Sunday, February 27, 2005

Voyager and Other Title Sequences

Dan Curry has done the title sequences for several feature films. For the Rodney Dangerfield comedy, "Back to School," Curry's task was to tell the backstory of the main character's past. He was able to blend photographs from his own family's album because, coincidentally, the character Dangerfield was playing grew up in the same New York neighborhood as Curry did.

In "Top Gun" the specific task was to create mood. Working with the music score is part of the process, and on this film Curry had the music before he started, so he could edit the images to move more slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, to both match the music's tempo and the pace of preparations for the jets' flight, and the adrenelin rush the rest of the movie would be.

For "Back to School," the music wasn't recorded, and Curry saw only the sheet music. But he used it to decide where the cuts in the film should be, and the first time that score and title sequence were played together, they matched perfectly. The credits of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were a musical number, and required unusual visual effects--more glinting of the dancers' sequins.

"Credits are like an overture to an opera---its purpose is to give the credit information, but also to give a promise of what the show is going to be about." As examples of great title sequences, Curry cited "Spartacus" and the 1938 "Robin Hood," which he also called "probably one of the best crafted adventure films."

One of the proudest ones for me," he added," was the title sequence for Voyager. I had the opportunity to create what my dream of space travel would be."

On Working With TV Budgets---and TV time

"Every week we go to a pre-production meeting, where everybody gets a handle on what the scope of the production is, then we [the department heads] go back and do a budget, and then each department meets with the producer and presents its budget. When the producers recover from cardiac arrest, we go back and say, we can trim this, instead of six ship shots here we can tell that story with 3, maybe we don't have to blow up a fifteen story building, we can blow up a five story building, and basically get it down to doabilty. The problem with television is that it's a sprint-we have to work really really fast, the greatest challenge we had was the finale of ds9 when we had 354 major visual effect shots, including a space battle with over 200 ships in a shot --and they gave us 3 weeks. It's about making rapid decisions. ..

So then we have a final budget meeting, and the budget is finalized. You all know that film is an uncomfortable marriage between art and business, and the business side always rules."

On politics

A faculty member asked if "you Hollywood types are like us, [faculty who are]feeling besieged by those who want to limit our freedom and install censorship."

First of all, I don't consider myself a Hollywood type," Curry said. " I just work there." But he went on to say: "If you exploit your power to demean and manipulate the other point of view rather than make an honest depiction of it, then people from another persuasion will look at you as less than honorable. There are many points of view in Hollywood. People from every part of the political spectrum work on our show, they talk about their views." The idea, he said, is to "disagree without being disagreeable."

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