Interview
Shane Acker
© Shane Acker
Emru Townsend: 9 in many ways is a very personal film, and you had your hands in every aspect of it, but the credits obviously show you had a whole bunch of different collaborators on it. At the same time, you're going to be working on a 9 feature film with Tim Burton. Is this feature version going to be in the mold of 9?

Shane Acker: Yeah. The feature takes place in the same world that 9 is. And what we're exploring now is, we're introducing more characters, we're actually seeing all the rag dolls from 1 through 9, and we're seeing them in this world, in this context. So we're beginning to explain how this world came to be. The rag dolls are basically on this journey of self-discovery to figure out why they are in this world, what are these mechanical beasts that are hunting them, what is their purpose. And along this journey they also begin to discovery the tragedy of the humans, what happened to the humans, how they erred, and how the rag dolls sort of came out of that. So it's a very post-human tale, but we learn through the struggle of the rag dolls what really happened to the world, and the legacy that has been passed on to the rag dolls.

Do you fear at all that if you're doing this as a feature, that there's a bit more of a loss of control?

Of course. But I'm open to that, I'm excited. I mean, the last thing I want to do is remake the same film that I've made already. I spent four and a half years with that. And it's time to sort of evolve it and open it up for new possibilities and new ideas. So it is very similar, but I think we're exploring a lot of new territory, which is pretty exciting to me. And it is very collaborative. I've been working with this amazing writer, Pamela Pettler, who actually worked with Tim Burton on a couple of his films. Corpse Bride she wrote, and she also worked on Monster House, which is a film over at Sony. What she's really good at is character development and relationships between characters and this whole human side. And I'm coming up with all these crazy ideas and these sort of beasts and these scenes that I want to do, so I think it's a actually a really great collaboration that's happening, and it's going in directions that I didn't imagine, that I couldn't have come up with myself—but all very truthful, and honouring what has already been laid down, to the world and to the conflict. It's going to have a very similar taste and theme, and the characters are going to be very similar, but it's going to be so much richer in so many ways, which I think is really exciting.

It's such a post-apocalyptic world, I'm curious: what other post-apocalyptic stories resonate with you?

Like films that I've seen?

Films, books, anything along those lines.

I'm a huge fan of Terry Gilliam's films. Brazil is hands-down the most amazing film. So I draw a lot of inspiration from that. I guess you can say that's—it's futuristic, and it's sort of dystopian, which I guess is in some sense post-apocalyptic in some way. I mean, the world is so twisted in some way.

I grew up watching horror films, as I was a crazy horror-film nut, and I'm still a huge fan of John Carpenter's The Thing. I love the storytelling structure that he has there, the way he builds tension. I spoke a little bit about this on my lecture, about Aliens. The way James Cameron was so inventive, the way he would build suspense, but being very economical and not showing very much of the monsters and allowing the audience to create a lot of their own imagery in their heads. I mean, you see some glistening piece of something moving in the shadows and all of a sudden you're imagining what this thing is. You're seeing these little blips on this motion tracker, and you're seeing swarms of these aliens going, but in reality he only had six rubber alien suits. But he keeps them in the shadows and he constructs it in this amazing way, so those things are very, very inspiring to me, the imagery that comes out of those.

I love the film Delicatessen, have you ever seen that film?

No, I haven't.

An amazing film. And followed up by the equally amazing City of Lost Children, which is I guess another post-apocalyptic sort of landscape. I guess.

I found a lot of inspiration from these types of film. Because it's all about deconstructing a world in some way, and putting a setting that can automatically puts it in this fantasy, metaphoric kind of world, but you can still make a lot of commentary on the world that we live in now. And I think a lot of interest that I'm having as this film is developing now is speaking about these war-torn landscapes and the tragedy of war and how history is just—we constantly repeat ourselves, and we don't learn. And I think it's in some sense instinctual in humanity itself to sort of self-destruct or to try to destroy itself. It's this constant struggle, one for survival, and also just to keep from destroying ourselves. So I think it's just a rich territory to explore in these narratives.
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