TPM Producer - Rick McCallum
DVD Press Conference
September 7, 2001
JW - Jim Ward
VL - Van Ling
RM - Rick McCallum
PH - Pablo Helman
RD - Rick Dean
JS - Jon Shenk
JW: OK, the next person I'd like to bring up here and introduce is somebody
that if you didn't know before you came here you certainly know him by now
after having lived through his saga in helping to create the Episode I The
Phantom Menace. I'd like to introduce Rick McCallum, the producer.
OK, so this is the man, the guy that produced the film and certainly lived
through not only the film but this DVD as well, and you also saw everything
he lived through in terms of the documentary that Jon put together, so, any
questions for Rick? Let's start out right over here.
Q: How do you think you came off in the documentary?
RM: That's why I have a fast forward, I just skipped over it. It was very
interesting to see how much weight I've gained and lost throughout the whole
production (laughter), that was the most interesting thing to me.
Q: You were very direct, for instance when the situation was very grim in
Tunisia you said things colorfully and did you have any concerns about
including this? Or did you not care?
RM: No, not really. I mean it's a very weird thing, especially when
a documentary crew. It's not easy for me to be totally natural around it.
But you know after awhile you get kind of used to it. But no, there's never
any real issue because in the end of the day we knew the guys who were
making the film and they were all pretty trustworthy so it wasn't too bad.
I was glad that they weren't there for 90% of the time.
Q: Well I had to laugh because since you cuss so much in the documentary,
are you concerned about the young kids that will be watching that?
JW: No, we bleeped it out.
Q: But, I think most kids these days know what that is.
RM: Everything I've learned is from my kids.
Q: My real question is, as far as the DVD, are you excited about all the
extras? But as a filmmaker you work so hard on the episode that, what about
the DVD itself?
RM: There are two big issues for me. One of the things that was very
difficult was that we virtually were making the film right up until three
weeks before the film was released. In fact we were in London shooting six
weeks before the film came out. Then we had to supervise the making of
5,000 prints. Plus if you backstep, for 10 weeks we had been working on the
digital master for the four theatres that we had shown in New York and Los
Angeles. So we were just burned out. There was nothing for us to do. The
film came out, we had three days where we rushed around to New York and Los
Angeles and San Francisco watching the openings, and then virtually that
following Monday George and I started prep on Episode II. The thing that we
knew that we didn't want to do was just take the typical route where there's
a video master out there for the videocasette, and then somebody takes that,
throws it down, and lays it out on the DVD, you have 15 minutes of how great
it is working with George and isn't Rick nice and his hair is weird and all
the other strange stuff that you get on it. We wanted to make it special.
But that that takes a long time. I set up the DVD before I went to
Australia. We worked on it for six months. We had to cast for a crew. We
had to wait for the supervisors, we wanted Pablo as our chief digital
effects supervisor on the DVD. He was on another film. We had to get the
artists that we wanted that were available. We had to face the whole
reality of was it possible to actually even do this? We wanted Van Ling.
You know there's a whole bunch of real things, it was like making another
movie. And you've got to remember that up until Episode I, the largest film
digital effects wise was Titanic. And that had about 450 shots. We had
just under 2100 visual effects. And this DVD represents, I think it has the
third most effects of any feature film that's ever been made. So you know
it was a really complicated process and it was very time consuming, we knew
it was going to take a long time. But I think it was worth it. You know we
loved it, we loved the whole idea of it. And more importantly for me
personally, is that at least within the context of DVD it's really about
quality. There's nothing more frustrating than in the case of Episode I
which was a process that lasted over four years, you spend so much time
making it, then you spend so much time mixing it, millions of dollars. And
then you let it out to the world and you know there's probably less than 100
theatres where you can actually see the film that we actually made, or hear
it in the way we've mixed it. And DVD, believe it or not, still represents
probably, in terms of the audience, the largest possible audience the best
visual experience that they'll ever actually see the film. Because most of
the stuff when you go to a multiplex outside of a major city is just junk.
So, on those two levels I was very happy.
JW: The question is, is there any particular scene in making the movie
Episode I that was challenging to you?
RM: They're all painful in their own little way when you think back. But
no, I personally like locations the most because you never know exactly what
's going to happen. And to me that dynamic is very exciting, especially
when you're dealing with the temperatures that we had in Tunisia. Tunisia
is a country I personally like. I love the crew that we had, we shot there
before on Young Indy. They're all difficult in their own little way because
you've got this army, and it's like a small village. And one day an actor
will get hurt in a car accident, another person will get sick, you know
everything is all off side, you never know what's going to happen. Studio
work is much easier, you just know what you've got. Usually everybody can
get home and get back to work relatively easily. So I think probably, I
haven't answered that question but I like locations the best.
JW: Who was really the target for Episode I?
RM: Well you've got to remember it's a saga. It's a saga of family, it's
also going to be in six parts. It's designed to be seamlessly
interconnected. In fact in terms of DVD it's what Van Ling was saying, one
of the reasons why we didn't go straight from the digital master is that you
know there have been three previous films, and they were films, and there's
a look. And as he also mentioned in terms of relationship to Bug's Life and
some of the other Pixar films is there are two different aesthetics.
Personally, for me, and this is going way off the question, the digital
release of the film that we had in four theatres came closest to the film
that we actually made because it was the only time that we could be in a
theatre and actually see the film and hear it that closely resembled what it
was that we had made. But the issue about whether or not it's for kids, you
just have to take a deep breath and wait for the whole thing, because it
all makes sense. It has to start somewhere, and there is a reason why
Anakin is eight years old in Episode I. And when it's all over it will all
make sense, both thematically and in terms of the evolution of Anakin's
JW: Why isn't there a DDS track on the DVD, I'll just take that and it
really comes down to what you exactly said. It was a bit budget issue and
that's one of the hard decisions that we had to make on this thing. You
know in an ideal world yeah, but we just had to give it everything we wanted
to do, make that call.
Q: Sometimes filmmakers are reluctant to do commentaries, but you got
everybody, yourself, George, everyone involved in the making of the film to
sit down and watch and give your observations. I was wondering what that
RM: Well for me personally it was very weird because I was in London, and I
had to do it on a tie-line and so it was very uncomfortable for me, I didn't
have enough time to actually sit back and really think about all the scenes
because we were in the middle of shooting for Episode II. But I think
everybody else really got into it, they really enjoyed it because in the end
of the day it allows you to do two things. It helps you, if you're honest
with it, you remember the pain of actually doing it. And then also what it
meant in context and how you got through it. And I think everybody was
candid enough, you know people like Dennis Muren and John Knowles and
everybody else who was working on the film for such a long period, it gave
them an opportunity to actually reflect back on their experiences, what it
was like to actually do that specific shot. Because that's the whole
dynamic, especially the world that we're moving into whether you're making a
small, traditional, dramatic film or big special effects film, there's so
many effects shots. And for the first time we're breaking the barrier of
visual effects companies where we're actually working as a team. Because
they're two totally different, distinct groups. You know when you're making
a movie it's a totally different experience than when you're working on the
special effects. Different kind of skill set, different kind of person
altogether. But I think what was one of the best experiences for me on
Episode I is it was a total collective dream and nightmare for a long period
of time for a lot of people.
Q: You mentioned that making the DVD was like making a movie, another movie. Can you talk about how much it cost to put the DVD together? What kind of investment you guys have in it?
RM: It cost (laughter), that's something, you know, does it matter?
Q: I think it's interesting.
RM: Let's put it this way, it cost a lot, it took a lot of effort, a lot of time.
Q: How many Kevin Smith movies could you make? (laughter)
RM: Well it depends. Based on his last one?
JW: What do you think of the DVD technology itself?
RM: Well right now, within the world that we live in, there's nothing that
comes close. I mean, the thing I love about it is it's potential,
especially when we deal with storage issues because as Van Ling said, right
now we're dealing with a storage problem and you do have to pick what you
think, and that's what I think he did a brilliant job of, one of the many
things that Van Ling did was focus us and say OK, yes I know you think this
is interesting but I think for the general audience this is the best thing.
I think there's enough stuff here for hard core fans, for filmmakers, for
everyone else. He really balanced that out for us really nicely. But what
I do love about it, is it's future potential to be able to go in directions
where you do have the access and, the ability to be able to store a
phenomenal amounts of material. So that people who are into making films,
could have 20 or 30 hours of material, I don't know if Jim has mentioned we
probably shot about 600 hours worth of behind the scenes footage. Not that
that would all work, but you know there's a good 2-3 hours about how to
design costumes. There's 2-3 hours about setting up and budgeting a movie,
scheduling a movie. Unfortunately right now with the limits that we can't
use all that material. But there is that material and one day, in fact it's
one of my worst nightmares that I'm going to get the call from George
saying, you know I've got a really good idea let's put out a 250 hour DVD.
I don't know if you guys have seen Terminator 2, you know one of the things
I loved about that and what Van Ling did, you can go in many directions. If
you were a hard core film freak and you really love Cameron and you want to
understand how he made the picture you could go in that direction. There
were so many areas where you can go and that to me is really the essence of
DVD technology. But what I love about it more than anything is just the
sheer quality for the average person.
JW: In the world of digital technology and DVDs and such, is there a final
cut to a movie?
RM: Philosophically I have no problem with it, in fact, I love it because
what's always prevented any filmmaker from doing this in the past is just
the cost. We all love movies here. And think about it. There are 300
movies made by the studios a year, and there's another 700 made by
independents. And for us probably in this room we easily see two or three
movies a week. And we love them. And it's one of the few things in the
world where you can go week after week after week, and still be so deeply
disappointed and still every new week say hey let's go to a movie. And that
becomes still another adventure, another hope that the movie is going to be
good. And the truth is, nobody ever sits down at a table and says hey let's
make a bad movie. No producer, director, writer says God I've got a really
great idea for a shitty film. It doesn't work that way. But something in
the process, something about the compromises, the timing, the studio, the
phenomenal pressure that artists have to go through, causes something to go
really wrong. And often there is this other film there. Not always but
often there is another film. And if somebody can actually have the
wherewithal, the tools to be able to actually change that, it doesn't mean
necessarily that you're going to like it any better or that you're even
going to see it. But it's no different than a writer being able to re-write
and re-write, or a painter who used to paint, you know when the
Impressionists used to paint on a canvas they didn't have enough canvas so
they'd just paint over and keep on changing. It's like rehearsing a play.
But that's never been done in film before because of the sheer cost. And
one of the great things about doing the Special Edition was we were able to
go back and do the original Star Wars New Hope exactly the way George wanted
it. The way he had written it. Whether people liked it, it didn't matter,
it was his movie and he couldn't make it when he first made it because there
were so many compromises he had to go through. So, philosophically, I have
no problem with that I think it's great. It's like the internet. You kind
of democratize the process, you have these incredible tools to allow
everybody to make a movie. It doesn't mean the movies are going to get any
better, in fact there's going to be a lot of shit on the internet for a long
time, but it does allow people who aren't socially adaptable or don't have
the skill set to be able to enter into the system of Hollywood, who have
great ideas, may not have the personality to sell themselves but actually
are full of ideas and can tell a story that allows them to be able to do
JW: OK, that's great. Thanks a lot Rick.