David Ellis


Filmmaker and Sumsung 3D TV spruiker David Ellis knows a thing or two about 3D, after all he’s directed some of the medium’s most successful added-dimension efforts. But as the former stuntman cum director says, there’s a time and a place for 3D – it’s not to be used all the time.

In this exclusive interview with Clint Morris,  the ”Shark Night 3D” helmer explains why his new teen horror film may be his last 3D film for a while.

I think the last time I spoke to you was for ”Snakes on the Plane” back in 2006 at Comic-Con.

Yeah, I remember.

Now if that film was released today that would obviously be a 3D film, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, right.

It would’ve really lent itself to 3D. Such a fun film.

Yeah, it was a fun film to do. I mean, I had a blast working with Sam Jackson, who I knew directing second-unit on Sphere and Deep Blue Sea. And I ended up finally making the film and it was kind of a silly film, but it kind of got a cult following and it was fun.

What do you think of the state of 3D at the moment?

I think it’s overused. I think it works… I think the Final Destination movies that we did, I think, worked in 3D, but I think people are getting too hung up on the kind of gimmick 3D just constantly throwing stuff to impress the audience. The reason we thought Shark Night would be good in 3D is not for gimmick, but just to try to put the sharks in the audience. People have such a fear of sharks and you… They’re fascinated by them. Shark week is such a huge show as far as the viewers that they get and people are always nervous when they’re swimming in the ocean on vacation about sharks, even though the chances of actually getting bit by a shark are very slim. But I really wanted to just put the sharks in the audience and to kind of play on that fear.

But I do think, to get back to your question that it’s being overused and people are getting tired of it. Well a movie has to play in 2D even though you’re going to project in 3D, so if it works in 2D and then you go to 3D to kind of make it a better interactive experience for the audience, that’s great. But I just think it’s getting overdone and people are getting tired. They’re not willing to pay the extra for 3D films.

Even tonight I took my 4-year-old daughter to see ”Spy Kids 4” and I took her to see it in 2D because she wouldn’t dare to see through the 3D. She’s had enough of wearing the glasses.

A lot of people really don’t like wearing the glasses. 3D films look darker. And if you don’t have a good story, good characters, and good acting, and good action, then I don’t care if you do it in 10D, it’s not going to work.

That’s right. So, having said that, are you still planning on having 3D for your next films? Or…


You’re not?

Kite is gonna be 2D. There is certainly no reason for it to be in 3D. Basically I’m trying to create a world that is, in terms of a story, a lot like the Mad Max films and Road Warrior. And it’s gonna be straightforward. I’m trying to do something groundbreaking like when the first Matrix came out. But at the same time, I’m trying to base it more in reality. There’s not going to be a bunch of super slow motion wire work stuff. I like action that’s more based on real action in what people can really do as opposed to a lot of the stuff that they’re doing now, which is just crazy, where people are running upside down on ceilings and doing that kind of stuffs in fight. I’m gonna use more real stuntmen, real parkour kind of free running stuff, and just try to make it more real. But it’s definitely going to be a 2D movie. There is no need to do it in 3D.

What is your take on 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray. Will all that take off do you think? Or…

Well, I hope it does. I was a spokesperson for Samsung for their 3D TVs. We’ll see. I think 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray will take off if the content is good. We have to start making better TV movies and movies for people to spend the money to want to buy a 3D TV and watch them in 3D. If as filmmakers, we can make really good content or product that really tops out in 3D and really gives the viewers a great experience in 3D that warrants them to spending the extra money, then it will take off. But it’s kind of on us. If we don’t then who is going to want to spend the money to get a 3D TV in their home when you can watch it in HD and it’s great.

Two ”Final Destination” films, and now ”Shark Night”. Is it fair to say you’re a ‘horror’ filmmaker?

Not really, Clint. It’s… I mean, prior to doing Final Destination 2, I’ve been into some horror films, but it wasn’t really my first choice in movies. But coming from a stuntman background and given a chance to direct a movie like that was a great opportunity for me. And it just seemed like after that was a moderate success, that’s kind of a genre that everybody kind of puts me in. And I would love to go and direct an action comedy or I’m getting ready to go direct in November a film called Kite which is based on a Japanese animation and it’s more of a straight-forward action film, which I am really looking to do. The horror genre has been good to me and I’ve been able to do a lot of films and you know they had some success. So, it doesn’t mean that I won’t go back into that, but I would love to show people that I can do a big action film or action comedy, but right now people just keep offering me horror films.

I presume ”Shark Night” came about after the success of your ”Final Destination” films?

Yeah, absolutely. What happened with that was when they sent me the script, at that time The Final Destination was a big hit and it was one of the first big live action 3D movies. So they were looking for a director that had experience with 3D and they also know my background as far as going to the water work I had done. I had done action films on the water with Waterworld and Master and Commander, Deep Blue Sea,  Sphere. So they knew I had done working in water and they knew that I had worked in 3D. So they called me in and I liked the script. I thought the script was really good and something different to anything I had done because it had pretty good character development, good twists, and it had sharks. And sharks in 3D, I thought would be awesome.

So I kind of pitched my take and they liked it and I came on board and it took us a while to actually get the film made because we couldn’t find the money initially. It’s tough to raise money and transform pre-sales, but we finally got it – 20 million dollars. I mean they reported that it cost 28, but it didn’t because we had 20 and then we had a rebate. So the film actually only cost 17 million dollars…

That’s great.

And yeah and we shot it in 3D. 17 million dollars in 3D on water, under water and it looks, you know – a lot pricier.

Talk about your ”Shark Night” cast, I know of Sara Paxton’s work and I see you’ve also got her attached to another movie you’re doing down the line…

Yeah I hope to. I mean, if the film comes together and… She is very talented. All of the kids we have, Katherine McPhee, the girl that almost won American Idol, is an amazing actress and the camera just loves her. Chris Zylka, who is one of the kids, is in the new nemesis in Spiderman and also staring in Piranha 3DD, he’s going to be the big star. Dustin Milligan is great. All of the kids that we have. I like trying to go out and find new fresh kids. It’s like when I did Cellular, I got Chris Evans and the studio didn’t really like him. They wanted to try to get a bigger name at the time. I kept interviewing bigger stars and then I kept going back and giving Chris Evans a shot at coming back in. The studio let me have him. And, obviously, he’s gone on to be a big star. Also I really like Jason Statham and I gave him a shot when he wasn’t a big star. So I like to try to go and find young fresh talent, just a fresh face and have the chops to do it, and try to introduce new people to the fans that I have.

Just as you did in ”Snakes on a Plane” with Australia’s Nathan Phillips.

Yeah, Nathan is awesome. It’s funny because Nathan didn’t really want to do the movie. He read the script, he liked the script, but he wasn’t really sure about the movie. He’d done what Wolf Creek and so was trying to do more arty films. I asked him just If he would just come in and meet with me. And so he came in and met with me and I just sat down and talked to him about surfing and all these different things that we do that we share, and family and all this stuff, and by the end of our talk he was on board. I love Nathan Phillips.

Now you mentioned surfing. I know you’re a big surfing fan and you’ve been surfing for years now. When are we going to see a good 3D surfing movie? That’s what I want to know.

I don’t know. They are getting ready to make a film called Mavericks but it’s not in 3D. Gerard Butler is starring in it and Curtis Hanson is directing it and he’s a great director. It’s a really good story. I at one time actually had the project. It was set up at Icon, Mel Gibson’s company. But to answer your question, I would love to do a little great surfing movie. I almost actually directed Soul Surfer, but there are some really compelling stories around the world with surfing. Mavericks is a good one, so I’m sure Curtis Hanson will do a great job with that. I’m not sure when you’re going to see a 3D one, but there are good surfing movies on the way.

Is the studio eying a ”Shark Night” franchise? Or is this a one-off for you? .

I’m not sure you know. I mean we’re doing okay at the box office based on what the movie costs. I had hoped that we would have done better and I thought that we were, but relatively happy with our box office and as we start to come out in other countries, internationally, we’ll see how we do, which likely makes sense.

If we go good and make money and it makes sense and they can bring everybody back and still make it for a price, then I think they can do it. It’s like the Final Destination series. They kept getting more and more expensive to make. And I think the most recent one, the last one, didn’t do it as well, because it cost them 50 million dollars to make that movie. People loved that series – the whole set up, they love the misdirection, they love the death, but the reason Final Destination 5 didn’t do as well as my Final Destination was because mine was the first one of the series to be in 3D, it was novel – and better. Then they came back with another one in 3D and people really expected something better and it wasn’t.

“Shark Night 3D” commences November 10

“Kite” is now in pre-production