EXCL: Tom Jane on the Making of Dark Country


Burned footage, 3-D & advice from Mel Gibson

Thomas Jane is one of us. A genre fan. A comic book fan. Hit Comic-Con, you’ll see him working the show floor, usually at his Raw Entertainment booth. He has starred in The Punisher, The Mist and Mutant Chronicles, now fans can check out his directorial debut Dark Country, a surreal road trip through the desert that ends in disaster for two honeymooners (Jane and co-star Lauren German) when they come upon a bloody accident victim. Fueled by ‘50s pulp fare, with a dash of Rod Serling, the film – originally shot in 3-D – is now available on DVD this week.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: This has been a hell of a journey. The last time you and I spoke you were just in pre-production.

Thomas Jane: Jeez, that was a while ago.

Shock: Has it been worth it or what?

Jane: Of course. Everything’s a battle and a struggle. But to do a movie that’s unique, against the grain, something that’s done with my personal vision attached and intact has been a struggle.

Shock: Well, it would have been a bit peculiar if you had tackled your directorial debut without any problems, no?

Jane: Yeah, that’s right. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. During editing, one of the assistant editors took home a few hard drives and then he had an apartment fire. We lost a bunch of footage that way. We had to take the whole movie apart, because we were editing on the AVID and we shot on the red camera which is formatted to work on Final Cut Pro, so at some point we had to unravel the whole film and reassemble it in Final Cut Pro. Sony was really on my ass about turning in the film on time and it went way too long. It’s beyond our control, but it gave me extra time to think about what I wanted to do with the film in terms of soundtrack. I was able to take chances on a film that they’d never let me do on a bigger budget film. I got a jazz pianist to compose the score which is outside the box. And we came up with a visual style that I’m very proud of. It’s very much my own. All of the good stuff, all of the flaws, I own them all. They’re all mine. That alone is worth the experience and time I put into this project.

Shock: This film is informed by film noir and The Twilight Zone

Jane: That’s right! I made this film for people who are tired and sick of the cereal box films. We’re being inundated, more than ever before, with movies that are studio-driven and based on some other characters. Everything needs to appeal to the widest world-wide audience possible. And what happens is all of the strange movies that I grew up on, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, the Val Lewton movies, Curse of the Demon, these poor kids today, they’re not making this oddball stuff anymore. We have to go back to the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s to find the weird stuff we used to tune into at 3 o’clock in the morning. This movie is going to play on cable someday at three in the morning and somebody is going to watch this damn thing and they’re going to be like, “What the hell is this? It’s left of center!” It’s got a unique signature to it that I loved as a kid. There’s a lot of film noir, a little Twilight Zone, a little David Lynch and Hitchcock.

Shock: Was it your intention to place yourself as the lead from the beginning?

Jane: I always wanted to play the lead. I was really impressed with Clint Eastwood starring and directing in his films. And Mel Gibson, too. I called Mel Gibson, because I was really nervous about directing and acting. There’s no manual on how to direct and star in a film. So I called him up and he talked to me for an hour. Mel told me he called Clint Eastwood before he did his first film he directed and starred in because he was really nervous. Clint Eastwood told Mel that he called Don Siegel, and Don Siegel told Clint not to sell yourself short. To spend as much time on yourself as you would any other aspect of the production. Clint told Mel and Mel told me. [laughs] It paid off. I hung up feeling like I could do it. Like I could take on this mammoth project. One that was in 3-D and technically tough with the green screen. We shot the car green screen and matted in the background plates. It was a hell of a challenge. I’m proud of the quality the film has. Instead of making the background plates seamless, I tried to use the fact that we had a micro-budget and turn it into a surreal quality. I tried to use the shortcomings and make them strengths to create a unique style.

Shock: What happened with the 3-D aspect of the film?

Jane: The answer is simple. I shot it for the DVD department at Sony called Stage 6. It was their first production, I think. We knew it was going to be a DVD film, they allowed me to shoot it in 3-D. At the time there was some thought that if the film turned out well, we could put it in theaters in 3-D. That was a pipedream. Then in 2007, when it was greenlit, the economy was still going great and the possibility of throwing it up on some 3-D screens, it was a good idea. Now, it’s not economically sound. You have to spend the money on the advertising and stuff. We don’t have the technology to make the 3-D for the home format yet. We did red and blue glasses but that doesn’t work. Nobody is going to put those on at home. Everyone has different televisions. They’re calibrated differently. People have to rely on the red and blue color, it’s horrible. There will be 3-D televisions in the home and there will be 3-D Blu-Ray players and hopefully, in time, Dark Country will be seen then. I’m really excited about that.

For clips and photos from Dark Country, click here!

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor