One of the most talked about and most popular films of 2009, The Twilight
To celebrate and promote the upcoming DVD release, director Chris Weitz took a few minutes to talk to IESB about his experience making the second film in the Twilight Saga, reflect on working with the film's stars, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, and his plans for the future.
IESB: In doing the commentary for the New Moon DVD, was there anything that you realized you regretted having to cut, or did the final cut
Chris: I was very satisfied with the final cut of the film, personally. It was what I had set out to do.
IESB: Were there any specific parts of the film that you were most looking forward to talking about for the commentary?
Chris: I was very happy to talk about some of the more complicated shots that we did, like the roundy-round shot. That was a bit in which we took what was a series of chapter headings in the book and turned it into a motion-control shot in which the seasons passed as Kristen Stewart's character, Bella, remained in the same place. What I like to do with CG is to use it as expressively as possible, and not to make things blow up good, but to sometimes render something ineffable that would be very difficult to do in camera. That involved a lot of work, in which a motion-control camera captured the movement of our steady-cam operator. So, it was a pleasure to talk about that, and about what goes into something like that.
IESB: Having had to deal with stunts, green screen, CGI, weather, bugs and everything you had going on, what was the biggest challenge in bringing this film to the screen, so as to please as many of the fans as possible?
Chris: I think the greatest challenge was the logistical load of it. When you're talking about taking a film from beginning to end in one year, it's difficult to do that with a normal film where people are just sitting on their butts, talking to one another. But, when you add in underwater work, heavy CGI work and wire work, it becomes extraordinarily complicated. And then, you add in getting the London Symphony Orchestra to record a soundtrack, and getting 10 or so indie bands to compose songs especially for the film, there are a lot of timelines that are ticking along, at the same time, and you hope that you are able to combine it all at the right point. And, you always end up, just at the last minute, on the last day, your final CGI shot comes in. There are about 400 and something CGI shots, which actually isn't that many compared to what I've done before, but it's quite a lot. It can complicate things when you're in the editing room.
IESB: Did you have any preconceived notions, coming into this film, about what it would be like to work with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, prior to filming with them? And, was there anything you learned about working with them that really surprised you?
Chris: I think what surprised me most was how level-headed they were, given the kind of pressures that they were under from the attention of the fans and the number of things that could have taken their head out of the game, and how much they really cared about getting their characters right. In the second film, in a franchise in which you know that people are going to go see it anyway, it's very impressive to see young actors who really care about getting things just right. It's the first time I've actually been twice the age of the actors, except on About a Boy, but that was really working with a child actor. These guys are actually rather grown up. I was surprised at how old I actually felt, in comparison to them. At the same time, I was really impressed by their professionalism.
IESB: Is there a specific reason why you didn't include any commentary from Kristen, Rob and Taylor on the DVD? Were they just not available?
Chris: I just didn't want them to say anything bad about me. No. It was actually happenstance. These things are scheduled during the whole press bonanza that you're doing and, on that particular day, everyone was in motion between one screening and the next, and I happened to be the only piece of the puzzle, as well as Peter Lambert, who was in London, that was available. Now, I'm sure there will be something on the Internet about some kind of scandal where we don't like each other, or something. That will be interesting. I'll have to check Twitter for that. But, it was really a much more boring reason than that.
IESB: At what point during production did you know that you were on the right track and that things were going the way you wanted them to? Is that something you can even have a realization of while you're filming?
Chris: No, I don't think you do, until you get to sit in the editing room and take a look at things. In some ways, you can tell from the level of satisfaction of your actors. You can tell whether they film comfortable or not, and I go a lot based upon their feelings about how a scene is going. They're usually very good judges of the flow of a scene. But, you don't really know until you put it all together, and you don't really have the opportunity to do that until the very end. I knew it was a very good-looking film because (cinematographer) Javier Aguirresarobe is a genius. So, I was never in doubt of that, or of the production design because David Brisbin is brilliant. But, in terms of how it all worked when everything was cut together, you really don't have an idea until the end.
IESB: If length had been of no concern for you, is there anything from the book or the script that you wish you could have included?
Chris: Not really. I think the movie could have still been longer and fit in under the wire of how many screenings a day that you're supposed to have. But, there feels like a natural length and flow to every movie, and this one just felt right, in terms of the speed of the storytelling. There is another version that people can see eventually, in which every seen is extended and no bit of dialogue from the script is missed out, and I think that that could be very satisfying for the very hardcore fan, but this is pretty much how I planned it out to be.
IESB: Looking back on the process of making New Moon, from pre-production to the finalization of the DVD, what will you remember most about the experience? Was there anything that you learned about directing or filmmaking that you'll carry with you to future projects?
Chris: What I learned was the power of a devoted audience, in supporting the filmmaker's efforts. I felt incredibly supported by the fans throughout the process. And then, to see their enjoyment and anticipation was such a visceral experience that you don't usually get to have on a memory. What I learned, as a director, was that very early on I promised myself and the actors that I would never rush them along or expect them to do something, just because it was a movie and we had a schedule to meet, and that we could always talk things through, no matter what. When I worked with my brother, I was probably the guy who was less likely to talk with the actors, and this was a full commitment to always engaging with them, and that's something I'll always take with me.
IESB: With the reception for New Moon being so overwhelming and favorable for the final outcome of the film, would you consider coming back to helm the last film, if that were to present itself, or have you moved on from the Twilight Saga?
Chris: I wouldn't say it's so much that I've moved on. It's just a very daunting prospect for someone with a young family to imagine taking on what I think will probably be an 80-day shoot. It may have moved on from me. I think the best set-up for this series of films may be that there's a new filmmaker for each one.
IESB: After being involved with something this special, how do you follow it up next?
Chris: I like to just change things around, as much as possible, when I can. And so, the next thing that I'm going to do is called The Gardener, and it's a story of an undocumented Mexican immigrant in East Los Angeles and his son. It's a very simple story, but with some really grand themes to it. The continuity is that I'm doing it at Summit because they have shown a lot of faith and belief in me, but it is a film that is being made on a much smaller scale.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON is being released on DVDand BLU-RAY on March 20th