Excerpted interview with Producer Susanne Simpson, on location in San Francisco
NOVA: What are we doing down here, Susanne? I mean, you've got all these people and all this equipment.
SIMPSON: What we're trying to do is we're trying to recreate a scene where people are running away from the building where Kong is found to be kind of beating his chest on top of the building. So, what we've got here is we've got about a hundred extras that have come down to downtown San Francisco, who are going to play the role of people running away from King Kong on top of one of the downtown buildings. And, what we're trying to set up here is the sense of, you know, the fire trucks, and the police and the National Guard, and everybody is down here because Kong is on top of one of their buildings and he's threatening the city of San Francisco.
NOVA: When you started this project, did you ever think that you'd be creating your own illusion and telling your story of illusion making?
SIMPSON: Actually, one of the things we wanted to do for this film, is we felt it wasn't enough just to tell behind the scenes on other motion pictures. We really felt it was important to make our own effects. And so, one of the things we thought of from the very beginning is, how could we take advantage of the IMAX frame and create some really spectacular IMAX effects?
NOVA: Is this project something new for NOVA in terms of the direction that NOVA and film making is going, would you say?
SIMPSON: NOVA's been working in the large format film industry for about ten years. We've done two other films and this is our third project. But, we really felt that we wanted to do something that had a terrific entertainment value to it, and we knew that people who watch movies love special effects, and we felt that this was a real opportunity to bring that kind of entertainment to the big screen.
NOVA: Is this a beginning of a new trend for NOVA? Are they going to be doing more entertainment films?
SIMPSON: The whole idea of NOVA working in large format films is that we wanted to create films that were both entertaining, but also were very smart films, where you'd actually learn something whether it be about human performance, or whether it be about human perception. We really feel that that's the kind of contribution we can make to this large format industry.
NOVA: Let's point out some of the things audiences can look forward to in this movie.
SIMPSON: Well, I think the thing that's really going to excite audiences about this film is that not only are you going to experience the drama of IMAX shots; the real sensation that those shots can bring you, but this is an opportunity to go behind the scenes to be in these large sound studios where a lot of film work is going on and really see what the filmmakers are doing. And I think we take advantage of the large screen in terms of taking you to places that you're never going to have a chance to go. One of the things that we take people to is the model shop for "Independence Day," the model shop itself is the size of an airplane hanger. One of the other things we do is go to Industrial Light and Magic and we work with the computer artists who are trying to create an elephant. And we go with those artists to the zoo, where they're actually working with an elephant named Judy, because they've got to understand what Judy looks like to be able to create their computer generated version of her. NOVA: Did you have any exclusivity? Have you gone into places that the public has never seen before?
SIMPSON: Well, I think the one thing that makes this film very special is that we had access to film behind the scenes on the special edition of "Star Wars." And we were one of the very few to have that privilege. And I think that's going to be a unique experience for the audience—something that they're really going to enjoy. Because what George Lucas is doing is remaking some of the shots from the original "Star Wars" using, now, the digital technology that ILM can provide. And that's something very special about this film.
NOVA: Are we going to learn about special effects from the very beginning of this movie?
SIMPSON: Really, the point of this film is to celebrate a hundred years of movie making and special effects, in particular. And, what we try to do is take the audience from the very earliest of films, like "Mel Yes," all the way through the kind of innovations that are happening now with computer-generated images. And I think we're trying to look ahead, also, to the future, and find out what is happening now that is really going to create a different kind of world in movie making in the next century.
Photo Credits: (1) Susanne Simpson, producer of Special Effects, (2) Chasers look at sky copyright 1995 Museum film Network and WGBH Educational Foundation, (3) Elephant at Marine World copyright 1996 WGBH Educational Foundation.
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