24 August 2006 | Chip_douglas
The brave little Fan Film that could
Interesting documentary that shows how just six minutes of "The World of Tomorrow" evolved from a internet production to the big screen "Skycaptain" summer release. The behind the scenes footage in between the interviews has a tendency to resemble home movies shot during the production. Indeed, we see the origin of the project: One man, Kerry Conway struggling behind a couple of computers rendering away on a home movie dated 1998. He struggled away on his Apple II for 4 years and created a six minute short (chapter one) using the 1930's serials for inspiration, period pictures as backgrounds, hand made computer animations and a couple of friends as actors. Although Kerry was the brains behind this serial, he would not have come far without his brother Kevin and his attic full of concept drawings and designs on the wall (even though he claims 'not to like drawing that much'). Realizing that to finish his picture at this rate would take about 40 years, the Conway brothers took their short and a model robot to the only Hollywood insider known to Kevin's wife, Marsha Oglesby. When she in turn showed it to Jon Avnet, Kerry got the break of the century: before he knew it he was finishing his dream as writer/director and had two Oscar winning actresses at his command. Even his ample imagination could not have imagined this.
Obviously the casting was mainly left up to producer Avnet, the man with all the connections who proclaimed himself the only non-nerd involved in this show. Avnet also forced the shy Conway to come out of his shell and actually meet the cast for a script reading in London about 9 months prior to shooting. As preparation for his first time directing, Kerry supervised the creation of three versions of his film before the actual shooting got underway, using a recording of the the script reading as a guideline. First the story was told in 3D Storyboards, then by pre-viz (crude computer animation) and penultimately he shot a version with extras. So when it came to do it with the actual actors, at least Kerry knew what every shot was going to look like.
Meanwhile 'Skycaptain' was attracting cast and crew willing to work for nothing (or next to) based on Kerry's six minute short alone. Jude Law got a producers credit for himself and then wife Sadie Frost.Not wanting to be left behind, co producer Oglesby booked the cheapest accommodation to work in, which happened to be Van Nuys, Porn capital of the USA.: no coffee, no air-co and not enough toilets, only a World Of Tomorrow (WOT) Totenkopf sign above the door. Still, Principal photography was held on a more respectable place: Elstree Studios, London, where Kerry planned to shoot the entire picture without any props in 20 days. They came close: ending up with one complete set and 29 shooting days. The fact that every other shot was done against blue screen is repeated Ad Nauseam by Kerry on his disc one audio commentary. Should have been warned of his repetitive nature after all those running gags in the film.
Back at the clubhouse in Adulttown, Conway's original idea of using mainly period pictures as backgrounds was deemed to restricting, and Avner absolutely refused to release the film in Black and White, meaning the expanding organization of WOT found itself hiring up to 100 young computer animators to finish the effects and recolor everything in sepia tones. Originally Kerry thought he would only have to expand by five people, but he proved extremely flexible whenever one of his young turks would suggest an alteration or put in a little homage of his own. However, of the 100 new people only about five got paid.
Although near the end of production some of the shots had to be send out to other effect companies in order to be finished in time, this documentary sticks to the main WOT production team (if they didn't get paid, at least give them this change in the spotlight) and shows the crew celebrating their own WOTstock, before leaving one by one, until only an empty hangar is left. As has become tradition in DVD features such as these, it ends just before the opening of the film, during the cast and crew premiere, so we won't have to go into what the critics thought of it. Looking at all the work done to bring one man's internet fan film to the big screen, you might say Kerry Conway got all the breaks Ed Wood never had.
8 out of 10 Giant Robots prefer Tentacles to Wings