TO many first time directors, the pressure of helming their first feature film would have proved impossible to bear.
But to Duncan Jones – director of Moon, and a self-confessed geek – it was like being let loose in a giant toy set.
Jones and his crew worked like demons to get the film made, but a lifetime of sci-fi fandom gave him a sound and deepening affiliation with the genre to draw upon.
To show he can walk the walk as well as talk the talk, he said: “I would extend my range of geekery to be fair. I’m a hard core PC computer gamer, and have been for decades, I loved 2000AD, (the British comic equivalent to Heavy Metal,) I think the new Battlestar Galactica is WAY ahead in script writing terms from what most Sci-fi feature films are doing, and I used to play the Space Hulk board game.
Warming to the subject, he added: “I read JG Ballard before the kids thought he was cool, I prefer the Ghost in the Shell anime film to the tv series, and I’m down enough to know many fellow sci-fi geeks will think I’m a fool for feeling that way.
“I believe in Alan Moore’s curse on film adaptions, I think the Wachowski brothers shot their wad on the original Matrix and had nothing left to give in the sequels, and believe it or not, I called that before the sequels came out, much to the dismay of my buddies, who were convinced all three films would be spectacular.
“I think JJ has done a very good thing with Star Trek, and I think that ONLY James Cameron should ever touch the Terminator franchise, as he is God, and Ridley Scott is the holy ghost… and I believe “Avatar” will melt our brains. I don’t know.. would you say I was a sci-fi geek?”
Whew … based on that, I would say he is an uber-geek, which could be why he poured so much of that love into Moon and also what influenced his next project.
Called Mute, it will be a hard edged noir thriller set in a future-version of Berlin.
He said: “Moon is a very quiet, intimate film about alienation and loneliness. The next film will have a closer spiritual kinship to Blade Runner than anyone else has managed to pull off.
“I really feel I know something about about the spirit of BR that no one else gets, and I hope to capture that in my film.”
As he did with Moon, Jones will be looking to make the most of his budget and sets to create an immersive and convincing experience. On Moon he collaborated closely with production designer Tony Noble and concept artist Gavin Rothery to capture the look and feel of beloved sci-fi films while taking advantage of their own up-to-date effects expertise.
“I had a background in effects-heavy commercials in Britain,” says Jones, “In particular those jobs that blended computer generated effects with live action photography. It gave me a confidence and awareness of which effects would be most cost effective, where we could get the biggest bang for our buck.
“We knew that by using some old school techniques like model miniatures, a retro (and cost effective) production design, and then by building a layer of contemporary CG effects on top, we could create a hybrid live action/CG style. It would create a sumptuous and textured look; beyond what you get with pure CG. But it’s something you don’t see much of in feature films.”
As befits a story line about a nuts-and-bolts mining operation, “We wanted the base and its vehicles to have the same “grit and big boots” feel as the old sci-fi we missed, as opposed to the more contemporary (but wimpier) iPod-style glass and touch-screen design most sci-fi seems to go for these days.
“Things would look like they were made of concrete. The architecture would look engineered and have hard angles. Tony Noble pulled off miracles to make our visualizations a reality.”
That attention to detail inside the station was mirrored with the Moon’s surface itself, with Jones and his team working with Bill Pearson – a modeller who worked on Alien (shot in the same studio as Moon) – to create models and sections of the lunar surface.
Duncan added: “As a bible for the look of the lunar exteriors, we relied on Full Moon by Michael Light, an amazing collection of NASA photos from the Apollo missions, filled with beautiful, high-contrast 70mm photography of the moon from both space and its surface. It gave me a very clear idea of what I wanted the exteriors of our film to look like.
“With Bill and then the help of the fantastic London special-effects house Cinesite, we enhanced the models and digitally extended the landscapes.”
While such techno wizardry helps create the illusion on the big screen, Jones is also a keen user of modern day technology in every day life, including Twitter, which is how this interview came about.
After only a few days of following Duncan (@ManMadeMoon) on the social networking site, he very graciously agreed to answer some of my inane ramblings, which should tell you something about the character of the man and why everyone reading this should see Moon at least once!
Moon is released in America on June 12 and then in the UK on July 17 2009.