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Comic-Con Panel Sparks Debate, Previews ‘Transformers 2’

24 Jul, 2009 By: John Latchem

The DVD Producers Panel included (L-R) moderator Bill Hunt, Charles de Lauzirika and Laura Gross.

SAN DIEGO — On a day when several studios were showing off new advancements in 3D presentations, DVD Producers gathering at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International, taking place July 23-26, lamented some of the changes to the industry.

The producers gathered in a forum moderated by Bill Hunt of TheDigitalBits.com to show off extras they had prepared for new and upcoming Blu-ray Discs and DVDs.

Laura Gross, who admitted she has yet to upgrade her home theater to Blu-ray Disc but has every intention of doing so, offered a few behind-the-scenes clips from Coraline, released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc July 21.

Van Ling announced he was working on extras for a new Blu-ray version of the original Terminator, due next year. In the meantime, he previewed a special DVD compilation of footage from Halloween parties hosted by propmaster Bob Burns, called Bob Burns and Friends Present ‘The Halloween Extravaganzas.’

Robert Meyer Burnett showed footage from a film he produced called The Hills Run Red, on DVD Sept. 29, and said he has written a sequel to Free Enterprise called The Wrath of Shatner and is trying to put together a distribution deal so he can make the film.

Cliff Stephenson previewed the Sept. 8 Crank 2: High Voltage DVD and Blu-ray with a clip from a making-of documentary.

“I wanted to show you a little bit of the picture-in-picture, but I honestly couldn’t show more than 45 seconds without showing something really grossly offensive or profane,” Stephenson said.

But the highlight of the previews came from Charles de Lauzirika with extras from the eventual disc of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the No. 1 box office earner of the year, which Lauzirika said would be “fully loaded and awesome.”

Lauzirika, who hinted he was working on a new Blu-ray set for the four “Alien” films, said he was surprised to find that Michael Bay’s office had contacted him through Facebook to recruit him as the franchise’s new DVD producer. Lauzirika then proceeded to skewer the director with some tongue-in-cheek video, beginning with an introduction from Bay himself.

“I’m actually stuck in L.A. rigorously trying to finish the DVD for Transformers,” Bay said. “I understand Charlie is on your panel. The DVD is not #@%!^# finished, so get your #@%!^# ass back here!”

Then, footage highlighted Bay’s on-set antics in dealing with situations that didn’t meet his satisfaction.

“It’s a real honest look at him,” Lauzirika said. “A peek at the Michael Bay experience.”

Other producers on the panel praised the clip as an example of the need for independent producers to make extras for disc.

“A studio wouldn’t produce that Michael Bay piece,” Stephenson said. “They just wouldn’t.”

Gross said filmmaking is often a “painful process” and that “studios don’t always want to show that, but that makes it more interesting.”

Ling agreed. “You really have to find what’s unique about the production,” he said.

“If you show a happy-go-lucky everything-is-fine documentary, who cares if the film turned out great?” Lauzirika retorted.

Added Gross: “It’s always been about content. People are interested in how films are made and the extremes of the people who make them.”

The problem, they agreed, was studio budgeting for extras.

“You have to ask where the money is going to come from,” Burnett said. “I’ve felt in the last couple of years there is a lot less money that the studios have to spend on special features. I worked on Lord of the Rings and Superman Returns in foreign countries for years at a time. The studio financed me to be in Australia for a year. That’s never going to happen again. Studios don’t have the kind of financial incentives anymore to do those kinds of things, which is unfortunate.”

The producers also were divided on the sales gimmick of retail exclusives that parse bonus content onto special discs offered only by select retailers.

“I hate it when I work really hard on something and only Wal-Mart gets it,” Stephenson said.

Gross said she experienced something similar with Open Season 2.

“There were six pieces, and four ended up on the Target disc,” she said. “So I said to people to be sure to buy it at Target and I had to go buy 35 copies myself so I could give it to people I knew.”

In the end, the producers lamented the business model as a market reality.

“Apparently it works if the DVD producer is buying 35 copies,” Ling quipped.

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