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PITCH BLACK: Writer-director David Twohy on his Sleeper Sci-Fi Success.
By Denise Dumars
March 07, 2000
'Internet buzz helped make PITCH BLACK a successful film,' says screenwriter-director David Twohy of his hit film. 'The film outperformed expectations--it made $14 million the first week, and debuted in 4th place. The next week it was in 5th place, and is expected to remain there this week.' Twohy finds this extremely encouraging. 'The producers expected more fall-off after the first week. They thought the film would only appeal to a genre audience. But clearly we're pulling in more than just the hard-core science fiction fans. We're getting a more general audience, more of the thriller audience as well.'
Twohy is obviously pleased, and rightly so, for he worked on a lot of the publicizing of the film himself. 'We have a great website,' he says of www.pitchblack.com. 'I helped design it myself!' he says, laughing a little and obviously proud of his creation. 'It's a dramatic video presentation in and of itself. There's also a 20-page animated comic to go with it. We wanted to attract the fans and give them more than just the usual trailer, the usual scenes from the film. In both the website and in the Sci-Fi channel one-hour special, there's original programming that works in the scenes from the film. But both the website and the television special are original works, meant to be creative and to give the fans something extra.'
The Sci-Fi Channel special provides back-story for the film's characters as well as additional material. 'We wanted this film to be character-driven, to have interesting back stories for the characters. The Sci-Fi Channel program takes that a step farther.'
Twohy is clearly courting his audience. For example, in a collaboration with the Director of Photography on the film, Twohy added some special but subtle visual effect that probably only the science fiction fans would pick up on: under a different sun, colors look different, and the effects of sunlight would be much different than what we see here on Earth.
'The light looks different whether the amber sun or the blue sun is up,' he says. 'We used a process called the skip-bleach process. Normally, in the process of developing film the second step is to run the film through a tank of bleach. When this process is skipped, it keeps the silver in the film. When the film is then shown, black looks deeper and other colors are washed out, giving a burnished look to the film. The effect is that of light which obviously comes from a sun different from our own,' he explains. Then he laughs. 'My lawyer saw the film and said, 'There was something wrong with the print! It was all washed out!' That's how I knew I succeeded.'
Twohy was eager to point out that the film's plot twists will keep even the most seasoned SF fan guessing. 'You didn't guess who would come out at the end, did you?' he asks. 'I'd hoped it would be that way. I didn't want the trailer to give away too much, and it didn't. When the marketing execs get nervous about how a film will perform, they start revealing more and more of the plot in the trailers. Fortunately, that didn't happen. I like trailers that are all about music and images, and that's what I wanted for PITCH BLACK. Thank goodness its performance is exceeding expectations.'
PITCH BLACK is an effective SF thriller that is a rarity for its genre: a film that is sophisticated enough to interest even jaded SF fans and yet is accessible enough to attract a more general audience. Let's hope it continues to outperform expectations.