Some of us younger nerds have probably never heard the name Douglas Trumbull but without him, we probably wouldn’t have some of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. Without this visual effects master we might never have 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner as we’ve come to love them. Despite being on the outside of Hollywood looking in, for the better part of the past two decades, the director is still trying to create new and innovative ways for you to watch a movie.
He’s talked about using a new, high-speed 3D system and recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to go into more detail. A lot more detail.
Douglas Trumbull, the man who helped redefine visual effects in cinema, has very lofty goals; he said he’s working on a film that will “reinvent the movies.” A “first person cinema reality which is indistinguishable from reality” set 200 years in the future, dealing with “man’s place in the universe.” He says it’s “way beyond anything that Peter Jackson and Jim Cameron have been doing or are thinking of.”
You’ve got to read more details after the jump.
All of the below quotes come from a fascinating in-depth interview from The Hollywood Reporter. They spoke to the filmmaker after he received the Georges Melies Award at the Visual Effects Society awards earlier this week. It’s best to let Trumbull just speak for himself. I’ve bolded some highlights.
I left LA in 1987 because of the Natalie Wood disaster; I was frightened for my own life, I was standing between MGM management and a $50 million fraudulent insurance claim. It was a very, very messy situation, and it was the worst personal, professional experience anybody should ever have to go through to get that movie done. And when I got it done, I said, if this is what making movies in Hollywood is like, I’m going to go do something else. I had to consciously decide to put my directing career on hold and go do something else. I did things like the Back to the Future ride and theme parks and expos and took IMAX public and things like that, which I think have been a big boon to the movie business. But I haven’t been on the playing field as a film director, and so nobody from Hollywood calls me to direct their movies. I’m not on anybody’s A-list to do that. I’m not on anybody’s list to want to see the future of cinema, because I feel I have to do it myself. I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but I have to show them what it is. And so I’m developing my own film, well, several films, but one of these films is going to go into this new territory I’m talking about – which is first person cinema reality which is indistinguishable from reality. The screen is going to be so big it’s like a window into another world. I’m going way beyond anything that Peter Jackson and Jim Cameron have been doing or are thinking of, and I don’t expect to get traction from investors until I can show what it is. Because no one’s ever seen it before, and no one can imagine what it would be like. But I can, and I know, and so I’m comfortable with personally making the investment. I have my own studio, I work in the Berkshires, I have my own stage, my own cameras, my own lights, my own editing, my own workshop, my machine shop, and I’m trying to reinvent the movies – with no help whatsoever from Hollywood. But very good, supportive help from projector manufacturers and camera manufacturers, who are completely open to anything that’s going to invigorate their business. So I am getting support on the technical side, but I’m not getting any support on the production side – and I hope that will come.
The Hollywood Reporter then followed up asking if he could give more details on the film:
I can only say that it’s a 200-years-in-the-future science fiction space epic that’s going to address very big, lofty issues, like man’s place in the universe, and how our contact with an extraterrestrial civilizations that are so mind-bogglingly in advance of our own that it will go into some of the same territory that 2001 went into, and it’s going to do it in a very plausibly scientific way, not a fanciful way. There are no alien monsters, and the earth is not being attacked by anybody. It’s going to be a much more intelligent, what we call hard-science fiction, and I think there’s absolutely nothing out there like this. I think the studios believe that they have to dumb everything down and the audience is not scientific, not up for anything truly intelligent, but I think just the opposite. I think we’re in the most technologically advanced society of all time, and people can go with that immediately. Most people you poll would believe that there’s life in the universe, for sure, and the Kepler project and another project are showing that the likelihood of inhabitable planets in our galaxy alone is going to be in the billions, and so the whole plausibility of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations is becoming very real scientifically, very plausible. Talk to any scientist and they’ll say, absolutely, yes. But Hollywood is still in the monster phase, it’s in the b-movie monster phase. And I’m not saying how it should be, I’m just saying what I would like to do, and I’d like to make something more intelligent that I can really be proud of.
He elaborates more in the interview — which is a must read — and discusses the state of Hollywood filmmaking and which filmmakers he believes are attempting the kind of experience he’s talking about.
Here’s the sad thing: Trumbull is very right about the fact that Hollywood is likely not interested in a smart, sci-fi film like this without major action at its core. Hopefully, though, he’ll be able to find some independent funding and just do it on his own.