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Moon - Duncan Jones (Blu-ray/DVD) interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

AS SCIENCE fiction hit Moon makes its way onto Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, November 16, director Duncan Jones talks about how life has changed for him since winning such universal critical and audience approval, what the future holds in store and how he’s been able to get where he is today…

Q. Blu-ray must be an absolute gift for directors given the clarity and quality of the discs?
Duncan Jones: Well, clear and quality and also storage. You can put a load of stuff on there. And although this is a little independent film we did have a fair amount of stuff that we wanted to put on as extra features. We had a couple of commentary tracks, a couple of making ofs… one on the production side and one on the special effects. We had this short film of mine, Whistle, that I wanted people to be able to see because it was only ever shown late night on Film 4. It’s kind of a 26-minute long featurette that’s neo-future sci-fi. We’ve also got some Easter eggs and Q&As from various places around the world. So, there’s a lot of stuff on there for a film of this size.

But obviously, the quality of the Blu-ray as well is really something I’m very happy with. When we decided to make Moon we decided to shoot on 35mm and we had all of these amazing special effects – you know, practical effects and also the CG work that Cinesite did. It is a big screen movie, it’s a theatrical movie and I think the Blu-ray experience is pretty much as close as you’re going to get to that at home. So, for me, it’s my preference that people actually see it like that.

Q. We spoke prior to Moon‘s theatrical release when there was a lot of buzz surrounding it. How has life changed for you since its release?
Duncan Jones: It’s been amazing. I’ve been travelling pretty much since January and Sundance, which has been mad. But that’s because we had a very small cast and Sam Rockwell was shooting other films, so there really weren’t that many people available to do the support for the film and to evangelise on behalf of it. That’s been my job for the past nine or 10 months. I’ve enjoyed doing it… I’m obviously looking forward to moving on to the next thing but I’ve also been very keen to let everyone else know about how passionate we were about making this film. So, going to the festivals around the world and doing any kind of support I could, doing all the press that I can, has been part of the filmmaking experience for me. I would imagine that as I move into hopefully bigger budget films and studio films, that’ll be less my job and more somebody else’s But at this stage, for an independent film, you have to do it yourself.

Q. Do you feel there’s a buzz generating around you now as a director? Has it been easier for you to move on to that next film?
Duncan Jones: I think so. We’ll see what happens but literally now is the time where I’m going to discover whether all of this has paid off. The good thing is that theatrically we’ve done really well. I think it’s made about $5 million in the US and is still going. We’ve made about £1.5 million here in the UK. It’s started to come out in various countries around the world. It came out in Australia and did gangbusters… amazing business on its opening weekend there. So, it’s working. I know the film comes out in Korea next month and they seem to have a real passion for it, because they’re opening it on the same number of screens as they did here in the UK. So it’s a 50-screen plus opening there. Korea is a real sort of cinematic nation – people really go and see movies there. So, it’s all been a lovely surprise to see how it’s gone over.

Q. What do you think, with hindsight, is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the whole experience?
Duncan Jones: Well, one thing I’ll definitely do is that in order to promote the film we had to release an awful lot of trailers, clips and elements of the film that I would rather have kept just until people saw it. So, I will definitely be baking into any budgets for future projects extra money and extra scripts… just little tiny bits of scenes that we can shoot that will be released as clips separately from the actual film itself. There’s this other science fiction film I want to make called Mute, which is kind of a companion piece to Moon. Right now, we have a script for the film but what I’m also going to do is write four or five little half-page scripts that I’ll shoot at the same time as we shoot the film, so that when we release the film we can actually release those instead of anything from the film.

Q. Do you stay in touch with Sam Rockwell?
Duncan Jones: Yeah, yeah. We had a good catch-up at a recent awards festival and we’re very, very keen to work together again. We’ll find something… whatever I do next I’ll find a way to get him in it somehow!

Q. Will he feature in Mute?
Duncan Jones: Yes, he’ll do a little cameo. Because they’re in the same time-line he’ll actually be playing the same character he did in Moon, but just as a little epilogue.

Q. Is Mute your next project?
Duncan Jones: It’s a bit of a horse race right now. There are three different projects that are likely and it’s really which one gets financing first. Mute is the Berlin-based companion piece. There’s a World War II film called Escape From The Deep, which is based on the true story of an American submarine, which was sunk off the Pacific rim. It’s about the submariners that managed to escape from it. And then the third film is me dipping my toe into my first studio film, so I can’t really say anything about that [it’s since been revealed as Jake Gyllenhaal starrer Source Code].

Duncan Jones (right) directs Moon

Q. What’s been the most surprising aspect of the Moon success story?
Duncan Jones: It’s got to be the spectrum of the audience. When we showed it at Sundance and Sony Classics took it on to distribute in the US and Canada they were thinking this is a purist sci-fi film for purist sci-fi fans. But what we’ve all discovered to our delight is that actually it’s not. It’s very much a human story that appeals to audiences young and old, men and women, to science fiction fans and non-science fiction fans. It’s a human story and more audiences are aware of that than anyone expected.

Q. And what’s the weirdest or wackiest question you’ve had about Moon?
Duncan Jones: I’ve had a few but I think the funniest one came from a lovely old dear in New York who, having seen the film, told me how much she loved it and then asked me to explain the whole film to her at a Q&A. She said: “I loved your film, I thought it was very good but I didn’t understand it. Could you explain what happened?” So, I spent about 10 minutes just going through the plot of the film.

Q. How easy has it been to get to where you’re sat today?
Duncan Jones: Well, I turned 38 this year and I went to film school about 10 years ago. So, it’s been a long slog but a deliberate one and one that I’m happy with, pace-wise. I went to film school, after film school I made low-budget music videos and low-budget test commercials for a while. I used that to build up a show-reel, had my show-reel to work my way into commercials, worked my way up the commercials ladder doing bigger jobs there and that took about seven or eight years before I had the opportunity to make my first film. But I’m glad it happened that way because if I’d come straight out of film school and tried to make Moon I wouldn’t have known nearly enough, technically or had the right experience to be able to deal with it.

Q. How much did you learn from working with Tony Scott?
Duncan Jones: Composition and creating shots with depth. One of the little things he does that I’ve always loved is just having bits of texture and things dangling in front of the camera. It’s just a little silly thing but it just adds so much depth to your shots immediately. Funnily enough, I didn’t get to use that in Moon much because of the sparseness of the environment. But it’s always something that’s stuck with me – with both him and Ridley Scott as far as how they compose shots and what they actually put in the shot to give the shot depth. It’s a visual style I definitely will be steering towards as I make other films.

Q. What would your advice be to aspiring filmmakers?
Duncan Jones: Try and surround yourself with a group of people. What you need to make films is momentum and don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who have experience. So, if you haven’t made anything before find someone who has shot a couple of low budget films, someone who is a good camera operator or a good producer, or a good writer and start to get those people to gravitate towards you and get a little core team. You’ll find it much easier to get stuff off the ground if you have a little core team rather than doing it on your own. Once you are making your film, find a restaurant or somewhere that’s willing to stay open late – because you’re going to be doing a lot of late nights and you’re going to be starving after a shoot!

Q. So was it a lot of long hours and late night meals on Moon?
Duncan Jones: Oh yeah, a lot of long hours… 18-hour days for most of the time.

Q. So what is your proudest technical achievement on Moon?
Duncan Jones: The whole twinning effect. We really wanted to push the boundary on what had been done with that effect before and I think we really did. When we were making Moon we were looking at Dead Ringers and Adaptation as the two examples of the best of that effect. I’m quietly confident that we are now the best.

Q. Are you still going to dabble with the commercial world as well as making movies?
Duncan Jones: Absolutely. This commercial came about two weeks ago. We’ll shoot in a week and a half’s time. It’ll all be over in a week and a half after that. The time frame is so short and I can pay my rent afterwards and it’ll be fun because I’ll get to fiddle around with a few technical things I haven’t had the chance to do before. I think working in commercials keeps you sharp and up to speed with what’s going on in the technical side of the industry. If you only do feature films, then you’re only doing one film every two or three years and it’s very difficult, I would imagine, when you first go onto set to know what you’re doing. So, I think commercials are really a place in which to keep yourself honed.

Moon is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, November 16, 2009.