The School of ‘Panic Room’

26 09 2005

Was watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT the other night. Great movie! The extra features on the DVD, however, even more. One behind-the-scenes featurette covered almost everything from storyboarding sessions to the finished product in detail, complete with ADR recording, wild sound recording, costuming etc. While it’s a common feature on DVDs, I hadn’t seen any that has step by step progression of filmmaking in such detail. Being a big sound guy, I was amazed to learn that the sound recordist was essentially the director of all things sound in the film, even directing actors re: sounds and noises. The film has an amazing look and feel, and the DVD shows the viewer how exactly the filmmakers have acquired that. For aspiring filmmakers and established filmmakers alike, behind the scenes features are a great way to learn how other filmmakers work. You can’t have a better tool for learning with a pause and rewind button.

Sound desginers would appreciate extras on ‘Spider-Man 2’ and ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ DVDs, especially the latter where the car chase sceen is broken down into several segments that viewers are able to check out as an interactive feature.

Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Mexico’ bears a ’10 minute filmmaking school’ extra that pretty much gives the viewer an insight to his philosophy of filmmaking, which is a ‘who gives a rats ass how it’s done, this is how I do it, and so can you’ approach. Must admit to loving that approach meself.

All this was well and nice until I got the 3-disc set of David Fincher’s PANIC ROOM. Hands down the best extra features put in a collection. Worth every penny! Disc 1 has the feature with two separate commentary traks. Disc 2 deals with pre-production and production phase of the movie. Let me tell you what that contains, because it’s like going to film school with Fincher. The disc includes footages of every camera test, lighting test, and lens test they’ve donee before filming as well as provided tech specs of lens and lighting. It has footages of all the explosion tests, Previs demos, storyboard demos with two commentary tracks as well as two separate tracks with production sound and final mix of the first 20-30 mins of the movie. The production section features an hourlong documentary called ‘Shooting Panic Room’. For someone like me who always has a ‘How was that done?’ question when watching a film, these features are manna from heaven. It’s almost as good as being on the set. At least it was for me.

Disc 2 does the same. Separate sections on Scoring, Digital Intermediate, Sound Design, VFX, and a great section where certain parts of the film are demoed from the script stages to final mix, complete with footages of dailies and tests.

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors and to be able to see his approach to filmmaking in such detail is extra special. This is a must see or have, if you ain’t broke like me, for any filmmaker.

Did you know?

Nicole Kidman was cast and had worked for 3 weeks on Panic Room. After she had to leave the production due to an illness or something, Jodie Foster was cast in the last minute. Foster, eager to work with Fincher, left the Cannes Film Festival jury board and flew to work.

Useless information, you say. So why read this far, pal?

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