Lunch with my favorite producer, Sheila Taylor, last Friday. Sheila is not only a great friend, and the author of the Forewords for Save the Cat!, but when she’s not being the world’s coolest person, she makes movies.
Sheila and her producing partners at Practical Pictures are currently working on Final Destination 4 and have been in post-production for a year. One reason is this installment has something its predecessors didn’t: 3-D.
3-D will give this amazingly successful franchise an extra dimension, and introduce it to a brand new audience, but the experience in 3-D filmmaking has been an exciting education for all involved.
3-D is not new but adding to the sizzling box office with something extra is a recent surprise for the film business. Both Monsters Vs. Aliens and Coraline got a financial boost thanks to this special effect, and while audiences don’t have to see the movie in 3-D, having a higher ticket price for 3-D movies is a boon.
But what does 3-D mean for screenwriters? Should we be devising scenes with a hero flinging a yo-yo right — at! — us or figuring out new ways for our slasher movies to splatter — out! — toward an audience?
Not every movie deserves 3-D treatment, of course, but if your movie has action, a fantasy world, or a horror element, thinking 3-D might not be bad. And while the traditional means of using 3-D still hold, often as a wink at the audience as they are — attacked! — by random objects coming at them, as Sheila explained, it’s the sense of depth, and of a “world” that vanishes back into the screen that’s really new.
There are several tiers of 3-D experimentation, but all offer new creative challenges. On the high end, both James Cameron and Bob Zemeckis have tied the technique to narrative, and their effect houses are considered the best. At a mid-range, adding in 3-D to a movie might not add that much cost. And even a combination of 3-D effects and computer animation make for some really great thrills in My Bloody Valentine, which proved this year that the traditional scare effects 3-D is known for really do add to the experience.
On the set, 3-D playback is now possible thanks to a movable truck/theater that can instantly let filmmakers view footage and go back for re-takes if the 3-D effect isn’t all it can be. A full-on 3-D “Video Village” is yet to be available, but with the boom in 3-D production, it will probably be in the offing soon.
For we screenwriters, the idea of just nailing down a story is challenge enough, and maybe the actual necessity of 3-D enhancement is best left to producers and studios. But given the technical boons available, and the demand of the marketplace, we must always be looking for ways to write to the technology, too. I personally have a whole new way to think of my family comedies coming — at! — my writer’s group soon!