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Making of... film behind the scenes bonus material


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#1 JD Hartman

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 07:57 PM

When did studios/filmmakers start recording the behind the scenes footage? I've seen many movies, made in the VHS days and now available on DVD, where the bonus material is little more than some additional information about the cast and crew. Some current release only contain additional ego stroking footage about the case. Nothing even close to documenting the journey made in bringing the story to life. Recently rented "Silent Running" Bruce Dern 1971, the DVD bonus material contains a documentary about an hour long, detailing the pre-production and production process, including the fact that it was shot on the de-commissioned aircraft carrier Valley Forge.
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#2 Jean Dodge

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 09:55 AM

When did studios/filmmakers start recording the behind the scenes footage? I've seen many movies, made in the VHS days and now available on DVD, where the bonus material is little more than some additional information about the cast and crew. Some current release only contain additional ego stroking footage about the case. Nothing even close to documenting the journey made in bringing the story to life. Recently rented "Silent Running" Bruce Dern 1971, the DVD bonus material contains a documentary about an hour long, detailing the pre-production and production process, including the fact that it was shot on the de-commissioned aircraft carrier Valley Forge.



The easy answer there is to say that promotional films with behind the scenes footage began as soon as self blimped 16mm cameras became widely used, since that is the means usually employed by studios to make them. That would be after the introduction of the Eclair NPR, etc which is approximately the mid 1960s, if I recall correctly. A more specific answer would have to be researched.

There used to be ONE voice over talent who would narrate the bulk of these that appear on the revival circuit and on TCM, but keep in mind that is because it's largely the output of one or two studios that are owned by Turner - MGM chiefly. The style of narration is bombastic and semi-comic to hear now, but memorable and it certainly did the job back in the day.

I can recall WHERE EAGLES DARE and NIGHT MOVES specifically as having these promotional shorts made but I am sure I have seen many others for USA studio product. These were films that the studio hoped to make a good return upon, with name cast and directors involved and a budget that could support what we now call an EPK crew's expenses. EPK = electronic press kit. Technical advances and visual effects movies were often the excuse to record and distribute these films, which were likely shown to exhibitors at conventions to ensure theaters continued to book the studio's product.

One early notable example of a behind the scenes promo is available for us to see on DVD, and that is a television special made to promote John Ford's THE SEARCHES that aired prior to the film's release mid 1950s. Some claim that is the first of its kind, but newsreels date all the way back to the dawn of cinema, and there is behind the scenes footage of Charlie Chaplin making his early comedies, and some rather famous footage of all the MGM directors standing in a line in the mid 1920s that was shot on a "Studio tour" short subject. Gone With The Wind had many "searching for scarlet" casting newsreels produced.

You are going to have to define your terms better to arrive at various "firsts," but the basic answer is, since the beginning.

Edited by Jean Dodge, 05 February 2010 - 09:59 AM.

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#3 Jean Dodge

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 10:08 AM

Also keep in mind that just because a DVD lacks bonus material, this doesn't mean the footage isn't out there. Often the licensing rights preclude the deal being brokered easily and so the DVD distributor doesn't expend the effort to secure them. Criterion DVDs are so loved and collected because they go the extra mile to ferret out all this footage and include it.

Critereon's first popular Laserdisc that packaged extras in a memorable fashion was the RAGING BULL release, that included the director's pidgin scrawled storyboards for the various fight sequences. This, to my knowledge is what created the modern demand and set the bar for quite some time as the coolest fetish object for home theater fanatics.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 12:55 PM

When did studios/filmmakers start recording the behind the scenes footage? I've seen many movies, made in the VHS days and now available on DVD, where the bonus material is little more than some additional information about the cast and crew. Some current release only contain additional ego stroking footage about the case. Nothing even close to documenting the journey made in bringing the story to life. Recently rented "Silent Running" Bruce Dern 1971, the DVD bonus material contains a documentary about an hour long, detailing the pre-production and production process, including the fact that it was shot on the de-commissioned aircraft carrier Valley Forge.


There are two inherently different types of "behind the scenes" material that gets released.

The first is the "Hearts of Darkness" approach where the trials and tribulations about what it took to get a movie made is shot and then released for public consumption.

The second is the ideology of "positively promoting the project." In this instance, it's not about shooting and releasing the "dirt" and/or problems, it's about A) promoting the project in a way that tells the audience that it was a fun experience for all whether it was or not and B) showing the nuts & bolts of elements, such as "how to create a specific effect" etc. What you likely won't see is footage or interviews that describe in detail the R&D or personality conflicts that occurred.


If I understand the foundation of your question correctly, you're wondering why we don't see more "Hearts of Darkness" style behind-the-scenes. In short, we NEVER have. The rare instances of that kind of "dirt" are few and far between. Just GETTING that kind of material is next to impossible as those on set (ie, Director, Actors, Producers) generally don't like "EPK" on set anyway much less allowing cameras to be rolling when arguments are taking place or when there are accidents or moments of "what do we do now?" take place. Something like "Hearts of Darkness" is possible ONLY because the Behind-the-Scenes Cameraperson is related (read: sleeping with) to the Director.

The point of ANY DVD material or Premiere or anything "extra" apart from the film itself, is meant to generate income to A) offset the costs of production and B) to earn profit. The material is not obtained and released to truly "teach" anyone about what it took to truly get any particular project off the ground and onto screens, particularly when that kind of material potentially makes someone look "bad," assuming it is allowed to be shot at all (and likely it isn't).


The last movie that I was able to be on set for every day of production, I shot something like 90 hours of footage including countless interviews with all of the Department Heads. Once that material is handed off to the vendor and studio, it's out of my hands no matter how much work I put into obtaining it. Suffice it to say, almost none of the really good stuff about SFX or scene breakdowns was included on that particular disc. Instead, consumers are treated to a lengthy "character breakdown" where the movie stars explain characters that the DVD viewer just spent 90 minutes watching. The "How to" and "Behind the scenes" featurettes were relatively scarce considering what could have been offered.

But, the consumer doesn't generally know what's he's missing. Yes, the material does exist, but it is not "out there" due to decisions made on the studio level to not create featurettes or other promotional material out of it.

Does every movie get the kind of coverage that isn't used? No. Most movies are budgeted to have, perhaps 10 to 20 days of EPK on set out of a 90+ day schedule for production. That means that there is NOT a plethora of material available and what is shot is generally very blase and controlled, not revealing much of anything for those who would want a "Hearts of Darkness" experience.

For a true comprehensive behind-the-scenes experience, it would take a commitment and desire on the part of the studio execs and the Director to really budget for a crew to be there every day AND the willingness of those on set to allow relatively unfettered access. MANY Actors are loath to allow a behind-the-scenes camera to roll on everything so it would take a Producer to have the chutzpah to stand up to the Talent that they hired to tell them to chill. That pretty much never happens, so very often, the Behind-the Scenes Cameraman is kicked off or limited in what he is allowed to shoot.

It's all about access. If we can't shoot it, then it won't exist. And even if it is shot and available, it takes studio execs to be willing to turn that footage into something that consumers will see. All too often, those things don't happen and then people like you and me wonder why DVD extras are so lame.
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#5 JD Hartman

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 02:28 PM

Brian, you hit the nail right on the head. It's the "Hearts of Darkness" footage that is interesting, not the interviews with the talent. Seems to me that inclusion of this on a DVD release could increase sales to a public, who would enjoy a little glimpse behind the scenes of how it's done. On Silent Running, the documentary footage was obviously from pre-production and production, while the running commentary from the Director and Bruce Dern was recorded later for the DVD release. It was one of the more interesting bits of bonus material I have seen.
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 03:48 PM

Brian, you hit the nail right on the head. It's the "Hearts of Darkness" footage that is interesting, not the interviews with the talent. Seems to me that inclusion of this on a DVD release could increase sales to a public, who would enjoy a little glimpse behind the scenes of how it's done.


Understand the forces that are working against this ideal.

1) Footage that shows the "warts" makes people look bad. They don't like that so they try to stop it from being obtained in the first place.

2) Many Studio Marketing Execs truly do not know how movies get made therefore they don't really know what consumers would like to see in a
DVD featurette. They think that the "public" only wants to see "movie stars" therefore much of the "publicity" and "behind the scenes" centers around the Actors instead of the actual behind-the-scenes people who make the cool stuff happen.

3) The PRIMARY goal of a studio is to SELL the movie and ancillary products for profit. Releasing "unflattering" material to the public might jeopardize that goal in their eyes, therefore they hold all of that material back (if it's permitted to be shot at all) and only release "safe" footage and soundbites.

A few years ago, I shot a number of fascinating interviews for the new Looney Toons DVD releases. Hours of great stuff that will never be seen nor heard because Warner Bros. legal department won't allow it because in some of the interviews, specific animators are given credit for creating specific characters and whatnot. The legal department evidently is afraid of that sort of information because it "could" introduce issues that, essentially, could question who should receive monetary compensation from specific products. So, the vast majority of those really wonderful interviews from aging animators and Directors will disintegrate on studio shelves, never to be experienced by a public who cares less about money and more about just learning history.

What this all boils down to is A) reputations and B ) money. If it makes someone look less than flattering, the footage won't be shot or seen if it is shot. And, if the footage could result in the loss of revenue (as relatively ignorant marketing Executives perceive it), it won't be seen. All too often, they think that all the "public" cares about is watching movie stars wax on about their characters and "process." <_<

Given that reality, you'll never see a "Hearts of Darkness" or anything resembling it unless a Director or Producer or an Actor decides to make that "tell all" a priority as an ancillary product with the movie itself.
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