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Exclusive: Final Destination Producer Craig Perry

But is it REALLY “final” this time?

Last year, ShockTillYouDrop.com had a chance to visit the set of New Line’s The Final Destination, which you can read about in our set report, but a good portion of our time there was spent talking with producer Craig Perry, who really is the best spokesman for the franchise he launched nearly ten years ago. You can tell that he still has all the energy and excitement about the premise and what can be done with it as he did when they made the first movie, and he’s constantly trying to do new things with it. In this case, it will be the first movie in the franchise to be filmed and screened in full and glorious 3D!

David Ellis, the director of Final Destination 2 (and Snakes on a Plane) has returned for this one, which revolves around a group of kids that survive a horrendous race car crash, only to become targets for Death, as he tries to clean up the loose ends that got way.

Although we missed the footage shown at Comic-Con, we did get a chance to sit down with Perry and catch up on how things had been going since we talked to him on set a year earlier.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: Nice to see you again. Obviously, the last time we spoke was on the set in New Orleans.

Craig Perry: Yeah, you saw the explosion and it looks very cool on screen, just so you know, bodies flying everywhere, delightful goodness. What you witnessed when you were down there I think best captures the spirit of the movie which is fun. It’s got a lot of big action, but it is fueled by that sense that there’s that presence making things happen in ways that… it seems that the way people are killed and taken out is a little vicious. There’s an intent behind it, which I think is what you want with a franchise. I was actually glad you were there for that because I think it spoke to both sides of what we were able to accomplish with the bulk of the movie. We also didn’t skimp on the more quiet, creepy stuff. It doesn’t make for a huge news day for you guys to come down and watch somebody walking down a hall, but we did make sure that the balance was addressed on both sides. I’m glad that you saw the fun stuff and know that we delivered the other stuff as more sort of suspenseful, creepy as well.

Shock: What about that title because it seems like for at least the last two movies, it was very easy to make fun of the idea of a sequel to a movie called “FINAL Destination.” So is this one really “Final”?

Perry: It is “The Final Destination.” Well, there’s a lot of factors. When we started talking about “Final Destination 4,” any time you see a four next to something, it feels like you’re pushing your luck and making “Leprechaun.” We all kind of realized that as much as we obviously have a lineage that we want to follow that this will probably be the last movie for a variety of reasons and why not just do it right and call it “The Final Destination.” Actually, the marketing department had that stroke of genius that I think actually speaks to both the sort of consummation of the franchise, delivering on everything the first three are sort of positing, because we had a really healthy budget and there were a lot of things we could do that we could never do in the other movies. Finally, I think that we have… I won’t say that we’ve worn out our welcome, as much as we’ve come home and sort of put this thing to bed in a great way.

Shock: Were you able to get any Easter Eggs for the people who’ve seen the other movies? Every movie, you have little nods to what happened before without necessarily one having to see those movies.

Perry: I will say keep an eye out for Heist Beer, which has been woven in, not for “FD 1″, that first manifested itself in “FD 2.” There’s a lot of references to the numbers 180 which you can see present sometimes a little in the foreground, a lot of times in the background. One of the things I do think is fun is that there is such an interesting fanbase for this that are aware of all these things. I hope–and we strive to in the making of these movies to make it fun for the audience that really loves them to sort of see all the little bits and pieces and the attention to detail. The section that they are sitting in at the racetrack is 180. We never make a comment about it; we don’t see somebody looking at their ticket. It’s on a post in the background, we never make more of it. That, I think, is fun for the fans and we do a lot of things to make sure the fans have a great time at this movie and deliver all the other stuff that makes the common audience enjoy it as well.

Shock: I know David’s really into using CG, so has there been a lot of post-production involved with the movie?

Perry: Yes. Literally, at one o’clock last night I was still approving visual effects shots to be put into the movie. Literally this morning, the last couple of shots were slotted in and we are putting the film output starting tomorrow. So, we are down to the wire. It’s taken a long time to get this movie wrangled because of the sheer amount of visual effects, which is compounded by the 3D. It’s not just, “Oh, let’s make this.” You have to actually render I 3D too. It’s a lot of work.

Shock: As far as the 3D stuff, obviously the longer you’ve waited, the more screens there were available, and I think in August, there’ll really be no others so you should get all of them I’d expect.

Perry: We are hoping to get a very significant number of 3D screens. However like anything, we are stuck with August 28th because that gives the previous 3D movie enough playability and we’re not going bump their screens. It’s a perfect time to transition into the new product. It also gives us playing time for like three or four weeks. Based on the overall yearly 3D schedule August 28th is almost the perfect date for us. That’s why we’re really excited that Warner is stepping up and saying, “Okay, if we’re going to make this a 3D movie, let’s make it an EVENT 3D movie.”

Shock: I’ve already been seeing commercials.

Perry: Yeah, the commercials are out. They’re doing a really great job. I’m really happy with the creative team. They’ve done a really terrific job positioning this movie as something that we are familiar with because of the franchise, but also feels like a real event movie. All credit to David and the other people who worked on the movies for delivering images that really feel big and sort of substantial.

Shock: What about the competition? Obviously everyone kept on thinking that one of the horror movies was going to flinch… and no one did.

Perry: We can’t move. That’s the problem is that we actually can’t move ‘cause than the business model makes no sense if you’re actually minimizing your 3D playability on either end, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s a 3D movie. It’s gonna be first and foremost, your paramount concern is that. I’m shocked that they haven’t moved. I think that they’re being fools because we’re going to beat them and we are going to hurt them tremendously. They’ll hurt us. I mean, there’s simple math. There’s a certain segment that’ll go to one or the other, but they need it, they need that movie. If they move one week, they’ll own that weekend.

Shock: Right, like move to Labor Day, of course. I only found out recently that that weekend wasn’t Labor Day.

Perry: It’s not, and I can’t fathom–none of us can–which is why we’ve stepped up the marketing to make sure there’s no question.

Shock: If nothing else, it’s going to be a great weekend for horror fans.

Perry: Let me ask you a question. I like “Halloween,” I’ve seen all of the movies, but for me, I feel like this just feels like the standard, grungy, dirty guy with a mask. It doesn’t seem like it’s done anything new with it, and it feels like it’ll be scary, but it doesn’t feel like it’ll be fun. One of the strategic things that we’ve done in contrast is make “FD” feel like it’s a fun movie.

Shock: People are into fun movies this year, that’s for sure.

Perry: It’s summer! It’s a summer movie!

Shock: It’s something that you find that the movies that have done really well are the movies that are fun, while people don’t seem to be into the more dour offerings like “Terminator” or “Angels and Demons.”

Perry: I think that as much as it’s competition, I think the tonal distinction between the two is gonna benefit us in a huge way, I really do.

Shock: What else are you doing after this?

Perry: There are two things. We hopefully have David Silverman who co-directed “Monsters Inc.” and directed “The Simpsons” movie attached to a live action project we have at Disney called “The Pet,” an $80 million plus movie that we are really excited about.

Shock: Have you gotten anyoe attached to that yet?

Perry: Just David. We’re putting the actor list now, because there’s such a long lead up. There’s like at least nine months to a year of prep for this movie. There’s a lot of visual effects, so the question is, “Who is going to be big enough then, but we can pay them today’s rates for tomorrow’s prices?”

(You can also read what Perry said about the remake of Motel Hell here.)

For those of you who can’t get enough of The Final Destination, here’s our full interview with Perry from when Shock visited the New Orleans set:

Shock: So how did you approach New Line with doing another installment?

Perry: At the end of the day, New Line said, “You know what? FD3 was the most successful, most profitable and the biggest opening weekend [they] had that year.” At that point they were like, “Okay, let’s see if we can justify another one.” They commissioned a script. Like any movie, there’s no greenlight. There’s no guarantee. It all comes down to the script and Eric Brest, who, with his partner, wrote “Final Destination 2″ and have since been been working on their own individual projects, he came on board this draft and it was distinctive and interesting enough, and it had one extra overlay that further distinguishes it from the predecessors in a good way. It adds a different dimension (no pun intended), as how to look at death interacting in our world. So much so that studio was like, “You know what? Let’s go for it. Let’s see if we can pull it together.” The challenge, of course, is budgeting. Finding a way to make sure you can do it in 3D, which is not inexpensive to do. 3D is an enormously expensive technology, much of that has to do with time. Other movies, which have not had a successful plan like we have had, really get boned. They went way over schedule on shooting and way over schedule on post. We took examples of what they experienced, and we worked with Pace Technologies, who have come up with the camera systems, to come up with a plan that thus far has made us be on time, on budget, and on schedule. And again, most don’t count on the challenges that come in post-production because you essentially have two movies. You have to render all of your visual effects twice, and then marry them together. Imagine the amount of time that takes to do. With each shot, you have the inner-ocular, and the convergence that has to be matched up as well. We are taking all the 3-D elements of inner-ocular convergence and dealing with it now, so that when we get to post, it’s just about rendering the CG. It’s just about making the final cut of the movie. Our hope is that within a normal post-production period of time, we can start previewing the film in 3D. It’s something the other 3D movies in have not done because they didn’t have the technology and the visual effects ready. It’s far different experience when you see a 2D movie than a 3D movie which you’ll experience when take you and show you what we’re working on right now. So the decision wasn’t instant; it was earned. It was earned by audience response. It was earned by the third one being successful enough that we were able to try. We were able to get everyone interested in the script and everyone to say, “Hey! This is kind of cool!” and the merits of why this franchise has worked thus far so everyone said, “Let’s go for it.”

Shock: Are you going to be able to show a 3D trailer in theaters as well?

Perry: That is something we have to work with Warner Brothers on. Obviously, there are a number of 3D movies coming out next year. Many are the Disney CGI animated films and the 3D concert films. This is a blissfully R rated film and we will not be able to put a 3D trailer for it in front of a G-rated movie. Oddly, the only time we may be able to put a trailer in theaters is in front of an appropriate movie is “My Bloody Valentine” in 3D. Which I look forward too. Because, quite frankly, we are going to Rodney King that thing. It is going to be awesome. It is going to be spectacular, because if we have our trailer in front of that movie, which I think is going to be a dry heave of a movie, it is really going to set the bar. I don’t say that because I think anyone tries to make a bad movie. I don’t think they have given themselves enough time to do it right. You can’t just go make a 3D movie and think you’re going to get it posted in three months. It’s not possible. There are a huge amount of things that I think are being taken for granted that are going to come around. I think we have taken all of this stuff into consideration and we’ll be able to deliver a product that best exemplifies what a 3D movie is capable of giving the audience. But that’s the only one I think we can do with all the restrictions. However, the interesting thing is that there are a finite number of 3D screenings and then a whole bunch of regular screens. And what you generally do is just print the right-eye. You print the right-eye as 2D movie and we are taking great pains to insure that what we are capturing in 3D is…remember that old spaghetti western “Comin’ At Ya!”? Where the whole thing was “Look at me! Look at you!” That gets pretty con-queso after a while. It doesn’t hold up. And we are looking at that dynamic of 3D capture as a storytelling tool. Most of what we want to express is depth; that there is a world behind that screen that you can really find yourself immersed in. The more that we have applied that aesthetic, the more we have realized that it’s the right way to go because you become completely enamored in the 3D experience without being reminded at every turn, “Oh! I’m in a 3D movie!” This is something that Vince Pace, who runs the whole thing, has been trying to hit hard. Because he has been dealing with this thing for ten years. He says, “Don’t shoot a 3D movie. Shoot a movie that just happens to be in 3D. You will be far better served.” And he has been proven right every day.

Shock: How did the decision to shoot in New Orleans come about?

Perry: It was one hundred percent economic. However, what we discovered is that there are great crews, we had a great time being down here, it is great to be in a community that wants to work, and is looking to be a production center in the United States, something that we, as a country, are lacking sorely right now. The incentives certainly help. It’s Hollywood; it’s about economics. But there’s a community here that really wants to live up to that economic opportunity and create a center for film that everyone can come to in the United States.

Shock: Are you guys going to be preparing special Final Destination 4 glasses that are just for this movie?

Perry: No. Not just for this movie, we aren’t using those glasses with the little red and blue-green lenses. That doesn’t work anymore. They’re these polarized lenses. They actually look very stylish. You will see them, and you will see that they are slightly fashionable. My expectation is that in the next two or three years, they will start selling them at retail and everyone will have their own pair of 3D glasses that they buy and take to the theater just like a regular pair of glasses. 3D will have made such a penetration in the market place. But for now, one of the discussions we have been having between producers and distributors, is who bears the cost of five thousand pairs of 3D glasses. How you go about washing and caring for them. They do them at IMAX now but the number is smaller because there aren’t as many screens. The discussion is to come up with a plan that works out with parity for both sides. Because we wanted to get as many screens as possible. And we want to get this worked out before “Avatar” because let’s be honest: “Avatar” is driving the market place right now and it’s a year after this Christmas. Everyone wants to be ready for that because it is going to be one of the biggest event films that you have ever seen. It’s James Cameron’s first film in nine years. Wait, no, eleven years! Has it been that long? God, I’m so old.

Shock: Using “Avatar” as an example, couldn’t we all say we’ve heard this 3D spiel before? It seems like producers were saying the same thing forty years ago. Beyond “Avatar”, what is driving this consensus that 3D is going to revolutionize the theater-going experience?

Perry: My argument is that the Hannah Montana movie proved that people will seek out 3D as an experience. Just in that format, which is pretty simple—it’s a concert movie—I will say, with all humility, that this movie that will prove that a regular movie in 3D can be an entirely different communal experience in the theater. I know that sounds grandiose and sort of bullshit, but it really does feel that way. When you get a sense of what we’re doing and how movies can impact you viscerally and emotionally in a far different way. I don’t mean to sound trite. And I know that people have said this thing in the past. But especially since the technology is so different. Back when you had the different-colored panels, the palate design was different. You couldn’t even have red! You couldn’t do a lot of things and the technology was so bulky. There was no sense of movement. It was very static and locked up. These new cameras you can put them on steady cams. It is a totally fluid, normal filmmaking experience that just happens to be in 3D.

Shock: Can you talk about the casting of the actors in this film?

Perry: With this new overlay that Eric Brest brought into the franchise, we were sort of looking for people that were teetering on the edge of the rest of their lives. Not kids that we’re going to college; that’s just another microcosm. That’s a small, four-year period. But when you are prepared to graduate college, and you are setting out to find what the world holds for you by virtue of what you’ve studied, you don’t know what is out there for you. It’s that expanse that made us want to cast these characters. And let’s be frank: if you look at the characters in the last three films, you will see that they all have a tendency to mope. People are getting all, “Oh, my friends are dying…” We are very aware of that! We wanted to slightly change it. The tone will still be serious. The characters will still be affected by the deaths that are happening around them but there’s less navel-gazing. One of the things we’ve seen culturally is that there’s a huge boon of websites dedicated to watching people get hit in the balls or getting bonked in the head. When guys are taping their skateboard buddies breaking their arms and screaming, “Dude!” That is where our kids are at. There is a weird sort of numbness to this type of violence. And that is how they react to this opening set piece. They are stoked they survived. They say, “Did you see that shit? That was unbelievable!” And I think that is pretty real. If you survive something, you’re not going to have this this angst-ridden, hand-wringing, mortality question. You are going to be saying, “Fucking-A right! I made it!” Yet, the next step to that, when you escape death, and now it’s coming back after you, that makes this film distinguish itself as well. It’s tonally a little bit more on target as far as the kids are today and people have been inured to violence and spectacle and injury. They are more selfish. They say, “See how cool this is. Look at what I captured.”

Shock: The opening of the second film was a show stopper…

Perry: Hells to the yeah. Have you seen the version someone did in Lego? It is unbelievable.

Shock: I think in the third one, people expected a little bit more with the roller-coaster scene. How are you guys addressing the opening this time? Is it going to be more violent? Is it going to be bigger?

Perry: I think you’ll find thatthe things that [Director] David [Ellis] brought to the opening of “Final Destination 2″, he is bringing times ten to this movie. While they both involve cars, it is a different thing. This one is set at a modified stock car race. But instead of the story being, “Oh, look at the cars!” and “Who’s going to be in pole position?” (we didn’t want to have the Danica Patrick-story). But seriously, that’s just a bunch of what happens at the stands. But I go to events. I go to concerts or a sports show or even a car race. And I am in the that particular situation, and I am looking at the restraining fence and thinking, “Is that going to hold in case something hits?” We’ve all googled car crashe to see how these things happen. Then, our particular stadium has an overhang and I notice that the overhang doesn’t look too stable. Why is there dust coming down when people are banging their feet up top? It is that feeling of being in a place where if something were to happen, egress is not easy. It’s crowded and things aren’t going to move very quickly. So, with that, we have things from the crash coming into the stands which takes advantage of the 3D but also puts you in this position where you are surrounded by 8,000 people and can’t move very fast. And I think that is a fear that everybody can access.

Shock: Is Tony Todd going to be doing the race car announcing at the track?

Perry: Tony Todd, at this stage, will not be joining us for this round.

Shock: You have the racecar crash, and you have the movie theater explosion. It looks like you have two giant set pieces this time out. Is that right?

Perry: We learned our lesson from one, two, and three! Normally the third time is the charm. We will say that the fourth time is the charm here. We’ve always had a problem with these movies where you open big and then end on a quiet, more contemporary note. But then we’ve had to do reshoots on every single one to address that factor after the fact. So we took great pains to have parity between that opening set piece that is balls out cool and the set piece that takes place in a movie theater. It’s actually a smaller incident that takes place in a much larger location that’s pretty cool. That is the challenge. You have to get people in with that “What if?” And then you have either match it or beat it at the end. I think here we have matched it. I don’t think we could ever beat it, because when you see some of the stuff we are doing, you’ll that it is badass. But we have done a good job of making the bookends work to support the middle structure.

Shock: Are you working to make the mythology a little bit more understood this time out?

Perry: Here is what I would say. In as much as any one tries to explain déjà vu, if you try to explain it anymore, it becomes inane yammering, like a homeless man yelling at a street sign. I think that by virtue of the previous films it’s become a little bit overwhelming. We have become a little bit restricted by the rules that have been set into place in one, two, and three. And I think by having a fresh group of people coming into this thing, they don’t regurgitate the rules. They say, “Well maybe it’s this or maybe it’s this,” We see the rules come to life in actions as opposed to discussion. Yeah, we kind of boned ourselves with 1 and 2. And now we are like, “Aw, f*ck.” So, that has been a challenge. But this time, we wanted everybody to feel as though they could have one of these premonitions that each one of our characters in these four movies have had because if you make it a rarified thing, then I, as an audience member, am removed from that possibility. It’s like the medichlorians when you are a Jedi. All of a sudden my childhood is ruined and pissed on by George Lucas. I can’t be a Jedi because it’s not in my DNA. Well, that sucks. Thanks, George.

Shock: Is there any connection between “Final Destination 4″ and the previous movies?

Perry: There was. We are trying to distance ourselves, not just so it’s a stand-alone but what we just wanted to do was not make this some nexus of this tiny town in upstate New York but that this is happening all over the country. That’s there’s this connectivity to everyone and everything. If it’s just about Flight 180, it’s a smaller notion rather than a bigger notion. So I have always said, not that we are going to do it, but with these movies, you could make Final Destination in the Old West. You could take it to Medieval times. I’m just saying! I’m just saying that it could be done. This time, we wanted to make it more of bigger landscape as opposed to a smaller one.

Shock: Other than the previous films, are there any touchstones you’re using in trying to make a 3D horror film with this new template rather than lamely coming at you like “Jaws 3D”?

Perry: You know, it’s interesting. We’ve referenced other movies in that there’s a supernatural force coming after you and we all know what those movies are. We’re hoping to keep the “Final Destination” franchise consistent as a whole within itself. I don’t think there have been any movies that we’ve looked at in terms of this one because we had a script everyone seem to like. We have a precept of what the movie should be. We had three movies as predecessors. So we just went and told that story. I think if we try to emulate other movies, we do a disservice to the other three. So let’s try to keep it in the family. So the woman who did the music for one of the three, Shirley Walker, passed away. And one of the things that’s very, very, very important to me is that the themes from one, two, and three are in four as well. I would like this franchise to exist in its own world and it’s a world you can tap into, have fun in, and is consistent. If you have a film that is so polar-opposite to the others, it stands out. We’ve all seen franchises where it’s like, “What the f*ck was that?”

Shock: Where Death is personified by a cloud…

Perry: Exactly. “Is that a bunny? NO! It’s Death!” But I think that’s very important to me and I think that musically it also holds all the films together. And another thing that’s interesting too is that I’m sure you guys noticed is that there’s all kinds of reciprocity in all four films in terms of names and visuals that speaks to the point of these movies that everything’s inter-connected.

The Final Destination opens on August 28.

Source: Edward Douglas