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The Global Film Village: A Halloween Interview with Joe Dante just before his Premiere of THE HOLE at AFI Film Festival


by Marla Lewin

It's Halloween, and our treat tonight is speaking with Joe Dante, who will be walking the red carpet in a few hours for the US premiere of his new film, The Hole at the AFI film festival.  Some of the stars of the movie, will be there as well.  There are actors he has worked with before.  I asked Marc Halperin to help me with the interview, as he distributed Joes' film The Howling while at Embassy Pictures in the glory days of 80's Horror films.  


MARLA:  So how was it winning best the 3D Film award at the Venice Film Festival?

JOE:  Quite a surprise!  We were up against the Pixar film.

MARC: Is this the first time you've made a film in 3D?

JOE:  Years ago I did a 3D film for Busch Gardens called The Haunted Lighthouse.  I loved 3D since I was a kid.  Back then we were working in large format and you had two 70mm cameras tied together, one upside down. Everything had to be perfectly aligned, rock solid the entire assembly was the size of a Buick.  Now it is pretty much the same as shooting regular film. Today you work with a special digital camera that is created for 3D from the beginning so there are no alignment problems. In the past if the camera was just a little out of alignment the 3D was a mess. 

MARC: Some directors say it is too difficult to do 3D while other Producers say we want to shoot everything in 3D. What about the planning for the shoot?

JOE: It is all about depth, the depth you are thinking in, and how it will be perceived.  It's not realistic to make all films in 3D.  It is still cumbersome.  Not everyone can see it, or likes it.  You would have to convert theatres, and you need to buy glasses, and have special screens, and who is paying for all this.  So there are technical issues, and commercial issues.

MARC:  I have heard that most films are pirated in movie theatres with small commercial cameras, so 3D is a way to fight piracy because all they will get is a blurred image.

JOE:  That's true.  With 3D tv coming out, the novelty will wear off.  3D TV already exists in Japan and is popular but they don't yet have much programming. Years ago there was Doug Trumbull, who had Showscan.

MARC:  That was 120 frames a second.

JOE:  It was a beautiful image but it never came to pass.

MARLA: Let's talk about your latest film THE HOLE.  It will be screening in a few hours, and you will need to be on the red carpet, how would you characterize this film.

JOE:  It's a throw back to the 80's, not many special effects, until the end.  The horror takes place in the mind, they do not depend on gore.  I remember when I saw David Cronenbergs' Scanners, and Brian De Palma's The Fury, with their exploding heads and bodies. I thought there was nothing more they can do. How will they make people die in more novel ways, how gruesome do you need to get. Adolescents like this view, they come from a place where they believe in their immortality and enjoy being shown people getting killed. I believe in making the story more psychological, the mind does the work.  It's the things you don't see, that can really scare you. I like films  when you can bring your family.

MARLA:  I remember seeing your film THE BURBS recently, and I thought it was funny.  I cared about the characters.

JOE:  You still need a good story, and characters you get engaged with.  Now people are making films looking for the money shots, realism of gore, characters don't matter.  Special effects have taken over from drama. Some of these films don't even leave room for character development at all they are so crammed full with action.

MARC:  I remember when I was working at Embassy Pictures, we churned out one horror film after another, and I think Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel started referring to them as "Dead Teenager Movies" said, "Why don't they just call the next on 'Look he has a knife!'"

JOE: (Laughs) Roger Ebert and many critics did not like horror films.

MARC:  I remember opening The Howling and it grossed more than any film in the marketplace. It did over $30,000 in downtown Boston in a single theatre and we played it as wide as any film today. It was a huge hit across the country. It was not a family friendly film but it wasn't gross.

MARLA:  Wasn't it The Howling that Speilberg saw, and then he offered you work.

JOE:  Both The Howling and Pirana

MARC: The Howling paid for itself in foreign sales.

JOE:  We had to go back to them for another $50,000. Because the werewolf costume didn't work out and we had to fix it.

MARLA:  Do you think foreign sales agents are still interested in horror?

JOE:  I get scripts all the time. Horror is still commercial.  

MARLA:  What time is your film showing tonight?  We should let you go.

JOE:The film is showing at 7pm.

MARLA: You will need to be on the red carpet before that.  I was reading about SPLATTER your new interactive project.

JOE:  I am editing SPLATTER as we speak. The first episode has already run and where waiting for the audience to decide who dies and who survives.  Tomorrow the  vote comes in. We  find out who dies, and we need different endings.

MARC: That makes it really complicated both shooting and editing?

JOE: It is we have to be really careful how we grouped people in shots and shot lots of alternatives. Based on the voting characters will just suddenly disappear from th eshow and we have to make sure we have alternatives ready to keep the story flowing.

MARC: It must really keep you on your toes.

JOE:  I'm having fun, different people are getting murdered. I haven't worked for Roger Corman in 30 years. 

MARC: How long are these segments?

JOE: The first one was 10 minutes and the rest are 8 minutes each.

MARC: You could put all of the alternate versions on a dvd and the audience at home can make choices on the fly. 

JOE: Working out the mechanics to make it work seamlessly is the tough part. 

MARLA:  It doesn't seem anyone is making money with films online.

JOE:  No one has made money on the web yet. The business is changing in a short time,it is unclear as to what kind of system we are headed towards. We all joked about watching Lawrence of Arabia, online on iPhones. Well people are watching films, clips, and YouTube on there computers, some are even watching entire tv shows that way as a regular practice, viewing habits are changing.  Video games are competing, there is a climate of fear among sales agents and distributors. Where is it going?  No one knows what format is going to survive over the long haul. The bottom line is you must have material people want to see. You still need a great movie.


Marla: We would just like to thank Joe Dante for being so generous with his time to stop and talk with us today just before this major event. Be sure to tune in to Joe Dante's Splatter on line and find out who dies.



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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.


Los Angeles

United States

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