Posts tagged ‘interview’
The much-anticipated Street Fighter X Tekken released yesterday, and the good people at Capcom were nice enough to answer a few questions about the game and its development. Read More
Recently, Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson stopped by Blockbuster World Headquarters to meet our employees and promote their new film Leaves of Grass. Mr. Norton was gracious enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions we had about the movie. The result — an interview in three parts. Enjoy!
I sat down today with Bruce Anderson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Blockbuster On Demand, to answer a few of your most frequently asked questions about our digital service.
What is the difference between Blockbuster On Demand and Netflix’s digital service?
The primary difference between us and Netflix is that we’re focused on new releases, and Netflix isn’t. The vast majority of Netflix’s streaming content is a combination of TV shows and older movies.
Most of our digital movies are available to buy the same day as the DVD and Blu-ray versions. That’s becoming increasingly true for digital rentals, as well. So for example, we’ve had Couples Retreat available for streaming and downloading since February 9 when it was released on DVD and Blu-ray. We’ve had The Hangover and Star Trek since they came out, but as of today they’re still not available to stream from Netflix. Years can go by before a movie is available from Netflix — Erin Brockovich came out 10 years ago and you can’t stream it from Netflix.
Our goal is to offer all the movies our customers want most without them having to pay a monthly fee and wait.
Nothing that hit theaters in 2010 is out digitally yet, but we’ve got a bunch coming. In the meantime, here’s a list of the top 10 movies in 2009 (from boxofficemojo.com):
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Paul Bart: Mall Cop
Angels & Demons
Every one of those movies is currently available to rent and purchase from Blockbuster On Demand except Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which is only available to purchase. Paul Blart is also the only one on the list that’s available to stream from Netflix.
Another key difference is that we offer a download option for our customers. This is really great for customers who travel with a laptop — you can download The Hurt Locker to your laptop and enjoy it on your flight or road trip, since you don’t have to be connected to watch. Literally, our customers can watch digital movies on planes, trains, and automobiles (oh yes, we have that movie too!). Downloads also let you build up a library on your PC that you can watch on your Xbox (via home network) or put on portable devices like certain Archos players. Through our relationships with HTC and Motorola, our customers will soon be able to download to smartphones. You can’t do any of that if all you have is streaming.
Why do we charge for the service, instead of making it part of our movies by-mail subscription (like Netflix did)?
Again, it is all about new releases — we want to bring our customers the latest movies and the latest movies are only available on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Movies generally aren’t available through a subscription until they broadcast on TV, at which point you could probably stream them from Netflix, but even then they aren’t free because you have to pay a monthly fee.
Why doesn’t Blockbuster On Demand work on a Mac, and are there any plans to have Mac compatibility in the future?
Initially, our primary focus was to get service going on blockbuster.com. Later that focus shifted to making it work on TVs, Blu-ray players, and other consumer electronics. Now that we’ve established those channels, our goal is to bring Blockbuster On Demand to the Mac later this year.
Why do you delay the release of digital rentals as opposed to digital purchases?
Short answer: we don’t. Longer answer: The studios set availability dates, not us. Some movies are available to us for digital rental and purchase the same day as DVD and Blu-ray, while others aren’t available to us for digital rental until a couple of weeks later. For example, The Time Traveler’s Wife came out for digital rental and purchase on February 9, but Saw VI was available for digital purchase two weeks before digital rental.
When are you going to put Blockbuster On Demand on all the other internet-connected Blu-ray and TV brands? What about game consoles?
Stay tuned. You’ll see many more electronics brands carrying Blockbuster On Demand this year. The game consoles are more challenging, as Microsoft and Sony would rather operate their own digital movie stores than partner with us. We believe we can help them rent and sell more movies, so we’ll keep working on the relationship.
Follow-up: why not just do what Netflix did on the PS3?
We could do like Netflix did (make a BD-Live disk for the PS3), but we’d rather work with Sony than work around them. This wouldn’t help with Xbox though, because that console doesn’t do Blu-ray.
Any final words?
We’re bringing our customers the movies they want, where they want them, and when they want them.
Circle of Eight, the thriller series that aired on MySpace, is out today on DVD and digital download exclusively from Blockbuster. I sat down for a quick interview with the series’ director, Stephen Cragg, via the magic of the internets.
BB: Circle of Eight is obviously a unique film, not just because of the distribution model, but because it represents a new era of audience interactivity. What drew you to the project?
SC: Adding the relatively novel elements of interactivity and the internet seemed a wonderful way to deal with the fairly traditional thriller/scary movie genre. The ability of viewers to click on previous webisodes before looking at the latest release is also very appealing to me. It was interesting to see viewers interactively finding clues that would help them figure out what would happen next.
BB: What were some of the challenges and the benefits inherent to working on a new kind of film like this?
SC: It was challenging to break the story into short webisodes, to have each one end in a way that seemed to be an exclamation point and yet lead to the next one. That challenge was also one of the benefits, because it turned out to be great fun.
BB: One of the cool things about Circle of Eight is that the audience can affect the story. Did you have a favorite ending?
SC: I don’t want to be a spoiler for anyone who may read this but hasn’t seen it yet. Having an “alternate” ending seemed luxurious, a kind of secret benefit. Given the time and money, I think we could do several more endings.
BB: Are you interested in working on another “webisodic” movie again?
SC: Oh yeah. Definitely.
BB: Do you think that both the distribution strategy and the elements of audience interaction of Circle of Eight will become more common in filmmaking in the next few years?
SC: What I know about and enjoy doing is telling stories, making movies. I leave the distribution model to the folks who enjoy doing that. But I suppose the internet will become more and more a mode for getting our work in front of audiences.
BB: Can you share any details about what you’re currently working on?
SC: Right now I’m having a good time directing an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Thanks to Stephen for taking the time to answer my questions. You can rent Circle of Eight on DVD or download starting today.
The new (totally sweet) Star Trek movie recently released to DVD. Last night I got on the horn with the very talented and exceedingly nice Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who co-wrote the screenplay and served as executive producers on the film. They were gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.
BB: Were you fans of the franchise, or possibly even full-on Trekkies, before you started working on this film?
Bob: We were both fans. We never would have done it otherwise. We knew what thick waters those were.
BB: What are the challenges/advantages of working in an established franchise like this versus a blank slate?
Alex: The list of challenges is so long, that we wouldn’t have time for it in the interview. Knowing where Star Trek was, what it meant to us as kids, and what we wanted to do with it was very complicated. And we knew that times had changed in terms of what draws people to a movie.
Having gone through the Transformers experience, we knew that there were certain things that were going to be required, visually, for a movie like this. That Star Trek was always about, essentially, naval sea battles in space. And in a way that we loved, those ship battles were always relatively slow — it was always about coming up behind the other ship and outsmarting the other ship. So we knew that had to be a huge element in the movie. We also knew that no 12-year-old boy would be able to sit through the movie like that, not the way that we could when we were 12. Things are different — movies have evolved so much in terms of visual effects. We had to retain the spirit of what we knew was essential to Trek, but also update it.
And that was the biggest problem: how do you do both of those things? Because you don’t want to piss off the diehard fans, and you want to make an easy entry point for people who have dismissed Trek in the past because they thought it was too cold or too episodic somehow: that if they had missed everything that had come before it, they wouldn’t be able to come see this movie. So those were the challenges, among many.
Bob: On the plus side, because it was Star Trek and we knew and loved it, we had a great context for what would be something we would love. We had the benefit of the education of 40 years of Star Trek. So that’s the nice thing about an established franchise. We knew what we wanted to see as fans, and hoped that would somehow translate.
BB: Did you do a lot of source research — watching the old movies/shows, reading old scripts — before you started writing, or did you only use what you already knew?
Bob: We all did various levels of research. Alex and I sort of distributed different homework to people. We gave [Director] JJ [Abrams] a doctoral thesis analyzing the cultural meaning of Star Trek. Some of the guys watched shows, Alex and I were fans of some of the novels, so everyone kind of covered everything.
BB: The time travel device allowed you to deviate significantly from known Star Trek history/canon. How did you decide how much to turn the dial in terms of changing back-stories and characters?
Bob: We tried to change as little as possible. There had never been an origin story of how these characters came together. So while there was canon established by a single line here or there about how they all met, this story had never been done. So that automatically gave us a degree of freedom. And then whenever we were violating something we knew absolutely had dimension, we knew we had the time travel element to get us through it. But theoretically they could have met the same way in the original universe — Kirk and Spock in the Academy — theoretically many things that happened in the movie could have happened in both continuities. It was just a matter of not changing anything just to reinvent it, but also not being hampered by anything because it had been mentioned once before.
BB: Related to that, Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) tweeted this the other day: “What blew me away about Alex and Rob’s script. New Trek cannot exist without old. Nothing is discounted. Spock Prime validates all. So smart.”
Alex: God bless Simon Pegg, is all I can say.
Bob: And God bless Leonard Nimoy, because he’s right: that’s what allowed us to do what we did. You know, Leonard came out of retirement on that character to do that for Star Trek. So, God bless Leonard Nimoy.
BB: That was obviously the pivotal point of the movie premise. How early in the process did you come up with that, or did JJ Abrams have that vision from the beginning?
Alex: No, not at all. We knew from the word go that we had to have [Nimoy] in the movie, and that if he said no we weren’t going to have a movie. So when we presented our take to JJ and [Producer] Damon [Lindelof] about needing Spock, it became a conversation between all of us about how we were going to get to him, because we knew he had said he was never going to play that part again. And we explained why we felt like it was a necessary move; not only at a story level, but also because without Leonard Nimoy telling Trek fans that it was okay to move into this iteration, I think we as fans would have felt a little bit dubious. So we just knew that it was all about him, and JJ got on board immediately.
BB: Casting was especially important for a movie like this, where you’re rebooting such a treasured franchise. As writers, how involved were you in the casting process?
Bob: Well this film we also executive produced, so we were right in there through the whole process.
Alex: Casting this movie was really tough, because you’re trying to recast these unbelievably iconic parts. And you want to pay homage and respect to the amazing actors who played all the parts, but you also want to bring something new to it. And you definitely don’t want to parody them in any way. You don’t want your new actors to feel like they’re cartooning these characters that we’ve loved so much.
BB: You didn’t want somebody “doing Kirk”, so to speak.
Alex: Exactly. And I think that certainly one of JJ’s superpowers is his ability to cast. There’s no question: he is as good as it gets when it comes to looking at undiscovered talent and knowing what he can get out of them.
BB: Despite all the time I spend rocking the internet and how closely I followed the production of this movie, I knew next to nothing about the plot before seeing it. Was secrecy a big part of the production?
Alex: It was huge.
Bob: Yeah, the set of Star Trek was like joining the CIA. The actors were brought in on covered carts under tarps at night. It was crazy. None of us had the script on a file that was accessible on the internet — people had to come read them in the office under guard. We kept it tight. We knew that part of the surprise of the movie was going to be what happened, and this wasn’t the kind of movie where you can do all your revealing in the previews — part of the deliciousness of it was to unravel the story. And so we were very protective of it.
BB: Star Trek has gone through a lot of iterations, but remains extremely popular, perhaps now more than ever. What do you think is so compelling about the series?
Bob: There are so many things. I think it was born in the golden age of television, and it had so many progressive firsts — reflecting civil rights, and reflecting the Kennedy administration, grappling with war, first interracial kiss — and all those things conspired, I think, to make it something more than just pop, and it actually became part of our culture. Even people who don’t know the movies know the names Kirk and Spock like they know Zeus and Hera or something. They’re just part of our classical culture, in a way. And when something gets to that level, then it’s going to bubble up again and again as different generations take a look at their cultural heritage. Maybe that sounded lofty, but that’s how I like to think of it.
BB: Finally, we all know there’s going to be another movie, and I believe you’ll be working on it. What stage is it in right now?
Bob: We’re all figuring out the story together. We’re in what we call the coffee shop stage, where you go to a coffee shop and you talk about the story.
Alex: Until all the themes land and all the big ideas land, and you then start building the bricks on that.