Interview with DVD producer Charlie de Lauzirika
It has become something of a truism in the DVD business that a DVD release of Ridley Scott's films has come to be something to look forward to, given the sheer quality and depth of the supplementary materials that are regularly assembled for the releases. This is in no small part thanks to Charlie de Lauizrika, who has been responsible for Scott Free's DVD production ever since the acclaimed DVD release of Alien, which soon leapt to the top of many film fans' DVD favourites. Now, with the recent excellent release of Thelma and Louise and the eagerly awaited upcoming DVDs of Legend and Speed, it would be fair to say that his skills are in some demand. And yet he still found time to discuss the growth of DVD, filmmakers criticising themselves, and, er, that sex scene in Thelma and Louise...
DVDTimes: On the Thelma and Louise DVD, there is a very in-depth documentary, on which you manage to have interviews with virtually all the major cast and crew; were the logistics of getting them all to participate at all difficult?
Charlie de Lauzirika: Ridley sent out letters to all of the cast, inviting them to participate. So obviously, that was a big help right there, in terms of opening doors. And pretty much everyone was interested. At that point, it was mostly just a case of scheduling everyone. We almost didn't get Brad Pitt, but at the last minute, we got the go-ahead to drive up to his house and interview him. He was extremely accomodating and friendly, allowing us to invade his home with our gear and set-up shop. But considering his impact on the film, I felt it was very important to interview him for the documentary.
DVDTimes: The supplements on the disc are very strong, but the oft-discussed extended version of the Brad Pitt/ Geena Davis sex scene is absent; for the benefit of those interested in that kind of thing(ahem), was it omitted on the requests of the stars, or simply because the material wasn't available?
CDL: We had the material but it was an extremely graphic scene. When shooting explicit scenes like this, actors place a huge amount of trust in the director not to exploit them in the final product, and to reveal that footage would have been clearly exploitative. However, a few seconds of that extra material does appear in "Thelma & Louise: The Last Journey," so you do get a glimpse at one of the more tame moments in an otherwise very hot scene.
DVDTimes: Given that Ridley Scott has indicated he would like to revisit much of his back catalogue, are you planning to be involved, and, if so, would films such as 1492 and Black Rain get 'proper' SE releases?
CDL: We recently started work on The Duellists, which is Ridley's first feature film. As such, there's not a lot of supplemental material available, but we'll do the best we can. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the future holds for Ridley's other films on DVD. Personally, I'd love to see a special edition of Black Rain, which I consider to be Ridley's most underrated film. But again, we'll see. And, of course, he's still a non-stop directing machine, currently prepping not one, but two big features for production in the near future, so there's plenty more on the way.
DVDTimes: You've just worked on the recent SE of Legend, which is being presented in its director's cut for the first time. Especially given that this has been one of the most eagerly awaited DVD releases for some time, was it a logistical nightmare to co-ordinate everything?
CDL: The short answer: Yes. Logistical, political, technical...you name it. The Legend DVD was an extremely problematic job on many fronts. Ultimately, however, all of that effort was aimed at creating the best DVD possible for a film which had been maligned and mistreated over the last 17 years. It's not like Universal is going to want to revisit this title over and over like some of their bigger box office hits. It was very important that we get this one right the first time. And thanks to Universal's support, generosity and patience, we finally got through it. It wasn't easy, but I hope the final result is enjoyed and appreciated by the very fans we made this disc for.
DVDTimes:Given that Tony Scott has recently recorded a commentary for Spy Game, would you, as the Scott Free producer, perhaps get involved in getting him to revisit his older films?
CDL: Tony and I have already spoken about creating special editions for some of his older films. And he's certainly interested. There are a few special editions already in the works or awaiting release, like Crimson Tide and True Romance, which were put together outside of Scott Free by other DVD producers. For example, my involvement on Crimson Tide and Spy Game was limited to directing the commentaries with Tony and guiding him through the session by asking him questions or providing him with topics to discuss. My schedule is pretty full right now, but there are still a couple of Tony's films I'd like to put together for him on DVD. We'll see.
DVDTimes: In terms of forthcoming work, you're producing the Black Hawk Down DVD; can you give us any idea of what we can expect on it?
CDL:It's still in the works, but my goal is to present a respectful, informative balance between behind-the-scenes footage from the film and archival material on the actual event. We've got some really great stuff to work with. Columbia/TriStar Home Video has been very generous and supportive with the creation of this DVD, so I have high hopes for it.
DVDTimes: Do you feel that Columbia's new quasi-rental window structure is going to be benefical to DVD producers such as yourself in the long run- in that you have more time to prepare the discs- or ultimately harmful,as it might breed disinterest in the later 'special edition' discs?
CDL:I think all of the studios are experimenting with the format and the marketplace right now, trying out different release schedules, disc configurations, content quality and budget parameters. It's a simple fact of business that they want to find the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to get the highest profit. And since they're the ones paying the bills, DVD producers have to roll with the punches as best they can. Some studios are better than others in trying to maintain consumer satisfaction and upholding the coolness of DVD, and those are the studios I try to work with. But despite all of that, I certainly think we're entering a potentially dark time in DVD history. I'm particularly disturbed the mainstream threat to widescreen presentation, as well as the arrogant disregard of the filmmaker's vision by a couple of studios. Hopefully, DVD is just experiencing some growing pains, and we'll get through all of this uncertainty in the near future. Perhaps we need a new high-end format like HD-DVD or FMD designed specifically for the serious film buffs who were early adopters of DVD and now feel betrayed by the mainstreaming of the format.
DVDTimes: In terms of your other projects, you've recently produced Fox's upcoming special edition of Speed. Was it at all difficult to assemble supplementary material for a film of that type, by making the extras as interesting as possible without just recycling EPK material?
CDL: The biggest challenges on Speed were time and money, or the lack thereof. We really had to approach this disc with a down and dirty film school style to fill up the two discs we had. But at the same time, I didn't want there to be a lot of fluff, so we did our best to focus on the things that made Speed such an entertaining film. There's an emphasis on the visual effects and the stunts, but the DVD also goes into the script and characters, as well as some very candid self-criticism in one of the commentary tracks. On the whole, it was a fun disc to work on and that's why I enjoy working with Fox.
DVDTimes: What films are you going to be working on in the near future?? Have you any dream projects you'd like to work on?
CDL: I've got about eight or nine other DVDs penciled in right now, but it's too early to mention titles. Many of them are for what I now have to call "non-Ridley DVDs." And a couple of them are really big titles, so that's pretty exciting. My dream DVD project remains Blade Runner, but there are a few others that I occasionally fantasize about as well, such as the much-maligned Alien 3. Ultimately, my dream is to finish out the current slate of discs, take a vacation and then get focused on filmmaking again.
DVDTimes: Finally, which other DVDs would you, as a DVD producer, say are really well done examples of the medium?
CDL: Well, for my money, no one does it better than Criterion. They consistently produce the classiest and most thoughtful supplemental content out there, along with very elegant packaging and menus. Among my favorite Criterion DVDs are Brazil, The Beastie Boys Video Anthology, The Last Temptation of Christ, 8 1/2, and The Third Man. I also love the laserdiscs they produced for Seven and The Game. I'm a big fan of Anchor Bay, and their loving treatment of so many obscure titles. And there are several other independent DVD producers who I follow as well, and I honestly believe that, if the studios gave us a bit more creative control, you'd see more comprehensive, cohesive DVD experiences that rival Criterion's best work.
Many thanks to Charlie de Lauzirika, all at DNA PR, and Raph for, as ever, 'technical support'...