Directors and studios can both have final cut; the stunt crew can show off intricate
details their dangerous tricks; the modelmakers get equal time with the director; deleted
scenes are no longer forgotten for a generation; alternative endings are valuable assets;
and a documentary – even a documentary series – is a part of the filmmaking
process, all thanks to DVD.
"the full potential of DVD"
"It’ll alter people’s perception of DVD and it will tell us a lot more
about DVD as a medium," says Michele Garra (pic), Managing Director of Columbia TriStar
Home Video, about the release of Men In Black. "This is going to alter the perception
of movie watching: now we’ll be debating what to watch first, the trailer, the
commentary, the making of – or the movie itself."
Filmmakers, she says, can now look at the full potential of DVD: ‘it’s no
longer a question of seeing a film in widescreen versus full screen." A lot of the
extra material on Men In Black was purpose-generated, and has taken two layers on both
sides of two discs, making this the first ‘DVD 18’ release in Australia, and
only the 11th in the world. And it took the best part of a year to produce,says Garra.
But it’s not just new blockbusters that are repackaged this way. JAWS 25th
anniversary edition on DVD carries interviews with Steven Spielberg and others in the
filmmaking team, looking back on the making of that historic film. In August 2000,
celebrating the 30th anniversary of its theatrical release, Night of the Living
Dead is out on DVD; as well as the original 1968 cult classic, the DVD offers a remastered, re-edited and re-scored version, with an extra 15 minutes of new scenes, audio
commentary by cast and crew, plus the music video of Living Dead Beats by Sek (see CLIP).
Men in Black has pushed DVD possibilities even further with a fervour that has set a
new benchmark for DVD releases – 13 hours of interactive entertainment for a single
release (on the Limited Edition box set; even the standard issue DVD has nine hours!)
"Never has there been such a happy confluence of
It’s one thing seeing a movie in the new world of premier class cinema –
bottle of wine in the rack, nibbles on the little table by your leg, girl/boy on your arm
in the love seat – but that’s just the start. Having spent x*&%# million
dollars on making it, the filmmakers can finally get their money’s worth and show it
to us all in grisly detail – from the scraps of deleted footage to the nuances of
alternate endings – on the film’s DVD release.
Whether it is the mind numbing detail of countless digital effects shots or the
intimate revelations of a director talking about his favourite scenes having to be chopped
out, the DVD is both a commercial Christmas for the producers and a creative outlet for
the filmmakers. Never has there been such a happy confluence of interests.
No, in Snow Falling on Cedars, Scott Hicks could not include a favoured scene between a
Japanese father and his son in the moonlit snow as father explained about honour and its
symbol, the traditional sword. But it’s there on the DVD. And it’s there with
Hicks’ commentary on the matter.
Never before have filmmakers had the opportunity to show the public what they wanted
to make, as well as talk directly to them. If this isn’t revolutionary in filmmaking
terms, Alfred Hitchcock was a plumber. And while DVD has been around for a little while
(in technology terms it’s hardly new, despite its late arrival in Australia), it is
only now being recognised as a completely new form of entertainment – not just a new
platform to deliver movies. Unlike the ubiquitous video, the DVD is digitally state of the
art, instantly searchable, higher in audio visual quality and capable of carrying far more
The additional features are at an additional cost: it cost Columbia US$250,000 just to
create the special menus on the DVD release and the whole process takes time –
collating all the material and producing it. But the long term implications are unique and
profound for moviemakers and audiences: it is creating archival material yet with instant
Men in Black is a fun movie: it was created as a comic book fantasy adventure, but
instead of belittling itself, it called on the most creative filmmaking talent to stretch
its inventive wings and come up with something that would blend escapism with fantasy,
drama with humour and a sense of awe. In doing so, it generated enormous amounts of effort
from a vast number of people, and until DVD came along, all that effort would remain
behind the scenes. Of course, some people don’t want to see behind the scenes, like
they don’t want to discover the tricks in magic tricks.
Fine. They can still enjoy the superb audio visual quality in surround sound and goggle
eye clarity of the DVD, a totally different experience to watching a film on ‘old
"there is a richer – or enriching - experience to
be had with every movie"
Where Men in Black meets the hype of simultaneous world wide release, with a Limited
Edition version that goes that extra mile, is that it is a film that can carry the weight
of all this extra information-cum-entertainment. And make no mistake, that’s what
it’s about. For the consumer, the upside is that there is a richer – or
enriching - experience to be had with every movie. Garra says the studio expects to ship
about 40,000 copies of the Deluxe Edition and 15,000 copies of the Limited Edition. And
come Christmas, the DVD of Gladiator will follow in Men’s footsteps.
And look at it this way: if you watch enough DVDs like these, you’ll learn as much
about movie making as a $10,000 film school course could teach you – all in the
comfort of your own home.
(August 31, 2000)