Crank 2 Directors Neveldine/Taylor: 'Pretty Soon, We'll Shoot a Movie On Our Blackberries'
Though many directors have tried to mimic a grindhouse aesthetic with the luxury of a ton of money, directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are building their Crank series on the two things an actual low budget can best provide: ingenuity and innovation. As they prepare to release Crank: High Voltage today, both men talked to Movieline about their dangerous camera setups (handled by the directors themselves), the choice to shoot the film on consumer-grade cameras, and where they plan to go from here (hint: it won't involve the Josh Brolin-starring Jonah Hex, which they recently departed). Oh, and Corey Haim. Naturally.
How do you deal with all the producers and insurance people who are like, "No, you absolutely cannot be shooting in such a dangerous position?"
NEVELDINE: We do have issues about that with insurance, but at the end of the day they want the movie to look fast and cool and all of that, and we're the willing participants. It's really the only way we know how to do it. We've been working this way since we first started and we've never done anything where we couldn't hold the cameras in our hands -- that's just how it is.
Have you ever been in peril when shooting a take in these extreme situations?
TAYLOR: We don't think of it like that, but I'm sure we are. From an outsider perspective, when they see one of us on rollerblades hanging off the back of a car, yeah, it looks dangerous. But we kind of do it in our own controlled way, and if we feel like something's too insane, then we'll back off. One of us can skate better than he can walk, and we just have that affinity--
NEVELDINE: And one of us can walk better than he can skate. [laughs]
TAYLOR: One of the things that we've brought to the table that we think really separates us from other action filmmakers is that the reliance in recent years has been more and more on CG to get dynamic action. We've always felt like as great as CG is and as awesome as it is when it's pulled off right, there's always a little bit of a disconnect with the audience where they know they're not seeing something that's real. They know nobody was really in danger and that it was all created in a computer, and it kind of takes you off the hook as a viewer. Our feeling has always been that we want to get all the action in-camera so that when you watch it, you can feel that the operator was putting their ass on the line. It's almost like the making of the movie is as much of an action scene as the movie itself.
And you shot this using only inexpensive, consumer-grade cameras like you can find at retail stores?
NEVELDINE: It's more like, one camera was $999, the other camera was $3900! We also modified the cameras a little bit, tweaked them and tested them and really worked the image to make it look as good, if not better, than 35mm.
TAYLOR: We never use the same camera twice for anything. Even when we were doing commercials, we used pretty much every type of camera you can imagine. We just look at it as a paintbox or toolbox, and we want to use the right camera for the right project. We think we can get our look and our style of movement shooting with almost anything, so it's really what's best for the movie.
Are you guys big nerds when new cameras come out? Are you always, like, "Oooh, I want that to play with?"
NEVELDINE: We're kind of on top of that. We always stay in touch with Canon or Sony or Red about what's coming out, and we've been talking to Red about the latest incarnation of 3-D. We're on the internet all the time just seeing who's got the latest thing. Pretty soon, I think we'll both walk to set with Blackberries that have HD capabilities, and then we'll just shoot the movie on our little phones.
TAYLOR: We'll do a movie in 3-D Blackberry. It's gonna be amazing. [laughs]
Did you start to feel that evolution while making this movie?
TAYLOR: We developed ways of shooting a long time ago that nobody had really done before, and a big part of that is waiting for the technology to catch up to us. There were a lot of ideas that we had four years ago that we were only just now able to implement on Crank 2. Technology caught up, and cameras are now light enough and fast enough to do the things that we need. So Crank 2 was an incredible sort of breakthrough for us in terms of being able to get a lot of the shots that we've dreamed of for years.
TAYLOR: We built something that for sure had never been done before: we made a Matrix-style bullet-cam rig that you can actually pick up and run with. Normally those kind of shots, you have cameras in a fixed array and you can capture a single moment in time and freeze it and use it from different angles, but we were able to build rigs so lightweight but of such high quality that we were actually able to have an operator, i.e. Mark or myself, pick the thing up either on rollerblades or on foot and run with it and move around the subject the entire time. It's something that had never been possible before, but we'd been talking about it for years.
You have Corey Haim in your movie, sporting a mullet.
NEVELDINE: We actually wanted him for Crank 1!
But it didn't happen?
NEVELDINE: He was having an issue with the border between the U.S. and Canada at the time. That was back in 2005.
TAYLOR: Apparently he'd been tagged by Homeland Security as a threat? But we love Corey Haim, man. I mean, he's like that guy from the 80's that'll never die. He's so awesome. We were so happy to get him in [Crank 2].
Your movies definitely have a videogame aesthetic, and your next film, Game, is heavily inspired by first-person shooters. Have you ever been interested in adapting an already existing videogame for the screen?
NEVELDINE: For us, we would rather create our own environment, create our own world. It seems like sometimes you can set yourself up for failure when you take a videogame that kids love, that's its own entity, and you turn it into a movie. I mean, a lot of these games, these kids spend days, weeks, years with them, and kind of the last thing they want to see is a movie of this thing that they've basically lived with for so long. So it's not a huge interest. Videogames are really just a symptom of the disease that's our inspiration. Frankly, to us, [Crank 2] is not so much a videogame as it is the ultimate ADD movie. It's a movie that will just not stay still.
When you were adapting Jonah Hex, were you concerned about the same things? That it was a property that people were attached to?
NEVELDINE: Jonah Hex, no one really knew about. It was just an obscure comic and character that people loved. It definitely was a dark world that was fun to get out hands on, and it was fun to write. I think they're gonna have a fun time making it.
TAYLOR: The idea of writing a dark western was just so appealing. Writing a western is something that we'd had in our back pocket for some time, and Jonah Hex provided us the opportunity to do that. It was a very fun project for us, and we think the movie's gonna be awesome.
So what made you part ways with it?
TAYLOR: Mark and I have sort of been spoiled, being able to do what we want to do. Whenever we're in a situation where we feel like we can't make [a movie] exactly how we want to make it, it just has less interest for us, you know? But the great thing about Jonah Hex is that we love the script, we love the actors involved, we love the executives at Warner Bros involved, and we're totally happy being a part of that project. It doesn't have to be, like, this whole "Mark and Brian thing." We put our stamp on it, they love the script, and it's gonna be awesome. We have fifty other things we're doing, and we have no hard feelings toward anybody. ♦