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Apocalypse Now Producers - Chat Transcript
Please help me in welcoming two of the producers from Apocalypse Now - Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos. Grey and Fred were part of the team that did the impossible by bringing the story of the heart of darkness in man during the Vietnam war to the screen. Apocalypse Now is one of the most amazing portrayal of the depths of man and the horrors of war. Grey and Fred have also teamed up with Francis Ford Coppola on such classic American Films as The Godfather Part II and The Outsiders. Joining Gray and Fred is Kim Aubry, Head of Zoetrope DVD Production, which makes it's foray into DVD with the release of Apocalypse Now.

Welcome Gray, Fred, and Kim

Gray Fredrickson: Hello
Kim Aubry: Hi there, thanks for inviting us Geoff.
Fred Roos: Hi everybody.

What was it like working with Francis Ford Coppola and Actors like Marlin Brando and Martin Sheen?
Gray Fredrickson: Memorable!
Fred Roos: Every day was an adventure.

Gray and Fred, you teamed up with Francis on a number of films... how was apocalypse now different?
Gray Fredrickson: It was his own money for the most part.
Fred Roos: Fred- We ten thousand miles from home base, in a foreign country, basically recreating a war.

There's been a lot of talk about the aspect ratio on Apocalypse Now, Can you help clarify?
Yes, this subject always seems to confuse...let me try to illuminate. The film was shot using the Super Technovision process which is essentially anamorphic 35mm film to create a 2.35:1 "widescreen" aspect ration in the theater. The initial release included 70mm prints also with the wide aspect. The cinematographer, Vitorio Storaro played a critical role in the film-to-tape transfer both for laser disk a few years ago and also in the DVD which was just re-transferred a few months ago. It was Storaro's decision that for home video + broadcast, he would transfer the film with a slightly modified framing: 2.0:1. This essentially crops a very small amount of the image on the sides but allows for a taller picture for viewers using conventional 4:3 TVs in the "letterbox" mode. The DVD we made preserves the anamorphic wide screen picture in the best way possible because we transferred the film anamorphorphically to video Users who have the fancy (today $5000) digital 16:9 TVs can see the film in its wide screen aspect with maximum vertical resolution. Folks like us with ordinary analog televisions will see a well-rendered 2.0:1 letterbox. Hope this answers the question.

There is a rumor that a 5 1/2 Hour work print for Apocalypse Now exists somewhere, can any of you shed some light on this rumor?
Gray Fredrickson: I don't know.
Fred Roos: I don't think so. I don't believe any of the cuts were that long.There were major sequences shot and edited that are not in the final film. But even with them in a cut would not add up to 51/2 hours.

With the release of Apocalypse Now on DVD, there's renewed interest in the documentary Heart of Darkness, when will we see it on DVD?
Kim Aubry: Hearts of Darkness is not a Zoetrope film...perhaps Fred Roos can address this?
Fred Roos: I don't know of any DVD plans for "Hearts of Darkness." Paramount has the video rights.

On the Apocalypse Now DVD, Francis Ford Coppola provides audio commentary for only the deleted scene, why didn't he do a full commentary?
Kim Aubry: In this DVD version, we felt that we wanted to present the public with a very high quality version of the film as quickly as possible. So we did not set out to create the definitive AN with full commentaries and associated materials. Mr. Coppola did, however wish to set the story straight with respect to the controversy surrounding the view that there were multiple endings or versions. For this reason, he spoke directly to the issue of alternate endings by voicing over the "Destruction of the Kurtz Compound" extra material that we present as a bonus feature in the "Confidential" page of the DVD

Will there ever be another release of Apocalypse Now on DVD, maybe Criterion?
Kim Aubry: As far as I know, in this country Apocalypse Now is licensed to Paramount Home Video exclusively for a period of time. If we do additional versions of this DVD, it will probably be in association with our friends at Paramount.

What was it like working with Dennis Hopper? I Heard that he really got into his role.
Fred Roos: Both I and Francis had known Dennis before this movie, his role grew bigger and bigger. Loosely based on some of the Vietnam War photographers like Sean Flynn. He was an incredible improviser. Dennis got deeply into the characters, bonded strongly with fellow actors, sometimes slept on the Kurtz compound set or would stay up late drinking and talking he was no trouble...
Gray Fredrickson: except for setting fire to the hotel one night...
Fred Roos: He was a very extreme, high profile character
Gray Fredrickson: He was so into his character, that he didn't bathe -- no one would ride in the car with him.

Is it true that Martin Sheen almost died while filming Apocalypse Now?
Fred Roos: yes - he had a heart attack while jogging. He had to be hospitalized and we were very worried. We shot everything we could that didn't involve him until he got better. It was at least a month before we could shoot with him again

With such a dark subject in Apocalypse Now, what did you do to keep morale up on the set?
Fred Roos: it was actually a fun set
Gray Fredrickson: I agree.
Fred Roos: it was a bunch of boys playing war every day was full tilt adrenaline, and boy we did have parties... Marlin Brando gave a fabulous party one night for the cast and crew
Gray Fredrickson: The Italians flew in pasta and wine They and we ate well
Fred Roos: The camera crew Vittorio
Gray Fredrickson: The Italians were the camera crew of Vittorio Storaro
Fred Roos: Storaro
Gray Fredrickson: about 15 Italians
Fred Roos: each shipment of dailies came from Rome and came with pasta olive oil, tomato paste!

How exactly did you get all those helicopters for the Flight of The Valkarie's Scene? Gray Fredrickson: We had arrangements with the Philippine government the provided helicopters we repaired them and kept them flying. They provided.... We had American pilots who were Vietnam Vets

What went in to the decision not to have opening or ending credits?
Gray Fredrickson: We had credits on the 35 version.
Kim Aubry: The 70mm initial version for the big cities had no credits or Main Title on screen In fact, theater goers were given printed programs as they entered the cinema I am sure Mr. Coppola would have preferred to keep this "movie as event" going even in the 35mm wide release but it just wasn't practical to manage this. I am proud to say that in our DVD, we did our best to respect FFC's original intent. We interrupt the end credit roll at the end of the film and educate the viewer about the original version. Then we give them the option to view the 35mm credits.

Can you tell us a little about what plans Zoetrope has for DVD? Some of the titles you are working on???
Kim Aubry: We are excited about the format...for us, this is a kind of departure. Our identity is really tied up in our film post production..we have recording studios and editing suites in San Francisco But now that we have build a DVD lab in our SF headquarters, we are applying our know how and our style to this opposite end of the business.We are in discussions with Criterion, Sony-Columbia, Paramount and a local SF label called Fantoma. Although nothing is inked yet, I believe our next DVD projects will include (for Paramount) The Conversation, Tucker, the Man and His Dream, as well as a new version of Bram Stoker's Dracula for Columbia certainly the Godfather pictures someday. Possibly a few films for Criterion including some Tati titles, maybe some Eisenstein films. And our friends at Fantoma have a few films in their pipeline... Our very first DVD title was Jodorowski's "Fando and Lis" for them. Now we are talking about Fassbinder's "Whitey." with them.

Do you plan to continue to feature 16X9 enhanced transfers on future releases?
Kim Aubry: Yes, we believe that 16X9 anamorphic transfers are justified, especially for wide aspect pictures. It really enhances the experience for DTV early adopters And for those folks who upgrade their viewing equipment over the next few years, the 16:9 DVDs they buy today will hold up. Designing menus that are artistically successful and practical in both aspects is tough, let me tell you! I am looking forward to hearing from buyers, to learn if they think we were successful with our Apocalypse Now menu design.

Is there anything we (DVD Talk Members) can do to get Godfather released on DVD? Who should we write to? Call? Petition?
Kim Aubry: Well, we know this is a desired title...I am sure the folks at Paramount Home Video know it, but it sure couldn't hurt to contact them directly. We know that we have some dynamite extra material that we could include.

Do you think Francis Ford Coppola would do a full audio commentary for Godfather?
Kim Aubry: I know from experience it is best not to speculate on what my boss would or won't do... But I have heard him say very interesting things over they years and I kn ow we will find ways of incorporating his reflections in a new dvd.

What exactly does napalm smell like in the morning?
Gray Fredrickson: It smelled like alot of money.
Fred Roos: I've never smelled real napalm.
Gray Fredrickson: It was just gasoline in a trench.

Who's idea was it to use Wagner's score?
Fred Roos: It was Francis' idea. He has a vast knowledge of music. He comes from a family of musicians

Both Gray Fredrickson and Fred Roos have to leave, but Kim Aubry has offered to stay and answer more questions.... Thanks Gray and Fred for joining us tonight, I wish we had more time to talk about Apocalypse now, you'll have to come back sometime soon
Gray Fredrickson: Goodbye, and thank you very much.
Fred Roos: goodbye, and thanks

Could you guys somehow get the rights to the French film Diva from Winstar (Fox Lorber) and put out a decent transfer :-)
Kim Aubry: Diva would be an interesting title...but I thought Winstar was doing their own distribution...if they have the rights to the film, perhaps they can ask us to do the encoding and authoring! The VHS tape came from a different (earlier) transfer....should be close in framing. But the DVD comes from a very recent High Def digital transfer that was transferred at full vertical resolution (ie 480 active scanning lines).

Any chance of Jodorowsky's EL TOPO on dvd?
Kim Aubry: El Top is an interesting question...As I understand it, the rights are in a quandary

What does the dvd industry feel about the DVD-R or the DVD-burners being created now?
Kim Aubry: It is screwed up...Let me explain: there is a real problem with DVD-R standardization. At the moment, to my knowledge, there is only one manufacturer...this will change... But the media the current 4.7 G DVD R makes cannot be read by all DVD-V players or DVD ROM drives.

How come theres no musical background on the menu.....just the helicopter fly by..sound?
Kim Aubry: Lets just say that clearing music rights for things like menus slow things down...a bit


What do you see as the next must by on DVD?
Kim Aubry: I suppose the Godfather pictures...also let me put a plug in for One From the Heart. Very underrated, with incredible production design, cinematography, lovely romantic story and the best soundtrack ever (my opinion) Really appropriate for the DVD format... Possibly one of the first contemporary 1.33:1 titles!

Is One From The Heart available on DVD yet?
Kim Aubry: No, there are still some unresolved business matters on One From the Heart...but WE are very interested in doing that title.

Do you have a web presence where we can catch information about current releases, upcoming releases, and projects in the pipeline?
Kim Aubry: Our website is: www.zoetrope.com. In terms of new home video releases, stay tuned to: www.paramount.com, www.sony.com, and www.fantoma.com for starters. Did I mention that we are working on an extended version of The Outsiders?

Extended? expand on that please...
Kim Aubry: Not sure this will go forward, but we are spending time looking at this 1983 film, and in this case, there is a great deal of wonderful material that did not end up in the final release.

Do you choose films based on what zoetrope has the rights for, or by personal taste?
Kim Aubry: Whoever pays the most... Just kidding; we do titles that are interesting to us. Obviously, a Zoetrope or Coppola film will go to the top of the list, but we enjoy looking at other independent or classic films.

How many different movies are you working on at this time?
Kim Aubry: We are preparing materials for two films and we are waiting for a new transfer to start work on one title. I just came back from a SMPTE engineering conference in NYC, and I presented some of my material at a lecture using DVD as a source. So I get a side benefit...I am thinking of MPEG encoding home videos and placing them on DVD for the family.

How much is a dvd presser that you use?
Kim Aubry: We do not "replicate" the DVDs...in other words, we don't physically manufacture them. We do the premastering which means the MPEG encoding (compression) the menu design, navigation design and authoring. A big factory with clean rooms actually stamps the DVDs in quantity.

We told you what we thought of the menus on the Apocalypse Now DVD...What do you think about them?
Kim Aubry: Well...I designed the menus so, hubris aside, I am pleased. For me, I have not likes many of the motion menus I have seen on other DVDs. They tend to be gimmicky. I wanted to be sure that the viewer did not have to sit waiting for some animation business to happen.

How closely do you work with the Directors of the original films when preparing a film for DVD release?
Kim Aubry: In the case of Apocalypse Now, the director participated directly in the DVD design...because our post production and DVD facility in SF is, at its core, a design facility.

Where are you located?
Kim Aubry: Our headquarters are on the Northbeach-Chinatown border. We also have sound mixing facilities in the Napa Valley, production offices in Los Angeles and creative offices in NYC.

Will you folks be cropping any of your future movies as was done on Apocalypse Now?
Kim Aubry: Let me say a few things about "cropping" And respond to some of the moronic cropping crap I see in those silly prosumer magazines (that I will not name here). First of all, it may shock many of you to know that in over 1/2 of the cinemas that I have gone into to check out for preview screenings, there is almost always a framing and masking error that results in a permanent cropping of 10-15% of sides or top-bottom. This is because cinemas are built to local conditions and projection lenses and screen sizes come in fixed focal lengths. So it is not uncommon to go to a spanking new googol plex with million dollar equipment and still see a picture that is not accurately framed or sized. The problem is that the true letter box on video is anything but. To view a film with an intended aspect of 2.35:1 on North American NTSC TV means that you will be using fewer than 250 horizontal scanning lines to resolve all of the vertical details of the picture. So although panning and scanning (I agree) is one crime, I would have to say that letterboxing is another crime. I can never forget the anticipation when I took home my Criterion laserdisc of 2001 the same day I bought a laser player in the late 1980s. All of those wonderful Doug Trumbull mattes with the little control room windows on the space station as the shuttle is lowered were completely invisible with the NTSC artifacts, the interlace problems and most especially the fact that we were only using 230 lines to resolve a picture made up of thousands of vertical details! 525 interlace TV is already a huge compromise in so many dimensions of the film.I happen to agree with Storaro (and he should be on our side, no?) that a 2.0 transfer of a film he originally composed for 2.35:1 is a decent compromise to give us back some vertical detail.

Kim Aubry: For whatever it is worth, even Francis Coppola has indicated to me that HE prefers panned and scanned versions of some films over the letterbox versions because he likes "the tall picture." The good news is that with "enhanced for 16:9" formatting on DVD, we can deliver the best possible vertical details to viewers equipped with 16:9 receivers and not harm the 4:3 letterbox viewer.

Are you saying that these films (such as 2001) translate better to PAL? (In which case I would be better off waiting for local releases than buying the region 1 NTSC release)
Kim Aubry: Marginally better in PAL letterbox I suppose, although PAL has its own problems and limitations. Plus I don't know if we (Zoetrope) will get the gig to do the PAL version. What I am really saying is that getting the resolution of the film image onto a 1940s television standard is tough going. Obviously, HDTV will make a much better presentation. Unfortunately, the consumer side of HD is very treacherous as standards are in a state of flux and the hardware is still unaffordable. In the old days, unstable electronics meant that our color system (NTSC) could look real poor. And PAL was a more stable system as it was developed later.Also, the PAL system is 625 lines meaning around 1/5 more vertical resolution. But poorer "temporal resolution" meaning a more flickery picture and sports broadcasts don't look as good as NTSC. Originally, we used to joke that NTSC meant "Never Twice the Same Color."

Any word on what's coming down the pike from Zoetrope?
Kim Aubry: I believe we will be doing The Conversation on DVD in late 2000.
Will you be doing Dracula, right?
Kim Aubry: Yes, we intend to do a special version of Dracula for Columbia and Tucker for Paramount next year.

What features will the SE Dracula contain?
Kim Aubry: Perhaps screen-tests, also a discussion of the methodology of making some of the effects shots. Probably a chapter on Eiko Ishioka's fantastic costumes.

Kim, Thank You SO much for all your great answers, please join us again soon!
Kim Aubry: Thanks to all of you for joining and thanks to the folks at DVD Jam....-kim

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