Jan De Bont | The Backlot Podcast | New York Film Academy

Hi I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy.

And I’m Aerial Segard acting alum. And in this episode we bring you the director who flung a cow through the air in Twister.

And trapped Keanu on a speeding bus. The one and only Jan De Bont.

The Lions did run over the camera and the actors were screaming and yelling panicking and of course one of the Lions came back towards the hole in which I was hiding. A bit me in my head. And. I thought this is the end of my life.

Before directing. He was a cinematographer for dozens of amazing films including Basic Instinct die hard and the Hunt for Red October.

Which was executive produced by Jerry Sherlock who was the founder of New York Film Academy.

I didn’t know that.

Now. You do.

Well that makes sense because just like our filmmaking students Mr. De Bont’s own film education involved taking courses in all the different aspects of the industry.

Let me tell you a little bit of when I went to film school at Holland film academy they did exactly the same thing. So I you know you had to learn to be an actor cameraman a editor and record sound those four things. So I was completely not interested in acting of course but I had to and and that’s probably one of the best things that happened to me because standing in front of the camera is so difficult and you’re so dependent of what the person the director tells you you need so much information so if you understand that. Then later as a director you kind of feel the need what you know what the actors has to go through and what the all the problems they go through. I think it’s extremely important and I recently saw some of the little movies we did in Holland in the late 60s a long time ago and I remember seeing myself there was in the film you see and there was a movie in which I had to be. A model for underwear and I didn’t even remember that and certainly it wasn’t a big screen. I was a little embarrassing I have to say but I did learn so much of that and and I think it’s like you know it is try to stand in front of a camera try to say some lines try to just walk in a room and walk out in a natural way. It’s very hard very very hard. So you really have to understand what acting is all about. Then of course apart from the storyline of the character et cetera et cetera it is really important that you deal with actors and you can only do that if you if you kind of. Forced to do it a little bit. I mean stand in front of a camera. It’s really important. Even your own make your own little movie and try to portray something you find out how difficult it is.

Mr. De Bont went on to a successful career in Europe as a director of photography. But in order to make the true blockbuster films. He had to move to America.

I started making movies when I was 14 years old. I made little wedding. Film for friends and family. I had a small 8 millimeter camera and from there I went up to high school and I started a film club in high school. But. What I really wanted after working in Holland for a long time I worked like did a lot of movies in Europe and in Germany is I wanted to go to Hollywood. I really felt like I could have kept working in Holland for a long time in Germany and Belgium and England but I would never gotten to those movies the bigger movies that I really wanted to do. And I one of my favorite movies as Bridge on the River Kwai. I want to do one time a movie like that. Something like really with spectacular events and so I knew I had to do it one time. It’s just like the hardest part is when do you make the decision in your life. Because when you move from Europe where wherever you come it doesn’t really matter. You basically have to start all over again. You might as well forget that you’ve done all those movies because people forget very quickly here. So they know you. They’ve seen maybe some of your movies for for a couple of months and then they’re waiting for what you’re gonna do here. So it’s very important that you make the choice whatever you do first the United States make a right choice. Don’t fall into a trap of doing something that that is a bad movie or is really nobody’s going to see because you then you get very quickly into the wrong. It’s a wrong entrance into this movie business try to find something that has a little more value more class a little even if just but but don’t be afraid to take a small job. It doesn’t matter it doesn’t have to be big job right away but really do not make a wrong choice because it’s like I’ve seen many other people come from Europe. They always ask advice and they always want to go right into the big movie. Well that’s not going to happen you know they just. It’s rarely happened so they they really want you to prove that you first of all want to be here number one and secondly that you really have talent. But what does help is when you make your own little movies I would recommend to anybody is make your own little movies and make showcases for yourself. And really it’s so important because that that that they trust they trust that much more than this movie. The stuff you did in any other country. So that’s. That’s one of the most important lessons so I can give you.

One of Mr. De Bont’s first films in the U.S. almost killed him. Literally it’s the cult flick roar which is directed by Noel Marshall and start his wife Tippi Hedren daughter Melanie Griffith and several all too close all too real lions.

It’s been considered the most dangerous film in history. No animals were harmed but the 70 crew members that weren’t so lucky it got bad.

The very first movie I did in L.A. It was a movie called roar. It was with like 20 lions and tigers and an elephant. God knows how many animals it was with Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith and they said it will take about five months. I said five months. I have five weeks I expected it to be. And of course that was like a movie that became like a the disaster movie of all times meaning that after eight months the set burned down and animals escaped. So a lot of them escaped so they had to be the whole crew was helping to catch all the lions and tigers which was not fun let me tell you that it’s really scary especially with tigers. You see the eyes light up a little bit. You have to get out of there as soon as you can. And then the last thing happened to me on the same movie and this was my welcome to Los Angeles is that we did a scene. There’s a big lake in the set Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith were on the boat. They were chased by the lions and tigers on the shore. And I was filming several cameras I had the scene dug a hole in the ground and the lions would be coming over the camera and then I would pan to the actors on the boat right nextdoor in the rowboat. Of course everything went well. I mean to a degree it went well the Lions did run over the camera and the actors were screaming and yelling panicking. And of course one of the Lions came back towards the hole in which I was hiding and bit me in my head and I thought this is the end of my life you know because I know it was really dangerous because I couldn’t see anything anymore because my skin was totally. I was scalped basically it was hanging in front of my face and I knew it was very soft and bloody. My assistant completely fainted right away and everybody else was listening to to Melanie and Tippi screaming on the boat because that was the scene that was the end. So and then I started to screaming but nobody paid any attention to me for at least a minute and I knew I learned one thing is that when you work with lions and tigers make yourself as big as possible get up put your hands up any as high as you can and make as much sound as you can. But the thing is because I couldn’t see anything. I just hope that I didn’t go towards the other lions. And finally one of the trainers I saw I was you know they were all watching. It was their fault that they were not watching me and they got the animals away. But I was in the hospital for a really long time. I had two hundred thirty six stitches in my head. So that was my welcome to L.A. so it’s not that easy.

Fortunately Mr. De Bont’s other projects as a cinematographer proved to be far less dangerous though he did have to brave the difficult terrain of union regulations.

Another thing is that. I was used to operate the camera and as a DP That’s very European thing and to me this is extremely important because I cannot possibly imagine if like a photographer ask somebody else. Okay you make the picture I just tell you how to do it. So I feel like you have to connect with the actor. And I always you know like I said earlier I always talk to the actors. So I get to know and I get to know a little bit how they how they are what they’re thinking of what they like to do and trying to kind of indirectly a little co-direct the movie to some degree. And that was like impossible. So I remember that. I think it was on maybe Hunt for Red October that the unions start suing me for this that I could not do it anymore. I needed to hire operators et cetera et cetera. And that movie I don’t know if you have seen it. But it’s very small sats and moving platforms. There was just no space for an operator because there was just I mean was just too small. So I did everything handheld and so I could basically help to to the directors themselves to find ways to visualize it. So the studios really they were really behind me. They were saying listen this. They totally got it that I had to do it and they basically helped pay for my lawyers at the time and we won the lawsuit. I mean but what happened the result was that basically as long as we hired operators multiple operators if they would be there and they would be doing other stuff it would be okay. So even if if I let’s say there only would be one camera and I would only operate that one camera then there still had to be another person there. If he sat on the chair all day long. That was fine too as long as he got paid. And then of course the crews like that the biggest difference is like two more things that the size of the crews in Holland and Europe you have very small crews and suddenly here you have a crew of before you know it is 90 people and on bigger movies very quickly you know like 150 or more. And that was like a big difference for me because I had to really we learned how to deal with so many people.

Much of Jan De Bont’s transition to American filmmaking involved learning how to manage hundreds of people when he was used to just dealing with dozens.

There’s a couple of movies that I’ve done over during my lifetime and it’s like. One of them was Turkish Delight is a movie that I always be very close. It’s a Dutch movie I think it was nominated for Best Foreign Film Academy. It’s based on a book from a Dutch writer and I never realized how much I enjoyed filmmaking as on that movie. I mean we had a film crew it was maybe a total of 12 people 13 Max and we became like a unit that work together day and night including the actors. We were always together for I think seven weeks and that kind of created it’s such an incredible. You know we always we all were on the same line. We all knew exactly what the stakes were. We all knew exactly what to do and what the story was and everybody could talk to everybody so it wasn’t like the director has to only say the final word. No anybody had an idea he could you know he could say it and if it was any good we would do it now and that is was such an amazing thing and then those things that I learned in Holland I never was able to achieve completely here because everything is very separated here. Like you have so many professions and and you know if you go from a crew from 12 to a crew of 200 that’s a big difference and director is more of a manager of a managerial position in which you have to know everything about everybody and everything and everything about all the technical parts of filmmaking. You know not only the directing part but you have to know about sound. You have to know about costume. You have to know about cleaning how long it takes to clean somebody’s costume it’s ordinary simple things set design lights and it’s an endless list visual effects special effects. What type of gasoline to use for bombs. What kind of it is it just amazing the things you would never ever thought about having to learn about moviemaking but as a director you have to I mean at least for the type of movies I have been involved in. But coming back to that. Is there a movie. I mean there’s a couple ones that I really like I like black rain. It’s one of my favorite movies. I still like very much. I do like speed still because it was like. Also that was the closest to whatever I had done in Holland a small crew everybody worked for very little money and they only did it once and that was what I told them that after this next movie everybody’s gonna get paid their real fee. And that was so great because everybody had also this feeling like you know this is one group of people making one movie together. It wasn’t like one person at the top and then everybody just has to work their asses off. It was really a pretty great experience.

After working with director John McTiernan on the hunt for Red October the two teamed up for the greatest Christmas movie ever. Die Hard.

He’s an easy guy to like and a hard man to kill Bruce Willis Die Hard.

Got invited to the Christmas party by mistake. Who knew.

It’s also a pretty awesome action flick and setting up for a helicopter approach on Nakatomi Plaza proved to be harder than anything John McClane went through.

Especially when the crew only had one night to pull it off.

One night.

One night.

Prepping is incredibly important for instance the scenes in die hard where they. The big building the helicopters fly around that building. We only had one night to film that sequence in I think I used 28 cameras or so because there were scenes on the ground in the streets on the rooftop it had to be lit completely there were four city blocks that had to be lit in Century City and they only give us one permit to fly over it once so that had to be extremely well prepared. You know I had there was tons of lighting but they were all kind of hidden. So that’s number one. Where how to light to set how many generators. I think there were like 14 generators all hidden by buildings and the sets inside the building had to be lit. And on the rooftop there was a big scene on the rooftop all at the same time. So you have to find ways and there’s a lot of prepping. It’s like how do you like to scene like that where you don’t want to see the movie lights and they use a lot of fluorescents. So how can you keep everything out of frame. How can you not see the film camera. The film helicopter for all the other cameras on the ground so it’s a massive massive preparation and that is something that first of all you don’t do that very often in Europe and it is something that you really have to learn because the whole crew depends on you on the DP mostly not so much on the director because quite often they sit in the trailer because it’s too complex for them because it’s really it’s too many too many cameras too many things. And again you have to work with so many people and you have like at one point I had about four sets of walkie talkies talking to on top of the building around the building two blocks back and they all had to run at this at certain times at different speeds. And so it was it was like probably the the most complex thing I’ve ever done but it was kind of fun to do it as well.

Mr. De Bont’s preparation extends to how he approaches each shot to ensure that even the most seemingly mundane moment exhibits visual tension.

What is very important to me is that there’s intention in the picture and in the image is there’s no tension in the picture. And to me I do something wrong because I feel that there’s no tension there’s nobody would be very interested in looking at it. And I always try to manipulate to a degree the image or the image quality to make people look at the screen. And when I started making my first movie which was in the 60s I started doing hand-held almost exclusively and I thought at least it felt like it was a little bit like a documentary feel to it. But it felt like audiences were looking they were like a little bit more participating in the movie it was somebody point of view you kind of were forced to really focus on what I wanted you to see. So that’s really important thing you can learn actually. You know it’s like what is important. If you see an actor do you put an actor in the middle of the frame. Do you see him on the left or right. Do you see him from behind. Is his face lit up. Do you is he in the dark. I mean there’s a million million different ways you can make it interesting. Are you moving away to the actor or or toward him or is it is kind of exciting to really you know find the right solution for every particular scene. But you know the one mistake is is to make it just all similar. I hate it when when movies have an and when it’s too beautiful I don’t like when things are too beautiful because then I feel like I’m distracted from the image. I lose a little bit the not only the intention but I cannot look at the actors anymore because if there’s beautiful skies and beautiful this and long lens shots that to me is that completely distracting. I’d much rather have a camera right in a person’s face. And I loved as a cameraman I remember I loved to talk to the actors non-stop. I whisper and they could see me and they did. And the director never saw that because the director’s behind me. And that was great. They loved it because quite often they don’t know what to do. So I was trying to guide them. I sometimes I push them away with a camera so that they have to move so that there is a connection between between between the the actor and the screen.

This same attention to detail helped make the steamy thriller Basic Instinct look like it was a modern Hitchcock film.

Well that is if Hitchcock went after a really hard R rating.

For that movie I really had to come up with an idea a little bit like a lot of those inspiration comes from Hitchcock movie so I mean there’s a lot of similar locations even on the West Coast south of San Francisco. Obviously I’m a big you know I love his movies and some of them were absolutely brilliant and you can watch him over and over again and I think this movie has a visual style that is partially modern and partly from the 50s 60s. It’s I don’t know how you get to do these ideas I just it’s like you read the script. And you have to the film has to come together in your mind for us. I mean when I start doing a movie you have to see the movie in your head before you start doing it. You cannot you know figure out we’ll do this then we’ll figure out how. It doesn’t work. You have to see the whole movie in your head before and if once you have that then then the rest is relatively easy.

After DPing dozens of films on demand was ready to make the jump into directing.

In other words his career began to pick up speed. Eh.

Really.

There’s a bomb on a bus once the bus goes 50 miles an hour. The bomb is armed. If it drops below 50. It blows up. What do you do. What do you do.

Now. He’s the only solution. Keanu Reeves. Dennis Hopper. Sandra Bullock. Speed. Get ready for rush hour.

Pitching himself as a director turned out to be less work than expected thanks to his extensive resume but getting the studio to to coin the phrase board the bus.

Yes.

Was another story.

The studios it’s just a matter of like I already knew the studios now because I worked on a lot of bigger movies it just was the transition from DP to to directing was a little hard but they knew that I did for instance I always did all the second unit. One of these big action scenes I I kind of always the director’s let me do it because it was much easier for them. And so the studios knew I did that. So they knew I could handle those big scenes. So basically I found this script speed that was at Paramount and they you know and they saw they they they hated the script because who in the hell ever wants to see a movie about a bus and they’re only going 50 miles an hour how boring and but I really could see the potential in that. And I went to it was that same script to Fox and Peter Chernin who was at that time President. And I told him my ideas and and it took 45 minutes to convince him. And that’s pure luck. I mean that doesn’t normally it doesn’t it takes a lot longer months and years sometimes. But that was the that was my first experience and it was like. And of course you know the result was extremely you know good for them because they made a fortune on that movie.

Even though it was his first time directing. Mr. De Bont Already knew one very important lesson in Hollywood make your boss happy.

You know the film business is like you know people but you don’t see them all the time because everybody’s always working they’re gone. So the first relationships always the most important because that’s what people remember. So whoever you deal with on your first project you know it’s it’s gonna be an important relationship because they will remember you even if you don’t work with them for 10 20 years they will remember you. And also they are the ones who will tell other people what they think of you and that’s little bit how this business works a little bit you always call other people what do you think about him. What do you think is he okay. Is he slow is he fast. Is he able to work with the studio. Is he cause studios like you know every director wants to make his own movie wants to have total control in Hollywood. You don’t have total control. You have no control. I mean in some way you have all the control in the world. But only if you know that the final result has to be a movie that works and you’re actually out of your mind if you don’t listen to other people who have some creative input that is that is actually effective. That would make it a better movie. So you have to be very open to other people. I mean unfortunately I think the last decade or so the studios have a little bit too much input you know like they really are starting to direct out of the office a little bit and they are giving you you know they see the dailies is not good do it again. And that is not good. I mean it’s OK if they give advice and say no but they cannot direct a movie from there and that’s a little bit a problem at the moment. I feel with movie making is that there’s too much similarity because it’s like it’s office or making I call it a little bit and they’re kind of especially with younger directors. They take over control very quickly and they take it away from you. And in post-production when the editing is and you think you made your movie then they take over and they start re-editing your movie and it happens so many times. The reason I say all this is must easier to cooperate with them a little bit and pretend at least that you’re agreeing with them. You’ll try to do what they suggest. That’s much better than to just fight them. You cannot fight doesn’t really work.

Similar to how he preferred to be his own cameraman Mr. De Bont wanted his actors to do their own stunts even if that meant putting his own life on the line to get Keanu Reeves on board.

I think you know because I work with so many other directors as a DP and I worked you know on many different type of movie thank god. So I’ve been aware of what is kind of needed for actors to know how. And I always find the most difficult part is that actors are always the most insecure when it’s a big scene is big action scene because they feel not familiar with it they don’t know what to do they don’t have to run and not trip. They don’t know what to say because it’s never written dialogue for them. And that is so difficult and they always think everything is dangerous. I mean and that is of course the most important part of a director is to make them feel safe. And again it’s like it has not little to do with acting but it has to do with like if you don’t feel safe they cannot act. So quite often I try to do the stunts for them. I’m relatively clumsy and not really good in jumping. But I felt if I can do that they could do it too they should be able to do it. So there was many ways like for instance on speed like when Keanu jumps from the Jaguar to the bus that looks like a difficult stunt no and he absolutely did not wanted to do it he said no I’m not going to do it. It’s too dangerous and I say okay I’ll do it for you. I had no idea what it was for either. So in reality actually is you know it’s more like a fear was in your heart is that it’s because you see the road passing by very fast and you’re both going at least 50 60 miles depending like what the scene was. So in reality the best thing is not to think about it and just step to the bus no. And when I did it the first time I did step in but forgot to hold on you know. So thank God he wasn’t watching. But because he was he just looked away and I was so happy he didn’t see that because he would have almost fallen out of the bus. And so I had to do it again and this time I did it right. And then of course he he said Okay okay well if you really want it I’ll do it. But I really don’t want to but I’ll do it. And then he finally did it and it looks good. So it’s basically it’s like you have to convince them it’s it’s safe because you really you don’t want to use stunt people. I can’t stand the use of stunt doubles. I mean because I want to really see the actors you know doing that to me if I cannot see an actor’s face in a stunt it’s the whole stunt is meaningless because then anybody can do that. And it’s like become so prefab and it becomes like there’s no emotion. But the moment you see an actor’s face in a scene like that and you know when Sandra drives the bus she actually drives the bus and once she hits some other cars she actually hits another car and you cannot act that you know it’s really hard to really put it in your mind Oh I’m gonna do this I’m gonna react. It’s impossible but the actors if they are at ease and if they feel really great and they feel safe most importantly then you get incredible reactions you know.

After speed. His next film was the tornado chasing action extravaganza twister.

Or as we call it back home in Oklahoma. The greatest most accurate movie ever. Made about tornados.

It’s coming. It’s headed right for us.

It’s already here.

Scientists have been studying tornadoes forever but still nobody knows how a tornado works.

You people are all crazy do you know that.

She’s a beauty.

Jonas Miller he’s a Nightcrawler. He’s in it for the money not the science. He’s got a lot of high tech gadgets. But he’s got no instincts.

Even with three times the budget he had on speed Mr. De Bont still expected his actors not their stunt doubles to be in the thick of the action.

You rehearse a lot and you can only rehearse to some degree because you cannot rehearse like running in the field with debris being thrown at you. The more intimate scenes you have to rehearse and because it had to be the same kind of feeling and tension then. Then the rest of the sequences. So I wanted to make sure that it had this kind of a relatively intense ruggedness to it. But at the same time there was emotion to it. And with Helen it was relatively easy but a lot of the actors was a little harder because they like to do physical things and you know like it was a little difficult for me sometimes to get them to do the quiet sequences because they said I should have run no no you’re not gonna run and you just sit there for but it’s not much different than any other movie it’s just rehearsing. Talk about it. Listen what they have to say. Very important and really let them play it and let them especially let them do it one time. The way they like to do it and and see if there’s anything that you like from it and try to use it because it’s really important that you listen to them and that you really hear what they have to say because ultimately they have to play it no. I Mean they cannot become just like robots and just running from left to right. This really was so important to me that they really understood what it all meant. You know like I really wanted them to drive the cars I didn’t want to have like normally in Hollywood movies you have a big tow car and the actors in the car behind it. They all fake drive here actors they had to drive and that makes it much more real no. It’s like it’s a little bit tricky sometimes like the helicopter shot when and camera starts really high up and then we see the red truck and the camera comes closer closer closer till close up in the car. And that was dangerous because these were the actors driving and the helicopter was at one point like 20 feet away from the car and and he was one of the best pilots in the business and I knew he could do it. And he guaranteed that it would be safe best for the actors there were no matter how I explained it to them how close it would be. They were scared shitless because if you see a helicopter the distance of half this room it’s pretty close especially with the wind blowing blowing but it’s a but but they liked it they were really troopers. And I think after a couple of weeks of shooting everybody was so into into the whole feeling of chasing and roughness there was this pretty. Some of them went sometimes chasing in a weekend in the state next door which we totally told them not to do because we were afraid they would never come back. But it’s but at the same time they got this feeling what it really meant to chase a tornado because it’s it’s really I can recommend it. It’s really cool.

We at the backlot are not responsible if any of you decide to chase a tornado for real.

So don’t blame us but ironically the filmmakers had to chase tornadoes themselves to get the necessary footage.

Bad weather usually shut a film down in Twister good weather caused them even more problems.

The most difficult thing was I don’t know if you noticed or not but we were filming during the season where most tornadoes do happen. And of course the the year we were filming it was a year there was incredible soft summer. And no tornadoes were visible in hundreds of miles. And not only that the skies were always totally blue and so I had to Oh my God how can I possibly make a movie where the skies was always sunny where there’s no wind and so we basically had to come about shooting how are we going to solve this problem and we decide a system with Sky replacement that had to be affordable because we didn’t have any more money because everybody thought the skies would always be dark in Oklahoma which they aren’t. And so we found a system with ILM that could be relatively easy meaning it would take us several days for every shot to replace it. You know we had a second unit team filming skies in all the states around it where the Weather wasn’t so good like Nebraska and tried to replace the sky use that sky and put it in all the images we did in Oklahoma.

These days CGI has become so impressive and routine we almost take it for granted but in the mid 90s using CG to create a natural looking disaster was a new and incredibly complicated process.

Well first of all I did go in a couple of those those storm chase runs have you ever done that. It’s fantastic. It’s really really cool. It’s like there’s nothing more scary and exciting than chasing a tornado in a car especially if the car is a little slow because then you have to really find ways out of it. But I really I got so excited by that because it’s like the force of nature is so amazing. And as I said that’s what I really wanted to get on the screen. It’s like there’s nothing that we can do that’s even close to what nature can do. So I went to meet with so many of the storm chaser guys saw all the footage and hired quite a few of those people because I thought you know they know where we have to go number one of course and we didn’t know that it was gonna be like a sunny shoot. But they were guiding us at least also in what people would do in the car say all the equipment was right and we had we had actually real dopplers with us and that would work but there was nothing to see because there was no tornado in the neighborhood. But but anything that those actors do is relevant to what a real storm chaser would do. So that took a long time to get the cars right because it’s like we needed like five sets of cars basically of each car because they always had to move left and right many cars got damaged and had to be re patched up repainted. So the preproduction was extremely long but most importantly the visual effects in this movie. This was a very beginning of visual effects a little bit and a lot of them had never been done before. So the studio did not let us make the movie until we could prove that actually we could create a tornado in visual effects. And so we had to develop. I mean I was involved in the developing of the particle system that didn’t exist so another thing that a director sometimes has to do but. But that was a kind of exciting because you know it’s the particle system and we figured out had to have at least 12 million particles for it to work. And that means we need this extremely powerful computers to deal with all that information at that time. So ILM and all the supervisor they had to rent supercomputers to be able to store it all. And to put it together I mean the rendering of the shot in the film at the end the big tornado at the very end. That took two days to render just one shot and the whole post-production took very long long time because it’s like first of all we were they told us we cannot move the camera ever you know because otherwise we couldn’t match it. And then when I the first day of shooting I told the guy no no we cannot do that it has to be handheld. It has to be I have to feel this rough quality to it. And they freaked out completely because he had never the tracking shots in those days was extremely difficult very time consuming. So they were forced to design a system that’s a little easier. Still was very slow but at least twice as fast as so. So the whole post-production was like probably twice as long as they had imagined it to be. And also the visual effects special effects on camera which was really fun. I mean like blowing real ice cubes into actors faces and straw and hay and debris. We had this you know like this sequence on the road. We had two gigantic 40 foot trucks we had one camera truck in the middle six camera and then two big trucks with huge ice makers spitting out just ice and aiming it right over the top. It would fall on the actors. I mean that was actually more fun than anything else because I mean. I mean Bill Paxton got one. I mean we tried to make them as small as possible but there was one big clunker in that it hit. Bill Paxton in his head I remember. And you can see it actually in the movie he was bleeding like crazy but he really I said stopped. No no no no. Keep going. And he loved it because it was really cool. It was like a really fantastic thing for him. Experience so nobody experienced like in the back of a pickup truck standing on a hill. It’s pretty cool. So there’s a lot of things we had to practice and endlessly rehearse and sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t. And you have to find other solutions no.

Man he really loves tornadoes.

Seriously. And you might assume that Jan De Bont’s work ethic and his boundary pushing the tornado chasing. Not to mention his extensive background as a cinematographer would make him a really difficult director to DP for.

But in fact the opposite’s true because he started as a DP. He knows what they go through better than anyone.

People always ask me that question because they think Oh my God he’s going to be so critical. And in reality because you have such a clear vision of what you like what you want to see you can you can be extremely precise in telling to the DP What you’re looking for. And most directors have no idea what they want. And so they’re kind of very vague and they hope that you give the right answer. But I was very precise in what I was looking for. And of course you look for people that you know a little bit that you work you know and therefore it was like relative easy. Said this is what I’d like to see. And you think you know you can do that. Are you interested in it first of all. You know what is. One other thing that’s really so important with with as a DP. Director is that you know they always ask me you know I wonder what shooting movies like on Die Hard or lethal weapon any of this movies. It’s like. How much longer. Okay 10 minutes. And of course it’s always 20 or sometimes longer because the sets are sometimes so big and doesn’t work out whatever reason. In this case when he tells me I need 10 minutes or 15 minutes I can see he needs at least 15 minutes or 20 so I’m much more able to defend him against producers say no no he really needs 20 minutes. It’s OK it’s fine so they like most DPs really that the ones I have worked with really. I mean they love it because they finally somebody who defends them you know so it’s good.

If you’re going to battle the elements when making a film it’s good to work for someone who has your back. So we want to thank Jan De Bont for talking with our students.

And thanks to all of you for listening. That’s Eric Conner.

And she is Oklahoma’s own Aerial Segard. This episode was based on the Q&A moderated by Chris Devane. To watch the full interview or to see our other Q&A’s check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy.

This episode was written by Eric Conner edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden our creative director is David Andrew Nelson who also produced this episode with Kristian Hayden.

And me executive produced by Tova Laiter Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler a special thanks to our events department Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible.

To learn more about our programs check us out at NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

See you next time.

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