SciFiNow recently caught up with Danny Delpurgatorio, one of the co-directors on the Watchmen tie-in Tales Of The Black Freighter, released today. Danny spoke to us about the development of the animated short, Gerard Butler, and his future projects, an edited transcript of the conversation is below.
Can you tell us a little about Tales of the Black Freighter?
Sure, TOTBF is a tale within the Watchmen novel, it’s a young kid sitting on a newsstand reading an old school, horror comic of a sea captain who’s marooned to this island and gets attacked by this ship, and is doing everything he can to get back home to warn his town and family of this impending doom. He travels back and on the way he starts to lose his mind, doesn’t know what’s reality and what’s not, and ends up becoming his own destiny if you will.
It can be read in many ways really, as the story of Adrian Veidt, or a counterpoint to certain events in the narrative, such as Rorschach’s escape from prison. What’s your take on it?
I definitely see it as a complete parallel to Adrian’s story. I think it’s cool how it parallels throughout the novel, it kind of tells the tale of a guy who really wants to do good and has all the right intentions and beliefs in his heart and mind, that he’s doing the right thing, and that he’ll save a bunch of people, when really he’s kind of doing the opposite. And even when he’s done, he still believes what he did was justifiable, but still accepts his fate. I think it’s a nice subtext that goes through Watchmen.
And it’s actually going to be woven into the film itself in the director’s cut?
Yeah, exactly. When we were working on the project we had to make something that was standalone, that could be its own story, and something else that in the end would work within Zack’s [Snyder] film.
So what prompted the decision to make it a hand-drawn animation, rather than go for more contemporary routes, such as CGI?
I think from the get-go we wanted to make it hand drawn, we wanted to do a film that looks like it was from the Eighties, something that maybe people of the time would watch. And what better way to do that than what they would have done back then? Keep it styled and true to the novel and timeframe.
Can you tell us a little about the development process? You used a South Korean company for the animation, right?
Yeah. What we did was cast a really wide net in terms of style, look and all that stuff here with myself and our team. And we pitched all that stuff to Zack, showed him the different directions that were as close and as far away to watch David [Gibbons] had done. We just wanted to create this huge palette for Zack to look through and see what worked with him film, what complimented it. Once we came to a look that he liked we developed it a bit more and created packets of all the characters, props, tons of conceptual paintings, and gave it to our animation team who picked up everything that we’d designed and just made it move.
So you worked quite closely with the live action film’s creative department?
Yeah, we worked back and forth with Zack and his initial team with a couple of producers, and at key points we’d set up our schedule and calendar to make sure he liked what he saw and that it worked, and at those points he could inject anything creative that he wanted, or if anything had changed with his film he could make sure that it was reflected in what we were doing. So it was really important that we touched base with him and that he was getitng what he wanted.
Do you know how it’s going to be inserted into the film?
I know for a fact that Zack actually shot all of the bits with the newsstands, which is really cool. He want to all of the trouble to shoot all of that stuff. So he’s going to use those as the transitional elements into the actual Black Freighter. I’m not sure if they’re going to do it completely similar to the comic, where you’re watching the Watchmen film itself, and all of a sudden you’d hear Gerard Butler narrating over the film. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not, but I know that we had to keep our film to a certain time, which was roughly 22 minutes of story so that it actually fit in.
So how did Gerard Butler get involved? Was it something he went in for, or did you pursue him?
From the beginning, before we even started, I think Zack knew that he wanted Gerard. He showed us some of the early stuff and we were like, that’s perfect, it couldn’t be anyone else. Looking back now I can’t imagine anyone else doing it, he did a great job and he really brings out the madness in the character. It’s nice to see his performance too, because he did all of the narration and dialogue. To see him automatically switch from that into the scenes and what he’s going through is really cool. It works great.
Had you read Watchmen before you worked on the project?
Oh yeah, definitely. From growing up, my uncle got me into comics and Watchmen back in the day, I loved it, and the opportunity to work on this project came up, which was amazing. We got all the guys, the crew, together and did tons of design art, illustrations, paintings, wrote a lot, put a big package together.
How long was the development process, roughly?
We were on the project for about a year, maybe a little over a year from start to finish. We pitched the project and were talking to Warners in November of last year. Well, not last year, the year before that. From there once it was awarded and we decided what we were going to do, we had a little less than a year to do all of the conceptual designs, storyboards, animatic, animation, compositing, all that stuff.
And this is your first credit as a director?
First feature credit, yeah.
Is it something you’ll be looking to pursue?
I love directing, I’d love to do live action, 2D, everything I can do.
You’ve previously worked as an art director on films, right?
Yeah, I’ve directed a lot of opening title sequences for film and television. Actually I do a lot of short films and music videos, I’ve directed a bunch of them, and a lot of commercials.
So what’s the next project for you?
I’m currently working on a live action feature-length horror film, called The Clearing. We’re doing that right now, and we’re working on a new film for the title sequences. Although I don’t know, legally, if I’m allowed to talk about that yet or not, so if you check out online it’ll pop up soon. But it’s going to be really, really cool and we’re working around the clock on that.