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Interview de Philip Cook (page 3)

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Philip Cook (page 3)


Your third film as a director is “Despiser”. The movie is a real technical challenge which mixes real actors with a lot of computer generated sequences. How did you handle such a difficult project, and how long did it take for you to see this project through from the beginning to the end?

We shot DESPISER in 1998. At the time no one was shooting a feature with such a stylized presentation. Since then we've had SKY CAPTAIN, SIN CITY, SPY KIDS and MIRROR MASK. Actors shot on blue screen and composited into computer-generated environments is all the rage now. DESPISER took me two and a half years of postproduction to finish all the effects. It was an experiment with digital technologies. When we started, computer animation was still rare and special. By the time DESPISER was released in 2003, the audience was jaded because 3D was everywhere. Special effects aren't special anymore. I'm still proud of DESPISER, particularly in lieu that it cost $35,000 to produce.

You've made cinematic work for videogames companies. May it be the reason why the purgatory in “Despiser” seems to have a videogame look?

We've been criticized for the video game look by people wondering why is doesn't look at good as STAR WARS. What we were dealing with was budget, 90's software and the fact that 700 visual effects shots were produced by two people zero budget. I was hoping audience would simply get on board with story, suspend disbelief and enjoy the adventure and creative spirit of the film. Some folks get it, some don't.

Despite most of them are totally unknown, the cast in “Despiser” is very convincing. How did you recruit them? Was it difficult for them to act with all the CGI?

Thanks. It was difficult finding good talent in the Washington area and even more difficult scheduling around their availability since most weren't full time actors. Ironically I wrote DESPISER before INVADER, but I was holding out on the script for a bigger budget. In the end I produced it with my own money for a fraction of what we spent on either of my first two films. We never secured a star and simply casted local.



As far as directing actors on blue-screen, I don't think it's as difficult as people think. Actors have vivid imaginations. It's really more of a concern dialing up or dialing down their performances to match the scale of the effects composited later month later. The other tricky part is keeping everyone's eye-line consistent to where the effects happening.

You plan to turn “Despiser” as a television series. Is it on its way?

Unfortunately not at this time. If I was more connected with money and TV executives, I think DESPISER could make a great series. Redemption. Adventure. Other worlds. Varying levels of purgatory. Righting the sins of one's past. The concept is timeless. Maybe one of my kids will make decades in the future.

You are doing most of the work on your movies: producer, writer, director, FX technician and even some voices. Is it a choice or only due to financial constraints? Would you do so if you had more money, or is it a way to have total control on your films?

I end up doing so much on my films simply because I haven't had the money to hire skilled crew. I'm reasonably good at a lot of things. I can shoot. I can light. I can edit. I can build sets. Mix audio. Blah. Blah. Blah. Clean the actor's bathroom too. But it can be pretty overwhelming trying to carrying the burden of these complex productions by yourself, particularly when it's your money on line. When I do commercial production, it's such a luxury. I have a DP (Director of Photography), a gaffer, a production manager -- talented people dedicated to one job. The commercial shoots feel like a vacation. All I have do is concentrate on story. Ultimately that's all I'm really interested in. Telling a story. Making an emotional connection with characters and the viewer. Everything else is merely a means to achieve that. So would I like to have more skilled crew on my productions? Absolutely!

Is it easy to distribute your movies in the U.S? How has the market for small independent productions like yours evolved from the 80's to nowadays?

It's very hard to get films distributed in the U.S. and is getting harder every year. It's very cast driven and as the Sci-Fi Channel told me on DESPISER, my films have no promotable cast. DESPISER was reasonably successful, but if I had finished in 2002 instead of 2003, it was have been even more successful. The market is saturated with media now. Every year seems to be getting worse. Even though DESPISER has been sold to most major markets, I'm not sure I'd have the guts to try and make another film like DESPISER again today. I think I've got to move into bigger budgets to compete. I've got to try to get a name that means something the international or genre markets.

Is it easy to distribute your movies in the U.S? How has the market for small independent productions like yours evolved from the 80's to nowadays?

It's very hard to get films distributed in the U.S. and is getting harder every year. It's very cast driven and as the Sci-Fi Channel told me on DESPISER, my films have no promotable cast. DESPISER was reasonably successful, but if I had finished in 2002 instead of 2003, it was have been even more successful. The market is saturated with media now. Every year seems to be getting worse. Even though DESPISER has been sold to most major markets, I'm not sure I'd have the guts to try and make another film like DESPISER again today. I think I've got to move into bigger budgets to compete. I've got to try to get a name that means something the international or genre markets.

You seem to be a « East Coast man ». You worked especially between Baltimore and Norfolk in the Washington DC area. Is it difficult to be in the movie industry without living in L.A.?

I think it's difficult to be in the movie business anywhere. There are so many people competing for the same dollars, distributors and attention in a media saturated market place. In the movie business, you can't make a living but you could possibly make a killing. I stay in Washington because my family is here -- because I'm relatively unique here and because my non-movie clientele are here.

What are your projects at the moment?

I've got three un-produced scripts in various levels of play at this point. The one I think has the strongest hope of actually getting made is a revenge story with sci-fi overtones. It's an adventure set in the world of pornography, terrorism and biotechnology -- a much broader, darker palette than I've worked in before. The script has been well received. Time will only tell how it finally manifests itself.


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