We are back with the next part of our Two Man Weave Round Up, in which Kyu and I discuss all the highs, lows, and middles of SDCC 2014. Last time we ended with Kyu asking whether SDCC is a source of inspiration or despair for me each year.
David: Well, that certainly got serious fast. Hmm, those are good questions. Can I treat SDCC like a vacation? Do I find it more a source of inspiration or despair? The answer is probably a little of everything. Without a doubt, I do partially view SDCC as a vacation. It’s so all-encompassing that there is little time to reflect on where I am in my life and where I am going. So it’s nice just to be a fan for once, as I spend much of the year trying to keep myself removed from fandom in a lot of ways. At the same time, I know where you are coming from. Every year I go to SDCC, I wonder how far I have come as a creator and what I have accomplished during the year. This past year, like any other, has certainly had its highs and lows, but SDCC did serve as one positive indicator, in that they accorded me Creative Professional status. That may not seem like much, but on top of being able to go to SDCC for free, it also served as some small validation affirming that the work I have done is leading me somewhere. So in that way, SDCC definitely served as inspiration for me. During the Penny Dreadful panel, the show’s creator, John Logan, spoke about how this is the first time he has gone to SDCC as a creator instead of a fan, and how awesome that feeling was. Many times I’ve wondered what it would be like to be part of a panel speaking to a crowd of which I was a member in years previous. How fulfilling that would be! So seeing John Logan express the same thoughts was great, and certainly inspired me to keep working. Hopefully sometime in the near future I’ll be in the same place as Logan.
At the same time, I often find myself using SDCC as a way to escape from the real world, so when it is over, I am forced to evaluate where I am with my life, and that can lead to despair. Every decision I’ve made comes rushing back to me, making me question if my life is really going the way I want it to, and whether I feel like I am in a position to actually change things for the better. SDCC is a place for dreamers, but post-SDCC is generally a week of dream-crushing reality as I realize that I still have so far to go. So I am just like you, Kyu, but I generally separate things like this into three distinct periods: pre-con, actual SDCC, and post-con. Pre-SDCC is about hope and excitement, SDCC itself is pure escapism, and the post-con period is despair, albeit one eventually tinged with a hope for things to come.
Moving back to a lighter place now… Clearly Kevin Smith was your favorite panel as well as experience, but my favorite panel was none of the ones I discussed seeing in Ballroom 20. That honor went to the Best and Worst Manga of 2014 panel. The 2013 edition was one of my favorite panels last year, and this year’s was just as good. Fun and informative, this panel always provides great insights about manga I have read and many of those I haven’t read but should. It’s a panel I’ll always intend to go to as long as I am able to attend SDCC. On the swag side, the best item I obtained at the con this year was a print by Kazu Kibuishi illustrating a scene from his great young adult graphic series, Amulet. Amulet was a discovery my roommate and I made at my first SDCC in 2011. It’s a great graphic novel series, and the artwork is awesome. Plus, Kazu is the nicest guy ever and always happy to talk at length with his fans. At this point, my roommate and I own basically everything Kazu has written, and are anxiously awaiting the release of the next Amulet, which has been long delayed in order to give Kazu time to do cover art for the new Harry Potter novel editions (which I guess are a big enough deal that he can be forgiven the delay). I almost didn’t buy a print, because there just wasn’t the right one—by which I mean there wasn’t one with the Giant Robot House walking through the forest. Luckily, upon hearing this, my roommate told me had seen one of those earlier. I was delighted to discover that Kazu still had them in stock. I bought that rather quickly, and then later my roommate was able to get it signed. That print went straight to the frame store so I could hang it up and bask in its awesomeness as soon as possible.
What was your favorite piece of swag, Kyu? And were there any other panels you found especially interesting?
Kyu: I know this is heresy, but no swag this year really blew me away, purchased or otherwise. (Gifts excluded, of course.) There’s a reason it was easy for me to achieve my goal this year of spending less money than usual, and it’s because nothing much struck my fancy. What comes to mind on the free side is actually the giant foam chainsaw I got advertising Sharknado 2. I have no interest in Sharknado, Sharkicanes, or any other natural disaster/fish hybrids, but the darn thing is so comically large that I can’t help but like it. Perhaps I’m just spoiled: any other week I’d be really happy to get Penny Dreadful Tarot cards, a stack of Game of Thrones merch (t-shirt, notebook, book 4, etc), or Lego Batman 3 swag (not to mention the Hannibal soundtrack, which features that one track which is the sole moment of peace and love in that show—the equivalent in terms of aural refuge to Resident Evil’s typewriter room music).
Maybe I’ve just been to one too many cons at this point—I know 90% of this stuff, while cool, has no place in my apartment. As for purchases, I found a couple of cheap art pieces, a plushy, and other minor things. I guess this year’s SDCC wasn’t about that for me.
By process of elimination, what it was about was panels—panels involving creators I know and admire. I’ve already mentioned Kevin Smith; I also got to see Quentin Tarantino (always a treat), Adam West (he showed up to pass the torch to a new, Lego-er Batman), Chuck Palahniuk, and David Fincher. We have now arrived at the part of the recap where I share as many “David Fincher making Fight Club” stories as possible in as close to his own words as can I remember, because they were not only stories I had never heard before but in sum total they vaulted Fincher in my eyes from the rarefied circle of great directors to the even more rarefied circle of directorial badasses. Without further ado:
– How did Fincher first encounter the book? A friend called him and said, “You need to read this book tonight.” Fincher: “I’m not going to read it tonight, I have shit to do.” Friend: “You have to read it tonight, because you’re going to want to do it, and if you wait until tomorrow when people bid on it, 20th Century Fox will buy it and you’ll have to work with them again.” (Big laughs from anyone in the audience who knows about Alien 3’s production) So Fincher says, “Send it over,” and he reads it that night and can’t stop laughing. He decides to try and buy the rights, but learns that Fox beat him to the punch. So he goes to work with two executives at Fox 2000, an interior division devoted to off-kilter releases.
– They picked their screenwriter, Jim Uhls, and he went away with the book and came back 6 months later with a draft that had no voiceover in it. Fincher’s reaction: “What the fuck are you doing?” Uhls went away again; 8 months later he had a complete script.
– Armed with the hundred-and-something page script, 300 pages of storyboards, and a 60-page budget, Fincher invited the Fox executives out to dinner. Before they even got appetizers, he dropped the papers in front of them and said, “I told you I could do this movie for 22 or 23 million. I was wrong. It’s 65 million. Brad Pitt wants to do it; Edward Norton wants to do it; and I’ll do it, but only if it’s 65 million. You have 72 hours to decide.” 72 hours later they called and said yes.
– Audience member: “Did you have any influence on the marketing of this film? Because somebody at Fox marketing should have been shot.” Fincher said, “He was,” and then went on to talk about a man in the marketing department whose first statement to the filmmakers was, “You’re at the perfect nexus: men don’t want to see Brad Pitt take his shirt off, and women don’t want to see fighting.” He was extremely pessimistic about the film’s chances. Fincher went for another meeting a week later, and the marketer had in the interim grown a Tyler Durden-style goatee. “Here was a man who said nobody would watch the movie and he himself was being influenced by it.”
– Fincher on the production: “At one point we had Angelface [Jared Leto] getting his face pounded by Edward. We had the camera locked off, Edward would wail on him, Leto would thrash around, and then we’d cut and send Leto to makeup. They’d take his face a little further and then we’d do it again from the same angle. It was almost like stop motion. These days, with CG, we’d just send out for that shit like it was pizza.”
-On why the ending of the film differs from the book: “Jim [Uhls] and I had a conversation about this during the writing, and he said he wasn’t comfortable with the ending, with the credit card company buildings blowing up. He said, ‘People don’t want to see that, they want to see the hero win.’ I said to him, ‘Jim, who the fuck doesn’t want to see credit card companies get blown up?’ And so he went back and fixed it.”
– One last story: During the panel, Fincher was clearly disappointed with the movie’s financial failure. Using the figures of a $60 million budget and a $100 million gross, he estimated the movie lost about $60 million overall in theatrical. (Note: the funny math probably has to do with marketing costs, and the fact that not all of a movie’s gross goes to the studio, which is why it isn’t called theatrical net. End note.) However, the film has found an audience on home video, to the point where Dark Horse is making Fight Club 2: The Comic and Fox decided to finally release the movie on Blu-Ray. They asked Fincher to participate on the Blu-Ray. Fincher: “I’ll help out on the Blu-Ray, but you have to tell me how many DVDs of this movie you sold.” Fox: “A lot.” Fincher: “No, you have to tell me the exact number.” Fox says 13 million copies. Fincher at the panel: “13 million copies at 12 bucks a pop? I think my movie made money.”
As if you needed more evidence of Fincher as mensch, after the panel, when people flooded after him and Palahniuk, Chuck rushed away while David cheerfully stopped every three steps to let fans take selfies with him all the way down the convention hall. Nothing against Chuck Palahniuk. I’m just saying that’s character. Here’s to you, David Fincher, and thanks for making the Fight Club panel unexpectedly the most fascinating one I saw all week.
What about you, David? Do you have any good stories to relay? And if not, would you be willing to divulge the secrety secrets of what goes on at the SDCC Masquerade?
David: Maybe I do or maybe I don’t , but either way we’ll address that in the next part of this round-up. Until then here are more photos from RJ.