B Movies

B MOVIES….Joss Whedon gives me another reason to like Serenity today: it turns out that one of his goals in making it was to prove that you could shoot a good movie on a moderate budget:

When discussing how they did what they did, the crew of “Serenity” agrees that two things contributed to its ability to shoot what at first glance looked like an 80-day film in fewer than 50, and often just 10-hour days (as opposed to the standard 12 to 14) at that: the efficiency Whedon had learned as a television director and the familiarity many of the crew had with one another.

“In TV the attitude is: ‘Tell me what we have and we’ll build around that,’ ” says Whedon. “Feature filmmaking seems more like, ‘Give me everything and then I’ll choose.’ ”

….Whedon made it a point never to ask for more than he needed. “People would say, ‘You’re going to need this and that,’ and I’d be like, ‘Not so much.’ If I only needed three walls, we only built three, and if someone asked, ‘Well, what if you want to do this other shot?’ I said, ‘Well, we just won’t.’ “

I like a big budget extravaganza as well as the next guy, but I’ve long been convinced that what Hollywood needs more of is good B movies: not trash, and not art films, but solid stories and decent productions that can be made without a lot of risk and without relying on big stars or a huge effects budget. I know the reality of moviemaking doesn’t favor productions like that anymore, but it’s what I’d like to see more of.

On a slightly different note, though, I have to admit I was taken aback by a description of how they filmed a chase scene early in the movie. It involves a speeder full of bad guys pursuing a speeder full of good guys on a distant planet. On film, the sequence takes about ten minutes:

The physical nature of the setup…let Whedon focus on directing the actors rather than the action, which made the shoot go faster. “Traditionally this would have been, like, a 30-day shoot,” Peristere says. “I think we did it in five.”

Damn. They’d normally spend 30 days on a sequence like that? That boggles my mind not so much for the money involved, but for the idea of actors spending 30 days shooting a scene in which all they do is sit huddled together in a speeder pretending to be shot at. How could any human being stand that?