This weekend, Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow makes his blockbuster directorial debut with Jurassic World. With just days to go before it hits theaters, I got the chance to sit down with Mr. Trevorrow for an exclusive interview.
Going from a $750,000 independent movie to a $150 million tentpole flick is quite a big step forward for a director. I asked Trevorrow if he had to learn or experience anything new to work on a tentpole film like this. He responded:
Everything (was new to me); but you know, I didn't really have any kind of training to do what I did on (Safety not Guaranteed) either. I've always been somebody who benefits from being thrown into the pool without knowing how to swim and having to learn very quickly. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who are the absolute best at what they do and I absorbed at a rapid pace how things get done.
Trevorrow added that he was partially given the confidence to direct Jurassic World by a visit to the set of Brad Bird's newest film, Tomorrowland.
I had the fortune of my friend and mentor to me, Brad Bird, inviting me up to the set of Tomorrowland to watch him for a few days. I spent three days watching him direct, and I think that in that very short time period, I left feeling confident that I could do it. I say that without any arrogance at all. It really is something that is instinct-based and if you know what you want and you know what you want to see, then this is something that anyone can do.
When bringing a new Jurassic Park movie to life, Trevorrow looked to the previous films to get a sense of what elements he wanted to incorporate in the new one. He said that there were several elements he loved about the original Jurassic Park that he wanted to fold into his newest film.
What I loved about Jurassic Park is that it had an equation that we got to apply to this movie...people go to a place that they are convinced is going to safe and wondrous and full of joy and happiness, when it is full of terror and death. I think that that is a great recipe for horror and I love that it was applied to a science-fiction dinosaur movie.
Trevorrow went on to say that while he wanted to pay tribute to the previous Jurassic Park films, he wanted to make his addition to the series feel new.
A lot of it it was pushing back against instincts I had to just do the thing that I knew and loved. We wrote a new story and that's something that had been attempted by all of the drafts that came before us. A lot of smart writers attempted to make something that was different and that was pushing the franchise forward. I think if anything, ours took steps back a little bit closer to Jurassic Park, which I guess could be considered safe. But we found ideas that were Steven's that allowed us to push into a new territory regarding our relationship with animals and the use of these animals in war. Animals have been used in wars since the beginning of humanity. There were a lot of very potent ideas that we were able to push over that would take away from just people running and screaming.
In order to bring these ideas to life, Trevorrow stated that he aimed to blend CG and animatronic effects to provide an overall satisfying experience on screen. For example, he would shift towards CG during the more fast-paced scenes while using practical effects in the more emotional moments.
He also went on to say that CG in general often gets a bad rap nowadays as an overused medium. Trevorrow argued that both practical and CG effects can have an equal amount of heart put into them. When asked about how CG and animatronics were utilized, Trevorrow stated:
We did use animatronics where we could and where it made the most sense. It still is a movie where most of the dinosaurs are CG animated one way or another. Even when they're motion capture there's still obviously a CG element. I feel like 'CG' has almost become a derogatory term. I try to point out that the people who do this, the men and women who make these animals, are some of the best animators in the world. It is a craft, and it is an art. What you are seeing here is the best animators in the world doing their work at the highest possible level. At ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) we've got the A Team on this movie because everybody who was there was inspired to be there because of Jurassic Park when they were kids. They wanted to be on this film. You're seeing a movie with visual effects that were executed with great care and a tremendous amount of time, research and passion...I think that we appreciate CG when it's done well...in these circumstances, I think the work that was done on this film is going to be well received and well regarded.
In addition to mixing CG and practical effects, Trevorrow had the responsibility of mixing genres. Much like the previous Jurassic Park films, Jurassic World is a blend of action, comedy, sci-fi and horror. When asked how he handled the tonal shifts, Trevorrow said:
...very carefully and with great restraint and care. Both of my films that I've been fortunate enough to make so far don't necessarily have a genre classification. They balance many different tones like comedy, romance, mystery, action and obviously war. That is something that I consider my great challenge as a filmmaker. That's what I'm most interested in trying to continue to do. If anything, I think it will define what is is that I'm trying to do with all of the films that I'm making next. Something that is the most attractive to me is to continue to remix things and see what kind of new sounds we can make.
So what is next on Mr. Trevorrow's plate after such a huge film like Jurassic World? Trevorrow says that he's planning on something that's a much smaller production but with no less heart put into it.
I have plans. I have a movie called Book of Henry that I'm going to do in the fall. It is an incredible screenplay that I actually was going to do before (Jurassic World), and then this came along. (Book of Henry) just never went away from me, I just have to tell the story. I think that even for people who love big sci-fi summer blockbusters, those are people who love cinema and good movies. Book of Henry is just a great story; it's sort of a family drama that evolves into a suspense thriller. It's awesome.
On the contrary, Book of Henry isn't the only film Trevorrow has in the works. He has big plans to team up with producers Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall once again for a sci-fi family thriller involving extraterrestrial life.
I'm doing a movie after that called Intelligent Life which is kind of a sci-fi romantic thriller that I'm doing for Amblin for Steven and Frank. That's priority for me. Amblin is a brand that is something that I think we may have lost sight of how valuable that is. I don't know if those kinds of movies and stories. I feel like they still have a place and that there is a hunger for them. Something I consider a priority is to try and encourage other filmmakers to start thinking about those kinds of stories again and making new Amblin movies...There is a place in the market place for this kind of family entertainment.
Looks like audiences have quite a lot to look forward to.