Douglas Trumbull

You may not recognize the name Douglas Trumbull, but you’ve seen his work. Trumbull pioneered the world of special/visual effects and was responsible for those seen in such iconic movies as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ ‘The Andromeda Strain’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’  ‘Star Trek:  The Motion Picture,’ and ‘Blade Runner.’ Recently after receiving the Georges Melies Award for his contributions to visual effects, he spoke with THR about his mission to transform the way Hollywood makes movies and the way we watch them.

Trumbull realizes the difficulties movie theaters are having now-a-days especially in an age where one can download a movie almost as soon as it comes out. He feels that in order for the theaters to survive, it has to offer people something they can’t get from downloading it or watching it on their television. “(Movie theaters have) to dramatically upgrade the quality of the presentation, and production,” says Trumbull, “So I think the movie industry now has to rethink itself, and develop a new kind of spectacle and showmanship to get people back into theaters… If they want to get people into theaters, it’s going to have to be truly spectacular and unavailable in any other form.”

One such way is by changing the way movies are being filmed in what he calls “first person cinema reality” which is indistinguishable from reality. Trumbull explains,

“I’ve come to the conclusion that if your objective as a studio producer is to make a blockbuster spectacle that’s going to take you to Pandora or another dimension or another world or [to see] vicious monsters that come out of the screen and eat the audience, we need a more powerful medium. [In first person cinema reality], the screen is going to be so big it’s like a window into another world. I’m going way beyond anything that Peter Jackson and Jim Cameron have been doing or are thinking of…”

It’s been awhile since Trumbull has directed in Hollywood and he feels that instead of trying to explain his vision, he is better off developing and creating his own film to show off his concept “because no one’s ever seen it before, and no one can imagine what it would be like.”

Trumbull did reveal a little about the film:

“I can only say that it’s a 200-years-in-the-future science fiction space epic that’s going to address very big, lofty issues, like man’s place in the universe, and how our contact with an extraterrestrial civilizations that are so mind-bogglingly in advance of our own that it will go into some of the same territory that 2001 went into, and it’s going to do it in a very plausibly scientific way, not a fanciful way. There are no alien monsters, and the earth is not being attacked by anybody. It’s going to be a much more intelligent, what we call hard-science fiction, and I think there’s absolutely nothing out there like this. I think the studios believe that they have to dumb everything down and the audience is not scientific, not up for anything truly intelligent, but I think just the opposite. I think we’re in the most technologically advanced society of all time, and people can go with that immediately. Most people you poll would believe that there’s life in the universe, for sure, and the Kepler project and another project are showing that the likelihood of inhabitable planets in our galaxy alone is going to be in the billions, and so the whole plausibility of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations is becoming very real scientifically, very plausible. Talk to any scientist and they’ll say, absolutely, yes. But Hollywood is still in the monster phase, it’s in the b-movie monster phase. And I’m not saying how it should be, I’m just saying what I would like to do, and I’d like to make something more intelligent that I can really be proud of.”

And although the project is still in the early phases, Trumbull is optimistic and determined to get the film done.

“Right now I’m putting it together in a couple of steps; the first step is to shoot a sequence from a film. Ten minutes of it might be enough to convince them that they should start at least seriously thinking about re-evaluating the future of cinema. And I’ll do my best to do that. If I could get private financing and do the whole film, I would do that, and as I said, it wouldn’t concern me even if I could only show that film in one theater.”

Winning the Georges Melies Award does re-enforced for Trumbull that he is on the right track. “This is really a nice honor,” he told THR, “There’s a nice buzz amongst my peer professionals who have recognized that the thing I’m trying to do is actually important… [and] that they’re saying that, ‘hey, maybe Doug’s on the right track after all’.”

It’s nice to know that there’s a filmmaker who gives the audience a little credit when it comes to intelligence and what Trumbull is proposing for films sounds just what the theaters need to start making money. After all, if you’re going to spend $16 to see a movie, the experience should be better than what can be seen from a Blu-ray disc on an HD television screen hooked up to your surround sound at home.

You can read the Trumbull’s full interview on THR which includes a lot of detail about movie filming.

So what do you think of Trumbull’s ideas? Do you think we’ll actually see his vision on the big screen?