Filed in: Crafts

Crew Interviews on DVD Bonus Content

January 6, 2006 12:00 | By

With feature film DVD sales now surpassing the dollar volume of theatrical box office, studios are constantly exploring new ways of maintaining consumer interest in the popular format. Increasingly, they’re including crew interviews among the bonus features. Recent DVD editions of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The March of the Penguins and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou have comprehensive featurettes prominently showcasing members of the crew speaking about their craft. The Exorcism of Emily Rose has a section about the visual design of the film, with the production designers explaining the influence that the paintings of Francis Bacon had on their work. The March of the Penguins includes a featurette narrated by cinematographer Jérôme Maison talking about Antarctica and the challenges of shooting in extreme temperatures.The Criterion Collection DVD’s are always ripe with special features, The company’s two-disc special edition of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou includes a section by documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, as well as featurettes with composer Mark Mothersbaugh and animator Henry Selick. “As a filmmaker, DVD featurettes can be very helpful in an educational capacity and as general interest,” said cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, ACS, (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong). “Sometimes it’s great to see the process by which an idea becomes reality, or even how that idea came into being in the first place.” Lesnie was seen in the 2003 featurette The Lord of the Rings: The Quest Fulfilled, though, he says, he definitely feels more comfortable behind the camera than in front. Extra features are so frequent that there are releases now that consist only of extra content. King Kong: The Production Diaries DVD features week-to-week segments with director Peter Jackson. “Peter Jackson is a natural performer and makes an ideal front man for the weekly video magazine net release that ran through the shoot and into postproduction… I’ve recommended to some film schools that purchasing King Kong: The Production Diaries would be a good investment. Many of the segments are extremely informative and entertaining,” said Lesnie.Years ago, this type of information about films was virtually nonexistent. Then, Laserdiscs started including behind-the-scenes footage as a selling point (in addition to better picture and sound) to lure buyers away from the VHS format. Nowadays, featurettes on films are often found on reissues of old films like Shoot the Piano Player, which includes an interview with Cinematographer Raoul Coutard; Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, which has an interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan; and Sunset Boulevard, which includes a documentary about famed costume designer Edith Head. “I fully appreciate the work that archivists are doing to round up support material for some of the older classics,” adds Lesnie.Stunt-man/stunt-coordinator and producer Johnny Martin (Titanic, Gone in 60 Seconds) says that DVD features on stunts always fascinate him. “I love showing people how stunts are done because the average viewer takes it for granted. It’s an honor for me and I think it makes the work stand out even more.” But some people believe that a film should stand on its own and that too much extra content can possibly ruin it. Director David Lynch has long refused to do commentaries, and has limited special features on his discs and even removed chapter stops from some editions of his films.Many film schools integrate DVD features and commentaries into their curriculum, and many filmmakers teach themselves about their craft by absorbing the vast amount of information out there now. Cinematographer César Charlone (City of God, The Constant Gardener) says, “I think of how lucky this generation is with all these amazing features. DVDs are the best film school out there.”

Written by Eric Green