Monday, May 14, 2007, 08:48 AMTwo consecutive posts?... A day after each other?... I'm on a role!
I know some of you guys aren't really interested in this stuff, but for those who are, here is a web-based version of the article on Payne & Redemption in the UK gaming magazine, PC Zone.
Fergle "Larry David" Gibson,
Writer & Director.
Sunday, May 13, 2007, 07:15 PMGood morning, afternoon, evening, my compadres.
Just wanted to make a formal apology in regards to the delay of the "something long awaited and very cool" thing. Yes, yes, yes, I know what you're thinking - "Empty promises" and all that shiznit. But we really are working as hard and as fast as we can to give YOU, the fans, something very special indeed before the film comes out. If you think all we're doing is sitting on our behinds, scratching our nether regions, drinking beer, and watching endless taped copies of Strictly Come Dancing or Dalziel and Pascoe, you're sorely mistaken. Complications arise, time goes by, but in the end, it WILL be worth it.
Fergle "Larry David" Gibson,
Writer & Director.
Sunday, May 13, 2007, 07:07 PMI've harped on a lot about accuracy. Partly that's because props were my responsibility during shooting, so I see it as important. And partly because discussing it is a good vehicle for trivia that doesn't destroy the plot for you, and it means I can slip in plot-related trivia without getting it censored. I hope, anyway. ;)
One of the things that we spent a lot of time on was guns. I mentioned these earlier: the Director selected each person's weapon carefully, considering their needs, personality and role in the story. He's a bit of a gun-head. Eh, we all are, at least as much as you can be in the UK and stay on the right side of the law.
Max kept the 9mm Beretta M9, which is the military version of the Beretta 92FS - it's the gun everyone thinks of as "Max' gun". I think it suits him. It's the gun the US military use, and it used to be the LAPD's official sidearm, and neither group that selection for no reason. Max is the kind of guy who would stick with tradition like that, so long as it's not forced on him. It's big, heavy, businesslike and masculine, without being pretentiously muscleman-huge. Very Max.
The M9 also happens to be about the Director's favourite gun, though if he had his druthers he'd go for the identical-apart-from-the-caliber .40 M96FS ("It's just one hell of a sexy piece of Italian workmanship", says Fergle). But Max uses the factory-standard M9 in the game, and that really does suit him, so it's one of the aspects of the game we were all really happy to keep in the film.
Personally I prefer the feel of the smaller-framed Beretta 85: the M9 is a bit too much gun for me :). The CZ-75 has become very popular lately, due to an admittedly fairly well-deserved reputation for accuracy (blame Gunsmith Cats for the reputation though), but I imagine the closed slide makes the CZ-75 a bugger to clean out if you get crud in it. And personally I think the Italians have more of a handle than the Czechs on how to make an intensely practical weapon still look viscerally sexy too.
The heroine gets the Springfield V10 .45 ACP. It's a bit of a movie schtick that girls carry small guns: it emphasises their femininity, and those who know guns will know that, in Fergle's very own words, "although it may be small-framed (like Kylie), it packs one hell of a punch" and is "deceptively powerful".
MaxTrivia: This isn't a particularly gun-filled film. The Matrix is the quintessentially gunny film; it has guns. Lots of guns. It was filmed in the US, by people who love guns, and they had gun consultants and experts coming out their ears, and they still cocked it up: rubber guns bounce, plastic guns clatter lightly to the floor, guns and ammo change type from shot to shot, and guns and ammo don't necessarily match up. So far as I know, we've made no cockups with the guns... yet. Obviously, this is mostly because we only have TWO guns. But another part of it is culture: in our film, each actor has a specific weapon that epitomises their character; each actor is fiercely protective of "their" gun, and would definitely notice if it were changed to another. And another part is that we really give a fuck about accuracy. Yes, the actors beat the crap out of the weapons, slide them across concrete or gravel, and I really wish they wouldn't because its a bitch for continuity if they get scratched, not to mention the problems if they dropped one... But we wouldn't use rubber guns, or even plastic - the heft, the movement of the actors, they way they fall: it's all wrong with that level of fakery.
We had lots and lots of shells in this - not close to the Matrix, but a good few hundred, 500 or so empties, a dozen filled ones, plus blanks. And they all needed accounting for. After which, I feel really really great sympathy for the props guys on the Matrix. There isn't one bug that IMDB lists for the Matrix that we might not have made in their place, for all our care.
But we CARE about props. And you know the sad thing? Though we made sure to have exactly the right guns with exactly realistic action and blanks that looked identical to real bullets when loaded and real shells when ejected... odds are that no shots of the guns actually being fired will ever make the final cut, because other than in a pitched gunbattle, weapons being fired offscreen are just more visceral.
But we got it right anyway, because we wanted to have the option to be right, if we wanted.
Thinking about it, we made an effort on the badges too, but I bet the closeups of them never make it either!
Friday, May 4, 2007, 07:35 PMThe crew, I found, were universally tolerant of the fact that this was the first time I'd been involved in anything related to the trade, and they made do, with a typically stoic Britishness, whenever they asked "do we have a blatantly-obviously-needed-thing?" and I said that the thought of a blatantly-obviously-needed-thing had never even occurred to me. Then I'd apologise, and go off to find one. Admittedly, I never thought to ask them if they knew offhand where I might find a structural surveyor at 1am on a Sunday morning in the middle of a field, to inspect the beam we'd be hanging someone off.
They could have been shits about it: I'm sure they could've whipped out some union rule that said there must be teaspoons. They didn't.
And I think I understand what unions are for, now. Union rules are there to let the little man (the rigger or the gaffer or whomever) stand up to asshole bosses and say "no" when they need to, and still expect to get paid. If they are being expected to do stuff that is above and beyond what they are being paid for, or they aren't being given what was agreed, then they shouldn't be forced into it. That includes not being treated with common decency.
So there are certain things which simply should not have been doable, which were done anyway. Fergle asked if a certain lighting arrangement could be done, which would allow them to do certain shot in a particularly nice way. "Sorry mate: union rules". But some time later I walked past one of the crew, on his break, coffee beside him, tinkering with a screwdriver inside the equipment in question. He saw me watching him and grinned: "Don't tell the Union".
He explained that Fergle had respected his opinion on the matter, and had taken the loss of the shot without argument, as one professional accepting another's decision. So, he'd decided to do it anyway, as a gift: union members are not servants of the rules, the rules are a tool for the members to use, if they want.
To save them getting in trouble with the union, I'll keep my word, and not tell on the specific crew member. And even once the episode's out, I'm not going to tell you which specific shot it made possible. But it is a kinda nice shot. Then again, all the lighting's great, so you'll hopefully never spot it.
Though, it may not even make the final cut: there may be continuity issues, with shots filmed before the equipment worked, and afterwards. So the gift may end up on the cutting room floor. Or in this digital age, I should say it may end up in the bit-bucket.
MaxTrivia: The film was the one of the first films shot in the UK with the new Arriflex D-20 digital camera and as we understand, the first indie film anywhere to use it. Manipulating things in post may have been somewhat easier to do if we'd been able to record straight to a hard drive, but at the time there weren't any drives available for the D-20 that were big enough to capture the footage. So our hand was forced; we had to shoot on HDCAM SR tapes instead.
Though it's not my field, editing is done on a reduced-quality digitisation of the masters, called the "offline". The offline has the exact same timings as the master, so once the editing is done, the changes can be applied to the full-quality masters, to get the finished product.
So, to give an inkling of the size we'd have needed for filming, the offline is currently about a hundred gigs, after about two week's editing it, and they haven't finished yet.
MaxTrivia: The best moments are always off camera. While warming themselves against the space-heater as the set was being readied for another shot, Max and Volpé started throwing their lines at eachother in alternative accents: menacing "Goodfellas" accents, mincing camp accents, and so forth. It was hilarious, perfectly done, and is lost to all but our memories.
MaxJuicyTidbit: And also the most likely part of this post to get censored: I was speaking in earlier poses about some of the future episodes being made. When talking about one of those, the director just used the phrase "many huge explosions". Ooh yeah. I really like where his mind is at.
Saturday, April 28, 2007, 07:48 AMHere's today's juicy MaxNews, right up front! Work has begun on the second episode. Actually, it's the first, though it will be the second to be released. So, since they're being released out-of-order, à la Star Wars, work has begun on the second which is really the first, and hence precedes the first, which is really the third. But that sounds Lukian in its obfuscation, so I'll just say that we're planning on shooting and releasing the episodes in the order 3, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. Obviously that might change, and probably will: but that's the plan. The idea being that we get the ones that can stand alone shot first, so that even if we don't complete it, nothing will be wasted.
Episode one, of course, has to set the scene, which means we establish Payne as a detective in the NYPD. Because you didn't know that, right? One of the resources we expected to be a ton of help with all this was the NYPD press office. After all, probably hundreds of movies a week are shot involving the NYPD, so they'll have all that info at their fingertips, right? They'll probably even have an info-pack for film-makers.
No. Their job appears to be to BLOCK any and all media and press queries dead.
They have a standard response to any query. Luke called them up to ask about the numbers on the officers' lapels the other day. Almost certainly these are precinct numbers, but we wanted to be sure - no "fixing it in post". Also, though most precincts have numbers, Max' precinct is listed, even on the official NYPD website as "Midtown North". The precinct list goes "17th, Midtown North, 19th". We're pretty sure that means that the officers in his precinct would have an 18 on their lapels... but what if they have "MN" or something instead?
So Luke rang up. "Hi, I'm the producer of a movie filming in the UK: I'm just calling to verify that the numbers on your official uniform are the precinct numbers."
He was transferred around from department to department until he lost count, and none of them were able to help. Finally, he got through to one department who's job it was to deal with such queries.
"I'm sorry, Sir. I'm afraid I cannot disclose that type of information."
"But... the information's clearly in the public domain. I could just walk into the street in that precinct and look at the collar of the next policeman I saw! How could it be sensitive information?"
"Again, I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm afraid I cannot disclose that type of information."
"Do I SOUND like a terrorist to you?"
"I'm sorry, Sir. I'm afraid I..."
So, if there are any real NYPD buffs out there, or members of the force, it'd be great to hear from you about the things that the media always gets wrong, and which annoy you. Sure, Max Payne's world is an unrealistic, comic-book world, where most cops are bent cops and a policeman with serious problems (emotional trauma, anger management, excessive prescription drug use to name but few) can shoot countless hundreds of baddies and still return to work. But that's no reason to get the small details wrong.
If there's specific stuff (like the 555- thing for phone numbers) that the NYPD would like us to get deliberately wrong, we'd love to be told so that we can Do The Right Thing... but their press office refuses to even tell us any of that. Which seems a teensy bit insane, but there we go.
If any expert in that field wants to help us out there, we'd appreciate it. We're not terrorists, I swear.
We've put a lot of effort into getting these little things right. Like sidearms: we've established that although the NYPD did once have an official handgun (Beretta M9, I believe?), it's now the responsibility of the individual officers to purchase and maintain their own equipment and weaponry and they get a reasonable amount of leeway in that. So we selected the weapons of the officers to best reflect their personality and their role in the story.
We couldn't find any description of how badge numbers were allocated by the NYPD, but it appears the numbers are recycled: they seem simply too short (4 digits or fewer) to be eternally unique per policeman. Even if they're only unique within that precinct or badge-type, 10,000 possibilities is just too few, and a google image search shows many active officers with numbers in the low end of the range. So again, we've given the characters badge numbers that represent their role in the story, other than Max, who keeps his own badge number from the game: 8349, I think.
In radical contrast, the Remedy team, and everyone involved in the original game, have been surprisingly awesome and helpful. Seriously lots and LOTS of them. Do check out the credits when we release, because the amount of help and support and encouragement we've had has blown me away. This was the exact opposite of the case with the NYPD: we were expecting to get no help whatsoever from anyone involved with the game, since after all we're rather stepping on their toes here.
MaxTrivia: in researching for the film, we asked the game crew whether the badge number 8349 had any particular significance. In fact, the badge image used in the game had been taken straight from a stock photography archive, and the numbers meant nothing to them. Well, now they do: they're his badge number, so if you see someone catching "flight 8349", you'll know it's a reference.
MaxTrivia: The stock photo used as Max' badge in the game was a Patrolman badge, when he should have had a Detective badge. While, in-game, this was small enough that it didn't matter, it'd be sufficiently obvious in the film that we've had to change that, and give him the right badge. This is one of the few cases where we have allowed a real-life fact to override what was established as canon in the game, and it took a fair bit of discussion.
In the end it came down to: which will maintain immersion for more people? We decided that almost no players would have noticed the badge shape and associated it with Payne (the badge image in the game was so small that we'd spent some time deciphering the numbers). Those few players that had noticed the badge shape would probably not have a problem with the fact that he might own more than one badge or have a different style badge at another time. But any US police officers watching would have immersion ruined by seeing a Detective using the a Patrolman's badge: it would be an obvious blooper to them, and would mar the film.
MaxNews: The rough cut of the first 18-minute episode is in the director's hands, and he IM'd me to say "The cut, even as rough as it is, looks pretty fuckin' awesome."
So the race between that and the trailer is definitely on.