talks on his site ( affleck.com )about “Pearl Harbor.” WARNING, there are some minor spoilers:

“Which brings me to…my next movie and it’s one I’m really thrilled about. In fact, I haven’t been this excited to do a movie in a long time and nobody is as surprised as I am at that. If you had asked me a year ago if I’d be doing Michael Bay’s next movie–and FOR NO MONEY at that–I’d have said you were crazy. And maybe I am, but I don’t think so.

When I got the script I was fully expecting the kind of saccharine, popcorn that was Armageddon. I was shocked, to say the least. Jerry and Michael are working from a script by Randall Wallace (Braveheart) that is uncompromising, true to the accounts of survivors and striving to be the definitive epic on the day that “lived in infamy” and ultimitely proved to be the definitive moment in the greatest conflict of the last century.

Rather than some jingoistic cowboy story about yee-haw Americans getting “snuk-attacked” by cagy “Japs,” this is a much more complex story. It begins with a nation that, according to a gallup poll, is 88% AGAINST getting involved in “the war in Europe” (!!!) It is a place suffering mightily from the hangover of a costly (in suffering) and senseless (in both geo-political and humanistic terms) war where thousands of American boys died in trenches in Europe. It is a place where Henry Ford and Charles Lindburgh lead HUGE rallies where the great applause line goes: “Hitler is our friend!!” The “peace in our time” movement which advocated isolationism in the face of the Axis powers invasions in Europe and Asia–an unimaginable concept in retrospect, but one that had an invincible political currency at the time. In fact, there are many fascinating parallels to the post Vietnam era, where the populace absolutely DID NOT want to send our young men overseas EVER AGAIN.

In the White House, a democratic President is running for his fourth term and facing the fight of his life. His Republic opponent, Willkie, is making great political hay by implying that FDR wants to “Drag America to war.” A fistfight breaks out in the House of Representatives after a vociferous anti-wr, anti-FDR speech–each congressman takes and suffers six blows to the face. FDR publicly aknowledges that “The Axis powers will give anything in the world to have me licked the fifth of November!” and he barely squeaks by in the election but only after repeatedly promising “your boys are not going to be sent into any foriegn wars!”

An advisor to FDR, Mccollum, puts forth an internal memo indicatating that they fully expected that “upon defeat of England, the United States could expect an immediate attack from Germany.” Yet FDR simply did not have the support of the populace to enter the war–just lending the British a few ships had caused a political shitstorm on capital hill and lead FDR to have to employ his famous “garden hose” analogy in a “Fireside Chat” the thrust of which being “If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you lend him your hose…”

At a terrible political crossroad, FDR was stuck. Until that day in 1941, when a fleet of Japanese Battles ships, attack fighters and a group of bombers led a shockingly brazen assualt on the US Naval base at Pearl harbor, leaving 2403 Americans dead and 1178 wounded in less than an hour. The Japanese lost less than two hundred men, and only one was captured.

The movie will capture, using the most advanced special effects, and reproduce the exact events of that terrible day. if there is one thing I am certain of, it is that Michael’s emormous visual storytelling talents will bring the attack sequence a sense of horrifying realism and terrible majesty. The third act of the movie is also culled from true wartime events in the pacific (and I don’t want to give anything away) but it is truly gripping and extremely well executed in the script. the fictional love story that Mr. Wallace crafted (a la Braveheart) is well done and entirely absent false sentimentality. Suffice it to say that there is (I believe) very good reason that Michael, Jerry, the rental houses, and so many crewmembers and actors (including me) have waived our “fees”: we want to make a good movie–and we want every nickel up on the screen to help tell the story. Ultimitely, I’ve found, it’s a lot more satisfying to make a movie you can be proud of than it is to cash a big check. This time, we’re taking the route of the former. I hope you’ll like it. Memorial Day 2001.”