FANTASTIC FEST: Harry is a believer in NARNIA!
Harry here at FANTASTIC FEST and I’m gonna be brief because I’m exhausted – been a long day and a longer night and without enough sleep for either… I must be at a film festival!
Today was another great day. I’m taking my laptop tomorrow so I can be typing between films, cuz coming in at 3am, going through thousands of emails, messages and what not… AND WRITING… yeesh.
Ok – here we go.
Got a late start today, needed to rest and deal with business before diving back into the festival. As I went into the lobby, it was filled with Narnia props galore. My fave? The White Witch’s Wand – it’s just one of the most beautiful film artifacts I’ve seen and I really wanted to do the ol Smash & Grab. That and Weta’s MINOTAUR macquette. Me want!
But as I said, I was running late – and I had a panel to do on NARNIA with Howard Berger, the big “B” of KNB. As I race past security, I quickly set up my invisible tripod and recording equipment… just kidding. You see, this panel was going to screen 10 minutes of never before seen footage from THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE – a reel made specifically for FANTASTIC FEST and gosh ain’t we special? Heh.
As I enter the actual room – I race over to the table that would be sitting to the side of myself and Howard Berger. It had the “Tor Johnson” Ogre head and the head of the Minotaur!!! HOLY SHIT! I think I spent 20 minutes staring at the Minotaur head. It was, simply a work of fine art. Totally in love with it.
Finally it was time for the Panel and Howard comes out and greets me, we hadn’t run into one another since my journey to Beijeng for the KILL BILL set. We exchange a few words, Howard’s a fan of John Carter… ahem. Then we begin the process of chatting about the film the audience came with hopes of learning more.
Started off with two slideshows – the first was one that Howard made himself from the 20,000 photographs he took of the production that he has archived on that computer right there… one that’s firewall is not as clever as he would hope… JUST KIDDING. The images were wonderful. He apparently had the most attractive make-up team in the history of cinema. Nearly 2.3 females to 1 male. I think this policy is genius. Having women spending 4 hours working on your body is a good thing. And apparently the dwarves on set would mess up their make-up just to spend more time with these beauties. It wasn’t till this set of revelations, that it dawned on me that Howard Berger does have a passing resemblence to Harry Mudd from Star Trek – but with more hair.
The slidereel, as best I could tell (It was happening behind me, though I was looking at his computer as it played.), was a little bit of everything. Aslan on the stone table. Every critter you could think of, and you couldn’t help but look at all of these wonders and think… how cool would it be to be working on a film where everyday fantastic creatures from the mind of C.S. LEWIS would be running about. I’m a make-up and practical geek – my gateway to film behind the scenes was a book on Lon Chaney that my Dad gave me as wee one called FACES, FORMS AND FIGURES. Still have my original copy.
As Howard went through the images – he’d let them inspire a story or a tidbit of production history. It was nice and very informal… but with spotlights, microphones, an audience, a movie screen with images moving by. But other than that, it was just Howard and I chatting about it all.
Then the second slidereel was the less exciting, but still cool official slides – which were made up of Pre-production sketches, statues and final film image of a character. My only problem with that is that it’s all on screen at once, and I’d like a full-size image of each individual part of the process. In particular the Boggles rule.
After that we opened it up to questions – the best answer came to a question about the kids in the film and their reactions to the makeup. Apparently a great deal of care was taken on when and how the actors saw the other characters in make up.. Usually right as they were shooting their first scenes with the character – trying for that GOONIES pirate ship magic of discovery and awe. I’m sure somebody will cover this better, I was in the middle of it all, and not nearly in a great position.
Then it came time for the 10 minute NARNIA reel.
First off, I had the worst seat in the place for this. Literally IN FRONT of the FRONT ROW at a terrible angle – but even from that vantage point – I was officially won over to this project all the way.
Liam Neeson’s voice coming out of Aslan is just perfection. But even more cool is the damn Beaver! The Beaver is awesome. Till I saw the Beaver do his “Chatterbox” bit, I hadn’t seen any footage even close to this cool… that’s not entirely true… the opening of this began with the bombing of London and that stuff was jaw-dropping. In fact all of the most finished work was exemplary.
The best news? The kids work… or at least seem to. That was my biggest worry. They look like they belong in this story, and that’s the highest compliment you could give them. The cinematography looks quite lovely. My only worry is with the end battle – and it isn’t that I think it won’t be action packed, it’s just – that stuff was so rough and unfinished that I think I could feel the productions own nervousness over getting all the shots in. I couldn’t help but think while looking at it, 2 months left. That’s gotta be brutal. But ya know what? The battle looks like it will be dynamic as hell, and the Gryphon RULES!
When the footage was over, the audience began cheering – and my sweetie, who absolutely is gaga for Narnia had to go to the bathroom to touch-up mascara. I know everyone that I talked to about the footage that had a great seat loved it. FatherGeek was blown away. I believe Quint said he was blown away. Me? I went from skeptical, to believing that this film could be well on the right road to victory. And that’s a very good thing for 10 minutes to convince one of. Thank God those kids work. Big Sigh!
Well, the sun is up and I have to wake up in 4 hours. FILM FESTS! Ya gotta love em!