Interview

The Minds Behind the Butt-kicking Fight Club Special Edition DVD Tell the Tale of the Disc.

With its complex narrative structure, arresting visuals, and devious subtext, David Fincher's Fight Club practically begs for scene-by-scene dissection and analysis. The elaborate DVD Special Edition from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment facilitates such examination with a mind-boggling array of supplemental features -- including commentaries by cast and technicians, storyboards, concept drawings, behind-the-scenes vignettes, and much more, all compiled on a separate disc by Special Edition producer David Prior. A must-have item for anyone interested in how blockbuster films are made, Fight Club sets a new standard for the selection and presentation of extras on DVD. Recently Fincher and Prior discussed the two-disc set -- and the advantages of DVD in general -- with Barnes & Noble.com.
Barnes & Noble.com: (to David Prior) What was it about Fight Club that most attracted you?

David Prior: Well, I was really impressed by how funny it was. But much of the humor reveals itself very slowly; you really need to see the movie at least twice. It took me four viewings to decide that I loved it. Brad Pitt told me the same thing while we were putting the special edition together. That's the sign of a good movie: so much meat on the skeleton that you're still noticing new things after multiple viewings.

B&N.com: (to David Fincher) Do you feel the same way?

David Fincher: If viewers can't get everything the first time around -- if they can't have the complete cinematic experience -- it suggests to me that I haven't done my job correctly. But I do agree that some movies are multilayered and that they get better the more you see them. I love watching my favorite movies again and again, because I appreciate the thought given to the worlds they create. I can watch Chinatown, for example, about once a month. If people are eager to see Fight Club more than once, obviously I take that as a compliment.

B&N.com: (to Prior) So you were interested in working on the DVD at the outset?

DP: Oh yeah. I asked to be involved in preparing the Fight Club special edition. I'd been a fan of David's going back to Alien 3, which I thought was problematic but interesting. And Seven I loved. So, sure, I really looked forward to working with him on a project like this.

B&N.com: Did you approach the project with a master plan?

DP: No, not really. Without knowing for sure what assets existed, that would've been mere speculation. I wanted to do something that would be a little playful, maybe even a little subversive. I knew the tone I wanted, but I didn't know exactly how I could achieve it. The behind-the-scenes footage -- David's on-set documentation of the filming of all the major sequences -- became the backbone of the supplementals. And once I saw that we had footage of ancillary things like location-scouting trips, I realized there was a lot to work with.

B&N.com: Was material deliberately created or stockpiled with DVD in mind?

DF: I was aware of the format, although I wasn't fully versed in the technology behind it. But I had just finished contributing to the Criterion disc of Seven, so I had an idea what DVD could deliver. I knew that some things -- like the subliminal frames we included in the film -- would be best appreciated in video playback, where they could be viewed in freeze-frame. I also figured there was some value in documenting shooting of the major sequences, although at the time I had no idea David would be using that footage so extensively. As a viewer, I've always thought it interesting to see how a movie goes from two dimensions to three, so to speak. It's interesting to see how the layers go together. That's why we were careful to save everything and get all that behind-the-scenes footage.

B&N.com: There is an amazing number of cast and crew commentaries on this disc. Was it inordinately difficult to get everyone to participate?

DP: We had the usual problems with scheduling, but overall everyone involved loved the movie and felt an obligation to support it. And I think their enthusiasm really comes across in the commentaries. Brad [Pitt], Ed [Norton], and Helena [Bonham Carter] were all really, really helpful; you can tell how committed they were to the project.

B&N.com: The Fight Club DVD has more extras than practically anything else we've seen in this format to date. Is there anything you wanted to include but didn't get?

DP: There must be, but I couldn't tell you what! This is one project about which I have no dissatisfaction whatsoever. I'm really happy with the final product; I think it's a very comprehensive package.

B&N.com: What do you like best about it?

DP: The sense that the viewer is witnessing the filmmaking process. People are intrigued by the ability to see behind the scenes, and we had enough footage to give the full treatment to every sequence; every scene gets the same level of intensity. I like that it has an "in the moment" feeling, rather than being just some corporate-style documentary.

B&N.com: (to Fincher) How involved were you in the production of the DVD special edition?

DF: I spent six weeks supervising the telecine transfer of the film itself, but David really masterminded the organization of supplementals -- which was fine with me. For something like this, you want somebody with an outsider's perspective, not an insider's. You know, the insider's reaction is often going to be, "Why would anybody want to see this?"

B&N.com: As a director, do you feel that widescreen movies such as Fight Club are compromised for TV-screen presentation?

DF: In some cases, depending on the type of movie. Big epics with casts of thousands and sweeping action scenes aren't going to have as much impact on the small screen. But most other films don't suffer that much. The challenge for a director is presenting his scenes simply enough so that there isn't too much [visual] information that could be lost when the image is shrunken. The other alternative [for presenting widescreen films on video] is pan-and-scan, an optical process of shifting from side to side within the frame. But that's horrific. That moving back and forth, having your eyes wander from side to side...it's like watching your parents fight, you know? I'd much rather watch a letterbox version.

B&N.com: The inclusion of supplemental features has helped make DVD the collector's format of choice. But do you think that too many extras can detract from the movie itself?

DF: I don't think so. In the first place, you don't have to watch the extras if you don't want to. And filmmakers today are aware that viewers are fascinated by behind-the-scenes information; they want to know how things were done. If the film is dramatically sound, it'll stand on its own; the extras don't get in the way. I'd love to have a shelf full of DVDs with as much extra information as theFight Club disc.

B&N.com: Some DVD fans are intrigued by the format's level of interactivity. Does that appeal to you, too?

DF: Well, I've heard people talk for years about how great it would be to decide how a movie should proceed, or how it should end. But, hey, I'm paying money to see the movie -- I want the director to make those decisions! I do understand, though, that having the potential is important to some people. It's definitely one of the options that makes DVD so appealing.
July 11, 2000



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