A Minute With: ‘Titanic’ producer Jon Landau

MUMBAI Mon Apr 9, 2012 9:38pm IST

1 of 3. Jon Landau (L) is seen with James Cameron in this handout picture.

Credit: Reuters

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Jon Landau, producer of box-office blockbusters "Titanic" and "Avatar", is often credited with bringing the 3-D wave to Hollywood along with business partner and director James Cameron.

The duo re-released their 1997 film "Titanic" in 3-D and it opened worldwide on Easter weekend, just a week before the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner.

Landau was in India to promote the film and spoke to Reuters about the use of technology in film-making and the importance of the Indian market for Hollywood.

Q: How has movie-making changed since you made "Titanic" all those years ago?

A: "Movie-making has changed in two ways -- actually three ways. One, technology allows you to tell stories that could not otherwise be told. Two, we now live in a global economy -- it's no longer about how much business you do in North America, it's now all over the world. And three, digital technology has allowed us to present movies in 3-D. 3-D, we believe, enhances the emotional connection with the stories that you are showing."

Q: "What does 3-D bring to the story of "Titanic"?

A: "What 3-D does for an audience is that it makes them forget they are in a theatre and puts them in the world of the movie. I think when Jack grabs Rose away from the group and pulls her into a gymnasium; it takes the audience with you, into that gymnasium. You are watching a scene as a voyeur in that space."

Q: After "Avatar", we've seen a huge wave of 3-D come out in Hollywood. Do you think the technology is as viable as it seemed two years ago? And should there be some discretion while using it?

A: "There always needs to be discretion while using technology. Technology doesn't make a bad movie good."

Q: Does it hide its flaws?

A: "No, it exacerbates its flaws. I think 3-D makes good movies better and bad elements of movies look worse. Technology like 3-D should not be noticed -- it should disappear with that experience. You should forget that you are watching it within five minutes. It should be a window into a world, not a world coming out of a window. You've had good movies and bad movies released in 3-D since ‘Avatar'. The decision to make a movie in 3-D should come from the director and not the studio. It's a creative process. You wouldn't tell a film-maker to make a movie in black and white or colour, and it's the same kind of thing."

Q: How do you make that call?

A: "3-D is not about the action scenes. It's about the dramatic scenes -- it enhances the drama."

Q: There was a lot of speculation when "Avatar" hadn't released, whether it would recover the investment that was made on it. Was there any doubt in your mind?

A: "No. Because I had read the script. It was a story that I knew people would want to see. Did I know it would make that much money? No. But I knew the studio would get back their money."

Q: Do you think there have been any negatives to the 3-D trend in the industry now?

A: "I think there have been bumps in the road that we all have to learn from. You can't properly convert a movie and release it in 2-D on the same day and date. It took us 60 weeks to convert ‘Titanic'. Do you think it took us that long because we wanted it to? No, that's how long it takes to do it right. If somebody has a better way, let us know. But I will tell you, you cannot do it in six weeks while you are finishing your movie. If you wanted a movie in colour, you would never shoot it in black-and-white and then convert it. So don't shoot a movie in 2-D if you want it in 3-D."

Q: India is now seeing some attention from Hollywood. Tom Cruise was here earlier, and you are here to promote "Titanic", but do the numbers justify it?

A: "They will. I think that India as a film market is at the beginning of true world emergence. Number one, because of the population. Number two, you are now expanding your distribution into cities that never had theatres before. And as that happens, as the foundation of the economy continues to strengthen, there will be more and more people here who can afford to go to a theatre. If you got everyone here to go to a movie and they only spent one dollar, that would be a pretty successful movie, wouldn't it?"

Q: You've had big studios that have all come to India, but aren't doing anything spectacular here.

A: "It's much easier for a studio executive to say no to something than to say yes. Nobody ever got fired for not doing something. So they are protecting their jobs. People at Fox are a bit more visionary and are willing to take risk. You can't be afraid to fail."

Q: Do you see India as being a big market for your future projects?

A: "India will be a very big part of it. And that is why we have a responsibility now, to be a part of continuing to build it, and say to people don't do e-cinema (as opposed to digital cinema). It might be a quick economic solution, but it's not a long-term benefit to an expanding industry. If you say we will do one less screen a year, but all our screens will be CGI compliant.

"My coming here is like a line in ‘Avatar' says, ‘I see you'. I want to say to India -- I see you, I respect you and I know you are here and I want to recognise you as we move forward."

Q: How do you get around Bollywood? Can you compete with them?

A: "No, you don't compete with Steven Spielberg. We make our own movies. The more Bollywood movies get made, the better it is. The stronger the Bollywood film community is, the stronger the film community is.

"And it's the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what the potential is. Look at China -- I think China will surpass the United States in the future. We are coming out here, in India and the movie will be dubbed in at least four languages. We don't ask people to change who they are."

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