Back in January of 2013, Alien vs. Predator Galaxy had the pleasure of hosting an interview between Corporal Hicks and Mikey and Charles de Lauzirika for the eighth episode of the Alien vs. Predator Galaxy Podcast.
Charles is a fantastic DVD and Blu-ray producer who is responsible for spoiling the entire Alien community with the Alien Quadrilogy and Alien Anthology boxsets. At the time of the interview, the amazing Prometheus Blu-ray had just come out as well. Below is a transcript of that podcast written by Darkness.
Mikey: Hello everybody this is the eight official AvPGalaxy podcast. This is Mikey speaking and with me, I have Corporal Hicks.
Hicks: Hi there everybody. Today we have a special guest with us. He’s the man behind the Alien Quadrilogy set, the DVD set that actually pretty much spoiled all DVD sets for me, the recent Alien Anthology blu-ray set, and the Prometheus set. So, I’d like to welcome Charles De Lauzirika. First of all, thank you very much for joining us, Charles. It’s always a pleasure to speak to you.
Charles: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Hicks: That’s alright. I’m going to let Mikey start this one off.
Mikey: Alright…so… I personally don’t know a lot about you. I’m sure a lot of the other members on the website don’t either. Could you tell us a little bit more about what you do and where you are and if I remember this correctly, from a little bit of the research I’ve done, did you help Ridley Scott start in the direction of using DVDs for his movies?
Charles: Yeah, I mean that’s kind of how I got started on DVDs, was through Ridley. I had been working at his company. I had started as an intern when I was at film school but then I went on to become a script reader. Then I was just assigned a variety of special little projects and things and during that time, DVD was just starting out.
This was around ’97, ’98 and I heard on the grapevine that Fox was working on the first Alien set which turned out to be the Alien Legacy set. And I just happened to mention to Ridley that these DVDs are going to be a really great format… maybe you should take advantage of it, look into it and on top of that, please make this first Alien set as great as it could be. I gave him a full brief on DVD and its whole potential and before he went to meet with Fox, he basically turned to me and asked is this something you can be in charge of for me and I just pretty much said yes, jumped in and it was a trial by fire. I learned very quickly but I don’t know, I just kind of enjoyed it and it was a nice little side job that turned into a 14 year side job.
Hicks: You’ve done quite a lot of Ridley’s sets, haven’t you? You’ve done a lot of work on Blade Runner and we’re on about 2…3… versions of Alien?
Charles: Yeah, I supervised the Alien Legacy set. I didn’t do the extras on that one. And then Quadrilogy was the first time I actually produced the extras and I did them for all four of the films and then Anthology. So, yeah, three.
Hicks: On to Prometheus which is the last, well the latest one you’ve done with Ridley in terms of the Alien series. Now, throughout the promotion for the film, Fox was really trying to downplay its Alien connection but when it comes to the Blu-Ray, straight from the go, the menus are very similar to how you make the Anthology. The Anthology look. Given the movie was out and you know, did know about the connections, did you make a conscious decision to play into the other set more. Was that one of the decisions?
Charles: Well, the way I always looked at it. I called Prometheus a cousin to the Alien films, not a direct sibling but a cousin and that’s how I treated every aspect of the disc. I mean, structurally, it’s very similar to the Anthology but in terms of design and just the overall aesthetic, you know, it’s a little more cleaner, higher tech, a little more elegant and glossy, much like Prometheus is in so far as, it’s got a very heavy Weyland Corp presence whereas the Anthology is cyberpunk, grungy future and Prometheus is more elegant and refined and you know, it’s kind of like going from with Prometheus, going like being on upper class on Virgin Atlantic to and then travelling over to the Millennium Falcon or a better set than the Nostromo frankly… I kind of treated the discs that way too.
Hicks: I can’t speak for Mikey but I don’t know much about the production process for Blu-Rays or DVDs. When it comes to approaching a new set, how do you do it, how do you decide what to do? Can you walk us through that process?
Charles: No one process is identical. It really depends if it’s an older film like when I worked on Blade Runner, it was a different process because that was all archival and it was almost like movie archaeology. Going through boxes and digging things up and going back and conducting interviews with cast and crew, you know 25 years later. So that’s one way to go but then with Prometheus. It’s a new film that’s been created…
You know, so it’s like I get to actually document it myself and I get to go on set and shoot the behind-the-scenes footage or I have a crew that I work with and I’ll conduct the interviews and then we edit everything together but usually what I do is I just look for the overall story that I wanted to tell, that I think should be told, based on what are the more interesting aspects of the making of, of the film and I just take a look at what exists or what doesn’t exist in case of an older film.
If it’s a new film, we kind of have to document it as we go and you know, hope we cover everything but the great thing about Prometheus is that I started very early on it. I started, I believe, over a year before shooting began, documenting it so I have a huge wealth of footage to draw on because I actually go to watch the film unfold in terms of the making of it. It was easier for me to, you know, target certain subject matter and ask questions that were very specific with an eye towards what the Blu-Ray experience would be like because that’s a far more nitty gritty detailed narrative than what you get in a promotional featurette or a HBO special. But basically what it boils down to is me or my crew shooing footage on set or conducting interviews.
Hicks: That sort of informs the process, the direction that you take with the story you’re telling with the documentary and stuff like that.
Charles: Yeah, it’s basically like journalism. You’re basically just following a story and trying to cover as much as you can.
Hicks: This is actually the first sort of Alien related thing you’ve been able to cover yourself from pre-production all the way to home release. Did you work on the Anthology set and previous set and sort of inform what you wanted to do with it with Prometheus?
Charles: Yeah, absolutely. With Alien for instance. There’s precious few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from Alien that was shot back in ’78 and every time Fox comes to me and asks can we do something new, you know, when it was on the Quadrilogy and later on the Anthology. Can we do something new? I always think, wow, shame I don’t have a time machine and I can’t go back in time to 1978 and document the hell out of Alien. We’ve pretty much used all the available footage. I know there’s more footage out there we don’t have access to but we’ve pretty much everything we could.
We could always conduct new interviews and always rely on still photography and conceptual art and outtakes from the film. But you know, the documentation of Alien is long since passed so we’ve Prometheus I approached it as, with that in mind, some future documentarian doesn’t look back at the making of Prometheus 25 years from now and scratch their head… wow why didn’t we cover it, you know…Why didn’t we cover that scene so we tried to shoot everything we possibly could on Prometheus.
Hicks: Is that not something you typically do for other projects?
Charles: It depends on the film to be honest because, you know, every film has a different budget and that’s the reality of the situation. Some projects, we can afford to have a camera person on set every day, others we can’t. We have to pick and choose. We have to look at the script and we have to talk to the crew and say or ask them, what are the most interesting aspects of the film and those can often be tough decisions and sometimes I just dip into my own pocket and cover a day that we’re not covered for with the budget because I feel like, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever and we need to preserve it.
I did a bit on Prometheus as well but it wasn’t as bad because I think Fox also understood the importance of documenting as much as the film as we possibly could. So yeah, it really depends on the film. It depends on the demands of the filmmaker and the studio. You know, some films, it may not need the elaborate coverage that we did on Prometheus. You know, that’s not for me to say. I always try to get as much as we possibly can. But like I said earlier, every project is very different from another.
Mikey: So, the ‘Furious of the Gods’ documentary. That thing was a beast. I had to watch it over three or four days because I didn’t realise it was three hours almost. How long did that actually take you to make the documentary?
Charles: Oh, we began before shooting began and we were probably shooting past the release of the film a bit. So that’s two years or so. Over two years of shooting. We didn’t shoot every single day of those two years like when you’re in pre-production, you kind of just go down to cover what’s interesting or just try to be there for certain meetings or go to a certain subject matter. In post, kind of the same thing. You don’t need to be there every single minute as the film’s been edited or scored but you try to go down for the big moments or you try to get a flavour of the process.
It’s really during production where you try to cover as much as you can because you know, that’s where the movie is being captured. So there was that and then once we got all that material which we believe, I’ve got about 7 terabytes worth of footage, behind-the-scenes footage of Prometheus and then make sense of it all. You have to ask yourself, what’s the story, what are the interesting challenges the crew faced, how they overcome them. So then you try to sculpt that into something, you know, interesting and when you cover a film as elaborately detailed as we did with Prometheus, you tend to end up with a pretty long documentary, at least I do because I find it fascinating.
I always try to be as thorough as I can because I feel if it’s a topic you’re not interested in, you can just skip to the next topic. You don’t have to watch every single minute of it but I know a lot of fans, particularly of the Alien films love this stuff. Whether they like the film or not, they still wanna know about the process so I figure let’s put as much in there as we can. So with the documentary, it’s three hours and 41 minutes long but then we have, I believe, an hour and fifteen of Enhancement Pods. You almost have five hours of documentary to go through but then again, you can go as deep or shallow as you want.
You can tailor the experience to your liking. I don’t make you sit there. You don’t have to watch every single second of it in order. You can skip around. You can check things out topically but you know again, it’s like going to library. You can never have too many books. I feel if there’s something you really wanna know about, put it on the disc and if there’s things you don’t wanna know about today, you might want to know about it a month later. I mean, who knows…
Hicks: Given the sort of fly on the wall approach I imagine you take while you do your filming, trying to keep out of the way of the cast and crew, does it make it harder for you to associate with them?
Charles: Yeah, it’s very interesting. I’ve seen other documentarians and how they behave on set and a lot of them really befriend the cast and crew and they’re very social and they like to joke around and be very personal with them because they feel like that opens them up and it probably does but I take a different approach. I try to disappear and become invisible and not to be in the way. And I feel like that tends to give me more honest moments because otherwise if they know you’re there and even though you might be a friendly face, they tend to ham it out for the camera or it’s not as truthful of an experience. You know, they’re aware the camera is there and they tend to show off or censor themselves for the camera.
I tend to be a walking surveillance camera when you know, I try to, you know, blend in as best as I can. It doesn’t mean I’m not social with the crew or the cast. I talk to them. I obviously interview them at some point so they know I’m there but I basically try to get them to forget about me and be very respectful of their space. I don’t get too close unless I’m welcomed in, you know and you just have to read that from moment to moment. Sometimes you can tell, they’re into it, you know. They’re happy to have you there. Other times they just kind of want to be alone to focus on their work and you just have to be aware of when to go in and when to hang back.
Mikey: Did the relationship with Ridley make your work on Prometheus a little easier to work on the sets you’re on?
Charles: Oh, absolutely, I think all these documentaries I’ve done. I’ve gotten access that someone probably wouldn’t have gotten but because you know, there’s a trust level is I feel, I’m not gonna immediately upload it to YouTube and give it to Ain’t It Cool News or whatever. It’s going to stay with me, stay vaulted, stay protected until we actually release the material. So, you know, there’s a trust level that I will never abuse that and I’ll never take advantage of it.
I just try to do my best to be truthful and honest from a journalistic standpoint in terms of making it. But I’m also looking out for everyone’s best interests. I’m not trying to make anyone look bad. So, you know, you’re always walking a fine line. But to me, it’s ultimately about paying tribute, about making sure their work is immortalised. Doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly or everything is always a picnic. Sometimes, you have very difficult moments on set.
There’s a lot of tension, a lot of arguments, and you know, you kind of play them case by case and see how they connect to the overall making of story, you know. If it was an actual moment of tension that resulted in something great or resulted in some sort of innovation or you know, caused some sort of historic moment to happen in the film. That is something I would run by the people involved and ask is it okay to include this. You know, if it’s just tempers flaring up which happens. Everybody’s human.
Especially when you’re a passionately creative person. You sometimes have to vent and those moments I try to shy away from, back off and give them some space. Sometimes, you have to play it by here. Ridley has been very accommodating in sort of letting me play in his sandbox and just sort of be a respectful geek on set that you know, documents and keeps everything sort of stored away for fans and just you know, knows what to look for in terms of the making of story but also doesn’t abuse it. I’ve tried, you know. Tried to be very respectful of him and his process and everyone on the crew and the cast.
Mikey: Yeah, I can’t speak for everybody but for me, that’s like heaven. You’ve got Pandora’s Box right there. I like that stuff but I don’t know about anybody else. I would love to have the opportunity to keep stuff like that. You have everything right there. That’s awesome.
Hicks: One thing I’m curious about. How much input does Ridley have with your sets, the blu-ray sets, I mean. Is there any sort of stuff he’ll look at and not like or does he just sort of..?
Charles: Usually, he just lets me do my thing. I give him rough cuts of everything and you know, if he can, he’ll look at it. Occasionally, if it’s something sort of hot, I will make a separate disc for him to look at and say look you might want to take a look at this specifically. Everything else is pretty much straight forward and safe but this one you might want to look at. But on the whole, he kind of lets me get on with it and the cast and certain members of the crew might watch some of it and weigh in but you know, usually Ridley’s involvement is with the film itself and how it like the picture and sound quality, you know, need the level of quality that they need to be for the disc and also deleted scenes. He’s very involved in them, especially on the new film.
On the older films, he’s not as directly involved, like on Blade Runner for instance, we only had a few deleted scenes that were actually edited together and the rest I had to actually go through the dailies and cut them together myself with my editors because there is no guide to follow. It was just raw dailies but as a fan, I knew it was very important to show this footage to fans but it had to be edited together so basically all the deleted scenes on Blade Runner was me having fun with Ridley’s dailies which was very intoxicating frankly to have these beautiful dailies of raw, almost like a glorified fan edit, basically of his footage but on Prometheus or the newer films, he will work with editor Pietro Scalia and between the two of them, they will sort of come up with a package of deleted scenes for me to then go through and try to organise and title and put those on the disc but that’s usually how it works with Ridley.
Mikey: You’re also a filmmaker yourself and you’ve been doing convention rounds for your movie Crave. You’ve also edited the Alien 3 assembly cut. Would you have liked to have done a cut for Prometheus itself?
Charles: Would I like to have done an extended cut of Prometheus?
Mikey: Your own cut of the film.
Charles: That’s a very interesting question. It’s tough because on the one hand it’s not my film, it’s not for me to say, you know. I do find it’s an interesting exercise, I think when I see all of these fan edits for other films and I’m sure there will be more and more for Prometheus. I already know there’s a few and there’ll be more and I always think it’s interesting to see what people come up with in terms of what they think is the best cut of the film but I don’t really put myself in that headspace when it comes to these films, I do the extras for them just because it’s not my role frankly and even though I could be like a Monday morning quarterback and just sit back and say well it should have been this and should have been that and you should have taken this up and put this one and to me, it’s a fool’s errand. I don’t think it’s really worth exploring.
Me personally, I know other people love to obsess over that and I enjoy those conversations. I don’t know. I basically in terms of the Alien 3 assembly cut / special edition cut. That was basically just because Fincher didn’t want to be involved, you know and we had to do something. Fincher gave us his blessing to go ahead and do whatever we wanted. Even though I had basically total control, cut the movie together however I wanted to cut it together. I didn’t think historically sound. I thought people would want to see what Fincher and Terry Rawlings came up with in the early iteration of the film in terms of the edit ‘cos who cares what my, you know, vision of what the cut should be. It’s like I’m just here to help out, you know, to just guide people through the process.
I’m not, it’s not for me to re-edit the film and revise what actually happened so I feel the same would be with the case with Prometheus. It’s like if the filmmaker wants to be involved. Great. He should put whatever cut he wants. If he wants multiple cuts on the disc. Great. We should do that too. If he doesn’t want any cuts except the theatrical. Yes, that’s exactly what we should do so you know, I usually defer, I always defer to the filmmakers’ wishes and you have to negotiate a bit with the studio in terms of what they would like and if the studio really feels passionately about something they will speak to the filmmaker directly and they will come to some sort of agreement but as far as I can tell, 99 times out of 100, the director ultimately gets what he wants, especially when you’re dealing with filmmakers of the calibre of say Ridley.
That was a very tap dancey answer to your question. It’s just you know it’s a complicated subject to be honest. I don’t have an answer that covers it all. It really is case by case, believe me, there are times when I see films that I wish god, if they’d have put that one scene in back in, it would be perfect but you know, if you really feel that way, go do it. Now everyone has the technology to cut it together on their laptops if they like and it’s interesting to see that evolution.
It really, as far I can tell, might be wrong about this, but that’s how it began with star wars and just people trying to you know salvage their own memories of their film when they grew up and then how to reconcile the new changes that have been made over the years and ultimately boiling down to.. well there are so many versions of Star Wars out there. So many versions of scenes from Star Wars, everyone kind of has something they love or what they view to be the pure version of the film so it’s great that we have the technology for people to just go do that on their own so they can enjoy it and that now applies to every film that has deleted scenes available.
In fact I mean I don’t do it intentionally with this in mind but I always know for instance on Blade Runner say or even the past Alien sets, the documentaries always include outtakes and alternate angles and other little bits that I know will end up in fan edit, you know and when we put these things together we know okay so even though we have whatever forty minutes of deleted scenes, we also have, if you go through the documentary, there’s tonnes more in there in terms of other angles alternate takes, different bits, but if someone really wanted to they could construct their super mega cut and have everything they could possibly want, you know. But that’s not for me to do. I have frankly other things that I’m interested in.