Shane Acker Talks 9 and Beyond
BD: And the environments, which have a very Eastern European painterly influence?
SA: We wanted it to work on lots of different levels. So when you get close to the characters, there will always be more detail revealed to you. We knew that we would be spending a lot of time with our characters and so we put a lot of detail and texture into them, which make them believable. And then on the environments, we were able to take other liberties with them, based upon the camera and things like that. We did a lot of painterly things with that. But somehow it works because when you're close, the characters feel believable and tactile, and then when you're in the vista, it feels like they're moving through these paintings so it feels more romantic, lyrical, like a fable. It is this alternate reality world, this ruined "Stitchpunk" world, and it becomes a dark, urban, post-apocalyptic fairy tale. Plus you'll get there so much quicker by doing a painting then by putting all the details in for one rendering.
BD: And what was it like having Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov shepherding your movie?
SA: Tim Burton coming on the project when he did and validating it and putting his name out there and supporting the vision that we had, as well as finding the writer [Pamela Pettler] and getting the studio, too, to buy it. And then as we went, just having that support team there, where whenever we got a big mouth done or we got a new cut of the film, we would present it to them and they had this critical distance from the film, because I had been in the trenches for so long and could see it with fresh eyes and talk about the larger ideas or the big picture notes. This allowed me to step back and see it through their eyes and strategize and go back into the trenches and to know how to push from the inside out.
And in the end, they were both making films, but then Timur finished Wanted, so I got to spend more time with him, which was an amazing experience.
BD: What was he like?
SA: He's like this unedited stream of crazy and inventive ideas, so he's like this endless well, where, if you have a problem, and he'll constantly come up with ideas. Some work, some don't. But while some may seem crazy, when you step back, you realize there's something to it. And so it was fun having that crazy spirit. And then doing recuts with him, seeing how even in editing if you massage it a certain way, you can change the perception of the characters, you can make them stronger, you can make them more vulnerable as well as upping the ante and the excitement of the film.
BD: So, let's switch gears and talk about your becoming an artist in residence at Gnomon.
SA: Yeah, well Alex Alvarez and I have had a loose connection for a while and he approached me before I started 9 about being an artist in residence at The Gnomon School and developing short films with the students there, which I thought was an amazing opportunity. And then when 9 was wrapping up, I called Alex and said, "Hey, do you still have that position over there?" Because there's something very liberating and you always want to keep developing stuff and broadening your horizons as an artist. These feature films take years and years and they also take a lot of time to set up, so the opportunity to go and make a little short where the stakes aren't as high and you can take more risks and explore and push yourself as an artist was really appealing to me. So when he said that the position was still open, I leapt at the opportunity. You know, you always have these stories rolling around in your head and spending four years on 9, I certainly have a backlog of ideas for shorts. And I had one ready-made that I pitched, which fits the aesthetic of the school, so it felt like it was right up their alley.