Episode 220 — DOOM — Film Director Tony Giglio

 

Episode 220 — DOOM — Film Director Tony Giglio

Welcome to Episode 220! I’m speaking with the director of the new Doom: Annihilation feature film, as well as its leading actor Nina Bergman. This one will be a lot of fun! We talk all things Doom.

Let’s dive in!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

[00:46] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[02:45] I’ve got a free VFX Course available right now, focused on destruction, explosion, fire, etc. It has over 10 hours of free material that you can download. To access this training, go to www.VFXCourse.com.

[54:27] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!

INTERVIEW WITH TONY GIGLIO AND NINA BERGMAN

Tony Giglio is a writer, director and producer. He worked his way up from a production assistant to become one of Hollywood’s most versatile multi-hyphenates. Universal’s 1440 has tapped Tony to write and direct a reboot of Doom: Annihilation. Previously, Tony directed feature films S.W.A.T.: Under Siege, 2nd Unit on Resident Evil, Timber Falls. In 2005, Giglio wrote and directed his best known work, the action-thriller Chaos, starring Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe and Wesley Snipes. He also wrote, produced and directed Sony Crackle’s first ever made for new media feature Extraction; and co-wrote and directed the WWII drama In Enemy Hands, starring William H. Macy.

Nina Bergman is an actress, singer, songwriter and model. She was born in Denmark and is the granddaughter of Russian actor Pavel Kadochnikov (Ivan The Terrible). Nina spent her early childhood traveling around Europe with her Russian Gypsy grandparents. At 14, she received a scholarship to the musical theater school Urdang Academy in London. A year later she found herself in Moscow attending the Bolshoi Theater. From there she went to the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her credits include The Car: Road to Revenge, Lost ‘n’ Found and many others.

In this Episode, Allan McKay interviews Tony and Nina about their experience on the feature film Doom: Annihilation that premiered in October 2019

Doom: Annihilation on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8328716/
Tony Giglio on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0317638/?ref_=tt_ov_dr
Nina Bergman on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1683137/?ref_=tt_cl_t1
Trailer for Doom: Annihilation: https://www.dreadcentral.com/news/298762/exclusive-taste-doom-annihilations-action-in-this-brand-new-teaser/
Forbes Interview with Tony Giglio: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkane/2019/10/01/writer-director-tony-giglio-on-making-doom-annihilation/#39d067bd522e

[03:11] Allan: Do you, guys, want to quickly introduce yourselves and then we’ll roll into it?

Tony: Sure. I’m Tony Giglio, the Writer / Director of Doom: Annihilation.

Nina: And I’m Nina Bergman and I’m the Actress playing Private Carley Corbin.

[03:21] Allan: That’s awesome! I appreciate your taking your time to chat! How does it feel after the film’s release and everyone having a chance to go in depth and experience this first hand?

Nina: I’m super excited that people finally get to see it. I’ve gotten so much mail on social media in anticipation [of the film]. I think people are going to be really surprised about how Tony was able to take this video game and make it very humane; and you feel for the characters. I actually got sucked in watching it. Tony was able to give it a heart! I’m excited!

Tony: Once people heard that we were doing a Doom film, they immediately tried to guess what the plot was and who the characters were. I’m excited for people to watch the film and not have to guess anymore. And my hope is that the gamers like it. They will see we were very faithful to the original game. And the non-gamers will see that it’s a fun movie that stands on its own.

[04:59] Allan: That’s so cool! I just hung out with the guys at id Software. It’s a cool point: With the concept and everyone knowing its IP, there is so much story behind it. What was it like to handpick what to keep in the film?

Tony: [The film is] based on the original games, not the new ones. I was able to pick and choose elements from the first 3 games. I used to play this game when it first came out in the early 90s and what I really remember is how important hell and demons were. They didn’t make enough of the teleportation games. In game one, the teleporter was used almost as an elevator. I thought it was a waste of science. I started with that essential element. And then my logic (which was maybe flawed) was that if there were demons, there had to be angels. Who better to fight demons than angels? I started thinking of a religious warrior that would be able to fight demons. A Joan of Arc popped up in my head. Being a fan of the film genre, this has a history of strong female protagonists: Ripley / Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Linda Hamilton in the Terminator franchise. It felt really natural to explore the female lead. That’s how I started to tell the story.

[07:38] Allan: You have strong female leads with Nina playing one of them. What was that experience like: to play in something that used to be a one-dimensional storyline and to have characters have substance?

Tony: Doom had a very basic plot but that actually helped. It took Warner Brothers 5.5 hours to tell a 1,000 page in 2 movies. Having a basic story helps develop it from Marines going into this base and all hell brakes loose. One person would fight their way to safety. I found it fun to build the story around it. Today’s video games are much more complex. The basic plot landed to the task of making a movie a lot easier, as long as I was keeping the original intent.

[09:30] Allan: How did the movie get green lit? Was it a passion project from the beginning?

Tony: It was definitely a passion project! What’s funny is that there is so much chatter online with Universal making it into a money grab. But this was a passion project! I’d been writing for this division at Universal since 2009. I’d been writing the Death Race series. After I finished writing the fourth movie, I was having lunch with one of our execs Lisa Gooding and she expressed an interest that she wanted to bring in some fresh titles. This division likes to make films based on the IP that they own. I told her, “You, guys, own Doom. You should be making it!” This was around 2015. She went back and called me a couple of days later saying that because the first film didn’t do very well, they were passing. The title was interesting and she thought there was a little window. I wrote a 10-page outline of the film and we tried again. This was in early 2016. We didn’t get a pass but they weren’t sure. The new Doom game came out and it was a massive hit. We approached Universal and there was so much buzz on that title. That’s when they read the story and green lit us. They loved the treatment! That’s how we got going.

[12:11] Allan: That’s so cool! Nina, what was your experience like on this film?

Nina: I read it and I wanted it bad. I’d done another movie with Universal and had a really great experience. When I read Doom — and I’m all about female empowerment — what I liked about Tony’s version of this was that he put some humor into it. With video games it could be monotonous. Tony made it kind of like his personality: Tony is funny! He just brought humor into it. That’s what I liked!

Tony: What was funny about Nina’s casting was: We offered her the role, then we had we had to work around her schedule (she’s doing music and tv). Once we got her on the film, I got to have a conversation with her. As it’s scripted, Carley has blue hair and I remember the first conversation I brought it up. Usually, it’s a battle a director has to have. When I said, “Carley is supposed to have blue hair”, Nina’s response was, “Do you have a shade in mind?” The whole cast — the whole cast was made of unknowns, kids — they really embraced what we were trying to do. I tried to warn them it’s Doom and they would have eyes on them. Introducing a female lead for the franchise was a controversial decision. Once you see it, it’s not as much of that. But here was this new girl and she really embraced it and delivered a powerful performance!

[14:49] Allan: Is today the day it’s coming out?

Nina: Yeah!

[15:03] Allan: Congratulations! How does it feel?

Tony: There is a sense of relief. There was a lot of passion of the fans and there was an assumption about what it would be. I couldn’t correct every person on Twitter. Now they can see it and judge it for what it is!

[15:39] Allan: That’s right! Shut up until you’ve seen it!

Tony: Don’t piss off the fans by telling them to shut up!

[15:50] Allan: That’s a good point! You’re right it’s tricky with comics or video games. It’s too soon to judge something before you’ve seen it.

Tony: It’s so much more with video games! With comic books, you’re following a character that’s on paper. You and I could be both playing Doom and we could take different routes to get to the finish. You’re fighting not being in control of it, but your experience with the game is different from mine. When you are reading a book or watching a film, you all follow the same path. That’s why films based on video games, it’s never a win-win situation. We took the elements of the game we thought were important. We developed other elements to compliment the game, not take away from it. This could be something the fans could look at and it would still be Doom.

[17:51] Allan: I think everyone’s performance was really great! As Nina mentioned before, it had elements of sci fi but also had character development. There is always going to be a bit of a backlash! What was the response when you announced the lead slayer was going to a female character? What was the reception like? People could go stir crazy. Even though the intention behind the original character was to be a shell, not specifically male or female. It’s not like Superman.

Tony: Early on, we discussed how Doom was being formed. I wasn’t dismissive of the feelings that would follow. I did my research: There was no “Doom Slayer” in the original piece. Originally, you’re an unnamed space warrior. You land on the base and you’re left to guard. You weren’t this super special character. You become special by going through the game and surviving it. I came across an interview with John Romero, one of the original co-creators, and he said for the first game they left the unnamed Marine. They wanted the player to feel like the Marine, in the world they created. I felt confident we were honoring the original intent. This isn’t about diversity. This is about me wanted to make the movie that represented everybody playing. In the early Doom, the designers and most of the players were men. That’s changed now! It’s 2019. I wanted everyone in the world to see themselves in this movie. That’s how I went about that process. By having a diverse cast, everyone can be represented in the film. I get it and understand, but it wasn’t meant to place anyone’s playing experience. I feel it falls in line with the original intent of the creators.

[22:32] Allan: That’s so cool! In terms of the filming process, what were the biggest challenges on this film?

Tony: Nina Bergman. (Laughs.)

Nina: I had a nerve injury in my shoulder so I couldn’t move my arm. I had to go and get some Bulgarian concoction injected into my butt which in term made me a little delusional. I’m a purist and I now understand why people do drugs!

Tony: Even J. J. Abrams would want more time and money on projects! We had a small box to make this movie. We shot this in Bulgaria. Personally, my wife had given birth to our daughter 3 weeks before I had to leave for Bulgaria. I was trying to make the Doom movie and I’ve been tracking this property for a few years! But then my daughter is born and I was like, “She’s beautiful, but I gotta go!” And then we needed to get everything we needed to get. It was a labor of love. We had a limited budget so we had to be smart. We had to pick and choose where we were spending that money. I wanted to do as much in camera as possible. We wanted most of actors to do their own stunts. You have to factor in that you don’t want anyone to get hurt. I wanted a demon on set. I wanted hell to be very different so we were saving a lot of our money for the final sequence of the film. We didn’t have unlimited funds and it makes it challenging. There was over a 1,000 effects in the film. Every time, you see demon on camera, he had a wire attached (to be able to fly) and that has to be digitally removed! Some of the effects are simple but it’s still money spent. And really had to choose where we wanted for that money to be spent.

[26:11] Allan: What about you, Nina?

Nina: Besides the injury, there were night shoots. I would say what really helped with the shoot was having the actual demons. They were pretty scary in real life. Having one of those things charging after you down the hall was pretty scary. I had to remember, “You’re Carley, you’re a badass!”

Tony: You look like a badass when you kill that one demon!

Nina: Those things were really nasty and slimy.

Tony: These were real actors inside those suits. And the suits were ridiculously hot. That’s another thing! You can’t keep someone in that suit all day. It took 45 minutes to get into the suit so you had to time it. It’s not a digital guy running down the hallway.

Nina: If we had a bigger budget, we would have more stunt rehearsals. We had just one day. We were all a bit anxious.

[28:43] Allan: It’s got to be tricky. I relate with video games because you have to see what a computer can do within the constrains [of budget and time]. The same thing goes for filmmaking, but budget is the biggest thing of all. To pull off any film, let alone one that has so many characters and creature work, and environments — that’s got to be a huge challenge!

Tony: There is a love / hate thing I have with the original film. Clearly, if the original film were a bigger hit, I’d probably not get to be the guy to pitch the sequel and make the movie. But because that movie disappointed, it allowed us to cease the chance. But we make films here on a lower budget, so that’s the challenge.

[29:47] Allan: In terms of the visual effects, was there any specific shot that was a bigger concern? I’m assuming it was the hell sequence.

Tony: I’ve never done anything that had this many visual effects! I’ve directed 7 features. I’ve directed Second Unit on Resident Evil (the fourth one) but I wasn’t around much for the post-production process. Everything [was new], other than the simplest stuff (like wire removals)! My first concern was all the exterior stuff. We have to create Mars and the spaceship. Back in the day you did modeling, now you just build it. I’ve seen what the VFX people were thinking. They were creating some replicas from NASA. The teleporting gates I wanted to be a standout. And of course, the hell sequence. That was supposed to be a very different look. I wanted the demons to look different. That ended up being the most time consuming and worrisome and exciting. Our VFX Sup Victor [Trichkov] did a great job. He was so excited, he wouldn’t send me things until those things looked perfect! I couldn’t be happier with how that turned out. Like I said, there was over a 1,000 shots, while my last film had 250. In this day and age, you can’t remake My Dinner with Andre without a hundred visuals! But our film relied on so much. Some locations didn’t let us shoot after hours. Once the picture got locked, there was still so much that was left to do! There were wires everywhere, spaceships going. It takes good partners and the execs here at Universal understood that.

[33:26] Allan: Was there one particular shot that stood out as being more painful at the end? I always ask that because I will always remember those shots on every movie.

Tony: Like I said, the hell sequence took 5 months to complete, to storyboard it and know everything you’re going to do. It’s very slow! In filmmaking, there are 3 things: fast, cheap and good. And you can have two of those but not three. You can have fast and cheap but it won’t be good. We wanted it good and cheap so it wasn’t going to be a fast process. Our original release date was in April. It was rapidly approaching and we still haven’t done the sound mixing yet. Suddenly, everyone at Universal said, “We need to push it back”. We pushed it to October 1, 2019 to make sure the film wasn’t going to be crap. They wanted to make sure the film was as good as it could be.

[35:14] Allan: You have to have faith to give it more time and make it stand out. You have something that has a lot of potential.

Tony: There is a weird stigma: Home entertainment films. I think that has changed in the last 10 years. This is what Netflix and Amazon are doing [with their films]. Here, at 1440, they have always gone out of their way. It was awkward but we asked if they wanted to be a part of this. They very politely said no. They put out the tweet that they aren’t associate with the film, but it wasn’t a slight. They do video games — they don’t do movies. But fans took to an assumption that they were dissing the film.

[37:34] Allan: In this day and age, everyone is looking for a soundbite. I remember when Jonathan Mostow approached James Cameron for Terminator 4 but Cameron said no, it wasn’t a negative thing.

Tony: They look down and see Tony Giglio directing and a cast of relatively unknown people, [fans] may think, “Who the hell are these people making a remake of my favorite video game?” But every default position was: What is most truthful to the game? When I delivered that first draft, everyone loved it. But we got a note from a Senior Exec that was about having a chainsaw on this highly technical scientific base. My response was, “Because it was in the game!” If I didn’t put there, people would be pissed off. No one asked the original creators, I’m sure. I didn’t want to just stick it into the film just because it was in the game, but I wanted to make it as realistic as possible. I didn’t want to just use the key cards.

[40:15] Allan: You put a lot of thought into referencing other video games and other IP. I think that was really well thought out. For you, how many Easter eggs did you manage to cram into the film?

Tony: I didn’t recount them. I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore gamer. But I knew the things I wanted to use. When we were approaching production, Universal 1440 employed a focus group of gamers and they threw out a bunch of other ideas: The key chain, the rabbit foot, the barrels. These little things like that! But the bulk of the stuff was there. There was about 30 things they suggested, but I can’t recall all of them. One of my favorite things when I was playing the game was finding the secret door in the hallway, to get the weapons.

[42:38] Allan: I love that! Nina, what was it like for you to come into this whole world?

Nina: I have played a character in another video game. I was familiar with video games. I wanted to do the VR experience of the game before we started shooting. The way they did it was incredible. I wanted to get the sense of it, go into those secret rooms, run along the hallways. I did Battery in Call of Duty. With Doom, because you’re the first person shooter, it felt more real to me. I was very curious to see how Tony was going to make it into a movie I’d want to see. I got death threats on social media. People did not want me to be a part of it. People were angry, furious. Tony had a lot of pressure to go to Bulgaria, with so many expectation from the crew, the actors. How is he going to do that? How can he get that feeling of running in the hallways. There is this one scene (I won’t give it away) where I almost flipped off my couch while I was watching. I thought you managed to blend those two worlds beautifully.

Tony: What’s funny is that you are with the film for 2 straight years. Actors come in and do their stuff and their ADR. It has to be a weird experience. I hear your voice everyday but actors get some distance from it.

Nina: When I had to do some French lines in ADR, I hadn’t said them in months! I’ve been on a tour. I shot another movie. But then you come back and see the film with fresh eyes.

Tony: My dad came to the set of one of my films called Chaos. He sat around watching the whole day. I came up to him afterward and said, “What do you think?” He said, “This is really impressive!” I said, “Thanks!” He goes, “Well, not you! Everyone else! You’re just telling them what to do, while everyone else is working!” He was more impressed with my writing. Film is a collaboration but it’s my job to keep everyone on track. You have to make changes on the fly sometimes. There were some challenges. To maximize the budget, we went to Bulgaria to build the set. There were no exteriors in the film. I loved that film The Raid, but they would just change the number on the car door from 101 to 201. If you’re engrossed enough, you don’t care. It was a battle to pick and choose.

[48:43] Allan: Knowing the constraints, it’s amazing what you’ve pulled off. I’ve actually worked on the game Call of Duty, and those guys would get death threats any time they announced a new feature. That shows the passion from fans!

Tony: I mentioned Paul Anderson and he texted me yesterday. Some of the early views were positive but some of the gamers were giving me some hate. And his response was, “You’re not doing your job unless you get some fan hatred.” It comes with the territory. The fans are passionate. We’re under no delusion that we can’t please everyone. Like I said, no two experiences are alike. The way I approached it was to not copy the game, but to create a movie inspired by the game and keep as much of the original IP as I could. And make it complimentary to the game. It’s not going to affect your game experience. If I had just done a replica, then there would be no originality. You just have to go with your instinct. You have to make the film for everyone. And by definition, a film is not a game. We tried to work very hard and default to it being a faithful adaptation.

[52:00] Allan: I want to thank both of you for taking the time to chat. It’s been really great! Congratulations on the film!

Tony and Nina: Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Tony and Nina for taking the time to chat. Please take a second to share this Episode with others, or leave a review. That would help me make the Podcast better.

Next week, I will be back with the author of the best selling book Burn Your Portfolio Michael Janda. This had to be my most favorite Episode ever! My head was nodding the entire time while Michael was talking. I believe everything his says, 100%! All of you are going to get a lot from it.

Until next week —

Be kind to others! Challenge yourself to get better! And rock on!

 

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