I can’t be more excited to bring you this episode. On today’s show, we have the legendary writer/director Alex Proyas, the filmmaker behind The Crow, Dark City, The Knowing, Gods of Egypt, and I, Robot.
Alex Proyas had a huge influence on my filmmaking life. The Crow was one of those films I watch a thousand times, in the theater, when I was in film school. He began his filmmaking career working in music videos with the likes of Sting, INXS, and Fleetwood Mac before getting the opportunity to direct The Crow.
The Crow was one of the first modern comic adaptations but as Alex puts it…
“The Crow was my anti-comic book movie.” – Alex Proyas
Alex’s films are visually dazzling and have the voice of a true artist. You can see a direct line from his genre-defining work to films like The Matrix, Alita: Battle Angel, Equilibrium, Underworld, The Dark Knight, Inception, and many others.
I feel Alex’s contributions to the visual aesthetics of modern cinema have been extremely undervalued. Director’s like Christopher Nolan point at Alex’s films as inspiration when he was putting together The Dark Knight Trilogy. The Matrix has Dark City visuals and style oozing from the screen.
Alex and I discuss his career, working within the studio system, dealing with insane interference in his creative vision, why he is shooting short films at this stage of his career, his new film studio The Heretic Foundation, and his misadventures in Hollyweird.
He has also launched a YouTube channel called Mystery Clock Cinema where he showcases his short films and amazing filmmaking tutorials, philosophies, and live streams.
Prepared to be inspired. Enjoy my thoroughly entertaining conversation with filmmaker Alex Proyas.
- Alex Proyas – IMDB
- Alex Proyas – YouTube Channel: Mystery Clock Cinema
- Alex Proyas – Film Studio: The Heretic Foundation
- WATCH: The Crow
- WATCH: Dark City (Director’s Cut)
- WATCH: I, Robot
- Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible– Get a Free Screenwriting Audiobook
Alex Ferrari 2:59
I'd like to welcome to the show Alex Proyas. How you're doing Alex?
Alex Proyas 5:35
Yeah. Hi, Alex. Good, good. Good to see you. Good to speak to you.
Alex Ferrari 5:37
Yes, it's been I am. I'm honored that you come on the show. I'm a huge fan of, of your work. And I know the tribe is going to be very excited to kind of dig into your, your history, your films your process. You are easily one of the most visual directors of your generation without question. And I argue to say that a couple of your film specifically kind of changed the way films were shot afterwards. Because you could see the stylistically how things changed after the crow. And after dark city you just like okay, like the matrix picked up a couple of things from from, from, from the crow.
Alex Proyas 6:19
Thank you for saying thank you saying so and it's a mutual admiration society, because I very much appreciate what you're doing as well. I think it's awesome. In fact, I've been sort of scaring your your website. And I think it's a terrific initiative that you're taking. So well, well done to you, too.
Alex Ferrari 6:35
I appreciate that. Thank you very much, my friend. I appreciate it. So first and foremost, how did you get started in this insane business?
Alex Proyas 6:44
You know, it's something I've always wanted to do. I started making films when I was a kid like really 10 years old. All I got my first Super bugged the hell out of my parents. Being an only child, they eventually succumb to my, to my wishes and bought me a super eight camera. I didn't buy me a projector, I just save up for that myself. But yeah, that's how it all started is literally like, you know, my dad was a big film film goer. He loved he loved films and take me to like, totally inappropriate films for for a young kid, you know, like, you know, I remember him taking me to 2001 A Space Odyssey when I was when I was probably about six years old or something like that. And it completely, you know, fried my brain, you know, it was like, fried.
Alex Ferrari 7:30
So many more things are open, right? It makes so much more sense. Your whole career now makes so much more sense.
Alex Proyas 7:38
Yeah. That's right. I'm mainlined you know, big, bold commercial, experimental filmmaking, the ultimate trip, you know, at a very young age. So, you know, obviously had no idea what the hell was going on is most people didn't anyway. But, you know, from that moment, I think I went, you know, I want to, you know, the whole experience, the big screen, the big sound, and, conceptually, what was going on was just so amazing. It was transporting me into outer space. And so since then, I've always wanted to, you know, I think I started wanting to be an astronaut soon after that, and then I eventually over a few years, evolved into going well, I don't need to necessarily go there. I can create that sort of stuff, you know, and that's what I wanted wanted to do, you know, so yeah, that was the whole instigation of it all you know,
Alex Ferrari 8:28
And then you and then you your career started with music videos, correct?
Alex Proyas 8:35
Yeah, well, I I got into film school actually, you know, even before that, I was working in an animation studio straight out, you know, I left high school early. And because I knew what I wanted to do. And I went and worked at an animation studio for a while you know, and because I was kind of an I was kind of good at animating as well and and then got into film school and then through film school, we you know, we came out of film school, me and other my colleagues at the time and in Australia, there was very little potential for big getting in breaking into the film industry. Particularly as a young a young person, it was really hard to do, you know, there's so so few opportunities and still to this day, and in many ways, because we don't have the studio system, we have very limited you know, commercial TV stations and stuff to work with. So me and some friends set up this little company and by setting up a company I mean, we rented an office and rented a phone and a couple of chairs and a desk and and would sit in there and play card games all day long waiting for the phone to ring and you know, we had we had friends in bands, you know, we were all like the whole scene at the time was very music oriented. And so we started off doing a couple of you know, music videos for is for friends in bands and and you know, for like nothing for the cost of the film stock or whatever and, and eventually, you know, record companies started paying attention and I, you know, we got more and more into the music videos you know?
Alex Ferrari 10:04
Now what are some of the bad habits you picked up at film school?
Alex Proyas 10:09
Numerous numerous ones. Yeah, it's, uh, look, you know, it's it's a whole new world, you know, when I went through film school it was it's, that's like ancient history now, you know, people these days, I think, you know, YouTube is people's film school. And that can also teach you some very bad habits, I think as well, I hope you're not teaching anyone bad or
Alex Ferrari 10:29
I'm only teaching people how to survive, how to survive and thrive in the business, sir, I do not, I do not teach the latest camera here. I'm not teaching the latest camera gear and things like that. That's not my bag.
Alex Proyas 10:42
Yeah, because it's a bit of a trap these days that you, you know, because you can shoot on your phone and, you know, cut on your, your, your computer and stuff. And that's all it's fantastic. I mean, in my day, I just save up, you know, my dollars to buy a little cartridge, a separate film and wait for it to be processed in some other city and mailed back to me and stuff, you know. And, and, you know, these days with such a accessibility to the technology that makes film that's got its own fair share of traps as well. But in my day, I guess the bad habits that were taught to me, I mean, there were there were numerous, you know, and I was being taught by, you know, sort of, at that time, you know, experienced industry professionals who weren't really working in the industry anymore. anymore, they've, you know, started teaching and working as lecturers there. And, and I guess they were teaching us stuff, you know, the old school way of doing stuff. And a lot of that was how to how to sort of conform to the film industry and how to find your niche in the film in the traditional old fashioned old school, film, film industry, you know, and, of course, in Australia, they usually let you go and work for a TV station, you know, shooting news footage or something, you know, incredibly tedious like that, you know, and, you know, we were all you know, you're young and wanting to take over the world, and we wanted to be directors, we wanted to make films, you know, so, you know, I sort of quickly broke, broke away from that model to still subscribe to that, you know, I still go well, if you want to make a film, just make it Don't wait for someone to sanction you, or your budget or your story, you know, just get out there and do it. And so even in those days, that was my attitude, you know, even when there was no money, and, and, and I get to scrub the enough footage to shoot anything, you know. So that, you know, that's, I guess that was in a way, that's a good habit that was taught to me through bad habits in, in film school, you know, and I think it still holds true today, you know,
Alex Ferrari 12:47
So, so in the 90s. I mean, obviously, there was a couple movies you made that really just changed changed my world. One of them being the crow. And the you know, I was in film school when the crow came out. I was literally in films, it was 94. Right when 94 when the crow came out, correct? Yeah, yeah, I believe so. Yeah. And I saw, I must have seen it in the theater a dozen times. I just kept going back every weekend and watching it again and again. And that amazing soundtrack. That was so so good. That, you know, in many ways, that was one of the not one of the first we actually was an early comic book adaption it was before Hollywood became comic book happy. It was after Batman was obviously after Superman, but it was I think the first that's your indie comic adapted, correct?
Alex Proyas 13:38
I think I think so. Yeah. Yeah. spawn was also around the same. Yeah, I'm, I can't remember whether it came before us or after us. It was it was around a year. Yeah, it was about about the same. And, but you're looking Sorry, go ahead. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 13:54
no, no, I mean, it's gonna say like, how, first of all, how did you get involved with that? That film? Because, I mean, it was, it wasn't definitely not a guarantee blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination. But I guess there was something in the story that caught your eye.
Alex Proyas 14:12
Yeah, you know, look, I wasn't looking for guarantee blockbuster. I guess that was the part of the key. I, I, I got an agent in Hollywood. And this is like, you know, that many years between making music videos with my friends, you know, you know, one room office and and this of course, and through that interim, I'd made a lot of music videos, became very successful making music videos, some big acts and also started doing a lot of commercials as well. And I got involved with a company called propaganda films in LA that they got me out to LA that, you know, produced a bunch of very well established directors now. His name is you would know. And I started making videos in in In LA, and through that, I mean, I got an agent at the time, we're very open to finding new talent from the fields of music, video and commercials and, and I nabbed an agent, which was CIA, which is one of the powerful, very, probably the most powerful one at that time. And, you know, they started sending me out to producers and meeting producers and I got offers of, you know, films such as, and this is all on this. On the strength of my commercials, work, etc. I started getting offers things like Nightmare on Elm Street number something which I can't remember which number it was, I think it was five or four or something. And it's not really what I wanted to do. I mean, I've always been I've always had very specific, you know, desires and tastes of what I wanted to do, and I love genre, genre, but I like a particular kind of genre, you know, I'm not, I've never been a fan of franchise plugging into franchises or sequels or remakes or anything like that. I just because for me, the fun of it is building that world creating that world. That's what I get off on. You know, as we've cited 2001 A Space Odyssey transported me to another world. And so I've always, that's what I've always been hungry for, you know, creating that world is what's so. So basically godlike and exciting in filmmaking. So plugging into someone's already existing world and characters. And in situations, I just, I just can't get excited about it. You know? I like coming. Stuff like that comes out of my own imagination. So anyway, To cut a long story short. After I met all these producers, I spent like a month, every day meeting producers, where their producers would ask you this basic question, which is always impossible to ask. And I'm sure they're asking it to this day of young, young filmmakers, they say, Well, what sort of movies do you want to make? You know, these are people who, you know, haven't seen any of your movies or haven't? Don't you haven't made any movies? Yeah, you know, and of course, my answer to that as it still is to this day's good movies, right? I don't, I don't answer myself. It's a good answer. Anything other than that, you know, or excellent movies, but I want to make you know, because I like or I like all genres. I like all kinds of stories if they're good, you know. So eventually I after getting sick about asked answering that question for about a month, I walked into Ed Preston's office who is the producer of the CRO and he was refreshingly unique. He's a pretty eccentric guy, and really stood out after seeing or meeting all these very, you know, kind of Hollywood cigar chomping type types, you know, whatever they were, they were really cigar chomping, but that's kind of like,
Alex Ferrari 17:46
Oh, no, I know that I know exactly what you're talking about like that. And Hey, kid, all I need is a poster and a trailer and I'll sell anything.
Alex Proyas 17:53
Thanks. You met those guys too. But, um, yeah, so and he had this thing called the CRO, he gave me a script. And he gave me the comic book. And I didn't particularly care for the script. It was already a draft. But I liked the comic, I thought the comic was really intriguing. Again, and I really enjoyed working on love the central concept and, and because it was coming from a very unique, original place, you know, and I mean, I was in no, you know, I had no illusions about the fact that I was kind of reinterpreting the comic book genre, which was already as you as you've pointed out, established through Tim Burton's mainly through Tim Burton's Batman movies over the most recent offerings in that in that world up until that stage, so I went, well, this is kind of like Batman, but it's kind of like anti Batman, right? It's, it's, um, you know, even to the point of what he's wearing, the costume is wearing that long black leather trench coat. I, you know, Brandon, up with this idea, because I kept saying to him, this guy's got a got to have something like a cape, you know, wanting to have something that moves around, it's gonna be really cool in action scenes, if he's moving around, and capes gonna be great, but obviously, we don't want to Cape because it's not the character. And we want to sort of like an urban version of that a contemporary urban version of that. And we can, we came up with sort of, like full leather trench coat, which became a sort of iconic part of that genre ever since that point on, but that's where it came from. And it was kind of like reinterpreting some of the Batman stuff, you know, and just this the city, you know, it was like, the city that it took place, you know, was kind of like, you know, a sort of a Gotham City, noir ish kind of Gothic, you know, Gothic city, but it was kind of just completely flat up and sort of falling apart and just everything's broken down, nothing's working and people set it on fire now and again, you know, which again, made it Akin for me a contemporary kind of concept, you know, so that was kind of it was trying to ground the comic book genre and bring it into a contemporary, you know, milieu, like a contemporary sort of feel. Which was very much against the sort of, like, fantasy kind of over the top fantasy environments of, of, of something like that, you know, my reaction to that. And I also, you know, like it gets Richard Donner's Superman and all those Superman movies, which were very kind of light and frothy and kind of, you know, a little cheesy at times, you know, so I wanted to very much work completely go against that. And even Tim's movies were very, very, um, Phil had a tongue in cheek kind of, we can only do comic books with tongue in cheek, kind of humor, you know? Because, and, and, you know, I mean, teams not like these, but to a certain extent, it makes you feel like, the filmmakers are not taking the medium the concept seriously the medium seriously. So I wanted, I wanted my movie to be like, you know, serious, you know, I wanted, like drugs and staff and, you know, things that that are kind of scary and dangerous and real, real world, you know. So, yeah, that was my response to what had gone gone before.
Alex Ferrari 21:06
Yeah. And when you when you look at the CRO, which still ages is aged extremely well, I mean, extremely, extremely well, that, you know, I think you are right, I don't think the whole trench coat thing, which was so powerful, like it became a thing and so many sci fi, world building kind of films, I think equilibrium I think was one of them. And, obviously, the matrix. There wasn't a movie before then they had these kind of trench coats in a sci fi environment that I can remember. It was in this Gothic
Alex Proyas 21:36
We, we based it on Carlitos way, actually,
Alex Ferrari 21:40
Alex Proyas 21:40
because I'm a big 70s movie fan, right. And so actually, we were looking at, I've done that, I also do that in a robot with with wills wardrobe. And I remember we were looking at 70s movies and how they dressed the characters in sort of, like, you know, hard boiled crime type movies, you know, so pachino and Carlitos way had a had a, it wasn't full length. I mean, we came up with the full length because it was the was the cape thing, but we know I know for a fact that that didn't exist as an idea in science fiction or fantasy and, and it sure did exist afterwards. Matrix being the main one. But also, blade was also another one that had that sighs You know, every everyone everyone was doing it
Alex Ferrari 22:27
Afterwards. Yeah, afterwards it was but but i think i think you were right. I think the Crow was the first and you were the first really dark because I mean, Batman had a you know, Batman one and returns had a dark, you know, comic book field. But you're right, that's tongue in cheek was still there. But you were the first to really come up with a comic book adaptation that was dark. I mean, that's a dark film. dark, dark hero.
Alex Proyas 22:52
The hero man was dark, dark light. Yeah. Dark light. And it was dark, dark, you know? So.
Alex Ferrari 22:59
Right. Exactly. And I think Nolan's, I think Nolan's Batman was much more in the in the realm of the Crow, meaning that it's because, you know, dark night. It's a fairly dark, you know, as well.
Alex Proyas 23:13
Oh, yeah. Chris has been very influenced by angry Christmas, Tommy, he has been very influenced by both the Crow and dark city, you know, I mean, you know, the Batman Chris's Batman, it was it was partly because David Goya wasn't involved on the crows. There's a weird convoluted relay relationship there. David Goyer, who co wrote dark city with me was involved with writing Batman movies, Chris, and he was involved with writing the crow too. So he studied the Crow, the original Crow, it very intensely in order to write write the script for the crow crow movie. And so, you know, I was very amused to see literally lines of dialogue pop up in the Batman movies in Chris's Batman movies, the verbatim, you know, out of the original crow not out of David's grow out of micro, you know, that was quite that's funny, really. And, and, and yeah, Chris is, you know, I was I was working with Chris for a while, I wasn't really working with him, but we were developing something together for a short time. They didn't, they didn't work out. And he was, you know, going on about how influential dark city was, in particular to, to what he's what he's done. Now, he's very satisfied. And now I have much more success with myself.
Alex Ferrari 24:37
Great. Chris is doing okay. Chris is doing he's doing he's doing just fine. He's doing all right. Now. I remember buying the book, the white our I think it was the art of book or the movie book of the Crow, and flipping through it, and there was this character in it. That's not in the movie, which is the skull cowboy. Oh, you know, can you talk a little bit about what the legend of the The skull cowboy and wide never made because, you know, you shot footage of it, so why never made it?
Alex Proyas 25:04
Yeah, we shot him. Michael Berryman went through incredible, amazing, elaborate makeup to, to portray this character. And, you know, at the end of the day, I mean, you know, obviously, due to the tragedy on Necro, there was a lot of stuff we didn't get to shoot. And when we went back to Wilmington, to finish the movie, we had, I had to kind of rewrite and read, restructure to, in order to shoot the linking stuff, obviously, with our brand and to make it work somehow without him, you know, and digital tech, you know, lots be made out of the digital technology that we use to make it work, but it was very early days for that stuff. Oh, I remember very, yeah. Yeah, very, very stuff. You could do you get away with it. I mean, you know, it really big ended up being you know, take Brandon out of one scene, you know, rotoscope him out and put him into another that's really the extent of the digital, you know, expertise that we could could bring to bear you know, so yeah, the skull cowboy Hartley, but we'd shot the scenes with with with Brandon, one. I think one of the scenes, I think we there was another one that we hadn't actually filmed. We work with, it was just echoed I put this it just didn't seem to play in the story in the in the, it seemed like this other story worked fine. Without him, you know. And because he was used, he was used less than then we originally intended. And he needed a lot of VFX work to help him be more convincing than he was in the photography. I just, you know, every time he popped up in the film, when I was watching the Edit, he it felt like another movie, it just felt like something that was not the grounded kind of storytelling that I was trying to achieve. And And so yeah, I we had to excise him. And, you know, sadly, we try, we just removed him and looked at the Edit. And it seemed like the film didn't really suffer, because his role was really kind of like a, you know, an expositional one where he would appear until Eric Draven the rules of what was to happen, then, you know, he those, the, the, the important scene that I thought we couldn't live with is, is the the moment when Eric go is about to walk into the church at the end of the movie, to save Sarah, the young girl. And, and Scott cowboy appeared on the steps and said, you know, if you work for the living, you know, you're here to work for the dead, if you work for the living, you will be vulnerable, you will lose your powers. But it seemed like, you know, the people started to the audience felt that the crow itself was the source of Eric's power. And so when they shot the Crow, in the in the church, it felt like that, that was the moment when he lost his power. And then you know, it was such a simple way of doing it, rather than having a cow hollow the character appearing. Tell us the rule book at that, at that point in time.
Alex Ferrari 28:24
Sometimes it's sometimes it's difficult to let go of those babies that are there are beautiful on their own, like the skull cowboy by itself is a character might be but it might not work in the whole in the whole story. And that's where that's where the big boy pants Come on. And you got to go book that's got to go even though we love it.
Alex Proyas 28:41
Exactly, it's, it's a hard call to make usually always is a hard call to make. But you know, you make it sets that story where you make you make a different movie, one movie, when you write it, you make another movie, when you shoot it, you make another movie, in edit in Edit, and you have to try, you know, objectivity for a director is the most important thing and, and the tool that you lose most easily and most quickly, as you get stressed and tired. And you know, you struggle to make it all work through the production. It's very hard to retain that objectivity. But you've got to try and keep that because you need to be the audience as well as the filmmaker and you need to be able to step back and go, you know, is this really working? And if it's not, as you said, you say it's it needs VR, when in doubt, cut it out, you know?
Alex Ferrari 29:35
So you actually work there after the crow when when it was released, that obviously was a fairly a fairly big hit. If I remember correctly, did it did well at the box office obviously spawned a few sequels as well. You decided to do some shorts, right afterwards? Is it Can you tell me a little about the series of shorts that you did afterwards?
Alex Proyas 29:57
Yeah, the series called book of dreams, and I'm kind of still doing them all these years later, funny sort of way, not calling them that anymore. But
Alex Ferrari 30:06
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Alex Proyas 30:17
I like shorts, you know, I like I like, I like your short form, it's like an author who makes he writes novels, it's great to write a short story now and again, you know, and get directly to this to the font of imagination, you know, in a short, so they can exist in a short story, you know, where you don't have to explain everything. And you know, it's just, so I started making these films based on people's dreams, and they weren't really there. I was pretending though, based on dreams. So just something I was coming up with, you know, but the the format is always someone who describes their dream on camera, and you then you see it acted out, and you can, a lot of them are kind of humorous, and you can kind of respond to what they're saying in a kind of visual, oddly, oops, you know, contradictory way visually. But they were fun. And, you know, we, we might have made three of them that were call that up to date. And they became increasingly more expensive until I found myself on, on the set of a 10 minute black and white science fiction 1950s science fiction homage, which was costing me $300,000 of my own money, right? And that's when I went, you know, this is just incredibly stupid, what I'm doing, and I've really got to get other people to pay for this stuff, you know, but look, it was, it was, it was, you know, they were great fun to do, and it was, you know, a part of my my kind of, you know, recovering from the horrific experience of the Crow and sing is sure a friend die. So it was a it was a way to reignite my love for being on the set and making films, you know, so I think it paid for itself, you know?
Alex Ferrari 31:59
Yeah. And, and there's, I mean, it when you're saying that you like and then I find myself on a set for $300,000. It's like, it comes to me, like I'm thinking to myself, because you're mad because we're all mad if you're a filmmaker, there's a spark, there's a spark of madness that there's no logic to, and it's so refreshing to hear that even directors like yourself, still have this madness in them. It hasn't been known.
Alex Proyas 32:23
We wouldn't be doing I mean, we are eternally shouldn't naive children, right? And it's we have to be do what we do. And you never grow up. If you grew up, you probably stopped doing because it's a mug's game from a from a financial point of view. I mean, that's the only thing that explains things like Francis is capable of making. Now there is no other explanation for why someone would a filmmaker, we put them themselves through that with their own financing and under such arduous circumstances, except for this absolute and explainable inexplicable love for this thing that we do, you know. But yeah, we're most of us, you know, dumber than we, then we
Alex Ferrari 33:09
Then the marketing the marketing problem than the marketing, the marketing or the branding, sir. It was so funny because I just had, I just had James v. Hart on a who wrote Dracula, and I was talking to him about and Coppola called up one night to James and said, James, I hate you. I hate the script. I hate the movie. I hate the actors. I hate you even more because you you wrote this damn thing and got me involved in this, come out here and see this rough cut it is garbage. And I'm like, and when anything we goes on to the deeper story. But the genius of that is is that if Francis Ford Coppola is having issues with a cut that that stage in his career, what hope is there for any of us? No matter who
Alex Proyas 33:55
Doesn't surprise me at all. You know, it's look, you know, and that's also to do with the fact that we you know, it's the reason it's such a wonderful medium is because you're always learning you never stop learning. Every film you make doesn't matter how many movies you make you make you're going to keep learning getting better and better at it and write stuff it doesn't mean the film's will always be better. But it because there's so many unknowables are going to making a movie, but certainly your craft as a director becomes better and your ability to to kind of navigate the whole process becomes improved, you know? But I think that's the thing is like you just you know, you're always going to doubt yourself. That's why it's so destructive when you end up with a studio that's doing all doing all the doubting, you know, which might be a good segue to go into iRobot I don't know. Well, no, because I want to I want to do anyways filmmakers.
Alex Ferrari 34:49
Yeah, I wanted to I want to touch on. I wanted to touch on dark cities before we get to iRobot because because you forgot about that little movie called dark city. Dark city was one of those films that has become a cult classic, because I remember when it came out it if I remember correctly, please remind me it wasn't definitely wasn't a runaway hit. But it was Oh, no, not at all. Not at all right. It'd be like people didn't know what to do with it like that, you know, and it was well beyond its its heyday. But it is so visual, and so beautifully crafted. And up to that point. I mean, I can't remember other than maybe the crow of something being so viscerally visual. In its storytelling tech. I mean, you mean, you look at dark city, there is a direct line to the matrix. Like there's like, I'm not saying that they took anything, but I'm just saying that there was definitely inspiration picked up from dark city, you could just, you could just see the you can see the through line. So clearly, yeah. And you and you, and you know, and that was the that was new line. So that was Warner's at the time. And you know, how does like a movie like that obviously would never get greenlit today do the crow would have been greenlit?
Alex Proyas 36:07
Oh, yeah, the crow would have a slightly easier time because it's based on something
Alex Ferrari 36:11
Alex Proyas 36:12
Original like that. It would be really hard to make, you know, very, very hard to make.
Alex Ferrari 36:19
What was the budget? By the way? What was the budget of dark city, if you mind me asking?
Alex Proyas 36:24
He was like 25 million or something at the time, which was even at the time was was not much, you know, it should have been probably at least 75 million for what we were trying to do in the film. I remember just the visual effects budget itself was $1 million, which sounds like an Austin Powers
Alex Ferrari 36:41
Is that is that all of us, it was only $1 million,
Alex Proyas 36:44
A million a million dollars was the entire budget, the VFX budget, you know, because we built a lot of a two layer sets and stuff and barely managed to well, you know, we we shot. We shot as much as we could. And we basically had to they shut us down we because we didn't we've just ran out of days. And they had to give us an extra some extra money like another million bucks. I mean, to get to bring the actors back and finish it. You know, I remember, they basically new line basically said, That's it, you know, I was saying, but I'm not done. I go We'll show us the cut, come over and show us that card. And we'll decide whether you're done or not, you know. And I showed it to them. And they said, well, it doesn't make any sense. It's a bit of missing I go well, there's a reason for that, because we're not done. So anyway, they eventually gave me some more money to finish the bits that were missing. And but yeah, it's it was a it was a low it was a low budget movie. There's no question it was it was harder. What we were doing in that for roughly double the budget of the CRO but what we were trying to do was actually much much, much harder than that.
Alex Ferrari 37:51
Yeah, I mean, look, I remember what you built a lot of the you did a lot of modeling in the CRO, if I remember correctly to right, you did models of the city and that and that's why that that's such an MC because that was all pre CG worlds. Really, I think Jurassic Park had just hit. So yeah, that whole world is it was just starting to come up. So you did a lot of practice. And I know you did a lot of practicals on on dark city as well. You know, anyone listening who has not seen dark city Do yourself a favor and watch it because you'll see it and go, Oh my god, there's so many movies have taken from this. It's kind of like you watch the matrix and the like, oh, everyone's stolen from the matrix. Like all it's it seems passe. But the matrix was leading one of those one of those films that kind of just, you know, blew the doors open on a lot of stuff. And so many people just took it and took it into I mean bullet time Jesus Christ.
Alex Proyas 38:44
Yeah. So you know, the matrix didn't invent bullet time. But time was invented on commercials, the gap and just to take a little bit away from the matrix for a moment,
Alex Ferrari 38:56
They have enough. enough.
Alex Proyas 38:57
Where I went terribly wrong in in dark cities. I should have had some more kung fu in which I think I would have been probably more successful
Alex Ferrari 39:04
If you would have a kung fu Absolutely.
Alex Proyas 39:06
Yeah. Yeah. So So um, yeah, it's all it's all related. Yeah, no dogs. It was definitely an influence, though. As you as you rightly pointed out, it was a disaster at the box office is partly a disaster because he took us they kept putting it off the release. Originally, it was to be released maybe a year before it came out. And they went. They said, oh, there's this film called The Titanic coming out. And it looks like it's going to be it's going to do Okay, so, listen, I think originally going to open on the weekend, the opening weekend of the Titanic, you know, and then we'd let's put it off a couple of months, right? And then a titanic came out. And of course, we noted that the Titanic and it kept building and getting bigger and bigger and building. And they kept saying, oh, we'll put it off another couple of months. Again, you know, and eventually it ended up being like, as I say, I think it was eight or nine months later than the rest Release. Now, wow, when the film was eventually released, you know, because they were just staying away from the Titanic, they had no idea how long they'd have to wait to stay away from the Titanic, you know? Yeah. So yeah, that was that was kind of amusing. But it's also the film was not it was not really promoted very well, because the studios themselves didn't really get it, you know, no one got it. No one's got the film. And you know, it was even like the trailer that came out was like a I think it was a good trailer I liked the trailer was done very creatively done. But it was didn't really tell you anything about the story. It was just a bunch of images, you know, and so people, people were kind of, you know, if you don't tell them something about a story, it doesn't matter how pretty the image the pictures are, they're just not gonna go and say,
Alex Ferrari 40:49
Can you?Can you remind me there's a there's a French director, who did a movie and it reminds me a lot of dark city. He eventually did an alien. He did alien resurrection. And they brought him over. Children. Is it
Alex Proyas 41:02
Oh, yeah, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 41:03
What's his name?
Alex Proyas 41:03
That some? Yeah, um,
Alex Ferrari 41:06
What was the movie?
Alex Proyas 41:07
Like when he's name but but the movie children are called city of Lost Children said I was so scared of beauty beautiful film, absolutely gorgeous imagery. You know, and, and, you know, cat came for dark city, but he was really conceptually very different. Oh, you know, there's some visuals. Hilarious. But, but yeah, I mean, we always my film was more about we were kind of riffing on metropolis, Fritz Lang's Metropolis without question. And Akira. era to ascending. So, you know, that's kind of more my it,
Alex Ferrari 41:48
Would you ever have would? Would you ever make akira if they offered it to you?
Alex Proyas 41:53
I'm not a huge fan of I mean, I love a cure. I love I love the comic, and I love the movie. But I'm not a huge fan of remaking stuff. Because I kind of go Well, I mean, it's been done. It's been done, it's been done really well. And so wise, why would a Hollywood version, particularly in our current climate, data, I just don't? I don't I don't think it's possible. You know, I mean, look at what, what happened to Ghost in the Shell? You know, that's a classic example. Yeah. You just can't, you know, this stuff can't be done. Can't be overly refined. If to put it nicely, overly developed, you have to go with the raw ingredients that you've you've got to work with. And there's I don't think there's anyone in Hollywood now, who would finance such a version of any of this stuff? You know, I just don't think it's possible.
Alex Ferrari 42:51
So after dark city, you know, which is obviously did not do well at the box office for that the reasons we spoke about, but yet still very well respected for the craft. And the film. I know. I mean, and you please tell me if I'm wrong. I know a lot of other filmmakers respect it, and were influenced by it. How did the town treat you after, you know, having a, you know, essentially a box office disappointment? And how long did it take you to get out of that? Because I always am fascinated with you hear the stories of directors gone out of it? When you've made a few movies since then, so I'm obviously someone games. You've made a couple more. But that doesn't mean it just out of curiosity, like how does that how does the town treat you? Because I mean, I know after a big hit, they treat you one way. And after a disappointment that you another way? I'm just curious, and I don't know, obviously, it's a different time period to I was in the 90s. But just curious.
Alex Proyas 43:49
Yeah, a different mentality, where people were willing to take chances, but only to a certain extent, you know, and the only reason they took a chance on dark city is because the crow had been so successful. That's really how it works, you know, you know, you make one hit, and you theoretically you get the license to do something that pushes the envelope a little bit. But I'd argue these days, that's less and less likely. Because these days, hollywood have determined that original fantasy and science fiction just doesn't work, commercially speaking, and sadly, to a certain extent, when it comes to big budgets in the cinema release the big screen release, they are probably right. You know, it's sad that we're in that place. And it said that I think the superhero movies have put us in that place. With the audiences but there you go, that's, that's it is what it is, you know. So yes, you're, you're absolutely right. You know, I was, I was courted after the CRO and everyone was cool. The studios were calling me saying, you know, we'll make anything that you want. And I had this thing already written dark city had written actually written dark city before the crow. And I said, here's this script, and this is what I want to do, and they I'd usually say, Well, what else do you want to do? You know? So I eventually found people who and we went through quite a development process through various studios, you know, Disney were on board at one stage and believe it or not, and, and then we ended up in new new, I think we, we ended up in new line and, and, you know, they were like it was all about the casting and Mike DeLuca and Bob shade, a new line, we're like, we don't care what the casting is, you can have whoever you like, as long as you support them with some, some names, you know. So I got got to cast Rufus Sewell, which was terrific, because that's who I wanted to be in the film. And yeah, and then after that, after the course, being such a disappointment. The, you know, it was very hard to to make the next one, you know, so I went back to Sydney and made this film called garage days, a very low budget, Ozzy Ozzy movie. I've got to say, though, that the dark city is built in a huge following over the over the years, I mean, it's often to rival the CRO as well. And it's, you know, the increasing rate of offers to do sequels or a T, you know, the big one is right now, because cinema is such in such a poor state is to do a TV version of like a series version of dark city, which I've turned down several over the years, but more and more, I'm thinking maybe that's a good idea, you know. So that's, that's quite a turnaround from, from a film that did bad. Bad box office, it's quite a, it's a, it's a great thing about I mean, look, I have, you know, physical media to thank for that, as we all do, which allows a film to have a shelf life is not about it's not just about its opening weekend, and if you make particular kinds of films that are challenging, not not the sort of the norm, that sort of slam dunk, then physical media has traditionally been a great support of that kind of long process of your success process. You know, and duck city is a classic example of that, you know, so many people, people over years discover more people discover it, you know, and it builds its its, its fan base.
Alex Ferrari 47:28
Yeah, well, I am, I'll be first in line to see the dark city series. So let us know when it's available. And I think and I think honestly a series for, if I may be so bold to say a series in with with someone in your, in your hands, you might have the budget and the freedom, especially with certain streaming services to do what you want to do with, hopefully not as much interference, because I feel that and we'll get into iRobot in a second, which kind of leads into that. I always I've always felt since since I started following your work is that like, you are obviously a very unique filmmaker, you have a very specific vision, you the specific stories you'd like to tell, but a lot of times they just don't leave you alone. And, and because of that, they just don't leave you alone. Like, you know, like, Tim, like Tim, I you know, I you know, I quote someone like Tim Burton, who has a very unique style, that's very him. And, you know, he built up a lot of credibility after Beetlejuice and then Batman, and then in then he started to be able to do his thing and they left them alone for the most part. But you never got like, really left alone. Like I would love to see you with a $200 million film where they walk away with an original concept and your school just let the man do that to ya. just for clarity. If anyone's listening with a million hot in their pocket, Alex would love but that but I always felt that I'm like my God, thank you for putting that message out. I'm putting it out there anyone to you'll take 175 I think I think we can work with 175 songs.
Alex Proyas 49:11
Hell, I take a lot less if they if he left me alone I take way less than that.
Alex Ferrari 49:15
But you're one of those artists one of those filmmakers that that you just need to tell your story and trust that you're going to go where you are and with the crowd Did you have a fair a fair good amount of creative control over that?
Alex Proyas 49:28
Yeah, I mean, look, I was I've been I was very lucky to a certain point which is why so blindsided when I did iRobot left me alone on they left me alone on it and everything and you know, this came out of a career of of commercials chosen or I'd achieved success in advertising and music videos where they also left me alone. So how I just thought that's what a director got, you know, I thought they just give you this film and sometimes they don't give you a good enough budget but they creatively they just they just bugger off and let you do your thing you know and and I've made for features No. Yes. For us. Yeah, for I made four features under those auspices and before I'd made iRobot. And so suddenly I was in, but suddenly I was in with the big boys. Right, suddenly, I had a huge budget. Would you start? Double it? It's definitely a double edged sword. You know, I mean, you get all these great toys to play with and stuff, but but then they're not, you know, and I also had the misfortune. I think I've working with one of the worst studio regimes at the time, in terms of micromanagement, right. And so, so suddenly, I had the studio, multiple people in the studio breathing down my neck at every stage, and actually, the weirdest thing is they cost the production money, because I want to move ahead with a certain thing, like, building a car, for example, for the hero to drive in. We were designing room, you know, wanting to build a car, and they're basically just holding us back to the point where it just became so expensive, and actually became impossible. And then we had to go elsewhere to get this car made in time, you know, just stuff like that. And I just found that just utterly infuriating that I was having to challenge I was being constantly challenged creatively and having to constantly challenge the studio and on a on a budgetary level, actually, to save the film money, you know, which I just thought was just absolutely insane. You know, because I'm a very responsible guy, I'm a, I'm a working class guy grew up in a pretty poor situation. And, you know, in working class in Australia means kind of, you know, poverty line, almost, you know, so I'm, I'm not, I take any very seriously, I don't waste it. And I like to make sure that it all ends up on the screen, whatever amount of money I've got, you know, so having a studio that we're taking these stupid decisions that would cost that production money, I just got, you know, I saw it as a personal affront, I'm going well, this is more money that my movie has to make for these these guys in order to be a success, you know, but yeah, it was a whole different world. And it was it was not a definitely not a good experience on any on any level. So I warn people that it's a that it's a you know, it's a it is a dangerous double edged sword, it's it's a it's a very ego gratifying you have all the big toys, but you get your hands get, get, I described it as a, you're running a marathon, which is what you do on a on any movie, big or small budget. But in this case, the marathon is all the studio execs lined up on either side of the road, and they throw chairs on Sunday, as you're running, like, wow, that's kind of the additional part of a big budget, big budget movie, you know. And because it is about, you know, you're right, I have a specific vision and a specific way of doing things. And that's what I like to do. And I like to make movies that couldn't be done by anyone other than me. A, you know, it's not ego, because I just happened to see things in a certain way. And I want to do things that feel unique, you know, so often i'll i'll i'll have I'll avoid a particular storyline, or a plot or a visceral event or a visual, because I've seen it done by other people. And I'll try and try and do it in a unique way. So it's an experimental, it's sort of an experimental approach, but it's, it gets more refined as I go, as I know more through the years, but I that that to me, is kind of what I bring to the to the, to the show. So when they're sick second guessing me and telling me to do my job. I feel like well, why am I even here? You know, what, what is it? Why do you want me to do it? Surely, you know, you want someone who's more bendable to your will as a studio executive, you know, who will give you exactly what others can give you You're exactly what you want. Want, you know which is even more stunning concept because often they don't know what they want, you know? And that's partly why I haven't done a lot of you know, after I robot I didn't do a lot of I haven't done any big big Hollywood studio movies. You know, I've Gods of Egypt was a big budget movie, but it was a huge indie movie, you know, there's a way they put the financing together. But again, even that was you know, from a creative point of view was really arduous because and it became clear to me that beyond a certain budget is not a playground that I should be playing in really because it's an absolute kind of correlation between how high the budget is and how much fear that the the studio executives have and fear is not a good way to create. It really isn't, you know, you don't want fear. You've got to be fearless in the way you create the best, the best acting comes out fearlessness out of being brave, and doing and going where you feel creatively is necessary. And it's the same with with a director with a filmmaker is you've got to be brave, you know. And you can't be brave when every, every other factor on the boat around you is like we've got work. We're gonna drown you know, I you can't you know eventually your your your bravery gets gets whittled down if you're the only guy saying, you know no we will we'll make it we're going to be okay guys, we're going to make it you know. So anyway, that's it. So it's just like, you know
Alex Ferrari 55:41
I mean, you were working with one of the biggest movie stars in the world at the time Will Smith, as well. And it was it was fun working with with Will?
Alex Proyas 55:50
Yeah, wills wills, an absolute wonderful person. And, and we had a great time, you know, and honestly, if we hadn't been on that film, and I'd had someone on who was less enjoyable to be making film with I may have actually actually walked off that film. That's how far they pushed me during production. Yeah, but but, but will will made you know, would often make my day and to the point where he made me laugh so much. Sometimes I'd have to say, just please stop with aquilo because it's on the on the video screen. But yeah, now he's, he's terrific.
Alex Ferrari 56:29
Yeah. And you forgot the actor who played the robot. What's his name? He was in Ireland. Ellen today. Oh, my God, what an amazing performance. I think that was the first time people were starting to have a conversation about letting go like nominating actors for their performances.
Alex Proyas 56:47
Alan's great you know, yeah, he, um, he and he's, and he's, he's done a few other robots, I think since.
Alex Ferrari 56:54
No, he's Yeah, he's he's he turned up some Oh, calves robot for something. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Proyas 57:00
This was very early days. I mean, Gollum had been had been, I think, had been around for one one movie, early Golem. But it was again, it was also early days for this kind of, you know, performance capture technology. And, and it was kind of have an amusing story. story to tell about Alex who we were, the I this is after the shoot, we were working out of digital domain that's in, in, in Venice in in Los Angeles, and I I'd be working with them as they're animating Allen's character, sonny. And I would go for a walk down at the beach occasionally just to get some some fresh air and get out of a dark room, which is what you spend your life in, you know, and I bumped it up into Alan and Alan turns Allen lives down there, you know, and, and I go, Hey, come come and have a look at what we're doing, you know, come and have a look at this incredible footage that we're making with your your character and, and he was really excited, he came along and we and we walked into a theater of their digital domain, sit down next to each other and they start running shots from from, you know, the film, the fully realized Robert Allen's like, this is amazing. It looks fucking amazing. It's great, whatever. And then and so then he's still there when we then go into the next part of our, our what we're doing, which is where I guide the animators in terms of recreating the Allen's performance to the CG animation. And in those days before we had fair facial captures, actually kind of keyframe animation, the way they did that is I basically, they'd look at Alan's performance that we filmed, and then they'd reproduce it with the with the sunny robot, right. So what that meant is, they would put it up on the big screen one side of a bit like our podcast right now. One side is Alan and the other side is this is the the crude version of the robot that they're animating in middle in the middle of animation. And we'd literally look at every frame and they'd show me the shot and I go great or I'd go you know what on frame 13 I think he raises his eyebrow just a tiny bit more and he like there's a little twitch twitch in his nose gives a little bit of vulnerability or whatever and we look at it over and over again and they go the direct animation right he goes you're right there is a twitch in his in his left nostril for about three frames from frame 13 to frame 16. And after we do this for like about 10 minutes Alan, Alan Tatiana challenges. I've got to put a go and go. Yeah, okay, well, thanks for coming. Yeah, I'm sorry, gotta go but this is like, this is insane. I'm going to I'm going nuts. This is going to destroy my acting for all time. The fact that someone is sitting here all these guys sitting here, looking at my performance like a frame at a time studying or not I just can't I can't take it. I'm sorry, I, you know, I've ruined that lives forever.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:08
I mean, it's true, but it's it's true. I mean, actors are, you know, actors, you know, are actors. And if you if you're telling them that, like, oh, we're gonna analyze every frame of your nostril, before shot, forget it, you'll never be able to get up there. It's just tough enough to be an actor, let alone being that kind of skirt. That's amazing. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So So, you know, again, we discussed those that dream of working in Hollywood making these big giant monster films. What, you know, we I think we talked a little bit about it. But are there any other misconceptions about working on such large projects? Is it just a loss of control? Because as that budget goes up, and there's very few directors, even some of the biggest directors in Hollywood, have had issues from Spielberg to Fincher. I mean, they are they all have, they all have What is it? Like?
Alex Proyas 1:01:13
I mean, part of the biggest problem right now is they don't want to work with guys like us, right? Because I'm talking about most of the movies that get done. I'm not talking about Chris Nolan, people, people like that, who they sanctioned and can spend big budgets on original ideas. Is there there's such rarities now real, really, you know, the the in particularly in the sort of science fiction domain, you know, it's, it's, they don't want to work with I think they want to work with people who are. I mean, I call them puppet masters, right? I call these producers people like the Marvel guys, and whatever. I call them, call them puppet masters. And there's a lot of sort of media coverage of the fact that, you know, they'll bring in a director, but they won't let the director do the, you know, shoot the action scenes. For example, I'm like, What the fuck saddle about I mean, it's like, because they've worked out, I mean, they've worked out their formula, when you do a Marvel movie, it's like, You're, you're a TV director doing an episode of a series, right? They've worked it all out, it's one of the reasons I haven't done, you know, episodic TV, because you walk onto the set, the actors know what they're doing. They know the characters, they got the costumes worked out, they got, they got everything worked out on, someone's going to shoot the action sequences for you. We've already pre visit them and worked, it all worked out all the shots. So yeah, well, what is it that a director is actually doing, you know, the scripts written? You can't change a word? So it's like, what? Well, why are you there? What is it that you're actually providing in that situation as a director, so I kind of go, Well, you know, the right to work, the producers are right to work with people that they can plug into that mission in, who have a, who have some kind of progress they want to make in their careers to allow them to do such a big, you know, ego gratifying projects, to make 150 zillion dollars, so that then they can maybe go and do something that they that they really want to do that they really love, you know. So I mean, I think from a career point of view, that makes sense. Unfortunately, I've already been through all that. So all I really care about these days is I you know, I don't particularly I'm not particularly driven by by finance, I mean, so I mean, it doesn't really matter money, they could offer me to do something like that, really. And as I say, I'm just not the right person to do that sort of stuff. You know, I would rather just sit at home and write and work out how I am going to make my films that I really, really care about, or if there's a great script that's in the, in the US, you know, long Ranger, I know, they're gonna let me do what I what I do, you know, I have much greater set and job satisfaction from that sort of stuff, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
Now, do you, uh, what advice would you give directors about directing actors on set? You know, because you've worked with some, some great actors, you know, any advice on directing and how you direct actors?
Alex Proyas 1:04:15
That's a very hard question to answer, because it really depends on where you're at in your career. And where and who the actors. I mean, every actor is different there is there is variable as every individual, you know, a lot of people ask me about storyboarding. And it's the same answer, which is, you know, I know how I work with storyboarding, but I can't give, you know, new filmmakers that advice because it doesn't, it's not what will work for them, you know. So yeah, it's hard to say I think the only nutshell thing I could offer is, is as I say, every actor is different. Every actor has different requirements in order to achieve what they do to get the best out of them. What I've learned over the years is Try and find what it is that they need, and try and try and give them what they need the circumstances that they need. And only and only so much, you know, I think, you know, the one, the one, the one that Dane, maybe new directors have, or the one or the one cautionary note I'd give them is, don't over direct an actor, don't feel like it's your job to sit there and specify every detail and give them line readings or whatever the whatever you might be inspired to do. If you're a writer, you might, you might be inspired to tell want them to say the words etc. You know, if you're having to do that you've picked the wrong actor, because, you know, the key really is to find the right actor for your, for your role for the cat for the role, and then let them work their magic as as studios interfere with director's vision and the frustrations that I've expressed from that. I'm sure actors experienced the same thing from directors, you know, and so don't don't overdo it. You know, and, and, and, you know, I mean, I have, I've had situations in the past, working with less experienced actors where they come up to me, and they say, one guy, one chap, in particular, we just said, I'm, I don't, why don't you ever say anything to me? Why don't you give me any sort of direction, whenever I go? Well, it's because I like what you're doing. Right? And so I don't want to fuck up what you're doing. So that's why I want you to, you know, if I start saying stuff to you, it's because I'm not happy with where it's going. But, um, and but I'm really happy, you're doing great job, just keep doing your great job, you know. And that's a example of I cast the right person for the role. They did exactly what I was hoping they would do, and they keep doing it well, and then it's, you know, you temper certain moments, you tweak certain scenes, you give them a one little bit of direction, and have them look at, you know, do you know, do it in a slightly different way, unlock it, but, but really, the rest of it, there's no magic, there's no trick to it, there's no, it's, it's, it's kind of just let the magic happen, you know, and, and if it's working, don't don't touch it, leave it, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:07
what is? Do you rehearse? Do you do rehearsal?
Alex Proyas 1:07:13
I do. Um, so I do look, for me, the most important part of the actor director process is what happens before you come on to the set, which is, through the about, I like to have at least three weeks with the actors before we start shooting, and what we'll traditionally do is start start with a table read, do move very quickly on to discussing character, discussing scenes, breaking down scenes, etc, etc. And we'll do that, you know, half a half a day in the morning, usually, and then the rest of the day, the wardrobe makeup pair, everyone else has them for whatever they're doing. But I'm, I think that's, that's the most important part for me. And that's more often it's not so much about actually acting it out, as about discussing in incredible detail backstory, and, and building those characters so that we come out of that process with them, the actors, each actor, owning in their character, and understanding their character, even if it's something that I've written, understanding the character better than I do, you know, or at least as well as I do. And that's when I start to trust them, I build trust, you know, we build mutual trust, I start to trust their opinion and their view of things. And sometimes I'll realign my, my view a little bit. And it all comes through that process at early disk and it's more about discussion, you know, than anything else. And if there's lines that don't gel eventually when they say to me, I don't think my character would say that which I'm very happy to hear from from an actor and I hear it often because I encourage that sort of collaborative spirit I'll will change it will change the line and or if they can explain to me why their character wouldn't say you know, I won't just do it willy nilly, but you know, and that to me is the that's the creative process as a collaboration where you bounce between between actor and director. The reason I like working with people like Will Smith so much and Nicolas Cage also is that they're fully storytellers. They're not just acting their their character they are they they're aware that they are integral to telling your story or telling the story and that's why I love both of those guys so much because they really bring that quality to their to their work, you know, and I'm sure with other directors as well, we and you worked on the film obviously called the knowing with Nick with Nick Cage. How is it to work with Nicolas because he's obviously become almost a cultural icon in the the performances that he puts out sometimes.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
I mean, he is a very, I mean, I absolutely love on the Wild at Heart and I mean, so many mean raising Arizona all these amazing performances over the years. How Is it to work with? Like, he seems like? I mean, I'm sure it's not, but I seem I see, I think he's like lightning in a bottle, you just kind of try not be able to direct them in a proper way.
Alex Proyas 1:10:10
I'll describe him as the Ferrari, you've acted where actors have, you know, four gears, he's got six, you know, anything go go there, if you need him to, you know, speaking, you're being brave. I mean, this is a thing about Nick and why he is such a kind of guy, you know, he's incredibly brave, you know, and to him paramount to, to, to the film is great story, you know, and it's not about him looking a certain way or acting in a certain way so that the audience like him, or or any of those those considerations, or big movie star people make, you know, he will go where the story dictates, and he'll go away into whether the story dictates you know, so he's completely brave, and fearless with with what he's doing. And that's a pretty much a unique thing in with actors of his stature, you know, so he's a wonderful combination of old fashioned character actor. When movie star, Ill, you know, they don't make him like Nick anymore. And that's why he's, he's, he's great to work with. And on top of that, I mean, he's, uh, you know, Nick is a guy's a, sees a surrealist, you know, he has a really brilliant mind. He's, he's really funny. And he's totally, totally aware of all this stuff. Everyone's kind of been going on about with his with his, with his, over the top crazy performances, but he's trying to push the envelope into different areas to keep himself fresh, you know, and it's kind of exactly what I do with films, you know, like, after dark city, I made this thing, erasure days is low budget, Ozzie Comedy, Romantic comedy, and go figure, the guy who made the Crow and dark city would make a romantic comedy, you know, and I did that for a very specific reason, because I want to keep exploring and pushing into new areas, and I don't want I don't want to feel secure. I know how to do this. I want to feel nervous in like, you know, excited about experimenting and coming up with new stuff. And that's very much the way he approaches his performances. He's He's a, he's a very brave explorer of new new frontiers, you know, so it's about it's about the thing I could say about any actor really, that I've, that I've worked with.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:38
Now, what do you wish someone would have told you when you started out in the business that you didn't know, now? Or that you didn't know when you started?
Alex Proyas 1:12:47
Don't go there. No, no.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:50
Run away. What did you do and get a real job
Alex Proyas 1:12:53
Run away Yeah, no, well, as we pointed out, that's impossible to say to any filmmaker, and it's impossible to say to any, certainly any young filmmaker, because when we're young, we we don't even believe we're going to die. You know, we're, we're a bortles. Right? It's, it's, you know, you know, look like, it's one of the things I just don't know, that you you can ever really, and as I say you constantly learning, so you never really, completely work it out anything anyone does. And you got to kind of go through it to go Okay, now I understand. Now, I understand what some of those other filmmakers experienced filmmakers, said what they did it, I try not to discourage people, because that's the worst thing you can do. You know, I think it's really important that we retain, you know, extra excitement for for this, this, you know, this craft, this is some, some thing that, making movies and you know, my excitement came from, as I say, the big screen, the big sound and that immersive social experience of going to movies, and it's incredibly depressing that we're looking at the sort of maybe looking at the end of that. And it's something that I try not to think about too much, you know, because it just does spiral into depression. But, um, look all I can all you know, I'm not answering your question just because I don't know that I can. I think all you can, all you can do is a, you know, be true to your own self, you know, be true, Be true to your own originality, right? Tell a story that you feel really, really passionate about and stick to that, like crazy. Don't let anyone talk you out of it out of if you want to make a particular killer film, that particular story. Don't let anyone talk you out of it. Just do it because the fact is, everyone He's gonna try and talk you out of it, you're gonna get knocked back by every single person. I mean, look at Star Wars is a classic example. Every studio knocked knock George Lucas back, and he finally managed to convince one last person to make the film. So that's how fucking wrong these people are, and they continue in it, today, they're more wrong than ever before, they have no idea, they wouldn't have an idea of a good script to fulfill over on them, you know, if they fell over fell over it, you got to just stay true to what you believe as an individual is having a story that you are about telling, you know, I've got this thing called a new country that I'm trying to make. I've been trying to finance it now for a couple of years. And you know, it's it's, it's, again, a very, it's a very bold science fiction piece. Genre bashing blending thing that I've not seen anyone do before. And that's why I'm excited about making it, you know, and I just, you know, I have to convince others of that, which is the eternal struggle that film filmmakers have, you know, so that's the thing is like, you don't you know, you got to be, you got to be thick skin, and you got to be tough, and you got to just, you know, you gotta have a real belief in your own vision, you know, that's the most important thing.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:19
And again, if it was 175 million work for that movie. I mean, if it does, we'll put the word out. Let's see if we Yeah, I mean, we'll get that crowdfunding for you. I do that 100 for 150. Okay, you're gonna bring it down. I appreciate that. Now, can you tell me about, tell me about the Heritage Foundation.
Alex Proyas 1:16:40
It's a studio that I've built in Sydney, which is a very sensibly a virtual production studio. And, but it's a it's basically an umbrella for all aspects of, of the production. So we, we, we edit we, we do all the VFX we shoot it without using Unreal Engine. And, and it's basically a way to, to make an entire film, you know, it also comes down to logistics and the budget, exponentially you have you I can work with small crews, but I can put them into environments and situations that are there. I don't reduce the scope of the scope is bigger than ever before. So for example, we've done this little short film, film, 20 minute film, finishing up, which we're hoping will be released in January of next year, which is rapidly approaching. There's a trailer for it, it's called mask of evil apparition is a trailer on YouTube at the moment. And it's a it's all been done virtually. And people are saying it's it looks like dark city and, and there's for that, because it's kind of partly intentional, I think a lot of it is is is as the imagery is as intricate as dark city, but dark city, we built real sets. And this way, we're creating computer generated sets. But I think, you know, visually it looks to my eye looks very, very similar. So you know, and it's a fraction of the budget that we spent on on it.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:19
So this is the same, this is the same technology that Mandalorians using.
Alex Proyas 1:18:24
It's the same technology. It's it's our Ozzie stripped down indie version, because obviously Mandalorian has the all the all the big pockets and the big bucks behind it, we have basically what's in my bank account behind it, which is not not not very much these days, I can tell you. So yeah, we've rebuilt that kind of concept, but in a Indy style, you know, and that was kind of the intention when we went into this is I went, you know what the, this you get this question, you know, this film, the short film we shot. It's a 20 minute film, we shot it in in a week right now, I couldn't shoot 20 minutes of film in less than a month on the big budgets, you know, yeah, probably about a month, you know, just because there's it's an extra exponential process. The more crew you have, the more support crew you need, the longer it takes to do everything, right. So so in this one, I was shooting as quickly as I would would have shot on a short film or in film school, you know, we had great fun doing it. We worked we worked reasonable hours, you know, what, almost nine to five hours. We weren't working a lot of overtime and we got 20 minutes of footage done. A very, I think very good, good footage. You know, there's one sequence where we have cloned a guy, an actor, you know, 100 times he plays 100 versions of himself in the one scene, which which we shot in, you know, we shot shots or scene in three hours. You know, we did a similar scene like that in Gods of Egypt with a character and the scene. Set, one of the things that didn't even make it into the finished film, we were shooting for, you know, five days just on that one scene, you know, he's so that shows you how much faster you can work with this with this, this technology nology, you know, he could shoot one environment in the morning, have lunch, and go, Okay, now we're going to the mountain top and press a button on a computer, and suddenly you're in another location, you don't have to drive the unit across town, you know. So this is the way forward, this means that we can create, we can compete as an indie, as indie filmmakers, we can make films very high visual standard, compete with the big the big boys, you know. But do it you know, and do it at a at a budget, you know, and this all works in with, you know, streaming and all everything else to sort of like reclaim our, our industry, strip back, reclaim our, our craft our art back so that we can do it. You know, I've always been jealous for all my career of writers and painters and composers, yes, I can wake up one morning, go down to the piano in the alleged room and knock out a song, you know, right? Right, the next chapter of their book or whatever, and I'm like, why can't we as artists be like those guys? Well, because other people have to anoint us and give us the money to do it. Well, I think Heritage Foundation my studio is is a small cog in, in turning that around, you know, as the technology has been, you know, as what you're doing is all it's all part of the same puzzle. That, you know, the technology, for example, is allowing us to shoot films, again, we can if I want to make a film in the morning, I can make it it's not going to be a Marvel superhero movie, but it's going to be it's going to be you know, it's going to be a film it film, you know. So that, to me is the exciting world that we're in right now. And if we can, if we can break that one, that one extra little piece of the puzzle of how to get how to monetize this stuff, effectively, the content effectively get it out to the to the audience, then to me, it's a brave, that I that I certainly want to be a part of it's visual,
Alex Ferrari 1:22:18
Now. And you also have a YouTube channel called mystery clock cinema, which is so much fun. And I recommend everybody go into that channel. It only doesn't only have your short films, but it also has some master classes by you. I love that video, what the bad habits that film school taught me. Things like that. You know, you know a lot of directors of your statute, don't, don't give back don't want to help filmmakers don't learn that they don't want to but they just don't want they just don't know, you know, they don't do as much. And I'm so glad that someone with your experience in your artistic design and in your abilities are making an effort to give back to the filmmaking community. And I just love that you're doing that. How did the mystery clock cinema come about? And why did you start it?
Alex Proyas 1:23:08
Well, mystery clocks, my production company that sets my the some of the some of the time. And you know, I just I started looking at stuff on YouTube and going you know what I should I could do this stuff, you know, and it's it's great fun. I mean, there's also an there's a there's a diabolical agenda behind it, of course, which is I'm trying to, as you're doing in a much more successful way than I am doing in a much level, but I'm trying to realign things into that new world that I was told brave new world that I was talking about. And I feel like it's important for people to hear people like me who've come out of the old world, and now embracing this new way of doing stuff. I think that hopefully is an inspiring thing and being and hopefully they can realize a lot of new talent that is going to help build this new world you know, so I'm still doing it for my own selfish reasons really. But also I'm you know, I look i like i like I really enjoyed talking to people. I've done a lot of, you know, live I've masterclasses before, before we weren't allowed to congregate in groups this year, but up until that point, I was doing a lot of live ones and going to film school and teaching there. And I just really enjoy I love the energy that young filmmakers bring to this and often they end up teaching you more than you teach them you know they if only just to realize, reacquaint yourself with the the enthusiasm and the excitement, the energy that that filmmakers can can bring to this to this craft. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:24:43
I mean, I remember I remember my first day in film school, I still remember it to this day when they were touring around the studios and the back lot and stuff like that where I went. And I just remember that enthusiasm that I could just do anything and there was no bounds and that that's something that Obviously, the business starts to squash little by little. And it's about you trying to fight your way back out of that to be able to still hold on, hold on to that flame. But yeah, you know, now both you and I are covered in shrapnel from the years of being in the business, obviously, you're still pulling it out. Oh, no, you've got much, much more shrapnel than I do, sir. But, but inside you, the key is to hold on to that flame and to hold on to that love of what why you started this journey. This insane. Yeah, business if you you know, it's just an insanity. It's insanity. But, but I'm so glad that you you're doing that as well. And I'm gonna just ask a few questions, I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to get into the business today?
Alex Proyas 1:25:48
I think as I said before, do do your own thing, you know, in sticked. stick to that thing, you know, what you love, find those stories that you you know, those? What kind of movie do you want to tell and, and, and, and stay true to that, you know, and really try and focus on that and don't be sort of sidetracked into into other areas. I have this pet peeve about it about people who film at young filmmakers who try and do proof of concept type movies to get a gig with, you know, with a superhero franchise, you know, and I feel like, that's really limiting. There are some people that that's all they want to do, then good luck. Best of luck to them, but all you want to do, then maybe you're better off servicing your own original vision, and showing people what it what it is that you can that you can bring, to even to the event to get a franchise movie, you know, I think those producers will surely appreciate that much more than seeing, seeing someone cloning something that they do and doing it, you know, on a much lower budget and not doing it as well, you know, surely that would be a more, you know, so make sure you you put your resources into something you can do well, and pull off well, rather than something that's going to be half hard. Because if anything that's going to just show people that maybe you can't do something, you try to show them that you can do. But the most important thing is is is staying true to your own vision. You know, I feel like as a as a director, I mean, I you know, I think writer, writer, directors, great writer is a rare and and even though they may have one success, maybe they won't continue to have successes. So you don't always have to be a writer, as a filmmaker, you don't have to be an or a writer, director to be an otter filmmaker. But I think that I feel like, you know, to be an otter filmmaker, to be someone who has a vision, who has a style, who has something unique that they're trying to bring that that's what it means to me, you know, it doesn't mean that you try and do everyone's job on the set. Because there's particularly if you're if you're new, you need to listen to other people's opinion. You need to value other people's opinions, particularly if they're more experienced than you. But I think, try and find what it is that makes you new makes you fresh makes you original and unique. You know, and try and stick to that. While people are telling you that that sucks. You know,I think that's really important.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:32
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Alex Proyas 1:28:39
Ah, God life, I'm not going to go into that. Let's stick to the film stick to the film business. I think I touched upon it early on, which is storyboarding, which is he took me a long time to when I first started, I would do very elaborate storyboards, shot shot descriptions are actually, you know, drawings of every shot I wanted in a scene. And often I'd written a script as well. So I was very specific with where I wanted the actors to stand and what I went, What line I wanted them to turn around, on and on and all that sort of stuff. Because I thought that's what that's what being directed was, you know, sort of controlling the entire process. And, you know, I'd read a lot about the my heroes like Kubrick and a lot of its mythology too, because Kubrick is a far, far better director. Rector, then some of this mythology might allude to, which is, you know, he does 150 takes someone walking down and down a corridor or whatever, you know, if he does that he's doing it for a reason. which hasn't been properly explained. But, you know, and also Hitchcock, which you know, there's mythology about Hitchcock, which set which is another filmmaker that I that I really admired. Where he said once I've, you know, once I've storyboarded the movie written the script storyboarded the movie, the movie, He's done, then I just get the actors to do you know, the
Alex Ferrari 1:30:02
I don't even look through the camera. I don't even look at the camera.
Alex Proyas 1:30:05
Yeah, yeah. Which is just it's a again, it's a complete myth, right? So so so I but I listened to those myths it's and I thought that's what you did is every single nuance every detail so I'd say to the actor, okay now he already know we're ready to rehearse the scene and you stand here on this spot mark that I marked out which works on my 24 mil lens, and then you stand down there, and you tell him that you love him, you know, and they go, but but I am too, too far away to tell him that I love you seems really odd. And again, never mind just do it. It'll work out, it'll be fine. You know. So there I am completely throwing away what is instinctively something important for the actor for the character and overriding them with my authoritarian rule. Right. Which, and that's not what a what a director should do? Absolutely not, you know. So I took me a while to learn that you need to be flexible, particularly when you're doing scenes with actors and I just someone running down the street being chased by a dog or whatever, you need to give them the flexibility to create this the same for you. And it's at the end of the day. You You can't you might have a view about how you want to shoot it. But you've got to learn to let certain things go in the shoot in the heat of the moment. Right. And that's something that took me a long time to understand that kind of comes through experience.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:25
And last question, sir, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Alex Proyas 1:31:33
Well, 2001 still is it has been for since I've probably since I saw it, I don't know. But it because it is, as I say the the biggest, most famous experimental movie of all time. And the fact that it found an audience at that time is mind boggling to me that if I had any at any level of successor,
Alex Ferrari 1:31:55
there was no there was some. Yeah. And there was also some drug use involved with that. That's what actually made it
Alex Proyas 1:32:02
He probably hit the desired guys. Well, in that respect. Yes. I believe that only came in the second because they pulled the film. I think it's correct, because it was not doing well. And then they rereleased it again as the ultimate trip. Right? And that they did it in bed literally.
Alex Ferrari 1:32:19
And they figured it out. And they because I'm a Kubrick fanatic. So I've done so much research on Kubrick is after the fact, they started he seeing that the hippies were really loving it. And that's when they're like, wait, I'm here. Let's remarket this as a trip, and boom, it was a hit.
Alex Proyas 1:32:35
Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah, we found our audience Hallelujah, you know. So there's that. And then stalker is my other one that I've that I've passionately loved since I saw that film. And I saw that film actually in film school. tarkowski. stalker, because it showed me again, and similar to that one in many ways, but it's, it showed me how to tell a more linear story. And I do believe it is more it's more linear than 2001. But it told me to how to tell that story through told me how to tell that story through visual poetry, you know, which I think is what it is, you know, you know, and I mean, both of those songs, what I think is why they will remain my favorite films. And I like and you know, I like normal movies, too. So, you know, don't worry, I do like a good grounded, well told normal story. But But I love those movies because they do stuff. Stuff only movie, right? You can't possibly tell the you can't not not just tell the story, but you can't express the experience in any other medium other than in cinema. Right? Right with those two movies. And that's why I love them both so much. And I'm struggling as I speak to think of a third third one that compares but excuse me, I'll throw the exorcist in which is another eternal favorite of mine. Because it again he gave me an experience that no other film has ever been able to replicate such a unique experience. reasons I'm incredibly driven, powerful terrifying. story that with with incredible simplicity. I mean, that's the amazing thing about a film is it's honestly it's the simplest narrative and it's the simplest amount of elements you could possibly use in a movie right and so many people have tried to replicate again that movie over the years and and with various levels of success but that one really was a again like a game changer in movies. So they've been they've been many there have been many I could I could list.
Alex Ferrari 1:34:51
One movie, I get one movie that just comes to mind when I think of you I think he must like that and I please tell me if I'm wrong Blade Runner.
Alex Proyas 1:35:00
I love Blade Runner. Yeah. As a kid when I saw blade runner and it was, at the time, it was that I heard is the most beautiful film I've seen. You know, compromised, of course, because it was the board Harrison Ford voiceover at the beginning where you go, why does that guy sound so bored? You know, it's like, you see this amazing world and he just sounds like he's bored out of
Alex Ferrari 1:35:27
You know, and we're down here on this replicants and blah, blah. I remember I
Alex Proyas 1:35:36
That's obviously an alien. Both of those two movies were incredibly inspiring to me alien was another one, alien, maybe even more so than then Blade Runner for me, because the the chestburster at alien again, was one of those moments in cinema that will never be reproduced. The impact that that thing had, at the time was just he just, you know, the audience were just like, I remember that palpable experience of being in that in that it's in that screening, you know, sure. Stuff like that, you know, and, and studying and stuff that you can't, he can't, I don't think we'll ever read reproduce it. That's it. Like, it'd be like, seeing psycho, which is another favorite film of mine, when it first was released in the theaters, which I'm too old enough to have seen, but I cannot imagine because I remember seeing it on TV again, as a kid and going. Well Hang on a second. Second, I just killed the girl who was supposed to be the hero of the film. It's like, Who am I? Who am I following? I'm completely lost in this film. I can't imagine that the the impact that would have that bold narrative decision would have had in a theater on the first release, it would be mind boggling, you know? And so stuff like that. I just don't think i think a lot of filmmakers we were trying to we keep reaching for those moments. I mean, I reach for that moment at the end of dark city for that incredible, like mind blowing moment when you realize the entire story is not what you were thinking is some something actually different, you know? And, you know, I was riffing off. Actually another movie that I love is the original plan of the Apes where you know, Chuck Heston ends up on the beach and you see the Statue of Liberty and you go, which I think has gone beyond being a sort of a
Alex Ferrari 1:37:33
Alex Proyas 1:37:34
Or when you know, when you give something away in a movie, what is it?
Alex Ferrari 1:37:38
Oh, it's Yeah, the reveal the secret? Yeah, like in the six that six sense or psycho or like Yeah, yeah, what? The ending you that twist ending the twist ending? spoiling.
Alex Proyas 1:37:49
It's a spoiler, right?
Alex Ferrari 1:37:50
I'm sorry. Sorry. Spoiler guys, all those movies, you haven't seen them stop listen to this podcast.
Alex Proyas 1:37:55
Pretty sure. I'm pretty sure everyone's aware of this. That's that particular spoiler, you know, maybe not as many people are aware of the spoiler that I could give away dark city. But, but yeah, that was, again, one of those moments where it's like, you know, wow, this is not another planet. This is actually our planet, you know, the future, stuff like that. And I just don't know that you can do that. I mean, six senses, probably one of the last of them that were people were talking about it and you know, it film it achieved some soul God, incredible thing, you know, but it's like, I don't know that. People you just can't. I mean, and you do it anymore.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:34
I mean, well, I mean, I remember like I met I can only imagine being in the theater to see Star Wars, like, or jaws.
Alex Proyas 1:38:41
Yeah. When I was I actually there's another one that I that I, I look, I'm a big fan of the original trilogy, and I find it hard to wax lyrical about Star Wars on level just because I think it's, well, I won't say I don't like saying negative things about things. Now. I will I just think it's a bit of a disaster these days. But um, but yeah, I was there. I was in the original screening of the first Star Wars. I think I was, there must have been a me is 1414 in your mind must have been blown. Your mind must have been blown. He was you know, but look, the thing is, for me, at the time, I was big into science fiction already because as we've said, 2001 and I was looking at you know, I would there were certain magazines like this is amazing, called starlog time. Yeah, of course, I'm and a bunch of other magazines, that I would collect voraciously. And I would seek out any information on films like Star Wars that were coming that were coming up, you know, in those days apart from a trailer, it was really hard to find any detail. Films. You know, it wasn't the internet world that we now live in. So I was four, I was tracking that film diligently up until the moment it came out. So it was already a really exciting And also movies came out. They came out in the states first. So we already knew that it was a it was a cultural phenomenon already had been out a few weeks and people were lining up to see it. And so there were high expectations when me and a bunch of other kids. We we call wagging. We got out of school, we pretended we were sick. And we all went down to the Star Wars flu movie. Yeah, the Star Wars flu. Yeah, it was they they didn't do like midnight screening in seven days, as it was, we were there for the first post for morning or something like that. first session Friday, 1111 o'clock Friday morning. And we went down, we saw the movie, we went straight back in on the next the next session and saw it again, you know, of course, because it was just such a such an experience. You know, the last the last time I saw people
Alex Ferrari 1:40:51
Like the the last movie that I remember that happening to was probably Pulp Fiction. Like when I saw Pulp Fiction rock in the theater, I remember literally falling out of my chair with some of the dialogue. It was just like one of those events just like holy because there was nothing like Pulp Fiction before Pulp Fiction, like there was, it was it was one of those groundbreaking film, it was a week of keep geeking out about film for at least another four hours. But I will respect your time. Thank you, Alex. so so much for being on the show. It's been an honor talking to you and and thank you for sharing your knowledge and with the tribe. And I truly, truly appreciate everything you do. And I'm gonna do my darndest to get you the 100 and 50 million my friend.
Alex Proyas 1:41:36
Thank you very much Alex, much appreciated and lovely talking to you as well. It's been it's been great fun. So keep up the good work.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:44
Thank you, my friend.
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