Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bladerunner (1982) Convention Reel Found on Vimeo

A 1982 “convention reel” for the movie Bladerunner (1982) has appeared on Vimeo. It is very low quality, probably a transfer from the 16 mm but has some interesting material in it. In fact it contains some of the first efforts of Hollywood producers to destroy the noble art of visual effects by revealing the secrets of the arcane technology which is better held by a trusted elite and not just thrown out to the great unwashed of the filmgoing public.

This was still in the early days of “convention reels”, when film producers would pander to attendees of science fiction, fantasy and comic conventions. The success of the marketing of Star Wars (1977) could not be ignored and so studios and filmmakers started allocating money for short films describing the film in progress and sending those films along with a marketing assistant and possibly a star or two to the various conventions around the country.

Ridley Scott in front of a Bladerunner miniature

1982 would have been very early in this trend, before the directors and stars started routinely showing up at the convention.

Highlights of this reel include

-- A discussion by Syd Mead of the philosophy behind much of the production design, which is to say, a layered approach on the lower levels of accretions of technology on top of previous, no longer working, artifacts. I am not sure, but it looks to me as though they were building the set to Bladerunner on top of an urban back lot of existing facades, such as the Universal Back Lot, although I am not sure which one this might be.

-- A discussion by Ridley about why he did not want to use the word Android and instead made up their own word, replicant.

-- A discussion by Douglas Trumbull on the elements required to simulate the interior of one of the Spinners (flying police vehicles).

It is the latter that is the most disturbing as this is one of the earliest cases of the use of arcane technology of visual effects used to sell a film.  What a self-destructive behavior this is!  By revealing how the magic is done, the magic is itself undone, and the audience begins to become jaded and critical.  This process which took 30 years is one of the biggest problems the filmmaker has today.  But it is our own damn fault, or perhaps the fault of the producers who encouraged this kind of behavior out of a desire to market their film, in other words, out of short term greed.

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